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Domestic Water Systems Part 1 — Introduction and Drop Pipe For more than five years I have been

writing columns about virtually every topic related to the water well industry. Some have received a little bit more ink than others and some a little less. After careful consideration, one of the topics I feel I have given short shrift to is domestic or residential water systems. It is not that I don’t believe the subject is worthy of column space or interesting. It is quite the contrary. My initial years of work in this business were dedicated solely to the installation and servicing of domestic water systems, and I am fully aware that the vast majority of people reading this column regularly install or have installed this type of water system. In fact, call it ego, but I feel that my experience and knowledge level in working with domestic water systems, or “house pumps” as we used to call them, is on a par with almost anyone. The main reason I have not written more on this subject is because I felt that there was little I could offer as valuable information that most of you didn’t already know. I feel that has always been an important part of “Engineering Your Business” — to include topics of interest and industry importance without being redundant or too simplistic. But as I started formulating my schedule of columns late last year, I got to thinking there is a wealth of documented and undocumented information and “tricks of the trade” associated with each component of domestic water systems that I have never seen in print. I am not talking simply about the typical installation guidelines or sizing criteria we have all read, but the countless little tricks that I, as well as many others, developed during the years to make installation, troubleshooting, or service of domestic water systems just a little faster, safer, and easier. I got to thinking if I could find a way to assemble and present this information to my readers, there would most definitely be some value. So, here we are. In the next nine months I will dissect and examine a separate component of domestic water systems. This month, we will start with drop pipe and outline the current materials in use, their limitations, advantages and disadvantages, installation procedures, cost factors, and future trends. We will go from galvanized steel pipe to PVC to flexible hose, from individual strand cable to twisted cable to flat jacketed cable, and from galvanized pressure tanks to pre-charged steel diaphragm tanks to fiberglass pressure tanks. As this information will include the tried and true methods as well as the newer methods and materials of domestic pump installation, I firmly believe that benefits will be realized by both classes of readers: the so-called “old timers” as well as the up and coming “young bucks.” But before we get started, I need to state a few disclaimers that will universally apply to the upcoming nine-month series of articles: No. 1: All of the information you will read in the series on domestic water systems is mainly based on my personal experience and observations of what has worked for me and others I know in my region, and what hasn’t worked so well. In other words, they’re mostly

or unworkable to you. plastic pipe has rapidly gained favor as a common type of pipe used for submersible pump installations. or plastic pipe. In fact. 2: Always. 4: Although I’ve gone to great pains to try and provide the most accurate and up-todate information I can in this series. No. always practice recognized safety procedures and practices first and foremost to protect yourself. although ordinary black. in your own region based on your local codes. Each one of you must apply or not apply the information I will provide. Please remember that I will likely include some suggestions totally foreign to you. and personal and customer preferences. No way do we ever wish to actually apply the word “drop” to a well pump installation. or operate equipment against the manufacturer’s recommendations and installation guidelines. usually galvanized coated steel. tubing. as we all know. steel pipe.” dangerous.000 well?” Well. No. and at the same time transfer the pumped water to the surface. engineering guides. and electrical codes and never misapply. especially for larger pipe diameter installations (more than 4 inches). installation requirements. again I repeat. and the equipment you are installing. well conditions. or whatever else that is used to perform two basic jobs: to suspend the well pump/motor assembly and electrical cable. as you see fit. when I have used this term to customers. During the first two or so decades of the use of submersible well pumps. hose. generally between 1950 and 1970. steel pipe was also used extensively. I have based the recommendations on “typical” data from manufacturers. as well as leave out some common installation procedures you have lived with for decades. Drop Pipe — An Introduction The term “drop pipe” is certainly a misnomer. Although polyethylene pipe has and is still being used for many well applications. cost factors. What you will read is not to be inferred or intended as the “gospel” or anyone’s final word on pump installation. your employees. simply don’t use it or do it! No. 3: Always follow your local and state well. they have often given me a quizzical look. I have not included it as a sample type of drop pipe due to the wide preference . your customer and their home. It is not my intent to dictate to anyone what they should or should not use in assembling a domestic water system for their customer. and my personal experience and cannot and do not guarantee any of the information or recommendations contained within this series for fitness or for any specific application. or uncoated. a “shallow well” is any water well less than 30 feet in total depth). like they were thinking: “Is this guy really going to drop my brand new $1000 pump down my brand new $10. the term “deep well” refers to any water well that is deeper than 30 feet in total depth. plumbing. If I. You the reader must apply your own personal judgment and experience in the design of water systems and assume all liability for the use or application of any information contained within this series. install. drop pipe simply refers to the continuous assembly of metallic. During the last 15 to 20 years as technology and confidence in plastics has opinions. was almost exclusively used for all deep well installations (for the purposes of this series. suggests something that patently sounds “stupid. rubber. or anyone else.

