Backup for Well Water During Power Outages

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We had a couple of major power outages this year and ran out of water, so it has renewed my interest in finding a backup when the power goes out. We live in Washington state and everything here is powered by electricity.
We have a woodstove for backup heat, and battery powered LED lights and radio that can last for days. Power failures almost always occur during cold winter storms, so we can just stick our perishible foods outside if the power goes out for more than a few hours. As long as we have water, we can cook on the woodstove or heat water in a pan for washing up.
We have a large pressure tank (80 gallon I believe). If the power goes out when the tank is full, we're fine. 80 gallons will flush a lot of toilets. Unfortunately, the tank is rarely completely full when the power goes out and this last time it was nearly empty when we lost power.
I've thought about adding a second pressure tank, but there's no way I can think of to ensure one is always fully pressurized (short of filling it up and shutting the valve off. I am trying to avoid stagnant water). Odds are both tanks would be just about empty when the power goes out.
The cheap solution is just to store containers of water somewhere. But, that takes space and isn't very convenient. I don't know that my daughter would be able or willing to lift a 5 gallon container of water to refill a toilet tank if I'm not around.
A generator is an obvious option, but power outages are rather rare. I don't want one more engine to have to maintain, worry about gas getting stale and gumming up, etc. Propane generators might overcome the long term storage issue, but they still take up space and require maintenance. Not to mention, I don't really want to go out in cold wind storms to start up a generator. Call me lazy.
An inverter/charger system with batteries would be a good solution. Unfortunately, I haven't seen an affordable system that can power my 1/2 HP 240V well pump. The ones I have seen cost more than a generator, or I would have to cobble together multiple devices (inverters, chargers, auto transformers, etc.) to make everything work.
One final option I've thought of would be to store a water tank in our heated attic space. I figured I could plumb the inlet at the top and the outlet at the bottom so it is flushed regularly. With only a 9' rise it would offer very little pressure, but I would think it would still refill the toilets. We wouldn't be taking showers or washing laundry during a power outage anyway. The major downside to this option is getting the tank into the attic space and modifying all the plumbing. Doable, just not my ideal option.
I'm curious what backup systems other water well users have come up with.
I am only looking for a backup for a day, not outages lasting a week or more.
Thanks,
Anthony Watson www.mountainsoftware.com www.watsondiy.com
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On 11/28/2014 12:00 PM, HerHusband wrote:

<snip>
Why would the tank not be full at all times?
I'd figure out a way to always keep it full .
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On 11/28/2014 12:25 PM, philo wrote:

Because pump will only kick on again when pressure drops to low-pressure setpoint...which point has, if the pressure is set corretly, emptied about 75% of the full capacity.
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On 11/28/2014 12:34 PM, dpb wrote:

Ok then. If the OP goes with the reserve tank in the attic...better take into account the weight of water.
80 gallons would be something like 650#
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On Friday, November 28, 2014 10:25:46 AM UTC-8, philo  wrote:

Because pressure tanks run on air pressure. Pump controller turns on at a set low pressure, fills tank to a set high pressure and cuts off.
Harry K
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We live in a similar situation - propane for heating, electricity for everything else including well. Average power out situations more than 15 minutes maybe once a year. Longest power outage in the past 8 years has been 24 hours, with a few that were 1-6 hours.
We keep a 50 gallon potable water storage tank in the garage along with a couple of filled 8 gallon jerry cans. Add a small amount of chlorine per EPA guidelines and storage isn't an issue. The storage tank and jerry cans have faucet valves on them, so taking smaller amounts isn't an issue. That more than covers drinking water, flushing toilets and the occasional navy shower.
We have an advanced septic system with pumps and an air compressor. That has a certain amount of buffer (maybe a few hundred gallons max) before it needs power to process, so more storage water isn't a good solution.
An inverter/battery/charger based system is going to be expensive to get any kind of wattage/duration. I think a portable generator is really the correct answer. Costco has a nice dual fuel (gas / propane) portable genset for around $700 last time I looked. You can't run it off a BBQ grill tank for a long time, but if you have larger tanks for your house it should work quite well. They don't show it at Costco.com, but it looks like this one:
http://www.generatorsales.com/order/10000-Watt-Propane-Generator.asp?page=P03888
Make sure you get a transfer switch wired into your house. Cheap manual ones work just fine. Running a suicide cord to a dryer outlet (or worse) is not a good idea. Maintenance isn't that big a deal. Run it for 15 minutes every month. If you use gasoline, add Stabil and replace or burn it dry once a year.
I've seen no reports for how well these work, but if you can get by with 900W, they look interesting:
http://www.generatorsales.com/order/EF1000iS_Bi_Fuel.asp?page 1000iS_Bi_Fuel
Keep in mind that well motors (or any motor) have a significant surge/startup draw that can overload your generator if not sized properly. And if you do an inverter, make sure it's a true sine wave inverter. They are more expensive than the square wave inverters, but a lot easier on your devices (if they work at all).
Or just go to Costco and buy a 100 cases of water in 1/2 liter bottles.

