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Efficiency tips for residential well pumps

Alabama Living Magazine

I get my water supply from my own well. How can I use less electricity with my well? 

The energy a residential well system uses depends on the equipment and water use. The homeowner is responsible for maintaining the well, ensuring drinking water is safe and paying for the electricity needed to run the well pump. Here are steps to improve and maintain your residential well and use less electricity. 

Switch to a low-flow showerhead with flow rates of less than 2 gallons per minute for maximum water efficiency. Photo courtesy Mark Gilliland, Pioneer Utility Resources

Get your well system inspected

If you’re concerned about how much you pay to pump water from your well, start with an inspection. 

Similar to heating and cooling systems, well pumps are put to work daily, and parts will wear over time. Regular maintenance can improve efficiency and increase the lifespan of the system. 

The proper system design and sizing can save energy. Oversizing equipment can waste energy. Ask a professional if your well equipment is properly sized for your needs. In some cases, adding a variable-speed drive can save energy. Keep in mind, well systems don’t last forever. Consider design and sizing before the existing system fails.

Things can go wrong with your well that are hard to spot. The water system may even act normally with good water pressure and flow while using more energy and causing higher bills.

One of the most common causes of increased energy use is underground water line leakage between the pump and the home. Water lines can freeze and break or be damaged by digging or a vehicle driving over underground lines. Other issues can include waterlogged pressure tanks and malfunctioning equipment. Even if your well is in good working order, there are practices you can implement to save on your electric bill.

Save money by lowering your water use

The less water you use, the less energy you use. Here’s how you can conserve water and electricity with your home appliances: 

Toilets. Check your toilet for leaks by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank. If the color appears in the bowl without flushing, your toilet has a leak. This is likely caused by a worn flapper, which is an inexpensive and easy do-it-yourself fix. 

If your toilets were installed before 1994, they are likely using more than 4 gallons per flush, which is well above new energy standards of 1.6 gallons. The average family can save nearly 13,000 gallons per year by replacing old, inefficient toilets with WaterSense-labeled models. 

Another option is the tried-and-true plastic bottle method. Place sand or pebbles into a one- or two-liter bottle and place it in your toilet tank or buy toilet tank bags. This results in less water filling the tank and less water being flushed. 

Dishwasher. If you wash dishes by hand, start using your dishwasher instead. Did you know new ENERGY STAR®-certified dishwashers use less than half the energy it takes to wash dishes by hand? According to the Department of Energy, this simple change in habit can save more than 8,000 gallons of water each year. 

Washing machine. Run your machine only with full loads to save water and energy. You may also consider upgrading to an ENERGY STAR®-certified washing machine, which uses about 20% less energy and about 30% less water than regular washers.

Showerheads and faucets. Get leaky showerheads and faucets fixed. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a leaky faucet that drips at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons of water per year.

Faucet and shower aerators are inexpensive devices that reduce the amount of water flow. For maximum water efficiency, look for faucet aerators with no more than 1 gallon per minute flow rates and low-flow showerhead flow rates of less than 2 GPM.

Understanding proper well system design, maintenance and water conservation will help you save.

Miranda Boutelle is the chief operating officer at Efficiency Services Group in Oregon, a cooperatively owned energy efficiency company. She has more than 20 years of experience helping people save energy at home, and she writes on energy efficiency topics for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives.

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