while schedule 120 is often regarded as double extra strong (XXS) pipe. regardless of pressure rating. For those who continue to use poly pipe for their installations. IPS is still commonly used. thus reducing the inside diameter. PVC pipe. but has an inside diameter of 1.shown toward polyvinylchloride (PVC) pipe over other kinds of “poly” pipe in most regions.375 inches has an inside diameter of 2. Drop Pipe — The Technical Stuff Drop pipe used for domestic water well applications in North America is generally cylindrical (round) in cross-sectional shape and manufactured from steel or PVC in standard lengths of 20 feet or 21 feet. schedule 80 is usually referred to as “extra strong” (XS) pipe. I also highly recommend the use of cable guards at intervals not exceeding 50 feet and a maximum setting depth of 200 feet.939 inches and a wall thickness of 0. because of its relative stiffness and strength and ability to use/install in standard lengths. and is generally available between schedule 10 up to schedule 160 for steel pipe and schedules 40. I always recommend the use of torque arrestors and centering guides at the appropriate intervals. However. but lower hydraulic capacity than the schedule 40 pipe. while steel drop pipe is typically provided with threaded connections using couplings. Schedule 40 is generally regarded as the “standard” (STD) size for steel pipe. PVC drop pipe is available in threaded and glued configurations. resulting in higher strength. . Pipe used in the United States has traditionally been classified according to its Iron Pipe Size (IPS). and 120 for PVC drop pipe. I highly recommend the use of pressure rating 125 or 160 psi rather than 80 and 100 psi ratings due to their greater stiffness and higher strength. For example. Recently. For example. along with various classifications and schedules. when using any type of flexible drop pipe. schedule 40 pipe will often be shown as SCH40S or simply 40S. Finally. as well as a safety cable or rope in order to protect the installation. This resulted in various sizes of pipes with different inside diameters while maintaining a uniform outside diameter. When using polyethylene pipe for submersible pump installations.067 inches. However. a new method of drop pipe has hit the market: a system using a flexible flat hose that is available in diameters between 1 inch to 8 inches. In order to provide consistency. a 2-inch schedule 80 steel pipe will have the same outside diameter.218 inch. resulting in a wall thickness of 0. pipe manufacturers decided many years ago to maintain uniformity in each pipe size’s outside diameter and to vary the wall thickness as required for strength. a 2inch schedule 40 steel pipe with a typical outside diameter of 2. 80. although the preferred term in recent years is the Nominal Pipe Size (NPS). PVC and steel drop pipe for domestic well applications is available in typical pipe diameters between 1 to 2 inches.154 inch. although welded connections are sometimes used for larger diameters or where couplings within the well would be obstructive. and is commonly used for environmental and well rehabilitation applications. has become the most common style of plastic pipe used for modern submersible pump installations. A pipe schedule is a commonly recognized term that refers to the relationship between a pipe’s wall thickness and outside diameter.

another recent addition to the available arsenal of drop pipe is the use of a strong. and PVC pipe is limited to the schedule 80 and 120 sizes with threaded joints. Should any corrosion occur. After all. and corrosion. for the purposes of this article. Steel pipe has been limited to galvanized coated pipe. For these reasons alone. I have even seen 3⁄4-inch pipe joints come apart in a well simply due to exposure from the normal shaking of the string during installation or removal. especially where the pump is installed and removed regularly between different sites. provides an excellent alternative to steel pipe in corrosive or environmentally sensitive applications. All three components are important to proper selection. Therefore.Generally. As previously indicated. the use of schedule 40 PVC is not recommended and not included in the selection chart. along with the use of a specialized reel used to install and store the hose. Although I have personally seen pump installations using 3⁄4-inch drop pipe. it is my opinion that even though 3⁄4-inch may be appropriate for very low yield wells of less than 3 gpm. but one item will often be the deciding factor in an actual application. threaded connections for drop pipe use a standard method and terminology for pipe threads that ensures uniformity between all manufacturers and countries of origin. layflat hose. or if the pump was to become slightly or fully stuck in the well. the advent of schedule 80 and 120 pre-threaded PVC pipe has proved to be much more reliable and has eliminated the concern of losing a pump due to a failed glue joint or adapter. local market conditions. the relatively low cross-sectional area of material in the pipe wall and threads creates a risky proposition when used down a water well. which covers more than 95% of the domestic well pump installations. it should not be included in a discussion of technical merits. Although in the early days of PVC drop pipe we used schedule 40 pipe with glued couplings for the joints. You may notice that I didn’t include cost as a factor. Accordingly. In addition. The standard used for pipe threads in the U. such as test wells or monitoring wells. the NPT term is sometimes used to refer to a National Pipe Taper thread. is generally referred to as National (American Standard) Pipe Threads or NPT.S. I do not recommend the use of any size in any material smaller than 1 inch for well drop pipe. More commonly this is referred to as a 3⁄4 taper. we shall examine the technical merits of each type of drop pipe only and leave the cost factor up to the salesperson. So. Drop Pipe — Selection There are three basic components to effective drop pipe selection: strength of the pipe and connections. Threads used for pipe connections are generally tapered in configuration and right hand direction (clockwise) to tighten. there is a good chance that 3⁄4-inch drop pipe or thread would split apart when any substantial pull is placed upon it. and customer/installer preference often dictate the issues of cost of a specific drop pipe beyond my ability to discuss it in any detail. hydraulic capacity. Although cost is most assuredly an important factor in a domestic well pump installation. . This method. This was intentional. As I indicated in the earlier disclaimer. the reader should employ caution when using this table. Most pipe thread tapers are uniform at 3⁄4-inch of taper per foot of thread. isn’t that what they’re paid the big bucks for? The table shown with this article has been prepared to assist the reader with the selection of drop pipe in sizes between 1 and 2 inches. inventory.

refer to the applicable manufacturer or supplier to verify technical data. . and always use his or her own judgment in the final selection.