While modern wells are based off of ancient technology our ancestors used to pull water from the ground (almost) everywhere, the actual “nuts and bolts” of these systems are significantly more complex – and getting more complex all the time.
Some of these improvements, like check valves, significantly improve the effectiveness and safety of the well system. Without check valves your well would be prone to “misbehaving”, with water flowing back into the well as soon as the pump shut off and wreaking havoc along the way.
Do all well pumps need a check valve? Yes, it is highly recommended to have a check valve on your well pump. A check valve helps and improves the overall operation of your well. Without it, you can run into a catastrophic failure.
Do I Need a Check Valve on My Well Pump?
The check valve system is actually a pretty simple and straightforward innovation that dramatically improves the overall operation of a well.
At their core check valves are little more than directional control systems, helping to allow water to flow in one direction while at the same time preventing the flow of water to reverse (even just a little bit).
Check valves open up as soon as water starts to flow through the system in the right direction and then shut down immediately the moment that back flows start to happen. Engineered to prevent backspin, water hammers, and upthrust situations (more on those in just a moment), the odds are pretty good that your well will in fact require a check valve set up.
These kinds of systems can be found on shallow wells (shallower than 120 feet), deep wells (deeper than 120 feet), and can even be found above ground in situations where installing them underground would have been difficult or next to impossible.
To check the current price and availability of a Well Pump Check Valve, click here to view the listing on Amazon.
Is Check Valve Necessary for Well Pump?
As mentioned a moment ago, wells that operate a pump without a check valve system run the risk of major headaches that can turn into potentially catastrophic failures.
Pumps that are operated on a regular and continuous basis have to stay “primed”. The systems need to be ready to flip on in a moment, on demand, and produce water almost instantaneously.
Without a check valve system in place, water would flow out of the pump and back into the well preventing the “priming” from happening in the first place. It would then take a while to build pressure and get water pumping again, delaying the system and making your modern plumbing running off the well whole lot more annoying to use.
On top of that, though, check valves that have been installed properly are going to help prevent three big issues – backspin problems, water hammer problems, and upthrust issues.
Backspin happens when water is allowed to fall freely back into your well, reaching a velocity that may even cause the pump to start spinning in the opposite direction. It’s not uncommon for backspin problems to actually put so much force on your pump trying to move in the “right” direction that the entire pump breaks altogether.
Water hammer problems allow vacuums to form inside your pump and your plumbing. When the pressure in your pipe is lower than the atmospheric pressure you’ll have these vacuum start to bubble up.
As soon as you turn your pump on, water is going to want to fill those vacuums at extremely high speeds – often slamming into water held in the plumbing system outside those vacuum pockets. This produces an almost jackhammer like effect on the plumbing and well components that can bust things wide open.
Upthrust issues mean that your pump (without a check valve) startup “cold” with zero head pressure at all. Head pressure is required to move water through the pump and pipe system in the first place.
Without that pressure built already the pump has to build it on its own, and if it has to build that pressure all the time you’ll end up wearing out your impellers and your diffusers – as well as your pump motor – a lot faster than you would have otherwise.
Where Do You Put a Check Valve on a Well Pump?
The overwhelming majority of modern well pumps come with check valves built right in, but you might be dealing with an older pump system and have to add your own.
If that’s the case, it’s a good idea that you install your new check valve system within 25 feet of the pump. It’s also a good idea to put your check valve below the drawdown level of your water supply as well.
Those that have particularly deep well installations (we are talking about hundreds of feet) will want to have multiple check valve systems in place. Putting check valves every 150 to 200 feet might be a good idea.
How Far Should a Check Valve Be from a Well Pump?
We mentioned a moment ago that you’ll want to have your check valve systems within 25 feet of the actual pump itself.
The closer you have your check valve the better (in most situations), as any further than 25 feet out and the check valve starts to lose its effectiveness.
Deeper pumps will need multiple check valves spaced out between 150 and 200 feet from one another.
How Does a Check Valve Work on a Well Pump?
Think of the check valve system on your well pump as a one-way street, only ever allowing water to flow in a single direction – the direction you want – and actively shutting down any water that tries to move in the reverse direction.
These systems are relatively simple and straightforward (mechanically, anyway) and have a high level of reliability. You’ll want to check and maintain your systems annually, though, just to be sure that your check valve is working the way it should be.
A critical part of modern well pump system, a check valve improves the operation and efficiency of your pump while protecting it from some pretty serious trouble that can bubble up if water is allowed to flow freely back into your well when the pump is turned off.
Almost all modern pumps come with check valve systems installed, but if you have an older well pump system you’ll want to think about installing one the next time you do regular maintenance or upgrades.
It’ll be a major improvement!