Everything You Need to Know About Well Water Pumps

Updated on:
January 5, 2024

So, you noticed a change in water pressure or an odd sound coming from the backyard, and your plumber said you need a new well pump. If your response was “What’s a well pump?” — well, you’ve come to the right place.

I’ll break down the different types of pumps, from the submersible ones that go underwater to the jet pumps that create suction power. You’ll learn how each pump works and discover their pros and cons, including factors like efficiency, noise levels, installation, maintenance needs, and depth limitations. 

Get ready to dive into the fascinating world of well-water pumps.

What Is a Well-Water Pump?

A well pump is a device used to extract water from underground wells. It is designed to pump water from the well system and deliver it to the surface for various purposes, such as drinking, irrigation, or household use. The specific design and components of a well pump can vary depending on the depth of the well, water volume requirements, and the specific needs of the user.

Here’s a detailed description of a typical well-pump system:


The pump is the main component of the well-water system. It is typically installed at the bottom of the well or in a well house or pump house near the well. The pump is responsible for creating suction or pressure to lift the water from the well and move it to the surface.


The pump is powered by an electric motor, which can be located at the surface near the well or submersible within the well itself. The motor converts electrical energy into mechanical energy, which drives the pump’s impeller or piston to move water.

Impeller or piston

The pump consists of an impeller or piston that creates the pressure or suction needed to lift water. In centrifugal pumps (most common type), the impeller is a rotating disk with curved blades that accelerates the water, creating centrifugal force and pushing it towards the pump outlet. In piston pumps, the reciprocating motion of the piston draws water into the cylinder and pushes it out through valves.

Check valve

A check valve, also known as a one-way valve or non-return valve, is installed in the pump system to ensure water flows in one direction. It prevents backflow by maintaining water pressure and preventing the pump from losing prime (water receding back into the well).

Pressure tank

A pressure tank is often used in well-water systems to store water under pressure. It helps maintain a consistent water supply and reduces the number of pump starts and stops. 

When the pump fills the storage tank, it compresses air within the tank, creating pressure. When a faucet is opened, pressurized water is released from the tank, and the compressed air pushes the water out, maintaining steady water flow.

Pressure switch

The pressure switch is an electrical device that controls the pump’s operation. It senses the pressure in the water system and turns the pump on or off accordingly. 

When the pressure drops below a certain threshold (e.g., when a faucet is opened), the pressure switch activates the pump to start. Once the pressure reaches a specified level (e.g., when the faucet is closed), the switch turns off the pump.

Electrical wiring and controls

The well-pump system requires electrical wiring to connect the motor, pressure switch, and other components to a power source. Control boxes or panels may be used to protect the electrical components and provide additional functionality, such as motor protection and overload prevention.

Types of Well Pumps

There are several types of well-water pumps available, each designed for specific applications and well configurations. The main types of well-water pumps include the following systems:

Submersible pumps

A submersible well pump is the most common type of well pump. They are designed to be submerged in the well and are typically installed below the water level. Submersible pumps are electrically powered and have a sealed motor that is water-resistant. 

They are highly efficient and can handle high volumes of water, making them suitable for deep wells. The motor is powered by electricity and drives the pump’s impellers, which create a centrifugal force, pushing water towards the pump outlet and up to the surface.

Submersible well pumps typically range from $200 to $2,000 or more, depending on the pump’s horsepower (hp), depth capacity, and brand. Higher-capacity pumps with more advanced features may be on the higher end of the price spectrum.


  • High energy efficiency
  • Minimal noise
  • Ideal for deep wells
  • Protected from external factors, such as freezing and vandalism


  • Requires professional installation and specialized equipment
  • Difficult and expensive repairs and maintenance

Jet pumps

Jet well pumps are surface-mounted and can be installed either in the well or above ground. They work by creating a vacuum that lifts water from the well. Jet pumps are divided into two categories: shallow well jet pumps and deep well jet pumps. The former are used for wells with a depth of up to 25 feet, while the latter can handle greater depths up to 100 feet or more. 

Their mode of operation is also different. Shallow-well jet pumps create a vacuum through an impeller, while deep-well jet pumps use a two-pipe system to create a vacuum and lift water. 

Jet pumps typically cost less compared to submersible pumps. A shallow-well jet pump can range from $150 to $600, while a deep-well jet pump may cost between $300 and $1,000. Prices can vary based on hp, depth capacity, and brand.


  • Flexible
  • Generally more affordable that submersible wells
  • Popular for shallow wells
  • Easy to access for repairs or maintenance


  • Less energy efficient than submersible pumps
  • Considerable noise and vibration
  • Effectiveness decreases as depth increases

Convertible pumps

Convertible pumps are versatile and can be used for both shallow and deep wells. They have a dual function and can operate both as a shallow-well jet pump or a deep-well jet pump, depending on the configuration. They are suitable for wells with varying water levels or when there is uncertainty about the well’s depth.

This pump offers versatility for wells with fluctuating water levels, but its efficiency is lower compared to a submersible pump. Maintenance should be prioritized for optimal performance.

A convertible pump is similar in price to standard jet pumps. Prices typically fall within the range of $200 to $800, depending on the hp, depth capacity, and brand.


  • Versatile
  • Ideal for wells where water levels may fluctuate


  • Lower efficiency than a submersible pump
  • More frequent maintenance and repairs

Centrifugal pumps

Centrifugal pumps operate by converting rotational energy from an electric motor into kinetic energy in the form of water flow. The pump’s impeller rotates, creating a centrifugal force that pushes the water outward, increasing its velocity and pressure, and propelling it through the pump and into the discharge pipe.

The price range for a centrifugal pump can vary depending on factors such as pump size, horsepower (hp), construction materials, brand, and specific features. Here’s a general overview of the price ranges for centrifugal pumps:

  • Small centrifugal pumps: Typically used for lower flow rates and smaller-scale applications, they can range from around $100 to $500. These pumps generally have lower horsepower and are suitable for residential or light-duty use.
  • Medium-sized centrifugal pumps: Suitable for a wider range of applications, including commercial and agricultural use, can range from $500 to $2,000 or more. Prices depend on factors such as horsepower, construction materials (e.g., cast iron or stainless steel), and brand.
  • Large centrifugal pumps: These are designed for industrial or heavy-duty applications. Prices for large centrifugal pumps typically start from $2,000 and can go up to several thousand dollars or more.


  • Simple, reliable, and versatile
  • Wide range of flow rates
  • Effective for medium- to high-capacity pumping
  • Generally easy to maintain and repair


  • Lower efficiency when it comes to high-pressure applications or pumping water from greater depths
  • Requires separate suction pipe to draw water from the well
  • Performance affected by changes in water levels

Hand pumps

Hand pumps are manually operated pumps that use human power to extract water from the well. They typically consist of a handle, a piston or plunger, and a check-valve system. By moving the handle up and down, the piston creates a vacuum, drawing water into the pump and pushing it to the surface. 

They are typically used as backup or emergency pumps when there is a power outage or in remote areas without access to electricity. They are often installed in conjunction with other pump systems. 

Hand pumps are relatively affordable compared to other pump systems, with prices ranging from $100 to $200.


  • Best backup solution for pumping well water
  • Easy to operate and require no electricity


  • Designed for low-volume applications
  • May not provide sufficient flow for larger water needs
  • Requires physical effort
  • Typically used for shallow wells

Sump pumps

While not specifically designed for well-water extraction, sump pumps can be used in certain situations. Sump pumps are primarily used to remove water from basements, crawl spaces, or areas prone to flooding. 

However, in some cases, they can extract water from shallow wells with limited depth. Sump pumps have a float switch that activates the pump when water reaches a certain level, and they pump the water out through a discharge pipe.

Typically, sump pumps cost less than specialized well pumps. Prices for sump pumps can range from $100 to $500, depending on the type (submersible or pedestal), water pressure, and brand.


