~ World's Greenest WATER PUMP ~

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About: Inventing (and breaking stuff to see how it works) since before the turn of the century...
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Hydraulic Ram Pumps are very old technology that pump water using gravity and 2 valves to generate a repeating water hammer effect. The "hammer" pounds a little of the drive water into a pressure tank then up the delivery hose for your use. Why is it green? Because it's simple, reliable, pumps water without any engine, fuel or electricity or muscle power and can be made from mostly recycled materials.

The one I built has a few novelties that make it more reliable, cheaper and easier to operate than most of the plans you find on the Internet. It developed a steady 28psi pressure at the pump and delivered about 1,000 gallons per day where we wanted it.

last season, it hammered over 145,600 gallons of pond water up a steep hill to our garden over 700 feet away and over 100 feet higher than the pond! In the process, it saved us over 485 liters of diesel fuel we would have normally used to drive our diesel tractor to pump and tow the water around our farm.

The pump was built for about $50 worth of plumbing parts and a bunch of stuff that I had sitting in my scrap pile.

What's the secret? A strong gate valve - period.

Please have a look and enjoy the instructable and don't forget to rate it.


Please let me know if I can make it better or easier to follow somehow, and I will be happy to answer any questions that you have so post away!!

Step 1: Get Started!

Parts list.

You may want to print this picture to refer to later as an assembly guide.

Step 2: Build a Better Gate Valve!

All the available plans for ram pump valves are based on converting a conventional foot valve to operate in reverse. The trouble with this solution is you end up with a valve that is flimsy, wobbly and unreliable. It works, but it wears out too fast and jams up too much. My design takes care of it by starting from scratch and making it strong. My wife says I am strong like bull and smart like tree so I make everything I build that way. I also like to use whatever I have around the farm so that is exactly what I did. You could build it prettier and simpler, but recycling scrap is a priority around these parts, especially if you are broker than the ten commandments... This project really paid off for us, it just works great.

You need the picture of all the valve parts to see that it's easier to build than than it sounds below...so let's GO...

I had a 2" to 1.5" copper reducer with a short piece of 1.5" pipe attached and that makes the valve body. I also had a 6" brass tail stock sink connector that I inverted and soldered inside the reducer because that had a nice smooth lip that makes a perfect valve seal with no work at all. If you have a new reducer and smooth it off with sand paper, you likely don't need the tail stock step but you do need a smooth edge for the valve seal to contact or else you will not get it working. Now drill minimum 2 (or 4 is better) 3/4" holes through the pipe just above the reducer and smooth the edges and presto, your exhaust port is all done.

Next problem... how to replace the O ring seal used in converted foot valves. It routinely wears out or slips out of place and stops your pump. So, let's not fool around. Take a hockey puck and use a hole saw to make it 1.85 " in diameter so it fits inside the 2" reducer and has lots of clearance around the outside. Drill a 1/2" inch hole exactly in the center and put a bolt and nut on it so you can hold it in your drill press. Then spin it with a file against the edge so you get a nice smooth beveled edge about 1/4" long. This presses up against the smooth tail stock lip to form your valve seal so make it as smooth and even as possible and it will work better.

Now get some plastic washers that slide easily inside the tail stock piece. I had a piece of scrap plastic around so I turned it on my lathe to fit. It works as a centering guide for your valve to keep it closing and opening in a straight line. (This is one reason other converted valves often fail.) The fit needs to be loose but not too sloppy, say 1/16" clearance.

Now make a top cap. I turned a scrap piece of aluminum so that it fit into the tail stock and had about 1/2" of overhang left at the top just like a cupboard knob. The half inch center hole is threaded to fit the rod, but you could just use a clearance hole and a couple of retaining nuts on the top and bottom. You need to be able to adjust the position of this cap up or down on the threaded rod as this is the regulator that controls the pump cycle frequency and efficiency. A giant wing nut would work too, just something to hold the valve stem assembly from falling out the bottom due to gravity when it cycles up and down.

Now assemble your valve. Put about 6 0z. of weight on the bottom of the threaded rod. (I drilled a 1/2" hole in a piece of scrap steel, (you could use heavy washers), just smaller diameter than the hockey puck which sits nicely flat against it. Put the puck on the rod then a washer on top about 1/2" smaller than the puck bevel then lock it in place hard with a retaining nut. (This valve cycles 2.5 times per second and receives lots of force (remember that water hammer discussion earlier, well, the hammer part is for real!) so lock it down strongly. This is another reason foot valve conversions fail as there is no way to stop the valve assembly from wobbling all over the valve body and it wears the stem or guide too quickly and frequently pops the foot valve O ring off the groove. That can't happen with my brute of a valve.)

Now put another retaining nut on the rod about 2" above the puck assembly. The valve cycles up and down about 1/2" so you want your plastic center guide to sit above the exhaust ports when it's all assembled and resting in the down position. Now put a retaining nut on top of the plastic center guide and tighten it down.

