The FAQ of Rockingham Hardware in Halifax

Here are some common questions that seem to come up quite a bit. If you would like to ask a question that you do not see listed here please contact us.

Well Related Questions

I don't have any water! What do I do?!?
Relax. Don't panic. Let's take it step-by-step:

NOTE: These steps are intended as guidelines to know what we will ask when you call us.

1) Do you have power? Pumps can't run if there is a power outage.

2) Do you have NO water, or just very little water? If you have no water and the pump is still running you should shut off the pump. Plugged filters or faucet aerators/screens can cause low water pressure problems. Also see the question on "surging" pressure below.

3) Did the well run dry? This can be hard to tell in a drilled well. You might suspect a dry well if it had happened before, or if you have been using more water lately. Also check to make sure all your faucets are turned off. Many times we get calls where it turns out the outside faucet was left on, or a toilet kept running all night. If the well ran dry you could try shutting off the pump for an hour or two, then turn it back on to see if you get water.

4) Do you have a low-water pressure switch? For starters, your pressure switch is a little grey or black electrical box that switches the power on and off when your pump needs to run. It is located on a section of pipe coming in to the pressure tank, or on the side of the motor on jet pumps. A low-water switch has a little lever on the side so that it can be reset manually. (see question below on how to reset)

5) Before you call us, gather as much of the following additional information you can find quickly:

  • a) Type of well (dug or drilled), depth of well, is the of the well accessible (ie. not buried)
  • b) Pump information - date installed, make, model, horsepower (not to be confused with electric motor information on jet pumps)
  • c) Any water treatment - filters, softeners, etc.

What is the difference between a dug well and a drilled well?
A dug well is typically 3' (1m) across and less than 25' (7.5m) deep and constructed by lining a hole with concrete crocks. A drilled well is typically 4-6" (10-15cm) in diameter and over 50' (15m) deep with a steel 'casing' (lining). Newer drilled wells are required to be capped above ground level, although there are still many older drilled wells where the 'head' (of the well) is sealed and buried below the frost line.

Pump Related Questions

How can I tell what type of pump system I have?
The pump on a well system can be either:

1) In The House
An older style of pump found in many cottages is a "piston pump" - recognizable by the belt-driven pulley wheel on the side. Newer pumps found inside the home are typically "jet pumps" - recognizable by the electric motor being mounted directly to the back of the pump housing.

Jet pumps can also be connected to either a "shallow well" or a "deep well" (see question below on how to tell difference)

2) In The Well
Most newer installations have a submersible pump down in the well. They are much quieter, more reliable and do not require "priming" because they are submerged in cool water pushing, not pulling, the water out of the well. Two different setups exist for submersible well pumps: "2-wire" or "3-wire". (see question below on how to tell difference)

What is the difference between a shallow well and a deep well jet pump?
Jet pumps can also be connected to a well in two ways. The most common is called a "shallow well" setup, usually used on a dug well - having only a single water line between the pump and the well. The second is called a "deep well" setup which has two water lines between the pump and the well. The smaller line drives water down to a "jet" in the well, and the larger line sucks water out of the well, boosted by the "jet".

How can I tell if I have a 2-wire or 3-wire pump?
Two different setups exist for submersible well pumps: "2-wire" (Black-Red) or "3-wire" (Black-Red-Yellow). Both of these setups may have different colour wires than the standard. All submersible setups should also have an extra green wire for "ground" (so a 2-wire should actually have 3, and a 3-wire should actually have 4). Another way to tell the difference is that the 3-wire pump has a control panel, so the wires from the pump come into the control panel, instead of directly to the pressure switch.

Pressure Related Questions

My water pressure keeps surging up and down.
A low air charge in your pressure tank can cause water problems where the pump seems to keep switching on and off quickly and you get low or "surging" water pressure.

How do I check the air charge in my pressure tank?
Bladder-type pressure tanks should have an air charge of 2-3psi below the pressure at which the pump cuts in. To check the air charge, you need to drain the water out of the pressure tank (doesn't need to be every drop) then check the air pressure with a tire gauge. If it is too high, drain some air out to correct pressure. If it is too low, add air with a tire pump until it reaches the correct pressure, wait 1/2 hour, then check again to be sure the tank is not leaking.

How do I reset my low water pressure switch?
A low-water type pressure switch will stay shut off if the pressure drops below 20psi (if the power goes out or the well runs dry. The lever has three positions: DOWN is 'automatic', UP is 'off', and the middle position is 'ON'. To reset the switch you must hold the lever in the 'ON' position until the pressure gets high enough that the switch will run on it's own (about 25-30psi). It will be easier to see when the contacts ("points") come together if you take off the plastic cover. If you do take the cover off just look but DO NOT TOUCH THE POINTS as you may get a shock.

How do I adjust the setting on my pressure switch?
Pressure switches should not be adjusted unless you are absolutely sure that is the problem. Pressure switches are normally set at the factory to cut-in (pump comes on) at 30psi, and cut-out (pump shuts off) at 50psi. To adjust pressure settings you need to adjust the larger spring. DO NOT SET PRESSURE OVER 70PSI !!) The smaller spring will adjust the difference between the cut-in and cut-out (usually 20psi in the difference).

Water Quality Questions

Will an ultra-violet light get rid of my bacteria problem?
UV systems can only kill bacteria that pass through the light. It will not have any effect on bacteria that is already growing in your pipes. Your best bet is to chlorinate your water system first. Follow the recommendations from the Nova Scotia Department of Environment – download the PDF!

