WHAT WE WERE LOOKING FOR
We live in Calgary, Alberta, and have a farm 50 miles NW of Calgary and wanted to build a weekend cottage that we could use in the summertime. The best building site was on a rise with no trees. We planned to plant some trees but needed a decent supply of water. We planted 3000 seedlings and started trucking water in 45-gallon drums in the back of a pick-up to get the trees started. But after a few weeks, trucking the water became the main job. Little time left for anything else. We needed a well and a reliable water pump.
We lined up a fellow with a cable-tool drilling rig and got ready to drill a well. We got a dowser to find the best place for the well. He witched the whole building site and said there was no water anywhere. We gave the bad news to the water-well driller. He said there was water everywhere and if he didn’t find water, we wouldn’t have to pay for the well. He drilled the well and found about 1 gpm at 65 ft. He continued drilling to 95 ft. looking for more water but didn’t find any more. 1 gpm isn’t much of a well, but it was better than nothing and we were paying for the well anyway so we had him case it.
We have power running past the farm, but the utility company wanted $80/month just for the hook up. The actual power and the billing fee was on top of that. So for the relatively small amount of time we planned to spend there, we decided to make do with a little generator. We bought the smallest 110 V submersible pump we could find and installed it. But it was rated at 5 gpm so it would run for only 5 minutes before it emptied the well. Still it was better than hauling water in the back of a pick-up so we made do.
We were looking for a smaller pump that could be solar-powered and run continuously. Our local solar-power dealer had a used Simple Pump with 100 ft of pipe that he was willing to sell for only $400. The catch was that he had installed it on trial on a ranch 60 miles south of Calgary. The rancher had allowed it to freeze the previous winter and the PVC pipe had broken and dropped the pump and sucker rod into the 200 ft deep well. The rancher decided that it didn’t meet his needs. The local water well contractor estimated it would cost at least $1000 to retrieve it but would give no guarantee. I could have everything for $400 if I would go and get it out of the well. The solar dealer had a used 130 W solar panel he would include for another $400.
I bought 200 ft of 1/4″ poly rope and made a “fishing” hook out of a piece of 2″ exhaust tubing. My wife and I went to the rancher’s place and with his help lowered the hook into the well and snared one of the PVC couplings on the riser pipe on the first attempt. We pulled the downhole parts to the surface and removed the PVC pipe sections and sucker-rod sections piece-by-piece, packed everything into the truck, and returned to Calgary.
The next weekend we went up to the farm and installed the Simple Pump along side the 110 V submersible pump and installed the solar panel and a 12 volt RV battery. We drilled an 1/8″ hole in the upper-most section of PVC pipe to avoid water accumulation and freezing. Everything worked.
We bought a 1200 us gallon poly tank and had the Simple Pump pump the well into the tank at about 1 gpm. We have another 110 V pump that we use with the generator to pump water from the poly tank to the trees at about 5 gpm.
The inflow to our well is so small that we reduced the stroke of the pump to avoid emptying the well. We thought the pump was using a lot of energy just to raise and lower the pump and drive water through the 1/8″ freeze-avoidance hole in the PVC piping. So we converted a 110 electronic timer to 12 V and run the pump at full stroke for 30 minutes out of every 2 hours. The well fills to within 20 ft of the surface when the pump is shut off, and then empties the well at about 1 gpm when it’s running. We keep an eye on the poly tank and shut the pump off when the tank is full.
That was eight years ago. Now the trees are fully established and no longer need water. But seven years ago we built the garage/cottage and the Simple Pump supplies all the water we need for the cottage, garden, etc. It pumps to two 50 us gallon tanks in the cottage attic to supply toilets, sinks. showers, etc. by gravity. We just keep an eye on the tanks and manually start and stop the pump to periodically top up the tanks.
The original 12 volt motor on the Simple Pump burned out about five years ago and we bought a replacement from Granger (Chicago I think). It only lasted a couple of years before it burned out. Granger no longer stocked the motor so we bought the bigger and much better replacement motor from Simple Pump. It is still going strong.
The main virtue of the Simple Pump is that it is simple enough that any reasonably mechanical person can install it themselves. A contractor is not necessary. And if it needs fixing, anyone can fix it. A specialist contractor isn’t necessary. The components are all light weight and can be easily man-handled into the well.
We leave it in the well all winter and the polish rod got rusted and chewed up the seal in the pump head. I phoned Simple Pump and for a few dollars, they sent replacement seals by return post. I bought a piece of 3/4″ stainless steel and made a new polish rod. It’s still working.
We don’t worry about having enough water. We haven’t used the 110 V pump in our well for five years.
Service from Simple Pump was very good when we needed parts – just a phone call away. And advice was available with respect to installing parts, etc.
How no other pump would work in our situation. (One example is depth: Simple Pump can be used at a much greater depth than any other hand pump.)
The main virtue of Simple Pump for us is 12 V DC operation. We don’t need an expensive utility connection. There are other 12 V DC pumps available but they are all diaphragm type and being downhole, difficult to service if they fail.
The Simple Pump also lends itself to windmill operation. We have an old windmill we are restoring and hope to eventually have it drive our Simple Pump.
The pressure capability of the Simple Pump may also become a virtue. Our Simple Pump is installed at about 85 ft. and pumps into overhead tanks about 30 ft. above grade. This summer we plan to install a pressure tank and let the Simple Pump fill the pressure tank and turn off and on with a pressure switch. This should work given the pressures the Simple Pump is capable of, but it might take excessive battery power. We’ll see.
Overall we are very pleased with our Simple Pump. We recommend it to people, but they think it overly expensive – there aren’t enough 2nd hand ones around available at a discount. To some degree, the equipment expense is offset by the lower cost of being able to install it yourself and repair/service it yourself. Naturally, if it was less expensive, more people would buy it as a back-up pump to their downhole 220 V electric pumps. Perhaps for back-up duty the cheap 12 VDC diaphragm pumps are adequate. But for continuous, primary service, the Simple Pump is best.