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ALTERNATIVE ENERGY

Waterwheels…Part 2…

Design calculations for no-head, low-head waterwheels

series on waterwheels. The third installation

(Issue No. 18) will deal with overshot

wheels.—Editor.)

By Rudy Behrens

awake after reading my first install-

ment, I will now continue. This part

will deal with the design factors you

will need to know to build a low-head

waterwheel. It’s somewhat technical,

but it is essential to know if you are to

build a successful no-head or low-

head waterwheel.

The most important thing to deter-

mine is head, or how far the water

falls. If you have a small dam or

waterfall the answer is the difference

in height between the free water sur-

face on the upstream side, and the

free water surface on the downstream

side, in inches or feet. If you have a

swift moving stream, the answer is

only a bit harder to figure out.

The answer is in the equation for constant. This will convert your veloc- would be no improvement in perfor-

spouting velocity, which is the equa- ity into a head. mance if it were larger than 9.3 feet.

The next step is to compute the

tion that describes the speed of any Diameter of wheel

falling mass: velocity squared divid- working diameter. This is the overall

ed by two times a gravitational con- When designing an undershot wheel, diameter minus the head. Now, multi-

you must know the head since the ple this number times PI (which is the

stant, which is expressed mathemati-

cally as V2 /2G. The gravitational con- optimum diameter of the wheel is mathematical constant equal to

stant (G) is 32.2. three to six times the head. Let’s say approximately 22/7 or 3.14) to get the

you measure your stream and get an working circumference. The answer

You can measure the velocity of a

stream by running two strings across average velocity of 10 feet-per-sec- will also be in feet.

it, some measured distance apart. You ond. That number times itself is 100.

Divided by 64.4, we get an answer of

Blade spacing

then throw in corks, or pingpong balls

and time their travel between the 1.55 feet. In other words, the water is When you install the wheel, you will

strings, in feet-per-second. Do this moving as fast as it would if it had submerge the blades a distance

several times at several points along fallen 1.55 feet. Your wheel should equal to the head . Therefore, the

the stream and calculate an average then be at least 4.65 feet to 9.3 feet in spacing between the blades should be

velocity. Once this is done, you take diameter (E.g.: 3 x 1.55 = 4.65 or 6 x some convenient number times PI to

this figure and multiply it times itself, 1.55 = 9.3). get the working circumference. The

then divide that number by 64.4, Whenever possible, make the wheel answer will also be in feet.

which is two times the gravitational as large as you can. However, there

A Backwoods Home Anthology

In our example I have decided to changes among the various designs is No matter how tempting, never use

work with the 9.3 foot diameter from the speed or efficiency. If we were to wood. It rots and holds water unevenly.

the figures above, so the working cir- make our example as a poncelot This unbalances the wheel and makes

cumference is 24.35 feet (9.3 minus a wheel, all the design parameters it unsuitable for any use except grind-

head of 1.55 = 7.75 feet. 7.75 x PI would be the same. The blades would ing grain. Be very accurate in all you

24.35 feet.) not be straight. Instead, they would be measurements, especially those con-

The space between the blades should offset from the radius of the wheel by cerning flow and head. If they are

be less than 1.55 feet, which in our a negative 30 degrees and the lower wrong, everything is wrong.

example is the head. Let’s use 1.5 portion would be curved to 60 degrees

feet, so the number of blades is 16.23 of arc in a radius equal to the head. Use wood bearings

(24.35/1.5 = 16.23) or rounded to 16. This change will raise efficiency to I recommend oil-impregnated

So, we will build a wheel 9.3 feet in the 80 + % range. wood bearings. They can be obtained

diameter with 16 blades. from the POBCO Bearing Company

Wheel should be steel o f Worcester, NILA. Waterwheels

Making it efficient Materials should always be a good turn too slowly for ball or sleeve bear-

But how fast will it turn? The most grade of steel. A steel grade of A36 or ings; they cannot maintain a uniform

efficient energy transfer occurs when B36 works very well. Twenty gauge lubricant field. This tends to ruin the

the wheel speed is between 67% and or thicker is good. We always use 1/8” bearing quickly. The wood bearings

90% of the water speed. For undershot at FITX Waterwheel Company, and have a “wick” action that maintains

wheels, I usually go for the lower fig- ours have withstood direct hits by ice uniform lubricant.

ure to allow for slow days. Sixty flows of more than a ton. If you use Next issue, we will adapt these

seven percent of 10 feet per second is corten, a weathering steel, it will not equations to overshot wheels and get

6.7 feet per second, which is the same need painting and it will acquire a red- into the economics of going into the

as 402 (6.7 x 60 = 402) feet per dish color that resembles wood. cogeneration business.

minute. You divide this by the working Staticly balance the wheel before (Rudy Behrens owns the Fitz Waterwheel

Company, 118 Sycamore Ct., Collegeville,

circumference of 24.35 feet per revo- installation. PA 19426. Phone: (215) 4896156.) ∆

lution. This gives you an answer of 16.5

(402/24.35 = 16.5) revolutions per

minute. That is your best rotative speed.

As you can see, it is rather slow.

That is why you will need a speed

increasing system, as we said in the

last issue.

The power you will get depends on

the width. For our example, I have

chosen three feet. The working cross

section will then be width times sub-

mergence. In this case 1.55 feet times

3 feet, or 4.65 square feet. Multiply

this times our velocity of 10 feet per

second and we get a design flow of

46.5 cubic feet per second. Power is

equal to flow times head divided by

11.8. Therefore, we have a flow of

46.5 cfs times a head of 1.55’ divided

by 11.8. 46.5 x 1.55 = 72.075.

72.075/11.8 = 6.1 kilowatts or kw/.746

= horsepower. 8.2 horsepower. We

should assume an efficiency of 70%.

So, our hypothetical wheel will pro-

duce 5.7 horsepower or 4.3 kilowatts.

These calculations apply to any low-

head waterwheel. The only thing that A FITZ Waterwheel Company all-welded steel undershot wheel.

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