Not only are they a good way of trimming the electric bill, but solar generators can also be a great asset to your property. Whether you’re out somewhere living off the grid or just trying to curb some water problems caused by a utility outage, a solar generator could be the answer to your problems.
Can a solar generator power a well pump? The short answer is yes, but it depends on a number of factors.
There is a bunch of stuff that’s important to be aware of if you’re considering integrating a solar power system into your well pump. That’s where we come in.
Solar Generators to Run a Well Pump
Why Would You Install a Solar Generator?
Many people can’t use their well pump in the event of a power outage because it relies on utility power. However, a solar generator can supply power to the pump during a power outage, providing you with running water even when the lights are out.
Since it relies on a renewable source of solar energy, a solar generator can be used on properties in rural or isolated areas, whether the water supply is at surface level or deep underground.
It’s also an effective way of cutting costs on your monthly electric bill, plus the maintenance is minimal and inexpensive with the models of recent years.
You’d only have to replace two items occasionally. The solar panels need a good scrubbing every couple of years to ensure that they perform at their best. Then, every five years or so, the pumping mechanisms need to be replaced. Both items are cheap and easy to do.
It’s also a lot cheaper opting for an off-grid solar power system instead of trying to trench main power to an isolated location. Trenching will cost you time and money.
You can think of the solar power system as the new-age version of the windmill, with the added bonus of not having to rely on how hard the wind blows.
What Kind of Well Pumps Are Out There?
There are a few things to consider before installing a well pump if you haven’t done so already. But even then, some of this info will prove useful to you.
A submersible well pump, as the name suggests, is installed underwater inside of the well. It’s practical and suited for most wells regardless of how deep they are. They’re considered to be quite flexible which is, in part, why they’re so prevalent in the market.
This kind of pump is watertight which means that they are going to last a long time before they need any repairs.
When the repairs do need to be done, though, then the pump would have to be entirely removed from the well. A professional can do this for you but the labor involved will bump up the repair costs.
The average submersible well pump needs 2,500 W of energy to run efficiently, so you’ll need a fairly hefty setup to power it.
A jet pump is more sophisticated than other pumps. It can deliver more water faster because of the high levels of power it can put out. Fortunately, it’s also capable of working at various depths.
The installation process is a little different from other pumps as it depends on whether the pump is a double-drop or single-drop model.
A single-drop model is ideal for shallow wells. It can be set up inside, either in a separate building or inside your house.
A double-drop model is good for deeper wells but requires a different installation, called a “split”. This means that while the components regarding the jet assembly are inside of the well, the motor has to stay dry above ground.
It can be an expensive endeavor upfront but the low cost of maintenance makes it a cheaper long-term investment.
Jet pumps come at a range of powers, but the most basic will run at around 1.5 horsepower. This can take anywhere between 2,000 and 2,400 watts.
This is nearly twice as much power as you’d need to power a space heater, so you’ll need a strong generator to keep it going.
A centrifugal pump needs to be located next to the well inside mechanical housing as opposed to inside the well, which makes maintenance less of a hassle.
The pump rotates a fan internally creating a negative suction pressure, resulting in a vacuum that pulls water from inside the well. One shortcoming is that it doesn’t create a strong enough suction force that can be used in deeper wells. This is why centrifugal pumps should preferably be used in a well that’s shallower than 25 ft.
While it’s not the best-performing pump, it can still do its job and be the most affordable option available.
Of all the well pump options, this one requires the least amount of power, coming in at an average of 1,200 watts. While this is still more than what your average, portable 300-watt solar generator can power, it’s more in range for average solar battery packs, making it a good option for the average user.
AC & DC Water Pumps
AC and DC when talking about water pumps denote what kind of electrical current they use to generate power. AC is alternating current and DC is direct current. Both come with their respective ups and downs.
One of the biggest advantages that an AC pump has is that it is the standard kind of pump you can get. All homes are connected to a municipal grid run off of AC power, which means that pretty much every pump is running off either 120V or 240V AC.
So, you could already have an AC pump connected if you live in a grid-connected home, or it’s going to be cheap to get one. The high voltage means that the wiring costs aren’t going to be an issue since higher voltages can run on cheaper and thinner wires.
