Well Pump Buyers Guide: Everything You Need to Know
Almost all urban households have access to a constant supply of water. They are connected to a central system that is controlled and monitored by the local water utility.
However, rural houses do not have the same luxuries. They are often responsible for setting up their own water supply system.
In fact, millions of rural homes rely on wells for their water supply. A well pump is a modern invention that makes this collection process more effective and less tedious. But what is it, and how does it work?
Here is everything you need to know about buying a well pump.
An Overview about Well Pumps
A well pump is a type of mechanical equipment that is installed after a well is dug. Depending on the type of pump, the water is lifted, pulled, or pushed from under the ground and sends it into your home. The tool is typically powered either manually or by an electrical motor and moves water into a pipe from the well, through which it eventually makes its way to your home.
These well pumps are available in a range of designs, sizes, and technologies. You have to decide which one is best for you.
Make your decision based on:
- The depth of your well including the static water level
- How much water you and the rest of the residents in your house need
- If you want a manual or motorized pump
- The need for a backup manual pump in case of a power outage or storm
- If you want to pump into a pressure tank to pressurize your home's water fixtures for instant water
Now, let’s get into the details of how a well pump works and what options you have to choose from.
How Does A Well Pump Work?
Pumps are important because they help your family or business by getting water from the ground into your house or designated water system. Jet pumps and submersible pumps rely on centrifugal force to do this. Rotating parts, called impellers, create a vacuum that forces the water up through the well casing.
Hand pumps utilize either suction or a lift mechanism to move the water up from the well.
Some types of pumps can also pump water into a pressure tank. Then when you open a tap in your house, water will flow out, and the air pressure in the tank will go down. As soon as it drops, the pump motor will start again and push water into the storage tank.
The Components of a Well Pump
A well pump doesn’t work on its own. Instead, it is a complex system of components working in unison to provide you with water. Therefore, when you’re buying a well pump, you also need to look into buying a pump system.
Depending on your specific well pump and its configuration, you might need to use any of these components -
The well pump utilizes piping to lift or push water out of the well.
Deep well jet pumps need an ejector to work properly. This component creates a vacuum that lets your pump pull water up from depths of 25 to 110 feet.
- Foot Valve
The foot valve stops the backflow of water and controls the pressure and prime when you’re not using your pump. When the foot valve stops working, it is safe to assume that you’ll have to deal with prime failure and pump failure.
- Check Valve
The check valve lets you keep tabs on pressure and prevents backflow, just like a foot valve. Check valves are normally on the discharge side of pumps, and foot valves are on the intake of pumps.
- Pressure Tank
The pressure tank stores water from the well and supplies it to your home at an appropriate pressure. When buying a new well pump or replacing an old one, check the pressure tank for damage. If it loses quality, your pump will not work efficiently.
- Pressure Switch
The pressure switch works with the air pressure tank to regulate your pump system’s pressure. Factories typically set it to 20/40 psi or 30/50 psi. The pressure switch is activated when you use water and is turned off when you are done.
- Thermal and Overload Protection
Thermal protection keeps electric well pumps safe from overheating. If the motor gets too hot, the motor will not rotate.
Boosters increase the pressure capacity in well pumps, which makes sure that water pressure is constant.
The Types of Well Pumps
The water table changes from region to region. In some places, it is only a few feet below the ground and easily accessible. In other places, it is super deep, and you need special drill pumps to access it.
These pumps need to transport water across a greater distance than the former and, therefore, require a different mechanism.
Depending on where your residence is and how far below the surface the water table is, you’ll need a different type of water pump. Choosing the right one is the most important part of buying a pump.
All of these types of well pumps can push water into a storage tank. This tank acts as a reserve for your house. As soon as you turn the motor on or start manually pumping the well pump, the water is pulled into the pump and pushed up to the surface.
Deep Well Hand Pump
A deep well piston rod pump, also called a sucker rod pump, is a manual well pump and needs you to provide power instead of a motor. It does not need electricity to operate like the other pump types on this list. You are responsible for generating energy through a pumping motion. They utilize long slender cylinders that are inserted inside the tubing of a well. Parts inside the cylinder move with the hand level to gather water from beneath the cylinder and lift the water to the surface of the well.
The cylinder is placed below the ground. When the plunger is pulled up, water is lifted to the rising main. It is then drawn into the cylinder. The foot valve closes when the plunger is pushed down. Water passes the plunger, and it is lifted up when the plunger is pulled up again.
These well pumps are suitable for wells with a depth between 25 and 325 feet. However, they can work efficiently with shallower wells as well. Simple Pump's deep well hand pump is able to pump up to 325 feet because of the quality of the pump materials and the weight of the pump system. Most hand pumps are limited on the depth they are able to support.
