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Does Priming Matter For Submersible Well Pumps?

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The pump is one of the most costly components in any residential groundwater system. While pumps themselves can be expensive, the labor required to replace the pump can also be considerable. As a result, it's crucial to understand how your pump works and what you can do to avoid causing damages that may lead to premature wear or failure.

Maintenance is one critical aspect of ensuring a long and reliable life for any pump. While priming isn't something you should usually need to worry about for submersible pumps, it's still important to recognize why you might lose some performance and what that can mean for the longevity of your pump system.

What is Pump Priming?

Priming your pump fills it with water and removes any air trapped inside the pump casing. This action is necessary since the pump cannot generate sufficient pressure when acting against the drastically lower density of air vs water. Water also acts as a coolant for the pump, preventing the internal mechanical parts from overheating and wearing out.

Non-submersible pumps typically need to be filled with water before turning them on. Since submersible pumps sit underwater, they don't generally require manual priming. However, the self-priming nature of submersible pumps doesn't mean that they can't fail or that you can ignore the situation if your pump suddenly runs dry.

Why Would a Submersible Pump Fail?

Submersible pumps work by sitting below the static water level in your well, so there's usually no risk of air entering the system. However, it's still possible for the pump to run dry. When this occurs, the pump will no longer be able to draw water from its suction head. More crucially, the pump motor may continue to operate, which will rapidly cause it to overheat, wear, and fail.

Submersible pumps typically run dry when the well's water level falls, either temporarily or permanently. Water level changes generally occur when water usage exceeds the fill rate of the well, even if there's still plenty of groundwater available. The casing will eventually refill, but the drop in level can temporarily cause the pump to fill with air.

You can avoid these issues by using a pump with a low water sensor or installing a low water cut-off switch. However, a correctly operating well should not frequently run dry or cause the pump to lose its prime. In these cases, your recharge rate may be insufficient for your home's needs, your pump may be too high, or there may be another issue.

If you routinely suffer from pump issues, you should contact a well expert to examine your well and look for problems that may be causing your water level to drop. Keep these tips in mind when looking for well pump professionals near you.