What is a Hand Pump?

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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 January 2020
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A hand pump is a pump that uses power supplied by the user's own muscles for its operation. The most common types of hand pumps are those used to pump water and air, though water pumps have become increasingly more automated over the years. Hand pumps for air remain very popular, especially when inflating things like athletic balls and bicycle tires.

The air hand pump works by drawing air into the pump and then forcing it through the nozzle and into the desired object. Air is drawn in via one of two ways. The first way is for the air to sucked in when the pump handle is pulled upward. The other way, for a bulb hand pump, is simply to squeeze and release the bulb. The bulb naturally fills up with air as it is squeezed.

The hand pump may not be able to deliver as much air pressure as is required for some inner tubes and therefore should only be used with things it is recommended for. Automated pumps are able to provide much more pressure for products that demand it. Still, the air hand pump can be used for many applications and may be more convenient, or at least the preferred option, for many of them.


The hand water pump is a truly simple device that uses the power of suction to draw water up from an underground well. As the hand is pushed down, the fulcrum causes the piston rod to go up, thus taking with it the piston and its sealing O-rings. That upward suction causes a check valve at the bottom of the pump, often referred to as a foot valve, to open and draws water. When the piston goes back down, that pressure causes the check valve to close, thus trapping the water above the piston (through the use of another check valve). This cycle repeats itself as long as the hand pump is in use.

While most water pumps operated by hand are considered relics of years that have already passed, they may still be in use, especially as a backup when electricity is not available. They may also be used in more rural areas of Third World countries as a primary source of water. So despite the fact they have mainly disappeared from the public consciousness, they still may provide the only access to clean water in some areas.

The hand pump is usually a cheap device, which can be operated with very little experience. The only thing that may take a little skill is the priming of a water pump. Other than that, most pumps can be operated by most people, even if they are of limited mechanical abilities.


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Post 3

I personally prefer water and air that comes without all of this work, but sometimes a hand pump is the best and most convenient thing to use. I have a pump for the bikes and the balls and all the kids’ toys that need to be blown up all the time. They work no matter where you’re at – there doesn’t have to be electric hookups close by and you can take them practically wherever you go (down to the beach, out to the park). I keep one in the trunk of the car and in the camper so that we always have one when we need one. I have recently discovered that there are electric pumps you can plug into a cigarette lighter which is pretty cool, too.

Post 2

When I was a little kid one of my favorite things in the whole wide world was for my grandparent’s to take me to the ‘big woods.’ I thought it was far out in the middle of nowhere and that there were giants and witches everywhere. (Come to find out, it’s about 10 minutes outside of town.) Regardless, there was this great old deep well hand pump. People who come by and used it while they were camping or whatever knew that the glass mason jar next to the pump had to be filled with water before they were finished, and that’s how we primed the pump. After we got it going, and let it run a minute or two (all the while pumping away) you could drink the coldest, best-tasting water. These pumps are so outdated now, I don’t know where you could find one – but I think every kid should get to use one at least once!

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