You can choose to get a well pump with a flywheel instead of an up and down handle if you want. These are rotated in a circle.
Taking care of this type of well pump is fairly easy. All you need to do is check in on it periodically to make sure it is working. Read the manufacturer's maintenance tips to know how to keep it in good working condition. Depending on the quality and materials you may need to replace any rods that have signs of wear. Typically, you do not need to worry about this for several years for higher-quality deep well hand pumps. The well pump as a whole will last anywhere between six and twelve years, depending on how well you take care of it. Different manufacturers offer short-term, multiple years, or lifetime warranties on their hand pumps.
The most common problems you need to keep an eye out for include:
- Replacing the seals
- Buying a poor quality well pump - only look at well known and high-quality manufacturers
- Corrosion - a problem in areas with aggressive groundwater
- Shaky handles - happens because of worn-out bearings
Jet pumps are the most powerful type of electric well pumps. They quickly transport water from the ground to your home. A jet pump is similar to a suction pump in that atmospheric pressure is utilized to push the water up the pump pipe. Jet pumps are mounted above the well and utilize electricity to power the motor to drive an impeller creating suction through the movement of the well water.
What’s more, these pumps work well in wells at all depths. However, they are recommended for wells between 25 and 110 feet. Jet pumps have low maintenance costs. So even though it may seem like a big upfront investment, it is definitely worth it in the long term.
‘Single drop’ installations are meant for wells on the shallow end, whereas ‘double drop’ installations are ideal for deep wells. Whichever one you choose, remember that the motor needs to be above the ground even though the jet will be assembled inside.
Single Drop Jet Pump
The single drop jet pump, in particular, deserves extra detail. This is because it is an excellent option for shallow wells. Several rural homeowners swear by it.
These pumps have one-way check valves. While that may sound technical, it really isn’t. These valves keep the pumps primed and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
In fact, the relative simplicity of this pump’s mechanics reduces its maintenance. Take one quick look at the user's manual, and you’ll know exactly how to work the pump.
A submersible pump works by pushing the water toward the surface instead of pulling it. It has a hermetically sealed motor that connects to the pump body that helps to push the well water toward the surface of the well. Submersible pumps are super versatile and can be used for a wide range of wells and depths. Even so, experts recommend submersible pumps for wells between 110 and 400 feet.
This doesn’t mean they will not work well for shallow wells. You can definitely get a submersible pump for a 25-feet deep well. However, it isn’t the most effective option. They’re kept underwater and very rarely need repairs. Even when you need to carry out maintenance, it tends to be minimal.
However, it can be costly. This is because any repairs will require removing the well pump from deep inside the well, which calls for technical expertise. Hiring professionals is always expensive.
The centrifugal pump rotates an internal fan to produce suction. It isn’t like the other products in this list because it has to be placed in a hut next to the well instead of inside the well.
You can only use this type of pump if the depth of your well is less than 25 feet. However, it is important to note that this is the cheapest well pump you’ll find.
Shallow Well Suction Pump
Shallow well suction pumps are manual pumps, which means you provide the power instead of an electrical circuit. A suction hand pump utilizes atmospheric pressure to create a vacuum in the pipe above the water. Once the vacuum is there, the weight of the air, or atmospheric pressure, pushes the water up the pipe. Think of drinking a soda with a straw. You pull the liquid from a cup or glass into your mouth. These pumps work in a similar way - only they push instead of pulling.
These pumps can lift up to 25 feet of water and are often used as a backup supply by homeowners in case of a power outage or electric pump problem.
Check out our shallow well suction pump's details to get a better idea of how you can use it as an easy, reliable backup to your electric pump.
Choosing Well Pumps
There are hundreds of well pumps on the market. Choosing just one can seem like a daunting task. However, we’re here to help make it a little easier for you!
Use these five factors to narrow down your list.
1. Your Old Well Pump
If you’re replacing a well pump and are happy with the performance, ease of use, and quality of your old well pump, the easiest thing to do is repurchase the same model. It is convenient and easy. You already know it works, so it will be less stressful.
However, if you do this, you should know that manufacturers come out with new models with better technology every few months. So if you get an older model, you could be missing out on great high-tech features.
To avoid this problem, you can get the same type of well pump in a newer model. For instance, if you had a shallow jet pump, get another one. But get a newer model, so you have higher quality.
2. Your Well’s Depth
If you haven’t purchased or used a well pump before, the first thing you need to figure out is your well’s static water level and total depth. When looking at pumps, only shortlist products that can accommodate your well’s static water level and depth.
