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Get Powered Up! Certified Energy Manager Jeff Yago answers your alternative energy questions

Wondering about a great new energy-saving device
you found on the Internet? Then CLICK HERE!

Sorry. Jeff no longer answers questions online.
This will remain as a searchable
resource for all BHM website visitors.

Archive for the ‘Water’ Category


Solar pump

Friday, June 19th, 2009


I own land on a river and want something simple that will pump a small amount from the river to the water trough on the other side of a fence about 50 yards from the river and at an elevation of about 10 feet.  Nothing fancy.  Simple and small is fine.

Can you suggest something? Many thanks,

David Mayfield


Check out this article from a past issue that covers this topic:

Good Luck,

Jeff Yago


Water pump & pressure tank

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

Hi Jeff,

I read about a water pump for a house that doesn’t require a pressure tank. I’ve lost my information and hope that you’re aware of the manufacturer.



There are lots of manufacturers of water pumps that do not require a pressure pump, but I do not recommend you putting one of these on a home.

This type of pump is designed for an RV or boat where you have a holding tank full of water, and the water flow rates, pressures, and piping system are all small. These pumps include a very sensitive and fast-acting pressure switch which turns the pump on and off when you open and close a nearby faucet. If you tried this with the larger pump sizes and flow rates of a typical home, the water hammer alone would soon either cause a fitting failure or damage the pump.

In addition to absorbing the pumping shock of quickly stopping the water flow, the expansion tank also saves wear and tear on the pump because any single toilet flush or short hand-washing most likely can be supplied from water stored under pressure in the pressure tank and will not require cycling the pump every single time.

On smaller RV and boat systems with a holding tank as the source, these problems are not that big a deal.

Good luck,

Jeff Yago


Woodstove/fireplace with a water jacket for hydronic floor

Thursday, May 14th, 2009


I am looking at replacing a traditional fireplace with a wood stove insert that can be used in a hydronic floor system.

I looked over your article on the fireplace you installed in your home and have spoke to and web searched for wood stoves that circulate water for heated floors and find only the “long burners” for outside or commercial “furnaces”, nothing that would be appropriate for a great room/ranch application.  Can you point me toward manufacturers that have this type of product?

Thank you.

Mark J. Bechtel


As I mentioned in answers to similar questions to this web site, most of these manufacturers have gone out of business due to not being able to meet new regulations and codes related to wood-fired boilers. There are several web sites that describe how to build your own, but installers are switching to the outdoor models for safety.

I feel our hydronic fireplace system is very safe, but I have included both a temperature and a separate pressure relief valve, and a way to keep the pump working if there is a power outage.  Many of these early systems were well made but the piping systems were poorly designed and installed.

Hope this helps,

Jeff Yago


Solar submersible pump

Thursday, April 16th, 2009


I want to start buying the pump and pipes to supply my  cabin, however I do not know what to buy at this time. Let me explain my situation.

The river which I plan to pull my water from is about 75 yds away from my cabin. The problem is that for the first 55 yards its flat then the water has to travel up hill about 30 ft.

What pump should I buy?

Should I have a double tank system where one is located at the bottom of cliff then pull it up from there and get a second pump to raise it up to pressure tank?

Should I buy the pump from Harbor Freight which has a 2 inch outlet and cost 349.00 which the website says it can lift water 197 ft.?

Should I put a booster pump at the bottom of cliff, or is a solar submersible pump which cost 740.00 powerful enough to do this, or is a 1hp 230 volt submersible pump the only alternative?

Please help.

Thank you,



Read the article I wrote several years ago on this exact same issue.  I suggest you consider a smaller version of this design.

Here is the link: Water: a safe supply when you’re off the grid

Good luck,

Jeff Yago


Sump Pump Help

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Hi Jeff.

Here is my problem. My house must sit on an old artisian (sp?) well or something. My sump pit is situated in the north east corner of the basement. There is an old (red) clay tile that leads out of my pit to the “outside”.

Even in dry times, there is steady stream of water running into my sump pit from outside. My basement is only 24′ x 36′, but if the sump pump gets unplugged, my basement will fill with 3″ to 4″ of water in less than 24 hours.

My sump pump runs, on average, 2 times per hour for around 5 minutes each time, 24/7. I have not calculated how many gallons it is but I know it is killing my electric bill.

I thought, solar water pump. The less the sump pump runs, the better off my electric bill. Also, I thought it could be collect in a “rain barrel” for summer time watering needs and drain to the ditch or current dry well in the winter months.

Any help/suggestions would be helpful?

Thank You,



Sounds like you need to start building an ark.

Although this does seem like a very unusual amount of water infiltration, based on your estimate of 5 minutes run time every hour of day and night, and my estimate that this is a 1/4 HP sump pump, this still only adds up to $1.62 per month at $0.09 per kwh. Either you are under-estimating the actual run time, or more likely, you have far more energy using appliances and lights than you think. For example, an older model refrigerator/freezer can represent up to one-quarter of a home’s electric bill if we don’t include air conditioning costs.

The problem with using a solar powered pump is it only pumps on a sunny day and only during daylight hours unless you have a battery bank, and you need a pump that can run 24/7 regardless of the weather or time of day. This means you would need a solar array, battery bank, solar charger, and DC pump, and this would most likely cost around $3000 for the size pump we are talking about.

I would check with a foundation water-proof company as it may be possible to install a French drain around your exterior basement walls and re-direct most of this water away from your basement and get rid of a large amount of this water before it can seep into your basement walls and floor.

Good luck,

Jeff Yago


Water pressure for toilets

Friday, March 13th, 2009


I am a student, and I am planning a solar water pumping system to supply non-potable water to a public bathroom on a Island. I am having a hard time finding a toilet to use in this system.

