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disconnected

@snet.net
reply to Mr Matt

Re: Wood-Fired Steam Engine to Drive Generator?

I looked into wood gasification a few years back, but it seemed iffy back then. I like steam because it's quiet, mainly. So the neighbors don't know you have a generator.
When I was up at Kent's Sloan Musuem of steam power, they had numerous steam engines operating in one big room and all you could hear was soft hissing sounds and low mechanical clicks, barely 55 decibels at 3 feet. This is one such engine:

»www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUUNGPKUPek


The tricky part is the boiler and keeping it fed at a rate that doesn't waist wood, yet keeps enough steam pressure to maintain the generator at governor speed. These engines all have governors based on centerfuges, as you can see in the video. And notice how quiet. Neighbors and passers by would never know that you have electricity, as long as you black out the windows at night. But we could go on living normally and inconspicuously this way.

Mr Matt

join:2008-01-29
Eustis, FL
kudos:1
You might want to check with the museum to see if they use compressed air to operate their demonstration steam engines. That is how the steam engines are powered at the Boston Museum of Science.

garys_2k
Premium
join:2004-05-07
Farmington, MI
Reviews:
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reply to disconnected
said by disconnected :

Neighbors and passers by would never know that you have electricity, as long as you black out the windows at night. But we could go on living normally and inconspicuously this way.

Gettin' ready for the zombie Apocalypse?


disconnected

@snet.net
said by garys_2k:

said by disconnected :

Neighbors and passers by would never know that you have electricity, as long as you black out the windows at night. But we could go on living normally and inconspicuously this way.

Gettin' ready for the zombie Apocalypse?

That's part of it. I read Karl Denninger's Market Ticker Forums, so if their math is correct, things are going to get bad and a lot of people are going to die. One has to be as inconspicuous as possible. That's why I find the idea of steam engines to be attractive.

I find it hard to buy the concept that they are that inefficient. I rode Flagg Coal #75 from Thomaston all the way down to the middle of the state and they did it on one load of coal. That was moving many tons of train cars. I cannot imagine that generating 20HP would burn a cord of wood a day.

The Sloan Museum, if I recall accurately, has a coal burner that provides steam for all their engines throughout the museum building. It's not compressed air.

public

join:2002-01-19
Santa Clara, CA
said by disconnected :

I find it hard to buy the concept that they are that inefficient. I rode Flagg Coal #75 from Thomaston all the way down to the middle of the state and they did it on one load of coal. That was moving many tons of train cars. I cannot imagine that generating 20HP would burn a cord of wood a day.

Very inefficient compared to turbines.
A full size mainline engine could produce about 1500kW with a 300 psi boiler and a superheater, burning high grade coal.


cowboyro
Premium
join:2000-10-11
Shelton, CT
reply to disconnected
said by disconnected :

I find it hard to buy the concept that they are that inefficient. I rode Flagg Coal #75 from Thomaston all the way down to the middle of the state and they did it on one load of coal. That was moving many tons of train cars. I cannot imagine that generating 20HP would burn a cord of wood a day.

Locomotive engines work on very high pressure and temperature. You are looking at 500-1500psi and close to 1000F. The efficiency of the engine increases when the "hot" energy (pressure and temperature) increases. And then coal holds a much higher energy content than wood for the same weight...


disconnected

@snet.net
Hmmm... so what would YOU do, given a forested location with 2% sunlight reaching the ground, no wind turbine options, no waterfall to harness? Geothermal perhaps? Any other options for generating sustainable electric power when grid power is unavailable?

garys_2k
Premium
join:2004-05-07
Farmington, MI
Wood gas would be the best option, the "no noise" constraint will be very hard to satisfy. I doubt in any case that bad guys wouldn't stop by out of curiosity in any case, engine/generator sound, or not.


cowboyro
Premium
join:2000-10-11
Shelton, CT

1 recommendation

reply to disconnected
said by disconnected :

Hmmm... so what would YOU do, given a forested location with 2% sunlight reaching the ground, no wind turbine options, no waterfall to harness? Geothermal perhaps? Any other options for generating sustainable electric power when grid power is unavailable?

