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Thread: A few environmental ideas

  1. #1

    A few environmental ideas

    Haven't been doing experimenting recently but wanted to pass along to the board a couple technologies I have been reading about and mention what I have been doing to promote them.

    1) Outdoor Wood boilers + Thermo-electric generators (TEGs)

    Outdoor woodboilers http://www.centralboiler.com/products.php http://www.portageandmainboilers.com/
    are basically wood stoves placed outside with a water jacket and circulation system. They are used to provided central heating and hot water. From rural customer anecdotal reports on the websites people are seeing two-three year simple payback times and saving thousands of dollars per year versus propane or electricity.

    TEGs are an inefficient means (currently 5%) of generating electricity using semiconductors and make use of the Seebeck/Peltier effect that generates power from a difference in temperature across a semiconductor. In the past few years a few companies have started marketing 30-70 watt air or water cooled TEGs that could lay atop a wood stove. The price is about 8-10$/watt, however TEGs have no moving parts are durable, long lasting and also already marketed for remote power generation using propane as a heat source. So I was thinkin, if someone engineered this into a wood stove, outdoor wood boiler right from the start they could likely bring down the price and generate significant power. If it was water cooled and one was already circulating water for indoor heating, well that's great.

    I would have to dig out the links but DOD research apparently generated 1kW from waste heat from a diesel truck engine. DevilWatt markets a 70 watt water cooled TEG and looking at the specs you could probably lay three across a small wood stove not to mention the sides of the wood stove. About the only nation intelligent (or crazy) enough to implement my idea of engineering this right into the stove was Russia, which markets a very small woodstove for under 1000 dollars, available in the US with an aircooled TEG that generates "a minimum of 60 watts". How about that for a hunting cabin?

    I wrote Portage and Main and basically asked them to build this, haven't heard back yet. I mentioned that I thought they could likely get 400-500 watts or just have a small TEG/battery to run the water pumps in a power outage. Seeing as this is a large furnace that is said to run at up to 2000F I would actually not be at all surprised if they could get 1kW+ out of it. The payback time might be ten, twenty years, for the electricity, but then again anyone who bought one, as they would have no need for electricity for heat or hot water would be basically free. Perhaps others might ask various OWB/wood stove manufacturers if they are thinking about incorporating this tech in future.

    2) Solatubes http://www.solatube.com/

    Take sunlight use a reflective tube to channel it indoors then disperse it for lighting. Very simple, marketed for 20 or so years, likely 90-99% efficient. Compare with scenario of using 20% efficient solar panels to what 60% efficient inverter to maybe LEDs or less efficient lighting, order of magnitude superior. It is being marketed mainly to residential, but what about say taking street lights and putting a solatube on top channeling the light down into subways. What about using the roofs and periphery of high rises to provide lighting during the daylight hours when they are occupied. So, and you may laugh, but I remember leaving an e-mail for Ray Kurzweil and he got back to me like three hours later and I thought hey this works pretty well, still disagree with him though, so I left a post on Elon Musk's facebook page. Don't know if he will see it, but he might be just the type of person who would both find it interesting and have the means and desire to see it more widely utilized. Heck, depending on how you dispersed the light you might be able to get a natural tan in summer while working in an office.

    3) Other Thoughts

    Was thinking about those situations energy wise where houses are working against themselves. One example would be when you run the dryer in winter and that heat is shunted to outside instead of central heating. A possibly more important example is a refrigerator/freezer running in a heated house in winter. Now if you can shunt the heat from a dryer to outside, you can also certainly shunt the coolant for a refrigerator freezer to outside. Someone might look into whether it has been patented. The average temperature, year round, day/night for many of the most populated areas might well be (I honestly have no idea) 50 degrees or so. Certainly in colder climates one could generate their refrigeration without recourse to other than the outside environment for much of the year. With modern sensors and electronics it should be simple not to transfer coolant into an 80 degree day and also to run the refrigerator only when necessary.

    These approaches should both decrease "energy consumption" and if anything improve quality of life.

    Ciao,

    Paul "Duffy"
    Last edited by ZPDM; 02-25-2015 at 11:42 PM.

  2. #2
    #1) This might be a good application for niche markets, especially in northern latitudes with high heating demands and long periods of low to no solar. Combined with the use of electric vehicles such as bikes or even cars in off the grid situations it might be a winner in smaller residential applications.

