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Hand Pumps, Submersibles, Jet Pumps, Suction Pump: Pros and Cons

Common Pumps Used in Water Wells

There are many different types of pumps that are used in water wells around the world. This post describes the 4 most common types of water well pumps (submersible, lift, jet and suction) and provides advantages and disadvantages of each.

Submersible Pumps

Submersible pumps are installed in most residential water wells in the United States and economically developed nations. The pump/motor assembly is lowered into residential water wells and pumps water through piping to the surface or just below the frost line. This water is usually routed through piping to a pressure tank for use in the home. The motor in the submersible pump is usually powered by electricity from the grid.

Advantages

  • Most submersible pumps are reliable. 
  • Many different submersible pump manufactures offer various models and sizes to fit your pumping needs.

Disadvantages:

  • The motors in most submersible pump assemblies are powered by electricity from the grid. It is not uncommon for the grid to go down during major weather events and other natural disasters. When your family loses power, they also lose their water. This is the primary reason why many of our customers install a SimplePUMP alongside their submersible pump as a backup.
  • Some submersible pump owners have their pumps hooked up to a solar system for reliability and independence from the grid. These systems are more reliable but they often will not function during a major weather event due to their dependence on sunlight. 
  • Although typically reliable, submersible pump/motor assemblies result in a single point of failure. If your submersible pump assembly breaks, your family does not have their water supply.

Lift Pumps

Lift pumps, also commonly called sucker-rod pumps, are usually manually operated. These pumps lift water from a cylinder located below the static water level of the well. The cylinder contains a piston and check valve. A handle located at the surface is mechanically connected to the piston through a set of rods. As the handle is lifted up and down, the piston pumps the water through a series of pipes to the pump head at the surface. These pumps are commonly used as a reliable backup to submersible pumps in many wells across the United States and other economically developed nations. This pump design is also used as a primary water source for villages in developing nations and Homesteaders.

Advantages

  • Lift pumps have few moving parts and are very reliable.
  • Since the piston is located deep in the well, most lift pumps can pump water from static water levels several hundred feet below the surface. Due to its computer machined craftsmanship and lightweight fiberglass rods, the SimplePUMP can pump from deeper than any other lift pump on the market – 325 feet. 
  • Lift pumps do not require power from the grid. Unlike submersible pumps, the hand-operated lift pump will provide water to your family when the power goes out.
  • Some lift pumps can pump into your home’s pressure tank. The SimplePUMP is one of the few lift pumps that can pump into your home’s pressure tank to give you full use of your fixtures and appliances. This gives you the confidence that your family will always have their most important resource – water.
  • The SimplePUMP is the only water well lift pump that can be used in either a hand pump or motor driven configuration.

Disadvantages

  • Most lift pumps are manually operated, which requires a person to physically work to supply the water. This is ideal for emergency situations or if the water demand is low. However, this type of pump can be impractical for sustained periods of time or when demand for water is high.

Jet Pumps

Jet pumps utilize the venturi effect to pump water from the well. A small centrifugal pump is located outside the well. Some of the water from the centrifugal pump is recirculated to a venturi nozzle in the pump suction line. The recirculated water flowing through the nozzle creates a vacuum in the suction line which draws the water out of the well. Jet pumps require electricity and are commonly used in shallow wells.

Advantages

  • Jet pumps are a low-priced solution for pumping water from shallow depths. 

Disadvantages: 

  • Jet pumps require electricity to operate.
  • The pump casing and associated piping needs to be primed prior to use. 
  • Due to their design, jet pumps are usually limited to pumping from depths no greater than 130 feet.

Suction Pumps (for shallow wells)

Similar to a jet pump, the pumping action for suction pumps takes place at the surface and not in the well. Suction pumps usually look like hand-operated lift pumps as they have a handle that is lifted up and down to pump water. But unlike a lift pump, the piston is located just below the handle. This piston creates a vacuum that sucks water from the well to the pump head. These pumps are only used for shallow wells. 

Advantages

  • Suction pumps have few moving parts and some models are very reliable. 
  • Suction pumps are competitively priced.
  • Similar to lift pumps, suction pumps do not require electricity to supply water to your home. 

Disadvantages

  • There is a wide variety of suction pumps on the market. The majority of the suction pumps perform poorly due to their materials and construction. Likewise, these models are not built to last more than a couple years (sometimes less). Special care should be taken when choosing a suction pump. 
  • Because this design pumps by creating a vacuum, suction pumps are limited to pumping from depths no greater than 29 feet (at sea level). Most are limited to about 20-22 feet. This maximum depth decreases even further as you go up in elevation due to decreased air pressure. As such, this pump design is only an option for very shallow wells.