Compress Air with a Hand Water Pump (includes video)

While Darren and I are always searching for simple ways to get our work done without fossil fuels, sometimes nifty solutions surface by accident. Using the WaterBuck Pump as an air compressor to pump up a tire was one of those unexpected discoveries. (This technique will work with any hand water pump capable of pressurizing a tank, as explained below.)pressure-tank-and-hand-pump

After filling our 40-gallon pressure tank for watering the vegetable gardens on a 95-degree day, Darren commented about the amount of compressed air at the top of the tank.

“You know, I bet I could fill a tire with this,” he said, pointing to the condensation line on the outside of the pressure tank. Water occupied most of the tank, but several inches of compressed air filled the top.

condensationThe next thing I knew, Darren was rummaging through spare parts in his workshop. As this is nothing new, I kept watering the garden. Minutes later, he returned with an air hose, chuck and fittings. To test his latest theory, he filled an inner tube with the compressed air.

The 14-inch inner tube filled in seconds, without expelling all the air from the tank. Even if the task required filling a vehicle tire to 35 PSI, it could be done this way.  We would simply drain the water from the tank (by watering plants, of course), and then pump up the tank again. After repeating the process, pressurized air is transferred from the tank to the tire – all without energy of any sort except human power.inner-tube

Most homes with private wells have cold water pressure tanks. When the water is forced into the tank (by hand pumping or electric pump), the air above the water is compressed. This compressed air can be utilized.

As with any transfer of air from one vessel to another, the air will equalize in the containers. For example, if there is 50 pounds of air in Tank A and 0 pounds in Tank B (or a tire), the air pressure will equalize in each tank. So, to fill Tank B to 35 pounds, Tank A must be pressurized again to 50 pounds and repeated until tank B reaches 35 psi.

This small amount of compressed air would not be practical for operating pneumatic tools, but, in an emergency would be a quick, easy way to fix a flat. With a portable air tank, compressed air could also be transported to the field.

How to Use a Hand Pump as an Air Compressor

tank-topAny hand water pump that is capable of pressurizing a tank for indoor plumbing will work along with a pressure tank that has connections for air fittings. (A larger tank will hold more air than a smaller one.)

Remove the cap or plug from the top of the pressure tank and install fittings necessary for a quick-connect air coupling. Connect the air hose to the coupling. The end of the hose should have an air chuck  to fit your tire or tube valve stem.

Pressurize the tank by filling it as usual with your hand pump. Do not exceed the manufacturer’s recommended safe limit. We fill ours to 50 pounds of pressure (with 33 strokes of the WaterBuck’s handle). Now connect the air chuck to whatever you wish to inflate. That’s all there is to it.pressure-gauge

The concept of pressurizing air with water is not new, but has been virtually forgotten since fossil fuels enabled humans to compress air mechanically, as John R. Hunt points out in a 1977 Mother Earth News story, Harness Hydro Power with a Trompe. Long before electricity, people would compress air with the help of falling water.

“For the homesteader or farmer with a small waterfall or a good-sized stream on his property, the trompe is a natural,” writes Hunt. “It offers a virtually inexhaustible supply of free compressed air … cool, dry air that can be used to operate a forge, drive machinery, or air-condition a house or barn in hot weather.”

Now, without a waterfall — just a hand water pump, pressure tank and muscle — you can compress air.

Video:  Well WaterBoy Products demonstrates how to use a hand water pump and pressure tank to compress air.  This can be useful when the compressor or power goes out and air is needed in a vehicle tire.  The WaterBuck Pump pressurized a 40-gallon tank to 50 pounds of pressure with just 33 strokes of the handle.  Any hand pump designed for water pressure for indoor plumbing, however, will work as demonstrated.

Hand Water Pump Breaks Record — 22 GPM at 80′ Static

Hand Water Pump 22 gpmJust when I think Darren has broken the most impossible record with the WaterBuck Pump, something new happens. Today he enlisted the help of a young neighbor, Tommy, to demonstrate the pump’s capability.

On his first attempt, Tommy filled three 7-gallon pails to the rim and was started on the fourth when I called, “Time!”

In 60 seconds flat, this medical school student pumped 22 gallons of water, one for each year of his age. And even though it was nearly 90 degrees outside, Tommy wasn’t even winded. He says with a little practice, he could probably pump more than 25 gallons in a minute. Ah, the optimism of youth!

