A Backwoods Home Anthology
The Third Year
(For good background information for thisarticle, the reader should read “Waterpowerfor personal use” In Issue No. 16 and “Designcalculations for no-head, low-head water-wheels” In Issue No. 17. —Editor)
By Rudy Behrens
his installment deals with the clas-sic overshot waterwheel. This is thetype most familiar to people where thewater is introduced to the top of thewheel by a chute, known as a flume.In spite of the public impression thatthese machines are low technology,they were actually quite extensivelystudied by academicians. The first tostudy them was a Roman namedVetruvius, who wrote what is consid-ered to be the earliest known engi-neering treatise. The work on water-wheels by Lazare Carnot in the early1700s not only advanced fluid dynam-ics, but his study was the groundwork for the study of thermodynamics.As we discussed in previous articles(Issues No. 16 and 17), the mostimportant thing to determine when uti-lizing a waterwheel is
, or howfar the water falls. This is importantbecause it has a lot to do with thediameter of the wheel. Ideally, thewheel diameter should be 90% of the
. For convenience we choosesome even number, in feet, that isnearly 90%. Unless the wheel isunusually large, we choose a diameterequal to the
minus two feet. Thistwo-foot difference will be the depthof our flume.
We will now return to the concept of “spouting velocity.” The water in theflume will flow to the end where itwill fall two feet. We must determinehow fast it is moving horizontally
vertically. You see, once it reaches theend of the flume, it begins to fallagain, and gravity causes its down-ward speed to increase.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. We used this lasttime to convert a velocity into a head.Now we will use it to convert a headinto a velocity.Instead of the
/2G = Head, we willuse the form:
Head x 2G = velocity.It is the same equation; we re-arranged the terms to solve for a dif-ferent variable.If our water falls 2 feet, the equationtells us the velocity will be 11.35 feetper second. At the same time, gravityis pulling the water down as it is mov-ing horizontally.
If we plot several points on a graph(see Figure 1) showing how the watertravels horizontally as it leaves theflume, then vertically as gravity pullson the water, we will get an arcingline. This line is very important. It willbe the curvature of our buckets. Bycurving the buckets this way, thewater enters smoothly and withoutsplashing. It is then possible to makeuse of the velocity energy. Figure 1 isa graph of points for water leaving atwo-foot flume.
The next step is to compute theworking diameter. This is equal to the
minus the depth of theflume. We will use a hypotheticalhead of 12 feet. This means our diam-eter will be 12
. Now,multiply this number times
(whichis the mathematical constant equal toapproximately 22/7 or 3.14) to get theworking circumference. The answerwill also be in feet—31.4 feet.The number of buckets is relativelyeasy to determine. They should beapproximately one foot apart, more orless, depending on the diameter. I rec-ommend that it be an even number tosimplify construction. Therefore, forour example we use 32 buckets. It isan even number and they will bealmost one foot apart. The bucketsshould be around one foot deep.
But how fast will it turn? The mostefficient energy transfer occurs whenthe wheel speed is at 93% of the waterspeed. For our example, the spoutingvelocity is 11.35 feet per second. So
Design calculations for overshot waterwheels
Figure 1. Bucket curvature graph