Running a homestead is hard work. That simple statement says a lot. On a daily basis a homesteader must ensure that livestock and gardens are cared for and that includes ensuring that everything has enough water. Sounds like a simple enough task right? Well, not always. In Texas, as I am sure is the same with many states, it is either feast or famine when it comes to rain. In the area of Texas that we are located we do get a decent amount of rain, as Texas goes, but we often go for 2 months or more without seeing even a drop of the life saving liquid.
It is because of the inconsistent rain that we try to collect as much water as we can via gutters, roof ridge lines and so forth. Basically if it has a roof we try to collect water from it. The problem is that the animals and the gardens aren't exactly sitting right next to the house so how do you get the water to the animals from the rain barrels or tanks? Our barrels are not on elevated tank stands either so gravity feed does not work too well in several areas because from some of the tanks to the garden it is a slight up hill run. That very slight up hill run is enough to prevent the water from flowing without pressure.
My initial thought was to place a sort of pump on the larger tanks to pump the water. There came another issue - how would I power those pumps and with the number of tanks we had now it would be a costly adventure to add pumps to each one and then run power to them as well.
Then it came about that I was experimenting with some small solar systems and it came to me that I could make a solar powered water transfer station on wheels. Then the wheels in my brain started churning and this is what came from it.
A portable, solar powered water transfer station that will go where I need it when I need it and pump water to where I need it when I need it. This was a perfect all around solution. I didn't have to worry about how I was going to get power to every barrel or tank and I wouldn't have to worry if the power was out for a period of time. It would be great for daily usage and ever better in an emergency.
So here is the first version. It is still a work in progress to perfect but it is a wonderful working experiment that I can continue to improve upon.
After much research I decided on a 12 volt DC powered water pump made by Wayne with the model number PC-1. It had good reviews and was within a resonable price range at just under 80.00 with free shipping on Amazon. I wanted a pump that had an on/off switch, which most of them don't, so that narrowed down the search. On our other pump, we have at the cabin, Ronnie spliced a swich into it but it was more time and more money. This time I wanted one that came with it. The Wayne PC-1 requires no priming, came with a 6-foot hose and 'junk filter' or what they called a water siphon. With the water siphon attached the pump can remove water down to 1/8 inch. That was exactly what I was looking for. Now the water siphon although handy to keep out larger particles is not meant to be a water filter so if the water is likely to have 'stuff' floating in it then it is recommended to add a filter.
I attached the pump to a scrap piece of 2x6 that I had on hand to keep it straight, secured, elevated and to prevent it from perhaps sliding around in the housing. It's a pretty heavy little booger but better safe then sorry..
The Portable Pump Housing
Once the pump was decided I had to decide how I was going to house the pump to make it portable and protected at the same time. I decided to go with a Stanley Workforce rolling tool box. All Stanley tool boxes are not created equal. The one I chose was a little smaller than some of the others but the design was just what I was looking for with a larger compartment on bottom and a smaller tool storage area on top. This would allow me to store the battery in the bottom and the pump in the top and yet have the physical tool box still one solid piece. Another reason I chose this particular tool box was the single solid axle. Meaning the axle between the wheels is one solid piece which gives more stability to the tool box. Again purchased from Amazon for about 20.00 with free shipping.
Originally I was going to use the same battery that I used to make my small solar powered generator. After getting all the specs needed to determine which battery would be best, I found that I would only be able to run the pump for roughly 35 minutes or so on a 35 amp hour battery and even that would be pushing it. That is usually enough time but I really did not want to limit myself to such a short time span so I opted to upgrade to a 110 amp hour marine, deep cycle battery. The down side to the larger capacity battery was the size and weight of the battery. Good thing I wasn't going to have to carry it around. I did the measurements and found that the larger battery would fit snuggly in the bottom compartment of the pump housing. The plus side was that I would be able to roll the watering station over to the solar panel set up for charging and just charge the battery while inside the housing. As I mentioned the battery was not purchased for this project. It's the battery off of our 45 watt harbor Freight solar system. We usually just let the battery charge all the time and then when we head to the cabin for a week or so take the battery with us to charge stuff.
Solar power was the only way to go for this project it offered me the flexibility I needed and I could use our existing 45-watt Harbor Freight solar panel kit that was under utilized much of the time.
Now keep in mind I would be powering a pump that would use roughly 200 watts on my battery. With a 45 watt solar system it would would take some time to recharge the battery.
Okay so that is pretty much all that there is to the solar water pump station. I had originally wanted to make even the solar panel protable with it but the size of the panel needed to recharge the battery woiuld be prohibitive and one that would work with it in size would take too long to recharge the battery. I have a couple of the 13 watt solar briefcase panels and had planned to connect one of them to the setup and I still can if I am willing to sacrifice the amount of time it takes to recharge the system. Most of the time recharging time would not even be a problem as it is not like I have to do the watering every day. But sometimes when the temps are 100 plus for weeks at a time it is necessary to water something, some where just about everyday. So that is an option I might still consider. If I can find some reasonable solar film then I might consider using it for my watering station also.
If I was going to make a version 2.0 I would do a few things differently but the overall setup works great.
What would I do different? I would connect some short pvc pipes to the pump and run them out of the pump housing area instead of running the hoses directly through the housing to the pump. It would just make it a little neater and cleaner and easier to remove and attach hoses.
But overall I am satisfied with the project.
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