Electricity for the farm - Light, heat and power by inexpensive methods from the water - wheel or farm engine
by Frederick Irving Anderson
1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse











All rights reserved

Copyright, 1915 By THE CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY The Country Gentleman

Copyright, 1915 By THE MACMILLAN COMPANY Set up and electrotyped. Published April, 1915.


This book is designed primarily to give the farmer a practical working knowledge of electricity for use as light, heat, and power on the farm. The electric generator, the dynamo, is explained in detail; and there are chapters on electric transmission and house-wiring, by which the farm mechanic is enabled to install his own plant without the aid and expense of an expert.

With modern appliances, within the means of the average farmer, the generation of electricity, with its unique conveniences, becomes automatic, provided some dependable source of power is to be had—such as a water wheel, gasoline (or other form of internal combustion) engine, or the ordinary windmill. The water wheel is the ideal prime mover for the dynamo in isolated plants. Since water-power is running to waste on tens of thousands of our farms throughout the country, several chapters are devoted to this phase of the subject: these include descriptions and working diagrams of weirs and other simple devices for measuring the flow of streams; there are tables and formulas by which any one, with a knowledge of simple arithmetic, may determine the power to be had from falling water under given conditions; and in addition, there are diagrams showing in general the method of construction of dams, bulkheads, races, flumes, etc., from materials usually to be found on a farm. The tiny unconsidered brook that waters the farm pasture frequently possesses power enough to supply the farmstead with clean, cool, safe light in place of the dangerous, inconvenient oil lamp; a small stream capable of developing from twenty-five to fifty horsepower will supply a farmer (at practically no expense beyond the original cost of installation) not only with light, but with power for even the heavier farm operations, as threshing; and in addition will do the washing, ironing, and cooking, and at the same time keep the house warm in the coldest weather. Less than one horsepower of energy will light the farmstead; less than five horsepower of energy will provide light and small power, and take the drudgery out of the kitchen.

For those not fortunate enough to possess water-power which can be developed, there are chapters on the use of the farm gasoline engine and windmill, in connection with the modern storage battery, as sources of electric current.

It is desired to make acknowledgment for illustrations and assistance in gathering material for the book, to the editors of The Country Gentleman, Philadelphia, Pa.; The Crocker-Wheeler Company, Ampere, N. J.; The General Electric Company, Schenectady, N. Y.; the Weston Electrical Instrument Company, of Newark, N. J.; The Chase Turbine Manufacturing Company, Orange, Mass.; the C. P. Bradway Machine Works, West Stafford, Conn.; The Pelton Water Wheel Company, San Francisco and New York; the Ward Leonard Manufacturing Company, Bronxville, N. Y.; The Fairbanks, Morse Company, Chicago; and the Fitz Water Wheel Company, Hanover, Pa.








The "agriculturist"—An old chair factory—A neighbor's home-coming—The idle wheel in commission again—Light, heat and power for nothing—Advantages of electricity 3



Small amount of water required for an electric plant—Exploring, on a dull day—A rough and ready weir—What a little water will do—The water wheel and the dynamo—Electricity consumed the instant it is produced—The price of the average small plant, not counting labor 22



What is a horsepower?—How the Carthaginians manufactured horsepower—All that goes up must come down—How the sun lifts water up for us to use—Water the ideal power for generating electricity—The weir—Table for estimating flow of streams with a weir—Another method of measuring—Figuring water horsepower—The size of the wheel—What head is required—Quantity of water necessary 32



Different types of water wheels—The impulse and the reaction wheels—The impulse wheel adapted to high heads and small amount of water—Pipe lines—Table of resistance in pipes—Advantages and disadvantages of the impulse wheel—Other forms of impulse wheels—The reaction turbine, suited to low heads and large quantity of water—Its advantages and limitations—Developing a water-power project: the dam; the race; the flume; the penstock; and the tailrace—Water rights for the farmer 56





Electricity compared to the heat and light of the Sun—The simple dynamo—The amount of electric energy a dynamo will generate—The modern dynamo—Measuring power in terms of electricity—The volt—The ampere—The ohm—The watt and the kilowatt—Ohm's Law of the electric circuit, and some examples of its application—Direct current, and alternating current—Three types of direct-current dynamos: series, shunt, and compound 89



The farmer's wife his partner—Little and big plants—Limiting factors—Fluctuations in water supply—The average plant—The actual plant—Amount of current required for various operations—Standard voltage—A specimen allowance for electric light—Heating and cooking by electricity—Electric power: the electric motor 121



Copper wire—Setting of poles—Loss of power in transmission—Ohm's Law and examples of how it is used in figuring size of wire—Copper-wire tables—Examples of transmission lines—When to use high voltages—Over-compounding a dynamo to overcome transmission loss 153



The insurance code—Different kinds of wiring described—Wooden moulding cheap and effective—The distributing panel—Branch circuits—Protecting the circuits—The use of porcelain tubes and other insulating devices—Putting up chandeliers and wall-brackets—"Multiple" connections—How to connect a wall switch—Special wiring required for heat and power circuits—Knob and cleat wiring, its advantages and disadvantages 172



Direct-connected generating sets—Belt drive—The switchboard—Governors and voltage regulators—Methods of achieving constant pressure at all loads: Over-compounding the dynamo; A system of resistances (a home-made electric radiator); Regulating voltage by means of the rheostat—Automatic devices—Putting the plant in operation 192





The standard voltage set—Two-cycle and four-cycle gasoline engines—Horsepower, and fuel consumption—Efficiency of small engines and generators—Cost of operating a one-kilowatt plant 217



What a storage battery does—The lead battery and the Edison battery—Economy of tungsten lamps for storage batteries—The low-voltage battery for electric light—How to figure the capacity of a battery—Table of light requirements for a farm house—Watt-hours and lamp-hours—The cost of storage battery current—How to charge a storage battery—Care of storage batteries 229



The automatic plant most desirable—How an automobile lighting and starting system works—How the same results can be achieved in house lighting, by means of automatic devices—Plants without automatic regulation—Care necessary—The use of heating devices on storage battery current—Portable batteries—An electricity "route"—Automobile power for lighting a few lamps 250


Even the tiny trout brook becomes a thing of utility as well as of joy Frontispiece

Farm labor and materials built this crib and stone dam 17

Measuring a small stream with a weir 23

Efficient modern adaptations of the archaic undershot and overshot water wheels 59

A direct-current dynamo or motor, showing details of construction 92

Details of voltmeter or ammeter 128

Instantaneous photograph of high-pressure water jet being quenched by buckets of a tangential wheel 194

A tangential wheel, and a dynamo keyed to the same shaft—the ideal method for generating electricity 194

A rough-and-ready farm electric plant, supplying two farms with light, heat and power; and a Ward Leonard-type circuit breaker for charging storage batteries 244


The sight of a dozen or so fat young horses and mares feeding and frolicking on the wild range of the Southwest would probably inspire the average farmer as an awful example of horsepower running to waste. If, by some miracle, he came on such a sight in his own pastures, he would probably consume much time practising the impossible art of "creasing" the wild creatures with a rifle bullet—after the style of Kit Carson and other free rovers of the old prairies when they were in need of a new mount. He would probably spend uncounted hours behind the barn learning to throw a lariat; and one fine day he would sally forth to capture a horsepower or two—and, once captured, he would use strength and strategy breaking the wild beast to harness. A single horsepower—animal—will do the work of lifting 23,000 pounds one foot in one minute, providing the animal is young, and sound, and is fed 12 quarts of oats and 10 or 15 pounds of hay a day, and is given a chance to rest 16 hours out of 24—providing also it has a dentist to take care of its teeth occasionally, and a blacksmith chiropodist to keep it in shoes. On the hoof, this horsepower is worth about $200—unless the farmer is looking for something fancy in the way of drafters, when he will have to go as high as $400 for a big fellow. And after 10 or 15 years, the farmer would look around for another horse, because an animal grows old.

This animal horsepower isn't a very efficient horsepower. In fact, it is less than three-fourths of an actual horsepower, as engineers use the term. A real horsepower will do the work of lifting 33,000 pounds one foot in one minute—or 550 pounds one foot in one second. Burn a pint of gasoline, with 14 pounds of air, in a gasoline engine, and the engine will supply one 33,000-pound horsepower for an hour. The gasoline will cost about 2 cents, and the air is supplied free. If it was the air that cost two cents a pound, instead of the gasoline, the automobile industry would undoubtedly stop where it began some fifteen years ago. It is human nature, however, to grumble over this two cents.

Yet the average farmer who would get excited if sound young chunks and drafters were running wild across his pastures, is not inspired by any similar desire of possession and mastery by the sight of a brook, or a rivulet that waters his meadows. This brook or river is flowing down hill to the sea. Every 4,000 gallons that falls one foot in one minute; every 400 gallons that falls 10 feet in one minute; or every 40 gallons that falls 100 feet in one minute, means the power of one horse going to waste—not the $200 flesh-and-blood kind that can lift only 23,000 pounds a foot a minute—but the 33,000 foot-pound kind. Thousands of farms have small streams in their very dooryard, capable of developing five, ten, twenty, fifty horsepower twenty-four hours a day, for the greater part of the year. Within a quarter of a mile of the great majority of farms (outside of the dry lands themselves) there are such streams. Only a small fraction of one per cent of them have been put to work, made to pay their passage from the hills to the sea.

