What pump should we get?
September 14, 2021 5:40 AM   Subscribe

We have a v-e-r-y slow well, and also an older well that it replaced. The newer one is so slow to refill that we never waste water by using a hose to water the garden, wash the car, etc. There's (almost?) always water just sitting there in the old well. What pump would be good to put that water to use with a garden hose?

We were thinking of getting a rain barrel, and then realized that we practically have one in the form of the old well. To use that water for the garden etc., we'd need a pump. I've looked at lots of pumps and lots of attachments and I'm so confused. So I'd really like it if someone would tell me not just what kind of pump to look for, but the particular pump (and ideally, the needed attachments, too) that can do all of the following...
- Be left in place outside, either in the well or next to it. It's fine if we have to bring it in for the winter.
- Connect to a garden hose.
- Turn on/off. We could do this by plugging and unplugging it if it's ok to leave the cord lying there, but a switch would be better.
- Adjust flow.
- Not be harmed if the water runs out. I don't think we've ever seen the well dry, but I'm not sure what's under the platform or cap (see below), and whether the top will keep refilling as we draw from it. If we use up the water, I don't want the pump to damage itself.

It's fine if the pump needs attachments to accomplish any/all of the above, as long as you can also tell me what attachments those are.

A little more about our setup, with photos here...
- The well might be from 1935, since that's when the house was built. I think the new well replaced it sometime in the last 20 years.
- The inner diameter is about 2'.
- We can see that there's some kind of platform or cap about 3.5' down from the rim. There's an open plastic bin with rocks and stuff sitting on it (under water).
- Today, there's about 2' of water on top of that platform. We've only looked in occasionally, and I'm not sure how shallow or deep it gets.
- There's an exterior electrical outlet about 15' away from the rim.
- Ideally, I'd like to use up to a 100' garden hose. But if shortening that distance makes the pump a lot less expensive or the problem less complex, I'd consider it.

Is there a pump that would be good for this? From what I've seen, I don't think anything will do it right out of the box, and I got confused trying to piece together a pump and attachments.

Or is this just a bad idea? I love the idea of using this water, at least until such time as we might improve the new well. But if it's misguided, that's good to know, too.
posted by daisyace to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
Best answer: For a shallow well like that you could totally use a regular utility pump, assuming that where you want to carry the water isn't more than 30 feet in elevation. Essentially you attach a decent hose straight to the pump, drop that in the well and plug the pump in, done. You got water coming out of the hose. The pump will last longer if you it doesn't live in harsh conditions or if you spring the cash for better material, like stainless, but I've got a cheapo plastic pump going on 3 years and I only think about it to put it away for winter.

These sorts of pumps are essentially a generic white good now - there's nothing special about the set I linked, it's just what I am familiar with. The water pressure at the end of a hose will be useable for a basic sprinkler* up to about 3/4 of the pump's rated lift. I would expect this pump for example, to be able to power a yard sprinkler through about 100 feet of hose and 20 feet of lift. I live somewhere flat, so that is total overkill for me. But if you drop that pump down the well 10 feet that only gives you another 20 feet before nothing will come out of the pump at all. The quality of the hose will make a big difference here - so get a decent one. A basic utility pump can run dry for a short period of time without issue - and there are units with auto shut off (and auto on), but I would get an electronic timer for that level of control.

If you need to carry water greater heights, longer distance, or power larger sprinklers then the larger pumps are all going to use a rigid pipe, like PVC (standard & inexpensive plastic plumping pipe) to draw water out of the well to a proper pump that sit nearby. This sort of set up will be much more like your current well pump - which might seem daunting but it's just a trip to the hardware store to pick up the NPT (national pipe tread is a standard) bits and you get a proper sprinkler pump. However, this sort of setup is generally fussier - for example that sprinkler is not self priming which is it's own hassle. But these are not extremely expensive - a whole well pump can be had for 150$ ( but that might be the answer to the other issue you are having with your main system - an underpowered pump)

*no moving parts.
posted by zenon at 7:00 AM on September 14, 2021

Response by poster: I don’t need much vertical lift at all — just the 3.5’ from the well’s platform to the surface, plus another few feet to hose hand-holding height. With those pumps, could I turn the flow on and off and control its force? I know I could put a nozzle on the business end of the garden hose, but I don’t know if it would be ok to turn the flow down or off there while the pump is trying to pump.
posted by daisyace at 7:12 AM on September 14, 2021

Do you know why the new well is slow? If the two are anywhere near each other (depth as well as surface location) I’d worry that regularly emptying the old well would just divert water from flowing into the new one.
posted by clew at 8:25 AM on September 14, 2021

I like the Grundfos MQ series of pumps for this application, they are more expensive then the ones you would get at the big box stores.
posted by jmsta at 8:56 AM on September 14, 2021

Response by poster: Do you know why the new well is slow?...

Just bad luck? We’re not in a generally dry area. They’re a little over 100’ apart, but the new well is >500’ deep while I’d guess the old one would be shallow. I don’t think we’d ever drain it since we’d only be taking water above the platform that’s only is a few feet down.
posted by daisyace at 9:19 AM on September 14, 2021

Best answer: You could turn a nozzle on and off, and control how much you sprayed and those would put a bit more load on a utility pump. That might take a month of the pump's life. My pump has been run hard and it shows no signs of stopping. But I wouldn't be surprised if it did, it's seen a bunch of hard use.

I would suggest using a longer hose as a cheap reservoir to minimize shock.
posted by zenon at 12:11 PM on September 14, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks for the help! As a bonus follow-up, does anyone know what's the likely story with that platform/cap? We were only thinking of putting the pump on top of it, but maybe it'd be good to remove it and go deeper?
posted by daisyace at 8:42 AM on September 15, 2021

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