Why does my water have a colour to it?
Water coloration usually appears strongest in the toilet bowl where it sits exposed to the air for longer periods of time. Examples of water colour are given below but water should be tested to confirm:

  • Reddish-Brown - Iron
  • Bluish-Green - Copper (pH levels in water may be low, causing pipes to corrode)
  • Yellow - Sulphur (rare)
  • Black - Manganese
  • Off-White - Calcium ("hard" water)

My water has a bad smell. What can I do about it?
The first thing I would ask is: "hot water, cold water, or both?" If the smell is only in the hot water, you may need to change the sacrificial anode in your electric water heater to an aluminum one. Other than that the smell must be coming from the water itself. This could be caused by bacteria or sulphur in the well and you will need to have the water tested to determine what it is.

My friend told me I could add an air injector to get rid of the smell.
We do not normally recommend the air injectors. They are cheap and easy to install but do not fix the cause of the smell. They may also cause more problems by oxidizing iron particles and other contaminants in the water which will end up plugging filters and faucets. The water should be tested to determine the cause of the smell.

Water Treatment Questions

How can I tell what type of water treatment I have?
This is a tough question because many filters look alike, but contain different media to suit different purposes. The place to start is to have a look at our water treatment products page. Do you see a type of system that looks similar to yours? The other thing to know is what is being filtered out of the raw water from the well. If you have a previous test result for your well water, we can see what needed to be removed.

How do I know what type of water treatment I need?
Have your water tested then bring the results to us. Simply saying you have iron in your water does not tell us how much, or if it is truly iron. You are not saving yourself any money by not paying to have your water tested properly. You may spend over $1000 on a piece of equipment that is wrong for your situation.

What is "reverse osmosis"?
Reverse osmosis is a process where you force water through a membrane under pressure to filter out very fine particles dissolved in the water.

How do I know when it is time to change my R/O filters?
The pre and post filters in a reverse osmosis (R/O) unit should be changed every 4-6 months. R/O membranes start with efficiencies around 96-98%, and should be changed when their efficiency falls below 90% (typically every 4-5 years). Efficiency can be checked with a TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) meter.

How does and ultra-violet (UV) system work?
UV systems shine ultra-violet light through the water as it passes inside the chamber. The UV light breaks up the DNA of any living organism that it contacts (bacteria, viruses, etc.). With damaged DNA, the organisms die.

How do I know when it is time to change my UV lamp?
All UV manufacturers specify that UV lamps should be changed every 12 months of use. If the UV is being used in a cottage that is only open four months of the year, you could potentially get three years out of a lamp. The sleeve that encases the lamp in a UV should be checked and cleaned at least every time the lamp is changed, more often if the water quality is poor. Sleeves should be changed when they get hazy and will not come clean.

Water Softener Salt Questions

How much salt will I need to run my softener? Will I taste the salt?
Water softeners use salt to "regenerate" the resin in the filter. Typical household softeners use between 6 to 12 lbs (2.75 to 5.5Kg) of salt per regeneration cycle. Most of the salt is washed out the backwash line during this process so there will be little, if any, salt taste in the water.

How much water does this backwash cycle use? Will it hurt my septic?
Typical backwash cycles occur every 4-6 days, last 1-1/2 hours and use between 50-60 US Gallons (190-220L). Backwashing water filters have little or no effect on a septic system that is working properly because: a) it happens through the night when no other water is being added to the septic; b) it is the same amount of minerals that untreated water would have contributed during the day.

Why isn't my softener using any salt?
Softeners and Greensand Filters need to be serviced once in a while. When is hard to tell, because everybody has slightly different water. If your softener or filter is not drawing in the solution from the brine tank, chances are the screen and jet in the head (filter control) are plugged and need to be cleaned. This procedure is laid out in the manual for your unit and is usually something the average consumer can do. If you do not feel comfortable doing it on your own, call us.

I am on a "low sodium" diet. What about the salt in the softener?
An alternative to common water softener salt (sodium chloride) is potassium chloride. This is more expensive than regular salt, but will eliminate the sodium used in the softener. Some people will use a mixture of both types of salt in order to reduce sodium while keeping the cost down.

General Questions

Do you offer free water testing?
In our experience, usually companies that offer free water testing AND trying to sell you equipment are going to be biased. Although we have the ability to test for some common water problems, we prefer that customer's use an independent laboratory to get an accurate, and un-biased, result with a PRINTED REPORT. We have water sample bottles on hand for NSDOE lab, Maxxam lab, or try Test Well Services Inc. (499-2759) if you prefer to have someone independent collect your water sample.

What is the warranty on the products you sell?
The warranty provided on our products is that of the manufacturer, and so depend on which product you are asking about. Most products are minimum 1 year; most pumps are from 2 to 5 years; our repair work is guaranteed 30 days; filter controls are 5-years and filter tanks carry a 10-year warranty. If you are interested in warranty information on a specific product, please ask. We sell quality products that we have been trusting for years, and so we do not feel the need to sell "extended" warranties. We also do not sell products that carry a "lifetime" warranty and advise you to "read the fine print" on those that do.

Could I save money by installing myself?
Yes. Almost everything we sell comes with installation instructions that anyone with some plumbing experience could install themselves. Please bear in mind that product warranties will be VOID if equipment is not installed correctly.

Can you service a softener I bought somewhere else?
As long as we have access to parts for that brand we can service anyone's equipment.

Still have questions? We can help! Call Rockingham Hardware today!

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