The United States government geological survey engineers recently made an estimate of the waterfalls capable of developing 1,000 horsepower and over, that are running to waste, unused, in this country. They estimated that there is available, every second of the day and night, some 30,000,000 horsepower, in dry weather—and twice this during the eight wet months of the year. The waterfall capable of giving up 1,000 horsepower in energy is not the subject of these chapters. It is the small streams—the brooks, the creeks, the rivulets—which feed the 1,000 horsepower torrents, make them possible, that are of interest to the farmer. These small streams thread every township, every county, seeking the easiest way to the main valleys where they come together in great rivers.

What profitable crop on your farm removes the least plant food? A bee-farmer enters his honey for the prize in this contest. Another farmer maintains that his ice-crop is the winner. But electricity generated from falling water of a brook meandering across one's acres, comes nearer to the correct answer of how to make something out of nothing. It merely utilizes the wasted energy of water rolling down hill—the weight of water, the pulling power of gravity. Water is still water, after it has run through a turbine wheel to turn an electric generator. It is still wet; it is there for watering the stock; and a few rods further down stream, where it drops five or ten feet again, it can be made to do the same work over again—and over and over again as long as it continues to fall, on its journey to the sea. The city of Los Angeles has a municipal water plant, generating 200,000 horsepower of electricity, in which the water is used three times in its fall of 6,000 feet; and in the end, where it runs out of the race in the valley, it is sold for irrigation.

One water-horsepower will furnish light for the average farm; five water-horsepower will furnish light and power, and do the ironing and baking. The cost of installing a plant of five water-horsepower should not exceed the cost of one sound young horse, the $200 kind—under conditions which are to be found on thousands of farms and farm communities in the East, the Central West, and the Pacific States. This electrical horsepower will work 24 hours a day, winter and summer, and the farmer would not have to grow oats and hay for it on land that might better be used in growing food for human beings. It would not become "aged" at the end of ten or fifteen years, and the expense of maintenance would be practically nothing after the first cost of installation. It would require only water as food—waste water. Two hundred and fifty cubic feet of water a minute, falling ten feet, will supply the average farm with all the conveniences of electricity. This is a very modest creek—the kind of brook or creek that is ignored by the man who would think time well spent in putting in a week capturing a wild horse, if a miracle should send such a beast within reach. And the task of harnessing and breaking this water-horsepower is much more simple and less dangerous than the task of breaking a colt to harness.






The "agriculturist"—An old chair factory—A neighbor's home-coming—The idle wheel in commission again—Light, heat and power for nothing—Advantages of electricity.

Let us take an actual instance of one man who did go ahead and find out by experience just how intricate and just how simple a thing electricity from farm water-power is. This man's name was Perkins, or, we will call him that, in relating this story.

Perkins was what some people call, not a farmer, but an "agriculturist,"—that is, he was a back-to-the-land man. He had been born and raised on a farm. He knew that you must harness a horse on the left side, milk a cow on the right, that wagon nuts tighten the way the wheel rims, and that a fresh egg will not float.

He had a farm that would grow enough clover to fill the average dairy if he fed it lime; he had a boy coming to school age; and both he and his wife wanted to get back to the country. They had their little savings, and they wanted, first of all, to take a vacation, getting acquainted with their farm. They hadn't taken a vacation in fifteen years.

He moved in, late in the summer, and started out to get acquainted with his neighbors, as well as his land. This was in the New England hills. Water courses cut through everywhere. In regard to its bountiful water supply, the neighborhood had much in common with all the states east of the Mississippi, along the Atlantic seaboard, in the lake region of the central west, and in the Pacific States. With this difference; the water courses in his neighborhood had once been of economic importance.

A mountain river flowed down his valley. Up and down the valley one met ramshackle mills, fallen into decay. Many years ago before railroads came, before it was easy to haul coal from place to place to make steam, these little mills were centers of thriving industries, which depended on the power of falling water to make turned articles, spin cotton, and so forth. Then the railroads came, and it was easy to haul coal to make steam. And the same railroads that hauled the coal to make steam, were there to haul away the articles manufactured by steam power. So in time the little manufacturing plants on the river back in the hills quit business and moved to railroad stations. Then New England, from being a manufacturing community made up of many small isolated water plants, came to be a community made up of huge arteries and laterals of smoke stacks that fringed the railroads. Where the railroad happened to follow a river course—as the Connecticut River—the water-power plants remained; but the little plants back in the hills were wiped off the map—because steam power with railroads at the front door proved cheaper than water-power with railroads ten miles away.

One night Perkins came in late from a long drive with his next-door neighbor. He had learned the first rule of courtesy in the country, which is to unhitch his own side of the horse and help back the buggy into the shed. They stumbled around in the barn putting up the horse, and getting down hay and grain for it, by the light of an oil lantern, which was set on the floor in a place convenient to be kicked over. He went inside and took supper by the light of a smoky smelly oil lamp, that filled the room full of dark corners; and when supper was over, the farmwife groped about in the cellar putting things away by the light of a candle.

The next day his neighbor was grinding cider at his ramshackle water mill—one of the operations for which a week must be set aside every fall. Perkins sat on a log and listened to the crunch-crunch of the apples in the chute, and the drip of the frothy yellow liquid that fell into waiting buckets.

"How much power have you got here?" he asked.

"Thirty or forty horsepower, I guess."

"What do you do with it, besides grinding cider to pickle your neighbors' digestion with?"

"Nothing much. I've got a planer and a moulding machine in there, to work up jags of lumber occasionally. That's all. This mill was a chair-factory in my grandfather's day, back in 1830."

"Do you use it thirty days in a year?"

"No; not half that."

"What are you going to do with it this winter?"

"Nothing; I keep the gate open and the wheel turning, so it won't freeze, but nothing else. I am going to take the family to Texas to visit my wife's folks for three months. We've worked hard enough to take a vacation."

"Will you rent me the mill while you are gone?"

"Go ahead; you can have it for nothing, if you will watch the ice."

"All right; let me know when you come back and I'll drive to town and bring you home."

* * * * *

Three months went by, and one day in February the city man, in response to a letter, hitched up and drove to town to bring his neighbor back home. It was four o'clock in the afternoon when they started out, and it was six—dark—when they turned the bend in the road to the farm house. They helped the wife and children out, with their baggage, and as Perkins opened the door of the house, he reached up on the wall and turned something that clicked sharply.

Instantly light sprang from everywhere. In the barn-yard a street lamp with an 18-inch reflector illuminated all under it for a space of 100 feet with bright white rays of light. Another street lamp hung over the watering trough. The barn doors and windows burst forth in light. There was not a dark corner to be found anywhere. In the house it was the same. Perkins led the amazed procession from room to room of the house they had shut up for the winter. On the wall in the hall outside of every room was a button which he pushed, and the room became as light as day before they entered. The cellar door, in opening, automatically lighted a lamp illuminating that cavern as it had never been lighted before since the day a house was built over it.

Needless to say, the farmer and his family were reduced to a state of speechlessness.

"How the deuce did you do it?" finally articulated the farmer.

"I put your idle water wheel to work," said Perkins; and then, satisfied with this exhibition, he put them back in the sleigh and drove to his home, where his wife had supper waiting.

While the men were putting up the team in the electric lighted barn, the farmwife went into the kitchen. Her hostess was cooking supper on an electric stove. It looked like a city gas range and it cooked all their meals, and did the baking besides. A hot-water tank stood against the wall, not connected to anything hot, apparently. But it was scalding hot, by virtue of a little electric water heater the size of a quart tin can, connected at the bottom. Twenty-four hours a day the water wheel pumped electricity into that "can," so that hot water was to be had at any hour simply by turning a faucet. In the laundry there was an electric pump that kept the tank in the attic filled automatically. When the level of water in this tank fell to a certain point, a float operated a switch that started the pump; and when the water level reached a certain height, the same float stopped the pump. A small motor, the size of a medium Hubbard squash operated a washing machine and wringer on wash days. This same motor was a man-of-all-work for this house, for, when called on, it turned the separator, ground and polished knives and silverware, spun the sewing machine, and worked the vacuum cleaner.

Over the dining room table hung the same hanging shade of old days, but the oil lamp itself was gone. In its place was a 100-watt tungsten lamp whose rays made the white table cloth fairly glisten. The wires carrying electricity to this lamp were threaded through the chains reaching to the ceiling, and one had to look twice to see where the current came from. In the sitting room, a cluster of electric bulbs glowed from a fancy wicker work basket that hung from the ceiling. The housewife had made use of what she had throughout the house. Old-fashioned candle-shades sat like cocked hats astride electric bulbs. There is little heat to an electric bulb for the reason that the white-hot wire that gives the light is made to burn in high vacuum, which transmits heat very slowly. The housewife had taken advantage of this fact and from every corner gleamed lights dressed in fancy designs of tissue paper and silk.

"Now we will talk business," said Perkins when supper was over and they had lighted their pipes.

The returned native looked dubious. His New England training had warned him long ago that one cannot expect to get something for nothing, and he felt sure there was a joker in this affair.

"How much do I owe you?" he asked.

