How to Prime a Well Pump Two Line Jet Pumps & Drinking Water Wells
PRIME the PUMP using a GARDEN HOSE - CONTENTS: How to get the water pump working again when the problem is lost prime. Fast and easy method to prime a well pump using a garden hose and a donor building. What types of water pumps are most likely to need to be primed?
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How to prime the water pump using a garden hose:
This article describes how to prime a water pump to restore water pressure to a building by using a garden hose connected to another water supply source. If you don't have a garden hose, a nearby working water supply, or don't like this idea, at the end of this article you'll find links to alternative approaches to restoring the water pump to operation.
Simple & Fast Well Pump Priming Method Using a Garden Hose
If your water pump is a two-line jet pump and if it's running but there is no water delivered to the building, the problem could be that the pump has lost its prime.
This pump needs to send water down into the well (and through a special valve at the end of the water pickup-pipe in the well) in order to bring water back to the building.
If your water pump is a submersible unit the pump is located down in the well itself. In this case if you have not got water pressure, the problem may be with the pump or the well itself, but it's not a loss of prime - submersible water pumps are self-priming.
If your water pump is a one-line jet pump, it is sucking water from a shallow well; you probably don't need to do so, but the instructions below show how to prime the well pump and they should work equally well for either a one-line jet pump or a two line jet pump.
If your water pump keeps losing prime, a shallow well jet pump well line could have
or there may be a bad check valve on well piping at or near the water tank or near the above-ground water pump
see CHECK VALVES, WATER SUPPLY
and so be losing prime.
A leak in the well line piping itself can also lead to loss of prime. If priming the well water pump using one of our methods shown below seems to fix the problem but soon the well pump loses prime again, your plumber will want to check for a bad foot valve in the well or a leak in the well piping between the well and the building.
But where a jet pump is installed, you may have lost prime at the pump. The pump motor will run but no water is delivered. If this happens it is possible to re-prime the pump with water from another source. Check valves installed at the proper location
at the pump and perhaps elsewhere can help prevent loss of prime on this system. (Other problems that can give the same symptom include internal damage to the water pump, a well that has run dry, or a piping leak between the well and the building it serves.)
Steps in Using a Garden Hose to Prime the Well Pump
If your 2-line jet pump (or other above-ground well water pump) loses prime and cannot draw water from the well, don't let it keep running as you may burn up the pump motor or damage the pump internal parts. Take these steps:
The steps below describe how to use an ordinary garden hose connected to another water supply source to prime a well pump. We give very detailed instructions, but actually the procedure is very simple and if it works, your pump will be primed and working in just a few minutes.
If your well pump has lost prime and you are about to try opening a plug on the water pump housing to add priming water you might see that the plug is badly rusted and corroded - or there may be other reasons why you don't want to start taking apart plumbing fittings, such as - it's Sunday night and there is no chance of purchasing any replacement parts if you break something.
Our photo (left) shows the priming plug on a Goulds two-line jet pump. If you click to enlarge the photo you'll see that we might have been able to remove and replace this plug but we decided to try the garden hose priming method first since we didn't want to disturb this rusty part.
Find a water donor building: If the water pump that needs to be primed is in a building close to a neighbor who has running water, this procedure will often get your well pump running again with the absolute least trouble and cost. Make sure that the neighboring building is open and available and that its water system is working - that is, you have running water there.
Find a garden hose hookup on the donor building: Make sure that the neighboring building has a hose connection to which you can connect a garden hose.
Our photo (left) shows that we have now connected a black washing machine hose to the cold water faucet in our donor building, and we have connected a green garden hose to the other end of our washing machine hose.
The hose connection at your donor building may be (most convenient) outside on a building wall closest to your own building, or it might be indoors (less convenient) at a clothes washing machine hook-up, a water tank drain valve, or similar fitting.
Make sure that valve is operable and that you can turn it on and off without problem.
Find a garden hose hookup on the recipient building whose pump needs to be primed: Find a garden hose connection on the building whose pump needs to be primed.
