Before I answer that question…
When you think in terms of Arizona most folks think desert, heat, and lack of water. That is true for some areas of Arizona but not our area where our property is located. We have mild, 4-seasons of weather, abundant lakes, and one of the best aquifers in the United States.
If you remember, one of my biggest priorities for a buying property was water. In the case of our area that would mean well water since springs, rivers, and such are rare. And wells can be expensive to drill, $18 – $30 per foot. The water in our area is between 150’ – 600’. Do the math…about $4,000 – $25,000 to get water flowing to a storage tank.
We were lucky enough to find a piece of property with a well already on it.
Right after we closed on the property I paid a reputable driller to come pull the old pump and pipe, then to test the water level, and assess the casing. There was no power supply to the pump, just a wellhead with nothing else. We assumed the pump was a 220vAC unit but we weren’t sure. I didn’t like the way the wire looked. We also didn’t know anything else about the well. A service call was the only logical choice.
They pulled the pump from a depth of 190’ out of a 220’ well. The pipe was good. The casing was good. The pump was good. There was plenty of water. Yea!
Now came the choice of what to put back into the well. Fortunately I know a really good well/pump/irrigation company owner here locally. I spent quite a bit of time with him obtaining information on different options. And to my surprise he is an “off-gridder” as well and was in-tune with my water needs and desires.
When push came to shove a 110vAC 1/3hp pump made the most sense. Here’s why:
- We don’t have a large water demand, about 50 – 100gals per day. No more than 100 – 200gals a day maximum during gardening season.
- We don’t have utility power to the property.
- We really wanted to run the system off of solar with our existing 1800w inverter.
- We didn’t want to spend more than $2000 for the entire set-up.
- If the sun wasn’t sufficient to power the system, or the water demand was temporarily high, we wanted to be able to use our existing Honda EU2000i generator for a power supply to keep the pump running.
It almost worked out.
The 1800-watt inverter we already had would run the pump when it was cool outside, but in the heat of the day, even on a mild day, the inverter wouldn’t cycle on to run the pump. So that option was out. I still haven’t settled on a higher wattage inverter. We settled on simply using the generator for now.
Why a 2000-watt pure sine wave inverter? Because we hooked up our Honda EU2000i and it ran the pump just fine under all conditions. But what does that have to do with the inverter? Technically nothing other than it helped us determine that 2000-watts was sufficient to run the pump.
Why a pure sine wave inverter that costs more than a modified sine wave? Wow, that is a whole discussion in and of itself. But, for this conversation I will stick with the basics:
- It runs the pump motor more efficiently.
- It creates less heat in the pump motor.
- It will make the pump motor last longer.
Say we are running the well pump and we run the batteries dead due to lack of sun or large water demand…no problem! We take the Honda EU2000i over to the well house and plug it in. Fire that baby up and “bingo!” water is now being pumped.
So we had the pump figured out – a 1/2hp Franklin Electric motor running a 3gpm pump. A 2000-watt 110vAC power supply would run the pump just fine. For batteries we have a number of options but we are leaning towards four 12vDC 205AH Duracell Ultra deep-cycle batteries ($200 each). With no solar assist and no generator running that would give us 6 – 9 minutes of runtime before the low-voltage disconnect (LVD) kicked in and stopped the pump. That is 18 – 27gals of water per cycle per single battery.
Using four 100w solar panels that should take 4 – 8 hours of sun each day to recharge the batteries. Other than on cloudy days that gives us two cycles per day. If we find ourselves short of water we can double the batteries and/or solar panels because it is an easily up-gradable system.
And don’t forget, we always have the option of putting our generator to work if need be. Utilizing a 2,000gal water storage tank we always have a minimum of 20 – 40 days of water on hand. Using our generator we can fill the 2,000gal tank in less than 12 hours. For our Honda EU-2000i that is about 1 – 1.5 gals of gasoline.
And yes, the Honda has the propane option. And yes, we are putting in two 500gal propane tanks.
To move the water from the pump to the surface we sent with a thick-walled 1.25” gas pipe. That gives us a number of advantages; 1) low resistance due to the 1.25” diameter, 2) no corrosion from steel, 3) flexible, 4) no joints, 5) I can pull or replace the pipe myself, and 6) cost.
The wellhead equipment was all standard stuff and the wiring was 10g 3-wire made for use in water.
So we now will have the well in good condition, new pump, new motor, and all new well equipment. We have solar to run the pump with a generator back-up for power.
But, what if it goes really bad…no power of any kind?
Not to worry! You figured that was coming didn’t you.
So trying to figure out the worst case scenario wasn’t so hard after all…no power of any kind to run any kind of pump and motor. That leaves manual labor. But, we still need a method of some kind to get the water from the bottom of the well 220’ below the surface.
Again, no problem! Enter the WaterBoy well bucket.
For my set-up I built real simple 3-legged stand and used an air hose reel to take-in and let-out the rope.
The WaterBoy worked exactly and designed. So now we had a way to retrieve water without any electricity of any kind.
Here are a couple of lessons learned through the experience:
- Don’t worry about a fancy reel for the rope. Make a comfortable single-strap harness that fits over your head and across the chest. Hook the rope securely to the harness and have someone simply walk away from the well. Your legs will do the work vs. your arms, it goes much faster, and there is no reel involved to breakdown.
- If this is going to be a permanent method of retrieving your water, build a very sturdy pulley stand. The stand I built was made to move into place and operate by a single person, then easily move out of the way. A more sturdy stand would be needed for long-term usage.
- Clean the valve sealing surfaces after each use and keep them soft and supple. If you don’t, then water leaks out of the valve and you will end up with a fraction of the water you normally would.
- This model brings up about 2gals of water at a time. That means we would need to pull up one load a day for our minimum drinking needs and up to 25 loads for more luxury water usage.
For the price, $106, the WaterBoy is great insurance in the case that all power goes out and you need to get water out of your well. I went ahead and purchased the large pulley and rope at the same time just to make it more convenient. Their prices are competitive so what the heck!
And yes, they have 3″ and 2″ models as well. Not a bad idea to simply buy their tripod stand in the deal. Get a whole turn-key solution and be done with it.
In the next article in this series I start construction. But, not to worry, I come back to the well project and show you how I built the well house. And then I show you how I put the well back together with only the manual labor of my wife and I.
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