Ingenuity and Innovation


Thor and I began engineering a solution for pulling water out of the 220 foot well today that did not involve wind power: Often we have to fill the available water storage facilities and the wind just doesn’t cooperate.

Since there are three houses with five total people and occasional guests to provide water resources for, the windmill generation was providing to be a reliable, but slow, method of filling water tanks, we needed to find a better solution for providing these necessary resources to the available residents.

Thor and I had discussed several possibilities in the past of using a pump jack system that Thor had acquired some years ago and some kind of electric motor to turn the unit and translate the momentum of the jack into the hand pump that currently sits atop the well head under the windmill.

We wanted to integrate the pump jack without redesigning and engineering the entire system, as with wind provided, the windmill operates perfectly fine, and reinventing the wheel seemed totally unnecessary.

We began prototyping today. The process started with moving the pump jack into a relative position where we could access the hand crank mechanism and begin translating the jack’s action to the crank’s action. Here is a video of the beta test of the pump jack.

As you can see the jack seemed to operate freely with no obstruction or failure in the rotation. The task began of how to translate that action into the hand crank safely and with no damage or binding of either mechanism. We decided to extend the jack’s reach using lumber to create a boom that would make communication between the two easier.

We began examining available options and for the sake of just testing the communication, we used a tried and true method of nylon strapping to see how the apogee of the pump jack’s action would bind or pull on the hand crank itself. We didn’t want to damage either the hand crank, the existing pump, or the pump jack.

The initial tests with the nylon strapping were a surprising success. The hand crank itself did not translate a great deal of the pump jack’s movement, but it was enough to move the crank a little over an inch, which did produce a recognizable water flow. We proceeded tweaking the distance and the amount of slack between the boom and the hand crank, and eventually found that adding a little resistance with bungee cords to assist with the upstroke of the pump produced a positive pump movement of about four inches. We were looking for six plus, but four was a good proof of concept and enough for us to proceed to the next step.

We decided to check the tank levels and see if we were seeing a noticeable flow into the tanks. We were surprised to see that indeed there was water flowing into the small tank via the diversion valve to the smaller tank. It was a small flow, but all we were looking for was positive, constant flow to help recharge the tanks with daily usage. Thor and I had discussed the idea of using a spring to still allow give with the communication, and proceeded to draft a concept of using a spring between the hand crank and the pump jack boom. Initially, we had drilled two holes into the hand crank itself to use as attachment points and anchors with the drill press, and decided to test that out with a spring and using bailing wire as an attachment method. The first test was unsuccessful, as we didn’t have a good enough connection between the ends of the spring. Thor wanted to weld two nuts into the ends of the spring to provide a solid, hoop connection to wrap tie wire around; so off to the welder!

After welding two nuts in and cleaning the welds up, we attached the spring with tie wire between the boom and the hand crank. Success! We were trying to design in points of failure in the event of a serious bind or miscommunication in the action, so now we had the wood plank boom as a point of failure, and the tie wire connections. They proved effective, as the tie wire on both ends gave during regular cycling of the action.

So far, we have a working model of what we could use to fill and supplement tanks during days of little or no wind; with the shallow wells on the property dry and water a precious but necessary commodity, we feel confident going forward that we can increase the effectiveness of available resources with this plan — and all of it was done with no outright cost, using available equipment, power, and materials!

I’ve no doubt that I will update either this entry or create a new one with more information as we get further along in the process, but initial results are both promising and inspiring!

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