We were certainly pleased with his result, which is actually 60 percent more water than a 12-foot-diameter windmill at peak performance can pump in one minute at the same application (80′ static water level with a 4″ cylinder).  According to the performance charts, a 12-foot windmill can pump 13.8 gallons in one minute with continuous winds of 15 to 20 miles per hour. Tommy also beat Darren’s old record of 17.5 gallons per minute.

Afterwards, I happily dispersed the pails of water among my garden plants. Speaking of breaking records, I am confident that my mammoth sunflowers are the tallest in the county this summer.

Darren says these water-pumping results are by no means the mechanical limits of the WaterBuck’s performance. They are just the beginning.

Now I wonder if Tommy’s classmates will ask if anything new and exciting happened over summer break.

©2014 Well WaterBoy Products LLC ♦ WaterBuck Pump™ ♦ Pedal Powered PTO™ logo

 

Hand Water Pumps Explained

We receive many questions here regarding how to use a hand pump, which is understandable. If you’re less than 80 years old, chances are you have never used one, or, at least, not relied on a hand pump for all of your water.

A prairie home

As recently as 100 years ago, the most important site consideration for homesteaders and villages was whether plenty of good water was within easy reach. When electric power lines and drilled water wells reached rural areas, however, close proximity to clean water became irrelevant – or so we assumed.Water comes first

Our nonchalant attitude regarding water is rapidly changing, according to well pump installers I spoke with recently. Many are seeing an upsurge in interest by homeowners wanting to learn about and fit hand pumps to their water wells. There are now numerous manually-operated water pumps to choose from, depending on factors such as static (resting) water level, well yield, size of casing or bore hole and amount of water needed.

Emergency Backup, General Use and New High-Volume Hand Pumps  

ice stormAn increase in powerful storms with longer power outages is one factor inciting people to think about manual pumps, says Albert Brandt, general manager of Radiant Water Company in Tulsa, Okla. A 2007 ice storm that disrupted electric service for 14 days prompted many to contemplate their water-preparedness, he said.

“A lot of our customers remember using a hand pump on Grandma’s farm, and now want one as a backup,” Brandt told me when I called to ask about hand pump popularity. Radiant Water Company installs Bison, Hitzer and Baker-Monitor hand pumps.

old hand pumpBrandt, who took over Radiant Water in 1998, remembers a swell in hand pump sales as Y2K neared. Now, after a decade-long calm, people are again preparing for potentially troubling times by making sure their families will have fresh, clean drinking water, even if the grid goes down. Recent advances in hand pump design have made them even easier to use and less expensive, he said.

Richard Stothoff, president of Samuel Stothoff Company of Flemington, N.J., said manufacturers, such as Bison Pump Company of Maine, used modern technology to adapt their pumps to function with existing electric submersible pumps. The yield is often less than people expect, however.

Stothoff, whose great-grandfather founded the company in 1885, said the company used to install many hand pumps in the then-rural area. Some households still use hand pumps exclusively for water, he said, although such use is rare. Stothoff said he has seen a slight increase in hand pump interest this year, mostly among the self-reliant.1926 Miami hurricane

Weather disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy that darkened much of the East Coast for extended periods, spurred more sales for fuel-powered electric generators than for hand pumps, Stothoff said.

“We’re too advanced,” Stothoff said. “We’ve got electricity.”

In neighboring New Hampshire, however, a representative of Northeast Water Wells said hand pump interest over the past five years has steadily climbed as more people build off-grid or geothermal homes. Northeast Water installs Simple Pump brand pumps.

Many types of human-powered pumps have been introduced through the years to accommodate the variety of situations and applications encountered when bringing water to the surface. Until now, however, the discharge capacity has been too low for large communities.

hand water pump machineIn January 2013, fellow Mother Earth News blogger Ed Essex introduced our homemade hand pump machine, which was the prototype for the WaterBuck Pump, to readers. Since then, the pump has been greatly improved, presently exceeding the peak capacity of a 12-foot diameter windmill by 25 percent, making it ideal for remote communities that need more water from deeper water tables or need an irrigation pump with shallow wells.

In a recent WaterBuck Pump test, a 50-something man of average fitness pumped 17.5 gallons in 1 minute from a static water level of 80 feet.  These results are minimal compared to what can be done with this machine with one or two stronger men or two to four operators and twin cylinders for irrigation. Now because of the design of this high-volume pump, large communities, small farms and developing countries can have a lot more water for their effort.

Kresten Jensen, III, general manager of Cook Pump Company, who calculated the WaterBuck’s performance recently, told us, “Considering how important the commodity produced by the WaterBuck Pump is to sustaining life on this planet, you have created a very powerful piece of equipment.”

