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JLeslie's avatar

Is there a way to harness the movement of pool water or waterfalls to create electricity?

Asked by JLeslie (46156 points ) 2 months ago

Jca asked a question about living off the grid and it got me thinking that maybe there is some sort of unit available that uses the water movement in a swimming pool to create power. Hopefully, minimally, supplying enough power to circulate the pool.

I’m looking for solutions that a homeowner can install, cost effective, and are not too large to make sense on a not very large piece of property.

Any other simple green ideas to create energy are welcome. Thanks.

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17 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

“some sort of unit available that uses the water movement in a swimming pool to create power. Hopefully, minimally, supplying enough power to circulate the pool.

The Perpetuum Mobile violates the laws of physics. The answer is “no”.

zenvelo's avatar

It’s possible, but not on a scale large enough on a home pool to cover the cost of installation.

I saw a news story recently about a university 50 meter pool that is in constant use during the day year round, and some generating turbines were installed to spin as the water splashed into the gutters for recirculation. It was enough to generate more energy than the pool needed for its own pumps.

For a home pool, consider that a pool is an open-to-the-sky area of square footage. There are plenty of thermal blankets for pools that will keep it from losing heat, and even absorb solar heat for the pool. I had a pool with no heater, we circulated the water through solar panels on the roof while it went through its daily filtering. Still had to run the pumps a couple hours each day, though.

There is some research on connecting solar electrical panels to a pool cover that would be enough to run the pumps. Might be a bit expensive though for initial installation.

JLeslie's avatar

@zenvelo I plan on heating the pool with solar, but I was talking about circulating the water. I might have a whirlpool with an overflow to the pool. That creates a mini waterfall. I thought maybe that waterfall would have enough force to be useful. Plus, three months a year we have heavy thunderstorms almost daily, which is another possibility maybe for creating energy. But, back to the pool. Here we usually run the pool a minimum of 8 hours daily. When I lived in FL previously just running the pool pump was almost $100 a month more in electricity. Just reduceing it by half might be cost effective depending on how these systems work. I’ve been reading up a little on it, but so far I have not seen a specific article on the falling water from spa to pool and harnessing that energy.

@ragingloli Can you explain what your answer means?

johnpowell's avatar

100 a month for the pump? The electric bill in my apartment is 60 a month for fridge, oven, microwave, tv, computer that runs 24/7, and heat when it has been below freezing all month at nights.

You might want to look into a slower more energy efficient pump. Even if you had some sort of mini hydro-electrolytic dam between the spa and the pool you wouldn’t be able to power a light-bulb, much less less a pump that is using a 100 a month in electricity. And the losses incurred by that would be enormous if you were thinking about pumping that water back up to the spa and having it flow down again.

JLeslie's avatar

@johnpowell Maybe $100 is too high, but I think it was at least $70. The fridge does not run all day, neither does the air conditioner. The thermostat does, but not the machine that produces the cold air. It might be about the same amount of time as the pool? Not sure. I never thought about how often the fridge and air are actually on; how many hours a day. I’m going to have the pool no matter what, so I am just thinking about ways to cost cut the energy use, I don’t expect it to be able to directly power the pool pump, I was thinking putting the energy back into the grid. I’m not trying to argue or push the idea, just clarifying what I was thinking.

elbanditoroso's avatar

The quick answer is “no”, at least not on a scale that works on your back yard.

The reason that Niagara falls and the Hoover Dam are able to make so much power is that they are capturing water that is already moving and having it turn the turbines. In other words, they have no cost to propel the water to make the current – it’s “free”.

The other thing that they have going for them is economy of scale – if you’re passing 10 million gallons a minute, you can turn those turbines mighty quickly. A swimming pool (or a creek in the back yard) doesn’t have that power or efficiency.

johnpowell's avatar

My sister ex husband is a electrician and a hippie. He had stacks of magazines in the bathroom that basically dealt with getting people off the grid. It was a decade ago and I forget the names of the magazines. But a search for something like “permaculture electricity” should get you started.

I think you might be better off starting with less-lofty goals. There are mostly likely other ways that would be easier to save electricity in your home that would be cheaper and easier to implement.

JLeslie's avatar

@johnpowell Our electric bill is almost always lower than our neighbors, so we are already pretty good about conserving. In the summer our air is set to 77–78F, we always turn lights off when not in the room, we are designing our new house to have two zones so in the winter I will barely have to heat over half of the house.

The pool is a different story. It has to be on. We actually used to run our pool a little less than recommended, but still it needs to be on daily.

Judi's avatar

I haven’t heard of any but my husband did find a faucet that has one of those electric sensors to turn in that is powered by a tiny hydro electric generator that is run by the water coming out of the faucet. I don’t like it because you can’t leave the water running to warm up.

Kropotkin's avatar

Let me understand this correctly.

You have a pool with pumps that circulate the water in the pool.

You want to harness the circulation of the water to generate electricity to power the pumps that circulate the water in the pool.

I just want to make sure I have it right before I give any further response.

JLeslie's avatar

@Kropotkin I don’t have the pool yet, but I will have a pool. I’m just thinking whether I can make some electricity from the flow of the water and send it back into the “grid.” Get credits for the electricity production. I’ll most likely have a spa that will spill over and that will create a small waterfall, plus the standard circulation motion of a pool, but the regular circulation is so weak I can’t imagine it would be worth trying to put something in the pool to try to harness the energy.

The other option I mentioned was the water from my roof through the gutters. About three months a year there are daily hard downpours for about 45 minutes.

downtide's avatar

The amount of power expended on circulating the water would be more than the power gained from it. It only works on waterfalls if the water is already naturally moving, as in a river. You’d be better off putting solar panels on your roof.

jaytkay's avatar

A friend has a cabin beside a small river with a real waterfall, with a 30 or 40 foot drop. He looked into small hydro generators but went with solar panels instead.

Even then, the solar panels don’t provide all the electricity, there’s also a propane-fueled generator.

jerv's avatar

Waterfalls are easily doable, though depending on size, possibly not worthwhile.

The pool idea is not, unless you are willing to jump in and move the water yourself.

How feasible are solar and wind at that location?

jca's avatar

I bet Lucky Guy could answer this question.

Judi's avatar

It’s almost impossible to get permits for hydro electric from natural sources.

Rarebear's avatar

You can’t do a swimming pool because you need a transfer of energy. In a swimming pool, the water is in its lowest potential energy state (being in a pool and all). A waterfall you’re going from an area of higher potential energy to lower potential energy, and energy can be transferred via kinetic energy and a turbine.

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