Learn to live without power? Because if shit hits the fan as in your scenario, the lack of TV and cable will be the least of your concerns. Light with candles, heat with wood. Plain and simple. Or run a small RV generator... can't get more inconspicuous than that.

lutful
... of ideas
Premium
join:2005-06-16
Ottawa, ON
kudos:1
reply to disconnected
said by disconnected :

Hmmm... so what would YOU do, given a forested location with 2% sunlight reaching the ground, no wind turbine options, no waterfall to harness? ... Any other options for generating sustainable electric power

You have to lower your overall energy usage if you want to be truly independent of the grid.
- of course you will cook with wood

- build a non-electric clothes dryer hut on your property
- get a non-electric ammonia refrigerator
- get a non-electric iron
( all of them gets energy directly from burning wood )

- don't use any electric dishwasher or mixer or food processor
- use DC voltage LED lights and DC fans

Now that you have reduced your electrical energy demands by maybe 90% ... consider newer design thermo-electric generators (TEG) which produce electricity directly from heat without any moving parts.

*** have a look at this thread for TEG in general and also a Japanese supplier of high wattage TEGs.
»Candle-Powered Electric Candle


disconnected

@snet.net
Saw the candle powered light last month. Clever use of infrared to visible conversion efficiency gain.

We have the well pump, which has an LRA of 93 amperes (240vac) which is one of the stumbling blocks.

I was thinking about storing power for peak operations and just have a 40kW sine wave inverter that draws power from forklift batteries, which are charged by multiple sustainable sources. The stumbling block is the low efficiency of the inverter. Average daily load is about 2-3 kW with three computers, a bunch of laptops and monitors. I'm not even sure how I will power my 17kW sound system, but for now I just want to ensure we have running water and heat, and CCTV cameras/DVRs working.

Part of the problem today is that electricity has become too expensive in the past decade. And in the past four years, my income has decreased by half each year, four years running. I'm down to $2500 gross income last year. The food stuff is pretty cheap. Can always find Raman noodles and jars of peanut butter cheap. Bread's getting expensive though. Pasta, too. But, right behind property taxes, electricity is my biggest expense. So I've been devoting a substantial amount of time toward finding off-grid electric power solutions. There will soon come a day when much of humanity won't be able to pay for electricity, even barring EMP attack or societal breakdown. It's fast becoming a luxury.


CylonRed
Premium,MVM
join:2000-07-06
Bloom County
quote:
It's fast becoming a luxury.
Then you need to go to a place that it is cheaper. Electricity is still incredibly cheap in many places (in my area- going from coal to NG caused cheaper prices the last few years). Since you gross is $2500 - it looks like electricity prices are sky high. I would find a way to make more money - any way possible.

Most of the ways discusses will cost a fair bit of money - especially geothermal electricity production.
--
Brian

"It drops into your stomach like a Abrams's tank.... driven by Rosanne Barr..." A. Bourdain


tschmidt
Premium,MVM
join:2000-11-12
Milford, NH
kudos:9
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reply to disconnected
I'm not nearly as pessimistic as you are but have been working over the years to reduce our energy footprint and try to harvest as much as we can directly from our property. We are lucky in that we live in a fairly rural area.

I agree with the principals posted by lutful See Profile to reduce consumption, go after the low hanging fruit.

1) Space heating - wood is ideal. We heat with cordwood harvested on our property. Go through about 2-1/2 cords a year.
2) Water heating - wood is ideal in winter and passive solar in summer
3) Clothes drying - not sure what a "dryer hut" is but an old fashioned clothes line works just fine - stuff gets a little stiff and need to watch for bugs.
4) Reducing electricity consumption is more effective then trying to generate power. CFL, LED lighting, turn off stuff you don't need, etc
5) Hand crank water pump
6) A garden can be an effective way to put food on the table.

