Putting well pump on Solar?

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Farmimator's picture
Farmimator
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Putting well pump on Solar?

I've long left my urban lifestyle and now run an organic, small-scale farm business with my wife, partly in response to fears of the uncertain future talked so much about on these forums.  It feels more than ever that something is about to tip over and there's a couple lingering things I'd like to do on the farm.  But I'm not sure how prudent or practical they are.

My main concern is our well pump.  We have everything need to make a living from growing food but if we were to lose power for an extended period of time or if electricty got more expensive one thing we would NOT BE ABLE TO DO WITHOUT is our water source.  Water for our household, for irrigation and for animals.  I'm thinking of spending about $5000 to put in a DC pump into my well and power it with Solar and/or Wind.  In this way I feel like I would always have power for water regardless of outside forces.  We are not near to any flowing water so wells are our only source locally.  I would get a simple hand-pump but that won't be able to get water to the back of my acerage where I need it.

I recently bought a gas powered generator to support our many deep freezers, well-pump and possibly heat-lamps for baby animals.  So I do have a back-up system in place.  My concerns are more long-term than a couple days without power though.    

I suppose my main question is the same question everyone has:  When is the **** going to fit the fan in a way that doing day to day business is not going to be as easy.  I want to move forward with this project because it seems like when things get tough I'll have my absolute basics covered.  But in the current moment it does not seems prudent at all.  Chris Martenson says follow your instincts, my gut says DO IT.  

Any thoughts?

 

earthwise's picture
earthwise
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I say do it.

 

It sounds like a lot of money--and it is-- but it seems like a good investment. Water is the foundation of your whole operation and without it all else comes tumbling down. It would be a shame to be so close to a highly resilient arrangement and have it all fail because of one missing piece of the puzzle. An expenditure of $5,000 is cheap insurance, but it eventually will be free insurance once you've reached the break even point five, ten or fifteen years down the road.

I have been and continue to agonize over similar decisions since I started preppin' three years ago. But every time I made a decision and moved forward, I always felt more secure and more stable than before. This was true for setting up my gardens, storing food, buying a photovoltaic system, a solar hot water system etc.  Now I am considering a well. Here in Southern California they're indispensable for independant living but outrageously expensive and risky: one could spend tens of thousands and drill a "duster". But I've got to do it or all other improvemnets could be at risk. If your well is reliable then $5k is a bargain to become independant. I wish I had that option.

So, I say go for it. And buy a stockpile of spare parts too.

My $.02 FWIW.

Good luck and congatulations on your progress.

elsinga's picture
elsinga
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Instead of converting

Instead of converting sunlight/wind into power and using that to drive a pump, have you thought of using a wind-powered pump? You know, the kind used in the previous century, where the wind drives a shaft, which pumps the water? Low-tech, no conversion losses, very reliable. ;)

gyrogearloose's picture
gyrogearloose
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KISS..... and if there is no

KISS.....

and if there is no wind it could still be driven by any other method.

Positive displacement pumps are the most efficient as well.

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
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our freezers

and well are solar. we farm and also use a portable solar system which follows the beeves for drawing water. one such system which is not portable is this http://www.simplepump.com/. send me a PM,as i despise typing, and i'll gladly answer questions concerning water.

 

robie 

ikursat's picture
ikursat
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step-up transformer

Do you have solar PV already? If you do, a step-up transformer may do the job.

I have been looking into tying a well pump to solar. Two people whose judgment and knowledge I respect in all things solar and electrical told me that one can add a step-up transformer going into the well pump, to convert the 110V AC from the inverter to the 220V that the pump needs. With this method, it is possible to use one's existing solar system and get away with half the cost of a DC well pump.

I am no engineer, and can't evaluate this advice. However, the two folks who I heard it from are an engineer (brilliant) and an electrician who has an excellent reputation as a solar system installer around where I live. May be worth checking into it.

Good luck! Let me know what you decide to do and how it turns out.

ikursat's picture
ikursat
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chat about water?

Robie,

What is a PM? Personal Message? Would love to ask you a fe questions about water. Let me know if/how/when you would be willing to do it.

Phil Williams's picture
Phil Williams
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Hand Pump
robie robinson wrote:

and well are solar. we farm and also use a portable solar system which follows the beeves for drawing water. one such system which is not portable is this http://www.simplepump.com/. send me a PM,as i despise typing, and i'll gladly answer questions concerning water.

 

robie 

Robie,

            I have a simple hand pump on my well, and every Spring when I try to pump water it is bound up. I have to take it completely out, and that I think releases the ball valve. I think it gets stuck. Have you ever heard anything about this? Is there an easier fix or prevention?

