Life at the end of the road

April 25, 2012

A runner for Harris :-)

Filed under: daily doings, hydro, shed/house — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:31 pm


Pretty manic just about sums up the last couple of days, so hectic that there was little chance of posting last night. It had been a busy day, as Tuesday always is, not so much on the traffic front but on the ‘get everything done before I finish front’. That will be all the stuff I’ve put off doing due to a bit of a painting obsession of late, well its not often we get such fine weather so best to make the most of it.

The normal boring stuff of the morning like sea eagles, deer, a northern diver and grouse giving way to a very exciting load on the first ferry 🙂

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The cement for the barn floor

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and 300 egg boxes for ‘The Arnish Egg Company’ 🙂 That will be 1800 eggs for the ‘Hen Lady’s’ 30 chooks to lay when they arrive on Friday, not all at once of course. From past experience they don’t even come out of the coop for a few days and it’ll be a couple of weeks before they’re up to speed in the egg department.

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Not quite so exciting, for me at least was Skye Transports Daf XF articulated lorry arriving with insulation for Raasay House which is forging ahead on schedule for next years opening.

With just about everything done that should have been done my ‘back to back’ arrived on the 17:35 ferry and I headed home with my drag 🙂

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The 800lts of heating oil for the Torran Schoolhouse being my first job on the ‘to do’ list, well after pumping out the diesel from the barrels I brought home last night.

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Once the 200lt barrels of fuel for my generators, plant and heating was in the tank by the trees I then pumped the kerosene into the barrels for taking to today. In an ideal world the diesel would have been put in the bowser and the kero in the barrels but there’s nothing straight forward in my life 🙂


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Then it was up to the house site to admire the shed, the sunset and the cement 🙂

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A good start

This morning arrived with a cold blast from the north east and dull leaden sky that had wifey, Molly and I reluctant to leave the warmth of the bed. The few spots of rain that accompanied it however came to naught and the promise of a ‘big truck’ arriving with aggregate soon had me out feeding and doing the rounds. I did not want to miss over £100,000 of new Scania ‘eight wheeler’ driving up to what six months ago was bog and rock.

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Sure enough at 9:30 just moments after Lachie Gillies (building contractor) arrived, Eyre Plant’s tipper reversed up Hugh Mackay Plant’s road to our site with 20 ton of concrete mix.

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Not the longest load to visit the end of ‘Calum’s road’ that accolade goes to Colin’s Scania that brought the shed but certainly the heaviest 🙂

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Once the excitement was over, I know, I’m really sad 🙂 I left Lachie and Angus shuttering and got on with the oil delivery to Torran one barrel at a time. I have done two but after last weeks epic with the batteries and with me running low on Tramadol I thought I’d play it safe 🙂

Changing a Harris turbine runner

As each barrel was unloaded and drained into the oil tank I set about removing my mates ‘Harris turbine’ so I could take it home to overhaul it, or at least change the bearings and runner. This fine 24v hydro turbine has given little trouble in the three or four years its been running. Don Harris its inventor has retired and now Dennis Ledbetter of has bough the rights or whatever and supplies units, spares and advice.

About Us

The Harris Hydroelectric Permanent Magnet Turbine is manufactured by Lo Power Engineering, a husband-wife owned business. The original turbine was developed by Don Harris more than 26 years ago. The permanent magnet turbine was designed and introduced in 2000. The PM turbine was born of a desire to improve efficiency and simplify maintenance. In 2004, when Don decided to retire, we took over the production of the permanent magnet turbine.

There are many steps to the completed turbine. There are castings to be machined, painted, anodized, and assembled. Castings are sourced from two different foundries; one in Nevada and one in Utah. Some of the processing is done by an outside machine shop and a plating facility in Southern California. The stators are wound to our specification by a facility in California as well. The magnets used in the PM come from China. Final machining and assembly happen in our shop.

We are located in the beautiful, rugged, coastal mountains of Northern California. We have lived off-grid for 25 years. When we came here, there was no house, no water, no power! With the help of our two children, then ages 4 and 9, we built a rammed earth house. Our home and small machine shop, just a short walk up the hill from the house, are solar and hydro-powered. One of the highlights of living here has been making the power for our home and shop needs. We never have a power outage!

We like being able to help people make their own power if they have suitable conditions. The Harris Hydro has been sold to customers throughout the USA and internationally (South America, Central America, Russia, France, UK, New Zealand, and Canada.

Lo Power Engineering is Denis Ledbetter, mechanical engineer and machinist, and Ellen Orlofsky, machinist assistant.

The unit that powers the schoolhouse operates at between 90 and 120m of head which is higher than this unit would normally operate at yet despite that and running constantly for years its only ever had one bearing fitted.

The bearing was changed in July 2010 and to be honest there wasn’t much wrong with it, same today but after going to the effort of changing the runner it would have been foolish not to replace the bearing.

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Removing the turbine from it’s base made out of an old washing machine drum fastened inside of a drain inspection chamber is just a matter of two wires, four nuts and the pipe work. Last time I removed the three hoses but this time I took the whole manifold assembly off the penstock. It’s much easier doing this but last time I didn’t have an isolation valve upstream of the manifold.

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To save having it jumping around in the trailer I screwed it down to the wooden bottom before taking it back to my workshop and collecting barrel number two.

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Getting a little sidetracked along the way by two men, two dogs and a Rayburn 🙂

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The last Rayburn I took along here some twenty years ago was in the back of a Land Rover, I don’t think you’d get there now in one. Not without doing some serious work on the track and cutting some trees back.

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With a little help from Bella, Kim and Molly we got that job done, but not before things went a little ‘pear shaped’

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thanks to a broken track rod end 😦

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Luckily the short lengths of scaffolding I was carrying to roll the Rayburn on allowed me to pry the joint back together, though it will require a new one 😦

The power of water

With all four barrels emptied, returned, put away and the tank removed from my trailer I finally got to changing the turbine runner.

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The bronze ‘pelton runner’ was totally and absolutely fecked (pardon my French). Initially I thought it was just a poor casting that was thin in places but once removed it became apparent that all the spoons were paper thin.


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It’s hard to believe that water on its own can do so much damage, it’s not as if it’s got any grit in it as it feeds from a clean loch.

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Just look how thin the metal is compared to the new stainless steel one. The runner is pretty easy to change just check out the link above, however the new one is a different height so must be assembled with the spacers in a different order (diagram supplied). Hopefully the much harder stainless one will last a few more years.

Once that was done I took it back, refitted it then went for a wander by the old mission house at Torran

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whilst wifey got on with her ‘hen project’ 🙂

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I never knew she was so good at fencing, think she’s just volunteered herself to help Molly and I 🙂

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Though no day would be complete without going to admire Lachie and Angus’s handiwork 🙂 Looks like the mixer will be busy tomorrow 🙂

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