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On 11/28/2014 1:33 PM, Arthur Conan Doyle wrote:

I'm not a well user, but my backup power is a gasoline generator. I've got a gascan for the mower, etc, so have some gas on hand.
Generator oversized by a bit is good idea, and also to check the amp draw of the motor, if you've got those skills.
Another option to discuss, is a power inverter to put on your car battery with the car running. Extension cords to the well.
--
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Christopher A. Young
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On Friday, November 28, 2014 1:00:58 PM UTC-5, HerHusband wrote:
My first thought is if it's just for a day, whatever min is in that 80 gallon tank, ie assuming it's almost about to kick the pump on when power goes out, would be enough for me. Or that plus a couple of 5 gallon jugs.
One easy option would be to adjust the kick in pressure on your 80 tank so that it doesn't get as low before it kicks on. That should give you a min of 20 gallons to work with. Or add that second tank in series, so that it's always full of water, no air. If power goes out, you'd only have pressurized water for about as long as you do now. But you could still draw X gallons, X being the size of the additional tank into buckets. I guess you could also plumb in a tank of compressed air that you could activate, that would then provide pressure, so that you could use the full 80 or whatever gallons.
For me, in lieu of all that, I'd just get a generator, because not only can it supply water, but it can keep the heat, lights, fridge, etc going too.
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On Friday, November 28, 2014 10:35:59 AM UTC-8, trader_4 wrote:

Wrong. Both tanks will fill and empty simultaneously. Basically you would be simulating one double size tank as far as system operation goes.
<snip> Harry K
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On Saturday, November 29, 2014 2:33:08 AM UTC-5, Harry K wrote:

Not wrong. You don't have air or an air bladder in the second tank. The second tank is 100% water. Water from the existing tank comes into the bottom. Water supply to the house comes out the top. The only air is in the bladder in his existing tank.
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On 11/29/2014 2:33 AM, Harry K wrote:

as far as system operation goes.

Wrong. Trader means to put some thing like a 20 gal water heater in the cold line that goes to the pressure tank. When the power is off, the OP can let air in the TP valve, and drain water off the sediment faucet. With what old folks called a "tempering tank" he'd have another few gal of water in the house that gets refreshed automatic like.
Wrong. How's it feel, now?
- . Christopher A. Young Learn about Jesus www.lds.org .
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On Saturday, November 29, 2014 5:09:07 AM UTC-5, Stormin Mormon wrote:

In particular, it seemed a valid and pertinent suggestion, since HH stated this:
"I've thought about adding a second pressure tank, but there's no way I can think of to ensure one is always fully pressurized (short of filling it up and shutting the valve off. I am trying to avoid stagnant water). Odds are both tanks would be just about empty when the power goes out. "
As you say, my suggestion keeps the second tank full of water. It will only have pressure as much as the original tanks has. But after that pressure is gone, he still will have a tank full of water that he can draw from via a bucket. And it won't be stagnant. As I suggested, he could even have a tank of compressed air rigged up, so that he could pressurize it during an outage. If he made it CO2, he could have sparkling water to bath in!
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On 11/29/2014 7:06 AM, trader_4 wrote:

was plumbed with a couple valve, the water out could come either from the top (normal) or bottom (in case of emergency). For day to day use, the water coming in the bottom and out the top would keep the tank full.
In case of power cut, put on the carbon dioxide tank, and discharge water out the bottom of the tempering tank, into the house water piping.
--
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On Saturday, November 29, 2014 2:09:07 AM UTC-8, Stormin Mormon wrote:

His system will work tht way as long as you are satisfied with stagnant, st inky water when you need it. Or at least flush it several times a year. I h ave a 1/4 mile interconnect between me and my neighbors well in case one of us has a well oproblem. We have both used it (I had to use it for a month last summer). To use it though one has to flush 1/4 mile pipe thoroughly (I used the lawn sprinkler). You do not want to smell what first comes out .
Harry K.
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On 11/29/2014 10:50 AM, Harry K wrote:

it. Or at least flush it several times a year. I have a 1/4 mile interconnect between me and my neighbors well in case one of us has a well problem. We have both used it (I had to use it for a month last summer). To use it though one has to flush 1/4 mile pipe thoroughly (I used the lawn sprinkler). You do not want to smell what first comes out.

