After visits to Tacome Pai Organic Farm and Rajabhat University’s gardens watered by bicycle pumps, we were inspired to make our own.
Bicycle pumps can pump water up from a depth of 5-7 metres to a height of 10 metres vertical. Since our well is 5 metres deep this suited our conditions perfectly.
They are very easy to make. You need:
1. An old bicycle
2. A piston pump
3. Rubber band used in car engines
4. PVC pipe
5. A stand of some sort, either out of wood or metal, to stabilize the bicycle. If you like you can have a cement base for extra stability.
The biggest expense in this system is a piston pump. Ours’ was a good quality one for about US$100. There are cheaper models on the market. This is a long-term investment that will save you the constant expense of fossil fuels needed to run a regular pump.
To make the bicycle pump, you remove the rubber wheel of the back bicycle tire, and attach it to the wheel of the piston pump with the rubber band used in car engines. These rubber bands come in different sizes, so you can buy the size that suits your needs.
Best is if you fix the bicycle to a stand or base of some sort. The front bicycle wheel is not needed in this system, so you can fix the front wheel to your base or even remove it entirely. The back wheel must be raised off the base so that it can still turn while you pedal. This is what gets the piston in the pump moving. We just took our whole system, bicycle, pump and rubber band to the local metal workshop and they welded us a stand for the whole system. It was a bit tricky carrying it across the stream.
To install the bicycle pump to your water source is incredibly easy. On the piston pump, there will be a circular opening on either side. The standard size opening is 1 inch for 1 inch PVC. One opening will be labeled IN, the other labeled OUT. The opening labeled IN is where the pipe feeds into the pump from the water source. The opening labeled OUT is where the pipe goes out to where you need it, ie/ a shower, gardens, the water tank, etc.
In our system the IN pipe gets the water IN from the well. The OUT pipe goes down from a 1 inch pipe to a 1/2 inch pipe to increase the pressure. This then leads to 3 separate places for water use which we can turn on and off with valves. One pipe goes to the garden hose for watering. One goes to our outdoor shower. And the other goes up to the nursery for watering.
Bike Power Shower
You can get some pretty good pressure!
After initial installation this system would not work.
So we called our friend Sandot Sukkaew of Tacome Pai Organic Farm for some advice.
Firstly, to get this system to work, you must pour engine oil into a small opening near the front of the pump.
Secondly, you must unscrew the bolts on top of the pump and fill the body of the pump with water to get it going.
After this your pump should work. If it still does not work, which was our case, then you must add a foot valve at the bottom of your pipe going into your water source (usually a well). It can be made out of metal, but we opted for the much cheaper plastic version.
After this our pump worked smoothly and is currently meeting most of our water needs in a sustainable way. Very easy to implement and highly effective, I would recommend this system to every farm and homestead geared towards fossil-fuel independence and sustainability.