Should I turn off my well pump when I leave town?

A well pump is about to be lowered into a well. (Photo courtesy of the National Ground Water Association)

A well pump is about to be lowered into a well. (Photo courtesy of the National Ground Water Association)

Dear Angie: I recently bought a home with well water. I have always lived where city water was available, so I'm just getting used to dealing with a well and pump and have some questions.

I travel a lot and am sometimes away from home two weeks at a time. I worry in the winter about water in the house freezing and bursting pipes. Would it be wise to turn power off to the pump at my electrical panel circuit breaker or would that be damaging to the pump to leave it unpowered for weeks at a time?

Until I get an answer I'm just turning the water off at a main valve, but that leaves a run of pipe in the basement of about 15 feet that could burst and cause damage. – Jim W., Mechanicsville, Va.

Dear Jim: It’s smart that you’re being proactive and thinking about this in advance. I think, because you are unfamiliar with your system, it’s a good idea to have a consultation with a reputable well system specialist in your area who can educate you on the ins and outs of your particular system.

That said, as long as the heat in the house is not turned off – and you don’t lose power while you’re gone – your pipes should not freeze and burst. But I understand your trepidation. So, my advice is to go ahead and shut off the breaker to your well pump – make sure it’s the right switch and only dedicated to only the pump and not something else – as well as the isolation valve on the supply line, when you are not in the home for more than a few days. This is a good safety measure to take any time of year that you leave the home for an extended period of time. In the event of any type of leak, the house won’t flood and suffer potentially catastrophic damage.

By shutting off the breaker, there should be no harm to the well pump system, provided the pump system is in good mechanical working order. However, you should also shut off the power to the hot water heater. In rare cases, a broken water line can siphon water out of the hot water heater, causing damage to the unit.

One last word of caution before shutting off the well pump system: first, make certain there is no requirement for water during your absence, such as make-up water for your heating system, such as a hydronic system. If so, the water pump should be left operational. If you’re not certain about your system requirements, I recommend talking to a reputable heating and cooling specialist in your area.

Angie’s List collects about 65,000 consumer reviews each month covering more than 550 home and health services. Angie Hicks compiles the best advice from the most highly rated service pros on Angie’s List to answer your questions. Ask Angie your question at

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