The best and probably most comfortable and sustainable water pumping solution is gravity – but that works only if you have a properly situated source on your property (a spring at an altitude high enough to provide water pressure). We didn’t have it this good but we had a well and we had to install some kind of pump to get water flowing from it to the house.
Our research led us to two kinds of pumps – surface pumps and submersible pumps. We chose a surface pump (see why below). I am not an expert on pumps but here are a few things we were able to pick up along the way.
Submersible pumps seem to be able to provide a higher water pressure then surface pumps. They use different mechanical configurations to pump water which effects water pressure. This is in addition to a rule-of-thumb that says that the closer the pump is to the source of water the higher the pressure it can provide. Though we installed our surface pump close to the well, a submersible (immersed in the water) pump is closer to the water source then a surface pump.
A submersible pump should be easier to install then a surface pump – but we haven’t done this so we can’t vouch for it. A submersible pump is, supposedly, simply lowered into the well where its weight stabilizes it in the water. This of course assumes you have a well deep enough (during all seasons of the year!) to accommodate the pump.
A surface pump is more tricky to install. Assuming you want to have it close to the well you will need to make a space for it. As we live in a climate with a freezing cold winter this meant creating an underground chamber that drops below the freezing depth (more on this in the next post in the series).
Overall Water System
A submersible pump is usually part of a system where a large water tank is installed in or near the house and fed directly from the pump. Inside the tank is a water level sensor that, when the water drops to a set level, activates the pump until the tank is full again. A second pump is then installed to feed and pressurize the water from the tank into the house. This way the well-pump doesn’t need to come on whenever you open a water faucet. The water is taken from the large storage tank (which, if placed inside, can also double as a preheating tank bringing the water in it slowly up to room temperature). The pump only comes on when the tank needs filling. This prolongs the life of the pump.
A surface pump provides a more or less consistent water pressure (usually assisted by a pressurized expansion tank). It comes on when water is required and shuts off when the flow stops. You can then direct and split the water flow as needed (keeping in mind the overall pressure that the pump can supply).
Local wisdom indicates that surface pumps are better – this is what almost everyone here uses. It is rumored (meaning that I haven’t confirmed this myself) that submersible pumps are more prone to problems and more sensitive to fluctuation of water levels. Professional wisdom (at least that we’ve had access to) seems to indicate that submersible pumps are better as they provide better water pressure and are more reliable then surface pumps.
Good submersible pumps (in Romania) are much more expensive (our research has shown them to be at least 4 times more expensive then the ubiquitous surface pumps) than good surface pumps. Both come with a limited 2 year guarantee.
We chose to go with a surface pump for numerous reasons:
- Price was high up on our list of priorities. A submersible pump (let alone the entire system around it) was beyond our means.
- Almost anyone we spoke to (in our village and others) who has a pump uses a surface pump and claims it is reliable.
- Almost anyone we spoke to (in our village and others) said that submersible pumps are problematic unless they are installed in optimum conditions (we don’t know what these conditions are).
- We needed a diversified water supply – 2 structures + 2 outside locations (making it difficult to include a water storage tank to supply all our needs).
- We did not have a winter-proof place to install the water tank needed for the submersible pump (creating one would have been complicated and expensive).
- We preferred to start with a system we can scale up if needed rather then start with a scaled up system.
There are numerous brands of pumps available in Romania. Many of which are very cheap – we tend to avoid these. Then there are some very expensive brands (both submersible and surface). We chose to go with a reasonably mid-priced German brand – Grundfos. We hope this proves to be a good choice (reliable performance for many years). So far so good.