Our Solar Well Pump System

OK, let’s talk water, solar power, splicing, planning, plan changes, and gasoline prices…

Back when we bought our place in 2016 we were lucky enough to buy a piece of property that already had a well on it. After we bought the place we had the well tested…all was good. We also had them pull the pump at the same time, we wanted to put in a new pump, pipe, etc. Little did I know how much we would eventually change it.

I knew a guy who owned a plumping supply house that specialized in wells, pumps, etc. so I thought he was the logical choice to talk to. After a few minutes of discussion I found out he lived kinda off-grid and knew a lot about off-grid well systems and such. I explained our situation to him, including our usage projections, budget, my skills/experience, and asked him for his recommendation.

He laid it out in very economical terms; 1) 120v AC 1/2hp pump, 2) 10/3 w/ground submersible wire, 3) QB control box, 4) circuit breaker box, 5) connection box with outlet, 6) 3000watt generator, 7) 1” Yellow Bimodal MDPE (Medium Density Polyethylene) Gas Pipe. That was the pump set-up, still had to get it from the wellhead to the house.

The system to move the water from the wellhead to the house was a separate operation and I was a little unclear how it would work out. I had to clarify the house side first and figure out how much storage capacity, redundancy, and reserve would be adequate. I wanted a 2500gal storage tank and choked at the price tag. While on multiple visits to a local plumbing supply house I kept seeing a storage tank sitting in their yard. It was 1100gal and really high quality (Snyder Industries). I eventually bought it for $500 out the door…a real steal. Today you would pay nearly $1,400 for the tank…then shipping charges on top of that.

Next I designed our utility room (100sqft addition on the rear of the house) which would contain the filter system. I also decided I wanted a 330gal reserve tank in the utility room as well.

I measured it out and it was almost 900’ from the wellhead to the house…at the same altitude/elevation. My pump guy said the well pump he recommended would have no issues moving the water from the wellhead to the house since there was no gain in head (no additional height to pump water above the wellhead). But, he did recommend that I use 1-1/4” – 1-1/2” pipe to move the water from the wellhead to the house (lowers the pressure and increases the GPM flow rate). I bought 750’ of 1-1/4” Yellow Bimodal MDPE (Medium Density Polyethylene) gas pipe that had been marked way down due to some minor nicks. The nicks meant any government agency would no longer purchase the pipe…it was considered “damaged” but perfectly suitable for moving water.

I found a good location for the storage tank that sits about 15’ above the house, and that gives me about 7.5psi going into the house…helps prime the house pressure pump. I ran just about 725’ of the 1-1/4” MDPE pipe underground from the wellhead to the storage tank. From the tank I ran 1-1/2” PVC underground into the utility room that houses the house system.

Our water usage required me to fill our storage tank meant I ran the generator every week during the summer and about every 2 weeks during the winter. That was about 2 gals of gasoline each time. At the old gas price it meant about $2.50 – $5 each week.

Then we changed it up a bit. Our largish backyard was nothing more than dirt, dust, or mud depending on the weather. So I wanted to plant some dry pasture grass to hold the soil in place and make it a bit more human-friendly…but not a lawn. Then my neighbor heard about my “yard project” and offered a bunch of grass seed he had in his barn that he was never going to use. Then I found about 5# of grass seed in my garage/barn. A new, more complicated project was born!

See, to get grass seed to germinate you have to keep it wet for two weeks…that means watering 2 – 3 times a day for two weeks. That is about 500 – 600 gals each watering. I was running the generator up to 4 hours a day. We were now spending about $12 – $15 per day and hauling more gas home than I wanted to. Yeah, I am a bit lazy. But it got worse…the grass started looking really good. So now it went from soil retention pasture project to a suburban backyard project requiring regular watering. Yeah, our water usage went through the roof…along with the gasoline bill.

So we have no issues with water supply…it is the largest aquifer in the country…meaning trillions and trillions of gallons…probably more. Moving it from the aquifer to the yard was a whole other story.

From the beginning I had a plan in the back of my mind to build a stand-alone solar system in the well house located at the wellhead to power the well pump. I had the solar panels, charge controller, and most of the little bits & pieces. I had a modified sine wave 3000watt inverter lined up. I just needed the batteries to put it all together. I was going to purchase 4 used 6v lead acid solar batteries from a buddy of mine that owns a solar shop/store.