"Nothing," said Perkins. "You furnish the water-power with your idle wheel, and I furnish the electric installation. This is only a small plant I have put in, but it gives us enough electricity to go around, with a margin for emergencies. I have taken the liberty of wiring your house and your horse-barn and cow-barn and your barn-yard. Altogether, I suppose you have 30 lights about the place, and during these long winter days you will keep most of them going from 3 to 5 hours a night and 2 or 3 hours in the early morning. If you were in town, those lights would cost you about 12 cents an hour, at the commercial rate of electricity. Say 60 cents a day—eighteen dollars a month. That isn't a very big electric light bill for some people I know in town—and they consider themselves lucky to have the privilege of buying electricity at that rate. Your wheel is running all winter to prevent ice from forming and smashing it. It might just as well be spinning the dynamo.

"If you think it worth while," continued Perkins,—"this $18 worth of light you have on tap night and morning, or any hour of the day,—we will say the account is settled. That is, of course, if you will give me the use of half the electricity that your idle wheel is grinding out with my second-hand dynamo. We have about eight electrical horsepower on our wires, without overloading the machine. Next spring I am going to stock up this place; and I think about the first thing I do, when my dairy is running, will be to put in a milking machine and let electricity do the milking for me. It will also fill my silo, grind my mowing-machine knives, saw my wood, and keep water running in my barn. You will probably want to do the same.

"But what it does for us men in the barn and barn-yard, isn't to be compared to what it does for the women in the house. When my wife wants a hot oven she presses a button. When she wants to put the 'fire' out, she presses another. That's all there is to it. No heat, no smoke, no ashes. The same with ironing—and washing. No oil lamps to fill, no wicks to trim, no chimneys to wash, no kerosene to kick over and start a fire."

"You say the current you have put in my house would cost me about $18 a month, in town."

"Yes, about that. Making electricity from coal costs money."

"What does it cost here?"

"Practically nothing. Your river, that has been running to waste ever since your grandfather gave up making chairs, does the work. There is nothing about a dynamo to wear out, except the bearings, and these can be replaced once every five or ten years for a trifle. The machine needs to be oiled and cared for—fill the oil cups about once in three days. Your water wheel needs the same attention. That's all there is to it. You can figure the cost of your current yourself—just about the cost of the lubricating oil you use—and the cost of the time you give it—about the same time you give to any piece of good machinery, from a sulky plow to a cream separator."

This is a true story. This electric plant, where Perkins furnishes the electric end, and his neighbor the water-power, has been running now for two years, grinding out electricity for the two places twenty-four hours a day. Perkins was not an electrical engineer. He was just a plain intelligent American citizen who found sufficient knowledge in books to enable him to install and operate this plant. Frequently he is away for long periods, but his neighbor (who has lost his original terror of electricity) takes care of the plant. In fact, this farmer has given a lot of study to the thing, through curiosity, until he knows fully as much about it now as his city neighbor.

He had the usual idea, at the start, that a current strong enough to light a 100 candlepower lamp would kick like a mule if a man happened to get behind it. He watched the city man handle bare wires and finally he plucked up courage to do it himself.

It was a 110-volt current, the pressure used in our cities for domestic lighting. The funny part about it was, the farmer could not feel it at all at first. His fingers were calloused and no current could pass through them. Finally he sandpapered his fingers and tried it again. Then he was able to get the "tickle" of 110 volts. It wasn't so deadly after all—about the strength of a weak medical battery, with which every one is familiar. A current of 110 volts cannot do any harm to the human body unless contact is made over a very large surface, which is impossible unless a man goes to a lot of trouble to make such a contact. A current of 220 volts pressure—the pressure used in cities for motors—has a little more "kick" to it, but still is not uncomfortable. When the pressure rises to 500 volts (the pressure used in trolley wires for street cars), it begins to be dangerous. But there is no reason why a farm plant should be over 110 volts, under usual conditions; engineers have decided on this pressure as the best adapted to domestic use, and manufacturers who turn out the numerous electrical devices, such as irons, toasters, massage machines, etc., fit their standard instruments to this voltage.

As to the cost of this co-operative plant—it was in the neighborhood of $200. As we have said, it provided eight electrical horsepower on tap at any hour of the day or night—enough for the two farms, and a surplus for neighbors, if they wished to string lines and make use of it.

The dynamo, a direct-current machine, 110 volts pressure, and what is known in the trade as "compound,"—that is, a machine that maintains a constant pressure automatically and does not require an attendant—was picked up second-hand, through a newspaper "ad" and cost $90. The switchboard, a make-shift affair, not very handsome, but just as serviceable as if it were made of marble, cost less than $25 all told. The transmission wire cost $19 a hundred pounds; it is of copper, and covered with weatherproofed tape. Perkins bought a 50-cent book on house-wiring, and did the wiring himself, the way the book told him to, a simple operation. For fixtures, as we have said, his wife devised fancy shades out of Mexican baskets, tissue paper, and silk, in which are hidden electric globes that glow like fire-flies at the pressing of a button. The lamps themselves are mostly old-style carbon lamps, which can be bought at 16 cents each retail. In his living room and dining room he used the new-style tungsten lamps instead of old-style carbon. These cost 30 cents each. Incandescent lamps are rated for 1,000 hours useful life. The advantage of tungsten lights is that they give three times as much light for the same expenditure of current as carbon lights. This is a big advantage in the city, where current is costly; but it is not so much of an advantage in the country where a farmer has plenty of water-power—because his current costs him practically nothing, and he can afford to be wasteful of it to save money in lamps. Another advantage he has over his city cousin: In town, an incandescent lamp is thrown away after it has been used 1,000 hours because after that it gives only 80% of the light it did when new—quite an item when one is paying for current. The experience of Perkins and his neighbor in their cooperative plant has been that they have excess light anyway, and if a few bulbs fall off a fifth in efficiency, it is not noticeable. As a matter of fact most of their bulbs have been in use without replacing for the two years the plant has been in operation. The lamps are on the wall or the ceiling, out of the way, not liable to be broken; so the actual expense in replacing lamps is less than for lamp chimneys in the old days.

Insurance companies recognize that a large percentage of farm fires comes from the use of kerosene; for this reason, they are willing to make special rates for farm homes lighted by electricity. They prescribe certain rules for wiring a house, and they insist that their agent inspect and pass such wiring before current is turned on. Once the wiring is passed, the advantage is all in favor of the farmer with electricity over the farmer with kerosene. The National Board of Fire Underwriters is sufficiently logical in its demands, and powerful enough, so that manufacturers who turn out the necessary fittings find no sale for devices that do not conform to insurance standards. Therefore it is difficult to go wrong in wiring a house.

Finally, as to the added value a water-power electric plant adds to the selling price of a farm. Let the farmer answer this question for himself. If he can advertise his farm for sale, with a paragraph running: "Hydroelectric plant on the premises, furnishing electricity for light, heat, and power"—what do you suppose a wide-awake purchaser would be willing to pay for that? Perkins and his neighbor believe that $1,000 is a very modest estimate added by their electric plant to both places. And they talk of doing still more. They use only a quarter of the power of the water that is running to waste through the wheel. They are figuring on installing a larger dynamo, of say 30 electrical horse-power, which will provide clean, dry, safe heat for their houses even on the coldest days in winter. When they have done this, they will consider that they are really putting their small river to work.



Small amount of water required for an electric plant—Exploring, on a dull day—A rough and ready weir—What a little water will do—The water wheel and the dynamo—Electricity consumed the instant it is produced—The price of the average small plant, not counting labor.

The average farmer makes the mistake of considering that one must have a river of some size to develop power of any practical use. On your next free day do a little prospecting. We have already said that 250 cubic feet of water falling 10 feet a minute will provide light, heat and small motor power for the average farm. A single water horsepower will generate enough electricity to provide light for the house and barn. But let us take five horsepower as a desirable minimum in this instance.

In your neighborhood there is a creek three or four feet wide, toiling along day by day, at its task of watering your fields. Find a wide board a little longer than the width of this creek you have scorned. Set it upright across the stream between the banks, so that no water flows around the ends or under it. It should be high enough to set the water back to a dead level for a few feet upstream, before it overflows. Cut a gate in this board, say three feet wide and ten inches deep, or according to the size of a stream. Cut this gate from the top, so that all the water of the stream will flow through the opening, and still maintain a level for several feet back of the board.

This is what engineers call a weir, a handy contrivance for measuring the flow of small streams. Experts have figured out an elaborate system of tables as to weirs. All we need to do now, in this rough survey, is to figure out the number of square inches of water flowing through this opening and falling on the other side. With a rule, measure the depth of the overflowing water, from the bottom of the opening to the top of the dead level of the water behind the board. Multiply this depth by the width of the opening, which will give the square inches of water escaping. For every square inch of this water escaping, engineers tell us that stream is capable of delivering, roughly, one cubic foot of water a minute.

Thus, if the water is 8 inches deep in an opening 32 inches wide, then the number of cubic feet this stream is delivering each minute is 8 times 32, or 256 cubic feet a minute. So, a stream 32 inches wide, with a uniform depth of 8 inches running through our weir is capable of supplying the demands of the average farm in terms of electricity. Providing, of course, that the lay of the land is such that this water can be made to fall 10 feet into a water wheel.

