We’ve got the power: Part 2

Waiting for instructions down at the stream, I took this picture of a fern glowing in the sun.


When we got home from our holiday in the Bay of Islands, just as we feared the waterwheel hadn’t magically fixed itself, so we had work to do. The bottom third of the wheel was buried in pumice silt and the pipes had been dislodged but luckily no vital pieces had been washed away. After a couple of days of remedial work; digging out the wheel, repositioning and tying down the pipes and rebuilding the dam, we could put the generator back in the shed. The wheel was turning again. Power was restored.

May 2014 036
A washed out pipe in flood debris.

Our stream is very silty. It’s one of the reasons we went with a waterwheel to produce our power. The pumice in the water rolls over the wheel and drops back into the stream without damaging the buckets. In a Pelton Wheel, water shoots through a narrow nozzle with force and the fine pumice particles eat away at the buckets, surprisingly quickly. Remember the Pelton Wheel The Man of the House made? It worked for a while but the power of water eventually proved too much for it.


The Pelton Wheel.


The poor old waterwheel didn’t like being underwater. The ply wood swelled and the screws holding it together started to loosen and pop out. It would have to replaced. So the MoTH built a new one, out of scrap aluminium and once again we could relax.




With a more reliable power supply, we started to accumulate electrical appliances; a fridge/freezer, more lights and, god forbid, a TV. The more electricity you use the more you have to produce and the MoTH, in his pursuit of more power decided to replace the pipes feeding our wheel with an open race. It never ceased to amaze us how those pipes could silt up. Even a twig across the mouth could dramatically reduce power output. We always knew a race would be more efficient but we had been forced to use what we had or could scrounge to keep costs down.


We’d replaced the plastic pipes nearest the wheel with a ply wood race late in 2013 and it held up well in the flood. Later the light aluminium pipes were replaced too and today we have an aluminium open race. The day the MoTH let water through the race, power output shot up. We could run a freezer, a microwave and now we even have a toaster.

The MoTH building the last section of the water race. 


Then we bought an electric car. And the power system couldn’t cope. But that’s another story.


  1. Love reading your blog, and fully understand how hard it is to keep things working with storms an everlasting struggle. Hope you are not getting too much rain now, in Taranaki it has been bad, Peace, my friend.


  2. Thank you Elsie, we’re philosophical about the weather. Can’t do anything about it so just have to accept there will be the occasional disruption to life. We’ve had a couple of rough days but the Bay of Plenty is generally protected from the worst weather. Unlike Taranaki which bears the full brunt of all those southerly and westerly storms. Peace to you, my poor exposed friend.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s