Pump it up

Ram pump

Before we harnessed the great energy slave that is oil, for many centuries we still managed to do many things that we needed to using different technology. With the abundance of cheap oil, though, many of these technologies were sidelined and forgotten as we powered everything with the black gold. One of the key principles of the transition town movement is rediscovering different ways of making the things we need in the modern world happen without dependence on fossil fuels.

Eco fair FestiSol 2011, which will be held in Coín on June 18, is showcasing these kind of home made products that use renewable energy sources that we have around us – sun, wind and water – to power our machines for everyday uses: heat water, produce electricity, make us warm or pump water. One of the most exciting and impressive devices that I have discovered is the hydraulic ram pump, which, with minimum moving parts and remarkably easy to make, is an effective way of pumping water from a flowing source up to a storage tank. Its simplicity is as remarkable as its effectiveness – all that is required is a suitable source of running water, a feed pipe into a pump made of a few regular pipes and valves from a plumbing shop, and a tube up to the storage tank. The capacity of the pump, the amount of water it will deliver to the deposit, is calculated by the fall of the water, the height to be pumped, the intake into the pump (in litres per minute), and the size of the pump itself (the diameter of the valves and pipes).

The force of the water flowing into the ram pump through the feed pipe slams shut a valve creating pressure in the flowing water which forces open a second, non-return, valve. A small amount of water goes through into an expansion chamber, building water pressure which can then be pushed up the delivery tube to a storage tank. The pressure in the feed pipe drops so the first valve opens again to allow water to flow and the process is repeated. Once the pump is set in motion, and so long as the water supply flows uninterrupted, it will run happily 24 hours a day, steadily pumping water. The work of the energy group in Coín’s Transition Town project is to show that this and other systems are not only viable solutions in an energy depleted world, but are also practical and affordable.

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This post is also available in: Spanish

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