By Miranda Boutelle
Q: I get my water supply from my own well. How can I use less electricity with my well?
A: The energy a residential well system uses depends on the equipment and water use. The homeowner is responsible for maintaining the well, ensuring drinking water is safe and paying for the electricity needed to run the well pump. Here are steps to improve and maintain your residential well pump and use less electricity.
GET YOUR WELL SYSTEM INSPECTED
If you’re concerned about how much you pay to pump water from your well, start with an inspection.
Similar to heating and cooling systems, well pumps are put to work daily, and parts will wear over time. Regular maintenance can improve efficiency and may increase the lifespan of the system.
The proper system design and sizing can save energy. Oversizing equipment wastes energy. Ask a professional if your well equipment is properly sized for your needs. In some cases, adding a variable-speed drive can save energy. Keep in mind, well systems don’t last forever. Consider design and sizing before your existing system fails.
Things can go wrong with your well that are hard to spot. The water system may even act normally with good water pressure and flow while using more energy and causing higher bills.
One of the most common causes of increased energy use is underground water line leakage between the pump and the home. Water lines can freeze and break or be damaged by digging or by a vehicle driving over underground lines. Other issues can include waterlogged pressure tanks and malfunctioning equipment.
SAVE MONEY BY LOWERING YOUR WATER USE
Once you determine your well is in proper working order, the next place to look for savings is your water use. The less water you use, the less your well must work, and the less electricity it uses. Conserve water and electricity with your home systems and appliances with the following tips:
Toilets. Check your toilet for leaks by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank. If the color appears in the bowl without flushing, your toilet has a leak. This is likely caused by a worn flapper, which is an inexpensive and easy do-it-yourself fix.
If your toilets were installed before 1994, they are likely using more than 4 gallons of water per flush, which is well above new energy standards of 1.6 gallons. The average family can save nearly 13,000 gallons per year by replacing old, inefficient toilets with WaterSense-labeled models.
Dishwasher. Did you know new Energy Star-certified dishwashers use less water and less than half the energy it takes to wash dishes by hand? If you wash dishes by hand, start using your dishwasher instead. According to the Department of Energy, this simple change in habit can save more than 8,000 gallons of water each year.
Washing machine. Running full loads will save water and energy. You may also consider upgrading to an Energy Star-certified washing machine, which uses about 20% less energy and about 30% less water than regular washers. For extra savings, run loads with cold water and avoid water heating costs.
Showerheads and faucets. Get leaky showerheads and faucets fixed. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a leaky faucet that drips at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons of water per year.
Faucet and shower aerators are inexpensive devices that reduce the amount of water flow. For maximum water efficiency, look for faucet aerators with no more than 1 gallon per minute flow rates and low-flow showerhead flow rates of less than 2 GPM.
Miranda Boutelle is the chief operating officer at Efficiency Services Group in Oregon, a cooperatively owned energy efficiency company. She writes on energy efficiency topics for NRECA, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives.