Things that Work Alternative Energy Engineerings High Lifter Pump

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Test Conducted by Michael Welch

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Let me start by saying that I am completely sold on the High Lifter pump for my application. My High Lifter is pumping 240 gallons per day from a 6 gallons per minute spring that is 132 feet downhill from my water tank. The High Lifter is located 26 vertical feet below my spring.

Shipping Container and Documentation

The High Lifter comes well wrapped in a 6 in. x 6 in. x 28 in.cardboard box. Alternative Energy Engineering uses recycled materials for packaging their products. The shipping weight is 10 pounds. Included with the pump itself is an inlet filter, an inlet pressure gauge, a hose for between the filter and the pump, an output pressure gauge, and a ball valve with a check valve for the outlet.

The Owner's Manual that comes with the pump is one of the best written pieces of documentation that I've ever seen. It is 23 pages long and includes: an introduction, typical applications, how it works, how to install it for various situations, an in depth section on maintenance and troubleshooting, performance curves, a trouble shooting flow-chart, an exploded view showing all the pump parts, and a specifications table.

The Test Site

My water system is comprised of a spring which flows into a large 480 gallon settling tank. From there, the water flows at 6 gallons per minute through 3/4 inch Schedule 40 PVC pipe 26 vertical feet to my pump site. The pump then pushes the water up 158 vertical feet through 1" black rolled drinking water pipe (only 1/2 inch pipe is required). The 250 gallon tank at the top is suspended between two sturdy conifers about 20 feet above the taps in my home to obtain sufficient indoor water pressure.

Pumping water without electricity

This pump works great without electricity, without internal combustion, and without noise. This pump will take a steady but small flow of water, and, with a short drop, pump a significant part of the water way up hill to the place it is needed.

Oh, if only all our water supplies were located above the point of use. Alas, it is an imperfect world. Well, then, if only we could afford some of the fine solar water pumping systems that are available. By the time you purchase the pump, wiring and the fair number of PV panels needed, your cookie jar will look like a bottomless pit.

I know two ways to use a downhill flow of water to pump a portion of the water further uphill. One is with the time-tested ram pump. The ram pump lets a flow of water in a pipe build up momentum until the flow causes an impetus valve in the pump to slam shut. The water, still wanting to exert its moving energy, is channeled into a chamber containing air, which is compressed by the force of water. The compressed air bubble in the chamber then expands to push a small amount of water out a second pipe going up the hill to the point where water is needed. The pressures inside the pump are then equalized, allowing the impetus valve to

High Lifter Pumps


open again thus starting the downhill flow moving again, and the cycle repeats.

The second method is with the relatively new High Lifter. The High Lifter uses head pressure instead of momentum in a downhill pipe. It uses a larger volume of low-pressure water to pump a smaller volume of water at a higher pressure. A larger piston acts with a smaller one to gain mechanical advantage, a kind of "hydraulic lever." A collar inside the pump controls the inlet valve. As the pistons reach the end of their stroke, they contact this collar, pushing it until it directs a small amount of "pilot water" to the end of the spool in the pilot valve, thereby shifting it and changing the direction of the water flow in the pump. The flow moves the two-way pistons in the opposite direction until they again contact the collar, which shifts the pilot valve again, and the process repeats. Thus the pump's innards travel back and forth as it pushes water way up the hill.

High Lifter Specifications

The cylinders are made of stainless steel, the valve body and head materials are machined from acrylic, and the pistons are made of high quality nylon. The total width is about 4 inches, length 26 inches, and the pump itself weighs about 5.5 pounds. The High Lifter is obtainable in two volumetric pump ratio models, 4.5:1, and 9:1, and changeover kits are available to switch back and forth. The higher the volumetric ratio, the greater the pumping pressure and the lower the output flow.