I invited him to lunch and 1-1/2 hours later he had convinced me that a solar pump system was the right way to go. Easier to maintain, longer lifespan, no manual effort, etc. $3,000 later I had the pump and controller. My solar panels on hand would be plenty of power. Another $900 in wire, bits and pieces I was ready to go.

Total time to install was:

  • 1/2 day to run signal wire from the tank to the wellhead.
  • 1-1/2 days to build the array rack, paint it, and install the PVs onto the rack and wire them together in series.
  • Another 1/2 day to wire the PVs to the combiner, install ground rods, wire it all, and test everything.
  • 1 day to pull the old pump, install, wire splice the new pump into the system, and putting the pump back down the well.
  • 1/4 day testing the new pump and it failed…bad wire splice at the pump.
  • 1 day to pull the new pump, resplice the wire connection, run the pump back down the well, and test…it was a success.
  • 1/2 to install the storage tank float switch, wire it in the controller, and test the entire system…success.

Now we have an automated system that refills the storage tank when it hits 50% capacity (500gal). We don’t have to do anything manually. The old well house gets torn down. The concrete wellhead structure is 24” tall with a berm of dirt that protects it and conceals it. It is amazing!!!

The problem we had was the splice that we did at the well pump. We used a standard submersible splice kit. It didn’t work right but we thought we had compensated for it. We didn’t, and it failed.

When I did the splice again the next day I used Ace Hardware 30986 Self-Fusing Splicing Tape and then Scotch 2242 electric tape to protect from abrasion. When I did the splice I used a standard 10g yellow butt connector. Then I wrapped a layer of the 30986 tape covering the butt connector ends really well by about 2”. Then going the opposite direction I used another layer of the 30986 ensuring that I covered the ends of the first layer by 2”. Once that was done I used the 2242 in a heavy layer (2” overlap on the ends) to protect the first layers from any abrasion issues going up or down the casing. It worked just fine.

If I was to do it again I would:

  • Use a 10g butt connector.
  • Using Gardner Bender LTB-400 I would force it into the ends of the butt connector until they were full. Then I would cover the entire butt connector with LTB-400 to ensure that no part of the connector was exposed. But I would also make sure it was smooth. Let it dry and cure completely for 24 hours.
  • Then I would spray two coats of Gardner Bender LTS-400 allowing 30 minutes between coats, and then allow 24 hours for it to cure.
  • Then I would wrap two layers of Ace 30986, each going in a different direction (wrap direction). The first layer would cover the butt connector and extend 2” past the ends. The second layer would go in the opposite wrap direction and extend 2” past the ends of the first layer.
  • Finally I would use a single layer of Scotch 2242 wrapped over the entire splice, covering the ends of the splice by 2” for abrasion protection.

I absolutely love the pump and controller made by Sun Pumps!!! At their tech support was nothing short of amazing!!!  I highly suggest you look at them if you are embarking on such a product.

Next comes a schematic of my water system from ground to storage tank.

General Overview
( click to enlarge )

Wellhead Plumbing
( click to enlarge )

Power & Wiring
( click to enlarge )

Water Tank Plumbing & Wiring
( click to enlarge )

You can download a PDF of my water system by <clicking here>

Important Equipment Recommendations –

You can download Pump Installation and Operations Information PDF file

You can download Control Module Installation and Operations PDF file

Sun Pumps website <click here>

Sun Pump Dealer locator <click here>

If you have any questions please ask. And of course, as always, I would love to hear your thoughts, comments, and recommendations.


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3 thoughts on “Our Solar Well Pump System

  1. Pingback: Household Water System | A.H. Trimble - Emergency preparedness information for disasters and grid-down

  2. Teri asked how deep of a well can this pump be used in.
    The official answer from SunPumps is 750’…and I have no doubt that they are correct and it has been tested. But, it is not the depth of well that matters, it is the depth at which the pump is set that is the determination. So the well could be 800′ deep and the pump set at 750′.
    When I set the pump I placed it 50′ below the static water level and 30′ above the bottom of the well. And that was determined by the refresh rate.

    Like

  3. Pingback: Our Solar Well Pump System — A.H. Trimble – Emergency preparedness information for disasters and grid-down – chazrothmsg

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