General considerations

When the yield of a well is less than 5 gallons per minute (gpm), some municipalities require an auxiliary storage tank from which water can be drawn during periods of peak demand. The rate at which water will be used in a home can vary from 1 gpm (rinsing hands) to a peak rate of 12 gpm or more, depending on personal habits and plumbing fixtures available. The approximate rates at which the various home fixtures use water is shown in TABLE 13-1. This assumes adequate-size distribution piping.

Table 13-2 shows the approximate water-supply requirements of home fixtures.

Obviously, all of the fixtures will not be in operation at the same time. Nevertheless, for a home with two full bathrooms, the pumping system should be designed so that it can supply a peak of about 10 gpm, even if this is greater than the yield of the well. If you find an auxiliary storage tank or the controls for a storage tank (the tank might be buried), you should try to find out the design criteria for the well-pumping system. You might find that the water flow at the design peak demand is less than you require. The design criteria might be known by the seller or might be available through local health department records or the company that installed the system.

Table 13-1. Water use rates.

Bathroom sink (lavatory) faucet 3 gpm Water closet (toilet) 4 gpm Bathtub 5 gpm Shower 5 gpm Dishwasher 2 gpm Washing machine (laundry) 5 gpm Garden hose 3 gpm Lawn sprinkler 2 gpm

Table 13-2. Water supply requirements.

Filling bathroom sink (lavatory) 2 gallons Filling average bathtub 30 gallons Each shower Up to 60 gallons Older water closet (toilet) 4–5 gallons per flush Newer toilets 1.6 gal/flush Dishwasher 3 gallons per load Washing machine (laundry) Up to 50 gallons per load

*This figure will, of course, vary with each individual. Also, shower heads are available that will reduce the flow rate.

Checkpoint summary

Exterior inspection

    • Did you note any vent stacks that
      • terminate near windows?
      • run up an exterior side of the house (in northern climates)?
      • have TV antennas and so on strapped to them?
  • Is the drainage system connected to a municipal sewer, a septic tank, or a cesspool?
  • Do you know where the septic system or cesspool is located?
  • If house is connected to a septic tank, has the tank ever been cleaned? When?
  • Did you note any wet spots or any foul odors in the area of the septic system?
  • Are there any areas where liquids are oozing from the ground?
  • Does property contain a lawn sprinkler system?
  • Is sprinkler water-supply line protected by a vacuum breaker?

Interior inspection Fixtures (operation and condition)

  • Check all plumbing fixtures for operation.
  • Note cracked, chipped, or stained areas.
  • Are sinks or bowls loose?
  • Do faucets leak around handles or spouts?
  • Do sinks, bowls, tubs, and showers drain properly, or are they sluggish?
  • Do sink and tub drains open and close properly?
  • Are there any missing or inoperative “popup” units?
  • Does toilet bowl fill and shut off properly?
  • Do any fixture drain lines leak, have makeshift patches or missing traps?
  • Do fixtures have individual shutoff valves on supply lines?

Water pressure, flow

  • Check individual fixtures for low hot- or cold-water flow.
  • Is water flow adequate?
  • Note if there are knocks (water hammer) when faucets are opened and closed rapidly.
  • Note any fixtures with galvanized iron piping or kinked lines (copper).

Piping Inlet service

❍ If water is supplied by a utility company, locate the inlet pipe and the water meter if any.

  • Is the inlet pipe made of iron, brass, copper, or lead?
  • If inlet pipe is lead, take a water sample for analysis.
  • Is there a master shutoff valve? Check its operation.

Distribution piping (supply mains, fixture risers)

  • Are these pipes copper, brass, galvanized iron, plastic, or a combination?
  • Are there signs of leakage, patched or corroding pipe sections or valves?
  • If system is basically brass, note any mineral deposits along the undersides of pipes or around threaded joints.
  • Pipes located in an unheated area such as a crawl space, garage, and so on may be vulnerable to freezing and should be insulated.
  • Are any pipes sweating?
  • Are any pipes improperly supported?
  • Are hot- and cold-water lines adequately spaced apart?

Drainage pipes

  • These pipes are generally made out of cast iron, galvanized iron, copper, lead, or plastic.
  • Look for low points or sagging sections where solid wastes can accumulate.
  • Are any visible drainage lines improperly pitched?
  • Note any signs of leaking, cracked or patched sections.
  • Is there a sewage ejector tank?
  • If there is, is it operational?

Well-pumping systems

  • Have a water sample analyzed for contamination.
  • Is there a deep- or shallow-type well?
  • Is well pump a piston, jet, or submersible type?
  • Do you know the design criteria (gallons/minute) of the system?
  • Are installation records and recorded flow available?

Accessory equipment

  • Is storage tank insulated?
  • Are there signs of rust or corroding areas?
  • Does tank contain a pressure-relief valve?
  • Is pressure gauge operational?
  • When system is active (pumping), note the pressure differential.
  • Does the pressure exceed 65 psi?
  • Does gauge fluctuate rapidly, or does pump cycle on and off?
  • Does system hold its pressure when all faucets are shut and there are no interior plumbing leaks?
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