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WATER PUMPS, TANKS, TESTS, WELLS, REPAIRS
WATER CONTAMINANT LEVELS
WATER HAMMER NOISE DIAGNOSE & CURE
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
WATER PUMP REPAIR GUIDE
WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
WATER PUMP SHORT CYCLING
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER TANK REPAIR PROCEDURES
WATER TANK: USES, TROUBLESHOOTING
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES
WELLS CISTERNS & SPRINGS
WELL FLOW RATE
WELL WATER PRESSURE DIAGNOSIS
WELL YIELD IMPROVEMENT
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
This article describes how to prime a water pump to restore water pressure to a building by using a garden hose connected to another water supply source. If you do not have such a source available, see Prime the Pump by Priming Plug Opening instead.
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This pump needs to send water down into the well (and through a special valve at the end of the water pickup-pipe in the well) in order to bring water back to the building.
See WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR for help in determining why you have no water or no water pressure in a building. If the diagnosis determines that you need to re-prime the water pump, the instructions are provided in this article.
If your water pump is a submersible unit the pump is located down in the well itself. In this case if you have not got water pressure, the problem may be with the pump or the well itself, but it's not a loss of prime - submersible water pumps are self-priming.
If your water pump is a one-line jet pump, it is sucking water from a shallow well; you probably don't need to do so, but the instructions below show how to prime the well pump and they should work equally well for either a one-line jet pump or a two line jet pump.
If your water pump keeps losing prime, a shallow well jet pump well line could have a bad foot valve (in the well WELL PIPING FOOT VALVES) or there may be a bad check valve on well piping at or near the water tank or near the above-ground water pump (CHECK VALVES, WATER SUPPLY) and so be losing prime.
A leak in the well line piping itself can also lead to loss of prime. If priming the well water pump using one of our methods shown below seems to fix the problem but soon the well pump loses prime again, your plumber will want to check for a bad foot valve in the well or a leak in the well piping between the well and the building. See WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR.
But where a jet pump is installed, you may have lost prime at the pump. The pump motor will run but no water is delivered. If this happens it is possible to re-prime the pump with water from another source. Check valves installed at the proper location at the pump and perhaps elsewhere can help prevent loss of prime on this system. (Other problems that can give the same symptom include internal damage to the water pump, a well that has run dry, or a piping leak between the well and the building it serves.)
Steps in Using a Garden Hose to Prime the Well Pump
If your 2-line jet pump (or other above-ground well water pump) loses prime and cannot draw water from the well, don't let it keep running as you may burn up the pump motor or damage the pump internal parts. Take these steps:
The steps below describe how to use an ordinary garden hose connected to another water supply source to prime a well pump. We give very detailed instructions, but actually the procedure is very simple and if it works, your pump will be primed and working in just a few minutes.
If your well pump has lost prime and you are about to try opening a plug on the water pump housing to add priming water you might see that the plug is badly rusted and corroded - or there may be other reasons why you don't want to start taking apart plumbing fittings, such as - it's Sunday night and there is no chance of purchasing any replacement parts if you break something.
Our photo (left) shows the priming plug on a Goulds two-line jet pump. If you click to enlarge the photo you'll see that we might have been able to remove and replace this plug but we decided to try the garden hose priming method first since we didn't want to disturb this rusty part.
If the above garden hose priming method for your pump is not available or just doesn't work, then follow the water pump priming steps we outline at Prime the Pump by Priming Plug Opening.
Readers of this document should also see Water Tank Types and before assuming that a water problem is due to the well itself, see Water pump and pressure tank repair diagnosis & cost an specific case which offers an example of diagnosis of loss of water pressure, loss of water, and analyzes the actual repair cost. Page top sketch courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about how to prime a well pump
Question: shallow well pump keeps losing prime
I have a shallow well that the pump will lose prime. It will prime up to pressure at currently 45 psi, once demand increases the pressure will go gradually down and suddenly drop 10 - 12 psi thus losing prime at 10 - 15 psi to never recover until I prime again. Attempting to prime, there's alot of air bubbles. I just replaced the check valve and bladder tank. I times i can take a long hot shower with no problem or if I just flush the toilet it will lose prime. Can anything be drawn from this?
Bob: on intermittent loss of well prime, you'll need to determine if the leak is in well piping between house and well bottom ( perhaps a leaky well line or bad foot valve) OR a leak at the water pressure tank or an above ground well pump. Shut off all water to the house and watch pressure in the system. If it drops then the leak is outside.
Question: how do I find out what kind of pump I have
well water in rural area, no home within range. pump under ground other suggestions. How do you determine what type of pump you have? - Anonymous 6/11/11
Reply: how to figure out what kind of well pump is installed
What type of well pump do I have?
See WATER PUMP TYPES & LIFE EXPECTANCY for details about different types of well pumps.
Question: pressure switch keeps tripping, have to re-start pump, no water enters the water ank
I have been having problems with my pressure switch, it keeps tripping, I always have to go out and restart the the pump. I figured the switch was bad so I changed it. Now the tank won't fill and so there is no build in water pressure. I can turn the pump on but it quits running after a few minutes. Its a submerged pump. - Chris 7/17/2011
Chris, if no water is entering your water pressure tank you could have a tank with a collapsed internal bladder; that would be the case if the pump actually runs and is delivering water, but no water enters the tank.
Conversely, if the pump runs but never delivers water, say because well water level has fallen too low or because the pump itself is damaged, the pump motor may run until it overheats and goes off on thermal reset.
See our diagnosic suggestions at WATER PRESSURE PROBLEM DIAGNOSIS TABLE
Question: does a home water pump need a water tank?
does a home water pump need a water tank. can i run the water pump without a water tank. some days no water will reach 2nd floor. and some days even on the 1st floor water is weak. currently running no pump. - Ian 9/25/2011
Why do we need a water pressure tank?
Question: pump priming success using a garden hose connection
I used this workaround with great success. It saved me from having to mess with the pump at all. With this solution you really don't need to touch the pump or any of the plumbing. Very clever! DanMan 9/30/2011
Quite so, Dan. In fact we started using this procedure of finding a way to "back prime" the well pump and piping by connecting a garden hose to a good water source (say a nice neighbor) when dealing with pumps that were so old and rusty that it was perfectly obvious that trying to open a pump priming plug or well pipe connection was going to lead to a whole day or more of repairing and replacing parts.
Questions & answers or comments about finding, using, diagnosing, repairing, or replacing water pressure gauges on private well systems.
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Technical Reviewers & References
Related Topics, found near the top of this page suggest articles closely related to this one.
Water Supply & Drain Piping, Wells, Pumps, Water Supply Equipment