Almost there. Slide the finished valve stem assembly into the reducer so the threaded rod sticks out the top. Now spin on your top cap adjuster until it slides into the top of the tail stock and permits the valve assembly to move up and down about 1/2". Put a wing nut on top of the cap to hold it in place. You will have to loosen or tighten this cap a few turns at a time to make your pump operate optimally.

Step 3: Button It Up.

The hard part is over.

Now take the fire extinguisher and make a pressure tank out of it. You do that by screwing off the extinguisher handle and stuffing a recycled, deflated 20" bicycle tube inside the tank and then inflate it to about 5psi., that's it.

Next, assemble the pump like you see it in the parts list picture and lash it down to something strong or it will walk all over the woods. (remember that water hammer discussion earlier, well, the hammer part is for real!) so lock it down strongly, I used 4 x 3' fence bars bolted to a board and a 10" concrete block. I strapped the pump to that with copper plumbing straps and stainless screws. The feed water pipe is connected to the pump with a rubber plumbing connector.

Step 4: How It Works...

Here's how to operate it:

To run it, you need about 5' of feed water pipe for every 1' of fall below your pond or creek water surface. I have 10' of fall and 50' of feed pipe supplying 3 gallons/min. (A little longer would be better say 5.5:1)

Now manually push (cycle) the valve stem up and down about 30 or 40 times to fill the pressure tank. These pumps need back pressure in the tank to operate automatically. When the pump starts to cycle on it's own, you will want to screw the adjuster cap up or down to make the cycle frequency about 60 - 150 cycles per minute.

Experiment with the cycle frequency to find what delivers the most water for you. Lots of troubleshooting guides on the net to help you fine tune it. You may need to add or remove some weight off the bottom of the valve stem if it cycles too fast or slow and you don't have enough adjustment available by turning the upper valve cap. A little denial and error and you will find the sweet spot to get it running smoothly.

I have found that if it cycles too fast, it won't build up any pressure and the delivery flow is low or stops. If it cycles too slow, delivery flow is weaker and you use more feed water than necessary and you can drain the feed pipe if your supply water is limited. Mine seems to deliver the most water at a cycle rate of 150/minute.

Enjoy your gravity powered water pump, it's the closest thing you may ever see to perpetual motion... Hopefully you can see the movie of it working.

This is the best hobby project I have ever built from scrap parts and recycled junk. We use it every day all summer long and it facinates everyone who comes to visit us while saving real money!

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    275 Discussions

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    LetThereBeLight888

    Question 3 months ago

    Thanks for posting this. I copied it all and am thinking of trying to make one. This may sound stupid, but I'd like to know how far uphill (elevation) this pump will pump water. I realize that depends a lot on the water feed pressure, but what's the highest it has pumped for you from pump to outlet?

    4 more answers
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    eltigreLetThereBeLight888

    Reply 3 months ago

    I was using it at an elevation of 110' above the pump. That said, the delivery pipe was made of pvc and was over 700' long and 3/4" diameter so being non-rigid plus that long, it must have reduced my output flow considerably because the pump had 16 gallons of water in the delivery pipe resisting each cycle. The shorter the delivery pipe vertical lift the more water it will deliver. So if you have to travel water a long way, go as straight up as you can from the pump and then let gravity run the water downhill to your end delivery point. Remember the ancient Romans and their aquaducts...

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    LetThereBeLight888eltigre

    Reply 3 months ago

    Eltigre, you also mentioned that you later used a four inch PVC (?) in place of the extinguisher so you could leave the innertube stem out? Or am I misunderstanding that?

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    eltigreLetThereBeLight888

    Reply 3 months ago

    slight misunderstanding. the innertube is still inside but I drilled a hole through the plastic pipe tank and installed the innertube valve stem through it so it sticks out the side of the tank and can be used to fill the tube from the outside of the tank without taking apart the tank so the pump does not have to be stopped and drained to fill up the innertube.

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    LetThereBeLight888eltigre

    Reply 3 months ago

    And you just caulked around the hole with the stem sticking out? To seal it?

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    Shawn Spencer

    Question 10 months ago

    Is there a way to make the hydraulic pump more efficient? Like find and easier way to not have too much pressure or not enough?

    1 more answer
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    eltigreShawn Spencer

    Reply 10 months ago

    Hi Shawn,
    There are a number of ways to improve efficiency (as measured by amount of water delivered per minute)
    1, position gate valve downstream of pressure tank.
    2. adjust pump cycle rate for optimum delivery (requires timed testing on site)
    3. use an internal pressure bladder (bicycle tube or use bladder tank) instead of snifter valve
    4. install additional pumps delivering to same delivery pipe to increase flow (avoid pumps larger than 4" or smaller than 1.5")
    5. if delivery site is a long horizontal distance away from pump, set up the minimum vertical delivery point possible and use gravity to deliver water to the end use location. (like an aqueduct system) The less water your pump must push up a pipe to the end use location the more volume it will deliver. e.g. if your end use location is 400' away and 50' above your pump and you connect a 1" delivery pipe, the pump has to generate enough pressure to move the volume of water in the pipe ( 15085.71 cubic inches) on every cycle. But, if you can locate your delivery pipe so it is 51' vertical to your pump and 349' sloping down to your end use location, the pump must only move 1923.42 cubic inches of water on each cycle, gravity will take the water the rest of the way to your delivery point. This will cause your pump to perform less work and deliver more volume on each cycle.

