How to Pump Water From a Well Without Electricity

Reviewed by: James Layton
Updated on:
January 15, 2024

Key Takeaways

The list below will help you decide how to pump water from a well without using electricity based on your specific needs and circumstances.

How to Pump Well Water Without Electricity: 6 Methods

Most well owners pump water from their well using electricity. In fact, electric well pumps are so common we’ve written a review of the best submersible well pumps out there, as well as the best shallow well pumps.

But more and more Americans are choosing to go off-grid.

Luckily, powering your home and property is no longer limited to just on-grid electricity.

You can pump your water without electricity permanently, or maybe you’re just looking for something as a backup, but check out our list of the best emergency well water pumps for when disasters strike.

Here are six methods for pumping well water without electricity:

1. Manual well pump

A manual well pump, also known as a hand pump, hand-operated pump, or piston pump, consists of a pump mechanism, a handle or lever, and a suction pipe or rod that extends down into the well.

To use a manual well pump, the homeowner manually operates the pump handle in an up-and-down motion. This action creates a vacuum, pulling water into the pump chamber and discharging it through the outlet.


One of the main advantages of a hand pump is independence from electricity. It provides a reliable water supply even during power outages or in areas without access to electricity.

Hand pumps are sturdy and durable, capable of withstanding harsh conditions, so they require minimal maintenance compared to electric pumps. Manual hand pumps also align with self-sufficiency and sustainability goals by reducing reliance on conventional energy sources.

A manual well pump can also be installed alongside an existing electric pump. This setup provides a backup or alternative pumping method in case of a power outage or when the electric pump requires maintenance or repairs.


Pumping water manually with a hand pump requires physical effort, especially if you need a large volume of water or the well is deep. Consistent pumping can be tiring and time consuming, so it may not be suitable for individuals with limited strength or endurance.

Therefore, the effectiveness of manual hand pumps decreases as the depth of the well increases. Deeper wells require more pumping and may not be practical for manual operation in certain cases.

As a result, hand pumps generally have a lower water output compared to electric pumps. This can be a challenge in larger households that need a lot of water.

Despite these limitations, hand pumps remain a reliable option for pumping well water without electricity, especially for smaller-scale water needs, emergency situations, or areas where access to electricity is limited or unreliable.

2. Wind-powered pumps

Wind powered pumps, also called windmill pumps, use wind energy to pump water from your well. It typically consists of a windmill, a structure with rotating blades or sails, and a mechanical pump mechanism. 

A windmill pump requires a location where it can capture the prevailing wind. The rotating blades harness the wind’s energy and transfer it to the pump mechanism through a system of gears or a direct drive. As the pump mechanism operates, water is drawn up from the well and discharged into a storage tank or distribution system.


Wind is a renewable energy source, making wind-powered pumps an energy-efficient and sustainable option. Since they don’t rely on electricity or fuel, you can save a lot of money in the long run.

Wind is widely available in many areas, providing a consistent and reliable source of power for the windmill pump. As long as there is sufficient wind, the pump can operate continuously, ensuring a steady water supply.


Windmill pumps require suitable wind conditions for optimal operation. They need a location with consistent and sufficient wind speeds. In areas with low wind or irregular wind patterns, the effectiveness of the pump may be limited. 

Installations can be complex and require expertise. They involve erecting the windmill structure, connecting it to the pump mechanism, and ensuring proper alignment and stability. Regular maintenance is also necessary to ensure the windmill and pump components are in good working condition.

Windmill pumps are generally more suitable for larger-scale water needs or agricultural applications. They may not be practical for small residential uses due to the size and cost of the equipment involved.

Also, some states, including Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Vermont, have implemented specific regulations or guidelines for the installation and use of small-scale wind turbines for residential purposes, while others may have limited or no regulations at all. 

To get accurate and up-to-date information on the regulations regarding wind power for residential use in a specific state, check with the relevant state energy or environmental department.

Proper planning, site assessment, and maintenance are essential to maximizing the benefits of windmill pumps. Regardless of these considerations, windmill pumps provide a greener alternative to conventional pumps, particularly in areas with adequate wind resources. 

3. Solar-powered pumps

A solar-powered water pump consists of photovoltaic (PV) panels that convert sunlight into electricity, as well as a pump mechanism that draws water from the well.

To use a solar powered pump, the homeowner installs the PV panels in a location that receives ample sunlight throughout the day. The panels are typically mounted on a suitable structure or positioned on the ground at an optimal angle to capture sunlight.


Solar-powered pumps utilize clean and renewable energy from the sun, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and enhancing environmental sustainability. Once installed, solar power pumps have minimal operating costs. They eliminate the need for electricity or fuel, reducing ongoing expenses and offering long-term cost savings.

Solar energy is generally abundant, especially in sunny regions, providing a reliable source of power for the pump. If sunlight is available, the solar pump can operate continuously, ensuring a consistent water supply.


Solar-powered pumps are dependent on sunlight availability. Cloudy or rainy days with limited sunlight can affect their performance, potentially reducing water output. However, battery storage systems can mitigate this issue and allow for water pumping during low sunlight periods or at night.

The up-front cost of installing a solar pump can be relatively high compared to traditional electric or manual pumps. However, the long-term cost savings from reduced energy expenses can offset this initial investment.

Proper system design and sizing are crucial to ensuring the solar panels and pump match the water demand and well conditions. It requires careful consideration of water volume requirements, well depth, and solar panel capacity to optimize performance.

4. Gravity-powered pumps

A gravity-powered system typically involves setting up a series of pipes or channels that enable water to flow downhill from a water source, such as a reservoir or elevated tank, to the well.

The gravitational force propels the water through the system, creating water pressure that extracts water from the well.

