Pool leaks are insidious. You may notice the water level dropping a little too rapidly for evaporation to be the cause. It’s common for pools to lose from 1/8″ to 1/4″ of water per day due to evaporation. But pinpointing the source can be difficult – which is what our experienced team at Certified Leak Detection is here for! Of course, many pool owners prefer to troubleshoot for themselves before calling us, so here’s another possible culprit – the pool pump.
Our blog post – “Pool Pump Not Working? Try This!” – provides additional scenarios for problems relating to pool pump performance in addition to (and including) leaks.
Why Detecting and Repairing a Pool Pump Leak as Soon as Possible is Important
The pump circulates water, keeping it clean and helping to maintain a healthy environment for swimming. As INYOpools puts it, “In order for a swimming pool to be free from algae and other harmful contaminants, the pool must have a working filter. However, without a pump, your filtering system will not work and your pool will get too dirty to use.”
While we don’t service the mechanical components of pools, we want you to be informed so you get the most enjoyment from your slice of Central Florida paradise. Even if the source of the leak lies elsewhere, eliminating the pump will allow the problem to be detected and repaired sooner, preventing even more serious (and expensive) damage. Pool Supply World provides a helpful guide to common pool pump problems so you can identify and – if you possess basic DIY skills – repair them!
The good people at Continental Pools explain the basics. “Swimming pool pumps come in many sizes and shapes. Some are big, some are small, but the most common pumps are three horsepower or less and have two threaded connections at the piping system, where the water is drawn in and then pushed out. This is where leaks can occur.”
Common Types of Pool Pump Leaks – What to Look For
Three of the most common places for a pool pump to leak are on the suction side, on the pressure side and on the shaft seal.
Suction Side Leaks
Most leaks on the suction side are air leaks, which means that air is getting sucked into the system. Suction side leaks don’t show up while the pump is running. As Pool Research explains, “That’s because when the pump is running, it creates a vacuum inside the pipes on the suction side. When the pump is on, water travels through the pipes so fast that it usually doesn’t escape through any cracks or leaks. However, when the pump is off, the water on the suction side isn’t moving, which means it’ll find those cracks.”
To tell if you have a suction side leak, look at the water inside the pump while it’s running. If you see bubbles, it means air could be getting into the system through a leak on the supply side. The areas to inspect are as follow:
Pump strainer lid – Your pump could develop a leak if there are sealing issues. Here are some signs that may indicate a leak in this location:
- The pump is struggling to move water.
- The power is on, but nothing happens.
- Pool water is cloudy.
- The pump needs to be resealed with water and restarted more than usual to get going.
- The flow rate is lower due to the air infiltration at the pump.
- Skimmer baskets are floating.
- The filter tank pressure is lower.
- The pipe may be able to be wiggled or feels loose.
If your pump strainer isn’t properly sealed, the strainer cover will allow air in. One way to discover if you have a leak here is to slowly pour water over the lid. If this decreases the air within the basket, you have found at least one leak. You may be able to get by with cleaning and lubricating the O-ring, but if it looks worn, you should replace it and check the lid for cracks.
Cracked pipes and valves – Other common places for air leaks in the pump are plumbing connections and valves, which develop cracks over time. Pour water over them to check for leaks. Even if a valve is intact, it might still need a replacement seal.
Low water level – Air can enter the skimmer if the water level is low. This is one of the most common reasons for air leaks. Adding water to the pool can quickly resolve the problem. Fill up the pool so the water level is between a third and halfway up the opening of the skimmer. Also look for a stuck skimmer weir.
Strainer basket drain plug – If the O-ring is bad, the strainer basket drain plug can let air in. Check the O-ring for wear and tear, and replace if needed.
Pressure Side Leaks
Most leaks here are water leaks. If there is no leak on the suction side, you need to check for pressure side leaks. Since this side is constantly under pressure, a leak can occur in any compromised area. Here are some of the signs of a pressure side leak:
- You can see the water drip or spray at the pipe connection to the pump.
- A puddle of water under the pump, possibly creating damage to equipment in the area or even the pump itself.
- Water damage in the adjoining areas.
If you see any of these signs, check out the following:
Impeller – It creates water pressure and is on the pump’s motor shaft. Sometimes impellers get damaged due to debris, causing the pump to leak. Also, impellers have a useful life – they can’t last forever. When they break down, they can start to leak. You need to replace the damaged or worn-out impeller. However, if there is a blockage, you can just unclog it.
Housing O-ring or gasket – There is a seal between the pump housing and the motor, which can crack or wear out, causing a leak. When you replace this seal, you can also replace the diffuser O-ring simultaneously.
Discharge pipe – If the housing gasket is in good condition, check the discharge pipe. The discharge pipe fitting can come off, causing the pump to leak. At times, this could be due to an ill-fitting seal, or it may happen because of the shrinking of the PVC pipe due to excessive heat. The shrinking problem happens more often if you are using a schedule 40 pipe. Using schedule 80 nipples at both the ends (suction and discharge) instead of a schedule 40 pipe can reduce the problem.
Pump housing – If there are no issues with the fittings or pipes coming out of the pump, you need to check the pump itself. Hairline cracks in the pump housing can occur even in a new pump. Check the pump housing for cracks. If you notice a crack in the pump housing, buy a new one.
Shaft Seal Leak
The shaft seal is between the pump motor and the impeller. It keeps the water out of the pump. When the seal fails, water can enter and result in motor failure. That is why you need to address this quickly. Some signs you need to look for include:
- A puddle of water below the pump under the motor connection point.
- Water damage in the adjoining area.
- Unusual noise from the motor, suggestive of a bearing motor problem.
An undetected shaft seal leak can damage your pump, which may result in the replacement of the pump or other motor components.
When you replace the motor but fail to change the shaft seal along with it, a shaft seal leak can occur. Never reuse the old seal. However, this is not a DIY job. Call a pool repair professional.
Why You Should Call a Professional Leak Detection Company
Fortunately, 90% of all pool leaks are minor and can be repaired on site by a licensed pool contractor. No matter what causes a leak in your swimming pool, swimming pool deck, spa, fountain, sewer pipe or under concrete slabs or in underground plumbing, our experienced team of professionals at Certified Leak Detection are ready to help! Contact us today!