Well water pumping systems provide homesteaders and rural landowners a steady source of clean, unregulated water – straight from the ground.
While the best type of well pump for any system would depend on a variety of factors, including well depth and yield, submersible well pumps have proven to be one of the most efficient and reliable well pumps within the last several decades.
This article will discuss the following:
- A Review of the Best Submersible Well Pump Brands and Where to Buy Them
- Benefits to Using a Submersible Pump
- The Mechanics Behind How a Submersible Pump Works
- Things to Consider When Purchasing a Pump
- How to Correctly Size a Pump
- Troubleshooting Tips
Editor's Choice for Best Submersible Pump Brand
- 1/2 HP
- 12 GPM
- 230 Volt
Red Lion is one of the leading brands in the well pumping industry and is trusted by well owners in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. Founded in 1935, Red Lion continues to provide excellence in production and customer service. The RL12G05 model is perfect to meet the water demands of a large family in a rural area.
- What are the Best Submersible Well Pumps Brands?
- Main Advantages of Using a Submersible Pump
- How Do Submersible Pumps Work?
- How to Select a Submersible Pump
- How to Properly Size a Submersible Pump
- Submersible Well Pump Troubleshooting Tips
What are the Best Submersible Well Pumps Brands?
Because submersible pumps are working to provide water from a distance sometimes several hundreds of feet underneath the home, it is imperative that the pump be reliable, efficient, and long-lasting. There are many pump manufacturers on the market but only a few stand out as trustworthy and time-tested. The brands we've reviewed are experts in the well pumping industry and are trusted by well drillers, contractors, and well owners alike.
While we've reviewed specific pump models from the brands below, remember that each household will need a specific pump sized to match their specific needs and settings. Be sure to consult with the manufacturer for the exact model fit for your system's GPM and TDH.
Our Top Choice
- 1/2 HP
- 12 GPM
- 230 Volt
- Stainless Steel
- 4" Diameter
We've selected the submersible pumps by Red Lion as our top choice because of their build quality and durability, customer support, and name brand trust among well owners.
Red Lion has been a trusted company in the well water industry for generations. Founded in 1935, Red Lion has recently merged with Little Giant resulting in a submersible pump product line based on extensive research and experience. Along with innovative submersible pump design, Red Line boasts high-quality customer service for all of their products.
The RL12G05-2W2V Submersible Pump is ideal for rural homes and farms with 4" diameter drilled wells. It features a built in check-valve to prevent backflow and suction screen to protect the motor. This 2-wire pump houses all of the components safely in a stainless-steel case.
- 3/4 HP
- 10 GPM
- 240 Volt
- Stainless Steel
- 3" Diameter
Grundfos is a global leader and industry standard not only submersible well pumping, but in world water development. They focus on innovation and sustainability in helping the water industry and in combating the world's water problems.
Grundfos has an extensive selection of submersible pumps to fit every specific need. The SQ series are compact, multistage, centrifugal pumps which use energy efficient motors to reliably pump water at all times. This 2-wire pump houses the components in the stainless steel case allowing for easy installation and durability.
The SQ is a multistage pump that can be installed in a borehole no larger than the pump itself. This pump is very easy to install and operate due to its built-in electronics. Uses flexible, magnet motors for better efficiency levels.
- 1 HP
- 18 GPM
- 230 Volt
- Stainless Steel
- 4" Diameter
- Control Box Included
- 12 Month Warranty
Goulds Water Technologies, a brand of Xylem Industries, has been a trusted company in the residential, agricultural, industrial, and municipal water sectors for 150 years. Well-known and respected in over 150 countries, Goulds uses research and technology to improve on their ever-expanding product line.
The Goulds 3-Wire pump includes the control where the internal components can be accessed above ground. At 1 HP and 18 GPM, this submersible pump is sufficient to meet all the water requirements of a large family. Goulds offers a 12-month warranty from the date of purchase for their submersible pumps.