As has been pointed out if society falls apart, which I personally doubt, generating electricity will be the least of your worries. A better option is to "live below your means" as my neighbor often said to give you flexibility to cope with uncertainty.

/tom


cowboyro
Premium
join:2000-10-11
Shelton, CT

1 recommendation

reply to disconnected
said by disconnected :

Average daily load is about 2-3 kW with three computers, a bunch of laptops and monitors.

You'd have to re-learn to live with as many computers as people used to only 20-30 years ago - none. Extended outage means you can only access local content anyway.
said by disconnected :

I'm not even sure how I will power my 17kW sound system

Thought it was supposed to be inconspicuous??? 17kW is about the right size for an arena.
said by disconnected :

Part of the problem today is that electricity has become too expensive in the past decade.

So use less. In all honesty, I can't find any justification to run 3 big-ass computers and a bunch of laptops non-stop other than "I really want to and I don't care about costs". Learn to use just one (or 2 if you need a server 24/7 like I do), we are in the days when they can run multiple concurrent tasks. If various OS-es are needed use virtualization solutions, there's no need for the CPUs to run NOPs 3billion times/sec x 8cores...

lutful
... of ideas
Premium
join:2005-06-16
Ottawa, ON
kudos:1
reply to tschmidt
Click for full size
said by tschmidt:

Clothes drying - not sure what a "dryer hut" is but an old fashioned clothes line works just fine - stuff gets a little stiff and need to watch for bugs.

Here is my proposed "dryer hut" design which will work in a bug infested swamp ... during a hurricane. Clothes go in the top chamber. Fire in the bottom chamber. A few watts to rotate the desiccant wheels at a few rpm.

lutful
... of ideas
Premium
join:2005-06-16
Ottawa, ON
kudos:1
reply to disconnected
said by disconnected :

well pump ... 93 amperes (240vac) ... 40kW sine wave inverter that draws power from forklift batteries

That 40kW inverter won't be powerful enough if you want to enjoy the 17kW sound system while your 25HP pump is running. And your house may not be big enough for all those fork-lift batteries.

Everything DC is much better for true off-grid living. You could use a telecom style 48V DC bus and convert to other DC voltages at 98% efficiency using off-the-shelf modules.

- pump should be replaced with an ultra-efficient DC version. They are available for solar powered setups.

- there are many computers and TVs with 12V/5A DC input. 5 such systems consume less power than a single 300W AC desktop. All laptops use DC input - usually 16V or 19V to match the number of li-ion cells.


Raphion

join:2000-10-14
Samsara
Reviews:
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reply to lutful
said by lutful:

said by tschmidt:

Clothes drying - not sure what a "dryer hut" is but an old fashioned clothes line works just fine - stuff gets a little stiff and need to watch for bugs.

Here is my proposed "dryer hut" design which will work in a bug infested swamp ... during a hurricane. Clothes go in the top chamber. Fire in the bottom chamber. A few watts to rotate the desiccant wheels at a few rpm.

And soot from the fire plugs up your desiccant wheel after a day or two.

lutful
... of ideas
Premium
join:2005-06-16
Ottawa, ON
kudos:1
some improvements to the dryer hut:

- separate chimney for combustion chamber
- insulation to prevent recharge in top half of wheel
- simple heat exchanger and small fan for bottom half


disconnected

@snet.net
reply to tschmidt
Some interesting ideas here, particularly the dessicant dryer..

Yes, wood is great for space heating, with the downside being smoke and soot. I got rid of my wood burner in the beginning of the '80s due to that problem. The defining moment was the morning my boss left work suddenly and I later learned that his house burned to the ground. Cause of fire: wood burning stove. I dismantled mine the next weekend.

Water heating is a challenge in a dynamic northern climate. We don't get much sunlight here due to the trees (it's a problem with cell reception too). Such a system would require a heat exchanger with the outside piping filled with antifreeze. Rather costly to build that.

