There are approximately 13 million homes in the US that employ private wells for their water. As a general rule, you find these homes in rural areas beyond the reach of municipal water systems that supply water in urban and suburban areas. That can come as something of a surprise to anyone buying a home out in the country.It also means that people raised in urban or suburban areas lack experience with standard well maintenance and repairs. For example, you may not recognize the signs of a failing well pump or know how much that repair will cost.
If your home came with a well and you’re not sure about maintenance, repair, or their costs, keep reading for our guide on what you can expect.
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Common Well Problems
You typically well isn’t an extremely complicated system. After all, the well itself is literally a hole in the ground.
The most complicated part is typically the pump, typically either a shallow well pump or a submersible well pump. That means means you see fairly predictable problems with wells, most of them related to the pump.
Let’s jump in and take a look at some of the most common problems.
A very common problem you see when a well develops problems is that the pump runs constantly or cycles on and off way more than necessary. A sudden surge in your electricity costs when nothing else has changed is a main clue.
This often means that the pump itself has a problem or that the pump no longer sits correctly in the pump.
Spitting Kitchen or Bathroom Sink Faucets
You often see this problem right after you get some plumbing work done. It comes from air getting into the pipes and disrupting the flow of water. If you start seeing this problem when you haven’t had any work done recently, it indicates a more significant problem.
It can signal that your pump itself will fail soon. It can mean the pump isn’t sitting in the well water correctly. It may also mean you have cracks in your pipes somewhere in the system.
No Water Pressure
The most definitive of all signs that your well is in trouble is a total lack of water pressure. When that happens, it means your pump isn’t on at all. Again, that can mean a couple of different potential causes.
The simplest explanation and just about the only one with a DIY solution is that the pump tripped the breaker. Almost any device can trip a breaker at some point. You flip the breaker back on and life goes back to normal.
If well pump breaker keeps tripping, however, that means you typically have a problem with the pump mechanism itself.
Let’s assume the breaker solution doesn’t work or doesn’t apply. That can mean that your well water level dropped and pump unit burned itself out.
No pressure can also mean that the well pump pressure switch failed. The pressure switch tells the pump when it should turn off or turn on.
Dirty or discolored water itself isn’t necessarily a problem with the pump, but it probably means that your pump pulls up silt. That debris in the water, however, will damage your pump if you don’t address the problem.
Changes in Taste
One of the only common problems that don’t touch on the pump are changes in taste. While well water won’t taste like city water, it will maintain a consistent taste. The taste comes from the particular mix of minerals in the water, which doesn’t normally change.
If that taste changes, it can mean that some kind of contamination got into the well, such as bacteria.
As the well owner, there is very little you can do in terms of well maintenance. You should make sure you keep potential contamination sources at a proper distance.
As a general rule, keep septic tank drain fields a minimum of 100 feet from your residential well. Also, don’t use lawn chemicals or pesticides within about the same distance of the well. Both can contaminate your well water.
The primary thing you can do in terms of maintenance is getting an annual well inspection. These inspections typically include an inspection of all the main components of the well, such as:
- Well cap
- Well wents
- Storage tanks
Most inspections also include a water quality test. These tests vary from location to location, but they often check for bacteria, nitrates, and sulfides.
Getting this inspection done each year helps you catch things like mechanical problems with the pump while you can still get repairs. It also serves as a way to get peace of mind about the quality of water that you and your family drink and bathe in on a daily basis.
Well Pump Repair and Replacement Costs
Well pump repair and replacement aren’t always cut and dried choices, nor are the costs always predictable. Sometimes, you can repair a well pump but your well specialist may recommend replacing it. For some key factors in the repair versus replace debate, you can find out more here.
The costs of repairs can vary a lot depending on what broke and the type of pump. The total cost for labor may vary depending on local or regional norms.
In general, your average replacement costs will run around $1700. Your average repair cost is around $900.
You should contact a local well service company for a location-specific estimate.
Managing Your Well Pump
On the whole, managing a well pump isn’t much of a hassle for homeowners. The systems are not especially complex and will usually operate for years at a time without an issue.
You must do your part, though, and get a routine inspection of your well every year or so. It keeps you ahead of small problems. It also gives you some warning for when you’ll need a pump replacement.
Looking for more home improvement ideas and tips? Check out the Home Improvement area in our For the Home section.