Simple water pump idea

On at least 2 places on my land l wuld need a foulproof water pump that runs without electricity. In one occasion (garden irrigation) l was able to make a ram pump and it works but not at summer drought (the main water flow is just about 2gal/min in the summer), but then it is most neaded! Other is l plan to make a small fish farm in the future, and aquaponics in my greenhouse/root cellar complex. This calls for 2 things, water flow and aeration of water. Later culd be excluded if water gets aerated with a good enough current of water trugh venturis etc. but it comes at a price. The water pump must never ever stop! And usual electric pumps are prone to do so. A hour of power outage or a mechanical breakdown can be fatal for a years worth of fish.

So, l was looking for a alternative. Something simple, reliable and free of electricity. This is what comes to mind; steam hammer effect pump (the name is a work in progress :smile:slight_smile:

It consists of 2 main vessels, the work chamber (left) and the steam chamber (right) in adition it uses 3 non return valves (2 for directing water flow from the lower water tank to the higher and one for venting the air on top of the work chamber) and a drip valve and a float (the box in the work chamber)


The steam chamber is heated with a outside sorce of heat.

Water drips in the hot vessel, turns to steam instantly, expands and rushes out in the work vessel, pushing the air out the air vent on top.

Once the water has turned to steam, it starts to contract. Air vent closes and all the steam condenses on the cool walls of the work chamber. A near perfect vacuum is made.
Vacuum draws the water up in the work chamber.
Water lifts the float and as it rises to the top, it touches and opens the air vent, breaks the vacuum. Water can flow out the work vessel in a higher standing tank.
Cycle repeats.

What do you think? Theoreticly this pump culd work for up to 10m height difference or 1bar, in practice a bit less. It is preety much foul proof as long as there is a heat sorce and water in the water drip. Self starting too.
As a heat sorce anything could be used, a propane torch, a petrol/kerosene wick, small stove, woodgas, even a solar parabola miror. Is shuldnt realy be much, just enough to boil a couple of drops of water a couple of times a minute.

What do you think?


The video that sparked the idea.

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It was a short night last night so I am sure I am missing something reading this. But my first thought is you should look into a permiculture gray water system. Off the top of my head I can’t remember where I read about it but the system ends with a pond that you keep ducks and fish in if the system isn’t processing all the soap the ducks won’t swim so you have a natural monitor built into the system. I have debated setting up something like that here but haven’t figured out how I would do it with zoning and my land layout.

hi there.
I built some years ago a similar pump for put into labour a very poor well. (about 0,1 liters’ per second)
Pump used compressed air.

Pump was a big drum, (biggest that could fit into a 200 mm well, something like a fire extinguisher). Drum had two connection, one in the bottom with a check valve and one on the top with another. The top connection had a straight tube coming almost to the bottom of the drum.

Working principle was simple. Put drum below water level and open air vent. Water would be forced inside the drum. Then, apply air presure. As air stays on top of water, air pressure forced water through ouput pipe.
A quick picture…

I used a timer relay for controling air in/out. Hope this helps.

I think this might just work providing the valves all work quickly and seal tightly. Slow and leaky valves would kill the effect of a couple drops of water turned to steam.
Do you ever sleep? :laughing:

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Just tossing this out there; some Amish use windmill diaphragm low pressure air pumps to move their water. Of course a tank might be needed to even out the flow.


I wouldn’t use it for the fish. It heats the water, and warm water doesn’t absorb as much air.
It depends on the size of your pond as to a viable solution. I am tossing around the idea of an “air lift” pump as it can remove sediment and aerate.

I would use electric, as ac induction motors can run a long time without fail. You can get a well pump controller that will derate the electric motor so it runs slower and more continuously by varying the ac input while maintaining a more constant pressure. In india they just use storage tanks, and they now combine it with solar.

I always liked the spiral pumps.

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I think a reservoir would be very important if you were aiming to have an uninterrupted flow. Put a decent sized tank on the hill above where you want the water and you will always have modest pressure for your fish farming, or garden irrigation. I have a similar situation, as my garden is 60 feet higher than my spring, so in the summer I use a solar powered DC pump and a 2500 gallon cistern. It can move about 500 gallons a day from a source that produced about 1 gal/min. Any pump would work, though, and I intrigued by your design. The other advantage of a cistern, is you can catch rainwater in it.

