Replacing a well pump. Photo by Kerry Mann
I recently went to our homestead kitchen faucet to get a glass of water and nothing came out!
What a "sinking" feeling that was! After checking the breaker, testing the well control box and pressure switch, I determined our well pump was at the end of its life and so we decided to try to remove the old pump (over 100 feet in the ground) and replace it all by ourselves. did a video showing this entire process here.
We’ve been homesteading for about 6 years now. When we lived in the city we had a simple water pipe entering our home with pressurized water at the pipe. We sure did take that for granted. After moving to our homestead and switching to a well system we learned about all of the additional components involved with a well.
I love our well water. It’s the best water I’ve ever had. We actually have extended family who bring empty jugs to fill up on it. Absent our well though we don’t have any rivers or water sources nearby. Last year we attempted to manually dig an emergency backup well by hand but after 40 feet and no water we gave up. We had an old well at 25 feet on another part of our property but it must have dried up. We later learned that our main supply well is over 100 feet deep!
In my attempt to fix our water, I learned a lot about how a well system works, there is much more involved than simply the pump. It all starts at the circuit breaker for the pump and that was the first thing I checked. Then we have power going into the well control box. I learned that this box is like a big switch with a capacitor on it that sends power to the well after getting a signal from the pressure switch. The capacitor energizes and helps get the big well pump motor initial turning. Later I troubleshooted and learned how the pressure switch works. Ours is a 20/40. When the pressure in the well pressure tank goes under 20 PSI the pressure switch clicks and contacts and sends voltage to the well control box which then sends electricity from the capacitor and control box to fire up the well pump. The pressure switch sort of keeps an eye on the pressure gauge and when it hits 40 PSI it turns OFF the power sent to the control box and the pump turns off. Throughout the day the pressure switches goes on and off many times energizing the well. The pressure tank holds about 40 gallons of water and there is a big bladder/ almost like a waterbed filled with air inside it that keeps pressure on the water. Because of the pressure tank we have pressurized water (like the city used to provide at the pipe) and it provides a constant supply of pressurized water so that our well pump doesn’t have to turn ON every-time we open a faucet. Without a pressure tank we’d put a lot of extra wear and usage on the pump.
Pretty basic stuff- but I never knew any of this coming from the city. So besides our well pump we have many components to provide pressure and manage the usage of the pump. If you don’t want to pay a plumber each time you have an issue with your well system, knowing about these components can really save you a ton of money. Last year, a new pressure switch cost me just $25 and about an hour to install myself, saving me a great deal of money from hiring a plumber and giving me more peace of mind because if something goes wrong I know how to troubleshoot it.
So those are the basic components. Our well pump just hit its 20 year mark and unfortunately it's at the end of its life. So I decided to DIY replace it myself. This is not a job for everyone. We were able to pull our old pump and about 100 feet of pipe and wire and replace the pump. We purchased a new ¾ pump (same specs as the former) for $425 from Menards. While changing the pump we were very careful to ensure the pump wires were triple protected from the water. From what I’ve heard, oftentimes the wiring/connection will fail before the pump does. We used waterproof butt splices with a shrink tube, then we used an extra shrink tube over each splice and then we used some waterproof tape over that.
Something else I learned during this process is about the pit-less adapter. I went in blind and when I removed my well cap I could see the pipe /connection going towards my house about 6 feet down. This makes sense to stay below the frost line. But I had no idea how I would remove that connection and hook back up to the house after replacing the pump. I did some research and learned that what I was looking at 6 feet under is called a pit-less adapter. The top of the well pipe goes into this connector which is kind of like a wedge shape with a hole in the center of the wedge for the water to pass through. The wedge sits into a holder with a hole in its center and that is how the water goes into our house. You can connect a 1 inch threaded pipe into the top of the pit-less adapter to pull it (and the 100 feet of pipe below) up and out of the well. We replaced the pump and when we were done we seated the pitless adapter with a new O-Ring back into place and the weight of the pipe and pump below (and gravity) hold it into place and allow the water to flow into the house. It’s a really smart design and this was all new to me! Unfortunately (after we did all the hard work of replacing the pump and putting it all back into place) we struggled to reseat the pit-less adapater. The pipe was too heavy for us and we just couldn't seat it. We called a plumber and they had a crane/winch on their truck to hold the weight and they easily reseated it. Pays to have the right tools for the job and experience. Those guys were great!
I made a quick video showing our well system and how we pulled 100 feet of pipe and replaced our pump ourselves.
Kerry W. Mann, Jr. moved to a 20-acre homestead in 2015, where he and his family use modern technology, including YouTube and Instructables.com, to learn new skills and teach homestead projects. Connect with Kerry on his Homestead How YouTube page, Instructables, Pinterest, Facebook, and at My Evergreen Homestead. Read all of Kerry’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here
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