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Get Powered Up! Certified Energy Manager Jeff Yago answers your alternative energy questions

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Archive for the ‘Well pump’ Category


Solar submersible pump

Thursday, April 16th, 2009


I want to start buying the pump and pipes to supply my  cabin, however I do not know what to buy at this time. Let me explain my situation.

The river which I plan to pull my water from is about 75 yds away from my cabin. The problem is that for the first 55 yards its flat then the water has to travel up hill about 30 ft.

What pump should I buy?

Should I have a double tank system where one is located at the bottom of cliff then pull it up from there and get a second pump to raise it up to pressure tank?

Should I buy the pump from Harbor Freight which has a 2 inch outlet and cost 349.00 which the website says it can lift water 197 ft.?

Should I put a booster pump at the bottom of cliff, or is a solar submersible pump which cost 740.00 powerful enough to do this, or is a 1hp 230 volt submersible pump the only alternative?

Please help.

Thank you,



Read the article I wrote several years ago on this exact same issue.  I suggest you consider a smaller version of this design.

Here is the link: Water: a safe supply when you’re off the grid

Good luck,

Jeff Yago


Car/Truck Battery power for existing well pump

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

How would you convert a well pump to run off of a truck battery? This well pump takes care of my house and spout near my horse barn.


Most likely you would not unless the engine was running at fast idle and a high capacity alternator was charging the battery. I have an 1800 watt sinewave inverter in my dual battery F-250 diesel truck and it may be able to start and run a small 120 VAC well pump in the 1/3 to 1/2 HP range if it is not too deep, but remember most well pumps are 240 VAC. This would require using two large inverters designed to work together to provide 240 VAC output since most residential inverters are 120 VAC output.

Also keep in mind that the current draw on a 12 volt battery from an inverter will be 10 times the current of any 120 VAC load due to the voltage difference. A 1/2 HP deep-well 120 VAC pump can draw over 20 amps at start-up surge with a run-time load of around 12 amps. This is over 200 amps draw on the battery and DC side of the inverter. Most vehicle batteries cannot take this high current for more than a few seconds, and your battery cables would need to be the size of welding cables, and most inverters this large are 24 volt.

If I were you, a much less costly way to do this is a transfer switch and a plug to connect to a generator.

Good luck,

Jeff Yago


Convert well to solar/wind

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Mr. Yago,

I have purchased some property that has an exist ing well on it. It is powered by 230v 1hp Webtrol submersible pump. I would like to convert it to solar/ wind for off grid applications when we lose the grid power out there. Being out in the sticks this happens a lot. Do you have any suggestions for transfer switch/ batteries/ controller/ inverter/ panels? Or can it even be accomplished using my existing pump?


Larry Wiley


This is a large motor load and would require a very expensive inverter and associated batteries, switchgear, and solar array to supply this large load. Since you would not want to spend about $15,000.00 for the basic battery-inverter system plus another $10,000.00 for a solar array just to power this single pump, most people would install the solar system to power ALL of their critical electric loads including the well pump which makes it more cost effective.

A far easier and less costly way to do this is install a SECOND well pump which would be located “above” the elevation of you existing well pump, and would have its own smaller pvc pipe up and out of the well. Since this would be a 12 or 24 volt DC deep well pump depending on depth, you could drive your truck over and power it using jumper cables during a power outage and just pump out into a large tub or barrels. If you want this to also supply the house piping system, you will need a check valve in each line from each pump before they are tied together into one line feeding the house. This will keep one pump from trying to pump back down into the well through the other pump which will be off.

Both pumps have to “see” a pressure switch at the expansion tank for proper control so we always install two switches side by side. The AC pump switch is set for 50 to 60 psi, and the DC pump switch is set for 30 to 40 psi. Since the AC pump is larger and will have much more pressure, it will always be the pump that satisfies the higher setting switch. However, when the AC power fails and the pressure keeps dropping below the low limit for the AC pump. the lower setting switch will activate the DC pump if it is connected to a source of emergency power.

If the depth of water is less than 50 feet, you may want to install a hand pump like you see in old westerns. They are still available but are only for shallow water depths.

Here is a recent article that may help: Build your own solar-powered water pumping station

Good Luck!

Jeff Yago


Solar power for existing well pump

Monday, November 10th, 2008


We have an existing well that pumps near 10 GPM to a pressure tank. I’d like to power it with solar but from what I am seeing most solar well pumps pump to a cistern or holding tank of some type. Are there any systems that would be on demand as we have it now using batteries?

Thanks in advance!

Greg in Georgia


The reason you are not finding this type of solar pumping system is because it would be a major waste of money. To power an on-demand well pump providing house pressure using a solar-powered pump means you would need a well pump in the 1/2 HP or larger size range depending on well depth. Since it would be an on-demand pump, this means it would only operate a few minutes every few hours when somebody flushed a toilet or took a shower, and the rest of the day it would not operate. When any pump first starts, it has an electrical power demand that can be 2 or 3 times its “run” power requirements, and this means you will need an inverter in the 3,600 to 4,000 watt range to handle this large startup electrical load.

Since almost all residential inverters are 120 volts and almost all well pumps are 240 volts AC, you will either need a second inverter or a 120 to 240 volt transformer at additional cost. Next, this inverter or inverters will draw as much as 200 amps DC (depending on battery voltage) when this pump first starts up, which would destroy a battery bank that did not have multiple deep-cycle batteries. Now that you have purchased these expensive batteries, inverters, and the solar array to charge the batteries, your pump will only operate a few minutes on most days, which means the system will sit idle the rest of the day, as the solar array will quickly re-charge the battery bank, due to the short pump run time, and then stop charging. This means all this available solar energy will not be collected, making this a very expensive waste of solar equipment.

