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Well wires overheated

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    Well wires overheated

    Today I noticed my son's well head had the plastic conduit broken and missing. On closer inspection, I noticed all 4 wires were exposed with all the insulation burned away for about 1 foot as it entered the well head.

    This is a 15 amp 220 volt breaker with #14-3 with ground wire. I don't remember the insulation but I assume at least UF.

    Obviously at some point this wire overheated but I can't figure out why the neutral and ground would be so badly damaged too. The wires broke with the slightest flexing.

    He bought the 10 year old house about 2 years ago so there is no easily known history.

    My thoughts include bad power company neutral somewhere in other houses in the area using his well and neutral for their grounds/neutral.

    We temporarily patched the problem and need to have it fixed but I want it fixed correctly and am looking for any additional information.


    Re: Well wires overheated

    Some ideas:

    Direct Sun insulation damage
    Ambient temperature heating damge
    Voltage Drop heating effects
    Mositure and wet infiltration deteriation
    Loose or improperly made terminations and connections
    Undersized conductors for total well load
    Improper insulation and conductor type use
    Lack of conductor or cable protection in exposed areas
    Bad winding or internal problem with well pump motor.

    Bryan P. Holland, MCP
    NEMA - Codes & Standards


      Re: Well wires overheated

      If the wire insulation is damaged only where exposed, and all of the wires are equally damaged, as it appears from your post, the reason would seem to be due to the moisture and sunlight exposure.



        Re: Well wires overheated

        I don't understand the neutral on a 240 volt pump motor.


          Re: Well wires overheated

          The "extra" wire is not a neutral, it supplies the starting winding.
          The starting winding relay and capacitor for a single phase submersible pump are up in the control box.

          Have a qualified electrician examine the wire. If the insulation damage is limited to the portion that was exposed to the weather, new wires can usually be spliced on at the wellhead, using an approved splicing kit.
          Most pump installers leave an extra few feet of wire in the well casing for occurances such as this.


          [ May 12, 2003, 08:44 AM: Message edited by: Ed MacLaren ]


            Re: Well wires overheated

            Thank you for your thoughts.

            The wires are damaged under the well cover but was good for eight inches where they are wire nutted(?!) to the pump wires. But some of the exposed wire above the ground was not damaged. Sunlight or other phyiscal damage is possible allowing moisture to enter and creap slowly but my gut feeling is not as the exposed wire below the damage (above the remaining conduit) looks good. I would expect everything directly exposed to the sun would be more severly damaged and less under the well cap.

            The wires make a 180 degree bend over the metal well casing where under the well cap. It is possible the well man put too much strain on the wires when the well was installed or repaired. This doesn't fully explain why the ground and neutral wires appear to be equally damaged as the cable wire order appears to be white, green, red, black. I would suspect the red/black would be much more severely damaged than the white/green. They all appear to be equally damaged with brittle seemingly overheated copper.

            The well has a 15 amp double breaker with #14 wire for a exterior 30 feet estimated as I don't know where the wire is placed underground. The wire should be adequate.

            I shouldn't be blaming the well man as the plastic conduit seems to be phsically damaged and the aluminium well cap itself has one of the locking screws broken out. The well is next to the driveway so it could have been hit with a car or snow remover. The well man would have replace the well cap.


              Re: Well wires overheated

              Thank you Ed.

              I didn't have time to check the wiring diagram yesterday. I assumed incorrectly the white was neutral.

              There appears to be enough wire to splice so it shouldn't be a big problem to fix. I am more concerned about why the problem occured in the first place and don't want it to happen again.


                Re: Well wires overheated

                Thank you all.

                Further inspection yesterday found the wire was damaged when the well was hit by something -- probably snow removal equipment. If it would have been hit a little harder the wires would have pinched to ground and popped the breaker or broken completely. But in this case, the wires bent sharply at the metal well casing and effectively made them much smaller than 14 guage causing the overheating but not small enough to cause them to quickly burn off. By the way, the ground wire was not overheated just the insulation burned away due to the other wires.

                The wires were fixed by an approved splicing kit. All is fine now. The conduit was moved further away from the driveway and a protective post was installed to further protect the well head.

                It was of course late Sunday when the problem was noticed, just enough time to temporarily fix the well before it was too late to properly inspect. One worries when one is not sure what the problem is and only corrects the symptoms. Dads are like that.

                Thanks again.