I'm looking for a way to start a siphon without electricity and without my mouth. I'd be interested in a device that mechanically sucks water to jump start the process, however all I can find on Google is aimed at beer making and people who have access to water pumps to prefill the hose.
Another way to prefill a hose with water is to coil it up into a bucket or stream with water in it. If there is a faucet or hose bib handy, a garden hose for example can be filled and the faucet turned off while the end of the hose is at the same height as the faucet so it doesn't drain while it's being unscrewed.
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You can buy, or make homemade, a one way valve on the end of a tube.
With it in place, you thrust the tube up and down and with each downward thrust, fluid is pushed up into the tube, but it cannot come out. With repeated thrusts, the tube fills and then starts a siphon.
Look up "Homemade check valve" on youtube, and then make your own for $2.
These are ubiquitous in Japan and mostly used for kerosene, but we used them to transfer saltwater in and out of tanks.
There is a screw cap on top that seals the siphon. Squeeze the red part to pump and start the siphon. When you want to stop the siphon, unscrew the cap on top and let the water drain.
Alternatively, fill your hose with water by dunking or filling as others have mentioned, cap the hose with your thumb or kink it to keep the water in.
Siphons work as long as the end is lower than the start. I have found that they work even better if the water was higher than the start level at some point.
We used to start siphons by making a wave (like you would see at a ball game) with our thumbed hose over our heads then down to the ground. Let go your thumb and see if it worked. Sometimes it took a few tries...there was inevitably some air in the hose, but the speed gained from height counteracts this in my experience.
I use a "safety siphon" all the time for my rain barrels and such. They are super easy to use, just put the metal end in the tank and jiggle it - there is a little marble on a spring in there that lets water go only one way.
If its a large diameter pipe, 1 inch or more its possible to start a syphon by sliding the pie back and forward into the water and placing your palm of your hand over the pipe to create a vacuum as you pull the pipe out.
By releasing your hand as you go back in water can climb the pipe.
It is commonly used to irrigate farms by having the pipe drop over a channel bank between the water and a field that is lower.
The use of the pipe stops erosion through a cutting.
John Daley Bendigo, Australia
The Enemy of progress is the hope of a perfect plan
If it's a siphon from a closed container (like, um, a gas tank... ask me how I know) you can start the siphon by blowing.
Step 1: Insert a hose into the gas tank so that one end is below the surface of the petrol, and the other end is even lower and in your
Step 2: Insert a second hose into the gas tank, doesn't have to go below the petrol's surface, but can be.
Step 3: Blow into the second hose, increasing the volumetric pressure inside the tank, and causing the fluid to travel up your siphon hose, starting the siphon and filling your container..
Step 4: Grab your hoses and seal your gerry can before running away!
If you're in a situation where your siphon hose is flexible enough to pinch closed with your fingers, you can drop one end into the quantity of liquid to be siphoned, form a pinch seal with your fingers above the fluid level, and slide the pinch towards the "out" end of the siphon hose. If necessary, the end of the tube can be blocked after the pinch seal gets to the end, so that you can start again from the same point, but it really shouldn't take more than one go if you have enough drop on the "out" end of the hose.
I saw a bicycle-powered water pump operating in exactly the same way, except with a moving triangle inside a circular track containing a section of hose forming consecutive seals, moving the water in increments the size of the length of tube between pinch points.
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I don’t know if this helps you, but I have a technique for siphoning our pool.
I take a section of hose, stick one end into the pool and eventually immerse the entire house into the pool, making sure that no air remains in the hose. I then stick my thumb over one end, pull part of the hose out until it reaches ground level at which point I release my thumb and the water runs out and continues to pull more from the pool, thus siphoning out the water.
Get your length of flexible pipe, any diameter you want, I've done this with 1 1/4 ID pipe.
Tie a nut or bolt to the end of a piece of string and drop bolt and string into the pipe and out the other end. Remove the bolt and replace with a piece of rag, preferably soaked in the liquid you want to siphon to reduce friction.
Put the end of the pipe with the rag into the liquid reservoir then pull the string from the other end and the siphon will start.