St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Water Shortage on the Farm

Update:  5:00 pm, water is running again on the farm after a waterless day.  The heater thawed things out and everything seems to be functional.    A video of the farm water system can be seen at 
Hanson Water Well

Woke up at 6:30 am and took a shower and noticed the water pressure dropped until barely running in the shower and faucets.  Something wrong with the farm water system!  

Since the water ran in the house at first, that means the water line to the house from the outside pump shed 100 feet away was not frozen--just the pump not starting up and pumping new water.

It was not quite as cold as the other morning, only about -12F, so didn't think the well house had frozen.   The well, pump and water tank are in an small separate highly insulated building between the house and the barn.  The walls have a foot of wood shavings between inner and outer walls with removable styrofoam over the top and then a removable roof over that.
The Pump Shed 

Filled a few containers with the last of the water and warned Margo not to flush the toilet (a 4 gallon model) and as it got light -- 8 am, popped the cover on the well house and removed the Styrofoam to look inside.   Nothing obvious:  belt on the motor to the pumpjack still fine.  Didn't seem frozen, but then noticed the two 60 watt "heater" light bulbs were off.
Looking into the pump shed.  Note the temporary heater propped up between motor and pump casing.  I think the rod coming out of the casing (attached to the two pump jack arms) was frozen.

Must be a fuse blown.  So went to the barn fuse box from where the underground wire to the pump originates, removed the blown fuse and plugged it in and heard sort of a pop.  Fuse burned out almost immediately.
Two fuses on the switch on the pump house exterior

Two more fuses and a block of fuses in the barn that lead to the underground wire to the pump.  220 volts sent out on two hot wires and a ground. 

At the well, the lights and the pump are each plugged into their own outlets.  The pump motor outlet is actually controlled by the pressure switch to turn on the motor when the pressure goes to 20lb.  Unplugged it and put in a new fuse and then the lights worked.   Tried plugging in the pump:  the motor started and tried to turn the pulley on the pumpjack, but after just a small attempt to lift the pump rod up, ground to halt and blew the fuse again.

My first guess is that it is frozen up somewhere in the place where the well rod runs into the casing -- the part in an old pump where the handle hooked to the rod through a seal.   In the old days of open pumps, one poured hot water on this packing to get things started in the morning.

As I was gradually freezing up, and couldn't even feel my fingers to screw out the last blown fuse, ran an extension cord from the garage and put a space heater in the well house, turned it on and put the covers back on and decided to let it warm up for the rest of the day before trying it again.

So, I plugged in an electric space heater to the garage cord, put it in the well house and closed everything and went away to spend the next 6 hours at a meeting and let the whole pump area warm up.  

When I got back home, with 5 gallons of water from town and a case of spring water for drinking, I opened the well house.  Then I turned the pulley by hand and everything went smoothly and easily, so backed it up to where the pump jack was near the top and would start by coming down (not much motor effort needed) and then plugged it into the extension cord.  

It started up fine and ran fine.  So I let it run a few minutes to build up the pressure to normal, then unplugged it and checked in the house and sure enough we had water pressure again--a little rusty water though as I had almost emptied the pressure tank before I got the pump running.  

Pump Jack Running Video

I plugged in the light to the cord, removed the heater and ran extension cords outside the shed to plug in the pump and the light and closed it all up with the bulbs on to keep the shed warm.  Tomorrow I will figure out where the wiring is failing or wrong--if the pump blows a fuse, the lights need to stay on to keep it warm.  That didn't happen.  And of course, why did the fuse blow in the first place?  So stay tuned to see if Margo gets a shower this week or not. 

Good news from a different source.  The #1 furnace fuel oil delivery today was $2.64 per gallon versus $3.92 back in September when I last filled it up.  Saved about $400 this fill!
It cost me $930 for heating in September, October, November and December.  We had a cold November otherwise normal or mild months this fall.  This fill should go for about 6 weeks (or about $100/week estimate with the lower price).  A leaky old house that needs some serious tightening up when I get to it!

The Burnett Dairy Coop fuel delivery truck is so big it has trouble maneuvering around the yard.  In 5 minutes $500 of fuel goes in my tank.