P = the available power in watts

W = the weight (in pounds) of water flowing over the wheel per second. A gallon of water weighs about eight pounds. A cubic foot of water weighs about 64 pounds.

h = the distance (in feet) that the water falls. Most overshot wheels only capture the water for 120° of their rotation. With 120° rotation, h is equal to 1.5 times the wheel's radius.

The 0.7376 is a fudge factor to make the Power unit come out as watts rather than foot-pounds per second.

From the equation, two facts are obvious to every hydromaniac — the more water flowing over the wheel per second the better, and the longer distance that the water falls the better. These two factors, flow and head, determine the power potential of all hydros regardless of type.

Above: Matt Olson.

Matt and Rosie use the simplest form of manual load management. They leave the lights on. Rosie jokingly says, "I've had friends who don't know about the system come to the house and tell us 'That must have been a hell of a party last night for you to go to bed and leave all the lights on!' " They also keep an eagle eye on the voltage and frequency meters mounted in the kitchen between the sink and the refrigerator. "We just always glance at it as we go by, it's not even something we think about anymore," according to Rosie. What better place for metering than the highest traffic area in the house? It's a great place to install the system instrumentation in any RE powered home.

This kind of load management would be very difficult — even dangerous — with a high rpm impulse wheel system like a Pelton, but the overshot wheel turns at only 12 rpm. Consequently, it takes a while to change the rpm of the generator, and hence change the voltage and frequency, one way or the other. Time enough to turn an appliance on and some lights off without a mad dash for the switch.

Hydro-power Appliances

Matt and Rosie's system powers all the electrical appliances they need. Like most folks powered by hydro, they were vague about their power consumption. When your concern is keeping the hydro's constant power output under control, things like lights burning all night are common. Matt and Rosie power lighting, a satellite TV system with color TV, Matt's machine shop full of power tools, and a slew of kitchen appliances. Cooking and water heating is fueled by propane.

Using Water to get Water

Rather than using electricity to run a pump for the house water, Matt and Rosie use a 40 year old Rife™ ram pump. The Rife is fed through a 2 inch diameter pipeline dropping about 20 feet from the ditch into another ancient mining tailrace. They've been using the Rife continuously for the past 24 years!

The ram pumps against a large pressure tank which also feeds a couple of sprinklers for the lawn during the summer and an open overflow line in winter. Matt figures that the Rife produces about 10-15 gpm. By keeping track of the amount of water being used continually, they can maintain about 25-30 psi of pressure in the tank. Plenty for most household uses.

Matt has modified the captive air tank on the ram pump by adding a couple of small petcocks. These valves make the weekly chore of draining the water and reestablishing the air "cushion" in the pump just a five minute job. The only other maintenance Matt has performed during the ram pump's 24 year tenure is

Below: Rosie Olson visits in her beautiful garden.

Below: Rosie Olson visits in her beautiful garden.

Above: This Rife™ hydraulic ram pump has been pumping the Olson's water for the last 24 years.

replacing the rubber seals and gaskets "every five years or so." After buying the first set of replacement gaskets, Matt has been making his own out of a section of discarded rubber conveyor belt.


It wasn't all that long ago when the Olson's lifestyle and philosophy of recycling, rebuilding, and reusing was considered pretty backward. Today, most of us have caught on to the three "Rs" in one way or another, and it turns out the Olsons are pretty forward after all.


Matt and Roseanne Olson, Methodist Creek, Forks of Salmon, CA 96031

Author: Bob-O Schultze, Electron Connection, POB 203, Hornbrook, CA 96044 • 916-475-3401 voice or FAX

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