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Well System Overview
Wells for private home water systems generally consist of two types, hand dug and drilled. The hand dug well can be any size diameter and depth. In most cases, this type of well has a large open top with stacked rocks collected from around the area to keep the dirt sides from caving in on well water source. The hand dug well is also notorious for collecting large amounts of methane gas near the water level. Drilled wells are mechanically constructed from large drilling rigs and have either a 6-inch or 8-inch diameter casing. The depth of the well ranges from 30 feet to several hundred feet. Only the top 30 to 40 feet are generally encased in pipe leaving the remaining depth of the well exposed to rock or shale. Extremely deep wells, in excess of 200 feet, may have problems of the sides collapsing -- especially if the well is drilled through a shale formation.
Two types of pumps exist for home well water systems. An above ground pump is used for wells that are 80 feet or less in depth. The submersible pump is utilized on wells of any depth, but mostly deeper wells. Above ground water pumps must keep a column of water inside the suction pipe for efficient operation of the electric motor. Loss of suction generally is caused by a bad foot-valve that resides at the end of the suction pipe. Submersible pumps are just that, the entire mechanism sits under the water level of the well source. There is a check valve near the top of the pump, but it too sits under the water level.
The Pressure Tank
All well water systems use some type of pressure tank, either a bladder or bladderless tank reservoir. The bladder pressure tank has an internal rubber membrane that separates a column of air from the water. The air pressure inside the bladder regulates the pumps operation in conjunction with the pressure switch. The bladderless pressure tank uses no rubber membrane, but still holds a column of air near the top of the tank. Pressure tanks that lose the column of air causes the pump to short cycle and decreases the life of the electric water pump.
Electric Pressure Switch
All electric water pump well systems use an electric pressure switch to control the pumps operation. The switch is directly connected to the output side, pressure side, of the water pump plumbing piping. The switch uses two electrical contacts to switch power on and off. A double set of internal pressure springs opens and closes the electrical contacts.
Not all pump systems use an electrical relay system with an electrical starting capacitor for the pump motor. The pump relay is generally used for submersible pumps that remove water from a deep, 100 feet or greater, drilled water well.
Only above ground water pumps use a suction pipe to draw the water from the under ground source. There are two - distinct types of suction pipe, a forced jet line and a single suction line. The forced jet suction pipe takes water from the pressure side of the water pump and forces it back down into the lower end of the main water suction line. The force of the water aids in the suction action for deeper water wells; greater than 60 feet. There is a special plumbing fixture at the end of the jet suction line to increase the pressure of the suction. The single suction line is used on wells less than 50 feet deep. A foot valve sits on the end of the suction line to retain the column of water. Both the single suction line and the forced jet suction system uses some type of foot-valve or check valve to retain a column of water inside the water suction, draw, piping.
The delivery pipe transfers the water from the pressure tank and distributes it throughout the water system. The delivery pipe can be constructed from galvanized metal, PVC or Black Plastic. Over time the galvanized pipe will corrode and rust. PVC does a fine job but will easily break and shatter when exposed to freezing temperatures. The Black Plastic pipe will expand when placed under freezing conditions, but the internal couplings and joints will often break when frozen.
A pressure gauge aids in telling what the water pressure is at any given time in the pressure side, delivery, and plumbing pipes. The gauge can be installed in the pressure tank, the pressure tank manifold or a 1/4-inch plumbing fitting.
Chlorination and Sanitizing the Water Well
Anytime a water well is serviced or exposed to foreign materials, flood waters, it must be chlorinated or sanitized with household chlorine bleach. The process may take up to two-days to thoroughly disinfect the water source. Do not take chances if the well seems questionable. The process is easy and inexpensive.