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WATER PUMPS, TANKS, TESTS, WELLS, REPAIRS
WATER CONSERVATION MEASURES
WATER CONTAMINANT LEVELS
WATER FILTERS, HOME USE
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 CHLORINATION & DISINFECTION
WELL FLOW RATE
WELL WATER PRESSURE DIAGNOSIS
WELL YIELD IMPROVEMENT
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
Well pump definitions, types, & water pump life: this article series describes the different types of water pumps or well pumps, and we list the factors affecting the life expectancy of water pumps and we include a list of steps to take to maximize the life of a well or water pump and its motor.
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In this article we discuss how long you can expect a water pump to last and what factors affect its life.
Specifics of different types of water pumps can be read in detail at these articles:
How Long Does a Water Pump Last?
Jet Pump Life Expectancy:
An above-ground one line (shallow well) or two line (deep well) jet pump often operates for a considerable range of years, as few as 4 years or as many as 15 or 20 years before needing replacement.
A typical well pump life expectancy (lumping both the electric pump motor and the pump assembly together) is about 10 years in the U.S. and Canada, and about 5 years in Mexico and Central America.
Sketch of a jet pump shown at above left is courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates.
At below- left our sketch of a types of well water pumps is courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates. The drawing shows the key differences between a one line jet pump, two line jet pump, and a submersible water pump.
Submersible Water Pump Life Expectancy:
A submersible well pump, perhaps because the motor is kept cool by being immersed in well water, can also have a considerable range of life expectancies depending on the variables which we list below.
A submersible pump operating in low-sediment water may have a 15 year life while the same pump in high sedimented water and without adequate sediment and check valve protection may fail in 5 or 6 years.
Factors Affecting the Expected Life of a Well Water Pump
What looks like "a well pump or water pump" actually is a collection of major assemblies and more numerous minor parts.
The major assemblies on an above ground water pump (such as a one line or two line jet pump) include the electric motor that drives the pump and the actual pumping assembly that moves water from the well to the water pressure tank and on into the building.
You an see the pump impeller in the sketch at left. Hard water, dirt and sediment, little stones, or other debris can damage this component: the pump motor may run just fine but less water pressure or flow may be delivered by the pump.
A submersible pump includes these two major assemblies (electric pump motor and water pump assembly) and adds an internal check valve.
Sketch courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates.
Also see WATER PUMP LIFE MAXIMIZATION for a list of steps to take to get the most life out of a well pump or water pump.
A kinetic water ram pump uses the force of running water in a stream combined with the principles of hydraulics to lift water as much as 50 meters from the pump location. The water ram was invented in 1780 by Frenchman Joseph Michael Montgolfier.
A very different water ram, a "kinetic water ram [Amazon store]" pump using compressed air to clear clogged building drains is available and is discussed at CLOGGED DRAIN DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR. That kinetic water ram is a drain clearing tool not a water pump.
Photo at left: traditional hand-operated well pump.
A variety of mechanical pumps has been in use for thousands of years, including human or animal-rotated water wheels to lift water from a river or stream and more recently piston-type pumps that combine a vertical rod and handle to lower and then lift a piston in a pipe or tube, "sucking" water from as deep as 20 feet to the surface.
A hand pump on a well will have trouble lifting from much depth. Still deeper wells were traditionally accessed by the simple bucket and rope method.
A mechanical version of the hand pump on wells (shown just above) was able to lift from somewhat greater depth, perhaps as much as 20 feet.
The well pump motor and its vertically-operated piston was set directly over the well casing as we show in the photo of an old, discontinued piston well pump.
In our photo at left you can see the large pulley wheel on the right side of the vertical piston pump, but the drive belt and motor that drove the pump have been removed.
Well pump cavitation describes the entry of air or gases into the mechanical parts that are trying to move water through a water pump.
The presence of air or other gases in the actual pump chambers or around the water pump impellers leads to overheating of these parts and mechanical damage to the pump moving parts. Cavitation can also cause the pump to have to work longer to satisfy the water demand and thus its electric motor to overheat, also reducing motor life.
Cavitation inside of a water pump can be caused by several problems including:
For details about well pipe tailpieces, tail pipes, or other low water cutoff devices that protect the well pump from damage when the well flow is too limited, please see our compete article at WELL PIPING TAIL PIECE. Excerpts are just below.
When the well pump's capacity is known to exceed the flow rate of the well, a tail pipe, tail piece, or low water cutoff control is installed to protect the pump from damage.
The well piping tailpiece (also shown in this sketch) permits the in-well water pump to continue to run by recirculating well water within the pump but by halting delivery of water or slowing delivery of water to the building.
Many sources, including the Penn State School of Forest Resources recommend installing a low water cutoff device to protect a well pump that has to operate in an inadequate or low-yield well.
A still different approach that may provide some water pump protection by reducing the well pump cycling rate is the installation of a Smart Tank that regulates water flow in the building.
Water flows naturally to the ground surface of an artesian well, pushed there by higher pressure groundwater deeper in the earth. "Artesian" refers to Artois, the region in France that gave this type of water source its name. The Latin form of Artois is Artesia.
The level of groundwater is not "flat" under the surface of the earth. Rather underground water tends to follow the contours of the ground surface.
When the underground water reservoir is actually higher than the well that taps into it, water is forced from the higher level to the surface of the artesian well.
At Sinkholes in Estonia-The Witches' Well we describe a non-artesian well that also pushes groundwater to the surface when a nearby underground river floods.
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