The one major improvement in the 150 years that American windmills have been made was the introduction of the self-oiling windmill in the 1930s. Before that, a windmill’s parts had to be lubricated weekly by climbing the tower to grease the moving parts. But even with this advancement, windmills still require regular maintenance to keep them working well.
The instructions that a windmill manufacturer would have offered 75 years ago still apply today:
Repair any damage you spot during your semiannual maintenance check to help ensure that your windmill will keep pumping water for decades.
At one time, water-pumping windmills were a common sight on the American landscape. It wasn’t until the 1936 Rural Electrification Act, which provided cheap electricity to almost every home, that windmills were replaced by electric pumps. But water-pumping windmills haven’t died—and as people search for simple, reliable, and renewable solutions in our complicated world, these pumpers are experiencing a renaissance.
So if you need to pump water and you have a suitable wind site, think about using this modern historic technology. But be prepared for people to ask you, “Is that an old windmill you just put up?”
Kevin Moore (www.rockridgewindmills.com) is a water-pumping windmill enthusiast and owner of Rock Ridge Windmills in northern California. He has worked on windmill projects from rural China to the American Midwest, and teaches water-pumping windmill classes at the Solar Living Institute in Hopland, California.
Tom Conlon (www.ironmanwindmill.com) was in the windmill business in California for many years. Today, he manages a windmill factory in central China where he functions as an unofficial American ambassador of goodwill, while working to introduce American agricultural technology to help improve living conditions in poor rural farming villages.
Water-Pumping Windmill Manufacturers:
Aermotor Windmill Inc. (Texas) • 325-651-4951 • www.aermotorwindmill.com
Dempster Windmills (Nebraska) • 402-223-4026 • www.dempsterinc.com
Iron Man Windmills (China) • 86-27-8349-6716 • www.ironmanwindmill.com
Southern Cross Windmills (Australia) • 61-07-131-786 • www.southcross.com.au/windmills
Water-Pumping Windmill Classes:
Solar Living Institute • 707-744-2017 • www.solarliving.org
University of New Mexico, Carlos Rosencrans • 505-646-4511 • www.nmsu.edu