The task of pumping daily water is made much easier with the WaterBuck Pump, freeing up time for other important tasks. Here in the Ozarks, when needed, we now spend more time using the water than pumping it.

Why Hand Pumps Went to Scrapyards

Ancient hand pumpBecause most Americans abandoned hand pumps more than a generation ago, few today understand how they work or what the pump’s limitations are.

The pump principle has changed little since its inception, whether for the piston pump invented in 275 BC by Greek inventor Ctesibius, or the rope pump invented in China during the 1st century BC. Rope pumps, in fact, are still being used today in remote areas with shallow wells.

Rope pumpVillages formed around the water well

Hand pumps were still commonly used in the countryside of the United States and Europe in the early 20th century. One pump was usually sufficient to supply water for a family and its livestock. Communities generally took shape around a central well. The people of tiny La Russell, Mo., were so reluctant to give up their community hand pump when progress arrived that they had the new highway paved around it. Residents continue to adorn the old pump with seasonal decorations.

Although hand pumps were scrapped when mechanization and electrification reached rural America, they are still broadly used in Third World countries. Especially where economic resources and fuel sources are sparse, human-powered pumps can significantly improve a water supply system and, consequently, a community’s livelihood.

Hand pump use in the United States is largely for emergency backup, intentionally going off-grid, or even novelty and nostalgia. Meanwhile, in developing nations, human-or animal-powered pumps are vital to survival. Having a manual pump, for instance, significantly increases agricultural yields, provides fast access to drinking water, improves sanitation and empowers women, children and small farmers.

Types of Pumps and Hand Pump Operation

hand-pump-partsThe majority of hand pumps fall into one of two categories: suction pumps (having a cylinder above ground) and lift pumps (having a cylinder below ground).

A suction pump, or pitcher pump, is the type we envision on an old homestead. Repeated strokes of the pump handle gradually “suck” water up the riser main and into the cylinder and out the spout. A suction pump’s operational depth is limited to about 26 feet, according to “Water Lifting Devices” by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

rope_pumpPiston pumps have their pump cylinder below ground and the water table. Instead of sucking well water out, they lift a column of water upward through the riser main. Each consecutive stroke of the pump handle causes the piston to displace more water up the riser until it flows out the spout.

Theoretically, the depth from which a piston pump can remove water is unlimited. In practice, however, the limit is determined by the power a human can exert on the pump handle and the fabrication and materials of the pump cylinder and rod and piston valves and seals.

There is a hand pump for nearly every need. When selecting a hand pump for your home, consider how much time you have available for pumping, your average daily household use, static (resting) water level, size of well casing (or liner if installed) and whether the pump will be used only in emergencies or every day.

©2014 Well WaterBoy Products LLC ♦ WaterBuck Pump™ ♦ Pedal Powered PTO™ logo

How to Make a Scarecrow that Moves and Chimes

Several years ago when crows kept stealing the vegetable seedlings from our gardens before they even had a chance to grow, I asked my husband for a simple, no-kill solution. His remedy was centuries old, but just as effective as ever – a scarecrow. Woody the Action Scarecrow

When I heard the racket coming from his shop, however, I knew this bird-scarer would not be a couple of 2x4s hammered together. In no time, he came out smiling with a man-sized, lifelike mannequin that would frighten the daylights out of any critter contemplating sprouts for dinner. Now, that is how to make a scarecrow.

Woody the Action ScarecrowClothed and with his pantyhose head in place, our scarecrow took on a personality, which of course, warranted a name. We called him “Woody.” For years he kept the squirrels, rabbits, deer and crows at bay. If you have never built one, you will be surprised at the fun of making a scarecrow and how effective they are at keeping aboveground pests from pilfering your produce.

My inventive husband, always looking for ways to improve perfection, decided to remake Woody recently, adding more motion and sound. We now have “Woody the Action Scarecrow,” who swivels like a weather vane and swings wind chimes to startle the stealthiest crop robbers.

