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