Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....

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Davos's picture
Davos
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Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....

The CM'ers on my FB are, by now I'm sure, tired of hearing me go on about my well. I want to share with the CM community a lesson I learned the hard way with the hope that it will help others, who think they are well prepared become even more well prepared. No well pun intended.

Day 1:  On Friday I was at a clients, who happens to manage a fund. I got a call from Marsh saying that she was about to put shampoo in her hair when the water stopped. She had "Googled" the fault light and determined that there was a loose wire which was sending a fault to the well controller in our garage.

  • The well company had been dispatched.
  • The circuit breaker for the well recycled then turned off
  • The circuit breaker for the hot water heater turned off since if the water doesn't replenish the coils will burn out.
  • Neighbors were emailed looking for standby shower locations and water jug refill locations, 3 request, 3 immediate come on overs.

We store 1 gallon used OJ containers filled with water and a drop or two of bleach in our 3 freezers, should the power go out it helps keep the cow cold until we bring the generator online. We also have a garage that is scattered with more of these jugs. For flushing we have a tiny pond, and the hen house has a 40 gallon rainwater collector which was topped off. We also have gas stove and a wood stove where water can be boiled, and we have camping water filters.

All the way home I kicked myself for putting off this project: A self built solar hot water system with a couple hundred gallon tank. For over a year I had been thinking that A larger tank or a secondary tank could be used and we could collect the rainwater, so if the well went and we couldn't get a well guy up in time we'd be self sufficient.

Day 2: Lugging 5 gallon pales of water 300' from the hen house to the toilet or 200' from the pond to the toilets stinks. Heating the hot water heater up to get hot water and draining it into what I thought was a clean watering pale for a shower was okay, until I found a worm in my hair while "showering". Showering I explained to my son and my wife was going to be a lot like camping.

Day 3: Filled up jugs, could have lasted longer but we need more water on hand.

Day 4: Well guy shows up. I'm already devising a lift so I am not reliant on someone to do this for me next time. The culprit was a wire - 700' below the well cap - that wasn't spliced well. The wire began arcing. Soon it burnt back and the arcs no longer reached the motor.

Lessons Learned:

  • I've decided to move full speed ahead and put in the solar system. The solar parts of it may actually go in later, right now I want a tank that is plumbed into the gutters that will collect 1,000 ++ gallons of rainwater. A roof gives about 1/2 gallon per square foot of roof area per 1" of rain.
  • You can never have enough jugs of water on hand. Ever.
  • Having a second well pump at the house is a wise idea, they will only go up in price.
  • Copper prices from 2007 until today have been somewhat flat, yet we were charged 1.58 a foot for #6 wire, today on eBay the best price I could find is 3.00 a foot. We are talking about 2,100 dollars in wire if it was to be destroyed by lightning or some other event. Having wire on hand is another good insurance plan.
  • I don't want to rely on anyone - I want the ability to pull my own pump. I built everything else myself, including the septic system.
  • I want back up. Our bodies come with it, our families have it, planes have it. Water is key to life. Houses should have 2 systems.

Hope that helps, I'm going to take a shower, without worms, and with more than 2 gallons of water!

pinecarr's picture
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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....

Thanks for sharing. Davos!  You may not be ready, but you're way ahead of me and mine!  A very good kick in the butt for me!

I'm also glad you have the gift of time to learn from your live feedback!!

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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....

Have had  Well challenges in our day too .    Of course  while the husband is  gone and when I call   he says ' sounds like the well has gone dry ... we are toast"  .   In my head  I nicely think we are 1/8 mile from the river not a chance ... the well is only 40 deep.      I do huge amounts of laundry but no way did I drain the well . So  I had the kids check to see if anyone  had left the water on for the cows or horses .  Nope .  Soooo down the well  hole we go .  I  had the boy start replacing things that look well worn .    One part at a time .Several trips to town .  Pump , valves ,  finally the pressure tank AH Ha  little hole in the bottom of the tank !   But Yeah now everything is replaced and  we are up and running in two days !      We do have many rain barrels that stay full , frozen drinking water, and an old well with a hand pump .    Just not fond of hauling water  for laundry and heating bath water on the stove really slows  you down .

 Lesson learned  ... I am buying spare parts to have on hand  and looking into the$2000.  solar panel that will run the well . Thanking God it was something the son and I could do .  Had it been a deep well not so sure if we could have gotten it pulled .  The pressure tank was a bugger to get down the hole and a very tight fit.  So a holding tank in the basement would be a good thing  but I am not ready to give up the space . Also since it had been loosing pressure for sometime the osmosis did not have enough pressure  PSI to run properly .   Amazing how important  that all things work together .   Whew !