Finding the static water level is easy. All you need is a string or rope with a weight at the end. Lower it into the well until you can not feel the weight. This change will mean that the object is floating on the water.
Mark the string at this height and then pull it out. Measure it from the mark to the point where you attached the weight. This is the static water level of your well.
Finding the depth of the well isn't that much more difficult. Records in your location or from your well driller should quickly provide the total depth of your well and additional information like the static water level and recovery rate of your well.
3. The Length and Number of Pipes For Your Well Pump System
A quality well pump installer and well pump manufacturer will be able to calculate the number of pipes that need to be included in your well pump system for everything to work correctly for your water needs. You can also look at your existing well pump and look at how many lines it has connected to it to get a quick estimate of the length and number of pipes.
4. Your Pump’s Horsepower
In addition to the well’s depth, if you are purchasing an electric pump, you also need to know what your pump’s horsepower should be to handle the amount of water that you need for your household.
More horsepower means it can work at greater depths and that it has more pressure. The latter makes sure you have a consistent water flow.
When replacing a pump, try to get one with similar or higher horsepower. Never go below. Every new person or fixture in a house requires more energy and takes up extra horsepower. So having a wiggle room is always good.
5. How Much Voltage Your Property Needs
Submersible pumps and jet pumps work on electricity. They are connected to your home’s circuit breaker. Most are dual voltage which means you can set it at 230 V or 115 V. Check with the pump manufacturer to understand the electricity needs of your new electric pump.
Some pumps can also work with generators in case of a power outage or solar power kits if you want to supply an off-grid power supply for the pump. Several pump manufacturers offer complete solar power well pump kits to make purchasing a complete system easier.
Uses of Well Pumps
Well pumps are used to pump liquid from a large body of water. But what do you do with the water once it is out of the ground? Water is a big part of our lives in addition to the basic drinking uses.
Each part of our day involves water in one way or the other. When you do not have access to government-supplied water, well pumps take over. The water you get from there serves the same purpose tap water would.
If you own land, you can use a well pump to make sure it is thoroughly irrigated and healthy. You can use one or more submersible pumps and supply your land with a lake, reservoir, or just groundwater.
It will not cost a lot, so you’ll be able to run this system without using too much money.
CDC says that most of the groundwater in the United States is safe to drink. It isn’t contaminated and provides you with a source of potable drinking water. However, it can, at times, get contaminated.
This can happen because of any number of reasons ranging from fertilizers and pesticides to parasites and viruses. If the water your well pump is pulling out gets infected, you’ll get health problems.
So you either need to get the groundwater checked periodically or purchase a water filtration system.
Cleaning or Bathing Well Water for My Home
You can safely use groundwater directly for cleaning and hygiene purposes. Use it to collect water for baths, cooking food, washing dishes, etc.
Since you will not be ingesting the water during these tasks, you do not need to filter it or keep track of contamination. However, it is always better to err on the side of caution. If possible, you should still look into the safety measures.
Supplying Well Water for My Farm or Garden
Supplying water to your farm or garden is quite similar to irrigation. It works by the same principle but on a smaller scale.
Priming A Well Pump
So you have purchased a new well pump. Check the manufacturer's instructions to understand if you have to prime the pump prior to using the pump. You may have to prime your well pump when you get it.
This is one of the most important parts of taking care of a well pump. It simply means you need to remove the air out of the pump before using it. Doing this keeps your well pump safe from damage.
Submersible well pumps only need to be primed the first time you use them. There is no need to repeat the process once the machines are underwater.
Non-submersible pumps have to be primed after any incident that causes them to ‘lose prime.’ This includes things like power outages.
Re-priming isn’t a complicated process. You only need some time to spare, a bucket, and a few tools.
How to Prime A Shallow Well Pump
Start by turning your pump off and disconnecting it from all electrical outlets. Then inspect the pump and connectors. Look for any signs of damage, including cracks.
Remove the prime plug. This is at the top of the pump. If possible, open the release valves; it prevents pressure build-up. Then get your hands on a load-free hose. You’ll need it to fill the pump casing.
You can also use a large bucket or bottle instead of a hose. However, a hose will work better.
When filling the pump casing, make sure you’re adding enough water that it comes out of the relief valves and prime plug. The specific amount of water for this task changes from well pump to well pump.
The water used for this step should be the same type you’re using the well pump to collect. For instance, if you’re using your pump to supply you with potable drinking water, then you should fill the tank with potable drinking water.
Once you’re done, replace the prime plug. Then reconnect the pump and start its engine. Wait for it to go through one complete cycle. If it works properly without complications, you know you’ve done your job correctly.