Any fitting will do, but close to the water pump, such as a water tank drain valve, would be the very best place to connect.
Get a garden hose: Obtain sufficient length of common garden hose that you can reach from the water donor building to the pump prime building hose connections.
Watch out: don't assume that the interior of a garden hose is sanitary or that water run through an ordinary garden hose is safe to drink.
Also some garden hoses contain lead - do not drink water from a garden hose unless you know that yours is not a lead-containing hose. If you are purchasing a new garden hose, check the label.
Some garden hose product labels indicate that the hose is safe for drinking. Others may indicate that the hose should not be used for drinking. Unfortunately still other hoses are simply not labeled - we won't know about any chemical or lead hazards from drinking from such a hose without testing.
The lead hazard in a garden hose, as with possible lead hazards from lead plumbing or lead-solder-based copper pipe connections, depends on several variables including how long water has been resting inside the hose (longer absorbs more lead if lead is present), on the chemistry of your water supply (more aggressive may leach out more lead), and of course on the lead levels in the source: hose, pipe, or somewhere else.
If you are in any doubt about the cleanliness of a garden hose being used for well pump priming or for an emergency water supply connection between buildings, sanitizing the hose or the plumbing system after it has been used.
Get a clothes washing machine hose: Obtain a short clothes washing machine hose - this is a garden hose that has a female connection (screw-on fitting) on both ends of the hose. You can see a black washer hookup hose in our photo just above. You can borrow one of these right from a washing machine hookup if necessary.
Turn off electrical power to the water pump at the recipient building. Drain water and water pressure from the system piping.
Open a plumbing fixture in the recipient building nearest the water tank in the recipient building. This will let the incoming donor building water push air out of the recipient building's piping.
Connect the two buildings: Connect the clothes washing machine hose to the male end of the garden hose. Connect one end of the garden hose to the donor building water source.
First Flush out the garden hose for a few minutes by running water from the donor building. Then connect the other end of the garden hose to the recipient building. You now have a garden hose connecting faucets or spigots between the two buildings.
Our photo (left) shows our garden hose that was carried from the donor building (where it is already connected) and connected to a convenient faucet near our water pump and tank.
You can see the green hose hooked up in the left of the photo. Following the copper pipe down and to the right you'll see a house water shutoff valve (just to the right of the iron strapping supporting the plastic well pipes at the center of the photo). This valve has to be opened if we want water to run from the donor building into our water pump and water tank.
At the right side of our photo you can see our water pump that sits atop the water pressure tank in this installation. A peek at the gauge shows that after we opened all of the necessary water valves we were successful in pressurizing the water pump and tank to around 40 psi.
Turn on water at the donor building. Shortly you should hear air coming out of the plumbing fixture in the recipient building. When you see water coming out of the recipient building faucet, close the faucet.
Listen for water entering the water tank and pump at the recipient building. If the water tank was empty or low on water you'll hear water entering the tank. If there is a water pressure gauge (and it's working) you'll see water pressure rise at the receiving water tank.
When water stops flowing into the recipient building you will have pressurized its water system (and water pump) to the shut-off water pressure that the donor building is able to provide.
Our photo shows that we've pressurized our recipient pump up to 40 psi using water from our donor building.
Turn off the spigot at the receiving building so that you have in effect closed the connection between the two building. In fact you can turn off the faucet at the donor building as well, but don't disconnect the hose yet - we might need to repeat this process a bit more.
Turn on electrical power to the water pump at the recipient building. The pump might not begin to run if the water tank pressure is at or above that pump's cut-out pressure.
Test the water pump operation by turning on water in the recipient building at any plumbing fixture. If you have successfully primed the water pump, you'll hear the pump turn on. When you hear your water pump turn on, turn off the running water and listen to see if the pump reaches cut-out pressure and turns itself off.