Go upstream and make a rough survey of the fall. In the majority of instances (unless this is some sluggish stream in a flat prairie) it will be found feasible to divert the stream from its main channel by means of a race—an artificial channel—and to convey it to a not far-distant spot where the necessary fall can be had at an angle of about 30 degrees from horizontal.

If you find there is twice as much water as you need for the amount of power you require, a five-foot fall will give the same result. Or, if there is only one-half as much water as the 250 cubic feet specified, you can still obtain your theoretical five horsepower if the means are at hand for providing a fall of twenty feet instead of ten. Do not make the very common mistake of figuring that a stream is delivering a cubic foot a minute to each square inch of weir opening, simply because it fills a certain opening. It is the excess water, falling over the opening, after the stream has set back to a permanent dead level, that is to be measured.

This farmer who spends an idle day measuring the flow of his brook with a notched board, may say here: "This is all very well. This is the spring of the year, when my brook is flowing at high-water mark. What am I going to do in the dry months of summer, when there are not 250 cubic feet of water escaping every minute?"

There are several answers to this question, which will be taken up in detail in subsequent chapters. Here, let us say, even if this brook does flow in sufficient volume only 8 months in a year—the dark months, by the way,—is not electricity and the many benefits it provides worth having eight months in the year? My garden provides fresh vegetables four months a year. Because it withers and dies and lies covered with snow during the winter, is that any reason why I should not plow and manure and plant my garden when spring comes again?

A water wheel, the modern turbine, is a circular fan with curved iron blades, revolving in an iron case. Water, forced through the blades of this fan by its own weight, causes the wheel to revolve on its axis; and the fan, in turn causes a shaft fitted with pulleys to revolve.

The water, by giving the iron-bladed fan a turning movement as it rushes through, imparts to it mechanical power. The shaft set in motion by means of this mechanical power is, in turn, belted to the pulley of a dynamo. This dynamo consists, first, of a shaft on which is placed a spool, wound in a curious way, with many turns of insulated copper wire. This spool revolves freely in an air space surrounded by electric magnets. The spool does not touch these magnets. It is so nicely balanced that the weight of a finger will turn it. Yet, when it is revolved by water-power at a predetermined speed—say 1,500 revolutions a minute—it generates electricity, transforms the mechanical power of the water wheel into another form of energy—a form of energy which can be carried for long distances on copper wires, which can, by touching a button, be itself converted into light, or heat, or back into mechanical energy again.

If two wires be led from opposite sides of this revolving spool, and an electric lamp be connected from one to the other wire, the lamp will be lighted—will grow white hot,—hence incandescent light. The instant this lamp is turned on, the revolving spool feels a stress, the magnets by which it is surrounded begin to pull back on it. The power of the water wheel, however, overcomes this pull. If one hundred lights be turned on, the backward pull of the magnets surrounding the spool will be one hundred times as strong as for one light. For every ounce of electrical energy used in light or heat or power, the dynamo will require a like ounce of mechanical power from the water wheel which drives it.

The story is told of a canny Scotch engineer, who, in the first days of dynamos, not so very long ago, scoffed at the suggestion that such a spool, spinning in free air, in well lubricated bearings, could bring his big Corliss steam engine to a stop. Yet he saw it done simply by belting this "spool," a dynamo, to his engine and asking the dynamo for more power in terms of light than his steam could deliver in terms of mechanical power to overcome the pull of the magnets.

Electricity must be consumed the instant it is generated (except in rare instances where small amounts are accumulated in storage batteries by a chemical process). The pressure of a button, or the throw of a switch causes the dynamo instantly to respond with just enough energy to do the work asked of it, always in proportion to the amount required. Having this in mind, it is rather curious to think of electricity as being an article of export, an item in international trade. Yet in 1913 hydro-electric companies in Canada "exported" by means of wires, to this country over 772,000,000 kilowatt-hours (over one billion horsepower hours) of electricity for use in factories near the boundary line.

This 250 cubic feet of water per minute then, which the farmer has measured by means of his notched board, will transform by means of its falling weight mechanical power into a like amount of electrical power—less friction losses, which may amount to as much as 60% in very small machines, and 15% in larger plants. That is, the brook which has been draining your pastures for uncounted ages contains the potential power of 3 and 4 young horses—with this difference: that it works 24 hours a day, runs on forever, and requires no oats or hay. And the cost of such an electric plant, which is ample for the needs of the average farm, is in most cases less than the price of a good farm horse—the $200 kind—not counting labor of installation.

It is the purpose of these chapters to awaken the farmer to the possibilities of such small water-power as he or his community may possess; to show that the generating of electricity is a very simple operation, and that the maintenance and care of such a plant is within the mechanical ability of any American farmer or farm boy; and to show that electricity itself is far from being the dangerous death-dealing "fluid" of popular imagination. Electricity must be studied; and then it becomes an obedient, tireless servant. During the past decade or two, mathematical wizards have studied electricity, explored its atoms, reduced it to simple arithmetic—and although they cannot yet tell us why it is generated, they tell us how. It is with this simple arithmetic, and the necessary manual operations that we have to do here.



What is a horsepower?—How the Carthaginians manufactured horsepower—All that goes up must come down—How the sun lifts water up for us to use—Water the ideal power for generating electricity—The weir—Table for estimating flow of streams, with a weir—Another method of measuring—Figuring water horsepower—The size of the wheel—What head is required—Quantity of water necessary.

If a man were off in the woods and needed a horsepower of energy to work for him, he could generate it by lifting 550 pounds of stone or wood, or whatnot, one foot off the ground, and letting it fall back in the space of one second. As a man possesses capacity for work equal to one-fifth horsepower, it would take him five seconds to do the work of lifting the weight up that the weight itself accomplished in falling down. All that goes up must come down; and by a nice balance of physical laws, a falling body hits the ground with precisely the same force as is required to lift it to the height from which it falls.

The Carthaginians, and other ancients (who were deep in the woods as regards mechanical knowledge) had their slaves carry huge stones to the top of the city wall; and the stones were placed in convenient positions to be tipped over on the heads of any besieging army that happened along. Thus by concentrating the energy of many slaves in one batch of stones, the warriors of that day were enabled to deliver "horsepower" in one mass where it would do the most good. The farmer who makes use of the energy of falling water to generate electricity for light, heat, and power does the same thing—he makes use of the capacity for work stored in water in being lifted to a certain height. As in the case of the gasoline engine, which burns 14 pounds of air for every pound of gasoline, the engineer of the water-power plant does not have to concern himself with the question of how this natural source of energy happened to be in a handy place for him to make use of it.

The sun, shining on the ocean, and turning water into vapor by its heat has already lifted it up for him. This vapor floating in the air and blown about by winds, becomes chilled from one cause or another, gives up its heat, turns back into water, and falls as rain. This rain, falling on land five, ten, a hundred, a thousand, or ten thousand feet above the sea level, begins to run back to the sea, picking out the easiest road and cutting a channel that we call a brook, a stream, or a river. Our farm lands are covered to an average depth of about three feet a year with water, every gallon of which has stored in it the energy expended by the heat of the sun in lifting it to the height where it is found.

The farmer, prospecting on his land for water-power, locates a spot on a stream which he calls Supply; and another spot a few feet down hill near the same stream, which he calls Power. Every gallon of water that falls between these two points, and is made to escape through the revolving blades of a water wheel is capable of work in terms of foot-pounds—an amount of work that is directly proportional to the quantity of water, and to the distance in feet which it falls to reach the wheel—pounds and feet.

The Efficient Water Wheel

And it is a very efficient form of work, too. In fact it is one of the most efficient forms of mechanical energy known—and one of the easiest controlled. A modern water wheel uses 85 per cent of the total capacity for work imparted to falling water by gravity, and delivers it as rotary motion. Compare this water wheel efficiency with other forms of mechanical power in common use: Whereas a water wheel uses 85 per cent of the energy of its water supply, and wastes only 15 per cent, a gasoline engine reverses the table, and delivers only 15 per cent of the energy in gasoline and wastes 85 per cent—and it is rather a high-class gasoline engine that can deliver even 15 per cent; a steam engine, on the other hand, uses about 17 per cent of the energy in the coal under its boilers and passes the rest up the chimney as waste heat and smoke.

There is still another advantage possessed by water-power over its two rivals, steam and gas: It gives the most even flow of power. A gas engine "kicks" a wheel round in a circle, by means of successive explosions in its cylinders. A reciprocating steam engine "kicks" a wheel round in a circle by means of steam expanding first in one direction, then in another. A water wheel, on the other hand, is made to revolve by means of the pressure of water—by the constant force of gravity, itself—weight. Weight is something that does not vary from minute to minute, or from one fraction of a second to another. It is always the same. A square inch of water pressing on the blades of a water wheel weights ten, twenty, a hundred pounds, according to the height of the pipe conveying that water from the source of supply, to the wheel. So long as this column of water is maintained at a fixed height, the power it delivers to the wheel does not vary by so much as the weight of a feather.

This property of falling water makes it the ideal power for generating electricity. Electricity generated from mechanical power depends on constant speed for steady pressure—since the electric current, when analyzed, is merely a succession of pulsations through a wire, like waves beating against a sea wall. Water-power delivers these waves at a constant speed, so that electric lights made from water-power do not flicker and jump like the flame of a lantern in a gusty wind. On the other hand, to accomplish the same thing with steam or gasoline requires an especially constructed engine.

