Sunday, June 13, 2010

Complicated vs simple water pumps

Today I changed a faucet washer on my kitchen sink. It was a ten minute job. That is, if you don't count the 45 minute round trip into town. It was a $2.50 part, if you don't count the cost of going into town. At one time I had quite an assortment of plumbing supplies. Apparently, I've used up some key items. It was bound to happen sooner or later.

It did get me thinking. There are plenty of things that can go wrong with my water pumping system. Over the last twenty years or so, the well pump was replaced twice, once when it was -17 F. The pressure tank was also replaced twice. The pressure switch failed at least once. A check valve split one winter and was replaced with a more robust one. Another winter most of the plumbing froze and much of it had to be replaced. Wore out a tankless water heater and a regular propane water tank. I don't quite remember how many small items have been changed over the years.

I did almost all the work myself. My only cost has been parts and materials. However, today's little repair job got me thinking. What if I couldn't go into town for parts? It wouldn't have to be the end of the world. A good ice storm would suffice.

It's true that my well has a constant overflow. It doesn't require anything more complicated than a water jug to get water. Under normal circumstances, it's not that big a deal. Then there are those other times, like when my pump went in subzero temperatures. The hill down to my well was completely covered in ice. I had to crawl on my hands and knees, dragging a 5 gallon watter jug behind me. 5 gallons will do for drinking water, but it won't go very far flushing toilets and washing dishes. Forget about baths and laundry.

Remember in old movies those hand-pumps that all the old farms had? Well, those old pumps are still being made. It's possible to get them for $30 - $40. I'm going to install one right in my kitchen. Might even put in a second sink just for the hand-pump. Those pumps are dead simple. About the only that occasionally has to be replaced is a gasket. The gaskets are easy to make from a variety of materials. Heck, they are cheap enough that I can keep a few spares.

Should my fancy electric pump fail, pumping water by hand would sure beat crawling on my hands and knees. I could even pump enough water to take a bath. All I'd have to do is fill up a bunch of my stock pots and put them on the woodstove. It's old fashioned as all get out, but it works.

My poor dad is going to flip out when he visits and discovers that old fashioned pump. He says he's never seen anyone work so hard to live the way his grandfather lived. Well, great granddad lived a long long time, so he must have been doing something right.



  1. But if more people worked as hard as you do to live the way you do, this Nation would be a LOT better off !!!!

  2. Can you point me to a source for the hand pumps? I would love to install one at my home for backup...Thanks!

  3. I'm getting mine at Tractor Supply. Local garden supply stores sometimes have them too.