Before electricity, hand and windmill operated water pumps were the main source for fresh water for a homestead and livestock.
During the 1800s and even up until the mid 1950s before properties were tied to grid power, hand or windmill operated water well pumps was the only way to pump out water from a cistern, shallow or deep well.
Several USA pump companies made hand and windmill operated water well pumps. They were manufactured up until the mid 1950s before the Rural Electrification Act finally brought grid power to all the rural areas.
Heller Aller one of the oldest remaining USA pump manufactures has been making shallow cistern and deep well Pumps since 1868.
These water well pumps are still used widely across the plains. They are used on large ranches in conjunction with windmills where electricity is not accessible to pump water for livestock.
Hand and windmill pumps are also still used in the Amish sustainable living communities who are the main reason Heller Aller pumps are still being manufactured today.
The original Heller Aller factory located in Ohio was near closing in 1995. Several Amish workers in nearby Indiana convinced the owner of a wood stove manufacturing company they worked for to purchase the Heller Aller company.
Their motivation was simple, through generations they had become very dependent on Heller Aller water well pumps.
The Amish didn't want to see their main source for new pumps and replacement pump parts to be lost forever.
Hitzer stove company purchased Heller Aller and combine the pump manufacturing business with the stove manufacturing business in their Indiana factory.
Other than ranchers and Amish, even some of the original homesteads have maintained a working water well hand pump for backup use or in conjunction with an operating water windmill.
Heller Aller even makes an offset well cap that will allow you to keep an electric submersible pump in the well and add a hand pump for back up use.
The offset cap replaces the regular well cap, allowing the hand pump cylinder to slide down beside the electric pump well piping and electrical lines.
It will only work on wells with a 6” well casing.
The Aremotor Windmill Company like Heller Aller is still in business making these old time water well pumping non-electric solutions.
Hand water pumps are still basically designed for specific uses and well depths.
The Heller Aller Model 190-A is one of the most popular hand pumps. It is designed to pump directly out into a reservoir tank or into a bucket from a shallow well or cistern.
The spout contains a bucket bail holder so that the operator can alternate between hands.
It is designed with a pump housing and a what is called a sucker rod that goes down inside the pump casing and pump pipe to hook to a brass pump cylinder.
The brass cylinder inside wall is very smooth like a car engine piston cylinder. It contains pump leathers that make up the piston that are attached to the sucker rod.
The cylinder is placed just below the pump about 4’ down into the well, to just below the frost line.
A small weep hole in the cylinder allows the water to drain down out of the pump parts above the frost line.
This prevents the pump head from freezing and being cracked in Northern zones subjected to winter freezing.
As the hand pump is lever is operated it pushes the inside sucker rod up and down.
The leathers pulling up and down inside the cylinder creates the suction needed to pull the water up through the pipe into the pump head and out the spigot.
The Model 190-A is designed for water levels between 15’ to 20’ deep, although it can be equipped with an extender pipe and foot valve to operate in slightly deeper wells.
The 190-A also can be equipped with the most common sized well caps or with a platform base that would be used over a cistern type of application.
The Heller Aller model 192-A has the very same pump base and cylinder as the 190-A. It has an additional top that works in conjunction with the hand lever to hook directly to a windmill.
Windmills are equipped with a rod that hooks to a gear cam shaft located behind the blades up on top of the windmill tower.
As the blades turn the rod pushes up and down. When it is hooked to the pump head it also pulls the sucker rod to pull water up instead of being hand pumped.
The 192-A is considered a combination pump as water can still be hand pumped during periods and in areas were wind speeds become nonexistent.
The Heller Model 50-L is still the most versatile pump made. It’s considered a force pump because it will actually pump water uphill.
The Model 50-L can be used in shallow or deep well applications.
It’s also double acting which means it pumps water during the upward and downward strokes, allowing it to fill twice as fast over a single lift pump like the 190-A
This development of the Model 50-L became very significant as people moved from hauling water from a well in buckets. Now they were actually able to pump water directly up into tanks and ponds located up above the water usage point.
Tanks could be located up on towers next to the windmills or in upstairs location in homes and barns.
Once the tank was filled water it could then be used gravity feed into normal household plumbing fixtures.
The Model 50-L will force water up to 60 PSI, which is close to many pressurized electric water well systems.
The Model 50-L is also still commonly used to pump livestock water uphill several hundred feet to another holding pond or water trough.
Like the 192-A it can also be used as a hand pump or hooked to a windmill.
The Model 50-L requires two cylinders which some get confused with as they look similar on the outside.
The lift cylinder is located just below the pump down below the frost line. It actually does not pump up the water but holds enough water to be pushed up and out when the sucker rod is in they down cycle.
The actual pump cylinder is located on down into the well. It lifts the water up into the lift cylinder.
With the actual pump cylinder down into the well the Model 50-L can be used for deep well water pumping applications.
Heller Aller Model 660 is considered a three way deep well water pump. Like the Model 50-L it is also a force pump to pump water up to upper level applications.
This unique pump allows up to three independent water lines to come into it below the frost line. A hand operated diverter lets the operator send water up to three remote locations.
These locations might be into a home, barn, stock tank or pond located up in a separate pasture.
Hand operated pitcher pumps
Hand operated pitcher pumps were commonly used next to kitchen sinks before modern day plumbing fixtures were invented.
In olden days the hand pitcher pump would be used to fill the sink directly or into pans, pitchers and buckets to be used in household chores, hand washing, sponge baths and filling tubes for bathing.
The name originated from the pitcher and bowl sets. These were used in bedrooms and cleaning stations located outside the house.
Before indoor plumbing pitcher and bowls were used for use in personal hygiene before meals and in the bedroom for evening and morning hygiene needs.
Today pitcher water pumps are still used in remote cabins and off grid applications just as they were before indoor plumbing.
You will also find them in use in camp grounds, and on lake docks for fish cleaning applications.
Pitcher pumps have the leathers built into the actual pump head. This removes the necessity to have a separate pump cylinder which made them perfect to run piping horizontally out to a close by cistern or well.
Pitcher pumps are threaded to accept a standard 1-1/4” pipe threads.
Pitcher pumps are limited to only pumping water up to 20’ and are generally used in shallow well and cistern applications or at lakeside.
Pitcher pumps are considered anti-freezing as long as the handle is lifted up to allow it drain back down into the well or cistern after each use in unprotected freezing locations.
The pump will then need to have water available to pour back into the top, called priming, in order to use it again while freezing is a potential.
Heller Aller Model PHB is one of the most popular and remains the most sold pitcher pump ever made even today.
It’s also a force pump allowing water to be pumped upstairs into a holding tank for gravity feed applications.
The PHB is well built using a heavy brass cylinder, plunger, and rod. It is also equipped with a hose bib to screw on an ordinary garden hose for all sorts of uses.
Model Fig T
Heller Aller Model Fig T is also a brass cylinder pitcher pump for direct use. It is not a force pump and only pumps water directly from the spout to fill sinks, and buckets.
Still it's heavy brass cylinder construction and lower price of the PHB makes it a very popular pump.
Heller Aller Model 2IP was developed later in the product lineup to counter the imported pump price wars.
Model 21P is an economy pitcher pump that is made totally out of cast material, yet the quality of the casting is much better than the cheaper imported models.
It uses a stainless steel rod and high grade leathers and packing material.
Water Pump and Windmill Suppliers
Heller Aller hand and windmill water pumps are still available from such self sufficient living sites as Cottage Craft Works .com
Cottage Craft Works also carries the USA made Aermotor water well windmills.
Cottage Craft Works is one of the only sites that allows you to add replacement leather kits with the pump purchase as well as complete parts to repair or to rebuild Heller Aller pumps and Aermotor Windmills.
If you do live in an area subjected to freezing the Amish made stainless steel 401, Freezeless, Frost Proof Water Hydrant is something to consider. It’s made out of stainless steel and can even be upgraded to a stainless steel standpipe perfect for coastal and marine saltwater applications.
Like the imported hand pumps, cheap frost proof hydrants are also sold and often are needing to be replaced in little as five years.
Nancy Owens from USA on July 01, 2013:
When I was very young, my grandparents still had a hand pump at the kitchen sink. While their home had electricity and heat, they still had that hand pump at the sink for water in the kitchen. And the bathroom toilet flushed with a chain.
At that time, their home was considered to be a pretty nice home, but it was also a time when everyone was updating their kitchens with the newest technology--the plumbed kitchen sink complete with faucets that one just had to turn! No more Pumping!
I remember that grandma always kept a big pot of water simmering on the stove. At three years old, I thought she was making soup. Now I get that she was keeping hot water handy for cleaning and doing dishes, etc.
About three years later, they had a new home built in town and it had all the modern conveniences.
Regina Harrison-Barton from South Carolina on June 30, 2013:
Awesome information. This is something that I have been looking into. We do not have a well because we have sewer and city water. But, we want to build out in the country and I want a well. Actually two. One that is powered and one that I can hand pump water. This article is very helpful.