Well - Turning power off in really cold weather

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by modineg44, Dec 4, 2013.

  1. modineg44

    modineg44 Well-Known Member

    Jun 24, 2002
    Rural N.Texas
    We are going to have some really cold weather the next few days, probably below 10 degrees. This is in N. Texas near the Red River. Since there will be ice and sleet, too, the power may go off. Would it be a good idea for me to turn off power to the well? I have plenty of water stored in the house and a propane heater wall heater in the house. It's not supposed to get above freezing until Tuesday. I have heat tape on the well house pipes and also a light; of course that won't be any good if the power goes off.
  2. AKacres

    AKacres Active Member

    Oct 28, 2013
    Depends on how deep your well is as to whether or not you need to worry about it freezing. Ours is about 140 feet and we've had 60 below. No problems at all. I wouldn't think that 10 above for a few days would freeze your well unless it's really shallow.

  3. Nimrod

    Nimrod Well-Known Member

    Jun 8, 2010
    North Central MN
    Depends on what type of well you have. A drilled deep well will have the pump down inside the well casing far enough to be in the water and the pipe to the house comes off the casing below the frost line so no pipes with water are exposed to the freezing temps. This type of well doesn't freeze even at -60 we have here sometimes. This seems like what AK described.

    It sounds like you have exposed pipes that can freeze and break. You probably have the well pump on top of the well too. In any event, if you have pipes that will freeze if the power goes off, you have to drain them or the water will expand when it freezes and rupture the pipes and damage the well pump beyond repair if it's exposed. I would figure out how to drain or blow out the pipes and pump but wouldn't do it until the power went out and stayed out for a few hours.

    If you do drain the pipes and well then do turn the electricity to the pump off. You don't want the pump to run when it'd dry and if the system can't build up pressure, the pump will keep running until it burns itself out.

    The alternative is to get a generator and plug in the heat tapes and light bulb to keep things from freezing. Most likely a generator won't be able to run the well pump so it's good you have a supply of water in the house.

    You could try putting a long burning candle in the pump house. It probably will generate enough heat to keep things from freezing at 10 degrees. You would risk it starting a fire and you will have to check it to be sure it doesn't use up all the oxygen and go out.

    You may have to drain/blow out the pipes and electric water heater in the house if they are in danger of freezing during a power outage. Don't forget to put some RV type antifreeze in the toilet tank and bowl and the drain traps so they don't break.
  4. jennigrey

    jennigrey Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jan 27, 2005
    Washington, USA
    I would if I were you. Shut it off and drain the pipes.

    If the exposed pipes and pump, etc could be kept thawed by a lamp or lantern, then maybe leave it be.

    Do you have the kind of pump that you would have to prime your pump if you drained the lines?
  5. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jan 20, 2004
    Well. What kind of pump do you have, is it down the bottom of the hole, or up on the surface? And if up on the surface, how is it kept from freezing up?

    Might be better to keep water moving every few hours, than to let it freeze up for a long time.

    Up here on MN things are designed to be 6 feet deep, nothing is exposed to the cold weather, so doesn't matter for freezing if the well is on or off. We prepare for 30 below extremes....

    My concern would be damage to the pump from the power going off - electrical spikes are hard on them, and turning it off so it doesn't get damaged from a power outage and the brownout conditions as the power comes back on would be good.

    But likely you are more worried about freezing than power?

  6. 1shotwade

    1shotwade Well-Known Member

    Jul 9, 2013
    southern hills of indiana
    Around here we do it just the opposite.Running water will not freeze nearly as easy as still water. Turn a faucet on in the house and allow it to stay on just faster than a drip. That's all you need most of the time.If your pump is above the well you will have a check valve in line in the pick up hose so you can not drain that if things freeze up.If your pump is in a pump house and power goes out take a kerosene lamp or lantern to the pump house and keep checking on it so it doesn't run out of fuel.Do what it takes to keep the heat in your pump house.Just a light bulb will keep it from freezing but you won't have power so think in those terms.Anything you can use to produce that small amount of heat.
    Any lines from the pump to the house should be under ground so should be ok. It takes a long time at 10* to freeze down into the earth.You should come thru it just fine but it doesn't hurt to pray a little.

    Darren and kasilofhome like this.
  7. BlueberryChick

    BlueberryChick Well-Known Member Supporter

    May 12, 2008
    South Carolina
    We turn off our secondary well (for irrigation and animals), if the temps here get below the mid-twenties. As has been mentioned, it's not the well that freezes, it's the above ground pipes that are at risk. We turn off the power to the well and drain the pipes.

    For the well that serves the house, my husband had a great idea several years ago. He bought an inexpensive greenhouse at Lowes and set it up over the pump. As long as the temperature stays above the mid-twenties, that's all we need. Colder than that (and it happens occasionally down here!) and a small ceramic heater keeps the temps high enough to prevent the pipes from freezing.
  8. homstdr74

    homstdr74 Well-Known Member

    Jul 4, 2011
    South Central Missouri
    If you have a well house, a small camper-type propane heater will work to heat it for several hours. Another possibility, and one that will last longer but not produce as much heat, is a kerosene lamp--the sort with a glass chimney on it; maybe not perfect but safer than a candle.

    That doesn't satisfy keeping any exposed pipe going to the house safe, though. If the pipe is underground but above any possible frost line, heaping sawdust or some similar insulation on top of the ground along the line works well--a neighbor of ours did that for many years and never had any trouble with it here in South-Central Missouri.
  9. Wolf mom

    Wolf mom Well-Known Member

    Mar 8, 2005
    Appalachian Foothills
    Yup, like rambler said, I'd be more concerned about electrical spikes. Electricity goes out here frequently from a flash to a day, averaging 2- hours. I have surge protectors on everything! You can have them wired into your pump house.

    the thing to be concerned about is ruining the "expensive to fix" items due to a surge. - pump, furnace, refrig. etc.

    As far as freezing pipes, I have heat tape on my pump pipes and if I think it's going to be a really hard freeze, I'll let the water dribble out of the furthest faucet from where the water enters the house. Don't know if that makes sense, but seems to have worked for 11 years - (except for the the time I got complacent & didn't & had a frozen pipe somewhere outside).
  10. kasilofhome

    kasilofhome Well-Known Member

    Feb 9, 2005
    Alaska- Kenai Pen- Kasilof
    Never heard of turning off the well power in cold weather--heck --I would not have water most of the winter. Temps at minus 40 are a bit--messing with the well has a greater chance of a mess up in the fridged temps.

    Draining pipes that will freeze is normal action but not turning off the well.
  11. JoePa

    JoePa Well-Known Member

    Mar 14, 2013
    get one of those small propane heaters and put it into the pump house - the pipes - if they are above the ground can be insulated - run the pump periodically to put water through the pipes - you should be ok
  12. Jim-mi

    Jim-mi Well-Known Member

    May 14, 2002
    If the grid goes down (from the storm) yes turn off the breaker to the well and don't turn back on until the grid is back on --and stable. It is that first many seconds when the grid is "turned back on" --looking into a huge load that the funky voltage could damage a pump.
    "blinking" on and off just before the grid "crashes" could also damage the pump motor---if the pump were running at the time the grid goes down.

    Neither surface or deep well pump motors do well with funky voltage......