  • Effective in preventing water damage and flooding in basements or low-lying areas
  • More affordable compared to other well pumps


  • Limited to specific applications
  • Consume more energy compared to specialized well pumps
  • Requires regular maintenance and monitoring

How to Choose a Well-Pump System 

When choosing a well pump, several factors should be taken into consideration to ensure you select the most suitable pump for your specific needs. Here is a detailed list of factors to consider:

  • Well depth and water level: Determine the depth of your well and the fluctuation of the water level. Different pumps have different depth limitations, so it’s important to choose a pump that can reach the water source effectively.
  • Water demand and flow rate: Consider your water usage requirements, including the number of household members or irrigation needs. Determine the necessary flow rate (gallons per minute) to meet your water demand and ensure the pump can handle the required volume.
  • Pump type and technology: Understand the different types of pumps available (submersible, jet, convertible, etc.) and their respective advantages and limitations. Consider the specific features, technologies, and efficiencies offered by different pump models.
  • Pump efficiency: Energy efficiency is crucial for long-term cost savings and environmental impact. Look for pumps with high efficiency ratings to minimize power consumption.
  • Installation and accessibility: Consider the installation requirements and accessibility of the pump system. Some pumps require professional installation, while others may be more DIY friendly. Assess factors like available space, electrical connections, and plumbing considerations.
  • Maintenance and repairs: Evaluate the maintenance needs and potential repair requirements of the pump system. Some pumps may require regular maintenance, while others may require simpler upkeep. Consider the availability of local service providers and the ease of accessing and servicing the pump.
  • Pump durability and construction: Assess the durability and construction quality of the pump. Look for pumps made from corrosion-resistant materials like stainless steel or cast iron to ensure longevity and reliable performance.
  • Noise levels: Consider the noise levels produced by the pump during operation. If noise is a concern, look for pumps specifically designed for quiet operation, such as submersible pumps.
  • Budget and cost: Determine your budget for the pump system, including the initial purchase cost, installation costs, and potential long-term operating costs. Compare prices from different manufacturers and consider the overall value offered by the pump.
  • Warranty and customer support: Look for pumps that come with a warranty to protect your investment. Consider the reputation and availability of customer support from the manufacturer or supplier.

By carefully considering these factors, you can make an informed decision and select a well pump that meets your water needs efficiently, reliably, and within your budget. Consulting with professionals or pump specialists can provide valuable guidance based on your specific well conditions and requirements.

How to properly size a well pump

Sizing a well pump involves finding the right pump capacity to meet your water needs effectively. To determine the pump size, calculate your daily water demand based on the number of people in your household and any irrigation requirements. Consider both indoor and outdoor water usage to get an estimate of how much water you need each day.

Next, consider the total dynamic head (TDH), which represents the resistance the pump must overcome to deliver water from the well. Factors like vertical lift, pipe length, and pressure requirements contribute to TDH. This calculation helps you understand the pump’s performance needs. You can use this online calculator to accurately determine the TDH for your system.

Once you have the TDH value, choose a pump with a suitable flow rate to meet or exceed your calculated water demand. Look for pumps that are efficient in their energy consumption to save on electricity costs. Check the manufacturer’s specifications to ensure the selected pump matches your needs in terms of flow rate and TDH capabilities.

If you’re unsure about the sizing process, consult with professionals or pump specialists who can guide you based on your specific well conditions and requirements. Their expertise will help you select the right pump size for optimal performance and water efficiency.


Well pumps are essential for ensuring a reliable water supply from your well. There are different types of well pumps available. Each pump has its own advantages and considerations. Factors like efficiency, noise levels, installation, maintenance, and well depth should also be taken into account when selecting the right pump for your needs. 

Water pump cost varies depending on the type, size, and brand. It’s a good idea to compare quotes from different suppliers to get an idea of the price range based on your specific requirements.

By understanding well pumps, considering your specific needs, and seeking professional guidance if necessary, you are well on your way to having a consistent water supply from your well.

If you want to learn more about well water pumps, here are some additional resources that can provide in-depth information:

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