During the operation of the bulb tubular hydropower unit, due to hydraulic factors, machinery, working conditions and other factors, it is easy to cause the runner blades and runner chamber to malfunction, which seriously affects the safe operation of the hydropower unit. Based on the analysis of the fault signal characteristics of the runner blades and runner chamber of the bulb tubular hydropower unit, an online fault detection method for hydropower units based on K-Means and Wright"s criterion is proposed. This method uses principal component analysis (PCA) to reduce the dimensionality of the vibration and noise signal characteristics of the hydropower unit, and integrates the Wright criterion to improve the traditional K-means algorithm to realize the adaptive selection of the K value, and perform online clustering of the features, which can quickly and accurately identify .The variable load state of the turbine and the failure of the metal sweeping chamber. The method proposed in this paper is applied to the fault detection of the bulb tubular unit of Wuling Electric Power’s Jinweizhou Hydropower Station. The experimental results show that the accuracy of the online fault detection using this method is 100% and the accuracy of the variable load online detection is 96.7. %, there has been no fault false positives and false negatives in the past 10 months of operation, indicating the effectiveness of the method.