While water well drilling and pump installation contractors have access to products at local hardware stores, big box stores or regional wholesalers, they are often exposed to a fraction of what is actually available. Retailers, in fact, typically offer only a few of the most common items. Even wholesalers tend to funnel contractors to the products that they stock.
The complexity in a domestic water well system begins with the myriad parts needed to integrate the well, pump, water storage tank, all the pipes and fittings, and the water distribution line to where it is utilized. Adding to the challenge are the various codes and design options required to meet tougher federal, state and municipal regulations.
Increasingly, the “standard” list of core stock items is no longer enough to meet such demands. As a consequence, having the right parts and accessories for the job requires a source that offers a wide range of options and code-compliant choices.
Now a growing number of contractors are demanding suppliers readily offer a more comprehensive list of parts and accessories that enables the streamlining of installations and maintenance, allowing contractors to take on more jobs.
“As proactive contractors look beyond the usual parts and accessories, they are finding attractive options they never knew existed,” says Danny Ahrens, owner of Florida-based Water Products Marketing, a supplier of water well equipment to distributors and contractors. “Innovation is helping them to install water well equipment more efficiently and cost-effectively while at the same time improving quality, and that gives them an edge in the market.”
Gaining an Edge
While some contractors tend to use the same standard parts and accessories that perhaps their mentors or fathers did, too often this approach can become a rut that limits their work efficiency and business success. Finding and trying more effective non-standard parts can dramatically cut their installation times, among other benefits, if they ask their distributors and wholesalers for a wider range of options.
As an example, as opposed to installing a traditional control box and pressure switch, running wires between them, and fitting all the connections in an undersized case, contractors could be using a control switch. This innovative device combines a three-wire control box (with start capacitor, relay, run capacitor and a wire terminal strip) and a pressure switch into one easier to install device. The design eliminates the added time to install and connect a pressure switch and a separate control box.
The device, by Merrill Manufacturing, an Iowa-based water well/water system accessory manufacturer for the domestic, residential market, offers a heavy-duty pressure switch for longer life, an extra large case for easy wiring, and heavy brass wire connections that can hold #4 wire.
“Instead of a standard pressure switch and control box, installers are finding that Merrill’s control switch can act like a junction box,” says Ahrens, who has been involved with more than 50 field installations with the device, some operating more than nine years.
“The design reduces the amount of required connections — including conduit, fittings, washers and lock washers — by half,” Ahrens explains. This speeds installation up to 50 percent, allowing installers to take on more jobs. It also extends service life, minimizes time-wasting nuisance calls, and eliminates issues related to start capacitors and relays.”
Because the control switch works universally with all brands of motors, it also reduces the inventory of replacement parts that contractors must bring to the jobsite. “Traditional control boxes are motor specific, so have to be matched to run properly,” Ahrens says. “With the control switch, however, contractors can travel light because it works with any domestic or foreign motor.”
Another key area where many contractors require a full range of equipment options is in hydrant selection, due to significant variations in local climate, code and other factors. However, improvements in domestic water well devices are occurring here as well.
“To meet current Michigan code, we needed state-approved hydrants that do not drain back because these are no longer accepted,” says Chuck Garvie, a project manager at Brad Malley Well Drilling, a Michigan-based well drilling contractor and pump installer.
In this category of non-drain back hydrants, which help to meet municipal water codes and protect the underground well water supply, are devices with other useful features.
Garvie, for instance, selected a removable, sanitary yard hydrant called the Hide-Drant by Merrill. The company has one of the industry’s largest, most complete lines of products to meet state or local well codes, with 24 series of yard hydrants, eight series of pitless products in all types, as well as splice kits, insert fittings, tank tees and a full range of other water system accessories.
“The Hide-Drant meets Michigan state, municipal and residential code,” Garvie says. “It is easy to install with no need for a double check backflow preventer or secondary line to be run with it. With a riser made of steel and a stainless steel connection, we have had virtually no callbacks. I installed one in my home and it still works well after 12 years with no problems.”
Since the sanitary yard hydrant’s insides are removable, users can easily connect one to the closest installed base for safe, convenient placement.
“At wells for RVs, campsites or cabins, when people leave in the fall they can remove it to avoid freeze risk,” Garvie says. “At vacation properties, it can be removed to prevent vandals from running water in the owner’s absence, or it can be removed for easier mowing and then replaced.”
For colder climates where all-year access to well water is required, additional innovations are available.
Nick Nawcewicz, a plumber at D&D Mechanical in North Dakota, for instance, has enjoyed success with the Any Temp Heated Hydrant. The device provides frost proof water service with a self-regulating heating cable that keeps water flowing, and drains itself below the frost line when shut off. It is often installed in mobile and manufactured homes, as well as livestock waterers in cold regions.
While some electrically powered heating cables in the industry are submerged below the water line and not grounded, the device’s heating cables are grounded and not placed under the water line.
“We have found that the Any Temp Heated Hydrant succeeds anywhere heated well water is needed year-round,” says Nawcewicz. “The heated cables are kept dry outside of the pipe, so they are easy to install, replace and do not have to be dug up. They are grounded and essentially trouble free. I have never had one trip out from ground faults.”
A few additional innovations that may pay off for contractors include: pitless adaptors and easy to install pitless kits; extra-long, electrical heat shrink tubing with a sealant and adhesive inside; stainless steel connectors at a price lower than no-lead brass; self-lubricating hydrant plungers that last over 1 million cycles; and variable speed pumps that vary depending on water demand.
For contractors needing to cost-effectively meet well codes and stay competitive, having access to a wider range of well equipment and accessories can further streamline their installation process. Paying attention to some of the smaller details in system design and product selection can help to optimize quality as well.