    #2) I was somewhat into solar in the 80s and 90s, and recall articles discussing exactly what you are talking about: reflective light pipes, or even small window mounted helio-stats, for indoor lighting. One problem, especially in retro-fit situations, is that the pipes aren't as small or flexible as electrical wires or cables so unless the structures are specifically designed for them from the start it is a difficult and expensive process - I guess that is one reason fiber optics have also been suggested for similar uses. I always thought hollow reflective light guides were much more practical for central solar thermal applications than fluid based transport systems which have appalling heat losses but you rarely see them mentioned.

    #3) One reason practical steps along these lines aren't taken seems to be the dependency on standard appliances and ways of thinking. People don't think much about paying a thousand bucks for that really nice stand-up freezer / refrig combo with the ice maker and other bells and whistles, but few would consider building a cold room. Old timers learned that to really get the most from that pot-bellied wood stove it was a good idea to run the stove pipe as far around the room as was practical, but a modern clothes dryer is generally stuck in a utility room up against an outside wall and vented directly outside. You can't vent the dyer directly into the house but having an alternative winter time vent pipe circuit running a few feet at base board height seems beyond most.

    One encouraging sign about such things can be found among the 'mass heater' folks. Until I came across the discussion on such a thing I always thought I knew a thing or two about wood stoves - turns out I didn't know much. I think the main forum for mass heaters is over at the Permies forum: http://www.permies.com/forums/f-125/rocket-stoves

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by ZPDM View Post
    Haven't been doing experimenting recently but wanted to pass along to the board a couple technologies I have been reading about and mention what I have been doing to promote them.

    1) Outdoor Wood boilers + Thermo-electric generators (TEGs)

    Outdoor woodboilers http://www.centralboiler.com/products.php http://www.portageandmainboilers.com/
    are basically wood stoves placed outside with a water jacket and circulation system. They are used to provided central heating and hot water. From rural customer anecdotal reports on the websites people are seeing two-three year simple payback times and saving thousands of dollars per year versus propane or electricity.

    TEGs are an inefficient means (currently 5%) of generating electricity using semiconductors and make use of the Seebeck/Peltier effect that generates power from a difference in temperature across a semiconductor. In the past few years a few companies have started marketing 30-70 watt air or water cooled TEGs that could lay atop a wood stove. The price is about 8-10$/watt, however TEGs have no moving parts are durable, long lasting and also already marketed for remote power generation using propane as a heat source. So I was thinkin, if someone engineered this into a wood stove, outdoor wood boiler right from the start they could likely bring down the price and generate significant power. If it was water cooled and one was already circulating water for indoor heating, well that's great.

    I would have to dig out the links but DOD research apparently generated 1kW from waste heat from a diesel truck engine. DevilWatt markets a 70 watt water cooled TEG and looking at the specs you could probably lay three across a small wood stove not to mention the sides of the wood stove. About the only nation intelligent (or crazy) enough to implement my idea of engineering this right into the stove was Russia, which markets a very small woodstove for under 1000 dollars, available in the US with an aircooled TEG that generates "a minimum of 60 watts". How about that for a hunting cabin?

    I wrote Portage and Main and basically asked them to build this, haven't heard back yet. I mentioned that I thought they could likely get 400-500 watts or just have a small TEG/battery to run the water pumps in a power outage. Seeing as this is a large furnace that is said to run at up to 2000F I would actually not be at all surprised if they could get 1kW+ out of it. The payback time might be ten, twenty years, for the electricity, but then again anyone who bought one, as they would have no need for electricity for heat or hot water would be basically free. Perhaps others might ask various OWB/wood stove manufacturers if they are thinking about incorporating this tech in future.

    2) Solatubes

    Take sunlight use a reflective tube to channel it indoors then disperse it for lighting. Very simple, marketed for 20 or so years, likely 90-99% efficient. Compare with scenario of using 20% efficient solar panels to what 60% efficient inverter to maybe LEDs or less efficient lighting, order of magnitude superior. It is being marketed mainly to residential, but what about say taking street lights and putting a solatube on top channeling the light down into subways. What about using the roofs and periphery of high rises to provide lighting during the daylight hours when they are occupied. So, and you may laugh, but I remember leaving an e-mail for Ray Kurzweil and he got back to me like three hours later and I thought hey this works pretty well, still disagree with him though, so I left a post on Elon Musk's facebook page. Don't know if he will see it, but he might be just the type of person who would both find it interesting and have the means and desire to see it more widely utilized. Heck, depending on how you dispersed the light you might be able to get a natural tan in summer while working in an office.

