Take a look at the well water storage tank. The typical life expectancy of these tanks is about 10-12 years. Check for any rust or aging signs. The water storage tank should be painted and insulated to prevent any condensation from building up on the outside. The condensation causes rust. For safety, there should always be a pressure relief valve on the tank or on the water pipe leading into the tank. This valve will discharge if the pressure in the tank gets too high. It's usually set at 75 psi depending upon the pressure rating of the storage tank. Storage tanks are designed for 75-100 pounds of working pressure.
Next to the water storage tank you'll find a small, rectangular box on the well water pipe. This box contains the pressure switch. The pressure switch ends an electric current to turn the well pump on and off based upon the system pressure. A pressure gauge helps the homeowner and the repair man monitor the system.
Make sure the water storage tank has an air fill valve on it. This looks like a tire air valve and is used to adjust the air-to-water ratio in the tank periodically. Don't confuse the air valve with the mounting bracket on top of some water tanks. Mounting brackets are used to hold the tank while it's being painted on the factory assembly line. They're also used to mount a suction or jet well pump if necessary.
Inside the water storage tank is an air pocket or a diaphragm bag. Over time the air becomes absorbed by the water or the bag breaks. When this happens the tank becomes waterlogged and doesn't operate properly. That's why the air-to-water ratio in the tank must be checked during routine well maintenance. The compressed air in the water tank is what gives you the water pressure at the faucets and showers. Bigger storage tanks use less well pump activity because they hold more water. This is far better for the life expectancy of the well pump electric motor. When a tank is too small for the house water usage or if the tank gets waterlogged, then you will have a short cycling problem. Short cycling refers to the well pump turning on and off too often. This wears out the well pump faster because it turns on every time someone opens a faucet.
The water storage tank is similar to a boiler expansion tank in that both have an air pocket inside and an air valve. This is what causes the pressure to rise in the system as water is pumped into the water storage tank. The air pocket acts as a cushion for the water filling the tank.
Most wells will have submersible pumps that aren't visible for you to inspect. The life expectancy of a well pump will be decreased if the pump is overworked or neglected. The life expectancy also depends on the type and quality of the pump installed, along with the acidity of the well water. Generally you should use the 10 year range during an inspection since you won't know much about the past pump maintenance and water quality.
The well pump is what pushes the water through the water lines. The water lines carry the well water from the pump, to the water storage tank and into the house. A pressure gauge is used to monitor the water pressure in the system. Pressure gauges often get rusty (on all operating systems in the house) and need to be replaced every few years. Tap these gauges with your finger to make sure they don't stick. There have been times when I was testing a well system and the pressure gauge didn't move. When I tapped the gauge, it loosened up the needle so I could get an accurate pressure reading. The water storage tank holds some of the well water until the faucets are turned on. The life expectancy of a water storage tank is about 15-20 years. It's similar to a well pump, because the life expectancy depends upon the maintenance given it and the type and quality of the tank and the acidity of the well water.
To test the well system, run the water for about 30 to 45 minutes. Run the water from the hose bib type faucet near the well water storage tank or from a laundry sink drain or an exterior hose bib. You need a wide type of faucet to get an adequate flow of water. You may need to attach a portable hose to the faucet to drain the water to a safe location. (Unless of course you want to flood the guy's house). You can also test the well while you're testing the septic system to save some time and "kill two birds with one stone." However, since there will be about four faucets running during the septic system test, you can cause the well storage tank pressure to drop down much lower than it would under normal usage.
During the testing, make sure that you check the faucet and sink from time to time. Do this to make sure that the sink doesn't drain too slowly, which could cause it to overflow with water. You also need to have at least one empty container that holds at least one gallon of water. During the test, measure the time the faucet takes to fill five gallons of water into the container. Obviously if you have a one gallon container, you'll have to do some simple math calculations or have extra containers.
The minimum acceptable flow for a well system is five gallons per minute, (GPM). Some local area codes may require a higher GPM rating, so check with your local building department.
The average family uses 50-60 gallons of water per person each day. The minimum acceptable flow for a well system is five gallons per minute, (GPM). Some local area codes may require a higher GPM rating, so check with your local building department. What you're doing with this well test, is pushing the system to see if it provides an adequate flow of water with sufficient water pressure for a sustained period. You're also trying to see if the well system can maintain the mid-system pressure. I'll explain this in a minute. What you need to be concerned about, is an abnormal drop in pressure. Just ask yourself and the client: Are the pressure and volume of the water flow enough to take a shower with? If the answer is no, then tell the client to have the system checked out by a licensed well service contractor.
An inadequate water flow during the test could be due a variety of factors. Some potential causes are:
A water storage tank that is not operating properly. If the air-to-water ratio is improperly balanced inside the water storage tank, it'll have to be repumped with air by a licensed contractor. Possibly the water storage tank is too small for the amount of water being drawn during the test. This could create a problem for your client after they move in if they have children and take many showers or use a lot of water.
Some of the plumbing lines are clogged. A small section or most of the plumbing lines could have become clogged over the years due to mineral deposits from the water.
Possibly the underground well itself is insufficient. If the underground well has an inadequate water supply then a new well may have to be drilled. This can be a major expense because the property's aquifer, where the well water is drawn from, may be insufficient for normal water usage. A well contractor told me that when there's a very dry season some of the wells in the area will dry out. The only solutions to restoring the well water flow is to drill these wells deeper or drill a new well.
Either way, if there's an inadequate water flow then just tell the client to have the system checked out. They'll need to have a well contractor evaluate what repairs are needed and what costs are involved.