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Help: Pump water into barrel for cheap? (and off-grid) Answered

I'm sort of undecided on the best way to go with a water pumping project and hoping someone had some advice/ideas.

The goal: pump water from a small stream into a rain barrel (or IBC tote) in a location with no electricity. It's for having water available for watering fruit trees and doesn't need to pump much volume (even 100 gal/week would be great).  It does have to do it while I'm not around though and I'd like to do it as cheaply as possible.

My idea is to make a small diaphragm pump out of pvc (for the housing) and some rubber (for the diaphragm) and a couple check valves.  My inspiration is this guy's pump.  I could drive it with a small DC motor powered by a solar panel.  Maybe install a float switch that turns it off if the barrel gets full.

Any other ideas on making a diaphragm pump using cheap or found parts?

I've never done anything with solar and would appreciate any advice on components.  What needs to go between the panel and the motor, if anything?  I've heard talk of a "controller" but have no idea what it is or what I'd need...  Also a goal is to design using as low power motors as possible so that I don't have to spend much on panels.

I've also played around with the idea of something wind powered, like this thing (but cruder, presumably).  And had this other crazy idea to make a bellows-style pump for a windmill using a toilet plunger.

Anyway, any thoughts and ideas are appreciated!


How high? I made the pulser pump but it requires a deep hole in the stream bed. However the (untested) pulser pump nano would work too. Also look at my pallet garden videos. I pump water with just 1 psi in those videos and it comes from an aquarium bubbler that produces 2 psi max and 60 litres per hour of air. (pulser pump nano provides 1 or 2 psi depending on how deep you make it.) http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkzXlmAwZTZfu9Vetu9KJuma-XutdmlQ8&feature=view_all

Fascinating. I'm not sure I fully understand what's going on... are the bubbles carrying little shots of water up through the tube? Anyway, I don't think I can dig that deep a hole (and I don't have a good site for that type of set-up on a big scale), but I'd sort of like to know the principles involved. With the nano, are you suggesting that in lieu of the bubbler, you could make the whole setup smaller, or are you suggesting one literally use a bubbler?

Yeah, it is little "shots" of water. I never saw it called that before. The nano could be a 2 or 3 ft deep tube under water. Water goes through it and brings down air with it. You grab the air from the container down below (And that is how you get 1 or 2 psi). But you can use the 3.5 watt bubble pump either. I would say a normal lift is up to 6 ft, with submergence of about 12 to 15 inches. It will pump a lot quicker than in most of my videos. ) One of them uses 3 inches of submergence and a lift over submergence ratio of over 20. That is probably impossible with thicker tubes. The tiny diameters of the tubes make a lot of difference. Sorry, it is experimental, I don't have figures for everything but it does work.

Oh and I forgot to answer how high: min 3' or so to get to the top of a rain barrel. Back when I had big ideas about this I thought of pumping it to the highest point on the field (15' or so) and then into a barrel or tote (+3' more), then just gravity feed all my trees from there. but I thought I'd start on the smaller side and learn the engineering first.

Ive used these solar pumps from ebay they can do 500 litres an hour and push up to 4 meter head. you can use with a 15-20 watt 12 volt solar panel or a 12volt battery. you can also dismantle them to clean out mud. For the price they are a really great little pump.


Thanks liquidhandwash. Hard to beat the price on that! Do you hook these directly to the panel or something in between. I've heard that some motors do badly with too-low power, so when hooked to a panel you need something to switch it off when the sun gets low. Also, I assume that it can't run dry right? I.e. I'd have to submerge it or otherwise have a way of getting water to flow into it continuously. Thanks again.

No need for a controller just hook it straight to a panel. Your right about running it dry, and you can submerse the pump they are water proof. Ive had one on a panel for 2 year still going strong, just go to watch it doesn't suck up rubbish and mud.

If it's a flowing stream, why not use the stream as your energy source?

Either indirectly, running a small generator to charge batteries, or directly, using (say) a water wheel to turn an Archimedes screw, or to crank a simple non-return valve pump.

Even more simply, if there is any gradient to the stream, why not pipe water from up-stream, higher than the top of your barrel, and let the excess flow back to thd stream?

Thanks Kiteman. I'll consider that. There are places where the stream flows enough to turn a small generator of some kind (other places it's more like a swamp with slow flow through the middle). I don't think I can generate enough power directly to drive a pump though and I figured adding batteries just complicates the wiring set-up and adds expense. Maybe I'm wrong though... Let's assume I can make or buy a pump that requires 10-20 watts--would there be like a shoestring generator/battery set-up that I should try to acquire?

Pass, but you're on the planet's biggest Making site - have a browse.

Thanks blkhawk. I would LOVE to do a ram pump, but not enough fall or consistent volume on the land.

Yes, if you have flow and volume, a ram pump is great.