WATER WELL PUMP CONVOLUTIONS
A House With No Water Supply
The rural or country house almost always has a Water Well Pump for supplying water and most of them have a Deep Well with a Submersible Pump type that pushes water up from an aquifer into your house and the spigots outside. If it stops working, you have no running water. When I lived in the city, I took the water supply for granted as long as I paid the monthly bill. Now I lived where I had to be responsible for my own system.
While I was in the process of buying my home, the first thing I did was have the electricity turned on before the closing of escrow. When I turned on the faucet, no water came out. There was a designated pump house, a deep well installation, and all the equipment needed to bring water into the house, but there was no electric power to the unit.
After looking around for an answer, I noticed a power pole with a deactivated meter box attached near the outbuilding storage shed (about 30 yards away). Inside its rusted cover I found a 220 amp breaker in very poor shape. It had an underground rated Romex cable coming out of it and going straight into the ground below (sans any type of conduit protection).
Messing With A Secured Electric Meter
While figuring things out, I found A similar cable coming out of the ground at the water pump house and attached to the pump switch box. To make matters worse, the poorly protected breaker inside the rusted panel box had also seen better days.
In any event, I wanted to see if this extra meter on the property was responsible for supplying power to the water well pump. Since flipping the breaker did not resolve the issue, I suspected the meter connector tongs had been plugged and the power company somehow did not have it included on their connect list when I had them energize the house. So, I clipped the sealed wire on the band holding the meter in place and removed it. I then removed the plastic tabs on the connector tongs, reinstalled the meter, and Voila! The water pump came on and I had fresh water.
Since I had legally requested and paid for house activation, I considered this an oversight by the power company. I needed to have it on for an upcoming FHA required inspection and my own home inspection report by an independent agent. Barring possible issues to follow, I took a chance and left it on. However, I knew the matter was going to need attention at a future date.
The Disintegrating Electrical Supply
On my next trip to the house, I found that the meter had been plugged again. When I confronted the power company, they said the meter was listed on their records as being on a separate lot apart from the one my home was on. To activate it, they wanted an extra deposit and would add monthly fees to be assessed above those charged to my house account. They also wanted to charge me a $3000 fine for messing with the isolated meter in the first place.
As I discussed in another blog, I told them to pull the meter and disconnect the electric supply wires to that separate pole. I said I would run an underground electric line from the house to the water pump instead. For added measure in my favor, they waived the fine when I threatened to challenge their outdated files. I had used the argument that the county tax assessor already had my property listed as a single entity and I told them they better update their files accordingly.
Following that ordeal, I made a follow up trip to the house, this time with my wife. As expected, we saw that the meter had been removed and wires from the county road power pole to my meter pole were gone. Now I really had to act quickly on my new pump house electric supply plan.
The Pump House Energizer Plan
After seeing that the water flow was sufficient and that both the holding tank, as well as the pump head, were in good shape, I moved forward with my plan. That meant that all of my attention could be focused on the needed electrical supply line and commensurate equipment required to make the whole thing work.
I first installed an extra (and updated) full-house-rated 200 amp breaker box in the utility room next to the older existing one. I then ran 1-1/2″ pvc electric wire conduit from that box, under the house, and out and down into a trench that I dug by hand all the way to the pump house. Then I filled said conduit with #6 Romex style cable.
This new house breaker box was designed to replace the old breaker box when I had the electric power company convert the overhead power lines to an underground format at a later date. In the meantime, I ran #6 wires from an added 60 amp breaker in said old breaker box to the supply connectors in the new breaker box for temporary power to new outlets (controlled by said new breaker box).
Since I also had an RV travel trailer to consider, I wanted enough capacity to run both the 220 volt pump and the 110 volt/30 amp electric supply for the RV. To meet that requirement, I ran a #10-3 wire Romex cable inside of 1″ pvc conduit placed underground from the pump situated breaker box to a new RV style outlet attached to the abandoned power pole.