 Life is a series of minor emergencies !

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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....

Davos,

Thanks for the informative post.  700' below the well cap?!?!  Where do you live that you have a 700' well?

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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....
ao wrote:

Davos,

Thanks for the informative post.  700' below the well cap?!?!  Where do you live that you have a 700' well?

+2,600' MSL. We hit at 840'. Thanks PineCarr and FullMoon.

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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....

For economical and convenient water storage, I use 59 oz. plastic juice bottles (I'm a pomegranate/blueberry juicaholic) stacked 9 to a plastic milk crate.  I stack the plastic milk crates in an unused corner of my basement up against the wall.  They don't take up all that much space stored in this way .  In case something with our well goes down, I just have to carry a few milk crates over to our basement shower to take an emergency (albeit room temperature shower) until we get the pump fixed.  The small size is easier to manipulate than gallon jugs for this purpose.

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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....

Bummer. Sunday afternoon my wife and I installed a hand pump and associated gear at about 130'. Took about three hours. The pump system costs about $1500. I installed one last year in a separate well near my barn for the animals. It works every day. The hand system came from Simple Pump. I have no interest in the company except for recommending a quality product.

Best of luck.

LG

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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....

Right.  Don't put it off.  After years of dallying around, we got our cistern completely refurbished as a backup to the county water supply.   This began with a new metal roof on the house for cleaner water collection.  Then, we had a big maple tree in the front yard removed to keep the leaves and debris out of the gutters.   Had the gutters redone. to include runoff from the new back porch, and fit up all new downspouts into the cistern complete with wye diversions fittings. to allow letting the first of a rain to wash off the roof.   BUT!  It hasn't rained since we got it finished--2 months ago.   No water in the cistern, and now the county water reservoir is running low, so we are on water usage restrictions. 

At least I had the sense to put in redundant systems to get water OUT of the cistern.   There is an electric pump in the basement, a hand pump on the back porch, a gravity drain valve in the bassement,  and I can always remove the cistern access cover and drop down a bucket on a rope!   Don't forget to put a wieght of some kind on one side of the bucket to tip it over, lest it FLOAT down there forever and not fill up.  Guess how I learned that....

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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....

Timely thread! 

We are new to the water well party.  I had a 4" 160' well dug last thursday. 1.5HP pump with a 120 gal tank.  That thing shoots water like a fire hose.  I plan on converting the house to this well, installing an extensive irrigation system for the fruit trees, garden, and brambles.  We will use the parish water as backup at this point.

I am also planning on buying a spare submerisble pump and the Simple pump for manual pumping should that be necessary.  Glad to hear positives about the Simple pump.

Oh, and Davos I respect people who are book smart, I respect people who are smart with their hands, and I have the most respect for those who are both.  Independent  minded people (with good sense) who can do both are becoming more valuable by the day. 

Thanks for all of the financial and practical info!

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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....
Southerner wrote:

Oh, and Davos I respect people who are book smart, I respect people who are smart with their hands, and I have the most respect for those who are both.  Independent  minded people (with good sense) who can do both are becoming more valuable by the day. 

Thanks for all of the financial and practical info!

+10    Well said,Southerner!

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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....

Having recently experienced a strong and unexpected earthquake "no fault-line here folks..oh whoops, now there is..." I realise how fragile our water supply is. I absolutely applaud all of you who are saving water or securing a supply. We fortunately had emergency supplies and our town's aquifer pump resumed action within 24 hours but other areas are still without uncontaminated water (7 weeks later) and are relying on trucks bringing it in.

One comment/suggestion I would have in terms of water supply is not to rely solely on wells or bores, events can occur that would render ground water inaccessible and/or unpotable. Collection is good, tanks are good. If you can rig things so that you also collect from the roof, if the well runs dry or gets dirty somehow you still have a backup method of collection that is easier to fix up if there are floods or chemical spills or earthquakes and broken sewers.

I'm working on getting tanks set up here - it's taking quite a long time! Certainly don't put off 'til tomorrow what you can do today - it may take longer than you think!

All the best everyone.

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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....

I've been nervous for several years having to depend on our well that could quit at anytime for a number of reasons. Seem to have good water and so far have never run it dry, (350' deep with 150' of "pay") but as any mechanical system, it can always quit. This spring, I finally bit the bullet and put down a new (second) well about 500 feet "upstream" so we now have a full backup. Utility power is backed up with solar and a diesel generator, so we should be OK against most prob;lems that could show up.

Worth the cost to know that water is there almost no matter what happens. I like the peace of mind.

 

Jim

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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....

I'm truly staggered at how deep you Americans pump water.....  I recently had a client who had a bore pump, no idea how deep, and to my amazement discovered it was a three phase 5.5 kW device that accounted for 80 to 90 % of their electricity bill!!!

