How to Turn Your Toilet Into a Mini Hydroelectric Generator

How to Turn Your Toilet Into a Mini Hydroelectric Generator

Converting your toilet into a mini hydroelectric generator can be a fun and educational project that also produces a small amount of renewable electricity. With some simple modifications, you can harness the flow of water through your toilet to spin a small turbine. Follow these steps to turn your toilet into a mini hydroelectric generator.

What You’ll Need

To start, you’ll need to gather the following materials:

  • Small DC motor: This will function as the generator. Look for a motor that can be run in reverse to produce electricity from spinning. Make sure it can handle getting wet.

  • PVC pipe fittings: You’ll need a Y-joint plus various fittings to adapt to your toilet inlet and outlet.

  • Wood or metal to build housing: This will hold the motor and pipe fittings. Make it sturdy but waterproof.

  • Wires and alligator clips: To connect the motor to an LED light, battery, etc.

  • Silicone sealant: To seal the housing and prevent leaks.

  • Tools: Drill, PVC cutter, screwdriver, etc.

Additional Supplies

You may also want:

  • Capacitor: Can help smooth electricity output.

  • LED light: To see the electricity in action.

  • Multimeter: To measure voltage output.

  • Battery: To store generated electricity.

How a Toilet Turbine Works

Here’s a quick overview of how a toilet turbine setup works:

  • Water flows through the toilet inlet as normal when you flush.

  • The water is diverted through a pipe with a turbine (the modified DC motor).

  • As the water spins the turbine, it turns an internal shaft that generates electricity.

  • Wires connect to the DC motor to transmit the electricity.

  • The electricity can then be used to power a small device, stored in a battery, etc.

So it’s a simple way of repurposing the flowing water to produce usable energy!

Modifying the Toilet

The first step is modifying your toilet to accommodate the turbine housing. This involves installing fittings to divert the water flow.

Shut Off Water Supply

Start by shutting off the water supply to your toilet. Flush to empty the tank and bowl. Disconnect the toilet supply line.

Install Inlet Fitting

You’ll need a Y-joint to divert water entering the toilet. Install it on the toilet inlet so that one arm connects to the toilet fill valve as normal. The other outlet will be for the turbine.

Install Outlet Fitting

Install another fitting at the bottom outlet of your toilet. One side goes to the sewer line per usual. The other opening will be connected to the turbine housing outlet.

Reconnect Water and Test

Reconnect the toilet water supply and test to make sure it functions normally before proceeding.

Constructing the Turbine Housing

The turbine will sit inside a specially constructed housing:

Main Housing

Build a box out of wood, PVC, metal, or another rigid material. It should contain the turbine and pipe fittings. Make it waterproof with silicone sealant.

Inlet and Outlet

Add PVC pipe fittings to inlet and outlet openings to adapt to the toilet connections. These will secure the housing and carry the water flow through the turbine.

Structural Support

Consider adding extra structural support around the housing. The moving water provides torsional force against the turbine so you want the housing to be sturdy.

Testing Seals

With the housing complete, test it to ensure water flows through without leaking. Fix any leaks before proceeding.

Installing the Turbine

Now it’s time to add the turbine:

Mounting the Motor

Mount the DC motor inside the housing. Make sure it can spin freely. Use a waterproof sealant if needed.

Attaching Turbine Blades

Add turbine blades to the motor shaft. Consider 3D printing or cutting custom blades to maximize surface area.

Inlet and Outlet

Align the turbine between the inlet and outlet in the housing. The water should flow directly onto the turbine blades.

Testing Spin

Test by pouring water into the inlet. The turbine should spin easily. If not, adjust the position and alignment.

Connecting to a Load

To produce electricity, the turbine needs to be connected to a load like a light or battery:

Wiring

Add alligator clip wires from the DC motor terminals to your test load. This allows electricity transmission.

Regulating Voltage

Consider wiring in a capacitor or voltage regulator if needed to smooth the turbine’s power output.

Choosing a Load

An LED light, multimeter, or small battery are good starter loads. Eventually you can step up to larger devices.

Monitoring Output

Use a multimeter to monitor the turbine’s voltage and current output as you test. This helps optimize the system.

Completing Installation

The final steps are sealing up the housing and connecting to the toilet:

Weatherproofing

Seal any gaps or openings in the housing with silicone sealant. This prevents leaks.

Connecting to Toilet

Attach the inlet and outlet fittings securely to the modified toilet connections. The turbine is now ready to generate power each flush!

Safety Check

Check that the turbine housing is firmly attached. Test flush several times while monitoring flow. Address any leaks or issues immediately.

Using the Electricity

Each flush should cause the turbine to spin and generate electricity to power your connected load. Enjoy your renewable toilet turbine!

Troubleshooting Problems

Here are some common problems and solutions with DIY toilet turbines:

Low/No Voltage

If the turbine generates little or no electricity, try adjusting the blade pitch or turbine position to increase RPMs. Check for friction inhibiting the spin.

Leaking Housing

Seal any leaking holes or fittings with more silicone sealant or other watertight materials. Make sure all housing joints are watertight.

Unstable Housing

Use additional structural supports to firmly secure the turbine housing. Add brackets or reinforce connection points if needed.

Decreased Toilet Flow

Clear any obstructions in inlet and outlet pipes. Make sure turbine blades are not restricting flow. Consider a smaller turbine.

Toilet Not Flushing Properly

Double check all toilet inlet and outlet fittings are airtight and properly aligned. Remove any flow restrictions.

Improving Efficiency

To get the most power from your toilet turbine:

  • Use a motor with lower internal resistance for maximum electrical output.

  • 3D print custom turbine blades matched to the motor for optimal spin.

  • Position the turbine precisely to take advantage of all water flow.

  • Add a voltage regulator to smooth and stabilize electricity output.

  • Store generated electricity in a capacitor or rechargeable battery for later use.

  • Insulate turbine housing to minimize heat and friction losses.

Safety Precautions

When undertaking this project, be sure to:

  • Shut off toilet water supply and flush to empty before starting.

  • Check for leaks and secure all fittings before restoring water.

  • Only use exterior grade materials and approved adhesives.

  • Never operate an unenclosed turbine or with housing open.

  • Monitor electricity production and loads to avoid overload.

  • Mount turbine housing securely so vibration doesn’t loosen fittings.

  • Keep hands and objects away from spinning turbine.

So with proper care taken, you’ll be safely generating clean electricity with each flush!

Conclusion

Installing a small hydroelectric generator in your toilet can be a fun and educational DIY project. With simple modifications to your toilet’s plumbing plus a turbine made from easy-to-find parts, you can generate renewable electricity from the flowing water. Just make sure to use watertight housing and materials. Position the turbine carefully to optimize the water flow. Then monitor performance and keep improving your design. Soon that swirling toilet bowl water will be lighting up an LED instead of just going to waste!