We are planning on having a large above ground storage tank to hold all the water. My biggest question is what type of toilet can be run on low pressure as the holding tank may only be 5-10 feet above the bathroom. We are trying not to have to install a separate pump to pressurize the system.

We are assuming a gravity feed toilet would be just fine, as most toilets are gravity feed. Most of the literature that I have read on gravity feed toilets suggest a water pressure of about 20PSI, which would require considerably more head.


Jeff Hamman

It sounds like you need more consideration of other options. I can’t design a system on a free web site as we do not have the time and would never know all of the design parameters for the hundreds of request we get. However, I will give you some things to help you fine tune your design process.

1. You say you will have a large water storage tank, which in turn will provide water to flush toilets. It’s a law of nature that for every foot of height you raise any tank, the pressure at the bottom outlet will increase .43 psi per foot of height. You do not need to raise a large heavy tank, you could raise a smaller tank up on a nearby hill and fill it from the larger tank.

2. Consider waterless urinals and cut the total water usage by 50%.

3. Use a second pump and pressure tank feed from the large storage tank. You can get any pressure and flow you want by selecting the right pump, which can be powered from a solar-charged battery. These require clear water entering so you will need some kind of filter between the tank and the pump.

Good Luck,

Jeff Yago


Air Pressure Tank

Saturday, March 7th, 2009


I have learned a lot from your articles and especially enjoyed your three part “energy class” in recent issues of BWH magazine.

As a result of the information I learned from these articles I went and purchased a much larger air pressure tank to prevent frequent cycling of my well pump.  The only problem is that it takes me an hour and a half to watch 60 minutes.  I didn’t measure the crawl space opening and to make a long story short, I could not fit the tank through the hole.

I have two questions.  Could I leave my existing pressure tank in place and then couple it together with another air pressure tank (one that will fit through my crawl space door) so they would in effect be “in line” with each other?  My existing tank is a 20 gallon and I was thinking about connecting it with a 40 or 50 gallon tank.  Would they balance out?  Would the pressure switch on the existing tank interface with both tanks?  Basically I am after the same results of a much larger air/water pressure tank by using two tanks together.

Also, I read somewhere that you need to be careful on your well’s recovery rate.  If it is to slow of a recovery rate and your air pressure tank capacity is to large for the well to keep up you could potentially burn out your well pump.

Any feedback you can provide would by much appreciated.

Keep up the great work and again thank you for all of the great information you share with your readers.  I’m a big fan!




The reason I suggest using a large pressure tank is to reduce the repeated start-up surges that a well pump places on a inverter-battery system.  If you are totally on city utility power, the only thing you gain with a larger pressure tank is perhaps a longer life for the pump as the start-stop cycling has a high current in-rush which can eventually burn-out motor windings or a starting capacitor if you have one.

In most plumbing applications, you can have more than one pressure tank and they do not need to be near each other, as long as there are no check valves between them in the piping.  The existing tank and pressure switch will still work as if nothing has changed, but there is now more “expansion” in the piping loop so the pump will stay on longer until both tanks are at equal pressure and then the pump shuts off.  Yes, you do need to consider other issues if you have a slow fill well, but the question is, is it better for the pump to run longer during refilling and then stay off longer giving the well a longer time to re-fill, or run for shorter periods more often.  The same amount of water will be removed from the well regardless of which method you use, so it will depend on these other factors as to which way is best for your pump.

Good luck,

Jeff Yago


Hydro generator system

Friday, March 6th, 2009

Hi Jeff:

I purchased DC-512 four alternators over the Internet for a hydro project. I’m taking advantage of an existing irrigation system on a farm, which pumps a steady stream of water with great pressure at a very long distance. It’s like a fire hose in action.

This system is running continuously for 12 hours daily. I’ve designed a special, very light aluminum=blades arrangement and I have adapted it to the DC-512 via belt drive to disrupt the powerful irrigation water stream, moving this blade as when cleaning a painting roll with a pressure hose. This creates a speed in the DC-512 of 1150 RPM as measured with a tachometer. The voltage produced with no load, e.g., disconnected from the batteries, is approximately 25 volts, measured with a Flux digital meter.

The DC-512 were all connected in parallel to a single 12 volts Flex-Charger of 100 amps to charge a battery bank, 4 batteries connected in parallel. Three alternators DC-512 were disconnected from the charger to perform troubleshooting leaving just one connected in parallel. This is what happens; when I connect the positive cable to close the circuit, seems like a short circuit is created in the alternator, which slows down the speed to about 500 RPM stopping the blades and disrupting its function to load the battery bank. The charger light turns on indicating that is charging but, producing only 13 volts, which is not really enough voltage to charge the batteries. I have connected everything precisely as per alternator and charger instructions. Finally, I am tired of getting wet like crazy during test and troubleshooting process. I wonder if you can explain what is happening and how can I make this system work. Your help will be really appreciated.

Thank you in advance.

Carlos Echevarria


As it states on the web site, we can not answer specific design questions as we do not know all of the specifics of your installations, and this is a free site and we have limited time to spend on each email question. However, we can provide general answers that may be of some help.

First, I assume this pressure flow is due to gravity head and not from a pressure pump somewhere. Second, if I had this much “free” water flow I would purchase a quality hydro-generator that is designed to maximize the conversion of energy. Most likely a properly sized and designed unit could replace all four of your home-made units and without all the problems you are having.

If things work fine with all four alternators in the circuit and then when you cut out all but one and it does what you describe, it sounds like it is being over-loaded. This would drop the voltage while appearing to be under load. Also, your wiring switching to one alternator could be causing the remaining alternator to be sending power into the alternators not being used which would be a large current drain on the working unit.

Again, you have a great opportunity to power your home with this much hydro power if you bite the bullet and purchase the correct equipment.

Good luck!

Jeff Yago



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