Wells and Pumps
When you move off-grid, another thing you don’t have access to is municipal water systems. If you are living in a rural area with a private well, you will find that owning an electric pump is a necessity. You will find that most pumping needs will be met with a low-voltage DC-powered pump.
General Purpose/Intermittent Pumping
If you have stored the water for your home in a water tank that is a gravity-driven system, a small DC-powered pump might be just what you need. An intermittent-use pump operates in an “always on” style, with removable wiring clips that attach to the power source. When you attach the pump to the source, it will run. When you disconnect the clips, the pump turns off. Because the pump would only be used to move water from one holding tank to another, or from a transport tank to a holding tank, connecting and disconnecting the wiring clips should prove convenient. Many of these pumps can be attached inline in a transfer hose, or can be submerged in the transfer tank, with a hose attached only to the outlet. Using an intermittent pump is much more convenient that siphoning water from one container to another.
Water Pressure Systems
If you don’t have a gravity-fed water system, chances are you have a pressure system, which is the most common type of off-grid household water supply system. If your household runs on a holding-tank water system or a low-yield well, you will boost water pressure at the household faucets if you set up a pressure system. You can operate a water pressure system with an on-demand pressure pump, a pressurized water tank, or a combination of the two.
On-demand pumps are equipped with built-in pressure switches, which automatically turn on when water pressure drops. Once the pressure builds back up, the switch will shut down. If you have a system that uses a holding tank, an on-demand pump is ideal for moving water from the holding tank into the household water system. If your system is running on a private well, you can install a holding tank with a float switch between the well and the household water system, and the pressure pump can be installed between the holding tank and the household water system.
You can use either a well pump or an on-demand pump with a pressure tank system. If you use a well system, the pressure switch would be installed between the well and the pressure tank, cycling the well pump only as needed to keep the pressure tank filled above a certain pressure level. If you are using a holding tank, an on-demand pump can be installed between the holding tank and the pressure tank. This way, the on-demand pump can fill the pressure tank from the holding tank, and the pressure tank will supply water pressure to the household.
Surface/Shallow Well Pumps
If your house is located near any kind of fresh water, a surface pump can be used to transfer water from the stream, river, lake, or pond to a top-inlet holding tank equipped with a float switch. Whenever the holding tank water level drops below a set level, the float switch will run the pump. If you have a shallow water well and the water level is within twenty feet of ground level, you can also use a surface pump.
Designed to push water over long distances, surface pumps are well suited for supplying water to outlying buildings, fields, or a house situated on a hill above an available water source. And with the use of special pumping controllers, DC pumps can be run directly from solar panels or wind generators. This allows you to install them in remote locations like livestock watering stations or even in the middle of a garden.
There are more than 17 million homes in the United States that get their water from private wells. The principle is simple—a hole is dug or drilled deep into the ground and a pump draws out the water. There are many regulations that apply to private wells, so you should only use a licensed well driller. It’s easy for harmful contaminants to leak into your well if it’s not installed properly.
Submersible/Deep Well Pumps
If your home is in an area where water tables are far underground, submersible pumps are the only choice for running a well water system. Although not suited for situations in which water is required to be pumped over long distances or up considerable heights, a deep well pump will operate quite well on its own for a household system. You can supplement this system with a holding tank and a pressure tank. This way, the pump can fill the pressure tank from the holding tank, and the pressure tank will supply water pressure to the household.