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    GuyF19

    2 years ago

    There is also another green water powered pump claiming to be the "Most Powerful Water Powered Pump in the World" on YouTube

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKDym5sWpsc

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    DavidL237

    2 years ago

    Thanks for your information!!

    I have a small creek on the property, but it is at the lowest point as well. If there is only maybe a 1 foot drop - that wouldn't be able to pump up too far would it?

    I ran across a water wheel (kind with the hose wrapped with the paddles to 'collect' the water). If that moved the water into a 55 gal barrel on a pedistal - then out of it to the ram pump - would that work?

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    eltigreDavidL237

    Reply 2 years ago

    Your double pump suggestion could work but you would lose a lot of efficiency so you may not get a lot of volume at the destination point.
    Not necessarily a problem if you can wait to use the water . just build yourself a water wagon like I did
    https://www.instructables.com/id/Green-WATER-WAGON/ and let it fill up over night(s) then tow it where you need the water.

    You may be better off using a water wheel to drive a piston pump which will raise water to a couple hundred feet above the source. Or you can drop a log across the creek and use the resulting damn to gain drive height. Run your drive pipe 60' downstream to gain even more height then drive a ram pump with that.


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    DavidL237eltigre

    Reply 2 years ago

    Love that wagon!!

    Not sure about the log -- the farmer that redid the crossover recently, put in two 24 inch culverts. Was just rocks... He also widened the down stream a little . When there were heavier rains, the creek upstream would overflow the bank and wash down the field (up stream about 1/4 mile). I might be able to do a one foot raise with a log... Another thought I had when I saw something to 'repurpose' was an orange caution cone (the kind you see by vehicles and drive lane guidance). Basically a funnel - would that help with pressure / fall? Attached is a look upstream.

    IMG_2399.JPG
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    eltigreDavidL237

    Reply 2 years ago

    Not sure a funnel will help, you need height to create weight which drives the water hammer effect for a ram pump. Looks like you will be stuck with a water wheel piston pump or spiral pump or sling pump if your delivery point is not too far above or away from the creek. Let us know which solution you build :)

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    DavidL237DavidL237

    Reply 2 years ago

    Also - question... Do you really need the bike tire in the tank? Wouldn't the pressure automatically build up due to the hammer force?

    In reference to the first question earlier - I do also have a large 275 gal tank - through a two stage system - first 'drop' fills the 275 gal tank that is raised (higher than the creek line), then empty that into another pump to send it up the hill...

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    Francis PaulT

    2 years ago

    i uploaded the video of the flowing water beside our home. Its was dug by the local water supplier of the city and was abandoned when it deemed unable to supply the growing community.
    Will this be useful in some other way? I want to ram pump this to better use

    https://youtu.be/CORpxiynLZ0

    2 replies
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    eltigreFrancis PaulT

    Reply 2 years ago

    Not likely enough flow rate for a ram pump. You might investigate a solar pump that moves water into a holding tank for use later when you have pumped enough to fill the tank.

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    Francis PaulTeltigre

    Reply 2 years ago

    Oh man :/
    That's just frustrating.
    I get around 20 liters per minute by just catching water and putting it in a container using a dust pan. So probably more on actual. But like i said the hole is about 300+ ft deep. I want to use it for something.

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    SimeonB3

    2 years ago

    Hi
    This system looks brilliant. I have a natural stream flowing through my garden and I want to put trout in it but need more oxygen in the water. If I pressured the outflow so it squirted the water higher in the air, do you think this would improve the oxygen level and would you know how much it would increase it by (roughly)? Thanks, Sim.

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    eltigreSimeonB3

    Reply 2 years ago

    My ram pump was fed from my trout ponds and i did divert much of the flow out a 2mm nozzle up about 2m high and back into the ponds. The fish all seemed to like this arrangement. I'm sure it improved oxygen levels but I can't say how much. You might be better off to install a wind or solar power bubbler to aerate the ponds from the bottom up. In my experience, the water temperature is more important for trout, cooler is better, as long as you have flowing water moving through the ponds.

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    1nvent

    2 years ago

    I am contemplating building a ram pump. I have seen some that use an orifice below the check valve leading into the pressure tank. Do you know if this arrangement is less efficient than using an air bladder as in your design?

    1 reply
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    eltigre1nvent

    Reply 2 years ago

    The arrangement you describe is called a snifter valve. It's purpose is to suck in a bubble of air to maintain an air cushion inside the pressure tank. It squirts out a bit of pressurized water on each cycle before it sucks in the air bubble. Therefore, we can assume that a bladder inside the pressure tank is more efficient as it does not lose any of the pressurized water during operation. If only 1 ml. were lost on each cycle, with an operating rate of 100 cycles/min then 100 ml/min or 600ml/hr or 14.4 liters/day or over 5200 liters/year would be lost to snifter valve operations. Enough to notice I think.