How to Prime A Jet Pump
Jet pumps work in a similar way to shallow well pumps. The only major difference is that they can extract water from greater depths.
Most jet pumps come with two pipes. One provides suction for the water while the other pushes water into a venturi loop.
The priming process for jet pumps is the same as for shallow well pumps, except that you have to fill both suction pipes with water along with the pump housing.
What to Do If Pump Stops Cycling Normally
If your pump isn’t drawing water at the volume or pressure you need it to, the first step is checking to see if it is fully primed. You can do this by looking at the tank and making sure it is filled to the top with water.
Sometimes non-submersible well pumps lose their prime. This can happen for a number of reasons, but the most common ones include -
- malfunctioning check valves
- bad foot valves
- leaking fittings or pipes
- Improperly fixed fittings
- broken seals
- blocked pipes
- dry wells
- damaged pumps
If, after a thorough examination, you have determined that the pump is primed and doesn’t need to be reprimed, the next step is checking the pressure tank.
Most pumps come with a pressure gauge. If yours doesn’t, invest in an external pressure gauge so you can keep an eye on the pressure.
If your pressure tank is supposed to stay at 40 PSI but is dropping below 20 PSI, you have a problem. Use a booster pump and fix the water pressure.
Tips to Save Energy
Well pumps tend to draw a lot of energy. While the specific amount changes and depends on variables like the size and pressure of the pump and the amount of water used in a household, it is typically significant.
For some households, paying for the well pump ends up becoming a major expense.
These tips will help you save energy and pay less.
- Regular Maintenance
Staying on top of maintenance is crucial to being energy efficient. Leaky faucets and showers increase the burden on well pumps by as much as two to three gallons a month.
Every day that passes without you fixing it results in a loss of more than four thousand gallons.
While small issues like a faulty hose can seem inconsequential, they make a big difference. You should deal with them as soon as possible.
- Check for Waterlogging
If your well pump’s tank becomes filled with too much water, its sensors can become over-sensitive. This is bad because it means the pump will start and stop several times.
The energy required to start a pump is significantly more than the energy required to keep it running. This means that every time your pump turns off and then turns on, it is being inefficient and putting an extra burden on your bills.
- Get Sizing Done by A Professional
Sizing a well pump requires technical expertise. While you can do it yourself, you probably will not be able to get it right. In fact, most people would not be able to.
It is very common for people to have 3/4 hp pumps installed in their wells when a 1/2 hp pump would get the job done. In this example, a well that would work with 240 kWh/yr is tasking 350 kWh/yr. Not only is energy being wasted, but it is being wasted for no reason. This problem can be fixed by understanding your well pump needs.
Frequently Asked Questions About Well Pumps
Q1. Can I pump too much water from my well?
Yes, you can over pump your well.
Doing so will expose the geology in the cone of depression to the air. Any arsenic-bearing minerals in the area will be released and picked up by the water in the area. In simple terms, it will lead to well-failure.
You can avoid this problem. When a well is drilled, a licensed well contractor records the static water level and recommends a pumping rate and an optimal depth for pump placement on their drilling report.
As long as you operate as directed by the contractor, you will not have to worry about over-pumping.
Q2. What happens to my well pump if I lose electricity?
An electrical well pump will stop working if you experience a power outage.
You’ll get water for a short time. This water will come from the storage tank. However, as soon as you finish it, you’ll be out of water. That's why we recommend having a backup manual pump alongside your electric pump.
Q3. Will my well pump freeze during the winter?
It is highly unlikely that your well water will freeze. However, the water in the pipes and the pump is in danger.
Submersible well pumps are generally safe in the winter months. Aboveground jet pumps are at risk and should be kept safe from drafts.
Check with the manufacturer of the hand well pumps to understand if the pump can support freezing temperatures or not. You can also check out our tips on how to Protect Your Well Water Pump From Freezing.
Q4. What kinds of maintenance do I need for my well pump?
Quality well pump manufacturers provide maintenance information on your well pump. This may be as simple as maintaining the pump seals, but it's best to make sure to understand everything needed to make sure your pump is working in top condition.
Prime your well pump when you get it and then re-prime according to the instructions given above in the ‘Priming A Well Pump’ section.
Get a professional to do a simple check every two or three years to make sure everything is running smoothly.
Q5. How long does a well pump last?
Depending on the equipment model and type, the typical well pump lasts between a few years to fifteen or more years. This also depends on how well maintained the pump is during the time you have it.
Q6. Do I need a water tank for water storage?
You should have a water tank for water storage in case you do not have electricity.