Like most rural Australian homes, they did have above ground water tanks (5,500 gallons) but had no idea how much energy their pump was using, and hence how many solar panels they would require to blow their electricity bill away...

I just don't understand the reluctance to use tanks in your country..

Mike

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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....
Damnthematrix wrote:

I just don't understand the reluctance to use tanks in your country..

Could it be due to a little problem we have here called "freezing"?

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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....
ao wrote:
Damnthematrix wrote:

I just don't understand the reluctance to use tanks in your country..

Could it be due to a little problem we have here called "freezing"?

So what happens when your pipes freeze....??

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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....

It's interesting how the standards for resiliency differ between a public water system and an individual home.  The typical home probably has one well with 1 pump powered off the grid, and no storage other than a hydropneumatic tank which is insignificant.

The typical redundancy standards a public water system include to have multiple wells, meet average daily demands with the largest well out of service, meet maximum daily demands with all wells, and generators for backup power.  Water storage tanks are sized for a a number of functions, including about 1 day's worth emergency storage, flow equalization (to meet peak demands that exceed the well pump rate), and fire suppression.  Engineers are careful though not to oversize storage, since insufficent turnover and increased water age from too much storage volume can lead to water quality problems.

Drinking water is like oil in that, while a little bit is stored, it's generally produced at a rate to meet demand - "just in time". 

ao's picture
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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....
Damnthematrix wrote:
ao wrote:
Damnthematrix wrote:

I just don't understand the reluctance to use tanks in your country..

Could it be due to a little problem we have here called "freezing"?

So what happens when your pipes freeze....??

Pipes are indoors.  Are you saying that Australians have 5500 gallon tanks indoors?  I would think this situation introduces significant space and cost issues.

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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....

There's a place near where I work in Alaska that has a huge tank the size of a semi trailer (from the old labels it used to hold jet fuel I think) that's used to store water.  After they set it in place they proceeded to spray-cover the whole thing with a very thick layer of insulation, and I'm sure they installed some sort of heating element for the tank as well.  So in the coldest places like here it's possible to store your water outside.... the only problem is it's obviously cost prohibitive, and that's the only large outdoor water storage tank I've seen this far north.  For personal water use in colder climes, it seems more practical to me to have a water pump with backup power generation available for the pump.  And in the winter one can melt snow for drinking water as long as you boil it and/or run it through a filter.

Fortunately much of the inhabited parts of Alaska don't have water scarcity issues.  As for my home apartment a little further south, I feel comfortable enough keeping several five-gallon containers filled and my Berkey filter, especially seeing as we have a relatively clean river running through town.

- Nickbert

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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....

Pipes are indoors.  Are you saying that Australians have 5500 gallon tanks indoors?  I would think this situation introduces significant space and cost issues.

But the pipes between your well and the house must be outdoors surely...  or do Americans have their wells in the basement?  :)

I have actually heard of people putting tanks inside their houses.....  which would improve the thermal mass and thus thermal performance of the dwelling tremendously..  and I have seen concrete tanks under houses.  n any case, it takes a lot of cold to freeze 500 gallons of water!

Mike

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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....

Outdoor pipes here in the NorthEast need to be 4 feet in the ground so they are below the frost line. Also, the soils tend to be very rocky so it can be quite expensive to hire an excavator to dig up your yard. I just dug up my yard to install city water and sewer, so I know all about the rocks. If rocks were a source of wealth, I'd be rich! Money mouth

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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....

Nickbert,

I worked in Barrow a few years back. They had an above ground water tank that was about 40' in diameter and maybe 20' tall. I was told the ice only forms so deep and the rest stays liquid. Barrow had no river to draw from. Other places in N. Alaska pumped water from the rivers year round even though the ice was 5 to 6 feet thick.

I use 2-55 gal drums and 1/2 sheet of 3/4" plywood for greenhouse tables; I have 5 tables, also for back up there is a 305 gal water tank. Water is very important to me.

LG

 

 

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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....

Great story, Davos.  It's comforting to learn that there are others who don't always move as fast on our "to do" list as we would like to.  Now  I don't feel so much like the Lone Ranger.

I am currently dealing with an electrical problem that perhaps someone on this forum could help me with:

I have been concerned about power back up for the 270 foot deep well that we installed a year ago.  We had a 17 foot sand point that ran off a 120 volt pump that I could power with a small generator when we experienced power outages.  Unfortunately, that well was not able to keep up with our requirements, hence the new deep well.    The new well pump is 240V, so the small generator will not drive new well pump.

