Homemade Water Wheel Electric Generator

C. Davis
By C. Davis June 3, 2014 19:18

Homemade Water Wheel Electric Generator

A medium size water wheel electric generator can provide enough electricity for one house (3 bulbs, one TV and one radio all running at the same time). Not only you will no longer dependent on the power grid, but you’ll have electricity when SHTF and more important: absolutely FREE. Unlike solar panels, a water wheel electric generator can produce electricity 24/7.

Hydroelectricity is the world’s largest and cleanest source of renewable energy. But despite lively interest in renewables generally, there is an information vacuum about the smallest version of the technology dubbed “the simplest, most reliable and least expensive way to generate power off grid.”

Hydroelectric energy has been used worldwide for a long time to generate huge amounts of electricity from water stored behind massive dams. Small scale hydropower generators are usually used without a damn. They are called run-of-the-river micro-hydro installations and they are very efficient. For example a small water wheel electric generator with a drop of only 3 ft may generate enough electricity for a small house. In the United States, run-of-the-river hydropower could potentially provide 60,000 MW (about 13.7% of total use if continuously available).

So, if you have a river or a brook nearby you may consider building a water wheel electric generator to power your home.

How The Water Wheel Electric Generator Works

Overshot Water WheelIt’s actually pretty simple. The flowing, dropping water is spinning a wheel (see image). The wheel shaft it’s connected to a simple coil generator that produces electricity. You’ve probably seen that front bike flashlight is connected by a dynamo to the bike’s wheel. And while you are pedaling the flashlight is on. This is exactly the same principle.

Usually, for a water wheel electric generator you need at least 3 feet of fall and at least 20 gallons per minute of flow. The more fall and flow you have, the more potential power you can generate.  You can measure flow by building a weir in the creek and measuring how fast it will fill up a 5 gallon bucket.

Power Output in kilowatts-hour is calculated by the formula: KW = 0.004 x Q x V x H x C  where:
Q = Weight of water (volume per sec x capacity of the buckets)
V = Velocity of the stream per second (meters)
H = Head, or height difference of water between the lip of the flume (head race) and the tailrace – meters
C = Efficiency Constant – usually around 50%

This is how you can actually calculate the energy your water wheel electric generator will produce.

Take a look at your monthly electric bill and see how many KW your household consumes per month. Divide the KW by the number of days the month had and again by 24. The result is the KW you consume per hour. Compare it with your formula results and see if the water wheel electric generator can produce enough electricity for your house or just a percent.

How To Build a Small Water Wheel Electric Generator

Mainly a water wheel electric generator has two major components: the wheels and the dynamo. These components can be made both at home, but I recommend buying the dynamo because it’s not easy to make (not a very efficient one).

The largest wheel is the one which holds the water and the first to spin. When building the wheel you have to take into consideration the scale and the materials. For the overshot wheel the optimal diameter of the wheel is the largest possible (the drop) and the optimal rotational speed of is approximately: 21/ √D where D is the diameter of the wheel (meters).

You can build it from any material but the lighter, the better. Most water wheels are built from wood.

First we have to build the wooden wheels. You can do it by using the top and bottom of the barrel or you can build it from scratch. Here is a video tutorial (3 parts):


In order to produce more electric power you have to connect the wooden wheel to a smaller wheel thru a chain or by using a cogwheel in order to generate more rotations even if you lose some physical power over the rotation. Usually a dynamo doesn’t need much force to work optimal but rather a high rotation speed.

If you don’t want to use a dynamo to generate electricity you can use an electric DC motor. Most DC motors can operate as generators.

This video will better explain how to interconnect the wheels and maximize the output:


The pipe has to be as large as possible to minimize the friction and maximize the flow. The higher the drop and the larger the flow the more electricity your water wheel generator will produce. You may also take into consideration a capacity to store electricity and use it when in need. For example a solar energy storage battery will work just fine.