The Simple Weir

Since a steady flow of water, and a constant head, bring about this ideal condition in the water wheel, the first problem that faces the farmer prospector is to determine the amount of water which his stream is capable of delivering. This is always measured, for convenience, in cubic feet per minute. (A cubic foot of water weighs 62.5 pounds, and contains 7-1/2 gallons.) This measurement is obtained in several ways, among which probably the use of a weir is the simplest and most accurate, for small streams.

A weir is, in effect, merely a temporary dam set across the stream in such a manner as to form a small pond; and to enable one to measure the water escaping from this pond.

It may be likened to the overflow pipe of a horse trough which is being fed from a spring. To measure the flow of water from such a spring, all that is necessary is to measure the water escaping through the overflow when the water in the trough has attained a permanent level.

The diagrams show the cross-section and detail of a typical weir, which can be put together in a few minutes with the aid of a saw and hammer. The cross-section shows that the lower edge of the slot through which the water of the temporary pond is made to escape, is cut on a bevel, with its sharp edge upstream. The wing on each side of the opening is for the purpose of preventing the stream from narrowing as it flows through the opening, and thus upsetting the calculations. This weir should be set directly across the flow of the stream, perfectly level, and upright. It should be so imbedded in the banks, and in the bottom of the stream, that no water can escape, except through the opening cut for that purpose. It will require a little experimenting with a rough model to determine just how wide and how deep this opening should be. It should be large enough to prevent water flowing over the top of the board; and it should be small enough to cause a still-water pond to form for several feet behind the weir. Keep in mind the idea of the overflowing water trough when building your weir. The stream, running down from a higher level behind, should be emptying into a still-water pond, which in turn should be emptying itself through the aperture in the board at the same rate as the stream is keeping the pond full.

Your weir should be fashioned with the idea of some permanency so that a number of measurements may be taken, extending over a period of time—thus enabling the prospector to make a reliable estimate not only of the amount of water flowing at any one time, but of its fluctuations.

Under expert supervision, this simple weir is an exact contrivance—exact enough, in fact, for the finest calculations required in engineering work. To find out how many cubic feet of water the stream is delivering at any moment, all that is necessary is to measure its depth where it flows through the opening. There are instruments, like the hook-gauge, which are designed to measure this depth with accuracy up to one-thousandth of an inch. An ordinary foot rule, or a folding rule, will give results sufficiently accurate for the water prospector in this instance. The depth should be measured not at the opening itself, but a short distance back of the opening, where the water is setting at a dead level and is moving very slowly.

With this weir, every square inch of water flowing through the opening indicates roughly one cubic foot of water a minute. Thus if the opening is 10 inches wide and the water flowing through it is 5 inches deep, the number of cubic feet a minute the stream is delivering is 10 x 5 = 50 square inches = 50 cubic feet a minute. This is a very small stream; yet, if it could be made to fall through a water wheel 10 feet below a pond or reservoir, it would exert a continuous pressure of 30,000 pounds per minute on the blades of the wheel—nearly one theoretical horsepower.

This estimate of one cubic foot to each square inch is a very rough approximation. Engineers have developed many complicated formulas for determining the flow of water through weirs, taking into account fine variations that the farm prospector need not heed. The so-called Francis formula, developed by a long series of actual experiments at Lowell, Mass., in 1852 by Mr. James B. Francis, with weirs 10 feet long and 5 feet 2 inches high, is standard for these calculations and is expressed (for those who desire to use it for special purposes) as follows:

Q = 3.33 L H^(3/2) or, Q = 3.33 L H sqrt(H),

in which Q means quantity of water in cubic feet per second, L is length of opening, in feet; and H is height of opening in feet.

The following table is figured according to the Francis formula, and gives the discharge in cubic feet per minute, for openings one inch wide:


Inches 0 1/4 1/2 3/4 1 0.403 0.563 0.740 0.966 2 1.141 1.360 1.593 1.838 3 2.094 2.361 2.639 2.927 4 3.225 3.531 3.848 4.173 5 4.506 4.849 5.200 5.558 6 5.925 6.298 6.681 7.071 7 7.465 7.869 8.280 8.697 8 9.121 9.552 9.990 10.427 9 10.884 11.340 11.804 12.272 10 12.747 13.228 13.716 14.208 11 14.707 15.211 15.721 16.236 12 16.757 17.283 17.816 18.352 13 18.895 19.445 19.996 20.558 14 21.116 21.684 22.258 22.835 15 23.418 24.007 24.600 25.195 16 25.800 26.406 27.019 27.634 17 28.256 28.881 29.512 30.145 18 30.785 31.429 32.075 32.733

Thus, let us say, our weir has an opening 30 inches wide, and the water overflows through the opening at a uniform depth of 6-1/4 inches, when measured a few inches behind the board at a point before the overflow curve begins. Run down the first column on the left to "6", and cross over to the second column to the right, headed "1/4". This gives the number of cubic feet per minute for this depth one inch wide, as 6.298. Since the weir is 30 inches wide, multiply 6.298 x 30 = 188.94—or, say, 189 cubic feet per minute.

Once the weir is set, it is the work of but a moment to find out the quantity of water a stream is delivering, simply by referring to the above table.

Another Method of Measuring a Stream

Weirs are for use in small streams. For larger streams, where the construction of a weir would be difficult, the U. S. Geological Survey engineers recommend the following simple method:

Choose a place where the channel is straight for 100 or 200 feet, and has a nearly constant depth and width; lay off on the bank a line 50 or 100 feet in length. Throw small chips into the stream, and measure the time in seconds they take to travel the distance laid off on the bank. This gives the surface velocity of the water. Multiply the average of several such tests by 0.80, which will give very nearly the mean velocity. Then it is necessary to find the cross-section of the flowing water (its average depth multiplied by width), and this number, in square feet, multiplied by the velocity in feet per second, will give the number of cubic feet the stream is delivering each second. Multiplied by 60 gives cubic feet a minute.

Figuring a Stream's Horsepower

By one of the above simple methods, the problem of Quantity can easily be determined. The next problem is to determine what Head can be obtained. Head is the distance in feet the water may be made to fall, from the Source of Supply, to the water wheel itself. The power of water is directly proportional to head, just as it is directly proportional to quantity. Thus the typical weir measured above was 30 inches wide and 6-1/4 deep, giving 189 cubic feet of water a minute—Quantity. Since such a stream is of common occurrence on thousands of farms, let us analyze briefly its possibilities for power: One hundred and eighty-nine cubic feet of water weighs 189 x 62.5 pounds = 11,812.5 pounds. Drop this weight one foot, and we have 11,812.5 foot-pounds. Drop it 3 feet and we have 11,812 x 3 = 35,437.5 foot-pounds. Since 33,000 foot-pounds exerted in one minute is one horsepower, we have here a little more than one horsepower. For simplicity let us call it a horsepower.

Now, since the work to be had from this water varies directly with quantity and head, it is obvious that a stream one-half as big falling twice as far, would still give one horsepower at the wheel; or, a stream of 189 cubic feet a minute falling ten times as far, 30 feet, would give ten times the power, or ten horsepower; a stream falling one hundred times as far would give one hundred horsepower. Thus small quantities of water falling great distances, or large quantities of water falling small distances may accomplish the same results. From this it will be seen, that the simple formula for determining the theoretical horsepower of any stream, in which Quantity and Head are known, is as follows:

Cu. Ft. per Feet minute x head x 62.5 (A) Theoretical Horsepower = ——————————— 33,000

As an example, let us say that we have a stream whose weir measurement shows it capable of delivering 376 cubic feet a minute, with a head (determined by survey) of 13 feet 6 inches. What is the horsepower of this stream?


Cu. ft. p. m. head pounds 376 x 13.5 x 62.5 H.P. = ——————————————- = 9.614 horsepower 33,000

This is theoretical horsepower. To determine the actual horsepower that can be counted on, in practice, it is customary, with small water wheels, to figure 25 per cent loss through friction, etc. In this instance, the actual horsepower would then be 7.2.

The Size of the Wheel

Water wheels are not rated by horsepower by manufacturers, because the same wheel might develop one horsepower or one hundred horsepower, or even a thousand horsepower, according to the conditions under which it is used. With a given supply of water, the head, in feet, determines the size of wheel necessary. The farther a stream of water falls, the smaller the pipe necessary to carry a given number of gallons past a given point in a given time.

A small wheel, under 10 x 13.5 ft. head, would give the same power with the above 376 cubic feet of water a minute, as a large wheel would with 10 x 376 cubic feet, under a 13.5 foot head.

This is due to the acceleration of gravity on falling bodies. A rifle bullet shot into the air with a muzzle velocity of 3,000 feet a second begins to diminish its speed instantly on leaving the muzzle, and continues to diminish in speed at the fixed rate of 32.16 feet a second, until it finally comes to a stop, and starts to descend. Then, again, its speed accelerates at the rate of 32.16 feet a second, until on striking the earth it has attained the velocity at which it left the muzzle of the rifle, less loss due to friction.

The acceleration of gravity affects falling water in the same manner as it affects a falling bullet. At any one second, during its course of fall, it is traveling at a rate 32.16 feet a second in excess of its speed the previous second.

