A Deep Well Pump Jack: Vital Part of Water System, by R.M.

Water is vital, so being prepared with multiple layers of backup make sense. A deep well pump jack is one way to have your cake and eat it too when a deep well is part of your water supply using the lowly pump jack.

Pump Jack Can Pump Deep Well By Many Power Methods

There are both advantages and disadvantages to use of a pump jack, but the greatest advantage by far is that you can power your deep well pump by many different electrical and non-electric methods. It can be powered by:

  • the grid,
  • a back up power system (generator or inverter of almost any size),
  • DC direct from solar panels (even better is adding a linear current booster),
  • by stationary bicycle, or
  • in a pinch you, can even pump water by hand.

How We Set Up Our Water System

There are multiple possible configurations, but here is how we set up our water system that incorporates a deep well with multiple back ups. I’m also including a link to another method where you can have a traditional deep well centrifugal pump in addition to using a pump jack in the same well.

When We Purchased Our Homestead 35 Years Ago

When we purchased our homestead, about 35 years ago, the only water supply was the river that crosses the far corner of the farm. A well was desired and was the eventual goal, but we had limited options. Money was tight and solar options were both very expensive and still in their infancy. Grid power was going to take time to develop as well.

At first we used a trash pump to pump from the river to a tank on the back of a farm wagon. This gave us water for all but drinking. This arrangement was adequate to water the animals and garden, but it was a hassle any way you look at it. It was the most immediate way for us to have water where we needed it.

Second Phase of Water System: Tank at Barn

In our second phase of water development, we worked to provide a water source that was closer than the river. To do this, we used some of what existed on the homestead when we purchased it, including a 1,200 gallon, double-wall, steel tank that sat on the river bank from a previous irrigation system. There was also an existing 40×50 pole barn.

We hauled the tank up from the river using bottle jacks and cribbing, to load on a rented trailer. Then we set it on two “log cabin”’ layers of telephone poles at one end of the barn. We put gutters on each side of the barn and used thin wall 4” PVC pipe suspended on 14-gauge electric fence wire to carry the water to the hatch on the top of the tank that we lined with stainless steel screen.

We had running water, if at very low pressure, after this second phase. To this day, this supplies garden and livestock water for most of the year.

Quarter-Inch Thick Steel Double Wall Pressure Tanks

Even though we are in zone 6 and have occasional temperatures below -10, the grey painted tank sitting on the west end of the barn has never built up enough ice to interfere with operations. I have several times found these ¼” thick steel double wall pressure tanks at a cost ranging from free to less than scrap metal price.

Extreme Cold Temperatures

The only issue we have had was the connection from the bottom of the tank down into the water system in the ground in extreme cold temperatures. Our first approach at resolution was to wrap a heat tape around the 1” supply pipe, wrap in plastic, and then stack a few used concrete blocks so we could put a foot or more of sawdust. We found that an area of sawdust about two feet square worked well for years, until one of the kids during a -17 night unplugged the heat tape. The 4” heavy steel flanged pipe to 1” weld broke.

Our new approach was to just extend the 4” steel flange pipe via a 90 degree bend (that must weight 80 pounds) to two feet below ground before welding in the 1” adapter. We still used a two-foot box of sawdust but skipped the heat tape.

Third Phase: The Well

As we were saving up for the well, we had a neighbor offer us the pump jack that he pulled out of his well to upgrade to a submersible. At an auction waiting to bid or some extra 2” drop pipe and sucker rod, I struck up a conversation. The man and his son had bought a piece of land 10 years before and divided in half, each building a house and putting in a well on their half. The man put in a pump jack/deep well cylinder system and had yet to put in a new set of leathers. His son had put in a submersible and had already replaced the pump twice so far!

Experience With What I Do Not Recommend For Main Well

I have had previous experience with both a water pumping windmill and traditional deep well pump head that I do not recommend for a main well, and the pump head type pump jack (that I do not recommend for regular use but is fine for a second backup well, or the modern version).

Pump We Decided To Go With

We decided to go with a pump jack (the well head type designed for continuous use and a very long life. Hunt locally, but you can find them on ebay

At the scrap yard, I found a one in good condition that was the same make and model as the one the neighbor gave us for a spare/parts, and then I also found another of a different make that looks brand new. You can also use an oilfield type, if you can find a small one.

Pump Jack Advantages

There are multiple advantages. These include flexible power sources and operating cost.

Multiple Sources of Power

As previously stated in the beginning, the first advantage is the capability to power the pump jack by multiple sources. The large flywheel Is designed to be turned by an electric motor. Our everyday motor is 110v AC, powered by the grid. However, within a few minutes, it can be switched to run off our main inverter or the backup generator. Also, if the large tree just south of the well house every dies, we will covert this to direct PV panels via a liner current booster. The parts for this are all in storage, including the DC motor. Additionally, we have a stationary bicycle stored in the barn loft, along with a long flat bottomed v-belt, to be able to pump water efficiently, even if no form of electricity is available.

Low Operating Cost

It has a low operating cost largely due to the fact that all the components last forever, other than the “leathers” in the pump and the stuff box, which will wear out. You can expect these to last from 4-15 years, depending on how much abrasive is in your water.

NOTE: One huge advantage of using 2” drop pipe and a well cyclinder designed for this, is that you can pull only the sucker rod and working guts of the pump up to change the leathers and never need to pull the heavy pipe! We have one local plumbing supply that carries well cylinders and leathers. There are several online sources in addition to every windmill supplier for the cylinder. Note on the first page, “How to Use a Typical Centrifical Well Pump” in this same system!

Pump Jack Disadvantages

Thought there are advantage, there are also disadvantage. We’ve found ways to over these and have explained them below.