If you don’t need electricity you may adapt the water wheel to grind grain, to cut wood, strengthen iron or to sharpen tools. Anyway you choose to use it, a water wheel is an important installation when living off the grid or when SHTF.

If you still find it complicated building a water wheel electric generator by yourself, you may use a step by step guide with more specific measurements.

Another very efficient use of a water wheel electric generator is for aquaponic systems. If you already have an aquaponic system think about maximizing the outcome by producing free electricity to light a neon bulb (for example) to help plants grow even faster. Usually the water is pumped from the fish tank up to the plants. Where water is directed back to the fish tanks place a mini water wheel generator. If you are interested in building an aquaponic system you might find this video very helpful.

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C. Davis
By C. Davis June 3, 2014 19:18
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  1. faizy June 17, 07:24

    please give me the method of generating electricity with pictures

    Reply to this comment
  2. simu August 14, 14:41

    basics are cleared but what about the method to make it

    Reply to this comment
    • peto February 19, 20:00

      You are so inspiring , can you help me to get reach out such idea to my funny home where i see power once in amonth

      Reply to this comment
  3. Nikki Taylor August 15, 05:27

    I think that you are a super-intelligent and sweet man, for sharing such a great idea and information. WOW. What a fantastically thought-out and wonderfully easy-to-understand (for the layman, ha ha) presentation; and so much work went into it! You are a GOOD human being! THANK YOU. ….Some of us are listening, and you did an amazing job of speaking and helping. Accolades to you from the heart. (-;

    Reply to this comment
  4. aditya August 28, 09:30

    superb idea its works try it my friends

    Reply to this comment
  5. Waldomountainman September 27, 12:46

    Individuals who wish to do something like this should be aware that with the current administration and his gestapo EPA with the help of the Army Corp of Engineers you may wind up in jail for diverting any flow of water to power your wheel.
    As far as our government is concerned they own any water which falls out of the sky until it evaporates back into the heavens and if you touch it in between you can and will be prosecuted to the max.
    They just jailed two young women in Florida on FELONY charges for having their picture taken while sitting on a huge loggerhead turtle because it is on the endangered species list so do not think they wont do the same for messing with their water.

    Reply to this comment
  6. knightrider December 6, 17:32

    I am thinking of building a system like this. The property has a year around stream with about 6 feet of head. I was thinking of building a wheel about 5 feet and running a large capacity (above 200 amp) alternator. Using 6″ pipe to get the water to the right height for the wheel. I will attach a very large pull to the shaft and use the small pulley that comes with the alternator. The alternator should produce power to change enough batteries to run the entire house. Thanks for the video for building a wheel.

    Reply to this comment
  7. gtf2016 August 5, 09:35

    this is good, I will give it a trial.

    Reply to this comment
  8. jcwelsh March 17, 18:20

    I saw a DIY “waterwheel” made from a washing machine(?) would this be easer to “hide” or generate more power?

    Reply to this comment
  9. golden boy March 25, 06:27

    How i can determine power to be produce in watt because were are making a mini hydroelectric as how finally project
    How we determine revolution of the wheel

    Reply to this comment
  10. klondike April 8, 18:06

    how would i get a cd for the parts of how to make a water wheel and how to hook it up to the home, can you give me a quest how or what it would take to run a 2room cabin.and do you know where i can buy a motor. thak you Gerald Chudzik

    Reply to this comment
  11. Franklin August 8, 20:36

    Where did you buy your gears? I can’t find them online. I am trying to make electricity with my water wheel.

    Reply to this comment
  12. big August 28, 00:14

    Any idea where we can get information on real water wheels? In N. America there is only micky mouse nonsense.
    I have 20kW potential but no equipment in Europe, perhaps India or Asia has serious material.

    Reply to this comment
    • russ December 19, 18:35

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      Water Wheel Design

      The water wheel design used most commonly in Great Britain and the United States was the vertical wheel rotating about a horizontal axle.
      In the Scottish highlands and parts of southern Europe mills often used a horizontal wheel (with a vertical axle).
      Below we detail the six types of water wheel design, showing a picture followed by the corresponding text.

