Friday, May 16, 2014

DIY Solar Project - Portable Water Pump - Part One - Basic Planning

The practical application of your knowledge should be the goal of any DIY project you may decide to undertake. A DIY project can be a simple solution to a major problem. If you just give it some careful thought and a little basic planning, you can find a solution that will solve the problem.

 Mrs. RW had a big problem in getting water from our rain barrels to her plants. With numerous rain barrels (and plants) in different places and spread out over a couple of acres, Mrs. RW needed some way to get the rain water that was collected to her plants without having to pack a jug or bucket. The solution was fairly simple. A portable water pump was needed to move the rainwater to the plants.

Building a DIY Portable Water Pump - Basic Planning

1. Choosing a Portable Platform

A decision was made to use a Stanley Mobile Work Center for the platform to build a portable water pump. It was fairly inexpensive and cheap enough to scrap the whole thing if the project went south. This is the case in many instances in my DIY projects and more often than you might think. It also offered a large storage bin that would be ideal to house a battery that would be needed to run the pump and it also had a folding handle that would also work great for this DIY project. The top toolbox also offered a decent amount of storage. Although the sliding door to the bin sometimes comes off its track, the door is easy enough to put back on its track. It has wheels and a fairly strong axle to accommodate the weight of any items stored in the bin and the tool box. The next step is choosing a power source.

2. Choosing a Portable Power Source

Any portable water pump is going to need a power source and grid plugs and gasoline aren’t always available. Consider that a good grid-powered water pump can cost upwards of $150 and one powered by a two or four cycle engine can cost several hundred dollars or more. This made the decision to use 12 volt power easy. The problem would be keeping the battery or batteries charged. Since the pump’s primary use would be in the daytime, a little solar action would take care of keeping the batteries charged.

Several battery options were considered. When a large deep cycle battery (24 series) wouldn’t fit and was way too heavy for the toolbox, a smaller and lighter battery option was needed. Four 6 volt / 13 Amp Hour AGM (absorbed glass mat) batteries were purchased on special for less than $60. This solved the problem as far as powering the portable pump. Using a couple of 12 volt (2.5 watt) solar panels that were purchased for less than $10 each would solve the problem of keeping the batteries charged. A solar charge controller would also be needed to protect the batteries from being overcharged and to regulate the load that would be placed on the batteries.

3. Choosing a Portable Water Pump

Several features were going to be needed for our portable water pump to get the maximum use and benefit out of a portable system. A 12 volt water pump with a flow rate of 1.2 GPH (gallons per hour) with a pressure of 35 PSI was decided as the best option. The pump would also need to be lightweight and with a very minimal current draw to prevent exceeding battery capacity. It also needed to be cost effective and allow for the maximum size possible for our toolbox platform.

Suction and discharge hoses can also take up a lot of space and greatly increase the weight factor. The size of the discharge and suction ports on the water pump should be a major factor when choosing a pump. The pump in this case had 3/8 inch ports which were suitable for this application.

4. Choosing Accessories

There are also additional accessories that may be needed in order to minimize any problems with your portable water pump. Some are required for safe and efficient operation. Others are optional and can be used or not used depending upon personal preferences. Fuses, switches, disconnects and battery monitors are just some of the items that are required for a safely functioning system.

With a platform, water pump, power source and the accessories chosen, the only thing left was to put all the pieces together and hopefully end up with what should be an extremely versatile and useful piece of equipment.

In Part Two, the actual details of building the portable water pump will be outlined. The manner in which problems were handled and the solutions that were chosen to deal with the problems encountered during the build process will also be covered.

Got pumping power?

Staying above the water pumping line!



Anonymous said...

Excellent article. I love solar projects, especially little ones that solve big problems. I would recommend a 12v AGM 35AH battery. It has a small footprint and good power reserve for small applications. I have one in my truck tool box to recharge my 18v lithium powertool batteries. They run about $65 on ebay. Thanks for sharing and keep em coming.

riverwalker said...

To: Flee Babylon

To minimize my costs, I used the 4 six volt batteries mainly because they were on special and I needed a battery (or batteries) that could function in any position. There is also the added advantage of not having problems with discharge fumes.

Thanks Flee.


Mary Davis said...

Nice info ! I really liked your sharing about water feature pumps. Thanks for keep with us.

Thomas B. Hines said...

When I have free time I enjoy doing DIY projects and your post gave me some great ideas! Just a touch of colorful cushions or nice covers and the look of the whole metal garden furnitureis transformed.
Thanks for the post!

Margaret said...

My husband and I are so screwed with home maintenance, auto repairs, sewing, etc. We have 4 1\2 college degrees between the two of us and not a shred of practical knowledge. I don't think either of us have ever even seen a sump pump. For example, I did not know you had to plug them in. We spent over a year in our current house (which we don't own, which somehow makes me feel better about the whole thing) with an extension cord crossing the entire length of our living room because there are no electrical outlets on that wall through the entire house, before my dad came to visit and put in a couple of outlets for us.

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