A scarecrow that moves and makes noise

No Critters Beyond this PointNot only does Woody stand guard day and night looking ominous, he turns in the wind with a warning sign as a sail. Since we do actually adore and appreciate the furry and feathered creatures that surround us, the sign instructs them to simply stay outside of our garden area. For the critters that cannot read, owl eyes on the sign backside illustrate the message clearly. Dangling from Woody’s other hand, chimes made of electrical conduit ring like old school bells in the slightest breeze.Owl Eyes on Back of Sign

My husband used scrap PVC pipe and fittings, woven wire, plywood and metal pipe to fashion this new action scarecrow. Meanwhile, I assembled Woody’s head of pantyhose, pillow innards, buttons and three-tone yarn. Of course, a scarecrow can be made of any materials on hand, even something as simple as a plastic bag tied to a stick will work – for a while. My husband’s version, though, has proven to last and be effective for years. It is also lightweight and easy to move around the garden to keep animals on alert. Plus it’s an awfully cute addition to the backyard.

How to make a scarecrow body

Woody the Action Scarecrow SkeletonRoll a piece of 2” x 4” x 3’ woven wire around a 3” piece of PVC pipe to form a leg. Mark and cut the woven wire long enough to leave wire tabs to tie the leg seam. Also cut the leg bottom wire strand off to create tabs. These tabs will be used later for binding the legs and torso together. Tie the edges together with the tabs and wire ties. Slide out the PVC pipe. Make the second leg the same way.

Cut one piece of woven wire to roll for the body. Ours has a 36” waist so the wire was cut about 38”. Tie the edge together in back. Compress the middle to form a body shape.

Set the torso bottom on a piece of 1/2” plywood and trace around it. Cut it out. This forms the bum bottom. Drill four holes in the bum near the edge to later tie the torso to the bum with wire.

Set one leg on the underside of the bum to mark where to drill holes for all the wire tabs Action scarecrow legsexcept two. These two tabs will be bent over the edge of the torso later. Do the same for the other leg. Do not attach yet.

On both sides of the torso top, cut the top strand so the shoulders can be rolled over. Bind with wire ties.

Cut one piece of 2” schedule 80 PVC pipe 17” for the shoulder pipe. Drill a 1” hole into the center (not through both sides) of the shoulder pipe. Place the shoulder pipe through the torso, evenly spaced on both ends and with the drilled hole pointing down.

Measure the distance from drilled hole to the back of the torso. Drill a 2” hole in the bum the same distance as the shoulder pipe hole and evenly spaced from each hip.

Push the plywood bum into the torso bottom and bend over the tabs. Thread tie wire through the four drilled holes to secure it. Turn the torso upside down and insert the leg tabs into the drilled holes in the bum. Bend over the tabs in the drilled holes. Bend over the two remaining tabs on the outside edges by hooking them around the torso wire.

Cut two 20” pieces of 2” PVC pipe for the arms. Attach to the shoulder pipe with 2” (22-degree) PVC elbows. Cut two 6” stubs of 1 1/2” PVC to form wrists to slide into the arms. Drill a hole through the arm bottom and wrist to insert a screw. Slide a 1 1Action Scarecrow Shoulders/2” (22-degree) elbow onto each wrist to form hands (later hidden by gloves).  To attach a sign, cut another short piece of 1 1/2” PVC pipe to slide into the hand joint so the sign can be removed in high wind.

Cut a 40” piece of 12-gauge wire to form the neck and attach it to the back of the torso with tie wire. Attach the head to the neck by tying the pantyhose ends (explained below) to the inverted U-shaped wire. Secure with additional wire ties. Bend over the bottom of the neck wire to attach to the torso.

Scarecrow backboneCut a 4’ piece of 1/2” rigid pipe for the center rod (backbone). Insert a plug of dowel rod into the top of this rod to allow the torso to spin freely. Cut a 4’ piece of 1” rigid pipe to create a telescoping rod. This pipe is pounded into the soil 2’. Attach a U-bolt to adjust the height. Set the body on the rod.

How to make a scarecrow head

Cut off three pantyhose legs. Insert the second and third legs into the first to form a triple thickness. Tie a knot at least 6” from the toe end. Do not cut off the tail. Stuff with polyester or cotton filler material. I used stuffing from an old pillow. Make the head larger and about 6” longer than an actual head. The face will compress when eyes are added and the high forehead holds a hat in place. After filling, tie off the bottom of the head, leaving the long tail for tying onto the body.

Back of Scarecrow HeadWith permanent marker or paint, draw a nose, remembering to keep a high forehead. Attach two 1” shiny buttons for the eyes by sewing all the way through the head with upholstery thread or fishing line and a long needle, pulling tight. At the back of the head, tie off the thread to a large washer or curtain ring. Draw or stitch a mouth. To stitch, pull the thread tightly through the head. Draw on ears. To make 3D ears or a nose, cut out 3” circles of pantyhose. Hand baste around the edge of the circles to form a drawstring. Stuff lightly and pull the thread tight, forming a pouch. Glue or stitch to the head.