      Horizontal Wheel
      The wheel is usually mounted inside the mill building below the working floor. A jet of water is directed on to the paddles of the water wheel, causing them to turn.
      This is a simple system, usually used without gearing so that the axle of the waterwheel become the spindle of the mill.
      This system is sometimes called the Norse mill. In a sense it is the ancestor of the modern water turbine.

      Undershot Wheel
      A vertically-mounted water wheel that is rotated by water striking paddles or blades at the bottom of the wheel is said to be undershot. This is generally the least efficient, oldest type of wheel.

      It has the advantage of being cheaper and simpler to build, but is less powerful and can only be used where the flow rate is sufficient to provide torque.
      Undershot wheels gain no advantage from head. They are most suited to shallow streams in flat country.
      Undershot wheels are also well suited to installation on floating platforms. The earliest were probably constructed by the Roman general Belisarius during the siege of Rome in 537.

      Overshot Wheel
      A vertically-mounted water wheel that is rotated by falling water striking paddles, blades or buckets near the top of the wheel is said to be overshot.
      In true overshot wheels the water passes over the top of the wheel, but the term is sometimes applied to backshot wheels where the water goes down behind the waterwheel.
      A typical overshot wheel has the water channeled to the wheel at the top and slightly to one side in the direction of rotation. The water collects in the buckets on that side of the wheel, making it heavier than the other “empty” side. The weight turns the wheel, and the water flows out into the tail-water when the wheel rotates enough to invert the buckets.
      The overshot design can use all of the water flow for power and does not require rapid flow.
      Unlike undershot wheels, overshot wheels gain a double advantage from gravity. Not only is the force of the flowing water partially transferred to the wheel, the weight of the water descending in the wheel’s buckets also imparts additional energy.
      The mechanical power derived from an overshot wheel is determined by the wheel’s physical size and the available head, so they are ideally suited to hilly or mountainous country.
      Overshot wheels demand exact engineering and significant head, which usually means significant investment in constructing a dam, millpond and waterways. Sometimes the final approach of the water to the wheel is along a lengthy flume or penstock.

      Backshot Wheel
      A backshot wheel (also called pitchback) is a variety of overshot wheel where the water is introduced just behind the summit of the wheel.
      It combines the advantages from breastshot and overshot systems, since the full amount of the potential energy released by the falling water is harnessed as the water descends the back of the wheel.
      A backshot wheel continues to function until the water in the wheel pit rises well above the height of the axle, when any other overshot wheel will be stopped or even destroyed.
      This makes the technique particularly suitable for streams that experience extreme seasonal variations in flow, and reduces the need for complex sluice and tail race configurations.
      A backshot wheel may also gain power from the water’s current past the bottom of the wheel, and not just the weight of the water falling in the wheel’s buckets.

      Breastshot Wheel
      A vertically-mounted water wheel design that is rotated by falling water striking buckets near the centre of the wheel’s edge, or just above it, is said to be breastshot.
      Breastshot wheels are the most common type in the United States of America and are said to have powered the American industrial revolution.
      Breastshot wheels are less efficient than overshot wheels and more efficient than undershot wheels.
      The individual blades of a breastshot wheel are actually buckets, as are those of most overshot wheels, and not simple paddles like those of most undershot wheels.
      Breastshot wheels are preferred for steady, high-volume flows such as are found on the fall line of the North American East Coast.

      Hydraulic Wheel
      A recent development of the breastshot wheel is a hydraulic wheel which effectively incorporates a weir into the centre of the wheel.
      This was developed by the French inventeur Michael Fonfrede and is commercialised as the Aqualienne with an estimated hydraulic efficiency of 67% (max 76%).
      Overshot and backshot wheels are the most efficient water wheel design; a backshot steel wheel can be more efficient (about 60%) than all but the most advanced and well-constructed turbines.
      The development of the hydraulic water wheel design with their improved efficiency (>67%) opens up an alternative path for the installation of waterwheels in existing mills, or redevelopment of abandoned mills.