Pump ratio 9:1


Flow(gal./min.): required @ source to produce rated volume a

Flow(gal./min.): required @ source to produce rated volume

Pump ratio 9:1

Bergey Windpower Bwc 1500 Pdf

100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 1 psi = 2.3' Delivery (gal./day): assuming adequate water @ source Typical applications

According to the Owner's Manual, the High Lifter can deliver up to 750 or 1500 gallons per day, depending on the model. It can be used with flows as little as one quart per minute. It can achieve net lifts of up to 1,100 feet, depending upon the circumstances. In situations of low fall and high lift, two High Lifters can be used in series.

100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 1 psi = 2.3' Delivery (gal./day): assuming adequate water @ source Typical applications

According to the Owner's Manual, the High Lifter can deliver up to 750 or 1500 gallons per day, depending on the model. It can be used with flows as little as one quart per minute. It can achieve net lifts of up to 1,100 feet, depending upon the circumstances. In situations of low fall and high lift, two High Lifters can be used in series.

High Lifter Performance

When I took delivery of my High Lifter, I had nothing but problems. I thought I would be unable to recommend the pump in "Things that Work" because my test site seemed to put to much of a strain on the pump, causing it to stall out with regularity. After trying "everything in the book", and some things that weren't in the book, I took the pump back to Dave Katz's pump experts at Alternative Energy Engineering. (I like going there anyway because they have so much neat renewable energy stuff to look at.) There we discovered that some of the earlier pumps had been assembled with too much silicone glue between the barrel and the valve body. The excess silicone had slopped over to partially plug the pilot valve holes. They gave me a recently rebuilt pump since they didn't have a new one ready to give me.

I installed the newly rebuilt pump, and 30 hours later I checked my previously empty tank. I was totally amazed to discover that the 250 gallon tank was completely full! At that point I began keeping track of the flow: it was an remarkable 240 gallons per day. Two weeks later the flow had decreased to 218 gallons per day so I cleaned the inlet filter. Now that the pump was broken in and the filter cleaned, my flow increased to 294 gallons per day! It seems to have settled in at between 220 and 300 gallons per day, depending on how clean the input filter is.

High Lifter Advantages

The advantages of the High Lifter over the ram pump are numerous. The pump is more efficient in that it uses less water to pump a given amount uphill. Additionally, it is a far piece quieter than the constant and very noisy KA-CHUNK of the ram, and it is quite a bit lighter and easier to move around than the ram. Last, but not least, the High Lifter will operate with relatively thin wall pipe in the input, whereas a ram, because of the intense and constant hydraulic hammering caused by the sudden closing of the impetus valve, requires solid mounting and steel pipe to keep from breaking apart joints.

The High Lifter is not without its disadvantages, though. It has a complex array of pilot valves and check valves, and relies heavily on close tolerance seals. Unlike the ram pump, water must be completely free of sand and grit lest the barrels and seals become scored allowing leakage. The High Lifter comes with a filter which takes out much of the harmful sized particles which may flow from your water supply. The filter must be cleaned regularly to avoid loss of inlet pressure. If a lot of foreign matter flows with your water, then the High Lifter may not be for you.

The Owner's Manual states that there is a danger that a hard knock to the valve body could cause a misalignment, but personal experience proved that it takes 2 large, strong people to successfully dislodge the glued and strapped valve body from the barrel.


The High Lifter has far exceeded my expectations, and definitely lives up to its promises. It is worth the $750. price tag, which includes access to the manufacturer who is willing to go the extra distance to help their customers.


Author: Michael Welch, C/O Redwood Alliance, POB 293, Arcata, CA 95521 • 707-822-7884. Manufacturer: Alternative Energy Engineering, POB 339, Redway, CA 95560 • 800-777-6609. |Si



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  • Magnus
    How high lifter pumps work?
    9 years ago
  • Norberto
    How to make a high lifter pump?
    9 years ago
  • tewelde
    How to pump water 700 feet without electricity?
    9 years ago
    How to build a highlifter pump?
    7 years ago
  • ritva tervo
    How works high lifter pumps?
    7 years ago
  • uwe
    7 years ago
    How to build a high lifter pump?
    7 years ago
    How does a high lifter pump work?
    7 years ago

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