Though it typically sits in the crawl space under a home, out of sight and out of mind, a shallow well pump is one of your most important appliances if your home relies on well water. These machines, with ½- to 1-horsepower motors, supply all the water to the house, drawing it up from the well in the ground to the kitchens and bathrooms. Shallow well pumps move 6 to 12 gallons of water per minute or more from wells up to 25 feet in the ground into a pressurized holding tank that stores the water for use in the home.
Use this guide to learn about the crucial features to consider when shopping for the best shallow well pump, and check out some quality models that suit a variety of situations.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Shallow Well Pump
As with any type of pump, horsepower and gallons per minute are arguably the most crucial shopping considerations. Other important aspects include the pump’s durability and the depth of the well it can service. Read on for the factors and features to keep in mind during the search for the best shallow well pump.
Depth is the most important factor to consider when choosing a pump for a well. A well accesses an underground aquifer that serves as its water source. For wells that are 25 feet deep or less, a shallow well pump, also referred to as a “jet” pump, is the best choice. Wells that are deeper than 25 feet require a deep well pump. Shallow well pumps can pump from depths up to 25 feet at a rate of between 6 and 12 gallons per minute.
Shallow well pumps use multiple types of materials for their housing, including plastic, stainless steel, and cast iron. Plastic is the most affordable, but it’s also the least durable. Though a plastic pump can cost less up-front, it most likely will require replacement sooner than a stainless steel or cast-iron model.
Stainless steel has natural properties that resist corrosion and rust; however, it isn’t as strong as iron and therefore won’t last as long. Although cast-iron pumps are the most expensive option, their durability may make them worth the larger initial investment since they usually last considerably longer than other materials.
Some exceptions exist, however. Most cast-iron pumps feature powder coatings that protect the metal from corrosion and rust; however, these coatings aren’t impregnable. In wells on properties with a significant amount of sand or sediment, the forged iron may eventually rust and corrode. In these situations, pumps with a thermoplastic housing, which better resist corrosion, are a wiser option.
A pressure switch serves as the on/off button for the pump. The switch detects the amount of pressure in the home’s pressurized water supply tank. It automatically turns on the pump when the pressure falls below a certain low psi (pounds per square inch) and off when the water pressure reaches a preset high psi. The optimal water pressure for most homes is between 40 and 50 psi, which is enough to provide adequate water pressure for most water receptacles in a home. As such, most manufacturers set pressure switches to turn on when they drop to 30 psi and off when they reach 50 psi.
Shallow well pumps work in conjunction with a pressurized tank. The pump moves water into the tank until it reaches 50 psi. That tank serves as the home’s pressurized water supply, preventing the pump from turning on every time someone opens a faucet. As the tank’s water supply decreases, so does the psi. When it drops to 30, the pump kicks on to recharge the tank to its max psi of 50.
Shallow well pumps work with either pre-charged storage tanks or air-to-water tanks. A pre-charged storage tank has a bladder inside the tank. As water fills the bladder, the air around it is compressed. When someone opens a faucet, the compressed air squeezes the bladder, sending the water to the faucet.
Air-to-water tanks work similarly, only with no bladder. As the pump forces water into the tank, it compresses the existing air inside it, creating the pressure needed to expel water when someone opens a faucet.
Shallow well pumps work with a variety of well piping, including copper, flexible plastic, or rigid plastic.
In addition to serving as a shallow well pump, some models also can function as a booster pump for homes with deep wells or on city water with low water pressure. These pumps attach to the home’s plumbing, helping to improve water pressure from a municipal water connection. They also can boost the output of a deep well pump that may be struggling to move water from 100 plus feet below the ground to the home’s plumbing. Shallow well pumps also can supplement other water needs, supplying water pressure for a home’s irrigation system or swimming pool cleaning system.
Shallow well pumps are rated by the number of gallons they can deliver per minute. Purchasing the right size is crucial, since a shallow well pump is responsible for supplying all the water a home uses. The general rule is that a pump should be able to supply 1 gallon per minute per water fixture for bathtubs, showers, and sinks. For most homes, a pump that can move about 7 gallons of water per minute is adequate.
Horsepower directly relates to the number of gallons per minute (GPM) a pump can move. Pumps come in ½-, ¾-, and 1-horsepower models. Most ½-horsepower pumps can move about 7 to 9 gallons of water per hour, making them suitable for most homes.
Most pumps have an overload relay, which protects the pump by shutting it off before it overheats and damages the motor. For example, without overload protection, should a leak occur in the supply tank that prevents the pump pressure switch from reaching the cutoff of 50 psi, the pump could continually work to reach that threshold, eventually burning out the motor. When the overload protection feature senses that the motor is overloaded, it shuts off the pump.
Our Top Picks
The pumps described here are constructed with durable materials and are powerful enough to meet the needs of small and large houses. Any of them can do a solid job of supplying a home with enough water to meet the needs of its occupants.1Photo: amazon.com Check Latest Price
Rock-solid construction and size options make this Red Lion pump work for different household sizes. It’s available in ½-horsepower (12 GPM), ¾-horsepower (16 GPM), and 1-horsepower (23 GPM) options to suit small and large homes.
