Your private well should be properly protected but I’m not talking about homeowner’s insurance to cover well repairs. That is a topic that I would like to discuss at a later time. I’m talking right now about having surge protection, run dry protection, and over-pressurization and water leak detection for your private water well. Protection from things that can damage your well’s operation, cause physical harm to you, and even damage your home.
Let’s start with surge protection. You probably have an electrical supply line that supplies power to your home and to your well. Lightning strikes during thunderstorms can send spikes of high voltage electricity long distances, especially down overhead power lines. Originally called lightning arrestors, we now more correctly refer to them as surge protection devices. This is because they can protect your submersible pump’s motor from power surges that can destroy it.
I have pulled pumps where the spikes of voltage have blown a hole through the submersible motor housing going to ground. Vehicle accidents involving power poles have caused spikes of power that traveled to wells, causing considerable damage. What could be a better ground for a surge of electricity than copper wire and galvanized pipe suspended in groundwater?
If you don’t have a surge arrestor on your electrical power service to your water well, I suggest that you contact a licensed water well contractor who has the necessary electrician’s license to install a surge arrestor on your water well system before the next thunderstorm.
When the aquifer cannot produce as much water as the demand placed on the well, the pumping water level is drawn down to the inlet of the pump and the pump can continue to run even though it’s not pumping any water. If allowed to run in this condition for too long, some very serious damage can be done to your pump motor and even well casing. There are several manufacturers of submersible pump protectors that can be installed by qualified water well contractors that will protect your pump from running dry.
They can also protect your well from conditions other than running dry. These devices can protect your well motor from a condition caused by a human inadvertently shutting-in a running pump, causing it to “dead head.” A sudden freeze can cause a shut-in condition where the pump is turning but no water can move up the drop pipe because the surface plumbing is frozen.
In a dead-headed operation mode, the submersible motor and the pump will get hot because water is not flowing past it. Water in the drop pipe can get so hot it can actually melt PVC drop pipe and even melt PVC well casing. A run dry or motor saver electrical device will sense this condition and turn the motor off for a period of time, saving the motor, the pump, drop pipe, and sometimes the well casing.
Submersible pumps are capable of generating water pressures in excess of 150 psi. If the pressure switch fails to shut the pump off before it reaches the bladder tank’s maximum operating pressure, it can be quite dangerous to anyone nearby if it explodes. The same is also true for hydro-pneumatic tanks and other components of a water well system. Over-pressure pressurizing a water well system can occur and cause some very severe damage to both equipment and humans.
The protection device against over-pressurization is called a pressure relief valve. It is a small brass device that is typically set to vent the water from the system if the pressure exceeds 75 psi. This basic well protection device should be installed in your system to prevent serious damage to your system or to you.
There are a number of electronic devices on the market today that monitor the performance of your well pump very closely. These detection devices can monitor several parameters about your water system, detect faults in real time, and some can even call or text your cell phone to alert you that something is amiss.
The range of costs for real time performance protection devices ranges considerably, but the cost of water damage to a home or property caused by an improperly operating well or booster pump can make the price seem reasonable. There are devices available that can detect over-current conditions, under- and over-voltage supply, run dry conditions, waterlogged tanks, small leaks, and major line breaks.
One example is the Pentair Pentek Defender, another is the Water Hero Leak Detection device. By mentioning these specific devices, it is not intended to endorse these specific products. They are mentioned here simply to illustrate for readers the current state-of-the-industry well performance monitoring in leak detection and automatic water shutoff devices.
The Water Hero® device can not only alert you to a small leak or a sustained heavy flow rate it has detected, but it will automatically shut off the water to prevent damage to your well or water damage to your home. There is also a temperature sensor that provides protection for your water well system if it senses a temperature either above or below a chosen set point. If internet service is available to link to this device, it will report to your cell phone or laptop in real time flow rates, temperature, and status.
People who have installed devices of these capabilities can receive a premium reduction from their homeowner insurance company because damage to homes caused by water leaks is their leading claim.
So when I ask, “Is your well properly protected?” I hope you will remember the line of protection devices I have presented here and consider protecting your well as it should be protected. Your private water well is the most valuable asset to your property because “sin agua muerte” — without water there is no life.
Gary L. Hix, CWD/PI
About the Author
Gary Hix is a Registered Professional Geologist in Arizona, specializing in hydrogeology. He was the 2019 William A. McEllhiney Distinguished Lecturer for The Groundwater Foundation. He is a former licensed water well drilling contractor and remains actively involved in the National Ground Water Association and Arizona Water Well Association.
To learn more about Gary’s work, go to In2Wells.com. His eBooks, “Domestic Water Wells in Arizona: A Guide for Realtors and Mortgage Lenders” and “Shared Water Wells in Arizona,” are available on Amazon.