If you install a small DC powered solar pump that has a small flow rate and low head pressure, it can still fill a 1000 gallon tank on an average solar day, and this small pump can be connected directly to the solar array, no batteries, no inverter, and no transformer. When the sun is shining, the pump starts filling the tank, when the sun goes down the pump stops but the tank is full. If the tank is located above the house you will not need another pump, if it is not, you will need an on-demand pressure pump from the tank to the house. If you go this route, be sure to have a good sand filter on the line from the tank as you will get some sand pumped out of the well which you do not want to run through the pressure pump. You will also need a carbon filter and bacteria type ultra-violet light filter on the water where it enters your home’s plumbing as the water standing in the tank can start growing things if it sits for long periods. We advise clients to “dump” some bleach in their tank each week.

Good Luck,

Jeff Yago


Thanks for all the info. I can’t really see replacing the pump and adding a reservoir. However, I could see powering more than the pump with solar cells and batteries. We have a commercial dog kennel and a home on 15 acres that has great exposure. Perhaps I should consider powering more than the well pump alone so as not to waste all that potential energy. Should I find a specialist in our area to assess our situation? If so, can you recommend someone in Georgia?

Thanks for your advice!



Here is a list of NABCEP qualified solar installers in your state. This national organization tests and certifies solar pv installers and their technical requirements and testing are very difficult:

Kelly Provence, Dahlonega, GA (706) 867-0678 &#107&#111&#112&#114&#111&#118&#101&#110&#99&#101&#64&#115&#111&#108&#97&#105&#114&#103&#101&#110&#46&#99&#111&#109

David George, Decatur, GA (404) 312-7155 &#105&#110&#113&#117&#105&#114&#101&#64&#105&#110&#116&#111&#119&#110&#101&#108&#101&#99&#116&#114&#105&#99&#46&#99&#111&#109

Freeman William, Savannah, GA (912) 898-9627 &#119&#105&#108&#108&#107&#102&#114&#101&#101&#64&#99&#111&#109&#99&#97&#115&#116&#46&#110&#101&#116

Tell them hi for me and good luck,

Jeff Yago


Solar Well

Friday, October 31st, 2008

I’d like to set up a solar system for my existing well. I have a deep well, 104ft., have a one-horse power Stay-rite pump, 220AC. What do I need to run my well independently (batteries, panels, inverter, etc.)?

Jeff Crawford


A well pump can require up to 2 times its normal run amp draw just to start. The normal run time load of a pump is about 0.9 kW per horsepower, or 900 watts for your well. However, I can assure you that even the most robust battery inverter would have a very hard time starting a 1 HP pump unless it was at least 3.6 kW in size. To supply an inverter this size would require about 8 size L-16 batteries. Since you only have a few hours of full sun each day, your solar array would need to be 900 watts in size to run your pump 2 or 3 hours each day. For double the run hours you would need double the array. A battery based solar system today runs about $12 to $14 per watt in these smaller sizes, which means your system will cost a minimum of $11,000 to $14,000, and I would not be surprised if it even costs more.

Now that you have fallen on the floor in shock, you can see why we do not design these larger capacity systems just to power one load like a well pump. If you have to install all this just to run a pump a few minutes each day, why not keep the same batteries and inverter and power all your lights and appliances the rest of the day? At most you may only need to add a few more solar modules.

Since you most likely will not pay $14,000 or more to power a well pump the few times each year the power is out, if you really want a backup system, buy a $600 generator, which should easily run this size pump. The only other suggestion I have is do what we did at my home and put 2 well pumps down the well. One is a 120 VAC pump which runs most of the time from the grid, and a 24 VDC pump closer to the surface which only runs when the grid is down or our inverter is out to lunch. The DC pump has a much smaller flow rate, but it can plug along all day pumping about 2 GPM directly from a 150 watt solar panel without any batteries or inverters. When the sun is shining it can pump and fill a storage tank, when the sun goes down the pump stops but you have a large tank of water. At 2 GPM, this can almost fill a 1000 gallon tank in one afternoon.

Hope this helps,

Jeff Yago


Well pump advice

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

We have been farming organically for 32 years. We would appreciate advice on digging and hooking up a hand pumped water well for use when electricity fails.


Arlene Shako


You have 4 ways to go with this:

1. If your area has a high water table (do not need to drill deep to hit water) and the ground is not hard solid rock, you can buy a well point kit. This kit includes a hard steel pointed end with screened side openings that you attach to galvanized steel pipe you buy locally in threaded 10 foot long sections. It also includes a metal cap that screws on the top end that you strike with a sledge hammer and drive into the ground by hand. As you drive each 10 foot long section into the ground, you stop, unscrew the striking cap, and add another section of pipe. Then back on the step-ladder and start again until you reach the right depth. These kits also include a hand powered pitcher pump (like your grand-father used!) which is attached last. source – or

2. If that is too much work, they also make a hand powered pump kit that you locate at your existing well and attach to the existing piping coming from the well pump below. This hand pump can be used during a power outage to “suck” water from the existing well piping and send it to your house using the same piping. However, it is not intended for high flow rates or wells deeper than about 200 feet. (about $650) source – or

3.You can also install an inverter with battery back-up and wire to a separate circuit breaker panel. Re-route your power wiring going to the well pump, your refrigerator, and several lighting circuits to this new panel and let the batteries power these loads during a power outage.

4. Purchase a generator and a can of gas!

Good luck,

Jeff Yago



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