- 1 HP
- 20 GPM
- 230 Volt
- Stainless Steel
- 4" Diameter
Franklin Electric has been a leader in residential and commercial water movement for 75 years. Their wide array of submersible pumps are designed to withstand harsh conditions and provide superior performance.
This 1 HP, 20 GPM pump is powerful enough to sustain the demands of a large household. The 3-Wire pump is compatible with a control box to access the components from above ground.
- 1/2 HP
- 10 GPM
- 230 Volt
- Stainless Steel
- 4" Diameter
Burcam, the product line of Burke Water Systems, was founded in 1978 and continues to be one of North America's premier water systems manufacturer. Offering superior products and customer service to 15 countries, Burcam is expanding in development and growth in the well water industry.
The 1/2 HP, 10 GPM submersible pump by Burcam features control-box capability with 3-wire design. Perfect for rural homes and cabins, this stainless steel pump is reliable, well-designed, and highly efficient. All components are made of 316 precision stainless steel.
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Main Advantages of Using a Submersible Pump
As the name implies, submersible pumps remain submerged underwater and work to push water up the well. They remain underground and out of sight, and are only resurfaced when in need of repair or replacement. Over the last several decades, many well owners have switched from jet pumps to submersible pumps. Listed below are some of the reasons why.
Submersible pumps, because of its inaccessibility after installation, are designed to function without the need for frequent maintenance. The internal components are kept safe inside the metal casing allowing for long-term, undisturbed performance. Submerged 90 to 300 feet underground, the only outside element the pump will come into contact with is water. While occasional inspection is encouraged, a good submersible pump that is properly installed and sized could last up to 25 years before needing replacement.
No Need for Priming
Prior to using an above-ground jet pump, it must be properly primed with running water in order to function properly. Priming is a time-consuming process and can often take several attempts before successfully activating the jet pump. A submersible pump, because it is already submerged in water has no need for the priming process. Above-ground pumps are also prone to cavitation, a problematic situation where excess air and gas enter the mechanical components of the pump. Submersible pumps do not have this problem.
The entire mechanism is housed in a tightly constructed cylinder which pushes water upward rather than sucking it from above. The rapidly spinning impellers use centrifugal force to drive water up the shaft – a much more effective way of challenging the downward force of gravity. Because of the physics involved in the design, submersible pumps have a lighter mechanical workload than that of the lifting motion of jet pumps and are therefore less prone to breakdown.
Greater Depth Range
While above-ground jet pumps are used for more shallow well depths of less than 25 feet, submersible pumps are used for deeper wells and cover ranges of 90 to 300 feet and greater.
Out of Sight / Out of Earshot
Jet pumps can be quite loud and unsightly, especially large ones with greater GPM. Submersible pumps are underground and therefore can't be seen or heard.
How Do Submersible Pumps Work?
Rather than sucking water out of the ground like above ground well water pumps, submersible pumps use centrifugal force to push water to the surface. By harnessing the laws of physics rather than working against it, submersible pumps typically have fewer mechanical problems than jet pumps and can last up to 25 years before needing replacement. They are cylindrically shaped, about 3 to 5 inches in diameter and 2 to 4 feet long. The airtight-sealed, close-coupled motor prevents the water from getting in and causing a short circuit. A waterproof electrical cable runs power from the power source all the way down to the pump.
Impellers in the Well Pump
When the pressure switch is turned on, electric current is sent down the electrical cable connected to the motor. This causes the impellers within the body of the pump to start rotating. Once the impellers start rotating, they will suck water into the pump body. The impellers will then push the water upwards through the well casing and into the water tank. When the pressure switch is turned off, electric current stops flowing to the pump, thus shutting it back off.
How to Select a Submersible Pump
While there is some room for personal preference in terms of additional features and brand name, the type of pump you'll need will largely be decided by a set of predetermined factors. These factors include the average amount of water use in the household and the size and depth of the well.