Here's what I did over the years to reduce electricity consumption:

Stop using my big sound system for background music and bought a small Carver 500W mag field amplifier to power a smaller set of speakers near my editing workstation.

Fixed the well pump drop pipe, which had a hole in it and was causing the pump to run 24/7.

Stopped using 175W merc vapor lights all night long.

Changed ALL lighting to CFL, the more recently, LEDs.

Replace all CRT monitors with LCD and turned the backlight to minimum.

Stopped using my HP LaserJet II all day long. Now use Brother inkjet printer (no fuser lamp burning intermittently all day and night).

There are other things I've economized on, but can't recall all at the moment.

The big drain is the electric stove and dryer. My inlaws cook a lot. They do quite a few loads of wash, too. But those loads are intermittent.

The killer is the render farm downstairs. Two quad core machines with multiple RAID0 arrays and high power GPUs. Kill-A-Watt P3 says 1492 watts drawn from the wall outlet for 2 machines when rendering. About 1100 watts idle. (I could save power by upgrading all the drives to SSD models and get a more modern CPU that can go all the way down to 5% clock speed at idle. My Q6600s step to 66% at idle and they are OC'd to 3.51Ghz.) I have 7 internal drives and 5 external (USB) drives for backup purposes on the editing workstation and slightly fewer on the audio workstation. In the winter, these two machines heat the 1000 sq ft studio downstairs with no help from the main heating system.

I'm nearing completion of an 8-years running house structural renovation. The new structure is super insulated. Each year, my heating oil usage drops significantly, as the area of the house with super insulation increases. When I finished the north wall last summer, the bedrooms stay warm all night. My inlaws' room is about 10° warmer than the rest of the house because they keep the door closed and their 27" LCD TV keeps the room toasty, along with their body heat. Before the renovation, I was using about 1200 gallons of #2 oil every season. Last year I was down to 250 gallons and the house was more comfortable.

I've made improvements to my furnace, too. New oil burner, with Eko-Valve that shuts off immediately when the burner stops, preventing after burn and smoke. Smaller nozzle size, higher pressure, flame retention burner. Installed Flue dampers in both furnace and hot water heater. Installed heat exchanger/reclaimer in furnace flue to vent waste heat into the basement. The last two really made a difference in the comfort level in my shop. These changes also helped save oil. Installed Intellicon HW+ heat manager on the furnace, which also made a huge difference, cutting burner firings in the morning from 3 to just 1 cycle needed to bring house up to daytime temperature.

Computers and audio are my life blood. I've been an avid audiophile since WWII, and would not consider life worth living without it, which is why I'm trying to solve the energy problems. Could have a CAT diesel genset for the brief times when I want to play the audio system at very high volumes, but actually, it's pretty efficient, and will reach 129dB SPL with only 12 watts of output power ("signal present" LED starting to flicker on the two QSC 6kW amplifiers), which the genny has no problem supplying that. We've run our projection system, sound system and computers off the genny just fine. Only drawback is cost of fuel. We've spent months on generator power last year with the many storms we've experienced and outages that lasted weeks, so we're almost used to the idea now. I'd just like a quieter generator system and the possibility of running it from renewable sources.
Since the sound system can be curtailed at our descretion during 'sensitive' times, but the generator runs 24/7 and can be heard from almost a block away, naturally, the generator noise is a problem.

The thing is, I'm not the only one in the house. We're six all together. The inlaws watch TV all the time. My sister in law is the computer generation who live on the internet. My wife is a heavy computer user. I need power to run the test gear in my repair shop. I need power to run the video editing and sound gear in my studio. These are my bread 'n butter applications.

LED lights lend well to DC power. The well pump does not. It's 220' down and is large because back in '66 when I built this place, a forest fire swept through a month before I poured my foundation. So the well is high capacity for fire fighting, as we're in a wooded area. The house is made of Transite (asbestos cement) to retard combustion. Jan 17 marked 47 years living at this location in this house. I'm not going anywhere at my age. This is my retirement home.