In figuring the size wheel necessary under given conditions or to determine the power of water with a given nozzle opening, it is necessary to take this into account. The table on page 51 gives velocity per second of falling water, ignoring the friction of the pipe, in heads from 5 to 1000 feet.

The scientific formula from which the table is computed is expressed as follows, for those of a mathematical turn of mind:

Velocity (ft. per sec.) = sqrt(2gh); or, velocity is equal to the square root of the product (g = 32.16,—times head in feet, multiplied by 2).


Head Velocity

5 17.9 6 19.7 7 21.2 8 22.7 9 24.1 10 25.4 11 26.6 11.5 27.2 12 27.8 12.5 28.4 13 28.9 13.5 29.5 14 30.0 14.5 30.5 15 31.3 15.5 31.6 16 32.1 16.5 32.6 17 33.1 17.5 33.6 18 34.0 18.5 34.5 19 35.0 19.5 35.4 20 35.9 20.5 36.3 21 36.8 21.5 37.2 22 37.6 22.5 38.1 23 38.5 23.5 38.9 24 39.3 24.5 39.7 25 40.1 26 40.9 27 41.7 28 42.5 29 43.2 30 43.9 31 44.7 32 45.4 33 46.1 34 46.7 35 47.4 36 48.1 37 48.8 38 49.5 39 50.1 40 50.7 41 51.3 42 52.0 43 52.6 44 53.2 45 53.8 46 54.4 47 55.0 48 55.6 49 56.2 50 56.7 55 59.5 60 62.1 65 64.7 70 67.1 75 69.5 80 71.8 85 74.0 90 76.1 95 78.2 100 80.3 200 114.0 300 139.0 400 160.0 500 179.0 1000 254.0

In the above example, we found that 376 cubic feet of water a minute, under 13.5 feet head, would deliver 7.2 actual horsepower. Question: What size wheel would it be necessary to install under such conditions?

By referring to the table of velocity above, (or by using the formula), we find that water under a head of 13.5 feet, has a spouting velocity of 29.5 feet a second. This means that a solid stream of water 29.5 feet long would pass through the wheel in one second. What should be the diameter of such a stream, to make its cubical contents 376 cubic feet a minute or 376/60 = 6.27 cubic feet a second? The following formula should be used to determine this:

144 x cu. ft. per second (B) Sq. Inches of wheel = ————————————— Velocity in ft. per sec.

Substituting values, in the above instance, we have:

Answer: Sq. Inches of wheel =

144 x 6.27 (Cu. Ft. Sec.) —————————————- = 30.6 sq. in. 29.5 (Vel. in feet.)

That is, a wheel capable of using 30.6 square inches of water would meet these conditions.

What Head is Required

Let us attack the problem of water-power in another way. A farmer wishes to install a water wheel that will deliver 10 horsepower on the shaft, and he finds his stream delivers 400 cubic feet of water a minute. How many feet fall is required? Formula:

33,000 x horsepower required (C) Head in feet = ——————————————— Cu. Ft. per minute x 62.5

Since a theoretical horsepower is only 75 per cent efficient, he would require 10 x 4/3 = 13.33 theoretical horsepower of water, in this instance. Substituting the values of the problem in the formula, we have:

33,000 x 13.33 Answer: Head = ———————— = 17.6 feet fall required. 400 x 62.5

What capacity of wheel would this prospect (400 cubic feet of water a minute falling 17.6 feet, and developing 13.33 horsepower) require?

By referring to the table of velocities, we find that the velocity for 17.5 feet head (nearly) is 33.6 feet a second. Four hundred feet of water a minute is 400/60 = 6.67 cu. ft. a second. Substituting these values, in formula (B) then, we have:

Answer: Capacity of wheel =

144 x 6.67 ————— = 28.6 square inches of water. 33.6

Quantity of Water

Let us take still another problem which the prospector may be called on to solve: A man finds that he can conveniently get a fall of 27 feet. He desires 20 actual horsepower. What quantity of water will be necessary, and what capacity wheel?

Twenty actual horsepower will be 20 x 4/3 = 26.67 theoretical horsepower. Formula:

33,000 x Hp. required (D) Cubic feet per minute = ——————————- (Head in feet x 62.5)

Substituting values, then, we have:

Cu. ft. per minute =

33,000 x 26.67 ——————— = 521.5 cubic feet a minute. 27 x 62.5

A head of 27 feet would give this stream a velocity of 41.7 feet a second, and, from formula (B) we find that the capacity of the wheel should be 30 square inches.

It is well to remember that the square inches of wheel capacity does not refer to the size of pipe conveying water from the head to the wheel, but merely to the actual nozzle capacity provided by the wheel itself. In small installations of low head, such as above a penstock at least six times the nozzle capacity should be used, to avoid losing effective head from friction. Thus, with a nozzle of 30 square inches, the penstock or pipe should be 180 square inches, or nearly 14 inches square inside measurement. A larger penstock would be still better.



Different types of water wheels—The impulse and reaction wheels—The impulse wheel adapted to high heads and small amount of water—Pipe lines—Table of resistance in pipes—Advantages and disadvantages of the impulse wheel—Other forms of impulse wheels—The reaction turbine, suited to low heads and large quantity of water—Its advantages and limitations—Developing a water-power project: the dam; the race; the flume; the penstock; and the tailrace—Water rights for the farmer.

In general, there are two types of water wheels, the impulse wheel and the reaction wheel. Both are called turbines, although the name belongs, more properly, to the reaction wheel alone.

Impulse wheels derive their power from the momentum of falling water. Reaction wheels derive their power from the momentum and pressure of falling water. The old-fashioned undershot, overshot, and breast wheels are familiar to all as examples of impulse wheels. Water wheels of this class revolve in the air, with the energy of the water exerted on one face of their buckets. On the other hand, reaction wheels are enclosed in water-tight cases, either of metal or of wood, and the buckets are entirely surrounded by water.

The old-fashioned undershot, overshot, and breast wheels were not very efficient; they wasted about 75 per cent of the power applied to them. A modern impulse wheel, on the other hand, operates at an efficiency of 80 per cent and over. The loss is mainly through friction and leakage, and cannot be eliminated altogether. The modern reaction wheel, called the turbine, attains an equal efficiency. Individual conditions govern the type of wheel to be selected.

The Impulse, or Tangential Water Wheel

The modern impulse, or tangential wheel (so called because the driving stream of water strikes the wheel at a tangent) is best adapted to situations where the amount of water is limited, and the head is large. Thus, a mountain brook supplying only seven cubic feet of water a minute—a stream less than two-and-a-half inches deep flowing over a weir with an opening three inches wide—would develop two actual horsepower, under a head of 200 feet—not an unusual head to be found in the hill country. Under a head of one thousand feet, a stream furnishing 352.6 cubic feet of water a minute would develop 534.01 horsepower at the nozzle.

Ordinarily these wheels are not used under heads of less than 20 feet. A wheel of this type, six feet in diameter, would develop six horsepower, with 188 cubic feet of water a minute and 20-foot head. The great majority of impulse wheels are used under heads of 100 feet and over. In this country the greatest head in use is slightly over 2,100 feet, although in Switzerland there is one plant utilizing a head of over 5,000 feet.

The old-fashioned impulse wheels were inefficient because of the fact that their buckets were not constructed scientifically, and much of the force of the water was lost at the moment of impact. The impulse wheel of to-day, however, has buckets which so completely absorb the momentum of water issuing from a nozzle, that the water falls into the tailrace with practically no velocity. When it is remembered that the nozzle pressure under a 2,250-foot head is nearly 1,000 pounds to the square inch, and that water issues from this nozzle with a velocity of 23,000 feet a minute, the scientific precision of this type of bucket can be appreciated.

A typical bucket for such a wheel is shaped like an open clam shell, the central line which cuts the stream of water into halves being ground to a sharp edge. The curves which absorb the momentum of the water are figured mathematically and in practice become polished like mirrors. So great is the eroding action of water, under great heads—especially when it contains sand or silt—that it is occasionally necessary to replace these buckets. For this reason the larger wheels consist merely of a spider of iron or steel, with each bucket bolted separately to its circumference, so that it can be removed and replaced easily. Usually only one nozzle is provided; but in order to use this wheel under low heads—down to 10 feet—a number of nozzles are used, sometimes five, where the water supply is plentiful.

The wheel is keyed to a horizontal shaft running in babbited bearings, and this same shaft is used for driving the generator, either by direct connection, or by means of pulleys and a belt. The wheel may be mounted on a home-made timber base, or on an iron frame. It takes up very little room, especially when it is so set that the nozzle can be mounted under the flooring. The wheel itself is enclosed, above the floor, in a wooden box, or a casing made of cast or sheet iron, which should be water-tight.

Since these wheels are usually operated under great heads, the problem of regulating their water supply requires special consideration. A gate is always provided at the upper, or intake end, where the water pipe leaves the flume. Since the pressure reaches 1,000 pounds the square inch and more, there would be danger of bursting the pipe if the water were suddenly shut off at the nozzle itself. For this reason it is necessary to use a needle valve, similar to that in an ordinary garden hose nozzle; and by such a valve the amount of water may be regulated to a nicety. Where the head is so great that even such a valve could not be used safely, provision is made to deflect the nozzle. These wheels have a speed variation amounting to as much as 25 per cent from no-load to full load, in generating electricity, and since the speed of the prime mover—the water wheel—is reflected directly in the voltage or pressure of electricity delivered, the wheel must be provided with some form of automatic governor. This consists usually of two centrifugal balls, similar to those used in governing steam engines; these are connected by means of gears to the needle valve or the deflector.