Dependent on these factors are a set of specific requirements your pump will need to meet. Venturing outside of these requirements might result in poor performance or risk for overuse. We will cover how to properly size your pump in the next section. Nevertheless, it is useful to become familiar with the different settings and components of a submersible well pump.
2-Wire vs 3-Wire
The main difference between 2-wire and 3-wire pumps is the fact that 3-wire pumps are accessed by a control box while 2-wire pumps are not. The advantage of having a control box is that some of the major starting components are housed in the above-ground control box and not in the pump itself. These components can be accessed and replaced individually without the need of having to pull up the entire pump should anything break down.
In a 2-wire pump, the starting components are housed inside the pump itself. The main advantage to 2-wire pumps is that installation is much easier and because the components are housed together, breakdown is less likely than a pump with a control box.
Residential submersible pumps typically come in 1/2 HP, 1 HP, or 3/4 HP settings. In general, the greater the depth of the well, the harder the pump has to work to lift water to the surface. The higher the HP, the greater the flow rate at greater depths. Correct HP can be determined by following the manufacturer's curve chart after GPM and TDH have been established.
Each pump has its own GPM setting which indicates the flow rate at which the pump is most efficient, but doesn't necessarily mean that the pump can't reach a higher flow rate. For example, a pump with a flow rate of 12 GPM doesn't mean that it can't provide a household with 15 GPM, it just means that the pump is most efficient at 12 GPM.
The standard voltage for a submersible pump is 230V. Anything less could be inefficient and could be potentially hazardous.
Some manufacturers will state the pump's maximum PSI. The typical range for a residential well system 40PSI - 60PSI, thus the max PSI of the pump should always exceed this range.
Video: 2 Wire and 3 Wire Well Pump Motors
Watch this informative video by RC Worst explaining the difference between 2 and 3 wire motors.
How to Properly Size a Submersible Pump
When hiring contractors for pump installation, engineers will typically determine the correct pump size for the well and household by applying a series of mathematical formulas based on water needs and the nature of the environment. Whether hiring contractors or installing a pump oneself, it is important as a well owner to understand the logic behind pump sizing.
Submersible pumps vary in size and performance. The necessary pump size for a well water system is determined by a variety of factors including the rate at which water can be drawn from the well, the size and depth of the well itself, and the amount of water required for the household measured in GPM (Gallons Per Minute). By providing a well drilling company with the required flow rate in GPM, they will determine whether the well will be able to meet that demand.
In general, the pump flow rate shouldn't exceed the amount of water the well can yield. Groundwater levels can be tested prior to pump installation in order to have a general idea of the well capacity. If the well capacity happens to be less than the amount of water required by the household, a larger pressure tank should be used to compensate for the lack of yield.
Calculating the Numbers
There are two important numbers needed in order to determine the correct pump size for a well system, known as GPM and TDH. GPM refers to the required amount of water the household needs, measured in Gallons per Minute. TDH (total dynamic head) refers to the total amount of resistance the pump will encounter when attempting to push the water upward.
Determine Required Flow Rate in GPM
It is important to measure the average amount of water the household will be using in order to determine the correct pump size. Water needs will vary depending on family size and other factors. There are two common methods for determining GPM for a residential pump system, both giving similar results.
Capacity Based on Fixture Count - Flow rate can be determined in gallons per minute based on the number of fixtures in the home. A fixture can be considered any appliance that provides an outlet for water including sinks, toilets, showers, faucets, outside irrigation, the pool and other special fixtures such as a hot tub.
For this method, each fixture equates to 1 gallon per minute. For example, a home with two bathrooms having 3 fixtures each, a kitchen sink, dishwasher, washing machine, laundry tub and two outside hose outlets equates to a total of 12 fixtures. With 12 fixtures in total, a capacity of 12 GPM will be required for the entire household.
Capacity Based on Peak Demand - This model calculates the capacity based on a seven-minute peak demand. The peak times for water use in households are usually in the morning, when the family rises to prepare for the day, and in the evening, when all family members are at home. Seven minutes is the average timeframe of high water use for a shower or automatic washer. The average peak demand for a 2-bathroom home is 98 gallons which translates to a requirement of 14 gallons per minute. You can source your required gallons per minute online based on various scenarios - 2 baths, 3 baths, etc.
