According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 15 million American households get their drinking water from private wells. If you’re one of them, making sure you have the best well pump for your home or business is essential to ensure a consistent, uninterrupted flow of clean, safe water from underground. The information here can provide a check-up for your current system or serve as a guide for your next well pump purchase.
Well Pump Mechanics
The majority of well pumps use electrically-powered suction to move water from underground wells to pressurized storage tanks. Pumps generally fall into two design categories:
- Jet pump: Jet pumps use a motor to pull the water out of the wall along with a pressurized tank to deliver an even flow of water to a home or business.
- Submersible pump: Submersible pumps push water upward and include a motor as well as an internal check valve. They may or may not include a pressure tank, and they are often the more efficient choice for deep wells.
Well Depth Considerations
Shallow Wells (less than 25 feet)
Areas with a high water table often have shallow wells, in which water travels less than 25 feet from well to surface. Single-drop jet pumps are ideal for shallow wells, with one-way check valves to keep the pump primed and a single inlet pipe that sits above ground to draw up water. Their simple design makes them easy to maintain.
They feature one-way check valves to keep pumps primed. The pump sits above ground, drawing water through a single inlet pipe. Because the mechanics are straight-forward, they tend to need less maintenance.
Deep Wells (25 to 110 feet)
Wells with a depth between 25 and 110 feet do best with a double-drop jet pump, which uses two pipes to draw water from the ground and push it up to the surface. A foot valve is used to prime the pipe, and a long tailpipe connected to the end of the intake valve ensures that the well won’t be pumped dry if the water level drops below the housing.
Very Deep Wells (25 to 400 feet)
A deep-well submersible pump uses a pressure tank to draw water through a single pipe connecting the inside well to the home. Submersible pumps tend to be more effective than jet pumps at extreme depths but must be completely immersed in water to function properly.
Because they are always submerged, mechanical issues like cavitation or losing prime are rare; however, when repairs are required, the entire unit may have to be removed from the well casing.
Selecting a Well Pump Size
Choosing your well pump size will be based on the average needs of your home or business. Well pumps are rated according to gallons per minute (GPM); a typical family home needs at least 8 to 12 GMP to function smoothly.
Conducting an inventory of water fixtures—including faucets, washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators and shower heads—and adding one GPM for each can also give you a reasonable estimate of your needs. Avoid overestimating your use by too much, as a pump that’s too large for your needs will waste energy and perform below optimal levels.
Alternative Energy Sources for Well Pumps
While most well pumps use electricity to power their operation, you do have several alternatives to electric pumps:
- Solar-powered pumps: Solar panels deliver the energy needed to power these pumps, and while the up-front costs may be greater than electric pumps, the ongoing costs are essentially nonexistent, which can save you money in the long run.
- Manual pumps: Manual pumps are good for temporary backup use in case your motorized pump breaks or you experience an extended power outage.
- Kinetic water ram pumps: These pumps use the kinetic energy of running water in combination with hydraulics to lift water out of the ground and are used primarily for agricultural applications.
- Pneumatic pumps: Pneumatic pumps use air to drive water out of the ground and are mainly restricted to industrial and commercial use.
Getting the Most Life from Your Well Pump
With proper maintenance, you can expect an above-ground jet pump to last anywhere from 5 years to 20 years before requiring replacement. Submersible pumps generally last around 15 years, although water with a high sediment count can shorten their life expectancy. The considerations below all factor into the lifespan of your well pump:
- Duty cycle: Intermittent duty cycles extend pumps’ life, while constant or heavy use yields shorter lifespans.
- Motor size: Motors that generate at least 1 HP don’t have to work as hard as smaller motors, so they often last longer.
- Motor quality: High-quality components and well-lubricated bearings can extend the life of a pump.
- Safe yield: Pushing a well pump beyond its intended capacity and output can severely shorten its lifespan, so always limit use to the unit’s safe yield.
- Sediment levels: Sediment like algae, sand and silt can abrade pump bearings, leading to accumulated damage over years of use.
Troubleshooting Well Pump Issues
Keep an eye out for these warning signs that indicate your well pump isn’t functioning as it should:
- Low water pressure: If you notice a sudden drop in water pressure while showering or using a faucet, your pump may need repairs.
- Intermittent cycling: If the pump turns on and off without reason, your pressure control switch could be malfunctioning.
- Short-cycling: If you notice the pump shutting down sooner than it should, a blockage or malfunctioning control switch may be causing the issue.
Final Thoughts on the Best Well Pump
Selecting the right pump type and size for your well can help ensure years of smooth, trouble-free operation. Regular maintenance to check for correct flow rate and intact seals and flanges can help extend the life of your pump, as can promptly addressing any issues or needed repairs. We recommend identifying a trusted professional in your area to provide you with the support you need to keep safe, clean water flowing consistently to your home or business.