Cut yarn hair and attach to the top of the head by using the top pantyhose tail to tie around the bundle of yarn strands. Attach the head to the body as explained above.

Install your scarecrow

Insert the center pipe into the larger pipe driven into the soil. Be sure to allow enough space for your scarecrow to spin without hitting any plants or other obstacles. Dress your scarecrow as desired. To put on a shirt, temporarily remove one arm. A belt or suspenders may be necessary to keep pants up, especially in rain.

Finally, stand back and admire your new friend. Be prepared to laugh yourself silly as you welcome your action scarecrow to the family and occasionally startle yourself in the garden.

Woody the Action Scarecrow Backside

Check back soon (after the first breezy day here) for a video of Woody the Action Scarecrow turning in the wind and rattling his musical chimes!

For more fun scarecrow ideas, check out this Mother Earth News scarecrow contest slideshow from 1989 or this spinning scarecrow from 1980.

If you’d like to learn how to get water from your drilled well without electricity, please see this blog.

©2014 Well WaterBoy Products LLC ♦ WaterBuck Pump™ ♦ Pedal Powered PTO™ logo

 

Get well water the old-fashioned way without electricity

If you have a water well and the power goes out for an extended period, you still can get to your water the old-fashioned way – simply and inexpensively – with a well bucket.woman at a well Long before the age of electricity, people fetched water by hand with a simple rope and bucket.  To make it easier, some used a pulley or windlass with a hand wheel.

wheel axle windlassToday, with fuel and electricity costs soaring, more frequent natural and manmade disasters and because of the uncertain days we live in, well buckets are popular again. Many people are preparing now so they can get water from their well without electricity.

WaterBoy Windlass Hoist

Well WaterBoy Products not only designed and makes the most powerful high-volume, manual deep-well pump known to date, we also crafted and build modern well buckets and windlass hoists.  With the WaterBoy well bucket and optional windlass hoist, you can easily access your well water during long-term emergencies. Since 2011, we have sold our dependable well buckets with 100-percent customer satisfaction all across the United States.

Can you get to your well water without electricity?

Please see our product page to learn how to measure your well and watch a video to see how to use a well bucket by hand or with a windlass.

The WaterBuck Pump

If you need a lot of water for the family and farm, please see our high-capacity human powered well pump.

human-powered-water-pump

Dual Power Ability Coming to the WaterBuck Pump

Hand Pump flowBecause of the proven efficiency and capacity of the WaterBuck Pump under human power, Well WaterBoy Products is now working with a solar pump company to fit the WaterBuck with a lower-watt solar drive motor.

Combining solar power will make the WaterBuck the most unique, efficient primary and manual backup water supply system anywhere.

“The crisis of our diminishing water resources is just as severe (if less obviously immediate) as any wartime crisis we have ever faced. Our survival is just as much at stake as it was at the time of Pearl Harbor, or the Argonne, or Gettysburg, or Saratoga.”

-Jim Wright, U.S. Representative, “The Coming Water Famine,” 1966

WaterBuck Quote and Comparison

Deep Well Hand Pump is Setting New Records

Deep well hand pump demoThe performance of our innovative deep-well hand pump is not just breaking records, but is setting new ones.

What is so impressive about this new manual well pump is that an average man in his 50’s pumped 17.5 gallons in one minute.  That’s more water in 1 minute than a 12-foot diameter windmill can pump (at peak performance and same application with same size cylinder) and what a common deep-well hand pump can – combined. These test results are minimal compared to what can be done with this machine with 2 to 4 operators.

millThe maximum gpm for a 12’ windmill operating a 4” cylinder with 80’ of head is 13.8. The maximum for a common deep-well hand pump at same application with a 3” cylinder is 3 gpm. That’s a combined total of 16.8 gallons in one minute. The average man using the WaterBuck Pump beat the windmill by more than 3 1/2 gallons. At shallower applications with the use of the same size cylinder or larger cylinders, up to three times as much water can be yielded in the same amount of time with the same operator.

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Our next goal is to fit the WaterBuck Pump with a lower-watt solar drive motor, making it the most unique, efficient primary and manual backup water supply system anywhere.

 

The WaterBuck’s capacity can easily be doubled by being equipped with twin 6″ or 8”cylinders, and two pump levers opposite each other for irrigating a few acres of farmland. For more information please see WaterBuck Pump.