What species are you thinking of trying to cultivate? I looked into farming trout with the spring water we have on our property, but I couldnt make the numbers work out if I had to buy feed.


Look into Pulsometer pumps.


I question whether the steam heated mass would have great effect on the water. It might be thermally inefficient unless a separate chamber is used, as was the practice on steam engines.

Here’s a schematic of a system…

An air bubble pump is quite simple and reliable. A large compressed air reservoir would be needed for energy storage if used with a wind or solar powered air compressor.


You want the Humphrey Pump:



for small amounts and elevations, even a fluydine stirling pump could do the job.
(love Stirling Engines… :sweat_smile: )



It is a little late now in Canada but I can give you some good ideas on how to build a simple piston pump driven from simple windmill.

Here’s a start how to make leather cups, But I would suggest you form them hot after a dip in some wool wax or in a pinch paraffin wax ( or both depending on need for stiffness ) to lubricate and preserve the leather.

Not practical but I always wanted to build a Humphrey pump.
Not clear how much woodgas this needs to opperate but I know they ended up with Tar ponds as as waste from the gas plant.


Ha, it seems nothing realy is new under the sun. That pulsometer works allmost exactly the same as my idea. Thanks Chris!

Good idea on the air water pump Lewis! Wery simple and foulproof!

Unfortunaly wind is not a reliable option here. Solar is questionable too.

Indeed the plan is to have a large storage of water that then flows back down constantly. For irigation where less water is neaded thain fish farming, the pump culd be operated only once a week or so for a couple of hours to fill the irigation pool. The fish pond is a different story.

Sean, on water heating by the steam, l am with Garry.
How strong is your spring? If at least 3 gal/min you look at ram pumps. Those are fantasticly simple and stong. Myne was tiny (1/2") and it dribled 1000l in just over a day in a cistern about 10m higher.

I plan to make a big pond in the swampy feald we have, carp and bleak will be grown there. This pond will only be aerated with incomeing spring water. Those fish are not picky for water quality or food. But l plan to raise trout, freshwater shrimp and a hatchery/nursery of all those species in my root cellar. In there the temperature and parameters are constant. No predators or outside factors. There is even a small spring in the bottom of the celkar that collects about 3gal/day of water. I am already runing trials with shrimp breeding and fish fry nurseing.
Food is a big problem yes. The plan is to produce my own. I am runing a parrent bach of mealworms wich l plan to farm for fish feed, and allso l am breeding scuds. I had problems with them, but now it seems l finaly got them to breed and l am starting to see eggs on females. Lots of insect farming possibilitys. Duckweed comes to mind as high protein fast growing plant too.
Water wuld be circulated from from fish tanks to the greenhouse above where media beds provide both biofililtration and grow media for the plants.


How much wind do you have?

You can make a simple piston pump using the cups as described to act as both the check valve and the piston.
Then all you need is a foot valve to stop back flow.
Run this by wind with a simple belt arrangement, speed reduction and counter weight.
It won’t move a large volume water but it will move water as long.

I managed a ten foot lift to a 200 litre drum at the cottage many years back.
it could easily fill the drum as long as the wind blew.

The trick was the counter weight once the column was primed.
Then the wind mill was only lifting part of the weight in the column in a very slow up down motion.
I got the idea watching a pump jack near Petrolia years back
Well and wind mill do not have to be in exactly the same place to work.


It is a quarter acre pond with no spring. I want to pump up the muck and aerate. Intermittent isn’t really an issue for me. I was going to use a savonius style, or a Dutch style windmill to drive bellows. Then like a 3 55 gallon Barrels for gravity filtration back to the pond. I don’t really want a ton of extra work. I didn’t know how big your aquaculture was thus it might not be appropriate for you.


Unfortunaly wind is a no go for me. When it blows it realy blows here, but mostly it doesent at all.

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This machine should pump reliably for decades at least, perhaps indefinitely.


If l get this its a stirling engine?


Yes. As far as I know, the only commercial success for Sterling design engines was this water pumping one. It was used just as you would, to pump water where no electric is available. There may have been others I am unaware of. Another great technology displaced by our need (desire) for convenient, no touch, automatic operation.

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