The durable well pump has thick cast-iron construction and weighs 40-plus pounds. This pump can work with both 115-volt and 230-volt power supplies.2Photo: amazon.com Check Latest Price
Outfitting a home with a pump doesn’t have to be a major investment. This Acquaer model offers construction and power similar to other shallow well pumps at a more affordable price. The ½-horsepower pump can move 12 gallons of water per minute, typically enough to handle even larger households.
Although the housing, which consists of cast iron and steel parts, isn’t as rugged as models with all cast-iron construction, it’s durable enough to stand up to daily use for many years. And its comparably high flow rate means it won’t need to run constantly to keep up with the home’s water demands. A preset switch shuts off when the tank reaches 50 psi and turns it back on when it drops to 30 psi. This pump works on both 115-volt and 230-volt power.3Photo: amazon.com Check Latest Price
Those who rely on well water, or even homes on city water with low water pressure, can face landscaping irrigation challenges. This booster pump may offer a solution. It boasts a 1.6-horsepower motor, enough to pump 14 gallons of water per minute at a maximum depth of 23 feet. It also includes adapters that fit standard garden hoses to attach a hose from the water source to the pump and from the pump to the sprinkler.
Sturdy stainless steel housing protects the pump from rust and corrosion, while a large wraparound handle and a relatively light weight of about 17 pounds make it easy to move into position. Unlike most regular shallow well pumps, this model lacks an automatic pressure switch and must be turned off and on manually. This model also requires priming by adding water to the filter before use.4Photo: homedepot.com Check Latest Price
With a ½-horsepower motor and ability to pump up to 7 gallons per minute, this Everbilt pump has a durable thermoplastic housing, which resists corrosion and rust better than other materials. It functions off a pressure switch that turns on the pump when the pressure tank drops to 30 psi and turns it off when it reaches 50 psi.
A fan cools the motor during operation, helping to extend its life. It’s one of the more compact well pumps on the market, making maneuvering it into tight areas, such as a crawl space, more manageable. This model, which can work with either 115-volt or 230-volt connections, weighs 15 pounds.5Photo: homedepot.com Check Latest Price
This ½-horsepower pump from Everbilt doesn’t require a pressure tank; instead, it comes with its own. The pump sits on a 6-gallon tank, and while this is too small to handle the needs of a house, it can suit homes with a separate well or water source for irrigation or for vacation cabins that pull water from a lake or small well.
The pump and tank produce 7 gallons of water per minute. The pre-primed pump can automatically start when the pressure in the tank falls to 30 psi and turn off when it reaches the tank’s maximum 50 psi pressure level. Made of durable cast iron, the tank is bolted to the steel tank, which provides a solid base for the pump. The unit is prewired to work with either 115-volt or 230-volt power.6Photo: amazon.com Check Latest Price
With an ample output and durable construction, this model from Red Lion is a great pick for medium- to large-size homes. Its ½-horsepower motor is powerful enough to produce a flow rate of up to 7 gallons per minute. Its heavy-duty cast-iron housing is durable, ensuring it can hold up to many years of use.
The shutoff switch turns on at 30 psi and turns off at 50 psi automatically. This pump comes prewired with either 115-volt or 230-volt connections.7Photo: amazon.com Check Latest Price
While cast-iron pumps are among the most durable, they can be vulnerable to gritty water that can cut through its protective coating and cause rust to form. For sandy water, this Flotec model, which uses a thermoplastic housing instead of cast-iron housing, is a good choice. While it isn’t as burly as a cast-iron pump, it offers resistance to corrosion and comparable performance.
The ½-horsepower model can pump up to 8 gallons per minute, while the ¾-horsepower model can move 12 gallons per minute; its 1-horsepower model can pump up 18 gallons per minute. The ½-horsepower motor runs off a 115-volt power source, while the ¾- and 1-horsepower models require a 230-volt power source. This model is one of the larger pumps on this list.8Photo: amazon.com Check Latest Price
This pump from Wayne comes in ½- to 1-horsepower options. Its smallest pump can move 6¼ gallons per minute at 50 psi, typically enough for small households of one or two people. Its larger 1-horsepower model can move 8½ gallons per minute, which should provide enough water flow for larger families. A ¾-horsepower model is also available.
With its heavy cast-iron construction (it weighs about 41 pounds), this pump can hold up to daily use. An automatic pump switches on when water pressure drops to 30 psi and off when it reaches 50 psi. This pump can work with both 115-volt and 230-volt power sources.
FAQs About Shallow Well Pumps
If you’re wondering about the electrical requirements for a shallow well pump or how to use one, read on for answers to commonly asked questions about these units.
While a shallow well pump doesn’t require a pressure gauge that you can see, it does require a pressure switch. The switch turns the pump on and off based on the pressure in the water supply tank paired with the pump.
Most shallow well pumps are wired to work with either a 115-volt or 230-volt power supply. The pumps are typically prewired by the manufacturer, so make sure to choose the right option for your home when purchasing the unit.
No. Shallow well pumps are rated for use only up to depths of 25 feet, which is beyond the depth of deep wells. Deep well pumps also are submersible, while shallow well pumps are not.