Solar Water Pumping 

Design and build information for solar photovoltaic (PV) pumping systems, and water powered ram pumps that you can build.


This section also covers mechanical windmill pumps, backup hand pumps for well, and the interesting spiral pump design.



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Solar PV Water Pumping Basics

A Graphic Guide to Solar Water Pumping

Windy Dankoff

How to get articles from Home Power ...


Home Power Magazine article, issue 46

Very good article on designing and selecting the components for a solar electric water pumping system.  Covers a wide variety of pumping head, flow, and system types -- helps you select the right pumping system for the job.

The Dankoff website has a lot of solar pumping information, specifications, installation instructions, pump manuals...

Solar (Photovoltaic) Water Pumping,
From Practical



Some good information on selecting and sizing a PV powered water pumping systems.  Covers types of systems vs depth and flow required.
Guide to Solar Powered Water Pumping in New York State

New York State Energy Research and Development Authority

Solar Pumping Guide...


A pretty complete and detailed guide to planning and implementing a solar powered water pumping system.
Also compares solar pumping to Diesel, wind, and gravity systems.


Build Your Own Solar-Powered Water Pumping Station,
Jeffery Yago, Backwoods Home Magazine


Good Backwoods Home article (issue 91) by Jeff Yago on building simple solar pumping systems.
Solar Water Pumping

Wind and Sun


Quite a bit of information on solar water pumping systems.  A general guide on solar water pumping and specifications for solar pumping equipment.


Solar-Powered Livestock Watering Systems

University of Tennessee Extension

Stock Watering PV 1640 (140K pdf)

Good paper on solar stock watering systems.  Covers types of systems, and sizing and designing system.

Much of this information could be applicable to a residential water system that uses a storage tank.

From the University of Tennessee Extension Service:

Pumps and Watering Systems for Managed Beef Grazing...
MU Extension


Quite a bit of information on systems to provide water for stock, including some solar ones.  Piping and tank design, water requirements ...
Water Well Drilling...

drilling a simple water wellA detailed 176 page manual on drilling a water well with relatively simple equipment. Covers "successfully site, drill and construct good water wells"



Solar PV Water Pumping Systems
A Solar Powered Pumping and Storage System Suitable for a Household
From By Example

Lots of interesting material on the website.

Very good article on designing and installing a simple solar powered well water pumping system suitable for one household.

The system pumps from 140 ft to fill a 1600 gallon water storage tank.

The Sun Pumps Submersible pump is said to pump from depths up to 230 ft at rates up to 2 gpm.   This might provide about 600 gallons on a sunny day from a fixed PV array.
Solar pumping water from a spring --with high head requirement...

solar water pumping Stan worked out a simple and inexpensive solution to pumping irrigation water from a spring to his greenhouse.

The greenhouse is 800 ft away and 50 higher than the spring, so, not an easy pumping situation.

All the details on the sizing and build here...

Solar Water Pumping Makes Sense
Windy Dankoff

How to get articles from Home Power ...
Home Power magazine article, issue 97

Very good description of design and installation of a direct PV solar pumping system for a house.

Winter Cattle Watering with Automated Solar Pumps

Ken Kelln and Paul Hanley

How to get articles from Home Power ...

Home Power Magazine article, issue 98


A simple and elegant PV powered stock watering system that is “cow activated”.   PV panel and batteries power a submersible 12VDC pump that is activated by a motion detector.  System Cost $4200.

Solar-Powered Cattle Saloon

L. A. Wallin

How to get articles from Home Power ...

Home Power Magazine article, issue 54

Article about pumping water from a 400 ft deep well using a solar powered pump jack (mechanically powered piston pump at bottom of well).  Providing water for cattle in Montana.

Build your own solar-powered water pumping station

Backwoods Magazine

Jeffrey Yago, P.E., CEM


A good Backwoods Magazine article on sizing and installing a solar powered water pumping system for livestock.
OtherPower -- Water Pumping


Solar PV powered water pumping system description with pretty good hands-on information, and some advice.
Solar Water Pumping and Supplementary Power for a Grid-Powered Home

Windy Dankoff


How to get articles from Home Power ...

Good Home Power article by Windy Dankoff on providing enough PV power to pump well water, and to supply a few other crucial circuits in case of power failure.

The article appears in issue 76, April/May 2000  -- but does not appear to be in their digital archive.
Pumping Water for Irrigation Using Solar Energy
H.J. Helikson, D.Z. Haman and C.D. Baird

University of Florida -- Extension Service

Pumping Paper (pdf)


Interesting 1992 paper on PV powered pumping for irrigation wire.  Good analysis of system.

Interesting reflector/tracking arrangement on the PV panels that increases panel output significantly.

