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Well Pumps

A well pump for a water system is almost always a job for a very experienced person. Remember that you're dealing not only with you drinking water, but also with high electrical voltage as well. A simple mistake could be hazardous or even fatal.

There are two types of well pumps.

Submersible Pumps

This is the standard pump for most homes. The submersible pump gets installed at the bottom of a well and pushes the water up. Depth of the well is not a problem for this type of pump. The only difference is the size of motor required. Your average homes use 1/2 horsepower(hp), 3/4hp, or maybe 1hp motors. It has to be used for deep wells, but can also perform on shallow wells.

Many wells that use this kind of pump are between 60'- 500' deep. Unless you have a machine and experience, pulling a submersible pump should be left to a professional.

These types of pumps give very reliable performance for a number of years. Unfortunately, life is hard for a motor stuck in the bottom of a well.

The average lifespan of a pump is probably about 10-15 years. Some pumps will definitely go longer, while some stop working in less. One way or another, the pump will need to be replaced at some point. The pump to the left was in use for about 12 years. This pump actually doesn't look that bad! Some are completely covered in rust, with the pump inlet(the middle strip in both photos) almost plugged shut.

Pumps normally work just fine until the moment that the motor stops working. It is very common to go to bed with running water, but wake up to none, or even just running out in the middle of something. There are generally no warning signs.

Submersible pumps are quite expensive, so don't be surprised if you get charged $500 or more for one depending on where you live.

Jet Pumps

A jet pump sits above the well. It "sucks" water up out of the well. It is normally located in the basement and if it is, you probably have already heard it turning off and on. From experience, these pumps seem to last considerably longer than the submersible pumps, maybe because the motor doesn't have as hard of a life above water. Or maybe because there aren't nearly as many out there, it just seems that way.

Jet pumps are much more convenient to work on, but aside from the noise, they are also limited in the depth of the well. Jet pumps can be installed as a 1 pipe or as a 2 pipe system. The one pipe relies solely on suction and is very limited. While some pump companies recommend even less, most professionals would agree that a 1 pipe system can be expected to lift water about 25ft.

A 2 pipe system uses one of the pipes to push water down and doesn't rely completely on suction. This allows for much deeper installations. However, they still can't reach the depths that a submersible can.

A common problem with a jet pump is that it can lose its prime. The suction line of a jet pump need to remain air-free in order to create a suction in the water. A pump doesn't normally lose it's prime on a regular basis, but this seems to be the most common problem when there is a problem. A leak anywhere on the suction line can cause the pipe to suck air and break prime. Besides a leak in a pipe, the most common problem is with the foot valve. The foot valve is located at the bottom of the well. It acts like a one way valve, allowing water to go up the pipe, but not back down the pipe. If this foot valve allows the water to leak back out into the well, it can cause the pump to lose prime.

Priming the pump is very tricky, and almost completely impossible with the foot valve not holding. It requires water to be poured into the pump itself, allowing the air to come out the filler hole. This is normally on top of the pump. When the pump is full of water, the hole can be plugged, and the pump can be tried. When the pipe is full of water, the pump should start moving water. If it doesn't, there could be something more serious that requires the attention of a professional.

Free Online Plumber does not warrant any of the information on this page, in regards to the accuracy or effectiveness of these procedures or this information. Always check and follow all applicable local plumbing codes.
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