The system Trader mentioned, uses a tank inline with the water inlet to his pressure tank. Every time you use water inside the house, the tempering tank water is being replaced. Your reading comprehension sucks bigtime, you are clueless at this point.
Do you, (clueless), and your neighbor (also clueless) use compressed air to try and empty out the 1/4 mile pipe between uses? No, didn't think so.
- . Christopher A. Young Learn about Jesus www.lds.org .
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On Saturday, November 29, 2014 8:01:54 AM UTC-8, Stormin Mormon wrote:

My comprehension is just fine. YOu can have a tank full of water that is k ept full due to lack of any air in it. I which case you get stagnant water because it will never be replaced in normal operation or you can have it c onstantly being replaced in his system. The latter results in it draining a t the same rate. You two do not seem to understand hydraulics very well.
One way or another you are going to have to get air into that second tank t o get it to drain. Any air in it at all in normal use just turns it into a nother pressure tank connected to a common hydraulic system.
Harry K
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On 11/29/2014 11:25 AM, Harry K wrote:

of any air in it. I which case you get stagnant water because it will never be replaced in normal operation or you can have it constantly being replaced in his system.

So, for two points and a chance to have the clueless label reviewed, which of those two systems did Trader4 suggest?
And which have we been trying to discuss?
You have no lifelines, and five minutes to reply.
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On Saturday, November 29, 2014 11:25:09 AM UTC-5, Harry K wrote:

er because it will never be replaced in normal operation or you can have it constantly being replaced in his system. The latter results in it draining at the same rate. You two do not seem to understand hydraulics very well.
You know, now you're starting to annoy me. And your explanations are makin g less and less sense.
"YOu can have a tank full of water that is kept full due to lack of any air in it. I which case you get stagnant water because it will never be repla ced in normal operation or you can have it constantly being replaced in his system. "
Try reading the above that you posted a few times.
" YOu can have a tank full of water that is kept full due to lack of any ai r in it. "
That's an odd way of looking at it. Most would say a tank is full of water because it's full of water. Since you want to drag hydraulics and science into it, technically it's perfectly possible to have an empty tank without air in it at all. It's called a vacuum.
"I which case you get stagnant water because it will never be replaced in n ormal operation or you can have it constantly being replaced in his system. "
Water can be constantly replaced or not, with the tank always kept full. Your parsing makes no sense.
And finally, you have some nerve to say that I don't understand hydraulics. I explained to you how a second storage tank could be added. You even final ly said you get it, but obviously you don't because you're still confused. You posted that a second tank in series can only work if it's before the pressure tank? So, how then does a water heater work? It's a tank full of water, after the pressure tank.
And finally, I think part of your problem is that you're not being clear. Stormin clearly was referring to "the system Trader mentioned". You appear to be talking about adding the tank at a remote pump house, which Anthony brought up. I never discussed it, but there is no reason you could not have an extra storage tank there, in series, where the water is not stagnant. Good grief.

another pressure tank connected to a common hydraulic system.

No shit sherlock. I said that in my first post. I even suggested that an option would be to have a tank of compressed air, nitrogen, etc plumbed in so that he could pressurize the system, use all that water through the normal system. Or he could just open the valve at the bottom and let it run out. Kind of like using a 5 gal jug. What does any of that have to do with stagnant water? And you would not have any air in the second tank. It's fed from the bottom, water goes out the top. Capiche?
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On Sunday, November 30, 2014 4:22:46 AM UTC-8, trader_4 wrote:

ater because it will never be replaced in normal operation or you can have it constantly being replaced in his system. The latter results in it draini ng at the same rate. You two do not seem to understand hydraulics very wel l.

laced in normal operation or you can have it constantly being replaced in h is system. "

m. "

to another pressure tank connected to a common hydraulic system.

It will work if, and only if, the supply water to the house is running thro ugh that storage tank.
Well-storage-pressure tank-house works. The water in the storage tank is b eing constantly exchanged.
Well-pressure-house-storage does not work as there is no way to exchange wa ter in the storage.
Well-pressure-storage-house now works with the storage after the pressure b ut the house supply is still running through that storage tank.
Hot water tank works because the house supply comes AFTER the tank and thus the water is being replaced.
Harry K Harry K
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On Sunday, November 30, 2014 12:01:44 PM UTC-5, Harry K wrote:

water because it will never be replaced in normal operation or you can hav e it constantly being replaced in his system. The latter results in it drai ning at the same rate. You two do not seem to understand hydraulics very w ell.

eplaced in normal operation or you can have it constantly being replaced in his system. "

tem. "

into another pressure tank connected to a common hydraulic system.

That is precisely what I proposed and what I and Stormin have been talking about.

Ridiculous. You have an existing pressure tank, the type you'd have with any typical pump system. You put a second tank after that. Connect the incoming water to the bottom, connect the outgoing supply to the house at the top. The water is constantly exchanged. That is exactly what I propose d. Still don't believe me? Go take a look at your water heater tank and tel l us how that works.

The water is always replaced and flowing when you have an inlet at the bott om and an outlet at the top, with the tank in series with the supply. Hot wate r tank works because water comes in the bottom, goes out the top. Good grief .
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