Plumbing Info

courtesy of the Education and Information Network of the Washington State Energy Office – 9/23/95
by Mike Nelson

Most household water systems are enclosed in a well house or a well box. An effective enclosure would be well insulated and have a built-in heat source, such as a heat lamp. Some enclosures are built below ground level with walls below the frost line to keep them from freezing.

But many well enclosures lack insulation or a heat source. Modifications to your system, remodeling, wear and tear from use, wet or missing insulation, torn weather stripping, or improper design from the outset – any or all of these conditions could put your well at risk.

Plan ahead. Here are some options:

1. Do nothing. If you don’t make any changes to your well house, you may face the prospect of frozen pipes again, but you can always turn on a faucet when temperatures drop. Moving water – a good drip will do – is far less apt to freeze. Turn up the flow at the first sign of a slowing drip rate.

This option is a good “panic” measure, but it’s definitely not good water stewardship. You’ll be using energy to kick the pump on more often than necessary and wasting water at the same time.

2. Put an incandescent (not fluorescent) light bulb in the well house. Place it near the pump, and leave it on during cold weather. A 100-watt bulb makes a great little space heater. Make sure the light can’t get knocked over or set something on fire.

This option provides a fair degree of security, but it’s not an energy-efficient alternative. If the light stays on 24 hours a day through the winter months, you’ll spend about $3-$5 a month.

3. Inspect your well house or box before the weather turns bad. Make sure there are no drafty holes, broken windows or missing insulation. Put heat tape on the pump and plumbing. (Follow directions on the package.) Heat tape made specifically for this purpose is available at most hardware stores. Plug in the heat tape. Initial costs may be $10-$30, depending on how much exposed pipe you have. Heat tape will be pretty reliable as long as the power stays on.

4. Weatherize the well house. Install new weather stripping, caulk and repair the roof. Add insulation if you didn’t have it before. Put in new insulation, if the existing material has been damaged.

Install a thermostatically controlled space heater. Set it at 45-50 degrees. The heater may or may not use more electricity than the heat tape or light bulb approach, depending on the weather. It will be more reliable.

With any of these options, check the well system during cold snaps. If you are worried about power outages, learn to drain your storage tanks and how to re-prime your water system.

You might also purchase a safe propane or kerosene space heater. Use it on those very cold nights when storm fronts roll through and knock trees across power lines. Just remember it’s not a good idea to operate unvented combustion heaters in an inhabited space.

Copyright (c) Seattle Times Company 9/23/95


  1. Millie Hue

    My sister is planning on having a well installed in her backyard by June. It made me wonder, how do you avoid the well from freezing during the winter. Thanks to your article I’ve learned that using an incandescent light could help warm up the area. I’d make sure to share this with my sister, so she could tell the contractors to install one also.

  2. Arya Smith

    I never knew that putting an incandescent lamp near the pump will help the well to prevent freezing since it can also be a space heater. I guess I will have to get one installed once our well has been fixed because it froze this morning. We didn’t know that last night was a very cold night because our heater was on a high temperature which is why we have no idea that the well was already freezing. With this information, we will prevent this from happening again.

  3. Kit Hannigan

    I really like your tip about repairing your well house’s roof and adding insulation to keep it from freezing. In addition, I would think that having your well pump looked at by a professional technician before the winter season comes will be a great idea. This is a really informative article about well maintenance. Thanks!

  4. Sophia James

    Thanks for pointing out that inspecting the well before the weather becomes bad will save you from repairs since issues will be addressed. I guess I need to hire experts to check on the pumps to ensure that they will not be damaged during winter which can be quite hard to manage. Actually, I have a feeling that there is a slight problem because the water pressure has decreased.

  5. Caden Dahl

    This is some really good information to know as we all know it usually gets pretty cold during the winter time. Now I don’t have a well but if I did, I would for sure want to keep it from freezing. I’d do what you mentioned and make sure that the well box is weatherized to help prevent it from freezing.

  6. Ellie Davis

    Thank you for these tips on taking care of a well. I’ll have to keep these in mind once y well is drilled. Hopefully, I’ll be able to find the best drilling services.


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