Friday, January 11, 2013

Well Pump, Part Two

So the boys from the well drilling company came out to look over our well set-up, make sure everything was in good working order, and let us know any ways they could think of to reduce the amount of time the booster pump on the well ran, and hence our electric bill.  The running joke in our household is that you can flush the toilet and the booster pump on the well will come on...which is not what you want, from an energy-efficiency standpoint.  

We learned several things today:

1.  Buying a secondary pressure tank would not save us any electricity, as any savings we gained by not running the booster pump as much would be offset by running a secondary pressure tank instead.  Six of one versus a half-dozen of the other. Hrumph.

2.  In the event of a power outage, we WILL have water in the house...but with no power to the booster pump, there will not be enough pressure to get water into the hot water tank inside the house (meaning no hot showers during the zombie apocalypse).  There will also be extremely low water pressure for our inside faucets. BUT -- with 4,000 gallons available in the holding tank, we can access that from a faucet next to the big tank itself.  So we and our animals won't be dying of thirst. We'll just either be taking cold sponge baths or smelling kinda funky until the problem is remedied.  I can live with either of those options as long as we have drinking water for, potentially, at least a few weeks in the event of a disaster.

Old booster pump with new microswitch (at upper right)
3.  One thing that's been happening that has probably driven our electric bill up is that a micro-switch on the booster pump was starting to fail, leaving the pump running longer than it needed and causing back pressure.  They fixed this today with a new micro-switch.   The booster pump is also starting to fail, but we are going to let it die completely before replacing it.  The new micro-switch will work on any booster pump we buy, so we figured that was a good investment.

4.  And a few stats:  We have standing water at 403 feet and the well itself is about 600 feet deep, so we're in good shape there...if we start to run dry at any point, we can lower the pump without major expense.  With wells in this area, it's not lowering the pumps that kills homesteads and country properties, it's having to drill a new well when the old one reaches bottom and goes dry.  But I think we'll be OK for the next decade or so.  And we have started a well fund in case we ever do need to drill a new one.  

I realize for people who live in greener areas, the idea of a well pump sitting at 600 feet deep probably seems crazy, but that's how we roll in the mediterranean climate of Central Coast Wine Country and elsewhere in the western U.S.  

We've also decided we're going to look into the idea of some solar panels which would generate at least enough power to run the well pumps, in the event of a power outage and even on regular days.  That would lower our electric bill as well as protect  our comfort (and our crops) in the event of a disaster.  It would be expensive and we'll probably have to save for it, but it might be worth it, long-term.  Kind of a duh there...with so many sunny days, it seems criminal not to take advantage of them to create energy.

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