Thanks

Phil

 

 

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
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PM on this site

could be precious metal or personal message. its the later.

now is a good time as we'll be harvesting our late sorghum for syrup when the dew rises.

robie

jturbo68's picture
jturbo68
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Simple Pump

I have researched the SImple Pump vs a submersible AC/DC Submersible pump.  One advantage of using it in a PV direct mode is that it only takes ( if memory serves ) about 175 watts to run.  The savings in Solar Panels would be pretty significant vs a grundfos submersible pump running on PV ( in my application it was somethere around 600+ Watts pf panels).

The flow rates are less, you you may need a water tank on the surface to store the water when the sun is shining, for periods when it is not.

 

I currently own a simple pump that is hand operated, but havent installed it in the well yet.

 

John

 

 

Travlin's picture
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Just click
ikursat wrote:

Robie,

What is a PM? Personal Message? Would love to ask you a fe questions about water. Let me know if/how/when you would be willing to do it.

Ikursat

To send a personal message just click on the "PM" in the upper right corner of any post by the person you want.

Travlin 

gyrogearloose's picture
gyrogearloose
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Simple pump link a good one

The simple pump looks pretty good.

As I mentioned earlier, positive displacement pumps are more efficient.

A deep well centrifugal pump is typically multi stage. each stage may run at 70% efficiency.

If 3 stages, overall efficiency of pump is 0.7 * 0.7 *0.7 = 0.34 or 34%

I have one point of differnce of opinion to the site in refference to running off battery. I think it is far better to run when sun shines and fill a tank than charge a battery the pump at night. Tanks are cheaper and last longer than a lead acid battery.

Cheers Hamish

 

 

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
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solar water

 we've one "simple pump" installation which is quickly converted to manual if neccessary. The power supply is portable and with it is a boat sump/bilge pump which will draw/move large rates of surface water. the power supply is a large plastic construction box with a 15amp prostar controller maintaining an 800crankin'mp deep cycle battery(paint the box white if leaving in sun,batteries hate heat) on the box top is a 75watt panel with a jerry rigged adjustable angle sunchasing global position star hatinmoonphasing complex rig of my invention. (so much for KISS)

the idea is to water our herds from surface water where available and the one permanent installation simple pump hydrates beeves,swine,sheep,goats,chickens and various hominids in  40acres of crossfenced paddocks.

Now the average hand pump of yor had leather or plastic seals in cast or O/W ferrous metal, the foot valves were sometimes brass. i cannot imagine irregular use doing anything other than gettin difficult. We've an old well with such an arrangement,however alot of cussin' along with jerkin the handle always brings water to the surface. A simple pump will replace it in time.

I can see a simple pump as ours would easily drip irrigate 1/2scre garden. 40' bored well 28' of [email protected]/min.

robie

Travlin's picture
Travlin
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Gee Robie

Gee Robie

You must be passionate about pumps.  For a guy who hates typing, you just wrote a book. 

Travlin 

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
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was

raised by my grandparents who were married in '29. farmed and raised their last daughters kids.

a depression ethic, robie :)

dinglenuts's picture
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I don't think you understand

I don't think you understand how home PV systems work. Normally the inverter is an integral part of the system and providing 120/240 V for standard household wiring is the whole point of it. You don't change any loads to DC.

jturbo68's picture
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Sure you can change loads to DC
dinglenuts wrote:

I don't think you understand how home PV systems work. Normally the inverter is an integral part of the system and providing 120/240 V for standard household wiring is the whole point of it. You don't change any loads to DC.

 

There is no reason that one cannot run the well pump with DC direct.  There is efficiency to be gained by

slow efficient pumping via DC vs quick high power pumping with AC.

 

 

 

tom.'s picture
tom.
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Agree
Quote:

 

There is no reason that one cannot run the well pump with DC direct.  There is efficiency to be gained by

slow efficient pumping via DC vs quick high power pumping with AC. 

I agree, efficiency, and resilience both.

dinglenuts's picture
dinglenuts
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jturbo68 wrote:There is no
jturbo68 wrote:

There is no reason that one cannot run the well pump with DC direct.

Sure you CAN, but you're talking about spending significant capital to replace an existing pump. If it aint broke...

Quote:

 There is efficiency to be gained by

slow efficient pumping via DC vs quick high power pumping with AC.

 

I seriously doubt that. Faster pumps move more water per unit of electricity, especially where you are pumping against a significant head differential as you have in a well-to-pressure-tank situation. Of course there is some loss in the inverter but that is de minimis.

Are you familiar with solar electronics? The type of systems you usually see on rooftops bring in 0-300VDC to an inverter. This voltage straight of the panels fluctuates widely thourhgout the day and is not directly useable for much of anything, and there's no point converting to 12VDC as that has the same loss as an inverter.

You CAN build small systems using car batteries and 12V charge controllers but if you're looking for enough power to run a well pump I don't think this is a good choice. Depends on the duty cycle of the pump (how often you will run it) but you'll be surprised how little a car battery is good for.

