I had an epiphany a few months ago: we had lost grid power, and I was using my PTO back up generator. It was doing a great job, and the kids did not even know we were on back-up power, but my tractor and generator were really warm. Everything was at operating temperature, but what a waste! All that heat, and not being used. So I did some research online, and found out, there is a thing called cogeneration, which is making electricity, and then using the heat from the engine to warm a house.
I have 100% radiant floor heating so I was already set up for this to work. I also realized I had all the other major components too, like a diesel engine, a generator, a fuel tank to make it all happen.
So over the last few days I got the components together in one building. It is 12 x 24, and heavily insulated, and located about 100 feet from my house. I started with the fuel tank, having a 275 gallon oil drum, that I managed to get into the building, painted, and standing upright.
Next I brought in a wood/coal boiler. I have it, so I am going to add it into the heat circuit that way I can heat my house by:
Electricity...talk about options!
Next was the engine. I had several options for this, but in the end went with a 35 HP diesel engine off a tractor trailer reefer trailer. It operates at 1800 RPM, lasts forever, and sips fuel, perfect for a genset. Ultimately that will be married to a 83 amp/20 KW generator.
So yesterday I went up to my shop where this reefer unit has sat since 1993, and dragged it down to the house.
That was kind of a nightmare because I had to slide it up an inclined ramp/walkway about 25 feet and I did not have my favorite laborer here...Katie.
But by using pipes, blocking, and pry bars, I was able to work it slowly up the ramp by rolling it along the pipes, and into position by myself. A refer unit would not seem to be too big bolted to the front of a tractor trailer...trailer, but working the unit up a ramp makes a person realize it is bigger and heavier than they first think. I would move it six inches, and it would roll back just as many. Finally I got it into position though.
It was under cover inside a building so the diesel engine is in really good shape. It is also entirely intact although the reefer unit was dismantled. This tells me it was kept because the engine was sound, but the chiller was broken...
Yesterday I was able to strip everything back to the engine. This meant unbolting all the chiller wiring and crap, and then pulling the chiller off the flywheel. I was hoping the reefer unit was seized and keeping the engine from free turning, but that is not the case, it was stuck.
But today I started working on the engine again and I am making significant headway now, the tearing apart is done, and the rebuild starts...
I did not need any oil to get the engine unseized, in fact I would not even call it "seized" but maybe "stuck". I threaded in some bolts on the flywheel, put a short bar between the bolts like a spanner wrench, and "chuff"; the engine rolled over. I worked it back and forth for a minute, and it was perfectly fine. I pulled the valve cover and everything is nicely lubed, like the engine had been running yesterday, not some 30 years ago.
I then got some numbers off the unit and started calling around. In the written word, this takes a minute to read, but it was about 2 hours of phone work, because NO ONE has any information on this. But in the end it seems it is a 1979, 4 cycle Kubota Engine. I got this information from a good friend of mine that owns a reefer repair shop. He told me to get the engine running and use it, because he never tears into the engines, they run forever, but rather the reefer is the part that breaks. That is good because this means this engine should last a long time, and is worth doing!
That's really very cool, Travis. I can't wait to hear more.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein
I just read what I wrote, and I guess it is a little hard to follow, but when I am done, I will have an engine turning a generator that will make enough power to power (2) houses if I wanted too. It is a lot of power. As the electricity is being made, water will circulate through the engine, then into my boiler, and then into the house to heat my home.
In this way, everything will have warm water circulating through it.
Because I have radiant floor heat, as long as my control circuit is above 100 degrees, my main propane boiler will not come on. It does not matter how this water gets heated...solar, compost, or in my case, heated by the engine making electricity.
This means I can be 100% off-grid, and still power and heat my home at the same time.
This is a long term project, but one that is really fun. The best part will be seeing if I can get a diesel engine that has been sitting for 30 years to fire up.
We've gotta get close enough to that helmet to pull the choke on it's engine and flood his mind! Or, we could just read this tiny ad: