how does a submersible well pump work

How Does a Submersible Well Pump Work: 6 Components [Work]

Last Updated on July 16, 2023

Almost all private wells rely on submersible well pumps to supply water to your home. As a homeowner, you need to understand how a submersible well pump works.

Therefore, you can make informed decisions about installation, maintenance, and troubleshooting, ensuring a reliable and efficient water supply.

Submersible well pumps are designed to operate beneath the water level, allowing them to draw water from deep beneath the ground. The pump has an intake that draws water into the unit. An impeller inside the pump creates pressure that moves the water through the unit.

Let’s look closer and explore how a submersible well pump brings fresh water to your tap. We’ll break down each component and see how it all comes together. Get ready to quench your thirst for knowledge.

How Does a Submersible Well Pump Work: An In-Depth Look

Submersible Well Pump Work

We’ll look at how a submersible well pump works in this category:

  • 1. Submersion
  • 2. Water Intake
  • 3. Impeller Action
  • 4. Discharge
  • 5. Pressure Regulation
  • 6. Check Valve

Let’s see how a submersible pump works.

1. Submersion

Usually, the pump is installed within the well casing or attached to a pipe deep within the well. It is designed to be fully submerged in the water, allowing it to extract water from the well efficiently.

The electrical wires connected to the pump are passed through the well casing via an electrical conduit to supply power to the pump motor.

By being submerged directly in the water source, the pump can draw water without relying on suction and efficiently push it to the surface for distribution. This submersion ensures optimal performance and reliability of the submersible well pump.

2. Water Intake

The pump body has intake openings or screens that allow water to enter, utilizing the pressure of the surrounding water to draw in the water effortlessly.

These openings are strategically located in the lower part of the pump body to ensure that water is drawn in from the deepest part of the well.

Those intake screens prevent debris from entering the pump, so only clean water is pumped out. You need to note that the size of the intake screens or openings varies depending on the pump and well size.

The larger the pump, the larger the intake screens will ensure enough water is drawn in to meet the pump’s capacity.

Also, the pump body is designed to handle the high pressure of the surrounding water, allowing for a smooth and efficient pumping process.

3. Impeller Action

The impeller is a rotating pump component consisting of curved blades or vanes. When the motor drives the impeller, it creates centrifugal force, which propels the water outward and away from the center of the impeller.

As the impeller spins, the curved blades or vanes catch the water and impart energy to it. This energy causes the water to move vertically within the pump, generating a centrifugal force. The centrifugal force pushes the water outward and towards the outer edges of the impeller.

Water gains kinetic and pressure energy as it’s thrown outward. This pressurized water is then directed through multiple stages of impeller blades, each adding more pressure and energy to the water.

The impeller blades increase the speed and pressure of the water as it moves through each stage, further propelling it toward the pump outlet.

By turning the motor around, the impeller transforms rotational energy into kinetic and pressure energy. This process enables the submersible well pump to draw water from the well and deliver it to the building’s water system or storage tank with sufficient pressure.

4. Discharge

When the pressurized water exits the pump, it’s ready to flow through the discharge and into your building’s plumbing system. This allows you to enjoy a refreshing shower after a long day.

The discharge is a pipe that is connected to the outlet of the pump and is designed to carry the water away from the pump and into the plumbing system.

Your building’s plumbing system’s flow rate and pressure determine the size of the discharge pipe.

Water discharge pipes are usually made from PVC or other durable materials that can handle pressure and flow.

The pipe is attached to the pump outlet using fittings that are designed to create a watertight seal.

As the water flows through the discharge pipe, it is distributed throughout the building to the plumbing fixtures and other use points.

6. Pressure Regulation

The pressure switch is a device that senses the water pressure in your plumbing system and turns the pump on and off accordingly. When the pressure switch detects that the water pressure has dropped below a certain level, it signals the pump to turn on and start pumping water from the well.

As the pump operates, it raises your plumbing’s pressure until it reaches the desired level, which is typically around 40-60 psi.

Once the pressure switch detects that the desired pressure has been reached, it signals the pump to turn off and stop pumping water.

This ensures that your plumbing system maintains a consistent water pressure, which is essential for proper function and efficiency.

7. Check Valve

A check valve, a foot or non-return valve, is an important component in a submersible well pump system. Its purpose is to prevent water and pressure from flowing back into the well when the pump is turned off.

The check valve is typically installed in the pump’s discharge pipe near the outlet. It is designed to allow only one flow direction, from the pump toward the building’s storage tank or water system.

In a check valve, water flows through a spring-loaded flapper or ball that sits inside the valve. When the pump is turned off, the pressure in the discharge pipe drops, causing the valve to shut automatically and prevent water from flowing back into the well.

This ensures that the pump is always primed and ready to go when needed without the risk of dry running or damage to the pump. Below is a table summarizing the key features of a check valve:

TypeSpring-loaded flapper or ball
LocationInstalled in the discharge pipe
FunctionAllows water to flow in one direction only
BenefitsPrevents backflow and maintains system pressure

How Do You Know If the Submersible Well Pump Is Bad?

How Do You Know If the Submersible Well Pump Is Bad

If you suspect that your submersible well pump may malfunction or go bad, there are several signs and symptoms to look out for. Here are some common indicators that can help you identify a faulty submersible well pump:

1. No Water at Faucets

When no water flows from your faucets, the submersible well pump may malfunction. You need to check if there’s power going to the pump.

The pump won’t work if there’s a power outage or a tripped breaker. If the power is on, you can check if there’s water in the pressure tank. There could be a broken pipe or a valve that needs to be opened if the pressure tank is empty.

If the power is on and the pressure tank has water, the problem may lie with the submersible well pump.

The pump operates using a motor that’s located at the bottom of the well and is connected to the pump with a shaft.

When the motor turns on, the shaft spins the impeller inside the pump, which creates a vacuum that pulls water into the pump. The water is then pushed up the pipe to the surface and into the pressure tank.

2. Sudden Loss of Water Pressure

Another issue that can occur with your well pump is a sudden loss of water pressure. This can be just as frustrating and can indicate a more serious problem with your system.

A submersible well pump works by sitting deep in your well and using a series of impellers to draw water up into your plumbing system.

If you’re experiencing a sudden loss of water pressure, it could be due to a clogged or damaged impeller, motor issues, or a failing pressure switch.

You should address this issue quickly, as it could lead to further damage to your pump or even a complete system failure.

3. Constantly Running the Pump

Something’s wrong when a submersible pump keeps running, even when no water is used.

A faulty pressure switch can cause this, a malfunctioning pump control circuit, or air leakage in the system. Prompt attention and professional assistance are recommended to diagnose and resolve the issue to prevent further complications.

4. Fluctuating Water Pressure

Experiencing fluctuating water pressure with the varying flow, from strong to weak, can signal pump malfunction. This can be due to a failing motor, clogged impellers or a malfunctioning pressure switch.

A submersible well pump maintains constant pressure and flow rate by pushing water from the well into the storage tank. If the pump is unable to meet the system demand due to any of the issues above, it can cause water pressure to fluctuate.

5. Strange Noises

Submersible well pumps can make strange noises if they’re having mechanical problems.

Grinding or screeching sounds may suggest worn-out bearings, while rattling or clanking noises may indicate loose or broken components.

Humming sounds can point to motor problems or electrical issues. It’s essential to address these noises promptly, as they can lead to further damage if left unattended. 

6. Increased Energy Consumption

If you’ve been experiencing rapid cycling with your submersible well pump, it’s time to look closer at its energy consumption.

A malfunctioning pump can draw more power than necessary to operate, leading to a sudden spike in your electric bills without any apparent reason.

In fact, increased energy consumption is one of the most common signs of a faulty submersible well pump.

To better understand how submersible well pumps can affect your energy consumption, let’s closely examine its components and how they work together. 

8. Water Quality Issues

Experiencing a sudden change in water quality, such as sediment or discoloration, could be a warning sign that something isn’t quite right with your well system. Here are three possible reasons for this issue:

  • The pump may have become clogged with debris, reducing its efficiency and causing it to draw in sediment and other contaminants.
  • The well itself may be running low or have gone dry, causing the pump to draw in the sand or other sediment accumulated at the well’s bottom.
  • The water table may have shifted, causing the pump to draw in water from a different, less desirable source.

The following table breaks down the different parts of a submersible well pump and their function:

MotorPowers the impeller
ImpellerMoves water from the well
Check valvePrevents water from flowing back
Drop pipeConnects the pump to the well
Control boxRegulates the pump’s performance

How big of a submersible well pump do you need?

How big of a submersible well pump do you need

The size of your submersible well pump depends on your household’s peak water demand and yield.

Calculate your peak water demand by adding one GPM for every water fixture you have in your house.

A typical 3-4 bedroom home requires 8-12 GPM. Choose a submersible well pump that meets or slightly exceeds your peak water demand and falls within 20% below the well’s yield to get the best performance.

How deep can a 2 HP submersible well pump go?

The depth of a 2 HP submersible well pump depends mostly on its Total Dynamic Head (TDH).

A 2 HP submersible well pump typically has a TDH capacity of 0-350 ft, which means it can effectively pump water from depths ranging from 0 to 350 feet.

But, factors such as the condition of the well, size and type of the plumbing system, and the well yield can influence the pump’s efficiency and performance.

A 2 HP submersible well pump is designed to operate in deep wells, with a maximum depth of 750 feet.

So, if your well has a depth of 150 feet, a 2 HP submersible pump can provide a water supply for your needs without any problem.

Should you leave a submersible well pump on all the time?

In general, it is not recommended to leave a submersible well pump running all the time. When you’re away for a long time, turn off the pump to reduce electrical problems, save energy, and reduce the risk of water damage.

Leaving the pump off while you are away conserves energy and reduces wear and tear on the pump. Therefore, it is best only to operate the pump when it is needed to maintain the optimal performance and longevity of the system.

Understand the Submersible Well Pump and Keep Your Water Flow Steady

You now have a comprehensive understanding of how a submersible well pump works. From its submersion in the well to its impeller action, water pressure, and check valve, you’ve got a pretty good idea of how this well component works.

Also, you are now aware of the signs that may indicate a faulty pump, such as no water at faucets, fluctuating water pressure, or a constantly running pump.

By recognizing these signs and symptoms, you can proactively address any issues and ensure a reliable and efficient water supply for your household.

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