As the demand for farm water-powers in our hill sections becomes more general, the tangential type of water wheel will come into common use for small plants. At present it is most familiar in the great commercial installations of the Far West, working under enormous heads. These wheels are to be had in the market ranging in size from six inches to six feet and over. Wheels ranging in size from six inches to twenty-four inches are called water motors, and are to be had in the market, new, for $30 for the smallest size, and $275 for the largest. Above three feet in diameter, the list prices will run from $200 for a 3-foot wheel to $800 for a 6-foot wheel. Where one has a surplus of water, it is possible to install a multiple nozzle wheel, under heads of from 10 to 100 feet, the cost for 18-inch wheels of this pattern running from $150 to $180 list, and for 24-inch wheels from $200 to $250. A 24-inch wheel, with a 10-foot head would give 1.19 horsepower, enough for lighting the home, and using an electric iron. Under a 100-foot head this same wheel would provide 25.9 horsepower, to meet the requirements of a bigger-than-average farm plant.

The Pipe Line

The principal items of cost in installing an impulse wheel are in connection with the pipe line, and the governor. In small heads, that is, under 100 feet, the expense of pipe line is low. Frequently, however, the governor will cost more than the water motor itself, although cheaper, yet efficient, makes are now being put on the market to meet this objection. In a later chapter, we will take up in detail the question of governing the water wheel, and voltage regulation, and will attempt to show how this expense may be practically eliminated by the farmer.

To secure large heads, it is usually necessary to run a pipe line many hundreds (and in many cases, many thousands) of feet from the flume to the water wheel. Water flowing through pipes is subject to loss of head, by friction, and for this reason the larger the pipe the less the friction loss. Under no circumstances is it recommended to use a pipe of less than two inches in diameter, even for the smallest water motors; and with a two-inch pipe, the run should not exceed 200 feet. Where heavy-pressure mains, such as those of municipal or commercial water systems, are available, the problem of both water supply and head becomes very simple. Merely ascertain the pressure of the water in the mains when flowing, determine the amount of power required (as illustrated in a succeeding chapter of this book), and install the proper water motor with a suitably sized pipe.

Where one has his own water supply, however, and it is necessary to lay pipe to secure the requisite fall, the problem is more difficult. Friction in pipes acts in the same way as cutting down the head a proportional amount; and by cutting down the head, your water motor loses power in direct proportion to the number of feet head lost. This head, obtained by subtracting friction and other losses from the surveyed head, is called the effective head, and determines the amount of power delivered at the nozzle.

The tables on pages 66-67 show the friction loss in pipes up to 12 inches in diameter, according to the amount of water, and the length of pipe.

In this example it is seen that a 240-foot static head is reduced by friction to 230.1 feet effective head. By referring to the table we find the wheel fitting these conditions has a nozzle so small that it cuts down the rate of flow of water in the big pipe to 4.4 feet a second, and permits the flow of only 207 cubic feet of water a minute. The actual horsepower of this tube and nozzle, then, can be figured by applying formula (A), Chapter III, allowing 80 per cent for the efficiency of the wheel. Thus:

Actual horsepower =

207 x 230.1 x 62.5 ————————— = 90.21 x .80 = 72.168 Hp. 33,000

To calculate what the horsepower of this tube 12 inches in diameter and 900 feet long, would be without a nozzle, under a head of 240 feet, introduces a new element of friction losses, which is too complicated to figure here. Such a condition would not be met with in actual practice, in any event. The largest nozzles used, even in the jumbo plants of the Far West, rarely exceed 10 inches in diameter; and the pipe conveying water to such a nozzle is upwards of eight feet in diameter.



[Courtesy of the Pelton Water Wheel Company]

Heavy-faced figures = Loss of head in feet for each one thousand feet of pipe. Light-faced figures = Water quantity in cubic feet per minute.

- Pipe Velocity in Feet per Second Diameter+ + - 2.0 2.2 2.4 2.6 2.8 3.0 3.2 3.4 3.6 3.8 4.0 4.2 4.4 - =17.1= =20.0= =25.6= =28.3= =32.0= =37.3= =40.9= =45.8= =50.4= =56.0= =62.3= =68.1= =74.9= 3" 5.9 6.5 7.1 7.7 8.3 8.9 9.4 10.0 10.6 11.2 11.8 12.4 13.0 =11.0= =13.0= =15.0= =17.3= =20.2= =23.2= =26.2= =29.6= =33.0= =36.5= =41.0= =45.4= =49.2= 4" 10.5 11.5 12.6 13.6 14.7 15.7 16.8 17.8 18.8 19.9 21.0 22.0 23.0 =7.7= =9.4= =11.0= =12.9= =14.9= =16.9= =19.5= =21.6= =24.0= =27.0= =29.8= =32.9= =36.0= 5" 16.4 18.0 19.6 21.2 22.9 24.5 26.1 27.8 29.5 31.0 32.7 34.3 36.0 =6.0= =7.2= =8.6= =9.9= =11.7= =13.0= =14.6= =16.6= =19.0= =21.5= =23.4= =25.5= =27.8= 6" 23.5 25.9 28.2 30.6 32.9 35.3 37.7 40.0 42.4 44.7 47.1 49.5 51.8 =4.9 =6.9= =7.0= =8.1= =9.3= =10.6= =12.0= =13.6= =15.2= =17.0= =19.0= =21.0= =23.0= 7" 32.0 35.3 38.5 41.7 44.9 48.1 51.3 54.5 57.7 60.9 64.1 67.3 70.5 =4.0= =4.9= =6.0= =6.9= =7.8= =9.1= =10.0= =10.2= =13.0= =14.4= =15.9= =17.2= =19.2= 8" 41.9 46.1 50.2 54.4 58.6 62.8 67.0 71.2 75.4 79.6 83.7 87.9 92.1 =3.4= =4.2= =5.1= =5.9= =6.7= =7.7= =8.9= =9.8= =11.0= =12.2= =13.8= =15.0= =16.0= 9" 53.0 58.3 63.6 68.9 74.2 79.5 84.8 90.1 95.4 101 106 111 116 =2.9= =3.7= =4.4= =5.1= =5.9= =6.7= =7.5= =8.6= =9.5= =10.6= =12.1= =13.1= =14.1= 10" 65.4 72.0 78.5 85.1 91.6 98.2 105 111 118 124 131 137 144 =2.6= =3.2= =3.8= =4.4= =5.1= =5.9= =6.6= =7.5= =8.4= =9.5= =10.3= =10.1= =12.5= 11" 79 87 95 103 111 119 127 134 142 150 158 166 174 =2.36= =2.9= =3.4= =3.9= =4.5= =5.2= =5.9= =6.7= =7.5= =8.5= =9.4= =10.0= =11.0= 12" 94 103 113 122 132 141 151 160 169 179 188 198 207 -

- - - - - - - -+ 4.6 4.8 5.0 5.2 5.4 5.6 5.8 6.0 7.0 8.0 9.0 10.0 + - - - - - - - - 78.1 82.0 89.5 98.9 105.0 113.2 120.8 130.0 162.8 216.0 270. 323. 3" 13.6 14.2 14.8 15.3 15.9 16.5 17.1 17.7 20.6 23.5 26.5 29.5 52.3 57.0 61.5 68.0 72.5 78.2 83.1 89.5 121. 155. 198. 242. 4" 24.1 25.1 26.2 27.2 28.3 29.3 30.4 31.5 36.6 41.9 47.2 52.4 39.2 42.3 46.0 49.8 53.5 58.0 62.0 67.0 89. 118. 148. 182. 5" 37.6 39.2 40.9 42.5 44.1 45.8 47.5 49.1 57.1 65.4 73.7 82.0 30.6 33.1 35.6 39.0 41.6 44.6 48.0 51.6 69.0 89.0 114. 140. 6" 54.1 56.5 58.9 61.2 63.6 65.9 68.3 70.7 82.4 94.3 106 118 25.1 27.3 29.5 32.0 34.5 37.1 40.0 43.0 58.0 75.0 95.0 116. 7" 73.7 76.9 80.2 83.3 86.6 89.8 93.0 96.2 112 128 145 161 20.0 22.5 24.9 27.0 28.8 30.6 32.8 35.5 47.5 61.2 78.6 95.1 8" 96.3 101 105 109 113 117 121 125 146 168 189 210 17.1 19.2 21.0 22.9 24.6 26.2 28.0 30.1 40.1 52.1 66.6 82.0 9" 122 127 132 138 143 148 154 159 185 212 238 265 14.8 16.7 17.9 19.9 21.0 22.7 24.3 25.9 34.8 45.9 58.0 70.1 10" 150 157 163 170 177 183 190 196 229 261 295 327 13.0 14.7 15.9 17.1 18.2 20.1 21.3 22.6 30.7 40.0 50.8 62.0 11" 182 190 198 206 214 222 229 237 277 316 356 396 11.6 13.0 14.0 15.1 16.1 17.8 19.1 20.2 27.1 35.9 45.4 55.9 12" 217 226 235 245 254 264 273 283 330 377 425 472 - - - - - - - - -