To use a gravity-powered system, the homeowner must establish a reliable water source at a higher elevation than the well. This can be achieved by creating a storage tank at an elevated position or utilizing natural elevation differences in the landscape. 

The water source must be connected to the well through a network of pipes or channels, ensuring a continuous downward flow of water. At the well, a tap or valve controls the water flow and allows for extraction.


Gravity-powered systems operate solely on the force of gravity, eliminating the need for electricity, fuel, or manual effort. Once set up, they provide a self-sustaining water pumping solution without ongoing energy costs. 

Gravity is a constant and reliable force, ensuring a continuous water flow provided the water source remains at a higher elevation. Gravity-powered systems are relatively simple in design and operation, making them easy to understand and maintain.

Gravity pumps have low operating costs since they don’t require any external energy sources. They can be a cost-effective solution for areas where electricity is not readily available or for homeowners seeking sustainable and affordable water pumping options.


Gravity-powered systems require a significant difference in elevation between the water source and the well. In locations with flat terrain or limited height differences, achieving the necessary elevation may be challenging or impractical.

The water flow and pressure in a gravity-powered system are determined by the elevation difference and the hydraulic characteristics of the system.

It may not provide high flow rates or strong water pressure compared to an electric pump, which can be a limitation in certain applications or for specific water needs.

Proper system design and installation are crucial to ensuring the gravity-powered system functions effectively. It requires careful planning, sizing of pipes, and consideration of hydraulic factors to optimize water flow and avoid restrictions or inefficiencies.

5. Hand-dug wells

A hand-dug well is manually excavated using shovels, picks, or other hand tools until a water source, such as an aquifer, is reached. Hand-dug wells have been used for centuries as a means to access groundwater for drinking water, irrigation, and other domestic uses.

Pumping well water from a hand-dug well without electricity involves a manual extraction method. This can mean a well-bucket-and-rope system or a hand pump specifically designed for shallow wells. 

With the well-bucket-and-rope system, a bucket is lowered into the well using a rope, filled with water, and then manually raised to the surface.

Alternatively, a hand pump is installed at the top of the well, which utilizes human power to draw water from the well and deliver it through a spout or outlet.


A hand-dug well is a cost-effective solution; it does not require expensive drilling equipment or an electric pump. The main cost involved is the manual labor required for excavation. It can be constructed in areas where access to drilling equipment or electricity is limited.

Hand-dug wells can provide a reliable source of water as long as the water table remains at an accessible depth. They are not dependent on external energy sources, making them resilient during power outages or other disruptions.


Hand-dug wells are typically shallow compared to drilled wells because the digging process is manual and more labor intensive. The depth is limited by the reach of the diggers, which can restrict the availability of water in areas with lower water tables.

Excavating a hand-dug well requires substantial manual labor, making it a physically demanding task. The effort and time required for digging can be significant, especially in areas with hard or rocky soil.

Hand-dug wells are more susceptible to contamination than properly constructed and sealed drilled wells. The absence of protective casing can allow surface water or pollutants to enter the well, potentially compromising the water quality.

6. Diesel or gasoline pumps

A diesel or gasoline well pump operates using an internal combustion engine fueled by diesel or gasoline. These pumps are typically designed for heavy-duty applications. They consist of an engine, a pump mechanism, and an inlet and outlet connection for water flow.

To use a diesel or gasoline pump, the engine is started by providing fuel and initiating the combustion process. The engine’s rotational motion is then transmitted to the pump mechanism, which draws water from the well and pushes it through the outlet for distribution or storage. 

These pumps are typically self-priming, meaning they can create the necessary suction to draw water up from the well without requiring manual priming.


Diesel or gasoline pumps can provide high flow rates and strong water pressure, making them suitable for pumping large volumes of water or for commercial and agricultural applications. 

They are often portable and can be easily moved to different locations as needed. They can be used in areas without electricity or in remote locations where access to power infrastructure is limited.

Diesel or gasoline pumps allow homeowners to pump water from a well even during a power outage or in areas where electricity is unreliable or unavailable.


Diesel or gasoline pumps require a constant fuel supply to operate. Regular refueling is necessary, and the cost of fuel can contribute to ongoing operating expenses. 

Internal combustion engines also generate noise and exhaust emissions, which should be a consideration in residential areas or environmentally sensitive locations. Proper ventilation and muffler systems may be required to minimize noise and mitigate emissions.

Diesel or gasoline pumps require regular maintenance, including engine servicing, fuel filter changes, and oil checks. Understanding the operation and maintenance requirements of the specific pump model is essential to ensure proper performance and longevity.

Final Thoughts

Remember, each of these methods for pumping well water has its own advantages and considerations, so tailor your approach to your unique needs and circumstances.

Whether you’re embracing sustainable living, preparing for emergencies, or simply seeking a more cost-effective solution, these alternative pumping methods offer a path toward self-sufficiency.

If you want more how-to guides about well water pumps, and well water systems in general, here are some resources that can provide further in-depth information:

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Monica Lynn Zorzi

Hello, I have a well from1978. Its 100-foot deep so a hand pump won’t work. In the event of no electricity, I’m looking to see if there is a hand pump adapter that can be attached to the frost-free yard hydrant?

James Layton

I have not been able to find such an adapter. But take a look at the Frost Free Bison Hand Pump. It may be the answer! Google it and see if it works for you.

Cody McAmis

Good article & information. You should check out the Flojak Plus – manual hand pump. It can lift as deep as 200ft and get 4+ gallons a minute. Can even pump up a pressure tank. Its only a fraction of the price of a Bison.

James Layton

Hello Cody! Those Flojack pumps look very interesting! Maybe we will review those in the future. Thanks for the tip.