Break or electrical short in the line to my well. What should I do?

Picture of a well with the words, well pump won't turn on?

Well pump won’t turn on? Rover escaping his invisible fence? The cause may surprise you.

If your well suddenly stops delivering water, or your electric dog fence no longer contains your pooch, it may not be the product that is defective, or the plumbing. It’s possible the problem is in your underground wiring.

The same is true of other common yard fixtures. Pond pumps and outdoor lighting, for example, also are frequently wired underground, and homeowners shouldn’t automatically assume malfunctions are caused by mechanical failures.

Before you call a repairman or try to replace the device, it’s smart to check first with an electrical contractor. A qualified electrician will be able to determine if you have a short or other issue with your underground wiring and, if he finds one, to repair it.

This isn’t a job you should tackle yourself. Without professional expertise and the proper equipment, the process of finding a break in an underground wire can be overwhelming. Knowing the source of the power doesn’t help. Lines extending from the power source could be laid in any direction to any depth. It’s almost impossible to guess where they are, and where a short would be, and the process of finding them could require excavating much of your yard.

And while you’re randomly digging around, you could damage other underground utilities, including your gas, water, electrical or sewer lines.

As certified electrical contractors, we can save both your time and your yard. Using a special underground locator, our technician will crisscross over your property to pinpoint exactly where the short is. This equipment is able to determine not only the location of the short but the depth of the wiring up to 20 feet. When we find the short, the technician or you can dig directly to it.

What causes wire shorts? A common culprit is rodents. Rats, squirrels and their relatives love to chew on the plastic wire coatings when they can get at them. In addition, over time the wire system can degrade, leading to a breakdown and possible shorts. Spreading tree roots and flooding also could damage the wiring as could a physical assault such a shovel hitting a wire as you’re digging for fence posts.

Prevention, of course, is the best defense against your underground wires shorting: Make sure they’re installed correctly. Call your electrical contractor before you start any project for advice on the type of wires you need, the proper depth to bury them and whether they should be threaded through a cable. You can also call 8-1-1, a free “Call Before You Dig” service that can help you map your underground wiring and utility lines. You’ll still need an electrician to handle wires.

If it’s too late for prevention, and you’re sitting in the dark because your yard lighting is kaput, check first with an electrician to safely check and repair your underground wiring

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