Well pumps use various mechanisms to draw water up from underneath the earth into storage tanks connected to your water supply, giving you fresh water whenever you need it. Well pumps generally do not run continuously and instead work in cycles. This means the well pump will work for a short amount of time and then switch off.
This article will help explain and answer the question, how long can a well pump run continuously and how it varies between different types of well pumps.
How Long Can A Well Pump Run Continuously? The Different Types
Well pumps should provide enough water for anyone who's using it. To provide the water and replenish your water tank, you will need the pump to run. Your well pump should run in cycles and the amount of time they can run continuously varies depending on the type of well pump you have installed.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the main types:
1. Centrifugal Pumps
Centrifugal pumps work using rotational force. They have one or more impellors that force the water round and use the velocity to drive it towards the outlet and up out of the well. This is one of the simplest types of well pump and commonly used.
Centrifugal pumps should only run for about 20 minutes at a time max. If you run it for longer than this, you risk damaging the mechanism and putting strain on your system. This is typically long enough to draw a lot of water to top up whatever is already in your water tank.
2. Submersible Pumps
A submersible pump operates from entirely under the water. It uses rotary energy to put pressure on the water and force it upwards, pulling the water into the pump and using an impellor to force it out. Submersible pumps need to be completely sealed and are well suited for deep water wells.
Submersible pumps are designed so they can be used continuously for pretty much as long as needed. The only issue is that they need to remain submerged, and if the pump runs out of water, it can seriously damage the inner mechanisms of a submersible pump. You should try not to overuse it and stick to the water in your tank as much as possible.
3. Jet Pumps
Jet pumps are the most explosive type of well pump and are used in shallow and deep wells. Water is drawn into the pump and fired out through a pressurized nozzle which forces it upwards and out of the well. The deeper the well, the more powerful the jet pump you need, which is why they come in various shapes and sizes.
Jet pumps force water up very quickly and therefore will not need to run for as long. Your tank needs to be big enough so that the well pump can run for at least 60 seconds, and if needed, the jet pump can run continuously for about 20 minutes. Make sure it does not run out of water, or the pump can completely lose pressure, and it will need to be primed again.
How Long Should A Well Pump Run Between Cycles?
Your well pump works by drawing water up into a storage tank. A well pump operates in cycles, and one cycle is how long it takes to fill your water storage tank. Your well pump cycle will depend on how big the storage tank is and how quickly it can pump each gallon of water up into it. This is influenced by the size and power of the motor.
If you don’t allow some time between cycles, the pump may run out of water. This can impact the pressure in your system and can damage the pump itself. A water pressure switch within the tank should indicate when more water is needed and trigger the well pump to switch on and draw more water up. This helps to regulate the pump and make sure it isn’t drawing too much.
As a rule, you should aim for a 1 to 1 ratio for each cycle and run. If your pump is cycling for 1 minute, then it should run for 1 minute too. That means it is cycling on and off every other minute. You can also go for a 2 minute to 2-minute ratio, which works well with submersible pumps.
If the well pump is starting and stopping, then this means it’s short cycling. This means your pump isn’t drawing enough water and is shutting off prematurely. This is usually due to an issue in the system which is impacting the pressure level and affecting the pressure switch in the tank. If your well tank starts short cycling, then you won’t have enough water in your home.
On the other side of the coin, if your well pump does not shut off when it should, then you risk drawing too much water from the well. This can lead to your well pump drawing in air rather than water, impacting the system's pressure and potentially damaging the mechanism.
How Long Should A Well Pump Run To Build Pressure?
A pressure tank works using pressurized air to force water into your home so it can flow out of the faucet. As the well pump operates and water fills the tank, the air pressure builds in the tank. When you open a faucet, the pressurized air forces the water out of the tank and into your home. As the pressure level drops, the well pump is activated, and more water is drawn into the tank to replace it.
It takes a bit of time for the pressure to force the water into your home. The process starts when you open a faucet, and the time it takes to build pressure is impacted by how far the faucet is from your tank and how big the tank is.
A small tank that holds about 20 gallons will take between 45 seconds and 2 minutes to build pressure, force the water into your home, and turn your well pump on. A larger tank of about 80 gallons will take roughly 1-3 minutes to do the same.
Average Cost To Run A Well Pump
Over 20% of all electricity in the US is used to pump water in some way, shape, or form. Electricity is not cheap, so it can really pay to understand how much your well pump costs to run. The price to run your well pump will be determined by how much horsepower your pump has. It should cost about 15 cents per horsepower per hour, so if you know how much you have to run the well pump, you can approximate the cost.
If you have a 5 horsepower well pump running 6 hours a day, it would cost you about 90 cents a day. This equates to about $6.30 a week, about $25.20 a month, and about $302.40 a year. Of course, this depends on your exact well pump and the local rates.
There are a few ways to limit the running costs of your well pump. If there are any leaks in the system, or if there’s internal damage, then your pump will be working harder than it should be and drawing more power. Similarly, if your well pump is on the older side, then it may not be running as efficiently. Examining your well pump regularly and maintaining it properly can help you lower the running costs.
You should also consider how much you are running your well pump. Using a pressure switch helps you ensure that you are only drawing water when you need it and prevents wasteful use of the device. This can help lower your electricity bills dramatically.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Can you run a well pump off a generator?
Generally, well pumps are hardwired into your house’s electrical supply, and you wouldn't use a generator. You can wire a well pump up to a generator but make sure that you have the proper voltage, or it won't run effectively.
Can a 240v well pump run on 120v?
No, not really because the 240v well pump will not be able to create enough pressure to work effectively.
How can you run a well pump without electricity?
Hand pumps can be used if there’s no electricity available, but naturally, these take a lot more manual effort. Solar powered well pumps are available, which remove the need for an external power source, but these are generally more expensive.
Should you turn off your well pump?
You should only turn off your well pump if you plan to be away for a long time. This stops any water in the pipes from freezing over the winter months.
Can I run out of well water?
Yes, if you pump too much water then your well will run dry. This is why you need to limit the number of cycles so that you can draw water from the well as needed.
Well pumps should generally not be run continuously because if your well runs out of water, it can seriously damage the mechanism. By using your pressure tank and the pressure switch, you can set up your well pump to keep your tank filled and give ready access to water for you and your family as needed. Hopefully, this guide has helped explain how long you can use a well pump and how to use it more efficiently.
Ian Haynes is an expert writer who has successfully deployed over 500 plumbing pages and other related content. He has an excellent understanding of home plumbing issues and translates his experiences via Plumbing Lab so readers can have a better understanding of common household problems. Outside of his work, Ian likes exploring Brooklyn with his Labrador.