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Well Pumps: The Basics

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Choosing Well PumpsEnergy Saving Tips
for Well Pumps
  1. Well pumps should be selected very carefully. The size of the well is established by measuring the inside diameter of the well. That measurement will determine the proper size of the pump, injector, and cylinder.
  2. Well pumps need to be measured vertically. The distance between the well pump and the water level indicates the pumping level.
  3. Location of well pumps is vital. The placement of the well pump in proximity to the well is significant. If the well is situated on lower ground than the pump, the distance between the two must be considered.
  4. Average discharge pressure of well pumps should be calculated. The most common pressure is 40 lbs. Therefore, most water systems have a switch setting range of 30-50 lbs. A greater pressure is required if the tank is placed away from the well pump, and at a higher level, or when house fixtures are located above the pump. In this case, a larger well pump is indicated.
  5. Discharge capacity of well pumps need to be secured in order to ensure optimal service.Well pumps should be able to deliver the total water requirement with two hours of continuous operation.

Well pumps typically draw a lot of energy. The precise amount depends on the pressure and size of the pump, the depth of the water table, and the amount of water used in a given household. To ensure optimal energy conservation for well pumps:

  1. Make sure leaky faucets, showers, and hoses are corrected. They can increase demand on well pumps by 2-3 gallons per minute. Over a 24 hour period that could amount to an increased pump demand of 4,320 gallons. Small fixes can make a big difference.
  2. Have the pressure tank inspected to determine if it is waterlogged. The tank can be filled with too much water, causing the pressure sensor to become overactive. If this happens, the pump will start and stop repeatedly during a pumping cycle. Well pumps use a huge amount of energy every time they start up.
  3. Well pumps should be sized by a professional. It is not uncommon for people to have 3/4 hp pumps installed in their wells equaling 30 minutes of pumping per day or 350 kWh/yr, while a ½ hp pump, which uses only 240 kWh/yr, would be sufficient.
  4. Have well pumps maintained regularly. In addition to pressure checks and correct sizing, well pumps themselves can leak. This of course results in unnecessary energy consumption.


About 100 years ago, windmills were used to move water from one place to another. Today’s new and improved version of accomplishing that task are well pumps. Well pumps, like windmills are especially useful for crop irrigation, but they have numerous other applications.

Today, well pumps provide water to homes and farms. Not only can they be used to move water to distant locations, well pumps now transport oil, natural gas, and chemicals. There are basically three different types of water well pumps. 1) centrifugal pumps, 2) jet pumps, and 3) submersible pumps.

The difference between these pumps has to do with the depth of water in which they will be installed. Non-water well pumps also include well stimulation pumps. No matter what type of pump is used, the components on the output side of pumps are very much alike. Well pumps do not run continuously. Instead they transport water or other materials to a storage tank where air compression takes place. The air pressure in the tank then moves the water to it’s destination. When the air pressure reaches a pre-determined level in the tank, the well pump activates again, replenishing the tank.

Well pumps are generally used to carry potable water from below the surface of the ground for residential or commercial use. Various types of well pumps are available including submersible pumps, jet pumps, bladder pumps and mud pumps. Primarily, well pumps are used for well water collection, but they are also used to unload storage tanks, barges, and small tankers.

Natural gas, oil, ash slurries, chemicals, and wastewater represent a few other substances that are extracted by well pumps. They are powered by a wide variety of sources including hand well pumps, solar well pumps, AC/DC power, gas or diesel engines, and hydraulic power. Well pumps are employed in commercial service industries, construction, mining, and fuel production concerns, although their primary use remains in water distribution services for municipalities and agriculture.

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Power For Well Pumps

Utility Power
Standard well pumps which run on AC (alternating current) are the least costly. Also, they pump more liters per minute than most other sources. These well pumps usually require 230 volts of AC 1 phase electricity and come in the form of two or three wire units. Three wire units possess a control box including a motor starting relay, thermal overload, and capacitors. They are surface mounted, permitting easy access. Two wire units do not have an external control box. Instead, all of the components are housed inside the motor.

Wind Power
The traditional windmill remains useful for powering well pumps. The pump and the wind generator are coupled to make the system function. However, problems occur if wind is negligible for a couple of days. On occasion, the leather seals used on this pump need to be replaced. The Bowjon windmill system uses compressed air to power well pumps. This method requires a minimum of maintenance, making it cost effective.

Water Power
Strangely enough, water is used to pump water! Water pressure from local streams power Ram well pumps. Water flows down a pipe and then is turned off abruptly, resulting in a pressure surge which spurts water uphill. The degree of water propelled upwards is dependent on pump size, amount of lift, and amount of fall. Best equipped for use in mountainous terrain, high lift well pumps require a greater fall into the pump, but retrieve a much larger quantity of available water.

Solar Power
Solar well pumps do a great job of pumping water even though they are costly. Obviously, they work anywhere the sun shines, but are unable to pump as much water in cloudy weather. Well pumps that are powered by the sun use photovoltaic panels which seize rays, and are then converted into DC (direct current). The direct current then gives power to the pump.

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