Add a Hand Pump to an Electric Well

Learn how to install a backup hand pump on an existing well and avoid power-outage droughts.

  • Hand Pump Design
    The hand pump and electric pump share the same well casing.
    Illustration by MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff

  • Hand Pump Design

A few years back, a severe ice storm knocked out my family's electricity for a couple of days . . . and we suddenly found ourselves without the use of our electric well pump. As we groped about the candlelit house — unable to make coffee, prepare meals, wash dishes, flush the toilet, or even take a sip of tap water (yet all the while keenly aware that just 15 feet below us was all the thirst quenching liquid we could ever want) — we felt like the shipmates becalmed at sea in the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", with "water, water, everywhere, / Nor any drop to drink"!

I remembered then that when I was a youngster one of our neighbors had attached a working hand pump to his electric well pump . . . and I wished I'd had the foresight and know-how to install a similar fixture on our unit. I made up my mind — then and there — to at least investigate the possibility. It's fortunate that I did, too, because putting a hand pump on our well turned out to be an easy task (even for an amateur do-it-yourselfer like me!).

And if you're looking for a low-cost, nonelectric backup design for a "juice powered" pumping system, my solution just might do the job for you!

Low-Cost Pumping Parts

As shown in the accompanying diagram, our hand pump and its related components are totally separate from the electric unit. The two pumps merely share the same well casing (in this instance, a 6"-diameter pipe that extends 125 feet into the ground). In addition, because the water table is only about 13 feet below the top of our well casing, we were able to choose a simple, shallow-drawn hand pump for our purposes rather than having to buy a more expensive, deep-reaching machine. (To calculate the height of the water table, I just lowered a string that had a small piece of wood tied to the end of it into the well casing until the wood floated and the string went slack, and then I marked and measured the string.)

To set up the hand-operated unit, we gathered the following materials: a Sears, Roebuck & Co. "pitcher spout" hand pump, 25 feet of 1 1/4" plastic pipe, one plastic screw-type adapter (for attaching the drop pipe to the pump), and two 1 1/4" hose clamps (I used one to secure the drop pipe onto the plastic adapter and the other to temporarily affix the drop pipe to the well cap so that the tubing wouldn't "accidentally" fall down into the well casing while we were putting the system together). The total bill for these components, including the pump, came to just under $50. And when you consider that our original well setup cost us a hefty $2,000, this manual backup system was quite a bargain!

The only special tool I needed to install the apparatus was a hole saw with a 1 1/4" bit, which I used to bore a circle through the well cap. And though I opted to build a small wooden pump house out of scrap lumber to mount the water hauler on, you could simply attach the pump to a picnic table or even directly onto the well cap itself.

4/21/2021 10:18:19 AM

To keep from freezing, invest in a heat lamp used for chickens sold at Lowes etc to put on pump.They come with a clamp on them.

1/29/2019 10:37:31 AM

What do you do to keep the water from freezing up and then the pump won't work any more? We have a deep well already that pumps into our mobile home about 200 feet away. Our struggle is keeping the main line into the house and the lines under the mobile home from freezing in the winter. We are off grid and have to rely on generators to power the furnace to keep the crawl space under our home warm enough to prevent freezing. If we can't keep the generators going, which is difficult in severely cold weather, then we have no water and will have water leaks all over when it thaws out. Yuck! Any suggestions?

9/19/2017 11:49:23 PM

Is there an anti- siphon valve on this system? Is there a danger of contaminating your well with this design?



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