Using Wind for Water-Pumping Mills

There is renewed interest in using windmills to do all kinds of work, including some new water-pumping designs.

| May/June 2009

  • Windmill with storage tank
    Perched next to the granary, this windmill supplies farmstead water through the storage tank on the left.
    Spectrum Photofile

  • Windmill with storage tank
Windmills Harvest the Breeze 

Although the water-pumping American windmill has survived into the 21st century pretty much unchanged for 100 years, there is renewed interest in using windmills to do all kinds of work, including some new water pumping designs.

The original style water-pumping mills work when the wind turns the wheel, which in turn spins a crankshaft. The pump, which is submerged in the well, moves water when a piston is pulled up inside its cylinder. The pump’s piston is attached to the windmill’s crankshaft using a long piece of wood, steel or, in some cases, fiberglass. This so-called sucker rod is responsible for connecting the pump to the power source.

These kinds of windmills and pumps are still available, and a whole new design has arrived on the scene that requires much less maintenance. These new mills power a compressor that delivers pressurized air to the pump housing, where the air mixes with the water. As the air bubbles make their way back to the surface through the pump’s outlet, they push a small column of water ahead of them. These pumps have no moving parts so they last a long time. Read more about them at 

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