The downside is that you’ll need a high-power inverter if you want to run an AC pump on solar energy. This can easily push up the cost by several hundred in the end. If you’re running your well pump from a generator, this can have a negative on the lifespan of your solar batteries.
Inverters also reduce the total efficiency of the solar power system which means you may have to add more solar panels or increase the size of your battery bank to compensate for any loss in power.
A DC water pump doesn’t need an inverter which makes it quite advantageous to have one on an off-grid system. This also means that buying a new pump doesn’t involve the inverter, a battery, or solar panel capacity making it the lowest cost choice.
Unlike the AC pumps, which are readily available, you may have to buy a new one on special order. DC pumps also run at lower voltages, which means that they use a different kind of wiring setup. It can get quite expensive if there’s a big distance between the power source and the pump itself.
It’s also not the ideal choice if your water usage tends to be higher as DC pumps only come in lower to medium capacity models. High water usage means you’d be better off using the AC pump.
How Many Solar Panels Does a Water Pump Need?
The number of panels you’ll need depends on the wattage the water pump needs to run. Generally speaking, a 1,000W water pump would need 5 solar panels.
You should also keep in mind that the measurements should be totally accurate to ensure that enough energy is being delivered from the panels to the pump. It’s better to aim for a little more than you need to make sure you can run your pump even when it needs more power than the rated setting.
Already have a solar system? Not an issue but remember to take into account the relationship between the output of the panels with the input of the generator.
The Best Solar Generators for Running a Well Pump
Solar generators are the modern-day answer to windmills and gas-powered generators. Relying on a renewable energy source like the sun, it can provide your well pump with the necessary power to deliver running water to your home, whether you’re off-grid or experience a power outage.
The River Max is quite a small solar generator considering that it has a battery capacity of 576Wh. Although, it can still do a decent job when hooked up to solar panels. The max solar input that it can handle is 200W.
The downside to having such as small battery capacity is the pump it’ll be used for. For the River Max, the ideal pump has to be specced at 12V, 10A which is prohibitively specific and not everyone might have a pump like that.
The average battery cycle life of the River Max falls a bit short in comparison to other solar generators. It only takes about 500 cycles before the battery’s capacity degrades to 80%.
One of the great things about the EcoFlow River Max is that it can be used while charging, which makes it ideal for running your well pump without having to store the required energy beforehand.
For well pumps that need to be used on a daily basis, this would have to be the best-suited solar generator for it.
The generator includes the expandable battery feature and can even stack the batteries which are 2,000 Wh each. This means you can apply more energy storage to it, going as high as 15,000 Wh.
The generator also features a powerful AC inverter that can deliver 3,000 W continuously with a rated surge protection of 6,000 watts, so there’s no risk that your well pump will blow a fuse and leave you powerless.
While the generator is capable of powering most pumps that run between 115V and 120V it depends on how long the well pump will be running. This makes it ideal in the case of power outages when many homes’ access to running water is cut off.
However, the generator can only provide half of its maximum AC output and solar input with a single battery, you’ll need two batteries to have it running at its highest capacity.
We recommend keeping the owner’s manual in case of any issues as the LCD screen the generator comes with doesn’t show any warning lights or signs.
The Yeti has the largest battery capacity compared to the generators on this list, coming in at a whopping 3,032 Wh.
As such, it is able to power a number of appliances and utilities including well pumps, refrigerators, power tools, etc. It can provide a continuous output of up to 2,000 W from the AC ports and an output surge of 3,500 W.
Its downfall, like the River Max, is its battery cycle life which averages 500 cycles before the capacity goes down to 80%. It’s also not compatible with any third-party batteries that could help improve its lifespan.
Solar generators are more than just a fad. Recent developments in battery technology and smart charge controllers have opened a whole world of possibilities in terms of what you can power with these humble giants.
What was once the domain of gas-guzzling diesel generators can now easily be managed by eco-friendly, silent, and emission-free solar generators. Not only are you doing good by the planet by running your well pump from renewable energy, but you also get energy for free and need to do less routine maintenance to keep the lights on and the water flowing.
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