If you pursue this I would suggest taking power measurements of your existing pump, then reviewing specs for all of this equipment before you spend any money or this is likely to be a huge mistake. Calculate the head based on the depth of the water table, add the pressure level you will be going to, plus the fricitonal loss in the plumbing to your house and any elevation gain to get to the tank. The DC pump you are contemplating should have charts which you can use to figure out the power draw for a given gallons-per-minute rate against that head. I can already tell you though, it's going to be a LOT worse.

Think about it, if this were a good idea then we'd be using DC pumps even for on-grid use. AC/DC conversion is not that hard and it's ~95% efficient.

jturbo68's picture
jturbo68
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Well Puming AC vs DC with Solar

 

Sure, if you already have an AC pump and stipulate that you will have plenty of AC available, then why not run your well on AC. That is not the problem we are solving.

The issue for most of us is how would we deliver water when AC is not always available or we dont have large volumes of it available.  Building a larger array/battery and inverter to handle the surge current from a powerful  AC pump probably doesnt make financial sense.

 

My Well has a 1.5 horse AC motor in it (that I havent used in years).  It uses huge power at 240V.   It would need a pretty large inverter/panels/batteries just to handle the startup surge from the well pump.  Given that it pushes around 15gpm at 200' of head, it doesnt run for long.  My estimate is that it takes several thousand watts to run this pump.

A smaller AC/DC pump is  expensive ( $1700 for the pump)  Like a grundfos SQL (6sqf2) series.  It still requires about 400-480 watts of panels and is about 3-4 gpm.  Another large cost.

The simple pump ( About $1700 for the pump )  would need approx 150 watts of panels @12 volts for about  2.5GPM of water delivery.  This is the solution I am implementing, and it can be hand operated as well.

I think both of the DC options (above)  are more compatible with solar and batteries.  My array/batteries and inverter can be smaller because the running load is smaller.

 

 

dinglenuts's picture
dinglenuts
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A 1.5 horsepower motor uses

A 1.5 horsepower motor uses 1600 watts, irrespective of voltage. Your pump being 240 is not what makes it a power hog. On the contrary, that is done for HIGHER efficiency - it gives you smaller windings, smaller wire, and less IR loss in the incoming wire. 

I don't know all the details about your situation but everything I have told you is correct. You may have an exceptional situation where this idea makes sense but I'm still very skeptical. I don't think you were following me that one can usually convert AC/DC either direction quite cheaply and efficiently, so you should not be choosing your well pump based on this parameter. Instead choose the one with maximum flow per watt. If the pump you have is much faster than you need, you are better off cycling it more frequently than using a smaller pump which would have less flow/watt. 

Your existing pump being 240V DOES make finding an inverter harder. Either I missed that or you didn't mention it earlier. It means you can't use one of the simpler ones which I believe are all 120, at least what's available in the US. A step up transformer would work if you can't find one. Just to be clear this is the type of inverter I'm talking about - would run directly off your 12V battery (or car) and is not integral to the solar/charging system: http://www.amazon.com/Roadpro-RPPI-2500W-2000-Power-Inverter/dp/B000Z0HFP8/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1316752971&sr=8-

jturbo68's picture
jturbo68
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My comments above werent

My comments above werent trying to solve any problem that I am having.   Your analysis doesnt affect what I am doing.  I was simply making some points for the person that opened the thread.

Sizing a solar system to pump water a 100 watts is likely smaller/simpler than one that uses 1600 watts to do the same job especialy if you can let the system slowly move the water thru the day instead of quickly. That was my point.  And it could even be more efficient since there would be less inverter losses than going from DC o AC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

dinglenuts's picture
dinglenuts
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I understand. I don't know

I understand. I don't know all the details of OP's situation to be able to do all the calculations and determine if this really makes sense or not. My gut just says the $ he is contemplating for this project would be better put towards a more robust off-grid solar system that can deliver 240V, instead of downsizing his well pump. 

 
roncastle's picture
roncastle
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Simple Pump Help

Hello Phil,

It has been a couple of years since you posted about your Simple Pump binding up in the Spring.  I am one of the top Simple Pump value added resellers in the USA and am also the solar go to guy when Simple Pump receives inquiries about operating the pump on solar.

One of my current pump prospects found your post online when doing his due diligence on the product and asked me if this is a common issue.  My answer was no, and that there is likely a good reason why this is happening.  One question I have is did you use pipe dope on the threads of  the PVC pipe sections rather than sealing tape?  

If you want to call and talk through what you find when you pull the pump from the well, this will help.

You might be interested to see my Simple Pump installation at my farm which is running solar panel direct during daylight hours using a linear current booster.  On a sunny day I can pump close to 1,000 gallons during this time of the year (early October).

Visit http://www.sunshineworks.com/solar-water-pump-linear-current-booster-photos.htm 

Looking forward to assisting you if you need help.

 

Phil Williams's picture
Phil Williams
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Posts: 345
Thanks

Thanks Ron I appreciate it. I may do that as soon as I get a free moment. It is on my list.

Phil

 

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