A Backwoods Home Anthology
The Third Year
(This is the second of our three-partseries on waterwheels. The third installation(Issue No. 18) will deal with overshotwheels.—Editor.)
By Rudy Behrens
or those of you who are stillawake after reading my first install-ment, I will now continue. This partwill deal with the design factors youwill need to know to build a low-headwaterwheel. It’s somewhat technical,but it is essential to know if you are tobuild a successful no-head or low-head waterwheel.
Head, spouting velocity
The most important thing to deter-mine is
, or how far the waterfalls. If you have a small dam orwaterfall the answer is the differencein height between the free water sur-face on the
side, and thefree water surface on the
side, in inches or feet. If you have aswift moving stream, the answer isonly a bit harder to figure out.The answer is in the equation forspouting velocity, which is the equa-tion that describes the speed of anyfalling mass:
velocity squared divid-ed by two times a gravitational con-stant
, which is expressed mathemati-cally as
/2G. The gravitational con-stant (G) is 32.2.You can measure the velocity of astream by running two strings acrossit, some measured distance apart. Youthen throw in corks, or pingpong ballsand time their travel between thestrings, in feet-per-second. Do thisseveral times at several points alongthe stream and calculate an averagevelocity. Once this is done, you takethis figure and multiply it times itself,then divide that number by 64.4,which is two times the gravitationalconstant. This will convert your veloc-ity into a
Diameter of wheel
When designing an undershot wheel,you must know the
since theoptimum diameter of the wheel isthree to six times the head. Let’s sayyou measure your stream and get anaverage velocity of 10 feet-per-sec-ond. That number times itself is 100.Divided by 64.4, we get an answer of 1.55 feet. In other words, the water ismoving as fast as it would if it hadfallen 1.55 feet. Your wheel shouldthen be at least 4.65 feet to 9.3 feet indiameter (E.g.: 3 x 1.55 = 4.65 or 6 x1.55 = 9.3).Whenever possible, make the wheelas large as you can. However, therewould be no improvement in perfor-mance if it were larger than 9.3 feet.The next step is to compute theworking diameter. This is the overalldiameter minus the head. Now, multi-ple this number times PI (which is themathematical constant equal toapproximately 22/7 or 3.14) to get theworking circumference. The answerwill also be in feet.
When you install the wheel, you will
submerge the blades a distanceequal to the head
. Therefore, thespacing between the blades should besome convenient number times PI toget the working circumference. Theanswer will also be in feet.
Design calculations for no-head, low-head waterwheels