"The pumps of today are not nearly as different from make to make as they were in the past."

Well, readers, after six months of stories about an over-hungry grandson and changes in the pickup truck that transports him to the restaurant, I get back to more about submersible pumps.

As I have alluded to in past columns, these type pumps made and installed in 2011 pretty much are standard as to construction. Now I understand that each and every manufacturer has its own way of doing things, but the pumps of today are not nearly as different from make to make as they were in the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.

One of the big arguing points about design features “back in the day” was the advantage of oil-filled vs. water-filled motors. Now I am talking primarily about domestic pumps – that is, from 1⁄3 HP up through 2 HP. In the day, some manufacturers used only water-filled motors, which I believe are about the only motor used today. In a past column, I wrote about having to fill these motors before installation with really pure water using a small syringe. You readers know that, today, pumps come from the factory filled with lubricating water mixed with an antifreeze solution. The stators and rotors on these pumps are designed to work while they are immersed in water, and they work very well. There are no shaft seals, and water from the well can enter and leave the motor as is needed – although not much does.

Back in those old days, though, some manufacturers used a motor that was filled with dielectric oil. This oil was an insulator, and also lubricated the motor parts. I only sold a very few of these, but I believe the windings, rotor and shafts operated in this oil – the purpose being a lubricant and insulation. These motors had to have a shaft seal to keep the oil in and well water out. If this seal failed and the oil entered the well casing, it made a pretty big mess. I don’t believe the pump would operate very long with water in place of the dielectric oil. These motors did have a big advantage, though, in that they were far more lightning-proof than water-filled motors. This was in the days before we had very effective lightning-surge protection, and pump damage from lightning and other voltage surges was far more common than it is today.

I don’t remember when health authorities decided that these oil-filled motors were not a good thing – it has been quite a few years – but they, in effect, were banned from use in water wells. I believe the same thing happened to oil-filled capacitors a few years later when these effectively were banned from installation in motors themselves. I remember pump men of that era bemoaning the fact that they had a lot more lightning damage calls; while this may sound like extra business, it usually comes at the price of a very, very upset customer who cannot understand why his or her pump was destroyed by a lightning strike that could have happened miles away. You understand that this type of damage is caused by far more voltage than the 115 volts or 230 volts a motor is designed to run on, and it ruins the pump.

In any event, if you wanted to get a big argument started at a driller or pump installer meeting back then, all you had to do was to maintain that either the oil- or water-filled design was the superior one. Now you members of the industry know that to be successful as a well driller or pump installer, you need many skills, including mechanical ability, financial smarts, and perhaps those of an amateur psychologist because many of those folks who are OOW (out of water) are not in a good mood, whatever the reason. I think another trait that practitioners of our industry have in common is being, frankly, kind of a tough guy or gal. This is necessary, in that we work in all kinds of weather – way too hot, way too cold, in rain, snow, on weekends and holidays. I think this toughness is an admirable and necessary trait, but with it comes a degree – sometimes a high degree – of stubbornness. Along with the stubbornness often comes an attitude that each individual knows exactly what is best as to how to drill a well or install a pump. This probably is what fueled many of these arguments, and the road to the argument sometimes was lubricated not with motor oil, but Jack Daniels, Budweiser or whatever the drink of the night was.

As our regulator friends pretty much have banned the oil-filled motor, we don’t have these arguments anymore, but they sure enlivened many an association or dealer meeting. Next time, I will write about another subject that could get a good discussion going – two-wire motors vs. three-wire motors.

As I write this in mid-February, we have had some days with temperatures in the 30s and 40s, and our snow is slowly melting. We had an absolutely terrible January with what seems like snow every day, sometimes a whole lot. The preferred method of snow removal here in southern Michigan is to push it out of the way into a big pile. Some folks – and I am included in this group – were running out of places to make more piles, but that has lessened in the last few days. The slow melting of the snow also has helped avoid any flooding, at least from what I have heard.

Until next time, work hard and safe and be kind to your loved ones.