If the water pump turns off at the end of a pumping cycle you have finished priming the pump. Run some water to flush out the system and reduce the chances that you've contaminated the pump or piping with bacteria from your own procedure.
If the water pump turns on but keeps running for a minute or two, check the water pressure gauges at the pump and tank. If the gauges are not rising in pressure (or if the water tank is not filling with water - is not getting heavier) then the pump has not been successfully primed. What now?
Try repeating the steps in this procedure, making sure you're getting water into the receiving building's water piping system, pump, and water tank.
If your water tank is a steel bladderless type with a working drain, you might try opening the tank drain to see if water is in the tank. If the water tank is dry (empty) try leaving that drain open at the start of the procedure so that incoming water can enter the tank by pushing air out at the drain - but when you see water coming out at the drain, close it.
Prime the Pump Using a Garden Hose Without Access to the Water Pressure Tank or Well Pump
Question: Troubleshooting loss of well pump prime after a storm
Feb 15 2015 E.B. asked:
After a power outage last night during our latest storm (which is continuing), my pump lost its prime.
I am attempting to use your garden hose method to restore the prime--am fairly desperate and have questions--I am on my third attempt but should probably count it as second since the first time I only let it run for maybe 10 minutes.
The water flowing from the donor house to my house was coming slowly--I am guessing that the small diameter of the washing machine hose accounts for that.
I do not know how to tell when the water stops flowing into my house and do not have any pressure gauge for the tank--am trying to avoid opening the pump housing because the concrete top of it is very heavy--last time I opened it I damaged my back--I weigh about 115# and am 65 years old.
The pump began running as soon as I restored power--I let it run two minutes and cut the power as you suggested--and am trying the procedure again.
Any suggestions would be appreciated--in case you wish to call my number is 804-512-8503
We want to let the hose run until you think no more water is flowing into your pump and piping - with the pump turned off;
How about trying this - just inventing - connect the donor hose and turn it on at its source.
GO into the house; open a faucet closest to where water enters your house.
When you see water coming out of the faucet, then try shutting off the donor hose and turning on the pump.
Keep me posted.
Reader follow-up: power outage during cold weather froze the pipes, preventing priming and preventing pump operation
I appreciate your information--have resorted to plumber and problem resolved--apparently during the time of the power outage water froze in the pipe as it comes from the pump. I am reasoning that this prevented the water from entering the pump and well shaft.
I would appreciate your opinion as to whether the garden hose method would have worked (even with my lack of expertise), but for the frozen pipe from the pump. Your directions are great-clear and easy to follow. I know that there will be more power outages and the resultant loss of prime and would like to be able to rectify the situation myself.
Reply: details of remote-priming of a water pump without access to the pump or pressure tank
Your email led me to think about using the garden hose pump priming method when there is not convenient access to the pump itself. In that case we're rather flying blind and with few instruments, but it may still be worth a try.
What I was thinking but didn't add ( I worry about giving so much information that I suffocate or in your case drown the reader) was that if we're talking about a well pit, for example, wherein are located the pump, tank, controls, and perhaps the well head, and if we can't open the well pit to hook up a garden hose to a pressure tank drain or a drain near the pump itself, then hooking up a garden hose anywhere on the system might let us push water backwards into the pump to help prime it.
But if there were say a burst pipe anywhere between where we hook up the hose and the pump and tank themselves, we might just be pushing water into - well who knows where - and we might not know it.
For that reason I suggested hooking up the hose, turning it on, then opening a faucet in the home. IF we see water coming out of the faucet we've pressurized the system. If we don't then
There are other frozen or burst pipes between the hose hookup point and the faucet we opened in the building
There is no water coming from the hose
There is a burst or frozen pipe between the hose hookup point and the well pump and tank equipment
Before assuming that a water problem is due to the
well itself, remember that there could be other troubles, even simply a loss of power to the pump.
See WATER PUMP REPAIR GUIDE an specific case which offers an example of diagnosis of loss of water pressure, loss of water, and analyzes the actual repair cost.
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