How many solar panels does it take to run a well pump?
The traditional water pumps in our wells do the “pushing” to allow the water to flow wherever we need to. For residential uses, water gets pumped from the well into the plumbing where it will be accessible by just turning a tap. Since well pumps are essential especially during low precipitation days, most owners need a functional one for a reliable water supply.
In order for them to work, well pumps need electricity. Unfortunately, electricity does not exactly come cheap. Especially for people who need to water crops in a large parcel of land, the costs of electricity bills every month can quickly add up. Also, in situations where there are outages, they may not be able to get water once the pressure gets too low.
Because of these challenges, innovations are necessary to make water accessible for many areas. This is where solar panels can be effectively used. Just imagine, if the sun can be able to generate electricity, then the life of people in farms and off-grid areas can be more convenient.
What is a well pump?
Before we talk about solar panels, let us have a quick reminder about what a well pump is and why we need it. Essentially, a well pump is installed on a well so that the water goes into the home or designated water system. Well pumps are considered the heart of the entire well system.
There are two types of well pumps – jet pumps and submersible pumps.
Jet pumps are often used for shallow wells. Shallow wells are when the excavated hole is around 25 feet or less. On the other hand, submersible pumps are placed underground the water wells that are deeper than 25 feet to 400 feet.
As mentioned earlier, well pumps need electricity to work. This is because power is essential for the equipment to push the water from the well upwards. If there is no power, the pump will not function. In this situation, if the well owner continues to use the supply during an outage, the water level will go down to the point where it will not be able to get delivered into the home or water system. The owner will then be forced to wait for the electricity to go back and prime their well.
How a solar well pump works
Many farmers and landowners cannot afford to not have access to reliable water especially in areas with lots of outages. This is the reason why many individuals have been switching to solar well pumps. But how exactly do these pumps work? And can you really run a well pump on solar power?
Why submersible well pumps are preferred
Remember the types of well pumps we mentioned earlier? If a submersible pump rings a bell, you are one step closer to understanding how solar well pumps work.
Most well pumps that use solar power are the submersible type. They are known as DC or direct current pumps and are more efficient and use a lesser amount of energy. Submersible well pumps last for many years and will give you lots of time to make use of the system compared to jet pumps that have a shorter lifespan. Also, most owners who are planning to switch to solar panels operate deep wells for residential, commercial, and even industrial use. Hence, they often use wells that are hundreds of meters deep.
Of course, there are other options aside from a submersible pump. If a submersible pump is overkill or not available, it is also possible to make use of surface pumps of floating pumps for an efficient solar well pumping system.
· Surface pumps
These types of pumps are usually placed above the water level of the well. They are best for shallow wells that are around 25 feet or less.
· Floating pumps
These types of pumps are usually placed on a floating surface within the well. They are best for open wells which are dug holes that do not have covering, hence its name.
Can you really run a well pump on solar power?
Yes, it is absolutely possible to run a well pump using solar power. With the light we get from the sun, power can be generated to help us with our everyday tasks.
This is achieved by harvesting the so-called electricity from a solar panel. By connecting the two main components – the well pump and solar panel, thus results in having a solar-powered system which is a highly convenient option compared to relying on the mercy of your electrical company.
How a solar panel can make a well pump work
All this talk about solar panels and solar power can be very intimidating. However, there is no need to worry – how a solar well pump functions is just easy to understand. Let us put it this way – a submersible well pump gets placed under your well water. Instead of connecting it to your electricity, the pump is connected to a solar panel that supplies it the power it needs to function.
Solar panels are secured into individual casings which are attached to the well’s controller and pump. Most solar panels are made of monocrystalline or polycrystalline solution and preferably UV-resistant and waterproof.
As for the process, a solar setup begins with cells that we may call photovoltaic or PV. These cells are what produce electricity which comes from the sun’s energy. Solar panels are then connected if there is a need to create a solar array. Creating your own well pump system requires the use of a PV array, an electric motor, and the pump itself.
How many solar panels do you really need?
When we talk about the power we use from solar panels, we use the term watts. A watt is a unit of power that is used to symbolize the required energy for appliances or fixtures that use electricity.
Since solar panels come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and of course, wattage, we need to know these specifications to make sure that we will be getting the number of panels necessary to power our well pump. But how much energy does it take to run one properly?
The energy requirement of solar well pumps
There are many factors that will influence the energy requirement of a well pump.
Since well pumps can be powered using DC which is direct current and AC or alternating current, you need to consider what power is your pump currently running on. Aside from this, a crucial part is knowing the wattage of your well pump.
Here is an example:
You already have an existing well pump that uses direct current. Upon checking, you notice that it is a 12-watt water pump. Usually, one solar panel comes with 20-watts. If you only need 12-watts to run your well pump, then a single solar panel is enough for your needs.
On the other hand, if you have a 200-watt water pump and planning to get 20-watt solar panels, then you will need to have 10.
To answer the question of how many panels does it take to run a well pump, it depends on the watt requirement of your pump and the wattage of the panel you want to get. As mentioned earlier, there are many variants of solar panels, and they can come in 300-watt arrays and more.
AC or DC well pumps, which one should you get?
We mentioned alternate currents and direct currents earlier, but what do they really mean? Does a well pump that uses DC better? What should you do if you already have an existing well pump that uses AC?
1. Direct Current (DC) powered pumps
Since solar panels produce direct current, the most efficient system preferably makes use of DC well pumps. Direct current solar well pumps are more expensive but if you really want a system that is optimized to run well with each component, DC pumps are the way to go.