Assume the surveyed head as 240 feet, the water quantity as 207 cubic feet per minute and a pipe line 12 inches in diameter 900 feet long. To ascertain the friction loss, refer to column of pipe diameter and follow across the column for 12 inches diameter to the quantity, 207 cubic feet per minute. The heavy-faced figures above 207 indicate that the loss per 1000 feet of pipe length is 11 feet. Therefore, since the pipe in the example is 900 feet long, the loss will be

11.' x 900/1000 or 9.9 feet, and the effective head will be 240' - 9.9' = 230.1'

Steel tubing for supply pipes, from 3 to 12 inches in diameter is listed at from 20 cents to $1.50 a foot, according to the diameter and thickness of the material. Discounts on these prices will vary from 25 to 50 per cent. The farmer can cut down the cost of this pipe by conveying his supply water from its natural source to a pond, by means of an open race, or a wooden flume. An ingenious mechanic can even construct his own pipe out of wood, though figuring labor and materials, it is doubtful if anything would be saved over a riveted steel pipe, purchased at the regular price. This pipe, leading from the pond, or forebay, to the water wheel, should be kept as short as possible; at the same time, the fall should not be too sharp. An angle of 30 deg. will be found very satisfactory, although pipe is frequently laid at angles up to 50 deg.

Other Types of Impulse Wheels

In recent years more efficient forms of the old-fashioned overshoot, pitch-back breast, and undershoot wheels have been developed, by substituting steel or other metal for wood, and altering the shape of the buckets to make better use of the power of falling water.

In some forms of overshoot wheels, an efficiency of over 90 per cent is claimed by manufacturers; and this type offers the additional advantage of utilizing small quantities of water, as well as being efficient under varying quantities of water. They utilize the falling weight of water, although by giving the water momentum at the point of delivery, by means of the proper fall, impulse too is utilized in some measure. The modern steel overshoot wheel receives water in its buckets from a spout set a few degrees back of dead center; and its buckets are so shaped that the water is retained a full half-revolution of the wheel. The old-style overshoot wheel was inefficient principally because the buckets began emptying themselves at the end of a quarter-revolution. Another advantage claimed for these wheels over the old style is that, being made of thin metal, their buckets attain the temperature of the water itself, thus reducing the danger of freezing to a minimum. They are manufactured in sizes from 6 feet in diameter to upwards of fifty feet; and with buckets of from 6 inches to 10 feet in width. In practice it is usual to deliver water to the buckets by means of a trough or pipe, through a suitable spout and gate, at a point two feet above the crown of the wheel. For this reason, the diameter of the wheel corresponds very closely to the head in feet.

The Reaction Turbine

The reaction turbine is best adapted to low heads, with a large supply of water. It is not advisable, under ordinary circumstances, to use it under heads exceeding 100 feet, as its speed is then excessive. It may be used under falls as low as two feet. Five thousand cubic feet of water a minute would give approximately 14 actual horsepower under such a head. A sluggish creek that flows in large volume could thus be utilized for power with the reaction turbine, whereas it would be useless with an impulse wheel. Falls of from five to fifteen feet are to be found on thousands of farm streams, and the reaction turbine is admirably adapted to them.

Reaction turbines consist of an iron "runner" which is in effect a rotary fan, the pressure and momentum of the column of water pressing on the slanted blades giving it motion and power. These wheels are manufactured in a great variety of forms and sizes; and are to be purchased either as the runner (set in bearings) alone, or as a runner enclosed in an iron case. In case the runner alone is purchased, the owner must enclose it, either with iron or wood. They vary in price according to size, and the means by which the flow of water is controlled. A simple 12-inch reaction turbine wheel, such as would be suitable for many power plants can be had for $75. A twelve-inch wheel, using 18 or 20 square inches of water, would generate about 7-1/2 horsepower under a 20-foot head, with 268 cubic feet of water a minute. Under a 30-foot head, and with 330 cubic feet of water such a wheel will give 14 horsepower. A 36-inch wheel, under a 5-foot head, would use 2,000 cubic feet of water, and give 14 horsepower. Under a 30-foot head, this same wheel, using 4,900 cubic feet of water a minute, would develop over 200 horsepower. If the farmer is confronted by the situation of a great deal of water and small head, a large wheel would be necessary. Thus he could secure 35 horsepower with only a 3-foot head, providing his water supply is equal to the draft of 8,300 cubic feet a minute.

From these sample figures, it will be seen that the reaction turbine will meet the requirements of widely varying conditions up to, say a head of 100 feet. The farmer prospector should measure first the quantity of water to be depended on, and then the number of feet fall to be had. The higher the fall, with certain limits, the smaller the expense of installation, and the less water required. When he has determined quantity and head, the catalogue of a reputable manufacturer will supply him with what information is necessary to decide on the style and size wheel he should install. In the older settled communities, especially in New England, a farmer should be able to pick up a second-hand turbine, at half the price asked for a new one; and since these wheels do not depreciate rapidly, it would serve his purpose as well, in most cases, as a new one.

Reaction turbines may be either horizontal or vertical. If they are vertical, it is necessary to connect them to the main shaft by means of a set of bevel gears. These gears should be substantially large, and if the teeth are of hard wood (set in such a manner that they can be replaced when worn) they will be found more satisfactory than if of cast or cut metal.

The horizontal turbine is keyed to its shaft, like the impulse wheel, so that the wheel shaft itself is used for driving, without gears or a quarter-turn belt. (The latter is to be avoided, wherever possible.) There are many forms of horizontal turbines; they are to be had of the duplex type, that is, two wheels on one shaft. These are arranged so that either wheel may be run separately, or both together, thus permitting one to take advantage of the seasonal fluctuation in water supply. A convenient form of these wheels includes draft tubes, by which the wheel may be set several feet above the tailrace, and the advantage of this additional fall still be preserved. In this case the draft tube must be airtight so as to form suction, when filled with escaping water, and should be proportioned to the size of the wheel. Theoretically these draft tubes might be 34 feet long, but in practice it has been found that they should not exceed 10 or 12 feet under ordinary circumstances. They permit the wheel to be installed on the main floor of the power station, with the escape below, instead of being set just above the tailrace level itself, as is the case when draft tubes are not used.

Reaction turbines when working under a variable load require water governors (like impulse wheels) although where the supply of water is large, and the proportion of power between water wheel and dynamo is liberal—say two to one, or more—this necessity is greatly reduced. Reaction wheels as a rule govern themselves better than impulse wheels, due both to the fact that they use more water, and that they operate in a small airtight case. The centrifugal ball governor is the type usually used with reaction wheels as well as with impulse wheels. This subject will be discussed more fully later.

Installing a Power Plant

In developing a power prospect, the dam itself is usually not the site of the power plant. In fact, because of danger from flood water and ice, it is better to locate it in a more protected spot, leading the water to the wheel by means of a race and flume.

A typical crib dam, filled with stone, is shown in section in the diagram, and the half-tone illustration shows such a dam in course of construction. The first bed of timbers should be laid on hard-pan or solid rock in the bed of the stream parallel to its flow. The second course, across the stream, is then begun, being spiked home by means of rods cut to length and sharpened by the local blacksmith, from 3/4-inch Norway iron. Hemlock logs are suitable for building the crib; and as the timbers are finally laid, it should be filled in and made solid with boulders. This filling in should proceed section by section, as the planking goes forward, otherwise there will be no escape for the water of the stream, until it rises and spills over the top timbers. The planking should be of two-inch chestnut, spiked home with 60 penny wire spikes. When the last section of the crib is filled with boulders and the water rises, the remaining planks may be spiked home with the aid of an iron pipe in which to drive the spike by means of a plunger of iron long enough to reach above the level of the water. When the planking is completed, the dam should be well gravelled, to within a foot or two of its crest. Such dams are substantial, easily made with the aid of unskilled labor, and the materials are to be had on the average farm with the exception of the hardware.

This dam forms a pond from which the race draws its supply of water for the wheel. It also serves as a spillway over which the surplus water escapes. The race should enter the pond at some convenient point, and should be protected at or near its point of entrance by a bulkhead containing a gate, so that the supply of water may be cut off from the race and wheel readily. The lay of the land will determine the length and course of the race. The object of the race is to secure the required head by carrying a portion of the available water to a point where it can escape, by a fall of say 30 deg. to the tailrace. It may be feasible to carry the race in a line almost at right angles to the stream itself, or, again, it may be necessary to parallel the stream. If the lay of the land is favorable, the race may be dug to a distance of a rod or so inshore, and then be permitted to cut its own course along the bank, preventing the water escaping back to the river or brook before the site of the power plant is reached, by building suitable retaining embankments. The race should be of ample size for conveying the water required without too much friction. It should end in a flume constructed stoutly of timbers. It is from this flume that the penstock draws water for the wheel. When the wheel gate is closed the water in the mill pond behind the dam, and in the flume itself should maintain an approximate level. Any surplus flow is permitted to escape over flushboards in the flume; these same flushboards maintain a constant head when the wheel is in operation by carrying off what little surplus water the race delivers from the pond.

1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse