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Can I generate power from with a generator installed on my water pipes?

Every time I flush the toilet, have a shower, wash the dishes, I think to myself... what a waste of water flow energy. I'm no electronics expert, but I figure connecting a 12 volt dc pump (like a boat bilge pump or something off the hardware store shelf) backwards inline (when I say inline... I mean no leaks... and just operates whenever I use water day to day) with the water supply to my house could generate a little top up trickle to some batteries along with a little solar & wind electricity generation project. Then I think, hang on, as soon as I hook the pump up to a battery... it will just try to pump water back out of my hot water tank house back down the pipe... so looking for ideas here? Anyone out there had a play with this concept?

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jmiller1313 years ago

Hey, just saw this: http://pulse.me/s/13mUkA. Sounds like someone is working on getting this all scaled down to household flows. Love the ideas in the comments. Also ran across a company in the UK that has a system but thruway it's only viable for flow rates of 3/lps minimum.

I've thinking about this for years. Check this out in Oregon

http://www.ecohome.net/news/latest/portland-oregon-soon-generate-hydroelectric-power-water-pipes-under-city-streets
I live in a city building with 5 stories, (short for the city) and we have a high powered pump station at the bottom of our building to ensure that we receive enough pressure on the top floor.

a) would placing the turbine right past the pump generate meaningful power?

b) would it noticably deminish the pressure on the top floor?

Just a tought. I see a LOT of highrises that could/might already have one of these.
arkie6 years ago
Bekarts, I'm coming a little late to this party, but here goes:

A 12 VDC pump is gonna' have some resistance turning the electric motor. You'll have to run enough water through the mains to your house to overcome that reluctance of the pump to rotate the electric motor.

As for the 'back-feed' (battery trying to power the pump), you can put a Schottky diode in line with the wire between battery & pump. There is a similar arrangement in photovoltaic panels to prevent the batteries from discharging when the Sun ain't shining.

Your idea is so popular, on a much smaller scale, that Toto (Japan), Hansgrohe (Germany), and Chicago, Kohler, & American Standard (U.S.) all manufacture "touchless faucets". These are the beasties that use sensors to determine when your hands are under the faucet before the water starts to flow. The built-in sensors (usually a low-power laser) are powered by mini-turbines which charge either a battery or capacitor. Laser bounces off your hands, receptor in faucet triggers the water flow, water flow gushes past mini-turbine, electrical energy stored for next time.

And, hello DocMagnus! I think that the pressure might be a tad lower than you expect ("... approx 2psi in water pressure from every foot you drop..."). A cubic foot of water weighs about 62.4 pounds. The square foot (144 sq. inches) on the bottom supports all that weight. 62.4 / 144 = 0.433... psi. That was the number I used when designing & building my water gravity powered system. If you were thinking of something else, then please excuse my butting in.
DocMagnus7 years ago
Hi guys!
Had the same idea few years ago. First attempt was a small turbo charger hooked up to a perm magnet motor. As attempts go it wasn't a complete failure, true there wasn;t really enough water pressure to spin the turbine very well, but it did generate enough power to charge car bartteries - if you left them connected a few days - less if you took long showers, although that somewhat defeated the purpose! Bottom line is it works just fine, but unless you have a lot of water pressure and flow, it;s nothing more than a neat thing to show friends. One application I can think of that would work a treat is if you have two dams on a property. One higher than the other, thus allowing for primary/ secondary water storage. Farmers try to use gravity feed where possible, so put a reverse water pump in line and job done. Now you have high flow and therefore noteworthy power generation. Remember you attain approx 2psi in water pressure from every foot you drop, so there is a mathematical maximum that you can attain from the stored energy. It's moments like these I wish I lived near a water fall!
DM =)
ztevo7 years ago
Yes,  but not very much

https://www.instructables.com/community/Home-Water-turbine-power-plant...-Mini-HELP/?sort=NEWEST&comments=all#comments
I like the way you think.
It most certainly could be done providing your pump has a permanent magnet motor. You can find out by spinning the motor with your fingers. If it feels "chunky" and is a little difficult to turn then it's probably permanent magnet.
If it spins freely then it's not.
I once owned a small plastic "in-line" pump that was designed to attach to an electric drill similar to this one http://www.comparestoreprices.co.uk/hand-tools/sealey-water-pump-drill-powered.asp which could easily be attached to a generator/motor. You might need to reverse the impeller.
It actually melted through misuse but in the position you would be using it might well be ideal.
A Schottkey Diode like those used in Solar Panels would stop the reverse flow of electricity but there would be a small loss of the power you generate (about 0.7 v from memory).
Your water pressure would need to be fairly substantial to generate much power but as you already know every little bit helps.
It might solve some issues if you were to run the power you produce through a small Solar type controller unit.
Don't stop thinking "outside the square".
All the best.
Rob Patto