Water: A Safe Supply When You're Off the Grid,
Jeffrey Yago, Backwoods Home Magazine, Sep 2001
off grid water systemAn article on providing safe drinking water from a stream source using a power efficient design that is compatible with a solar powered, off-grid home.
Sunny Solutions for North Slope Applications,
Michael Hackleman, Backwoods Home Magazine, Jan 2000
PV panels on tower power pumpThis Backwoods Home article describes an interesting solution to a water pumping problem at a site that appeared at first to offer no suitable location for the PV modules.

They worked out a solution that involves mounting the PV modules on a tower.

Also has some good information on tower building and tower raising.
Ram Pumps

Ram pumps use a flow of low head water to pump a portion of the water uphill

Hydraulic Ram Pumps...


A good collection of information and links on Ram Pumps.
Build Your Own Ram Pump

Clemson University -- Cooperative Extension Service

Pump Plans


Plans to build your own pump, as well as ram pump theory of operation, design and sizing information.
Building a Homemade Ram Pump
Scott Lee

How to get articles from Home Power ...

Also here:


Home Power Magazine article, issue 76

Good hands-on article on how to build a simple ram pump from hardware store parts.  Ram pumps use a flow of low head water to pump a portion of the water uphill.

Hydraulic Ram Pumps...

Prepared by:
Gregory D. Jennings, PhD, PE



This paper explains how ramp pumps operate, and allows you to size your ram pump.
Atlas Ram Pump Construction



A company that sells ram pump parts and kits, as well as a book on ram pumps that is reported to be good.
Low Cost, low flow, home made hydraulic ram pump (no welding required)


A ram pump design adapted from other designs that is aimed at smaller water flows and simplified assembly.

Good construction detail.

Have a look around the rest of Judy's website while you are there -- lots of interesting material.

Spiral Pump -- A slow turning pump that can be powered by slow flowing creeks/rivers
Spiral Pump


The Spiral Pump - A High Lift, Slow Turning Pump, Peter Trailer

Wild Water Power -- more spiral pump information:

Video of spiral pump made from clear tubing working...



This pump uses a rotating pipe coil to pump water.  It requires only moving water to power it.

The pump in the picture pumps 400 gallons per day to a tank 50 ft above the pump.

The Spiral Pump - A High Lift, Slow Turning Pump, Peter Trailer
Very interesting set of tests on a spiral pump.  Quite a bit of design and construction information is also provided.

Sometime I am going to have to sit down an figure why this works :-)

Hand Pumps
Bison Pumps...



Hand pumps for either primary or backup use.
For shallow or deep wells (up to 300').
Rintoul's Hand Pumps


A variety of hand pumps for wells all the way up to 250 ft deep.
Windmill Pumps
Suppliers of Windmill Water Pumps


Ferguson Windmills Company...

Dempster (no longer in business):

How the Windmill pumps work - diagram...

American Windmills ...  (sell windmills and parts+how-to info)

Dean Bennett Supply...  (Aermotor windmills and parts+info)

These are some commercial sources for the traditional windmill driven water pump.  In these pumps, a high torque, low speed wind rotor directly drives a mechanical linkage to a pump located at the bottom of the well bore. 

These windmill pumps are simple and have been in common use for 120 years.  Some are 100 years old and still running.
Wind Pumping,
From Practical


A guide to wind mill water pumping.  Characteristics of mechanical vs electric powered water pumps.
Some design and sizing information.
Water Pumping Windmills,
Dorothy Ainsworth, Backwoods Home Magazine, Nov 2004

Dorothy's website -- windmill pages...
Water pumping windmillA good, practical article on water pumping windmills.  Covers history, how they work, selection, finding the right windmill and installing it.
Dorothy and wind pumps
Dorothy's website has a good writeup on the whole process of planning for and installing a windmill water pumper. 

Vintage Windmills NEWS

An online magazine and community dedicated to restoring and installing water pumping windmills.

All issues available online for free -- lots of interesting articles.
Rebuilding an Aermotor 702 windmil water pumper

Rebuilding Aermotor 702 ...

Salvaging an Aermotor 702
Aermotor 702 rebuild
Historic Water Pumping Windmills in Australia


Some great stories and information on pumper wind mills in Australia.

Quite a nice collection of information on the great machines.

This is on the backshed site, which has a ton of good information on building your own wind system.

Pictures of a Dempster water pumping windmill  along I-15

Look at pictures...

Just some pictures of a Dempster windmill water pumper.

Look at pictures ...

Airlift Windmills

airlift wind pumpIn this design, the windmill directly drives a compressor.  The compressed air is used in a bubble pump (no moving parts) to pump water from depths up to 315 ft.  Flow rates up to 30 gpm.

Freeze Proof Stock Waters -- that don't use energy

A whole section of solar and geothermal freeze resistant stock watering tank here...

Tanks you can build or buy that do not require electric tank heaters to be free of ice.

Swimming Pool Pumping


I don't have any example systems for PV pool pumping at this time. 

If you know of a good example, please let me know.




Gary updated 7/27/07, 9/5/07, May 10, 2008