    3) Other Thoughts

    Was thinking about those situations energy wise where houses are working against themselves. One example would be when you run the dryer in winter and that heat is shunted to outside instead of central heating. A possibly more important example is a refrigerator/freezer running in a heated house in winter. Now if you can shunt the heat from a dryer to outside, you can also certainly shunt the coolant for a refrigerator freezer to outside. Someone might look into whether it has been patented. The average temperature, year round, day/night for many of the most populated areas might well be (I honestly have no idea) 50 degrees or so. Certainly in colder climates one could generate their refrigeration without recourse to other than the outside environment for much of the year. With modern sensors and electronics it should be simple not to transfer coolant into an 80 degree day and also to run the refrigerator only when necessary.

    These approaches should both decrease "energy consumption" and if anything improve quality of life.

    Ciao,

    Paul "Duffy"
    Really very interesting post here. I loved it.
    Last edited by Begather; 11-11-2016 at 10:22 PM.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Begather View Post
    Really very interesting post here. I loved it.
    Many Thanks Begather,

    I keep coming back to Solatubes in my mind. This could have been done 50-300 or 500 years ago. It meets other criteria I find attractive. 1) It should as a replacement improve quality of life being natural spectrum sunlight 2) It is cost effective 3) The close to order of magnitude improvement in efficiency for lighting over solar cells -> lights I talked about above 4) Unlike solar cells or moving parts systems, it won't degrade over time, a 50-100 year old building should work as well as new, maybe someone needs to take a damp cloth to the reflective material now and again. 5) No harmful products in manufacture or from use. 6) It is not threatening it terms of being some esoteric technology, how do you attack someone for putting a window in their roof? 7) It has the potential to displace a lot of electricity production, I see in my mind schools, warehouses, grocery stores, subways etc all with "solatubes". All those places where we light them artificially primarily during the day meanwhile blocking the tremendous radiant sunlight beaming down onto the roof of the building. 8) Ties us back in with the rhythms of nature and will only fail if the sun doesn't rise. 9) Uh can't think of another, I don't work for solatube or someone similar and as a caveat I will say I have never actually seen one in use, but I have read a great deal of positive feedback from case studies where this tech has been used.

    I don't see at this time political solutions going forward, but, partly because we are absurdly vulnerable with a centralized power grid, I see hope in decentralizing power as quickly as possible. Maybe if someone saw they no longer needed much electricity for lighting then they could be, electrically at least, independent with a few solar cells or wind mill etc. Make the central government obsolete without them realizing it. Sort of a return to the age of Judges in the Old testament, prior to the Kings. And to proselytize, I'm Christian, I already have a King I don't have or want another. Granted in ages past people were basically energy independent and they still went to war and treated each other badly but I have to wonder with the decentralized communication now available if the rest were decentralized just maybe the tyrants would throw a war and the people would say "well I just talked to Ming and Vlad and we decided we can't make it". Considering how screwed up things are it is a thin hope but I always hated those fluorescents in school maybe kids could have something better.

  5. #5
    Old thread I know, but useful none the less.

    I have often thought about extracting the heat from the ground with a heat pump as I think it is a fairly developed technology. Not much more than a 'fridge really. The electricity to run the pump could easily be generated by other means than taking it from the grid. The only problem is that pipes need to be buried in the ground either vertically or horizontally to give the temperature difference.

    The other thought I had was to run a home by an inverter from a bank of batteries being charged by a Bedini battery-charging system. I dont know much about all this stuff, so there may be many general considerations which need to be taken into account for these ideas. Maybe even an Earth-battery would be able to be used for charging the batteries as earth batteries have been the subject of many patents.

    addition - new way to look at solar panels to make them more efficient.
    optimized solar panels
    Last edited by ocpaul20; 04-17-2017 at 05:05 AM. Reason: add solar panel stuff

  6. #6
    Senior Member John_Koorn's Avatar
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    Hi ocpaul, Bedini SGs can be run very well from Earth batteries. There's a circuit in the Bedini FEG book.

    John K.

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