2. Alternate Current (AC) powered pumps
If you already have an existing water pump installed on your well, there is a high chance that it is powered by an alternate current. This is because homes use AC for their electricity needs, as direct current us unsafe for general, everyday tasks.
If you are using an AC powered pump, no worries. You can get a machine we call a solar power inverter so that you can use it for your new solar system. If you remember, solar panels produce direct current. The device converts the direct current from the panel into an alternate current which will then make it useable for your existing AC well pump.
The components of an entire solar water pump system
We talked earlier about the two main components of a solar powered water pump system – the pump itself and the necessary solar panels. However, let us go into depth about every part of the system and why they are essential.
The 5 parts of a functional solar water pump system
1. The water pump
Since the goal is to operate a well pump without using fuel-generated electricity, it is one of the most important components in the system. If the owner does not have an existing well pump yet, experts recommend buying water pumps that make use of direct current.
A water well pump’s main job is to essentially push the well water into the storage tank where it will stay until the owner needs it. Once they open a tap on their home or make use of their irrigation system, the pump will transport the water to the surface until it travels to where it needs to be.
2. The solar panels
Aside from the pumps, the solar panels are crucial for the completion of a solar water pump system. Depending on the wattage of the pump, a single panel may be enough to do the work. A group of sonar panels is called an array, which may be essential for pumps that need a higher amount of wattage.
Without a solar panel, the system would not be able to get the energy from the sun and convert it into solar energy.
3. The batteries
To store the power charge from the solar panel, batteries are necessary to get the job done. Of course, if an owner does not deem it necessary to store power for using the well pump at night, a solar system can skip the batteries.
The batteries that are commonly used for solar panels are the deep-cycle kind. It is important to note that you should match the voltage of the batteries to your panel and well pump. When preferred, adding batteries to increase the wattage capacity of the system will be possible by also adding in more panels to the existing array.
4. The pump controls
When it comes to the process of regulating the pressure and flow rates of the well, pump controls function by adjusting the pump system to the necessary setting. Pump controls are also helpful for scheduling a specific extraction time and also make way for the pump to have a longer lifespan.
Just like how a water pump functions as the heart of the system, the pump controls can be its brain. This is because the latter is in charge of monitoring the pumping system and keeps the process in control.
5. The inverter
Finally, the last component for an efficient solar water pump system is an inverter. Certain types of well pumps, especially the submersible ones, require a high amount of power. Because of this, it is crucial to have the right amount of wattage for the smooth operation of the system.
Well pumps that use either direct or alternate currents can be very wasteful when it comes to using energy. Hence, inverters are necessary to prevent surges.
Aside from regulating the power, one of the main purposes of an inverter is to convert direct current to alternate current. As we have mentioned earlier, most solar panels use DC, but well pumps that use AC will be able to do their work once an inverter converts the current.
In the situation where the owner is already using a well pump powered by DC, then an inverter may not be necessary.
How much does a solar pump kit cost?
A solar pump kit is a complete package that contains all the necessary components of a solar water pump system. Most packages include the solar well pump, controller, connectors and sensors, splice kit, and even the solar panels. Of course, sellers have their own packages. You can always search for a company that can provide you with a package that will be best for your specific purpose.
On average, residential solar kits can be bought for around 1,200 to 5,000 dollars. The higher the amount you require for your wattage and operation, the more expensive the kits will be. Some sellers may also include the installation service in the price of the kit.
If you do not have an existing solar setup yet, getting an inclusive package takes out all the hassle of getting each component individually. However, if you already have an active or ongoing setup, upgrading will be more inexpensive than purchasing all the parts brand-new.
The pros and cons of using solar well pumps
All technology comes with its own pros and cons. If you need some help in deciding whether relying on solar energy would be good for you, here are some important things you need to know:
The disadvantages of making use of solar water pumps
· You will mainly rely on the sun
Solar panels require sunlight in order to convert the photovoltaic cells to power. If the day is cloudy, you may get in trouble as there will not be enough sun for your array to absorb. Before you switch to a solar water pump, it would be best to assess whether your location is sunnier or if there are months where the sun will not be seen.
· The initial costs can be very high
It is not a secret – solar powered systems can be very expensive when it comes to the initial costs. This is exactly why more homes are not able to use solar power even if they want to. If you do not have enough budget and a bit of extra, you may want to put off the idea of having an independent power supply for now.
· Solar panels are not always included in packages
As said before, sellers can offer kits owners can purchase for starting their own solar powered well system. Unfortunately, some may not include the panels in the kits, which means that you need to buy them separately. Doing so can be very expensive and troublesome, plus owners without extensive knowledge in the technicalities may be too afraid to decide the right panel to get.
The advantage of making use of solar water pumps
· They are quite easy to install
If you are a handy person, installing an entire solar well pump on your own is possible. Most kits have thorough instructions and do not require the use of complicated tools.
· You will have electricity for free
Once you are done with the initial costs, forget worrying about the electricity your well pump consumes. As long as the sunlight in your area is generous, look forward to lower monthly bills.
· You can have a reliable supply of water
For people who need water for their livelihood, a short power outage can be drastic enough for their crops. Farmers will have to worry less about outages or about not having enough water supply during intermittent delays by municipal water providers.
· You will have a more efficient water system
When you make use of a solar well pump kit, best believe that you can get more control to your well pump system. Some owners are even able to automate the operation of their well pump so that their tanks will always contain a sufficient water supply.
· You are making use of an eco-friendly option
Instead of using electricity generated from fuel, you are doing your part by making use of a renewable energy source. Sure, even if you are only able to use solar power for your well pumps, doing so can make a huge difference, especially for farms and ranches that use lots of power for their well operations.