Total Dynamic Head
The total dynamic head (TDH) is the sum of a series of measurements and is typically calculated by the drilling company or the contractors responsible for pump installation. As a well owner, it is important to understand the basics of TDH.
In general, TDH refers to the total amount of resistance a pump will encounter when forcing water upward and involves a series of factors including friction, well depth, and the distance the water must travel. In order to understand TDH, there a few basic concepts which must be defined.
Draw Down Level - The level at which the water remains at when the pump is not on is referred to as the static level. When the pump is turned on, the water level typically drops. This is referred to as the draw down level or pumping level. In order to calculate TDH, one would need the distance (in feet) from the top of the well to the draw down level.
Elevation Difference - The elevation difference, or vertical rise, is the distance (in feet) from the top of the well to the highest point of the pressure tank. The pressure tank is the highest point above ground where the pump will cause water to rise.
Friction Loss - Friction loss refers to the amount of resistance the water will encounter when flowing through the various sizes of piping. By referencing a friction loss chart, total friction loss can be determined by factoring in pipe material, pipe width, and pipe length.
After the draw down level, elevation difference, and friction loss have been determined, TDH can be calculated by combining the three:
TDH = draw down level + elevation difference + friction loss
Determine Pump According to Manufacturer's Curve Chart
After the flow rate in GPM and the TDH have been calculated, an appropriate pump may be selected by referencing the manufacturer's curve chart. Each pump manufacturer will have its own chart system for referencing their specific pump models. By noting the TDH and GPM, the exact pump model and HP require can be determined.
Video: Sizing a Submersible Pump
Watch this great video by Franklin Electric on how to properly size a submersible pump.
Submersible Well Pump Troubleshooting Tips
As submersible well pumps are enclosed, they generally have a long productive life. Failures are typically due to corrosion of the seal. The pumps seal can corrode over time which allows water to seep into the motor, leading to motor failure. Once this happens, the most cost-effective choice is to replace the pump.
There are several signs of pump failure. These are some signs along with steps you can take to troubleshoot.
Absence of Water at the Faucet
When there is absence of water, first check the circuit breaker. If it is switched off, switch it back on and check the faucet. If there is still no water, the problem may lie with the pump or the pressure switch on your storage tank. In this case, it will be best to contact your well water professional.
Aerated at the Faucet
If your water is aerated at the faucet, it can result in sputtering which may signal a pump failure. It may also indicate that your pump is above a lowered water table, or there is a bad check valve or a cracked pipe. In this case, the best solution is to contact your well water professional.
Sudden Change in Water Quality
Sudden changes in water quality, like cloudiness or muddiness, indicates that sediment is entering the pump which can wear down the pump internal elements. This issue can be resolved by lowering the pump deeper.
A Spike in Your Electric Bill
A spike in your electric bill may indicate that your pump is working overtime, which may in turn indicate a pump failure.
Note that abrupt pump failures are not common. Certain weather conditions like drought can lower the water table in your well, which can affect how the pump operates. You can check this by not using your water for several hours to allow your well to replenish. If the water flow returns to normal, the wells replenishment rate is low due to natural conditions. The issue may be resolved by lowering the pump deeper into the well or hydrofracturing to increase replenishment rates.
Make sure to schedule annual preventive maintenance inspections to reduce the possibility of a failure. Discovering the problem early will result in a lower-cost repair as opposed to a complete replacement.
The pump is the heart of any well water system. As is the case with any circulatory system, it is imperative that the heart be strong, efficient, and long-lasting. Selecting a proper submersible pump is one of the most important decisions a well owner can make. Be sure to become familiar with the mechanics behind well pumping and the nature of the environment around you. Communicate closely with the well drillers and those responsible for installation of the pump. With good preparation and proper maintenance, your submersible pump should last a long time.
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