Frequently Asked Questions
What exactly is a submersible pump?
What does the control box do?
Do I need a pump saver?
What other components are required?
For smaller submersibles installed to depths of about 500 feet, schedule 80 PVC (plastic) pipe with threaded couplings can be used. This pipe has a thicker wall than similar pipe that you might be used to seeing in irrigation systems for example. The schedule 80 pipe is designed for the task. It’s lighter and less costly than steel, and doesn’t corrode. A safety rope is installed alongside the PVC pipe in order to have a means of removing the submersible in the remote event that the pipe should break. A torque arrestor, which is a device to center the pump and minimize its twisting on startup, is installed above the pump.
In some cases, galvanized steel pipe is used. That’s because beyond a certain depth, the combined weight of the submersible, pipe, wire, and water contained in the pipe, would be too heavy for PVC pipe. Steel pipe is also used at shallower depths for larger submersibles, where the twisting of the motor when it starts (torque) might damage PVC pipe. Galvanized steel pipe is stronger, but is also heavier, and subject to eventual corrosion. A safety rope is not required in these installations.
No matter which type of pipe is used, one-way check-valves are installed at intermediate distances along the pipe string, to prevent water from draining back down the well when the submersible is shut off. The wire, and safety rope if installed, are lowered at the same time as the pipe string, and securely fastened to the pipe along its length.
The pipe string exits the well casing through a well cap. Surface plumbing varies with each installation, but may include a hose bib (for taking water samples), and a pressure-relief valve to vent excess pressure in case of malfunction.
What is meant by static level, submergence, and basement?
What type of wire is used?
What is the pressure tank for?
On new installations, the pressure tank may be omitted temporarily during the construction phase. The pump can still be operated manually using a generator for instance, providing water for the building construction process. The tank, associated plumbing, and controls can be added later when needed.
What is meant by single-pump and two-pump systems?
What about storage tanks?
Storage tanks are occasionally placed at a high elevation. The submersible pump fills the tank, and gravity alone provides water pressure for the house. For example, if the storage tank is 100 feet higher than the house, then the water pressure at the house will be about 43 pounds per square inch (PSI). Since most properties don’t have a sufficiently elevated tank location, the water pressure is instead provided by a separate pressure (jet) pump. The submersible pump fills the storage tank (controlled by a liquid level control in the tank), and the pressure pump (controlled by a pressure switch) fills the pressure tank.
Storage tanks in this area are often plastic, above-ground models. Popular sizes are 1500 and 2500 gallons. These units are long-lasting, relatively inexpensive, and easy to transport to difficult locations. They require about an eight foot diameter space, which need only be flat and rock free. Buried tanks are also available.
How does the well pump know when the tank is full?
Why is a pressure pump required when using a storage tank?
What controls the pressure pump?
How are the systems powered?
- The home is equipped with a solar and/or wind power system. The water system is powered by the same power system. This setup is used when water requirements are modest, or the power system is a larger size.
- The home is equipped with a solar and/or wind system. But the water system, and possibly other large loads, are powered by a separate engine-driven generator. This setup is used when the home power system is too small to run the water system because the water is too deep and/or the water demand is higher.
- The home and water system are both powered by generator only.
- The home and water system each use a separate solar or wind power system.
We’re often asked: “Which off-grid system should I use?” The answer is always the same: “It depends”. Here are just a few of the elements which play a part — water depth, water use, size of your intended power system, your home energy use, whether you mind running a generator, and, of course, your budget. Please call us if we can provide some advice
I'll be using a generator during construction of my home, can I use it to power the well temporarily?
Are these water systems difficult to operate and maintain?
Water quality – Well water should be checked occasionally for bacterial contaminants. You can take a sample yourself and have it lab-tested, or you can use a less expensive field test kit (we keep these in stock, and can do the test for you) There’s seldom a problem unless the well is near a septic system or contamination from animal sources. Occasionally residential wells are also tested for industrial contaminants, etc.
Storage tanks – Take a look inside occasionally to check for sediment building up on the bottom. Excess sediment can end up in your household plumbing, or harbor bacteria in the tank.
Electrical controls – Repair any damage to shelters which might allow water or rodents into controls. A common problem is ants fouling the contacts in pressure switches.
Pressure tanks – These are maintenance free, but you can prolong their life by keeping them out of the hot sun if possible.
Well head, surface plumbing – Promptly repair any physical damage caused by animals chewing on components or insulation, etc. Fence off the area if necessary. Keep above-ground plastic plumbing shielded from the sun. Check your entire installation before winter to see that insulation is adequate. Marginal wells should have draw-down tests performed occasionally to verify that control timers, etc., are set up properly and functioning. Valves should be operated occasionally to prevent them from becoming stuck in position, especially if the mineral content of the water is high.
Off- grid power systems – Keep insects out of inverters and controls. Keep vents clear of dust and debris. Check batteries often for proper water-level and verify that connections are clean and tight. Prevent batteries from being exposed to freezing temperatures, especially when charge levels are low. If powered by an engine-driven generator, don’t let the generator run out of fuel while the well pump is operating. Check occasionally for proper voltage output.
General advice – Know your system. It’s best to be familiar with the sounds and cycle times of the components. This way you’ll recognize symptoms early, such as too-rapid cycling of pumps. Be sure the system is equipped with a pump saver device if there’s any possibility of low water or faulty electrical supply.
What types of problems arise as these systems age?
Early submersible failure – Pumps sometimes fail early if they’ve been sized incorrectly, or have been pumping excessive contaminants. Motors can fail early if they’ve been subjected to poor power supply, such as inadequate wiring or fusing, or being repeatedly allowed to run at low voltage as the generator runs out of fuel. Running the pump dry will also cause premature failure. This can happen if the pump electrical controls are inadequate for use on a marginal well.
Pressure tank failure – Pressure tanks often last a very long time, but occasionally they can be short-lived. The average lifespan is probably about five years. Fewer operating cycles equals longer life, so the tank should be sized to minimize cycling. When pressure tanks fail, the submersible or pressure pump will be cycling much more rapidly than normal, which can in turn cause the pumps to fail as well.
Freezing – Above ground plumbing is subject to occasional freezing, even in our warm climate. Most problems with frozen pipes cure themselves once it warms up. But pipes and valves can split when frozen, resulting in floods when the components thaw out, occasionally causing pumps to run endlessly and fail as a result.
What can I do to reduce service costs?
What warranties are available?
What about the well drilling process?
The choice of a specific location for your well will depend on many factors, including ease of access, distance to power supply, etc. The best estimate of depth is likely to be based on the depths of nearby wells. Give us a call, we’ve probably worked on wells in your area. You can also search online or by phone/fax for details about neighboring wells.