Being that the pump was a 220 volt unit, I protected it with its own double pole breaker inside the sub panel breaker box attahed to the pumphouse wall. This allowed the RV outlet to have its own breaker and a third outlet to have a separate one of its own. Now I had this subpanel breaker box (protected by a 60 amp beaker in the house) set up to perform 3 functions:
- Provide a 20 amp protected power source via a #10-3 wire cable inside flexible outdoor rated conduit to run the water pump.
- Provide a 30 amp protected power source via a #10-3 wire cable inside rigid outdoor rated 1″ pvc conduit to run the RV style weather protected pug.
- Provide a 20 amp protected power source via #12 wire cable inside flexible outdoor rated conduit to a separate weather protected outlet box mounted next to the breaker box.
Why I Did What I Did
The reasons for my decisions were as follows:
- I eliminated the extra cost of having the electric company activate a separate meter for a $350 fee along with the cost of a $26 a month service charge on top of what ever amount they billed me for kilowatt hours used. I figured I could put the money saved into materials I purchased for running an underground supply line from my house’s electric service to the pump.
- I nixed any chance of a storm forcing a tree down onto the (now removed) overhead power lines and creating an outage.
- I bypassed the need to replace the rusted-out breaker box which was beyond repair and had to be replaced, so I saved that extra cost.
- I satisfied my own requirement of not having unprotected Romex wire in the ground, a feature that has never appealed to me. I have seen similar types of cable wire suffer damage on construction sites by careless trench excavation or shifting earth placement.
- I could make sure adequate electrical wire capacity went to the pump so that it does not burn out because of lack of sufficient current to operate the equipment properly.
- I could provide adequate electrical supply to the outbuilding, and have an extra outlet with the new setup.
The Current Pump Status
Since I did the work myself under the guise of my general contractor’s license in place of that done by an expensive electrician, my cost for materials only came to about $200. That figure can be reduced to about $100 if you are running electricity for use by the water well pump only.
As a bonus, when I contacted the well pump inspector, I discovered that he had installed the pump about 6 years prior to my purchase of the house. Since it had been vacant for at least 4 of those years, my research indicated that I had about 10 to 15 years of life left in the unit. However, I will have to keep an eye on the storage tank for possible leaks and the switch box for malfunction because there are contacts in it that can corrode over time.
With that said, I can summarize my findings by saying that I have found it makes no sense to forgo a working knowledge of your pump. Periodic maintenance on your well will go a long way to help you avoid malfunctions at inopportune moments in time. It could take a week or more to get it fixed or replaced by a professional service operator. For myself, I am learning preventative maintenance procedures as time goes on. After all, carting water to the house is no fun, and probably can be avoided with a little bit of knowledge and care. Take heed and you will save yourself a lot of trouble going forward.
UPDATE: In the the month of October, 2021, we suddenly had no water coming out of our faucets. I suspected that either the Pressure-Activated Switch that controls the water pump or the Holding Tank were one of the culprits. So, I took some tools with me and marched out to the water pump shed. After verifying that the electrical supply was okay, I pulled off the cover that protected the pressure switch and manually forced the switch contacts to close and make contact. When the pump turned on, I surmised that I should replace the entire switch and the pressure gauge on the water supply line leading to the switch . After doing so, I restarted the system by forcing the new pressure switch contacts to close manually until the holding tank filled up and showed a proper reading on the pressure gauge. That said procedure was the proper fix and the water well pump has worked fine ever since.
I am requesting that my readers click on the links provided and download a sample read of each book and give a review on Amazon. You will have free access to the first four chapters of each book. My hope is that you will like the story lines enough to obtain either an eBook version or a paperback copy that you can put on your bookshelf as a masterpiece when you are done. FATE STALKS A HERO I: RESURGENCE, FATE STALKS A HERO II:THE FIJI FULCRUM, and THE SAGA OF HERACLES PENOIT. I will be giving excerpts on these works in upcoming blogs to familiarize you the reader with exciting details about the contents of each one. Thank you!