I'm thinking about getting an inverter, powered by deep cycle batteries which are charged by a charger connected to the grid.  Eventually will charge the batteries with PV panels.   My challenge is to get an inverter with enough capacity to run the pump.  The pump manufacturer says the pump requires 2.5 KVA.  (kilovolt amps).   Can anyone tell me what that means in terms of wattage?  Thanks in advance for any help!

 

 

 

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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....

For purposes of sizing your backup power source, you can roughly equate a volt-amp to a watt.  You will need at least 2500 watts provided that is enough for the initial pump startup power versus the running power. Your cheapest and fastest to implement is to just upgrade your generator to one that has a 240 volt output. A quick google search yielded this one for ~ $400 - http://www.generatorfactoryoutlet.com/gfo/products/XP4400E.asp  It is a 3500 watt rated load with a 240 volt output.

A battery backup solar setup will cost a minimum of $5K and you won't pump much water at 2,500 watts before the batteries are drained. My RV has ~500 watts of solar panels charging 4 - 6 volt deep cycle batteries which feed a 2500 watt inverter. Just running a microwave drains the batteries in a hurry. You can upgrade your generator and store a lot of fuel (if you are in a rural area) for the difference in cost. Propane fuel is the easiest to store long term, followed by diesel, and then gasoline.

My main water well has a 240 volt, 1 HP (746 watt) pump and my whole house backup power of choice is a 5500 watt propane generator with 2 - 1000 gallon propane tanks.

osb272646 wrote:

I have been concerned about power back up for the 270 foot deep well that we installed a year ago.  We had a 17 foot sand point that ran off a 120 volt pump that I could power with a small generator when we experienced power outages.  Unfortunately, that well was not able to keep up with our requirements, hence the new deep well.    The new well pump is 240V, so the small generator will not drive new well pump.

I'm thinking about getting an inverter, powered by deep cycle batteries which are charged by a charger connected to the grid.  Eventually will charge the batteries with PV panels.   My challenge is to get an inverter with enough capacity to run the pump.  The pump manufacturer says the pump requires 2.5 KVA.  (kilovolt amps).   Can anyone tell me what that means in terms of wattage?  Thanks in advance for any help!

 

 

 

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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....

Thanks, DRS78750, for your response.  I like your suggestion of upgrading the generator.  That would allow me to test my approach before dumping money into an inverter that could turn out to be inadequate.  

I agree that the batteries will drain fast with a 2.5kw draw.  A couple of cheapo 12v deep cycles from Walmart would provide about 100 amp hours of 12volt if they're only cycled down to 50% of capacity, or about 10 amp hours of 120 volt.  I'm not sure what that means for 240v.  But, when we get a power outage, we cut way back from our already frugal water usage habits.  I doubt the pump would cycle more than 3-4 times (maybe less) in a 24 hour period when we're in our "power outage" mode.  My thinking is to get a small Honda generator, quiet and fuel efficient, to recharge the batteries between pump cycles, or a couple of solar panels with the Honda generator as backup.  Once this setup is the way I want it, I could add onto the panels and batteries to provide emergency power to other things like a light bulb or two, and the fridge.

I also have a motorhome, with a couple of Kyocera 120's on the roof.  I use two cheapo 12v deep cycles for storage.  This set up allows my wife and me to stay as long as we want out in the deserts of Arizona and Mexico, as far as electrical needs go.  I had four Trojan T109 six volt batteries, but found that they got a "memory" because we didn't discharge them enough each day, thus became useless.  It seems to me that you have to exercise batteries down to at least 75% before recharging them to 100%.  Otherwise they get a memory and then operate only off the top 10% of their capacity. 

My hunting cabin is off grid; we use a single 12V Walmart deep cycle to pump water from the 100 gallon holding tank, take showers, run the lights, and play movies on the DVD.  The 6 gal. RV water heater, blue flame heater and stove are run off 20 pounder LP tanks.  (Yes, we've gone soft in our old age.  But that's a different story.)  Over a typical 5-6 day hunting season, that battery gets hit hard, being taken down to 5-10% of it's capacity.  Back home, it's immediately recharged to 13.4 volts and then a battery maintainer with a desulphation cycle to keep the plates clean.   This typically happens 5 times a year, and the batteries usually make it 4 years before they cannot hold an adequate charge.  A small solar panel would easily re-charge and maintain the battery between visits, but we decided it is less costly to simply haul the battery back home and charge it there.

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Re: Water Lesson Learned: Don't Put Off Today....
bowking wrote:

I am new here. I think water lesson is cool as this wwwsunpowerportcom. This is awesome. Read it and make some comment. Thanks. :D

I think it's too little for too much $$ and it does not fit this thread. Trolling are we?

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