How to Successfully Install Your Own Small-Scale Hydropower System


Installing a small-scale hydropower system on my own property has been a goal of mine for some time. As energy prices continue to rise, having a renewable source of power that reduces my reliance on the grid is very appealing. With proper planning and preparation, installing a diy hydropower system can be done safely and efficiently.

In this comprehensive guide, I will walk through all the key steps involved in installing your own small-scale hydropower system. From assessing your site's potential to selecting equipment and getting connected to the grid, this article provides everything you need to know to complete your own hydroelectric project. I'll also share tips and insight from my own experience installing a 3kW system on my rural property.

Whether you want to fully disconnect from the grid or simply offset your electricity usage, producing homegrown hydro power is an empowering way to take control of your energy supply. Let's get started!

Assessing Your Site's Hydropower Potential

The first and most important step is evaluating whether your property has the necessary water flow and head height to produce hydroelectricity.

To determine if your site has hydropower potential, consider the following factors:

If your site has the right conditions, a small low-head system can reliably generate power. I was fortunate to have a stream with over 5 cfs flow and 60ft of head on my property.

Selecting a Turbine and Components

Once you've confirmed your site's potential, the next step is selecting a turbine and other system components. Here are the main elements you'll need:

For my site's parameters, I opted for a low-head reaction turbine. Specifically, I went with a 3kw crossflow turbine paired with a permanent magnet generator and grid-tie controller.

Make sure all components are properly sized for your particular head height and flow rate. Work with a reputable dealer to select equipment.

Sizing Your System Properly

Once you know what type of system you'll install, the next key step is properly sizing your hydropower components. Undersizing could lead to lack of power production. Oversizing can damage equipment.

To determine the right turbine size, consider:

Additionally size other components like piping, ponds, and generators to handle flow and load. Work closely with your equipment supplier to match all parts.

For my site with 5 cfs and 60 ft head, a 3kW Pelton wheel turbine was recommended. I went with 300ft of 6-inch penstock pipe to deliver water. My pond and generator were also sized accordingly.

Take time to get your system sizing right. It will pay off in the long run with optimized power production.

Installing the Intake, Pond, and Penstock

With the right equipment selected and sized, it's time to install your hydropower system's essential infrastructure:


Settling Pond


Take time on this infrastructure, as it needs to safely handle water pressures and last for decades. I used a reinforced concrete intake with steel trash racks and piping. My settling pond was dug out and lined with bentonite clay.

Installing the Turbine and Generator

The most exciting phase of the project is installing the equipment that actually generates the hydroelectricity:




Take safety precautions when working with spinning machinery and electricity. My crossflow turbine and 5kW permanent magnet generator were mounted on a foundation near the existing creek.

Connecting to Batteries and the Electrical Grid

The last mile of your hydroelectric project is connecting your system to batteries and grid:


Grid Connection


I connected my batteries and grid-tie inverter inside a protective housing. My utility had specific technical requirements for synchronization equipment and safety disconnects.

Operational Safety and Maintenance

Once installed, be sure to follow all safety procedures and maintenance tasks:

DIY hydro systems require ongoing vigilance to operate safely and maximize production over decades. But the effort pays off every time you turn on the lights using your own renewable power!


Installing your own small-scale hydropower system is an ambitious but rewarding project. With proper site conditions, equipment sizing, installation, and maintenance, you can create a lasting source of homegrown renewable electricity.

I hope this overview gives you a deeper understanding of the entire process and considerations involved. Please let me know if you have any other questions! I'm happy to provide more details on any part of my 3kW DIY hydroelectric project. The independence and satisfaction I get from generating my own green power make the effort more than worthwhile.