Three Letters Re: Request for Advice on Backup Power for a Well Pump

In regard to the gentlemen asking about his well pump: There is a product called Generlink that is a lot easier to install than a transfer switch. Most well pumps are 220 volt but there are always exceptions. The web site for the item is and I have heard some electrical coops will install them for free. – Gene in Walla Walla

A single-load transfer switch can be added to the well-pump line. Cost is about $100 from Northern Tools. Depending upon your local regulations, this may require the services of a licensed electrician. And if your well pump is 220 volts, you will need one of the more expensive generators – the small, cheap ones don’t put out
220 volts.
If you’re going to all that expense, it’s probably foolish to limit yourself to powering only the well pump. Might just as well choose a loadside transfer switch ($250 – $500) which will allow you to power the freezer, lights, etc. If you know what you are doing (and local regulations allow) you can install one of these yourself.
If your well is not very deep, you might look into a 12-volt pump with a deep-cycle battery and solar charger.
That’s what I have here – but it only has to lift water about 2 feet. A pump such as the Shurflo used in campers and motor homes would work (< $100) – Irv


I saw the letter today asking about back-up power for a well pump. I had the very same issue myself. We are the very last house on the power line and thus our power goes out more than most. I did the illegal/dangerous “run things off a generator with a male to male plug” for a while, but could not power my well pump this way as it is 220 Volt. So, realizing that it is dangerous and illegal to continue with my then current methods, I resolved to install a transfer switch. I am no electrical genius but it really wasn’t all that difficult – just time consuming. It all worked out fine and I think (I didn’t really keep track) that I spent something between $500 and $600 on the entire set-up. The transfer switch alone was about $200, the new box another $100, as I recall, so the parts are not cheap. However, if you do this right you are practically set up for a battery back-up or other alternate power source as well.

Before I did anything, I contacted the local code enforcement officer and asked for his advice. He was really quite helpful. I also went to a local electrical supply house – not a big box store – as these guys know a lot more about the codes, requirements, etc than they do at Lowes, Home Depot, etc. In any case, I have attached a photo of my project when it was almost done. As I said, it cost a fair amount of money and took me about a month to do off and on (I do have to work you know!), but it was a LOT less than having someone else do it.

I ran a line to my garage for the generator (must be three wires and a ground for code) and ran that into the transfer switch which I mounted next to my main box. Then I installed another smaller electrical box to the other side of that. I ran 60 amp service from the transfer switch to the new box and wired up as much as I could without disrupting the house circuits. Then all in one Saturday morning I ran the wires from the old box to the new for the circuits I wanted to power from my generator – refrigerator, freezer, well pump, kitchen, office and family room – and installed a 60 amp breaker and wired it all up to code as described by the inspector and the guys at the shop. I had no problem with the inspection because I talked with them FIRST and called and asked questions occasionally when something was unclear. However, now when I run my generator I do not have to worry about frying some lineman or one of my children if they go look at the funny male plug that fell out of the wall . . .

Also, it is easy to tell if your well pump is 110 or 220. Just look in your electrical box. If it runs with a circuit breaker it will be a two-pole switch (the kind with a bar across to throw 2 switches at once), not a single pole like the rest of the stuff in your box. The only other two-pole switches you might have would be for an electric dryer, electric stove, electric heat or other special 220 VAC items.In any case, the box should be labeled. Best Regards, – Tim P.

P.S.: I too have done business with The Pre-1899 Specialist and have received excellent information and a couple of fine rifles as a result.