      Return From Water Wheel Design To Home Page

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  13. big August 28, 00:21

    you have no date, only amurrycun trash which tells us nothing. Why not tell us how many milliseconds ago we wrote, years or even centuries do not exist in America, still stuck in 19th century units…
    At least you have a website, sorry I am so negative but I have to wade through so much American trash, it is depressing. Like going for a walk in the country and finding only hamburger stalls and hookers, but no trees.

    Reply to this comment
  14. big August 28, 00:41

    “This bug will kill most Americans” is just a scum bag yank trying to make money . When they are all dead, I believe the world will be a better place. Thank christ I don’t have to look or listen to these dogs daily. Hurricanes are a god send, pray we get more.

    Reply to this comment
    • Sandi October 23, 20:27

      You’ll have to excuse us amurrycuns. We are only a couple hundred years old and still in our toddler stages. However because we have not yet reached your level of maturity, we can appreciate that C. Davis was kind enough to share what he has done with us. These kinds of posts are inspirational. They are meant for those of us that would like to create something similar to dig for how to put one together. And what is so neat about that is we find other interesting ways to make these too.

      Reply to this comment
    • localcuddlyprepper April 3, 14:01

      ooooooooookkkkkkkkkkkaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyy then

      Reply to this comment
    • none January 16, 20:34

      why are all of you goat loveing camel jockey comeing to AMERICA if we are so bad???

      Reply to this comment
  15. Sundar khan September 13, 21:41

    Dosto main jahan rahata hn wahan pe light nhn hay aor pani peene k ley hi nhin hay aor hamen light ki bahut zaroorat hy men hydro power turbine banana chahata hn ye bahut sasta tareeqa hy magar men ap ko pehele bata chuka hn k hamare pas pani bahut kam hota hy aor ap ko tu pata hay k turbine ko bahut sara pani chahie wo b behata howa lekin wo mere pas nhin es ley main ruke hoy pani se power bnana chahata hn jo mushkil tu ha lekin na mumkin nhin pehele ek tajarba kronga k ek jar men pani dal kr uski level rise kron bad men wo pani turbine chalane k kam aajayga kiyon k jo pani turbine ko chalata hy wo waps nhin aata mera maqsad wohi pani again again hamesha chalta rahe meri bat kesi lagi zaroo msg kr k btana mera num hay 03473106176 ok

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  16. Hagai September 23, 10:06

    What if there’s no drop in night of the river? I live by a very wide and strong current river, can I just put a water wheel in the stream? What about one that’s laying down? Is that possible?

    Thanks for this informative article 🙂

    Reply to this comment
  17. nur January 13, 05:30

    where is the video for mini waterwheel for aquaponic

    Reply to this comment
  18. kid January 27, 01:26

    can u show me step by step on how to make one coz i wanna help a small village without electricity..plss

    Reply to this comment
  19. Muhammad rashid March 29, 09:10

    Plz guide what protocol should followed to generate electricity around 7 to 10kva from water.

    Reply to this comment
  20. localcuddlyprepper April 3, 14:00

    where can i buy a dynamo?

    Reply to this comment
    • lluckylogger June 6, 19:24

      an old treadmill 110v the higher the horsepower the better. Just remove the motor and use it as a “dynamo”. very efficient nad does not need much speed to charge 12 v batteries.

      Reply to this comment
  21. Rhys November 21, 11:57

    What voltage motor will i need to power the water wheel

    Reply to this comment
  22. art July 6, 19:22

    i am at a loss, is there a water wheel small system that can produce 110 volt at 60 Hz, all i need is power for a 25 foot travel trailer off grid, all attempts with batteries and power inverter’s have failed

    Reply to this comment
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