Well Hand Pump Priming: A Comprehensive Guide for DIY Enthusiasts

Well hand pump priming is a crucial step in ensuring the proper functioning of a well hand pump. The process involves filling the pump and pipe with water to create the necessary pressure for the pump to lift water from the well. The amount of water required to prime a hand pump can vary depending on the length and diameter of the pipe, as well as the depth of the well. For instance, a 30-foot pipe with 6 feet of standing water might require the entire pipe to be filled with water manually before attaching the hand pump or jet pump.

Understanding the Priming Process

The priming process for a well hand pump typically involves the following steps:

  1. Remove the Pump Piston or Cylinder: This allows for the pump to be filled with water.
  2. Fill the Pump Cylinder with Water: Using a hose or bucket, fill the pump cylinder with water until it is full. The volume of water required can be calculated using the formula: V = π × r² × h, where V is the volume of water, r is the radius of the pump cylinder, and h is the height of the cylinder.
  3. Reattach the Pump Piston or Cylinder: Once the pump cylinder is full, reattach the piston or cylinder to the pump.
  4. Pump the Handle: This will draw water from the well into the pump and create the necessary pressure for the pump to function properly. The required number of strokes can be determined by the depth of the well and the diameter of the pipe, with deeper wells and larger pipes requiring more strokes.

Factors Affecting Priming

well hand pump priming

The priming process may need to be repeated if the pump loses prime due to a leak or other issue. In some cases, it may be necessary to prime the pump multiple times before it begins to function properly. Several factors can affect the priming process, including:

  • Pipe Length and Diameter: Longer pipes and larger diameters require more water to fill the system and create the necessary pressure.
  • Well Depth: Deeper wells require more water to be drawn up and may require more pumping strokes to establish the prime.
  • Pump Capacity: The pump’s horsepower and flow rate can impact the priming process, with higher-capacity pumps requiring more water and more pumping effort.
  • Water Table Depth: The depth of the water table in the well can also affect the priming process, with shallower water tables requiring less water to prime the pump.

Preparing for Priming

When it comes to DIY well hand pump priming, it is recommended to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific pump model. Additionally, it may be helpful to have a union or other connection at the top of the pipe to allow for easy filling and draining of the pipe during the priming process.

To ensure a successful priming, you should also consider the following:

  • Inspect the Pump and Pipe: Check for any cracks, leaks, or other damage that could prevent the pump from maintaining its prime.
  • Clean the Pump and Pipe: Remove any debris or sediment that could interfere with the priming process.
  • Measure the Pipe Length and Diameter: Knowing the exact dimensions of the pipe will help you calculate the volume of water needed for priming.
  • Determine the Well Depth: This information will help you estimate the number of pumping strokes required to establish the prime.

Troubleshooting Priming Issues

If the pump fails to prime or loses its prime during use, there are several troubleshooting steps you can take:

  1. Check for Leaks: Inspect the pump, pipe, and connections for any signs of leaks that could be causing the prime to be lost.
  2. Increase the Priming Water: If the initial priming volume was not sufficient, try adding more water to the pump cylinder and pipe.
  3. Pump Faster and Longer: Increasing the pumping speed and the number of strokes may help draw more water from the well and establish the prime.
  4. Clean the Pump and Pipe: Removing any debris or sediment buildup can improve the pump’s ability to maintain its prime.
  5. Replace Worn Parts: If the pump’s seals, valves, or other components are worn, they may need to be replaced to ensure proper priming.

Measuring Pump Performance

In terms of measurable data, the performance of a well hand pump can be evaluated based on several factors:

  • Flow Rate: The amount of water the pump can deliver per minute, typically measured in gallons per minute (GPM).
  • Lift Capacity: The maximum depth from which the pump can draw water, measured in feet.
  • Suction Lift: The maximum height the pump can lift water from the water table, typically around 25-30 feet for a well hand pump.
  • Pump Efficiency: The ratio of the pump’s output power to its input power, expressed as a percentage.

By understanding these performance metrics, you can select the appropriate pump for your well and ensure that it is properly primed and functioning at its optimal level.


Well hand pump priming is a critical step in ensuring the reliable and efficient operation of a well hand pump. By following the proper priming procedures, understanding the factors that can affect the priming process, and troubleshooting any issues that may arise, you can ensure that your well hand pump is always ready to provide a steady supply of water.

1. New Shallow well – How to Test/Prime – Help!! – DoItYourself.com
2. Priming The Pump – Teacher Tom
3. Get Primed for Easier Water Pump Priming – Harrowsmith Magazine