What Makes a Well Pump Run Continuously? [Explained]


If your well pump runs non-stop, then it could be a sign it has developed some faults. Below are few reasons why your well pump runs continuously.

3 Reasons Why Your Water Pump Runs Non-Stop

1. Loss of Prime

A well pump will struggle to draw up water from a well if it isn’t properly primed. Priming a well pump requires filling the drop pipe with water. This water connects the pipe suction of the well pump to the water inside the well. Without priming, the well pump will struggle to create the right amount of pressure to raise water.

Well pumps can lose their prime if they’re inactive for a long period. This could be the case for places like vacation homes where people visit less often.

Priming a well pump is easy. It can be primed through the priming plug. The priming plug is a hexagonal or square, thread metal pipe plug that’s screwed to the top of the pump’s mechanism. Unscrew the plug and fill the opening with water stored in the pressure tank. Alternatively, you can use a long hose and a neighbouring water supply.

Suppose your pump has lost its prime and you notice this, don’t hesitate to switch off the pump. Allowing a dry pump to continue running can lead to overheating, which can cause other damages to the pump. If you don’t know how to properly prime a pump, contact your local plumber for assistance.

Some well pumps lose their prime repeatedly. Cases like this could be due to underlying problems, such as leaks in the drop pipe, air leaks in the impeller or pump casing, broken or faulty check valves in the well pump, or even a damaged foot valve at the bottom of the well.

2. Faulty Pressure Switch

All well water pressure tanks have an important component called the pressure switch. This switch monitors the water level in your pressure tank by taking note of the tank’s pressure. Pressure tanks can maintain adequate pressure, even as the water level drops. But if the water dips lower than the tank can handle, it will begin to affect the tank’s pressure.

Pressure tanks have a pre-set level of pressure. When the pressure in the tank dips below this level, the pressure switch is triggered. In turn, this action relays an electrical signal to the well pump to turn on. In the same manner, the pressure switch alerts the pump when it should stop running. But, if this switch is broken or faulty, it may not register the changes inside your pressure tank.

As a result, your well pump may never receive the signal to stop running.

Most times, a faulty pressure switch may be a result of debris that has settled in the tubing that leads to the switch. If you experience this with your pump, you’ll need the services of a plumbing technician to get the debris out. In other instances, when your well pump runs continuously, it could be that its pressure switch has been damaged or burned out. For this, you’ll need to get a replacement.

If you act slow in getting a replacement, your well pump will continue to run and this could expand the damages to your pump.

3. Open Fixtures

When water is depleted in a pressurised tank, the well pump is activated. This mechanism ensures that there’s always water in the tank.

When fixtures such as faucets and showers are running all the time, it also means there will always be less water in the pressure tank. As a result, your well pump will run continuously as well and eventually develop a fault.

To avoid this, make sure all your home fixtures are switched off when not in use. If there are signs of a leak somewhere in your house, call a plumber to check and fix them.

How Long Can a Well Pump Run Continuously?

Every house has a well pump supplying clean water. But how long this well pump can run remains a question.
Water pumps or well pumps depend on several factors to run continuously. Some of these factors include the type of well pump used and how the well tank influences the pump.

3 Types of Well Pump

The type of well pump you use at home determines how long your pump can run. Well pumps come in different sizes, types and power. These three things combined contribute to how long you can run your home pump or any pump at all.

There are three different types of well pumps: centrifugal, submersible, and jet pumps.

1. Centrifugal Pumps

These have less power than submersible and jet pumps. They are used for shallow water reservoirs. Centrifugal pumps are often used in wells that are around 25 feet deep or less.
Because centrifugal pumps are widely used in shallower wells that have less water, they run out of water faster, and as a result, their runtime is small.

2. Submersible Pumps

These types are widely used industrially and economically. Submersible pumps can draw up water from 25 feet underground and more — meaning they can be used in shallower wells and deeper reservoirs because of their high suction power.
Compared to centrifugal pumps, submersible pumps are suitable for deeper wells because they can hold and supply more water. This amazing feature ensures that they run continuously for a longer period.

If the pump has a continuous-duty motor attached to it, it can deliver water for 20 minutes non-stop.

3. Jet Pumps

Jet pumps come in two different types. The first is the submersible pump which has a higher suction power than the centrifugal pump and, the other is a more powerful jet pump built for a deeper well that go as deep as 100 feet.

Jet pumps have the highest suction power of any well pump. They have drainers that are upgradeable and can lift water from 50 feet underground to as deep as 100 feet. But the most amazing feature of the jet pump is its limitless suction power. These pumps can lift water continuously for as long as possible until the water in the well runs out.

How Do Well Tanks Influence Water Pump Operations?

Your well pump depends on how large your tank is to run continuously. If your tank is huge, that means it can hold more water and supply more water continuously. This also means your pump will be able to run continuously for a long period—as long as it has a high suction power.

However, it is not advisable to allow your well tank to run continuously for too long. Doing this will cause the well tank to overheat too often and eventually shorten its lifespan.

Moreover, these tanks have an air compartment in which if water enters, it could block the system and may damage it. If this happens, you’ll have no choice but to replace the tank. So, don’t run the system continuously. Rather, do it with constant breaks in-between for it to cool off.

How Many Hours Does a Well Pump Run Every Day?

Typically, well pumps can run up to 2 and a half hours a day.

Does a Well Pump Refill Itself?

Yes. Well pumps can refill themselves — if, given an appropriate amount of break, that is.

Bottom Line

If there is no issue with your water system, well pumps can run continuously for a long time. But sometimes this isn’t always the case. Some well pumps can run continuously because they have lost their prime. It could also be that the pressure switch of the water tank is faulty or maybe you always leave open your faucets. Any of these things will cause the water in your tank to finish quickly, thereby triggering the well pump to run continuously.

Running your well pump continuously depends on the type of well pump (size and suction power) and the size of your water tanks. For example, because of their extremely powerful suction power, jet pumps can run and draw up water from 100 feet underground continuously until there’s nothing left. Jet pumps are more powerful than submersible and centrifugal pumps, which are suitable for less deep wells.


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Joe Taylor

Over 2 decades of remodeling experience, Joe is an expert in home improvement. He is now the Managing Editor of PlumbJoe where he writes guides for homeowners. His hobbies include climbing, running and playing the piano.

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