Maximum Pumping Rate

The main disadvantage is that it has a maximum pumping rate of about three gallons per minute. This is just not adequate for “modern” life, unless you either have a large reserve tank or use the bypass method and put a 220v submersible well pump method down in the well in addition to the cylinder pump.

We have a 500-gallon, stainless steel, bulk milk tank located 600 feet up the hill (for gravity pressure that is adequate). (A booster pump for higher pressure in the house has been in the plans for a long time.) Additionally, we have roof collection and a second water pumping wind mill for routine farm/garden water supply.

Difficulty Finding Equipment

Difficulty finding the equipment is another disadvantage. However, you can think of this as the adult version of the children’s treasure hunt game!

There is one well company in our area that will do the whole job for you. Most likely there will be one in your area, if you have windmills or Amish living in the area. The stuff box that screws in the 2” Tee at the top of the well can be a hard part to find locally if this is not integral to the old pump jack. Both Dean Bennet and any oil field supply will have them.


Cost is a disadvantage, if you purchase all new components. All of our original components, we installed 35 years ago, are still going strong, other than replacing leathers and an electric motor, and they were probably 50 years old when installed.

How We Set Up Our Water System (continued)

So, we have gone through our first, second, and third phases of the water system we set up for our homestead. We took a bit of a detour to delve into the deep well system and pump jack. However, we continue with more to our water system.

Fourth Phase: A Second Well

When our well was being drilled, I asked if they could drill a second shallow well. Since they were already here, they charged almost nothing to put the hole in the ground (40’), and I just slipped two 20’ sections of 6” PVC sewer pipe down for casing.

We eventually put a windmill on top of this well, but it would have been a good place for a pitcher pump (if the water is 25’ or less) or the traditional deep well pump head for a backup water source. Our windmill pumps into the roof collection tank. Instead of using a stuffing box at the well head, I just ran 2” PVC up (with the sucker rod inside) until I reached the height of the water tank that collects water from the barn roof, with a “T” that is an overflow to a large stock tank when the water is 1” from the top of the roof collection water tank that is located several hundred feet away.

A Waterfall

This also provides us with a waterfall to look at when the wind in blowing and the tank in full. As soon as the stock tank under this “waterfall” is full, we know when to turn off the windmill. Even if you are not in direct sight of the “waterfall” (and it’s directly in front of the kitchen window, even if 300’ away), you can hear the sound of water falling almost 20’ out of a 2” pipe to the stock tank below.

The combination of the barn roof and the windmill provides all stock water for 10 to 11 months out of the year. Additionally, it provides soaker hose watering of the garden about half the time.

Fifth Phase: Stock Tank/Irrigation Water

Our fifth phase of water system development supported the use of controlled grazing to eliminate the need to feed (or purchase!) grain. We have many small fields with even the longer hay fields being subdivided when grazing.

The water system was already extended 600’ up the hill, providing multiple water points. At the very top with only three feet of head, it’s pretty low pressure, but it will fill a portable stock tank. We then extended the water system over 2,000’ in the other direction. This was easy digging, as they are all bottom fields.

We further extended about an additional 500’ to reach the river bank. This line is 2” and gives us the option to pump large amounts of river water to use for irrigation or fire suppression. We simply close the valves at the barn end and open the valve at the river bank end. All summer long a 5hp electric trash pump sits on the river bank (electricity was run to that end of the farm at no cost many years ago by the local electric co-op during a drought). We still have the option of using a gasoline motor powered trash pump, if the grid was down.

There are multiple other backup pumps you can use with or in place of your submersible. Here is one example.

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  1. This sounds like a reasonable option for our place. Though it is a considerable expense –
    having multiple means to provide a water supply is of great advantage. How deep is a pump jack able to go in a well? Our casing is down over 200ft.
    Thank you for your article.

  2. It depends on how much you can afford. I work in the oilfield and operate pump jacks that pump brine from 9000′, and there’s deeper. Of course these are not affordable, but there are different sized smaller units, and the depth they are able to pump would depend on the size of the counterweight and the size of the electric motor. There’s charts and information on the different sizes, just look for a data plate or a model number.

  3. CORD7
    If you can get a copy of the well drillers report it should help you a lot.
    You should get data on depth, static water level and drawdown.
    I was very interested in the description provided involving the different layers and stopping point.
    I believe there are options for deeper wells offered by some manufacturers.
    I too am considering the addition of a hand pump to our well but the thought of a separate well makes also sense. Best of luck and God bless.

    1. I have a combination of copper and pex in my current Frankenstein home. The old work is copper and not done very well, but there was a remodel done at some point with the main bathroom redone in pex. There were dual sinks placed on an outside wall that froze up multiple times during each winter on the north side of the house. A couple of years ago, I broke the brick up on the outside of that wall only to find that whoever plumbed it had removed all of the insulation around where they ran the pipe. It’s on my TODO list of things to fix, but right now, I have a heat tape wrapped around it as a temporary measure until I get around to fixing it.

      It apparently handles repeated freeze cycles pretty well, though I can’t say that I recommend it.

      Funny thing though – That pex also serves an outside faucet on the house. The telephone folks had used the faucet as a ground for their lines apparently thinking it was a copper line.

  4. Could you perhaps post some pictures of your water systems in the comments? I can picture most of it just by reading but photographs would help substantially.

  5. My son in AR has used PEX and when I was remodeling our home he highly recommended it. I followed his advice and am very satisfied. Even installed a tankless water heater and redid my well tank pipes with it. One more out building and the ole place will be totally PEXified.
    Note on well drillers data: was done in the early 60’s and the drilling company is long gone. So it’ll remain an “I wish” I knew.
    Mr. C, thanks for you perspective and experienced outlook. Just visited a cousin yesterday who is using wind mill and he loves it.

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