Does A Well Pump Need A Control Box? [By Type Of Pump]

As you move toward installing or replacing a well pump, there are likely many questions that have come up. One of these could be whether a control box is a necessary addition to the unit. Finding an explanation may be confusing and overwhelming, but don't worry. We've done the research to provide you with an answer.

Above-ground and two-wire submersible well pumps don't require a control box. Three-wire submersible well pumps do require a control box.

Now we have given you an answer as to which well pumps require a control box to function, but perhaps you'd like a more detailed explanation. In this post, we'll discuss the topic in greater detail. Keep reading to learn more.

Well and electrical panel with pivot irrigation system. Does A Well Pump Need A Control Box [By Type Of Pump]

Types Of Well Pumps

A better explanation of the types of well pumps will help you understand why some require a control panel box and why some do not.

Contractor installing and repairing water pumping station. Borehole water pump.

Above-Ground Well Pump

The above-ground well pump is also known as a jet pump. This type may be located inside the home or in an outdoor well house.

This type functions by pulling the water from the well utilizing the power of a vacuum, sucking the water into a storage tank. From there, the water is provided to the home through its piping system.

Because this system is above ground, the addition of a control panel box is not required. Access to the unit's controls is already available on the pump system.

Take a look at this jet well pump on Amazon.

Two-Wire Submersible Well Pump

A submersible well pump is placed within the well, beneath the water's surface. This type of pump does not use a vacuum to pull the water from the well. Instead, it uses a pressurized system to pull water from deep within the well and deliver water to the home in a continuous stream.

The submersible well pump can be categorized into two subtypes—the two-wire and the three-wire. The two-wire submersible well pump is the most simple of the two. All that is needed to signal power to the pump lies within its internal design.

submersible water pump on white background

The two-wire submersible well pump has its advantages in its low cost and ease of installation when compared to the three-wire pump. However, its simplicity means less control and fewer benefits.

One of these is, in fact, the absence of a control panel box with which the three-wire submersible pump is compatible.

Take a look at this two-wire submersible well pump on Amazon.

Three-Wire Submersible Well Pump

If a homeowner desires to change a setting on the two-wire well pump, it must be pulled from the well to do so, but this is not an issue with the three-wire submersible well pump, which can be adjusted using its control box.

The three-wire submersible well pump has the same basic working system as its counterpart, except that its "brain" is located externally and above ground. This pump's design is more complicated, and thus more expensive, but it may prove worthy of its price tag with ease of use and maintenance.

Check out this three-wire submersible well pump on Amazon.

Explaining The Well Pump Control Box

The well pump control box is an above-ground extension of the submersible pump, providing the owner with ease of use and maintenance. We'll explain more about this addition and how it is a helpful aspect of the design.

Take a look at this well pump control box on Amazon.

How Does It Work?

Among other things, a well pump control box operates the run cycles of the pump. Each of these three-wire well pumps possesses a start circuit and a run circuit.

When a control box perceives that water is needed for the home, it sends electricity via the start circuit. This signals for the pump to cycle on.

Once it has been cycled on, the control box will send electricity to the run circuit. Through circuits and electric pulses, the control box operates the workings of the well pump.

What Is The Purpose Of A Well Pump Control Box?

The main purpose of a well pump control box is to give a user a more convenient way to access the settings and operations of their well pump, but there are many other benefits as well.

One of these is that it gives the user information which would not otherwise be available, such as how long and how often a well pump has been running. This may be important to know the health of the pump.

Another purpose of the control box is to protect the well pump's motor. If there is an incorrect amount of voltage, waterlogged tanks, or the level of water is too low, the control box will signal to the well pump to freeze.

Are Well Pump Control Boxes Interchangeable?

No, they are not. You must be sure that the voltage of the control box will match the voltage used by the well pump. It's also important to note that though there may be many control boxes that match in voltage, these control boxes may not be created equal.

Inexpensive control boxes may be made with inferior products and designs, and they will most definitely include fewer controls. Though some control boxes are on the more expensive end, they may save you time and money by signaling problems with a well pump sooner and operating the pump more efficiently.

Can I Bypass A Well Pump Control Box?

You can bypass a well pump control box by purchasing and installing a type of well pump that does not require one, such as an above-ground or two-wire submersible well pump. However, if you decide on a three-wire submersible well pump, it is a necessary component of the system's design.

water pressure motor and it's connected pipe line

Troubleshooting Your Well Pump Control Box

If any part of your well pump system is malfunctioning or has failed, it's natural to wonder if your control box is to blame. Testing the control box is the first step in troubleshooting.

How Do I Test My Well Pump Control Box?

The control box can be tested either by a homeowner or a professional technician. It should always be done before the unit is removed from the well to search for a potential problem.

To test the control box, you must first turn off the well's circuit breaker. Then, locate the wire sets leaving and going to the control box. The ones leaving the pressure tank are usually labeled "L1" and "L2". The ones entering the control box are usually labeled "S", "R", and "N".

Once you have located these wire sets, perform a visual inspection. Inspect the wires, connections, relay, and capacitor. If any damage is noted, replace these parts. Tighten all of the wire connections.

After this has been done, check the capacitor. Remove all of the wire connections and lay a screwdriver across the capacitor terminal. Then watch the meter. It should rise to the highest setting, fall back, and then rise again. If you do not see this, you should replace the capacitor.

Next, you must check the voltage. Turn the circuit breaker back on and turn on a faucet. Begin with the "L1" and "L2" wires. Using a multimeter probe, measure the voltage. It should read within 10 percent of the operating voltage. If it does not, there may be an issue with the circuit breaker or pressure switch.

Lastly, check the relay. This can be done by first putting one of the multimeter probes on the neutral terminal and then touching the other probe to the start terminal. Note the meter reading. Next, when the relay turns to the run phase, touch the probe to the run terminal. Again, note the reading.

Compare the readings that have been taken to the operational voltage. If the ratings are within 10 percent of what's expected, then you should check the pump motor next. If the relay fails to switch between the start and run, then the relay must be replaced.

How Do I Know If My Well Pump Control Box Is Bad?

The best way to know whether your well pump control box is the reason for your troubles is by testing it as described above. When there is an issue with a well pump control box, it will often appear as if there is an issue with the entire system.

Water pump plumbing and pvc pipes exterior set-up in a home. DIY, repair, plumbing

In Closing

Installing or replacing a well pump can feel like a very complicated task, and when you add the component of a control box, it can seem even more so.

While a control box is not needed for an above-ground or two-wire submersible well pump, it is necessary for a three-wire submersible well pump. This can seem to make the installation more complicated and more costly, but having a control box as a part of your system has its benefits as well.

Want to learn more about well pumps? Take a look at these related posts:

What Should Well Pump Pressure Be Set At?

Do Well Pumps Have Filters?

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