Even if you can't see your submersible pump, you expect an even flow of water when you turn on a faucet. But if the water contains plastic, sand or debris, is uneven or stops completely, the pump could be in distress and require removal. Pulling a submersible is not complicated, but there are issues. The weight, logistics and safety of the task must be respected.
Deep Well Anatomy
Typically residing between 50 and 300 feet below the ground, the submersible pump is a cylinder attached to an electric motor. The motor is powered by a 220- or 240-V system that can give you a lethal shock and shouldn't be tampered with unless you're a licensed professional. Removing a submersible pump from a well casing typically requires professional assistance.
Physics of Deep Wells
The average weight of the pump, wire and water-filled pipe of a 100-foot well is at least 120 pounds or more. Pumps for deeper well systems can weigh more than 300 pounds. The entire system must be continuously lifted to prevent it from dropping back into the well. If the system is too heavy to lift by hand, a derrick and winch, or specially equipped truck with a crane, must be used to lift it.
Find the Depth
If you have no idea how deep your well is, consult your local building department for records. The original well driller might have the depth on record. If that doesn't help, check the well casing for a stamp or small metal plaque. Check inside the house around the tank. Forward-thinking installers sometimes write specs on studs or joists near the well piping or system components inside the house. If all else fails, you can hire a service to scope the well with a camera or try the DIY method of lowering a cone-shaped magnet into the well on a string.
The only specialized tool needed is a T-handle pitless adapter removing tool. The adapter is the junction where the pipe turns 90 degrees to deliver the water into your home. It typically resides between 24 and 48 inches below the surface of the well. The T-handle tool is nothing more than a pipe with a handle, and you can make one yourself.
Make a T-Handle
Assemble 1-inch copper pipe and a T-fitting to form a T-shape, about 36 to 48 inches in length. The fitting at the bottom -- the part that screws into the adapter -- is typically a 1-inch MIP sweat fitting. But keep some 1 1/4 and 1 1/2-inch fittings on hand in case your adapter is larger.
Pulling a Submersible by Hand
Here are the basic steps for removing a submersible pump from a relatively shallow well (100 feet, or so). Again, this work is best left to professionals.
Step 1: Clear the Area
Shut off the breaker to the pump. Clear a 10-foot radius of shrubs, plants or obstacles from the well casing. Put on nonslip gloves and safety glasses.
Use a noncontact voltage tester to ensure that power is no longer flowing in the system. The tester detects voltage through the plastic coating on the wires. Check all electrical connections, fixtures and wires before proceeding to ensure the power is off.
Step 2: Remove the Well Cap
Use a 3/4-inch socket and ratchet to remove the nuts from the cap on top of the casing. Insert a screwdriver between the well cap and casing. Pry the cap off the casing.
Step 3: Connect the T-Handle Tool
Insert the T-handle tool
Place a piece of tape on the T-handle to mark the depth of the adapter before removing it from the well, to facilitate its replacement.
Step 4: Remove the Adapter
Tap upward on the T-handle with a hammer to separate the adapter from the pipe. Pull the T-handle up out of the casing, bringing the adapter and pipe with it. Tie a 1/4-inch safety rope to the water pipe below the adapter.
Step 5: Pull the Pump
Pull up on the water pipe. Use an assistant to guide the slack pipe out of the way as you pull it hand over hand, until the pump is out of the casing.
If you happen to have a tree, or other tall object in close enough proximity to the casing, it's sometimes possible to string a rope and pulley system or winch, and use it to lift the pump from the well.
Weight, Pipes and Safety
If the pump is suspended with galvanized pipe, the pump must be lifted with a derrick or truck equipped with a crane. Each 20-foot section must be supported, unscrewed and removed a piece at a time. Because of the difficulty, weight, equipment and the possibility of damaging the pump or getting shocked or injured, hiring a professional contractor is highly recommended.
Overhead wires or electrical fixtures that interfere with a crane or derrick are dangerous. Take precautions to avoid them.