• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com pie forums private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Carla Burke
  • John F Dean
  • Nancy Reading
  • r ranson
  • Jay Angler
  • Pearl Sutton
stewards:
  • paul wheaton
  • Leigh Tate
  • Burra Maluca
master gardeners:
  • Christopher Weeks
  • Timothy Norton
gardeners:
  • Jeremy VanGelder
  • Paul Fookes
  • Tina Wolf

Very low tech small power generation or work

 
steward & bricolagier
Posts: 13936
Location: SW Missouri
9398
2
goat cat fungi books chicken earthworks food preservation cooking building homestead ungarbage
  • Likes 15
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have been thinking about how power generation is generally focused on the big things: solar panels, serious hydro, big wind turbines. I think there are a lot of ways to do things VERY low tech and small, and am hoping others do too. I'm thinking up things I have either heard of long ago and don't have sources for, or that are coming out of my own head. If anyone has done any of these, I'd love to know. If anyone has other ideas, I want to hear them too!

I think we all do a lot of things every day that could casually generate a bit of power, or move a bit of water, or do something that needs to be done. And lots of "problems" could be harnessed into solutions. Waste or excess heat is a big one, I think.

And I always like direct power rather than transforming it to electricity first. We have all heard of things like water wheels that grind grain, but what smaller applications that take less force are useful?


Things that when you step on them go down just a bit and move a bit of water up a tube that has one way valves, when the water tank at the top is full it could either be a water source, or pour out suddenly and run a small hydro. If we had these in the floors of hallways in schools, we could harness the energy of lots of kids!

Speaking of energy from kids, pedals under desk at school that if you are bored, pedal!

Tubes that go across the road, the traffic could activate them to move water or air to do something. Like the old gas station bells.

Small wind turbines (Savonius rotors are always my visual) next to a busy highway where the traffic wind moves them. Under an underpass you'd get some serious movement. Wonder about tunnels? Could the subways make power that way?

Tubes under the road that run water through them so the solar heat on the road heats water for home use or radiant heating. Wonder if you could radiant heat the floors of a small neighborhood with it's road?

The sweep of opening doors, put something on a busy door and use it to make something happen. Even if it lifts a small weight and the drop does something.

Thinking about the little cars at the fair when I was a kid that had a pole or floor sweep that gave it power to move. I think it's possible to have it go the other way and  your car has a sweep that makes power as it goes over a certain surface. Might be how to recharge some of the power off an electric car, not all, but some. How many little sweeps could a car move and generate power on a surface? Hmm...

If the water in a town comes off a tower, use the force of it on the way out to do stuff Power from the Tap: Water Motors  Low Tech Magazine

Concentrating solar heat into an area probably has other applications than just hot water, what else could it do?

The solar chimney effect could be used to move air for turbine power.


I look forward to ideas! Share yours!
 
pollinator
Posts: 219
Location: Clackamas County, OR (zone 7)
126
  • Likes 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The fundamental problem with these sort of micro (nano?) devices that you describe is that there is so little power available that unless the device is basically free it does not pencil out. Its not even a question of economics. Imagine that the device is free, but it takes it a week to "pump" a gallon of water up 3 feet. You would likely be much better off just lifting a jug of water. If the device and power source scale infinitely, and are still basically free, then it might end up being worthwhile.

I think there are a lot of interesting things that can be done with human power, however. Here is my latest bike generator build:

I am going to experiment with rewinding a permanent magnet alternator from a mini excavator to generate 12v at low RPM. I left room on the shaft at the back to add a pulley, and in theory it would be pretty easy to power all sorts of devices directly. I have thought about making a pedal-powered air purifier using a blower fan and a HEPA filter. It might be a nice way to exercise during the wildfire smoke season. Producing 60-100 watts of power (electrical - likely 30% more if you use it as mechanical power) is pretty easy. Still, the main benefit is merely the exercise - even if everything was free, I suspect that the value of the power generated would barely keep up with basic upkeep costs.

Treadle power is also pretty interesting, and can be put together out of much simpler parts than a bike. I also remember reading about a system for pumping town gas I believe it was, where a winch was used to lift a giant weight up a tower. Whenever someone happened to walk by, they would give the winch a few cranks, and the weight drove a giant gear-train to run the pump. Basically it was a primitive battery. These days, though, much cheaper battery options are available that do not require such a large footprint.
 
Posts: 22
Location: West Kootenays, BC
14
  • Likes 12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Direct use of small wind turbine mechanical energy (skipping the conversion to electricity) seems like it has lots of uses, especially if you can build one out of salvage and scrap like this one:
http://opensourcelowtech.org/wind_turbine.html

One of the coolest low-tech ideas I've come across in recent years is the idea of using water friction to convert directly from mechanical energy to heat:
https://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2019/02/heat-your-house-with-a-water-brake-windmill.html
I could see that sort of thing being useful in a cold-season greenhouse, mounted on the roof with the shaft going down into a water barrel.

Another idea - a wind-tumbled "compost tube". Set the turbine up with some very low gearing so that it's slowly turning a big culvert pipe on a gentle angle, with increasingly fine grates along the length such that things work their way down as they decompose. Fresh stuff goes in the high end, finished/sifted compost comes out the low end.

Or maybe accumulate the mechanical energy somehow. Flywheel? Compressed air? Gravity battery that cranks a big mass up a tall tree?
 
gardener
Posts: 942
Location: Proebstel, Washington, USDA Zone 6B
505
2
wheelbarrows and trailers kids trees earthworks woodworking
  • Likes 14
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Powering things directly with your micro-generators is the way to go. This guy built a steam powered trike, which doubles as a barbecue.

 
Pearl Sutton
steward & bricolagier
Posts: 13936
Location: SW Missouri
9398
2
goat cat fungi books chicken earthworks food preservation cooking building homestead ungarbage
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Mike Fullerton: I want a water brake windmill to be part of the heat for radiant in a concrete slab. Seems most useful to me.
Direct heat from wind turbine

Welcome to permies :D
 
master steward
Posts: 11387
Location: Pacific Wet Coast
6338
duck books chicken cooking food preservation ungarbage
  • Likes 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We've looked at a bunch of stuff over the years. One big problem is that we live where power is so cheap, that it's hard to see any sort of "covering our cost" until prices go up enough to justify it. Then the problem is that the raw materials will also have gone up...

Wind is a non-starter on our land - too many 100 ft+ trees and the places without trees, cause weird vortex actions that won't help much. To use wind efficiently, I think you need to check your long-term weather records to see what the patterns are.

We have a winter creek, but it really only runs Dec to March, and not necessarily with consistent force even then. They are coming up with some cool technology for capturing run-of-river power for either direct use, or to pump water up to a higher place that's a practical gathering place for use when you want it. However, that higher place would have to either be some sort of tank or if an open pond which could evaporate before you need it. Hubby's convinced we just don't have enough flow or enough elevation drop to be worth trying to use it. If the winter creek was easier to redirect towards the south-east corner of our land - close to 1/4 mile away - it might work. Unfortunately, the shape of the land is weird, and to get from point A to point B, we'd have to cross someone else's land, or go up and down a noticeable hill. If I can find enough time to build a serious tank, that hill could be a "high point" but "high" is relative - maybe 10 ft?

I keep coming back to human power redirected by something like a stationary bike. They also used to use animal power on treadmills, but some of those were pretty abusive.

It usually comes down to how we are soooo... used to using a lot of power to do things that used to take more people or more time to accomplish. Some those, the simple technology is quite reasonable to return to - a scythe vs a whipper-snipper. Some, like our diesel tractor running our chipper/shredder, are going to be tough!

I agree that we've got to keep looking though - we're going to need to do this. My vote is some sort of sun-based system that isn't expensive solar panels. Maybe using mirrors which are often easy to score second-hand - lets re-use them in a useful way?
 
Carl Nystrom
pollinator
Posts: 219
Location: Clackamas County, OR (zone 7)
126
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

I agree that we've got to keep looking though - we're going to need to do this. My vote is some sort of sun-based system that isn't expensive solar panels. Maybe using mirrors which are often easy to score second-hand - lets re-use them in a useful way?



Solar energy is ultimately the source of all our sustainable power, so making smart use of it is indeed the key. Solar panels keep getting cheaper, and as you say, if one is willing to live with lower energy use, then the price to switch to solar comes way down. It's just that people are used to using 30kwh a day, and trying to do that on solar is still a very expensive proposition.

Really though, using sunlight to generate heat directly is a no-brainer. Laying out a house to capture heat passively offsets a lot of energy use for heating, and if every roof had a solar hot water system the energy savings would be huge.

I have a solar oven that we use quite a bit in the summer, and that really is a great way to save some energy. Not only do you not need to power a several kW oven, but you also dont need to run an AC unit to then pump all the heat back out of your house!
 
Mike Fullerton
Posts: 22
Location: West Kootenays, BC
14
  • Likes 9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks pearl! I see you've already discovered that very page I linked. My head also exploded when I came across it. Such a forehead-slapping "of course! why didn't I think of that?" moment. haha

Low tech mag is a goldmine for stuff like that. I was mentioning compressed air above, and they've got a great article on that too:
https://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2018/05/ditch-the-batteries-off-the-grid-compressed-air-energy-storage.html
Something like that could be used to accumulate any small, intermittent mechanical energy source, from the DIY wind turbine, to a footstep-based system, to a door swing setup, or even pedal power. Only downside with that seems to be safety - I'd want to really *really* know what I'm doing before messing around with pressurized stuff. Safety first, second and third.

Speaking of pedal power, I'd say that's the ultimate form of active human power for anything. Our legs are the strongest and highest endurance muscles we've got. That compost tube idea I mentioned could just as easily be set up to run off a bike converted to the task. I'd rather not have to turn compost piles when I'm old and grey! Luckily, old bikes are extremely easy and cheap to get your hands on. A lot of them aren't just cheap, they're free! Around here, just about all of them are some form of mountain bike, with extensive gear systems that can be adjusted to whatever torque vs. RPM setup you need. The chain/gears/cranks can be useful for all kinds of gadgetry even outside of pedal power.

As many have mentioned, solar is another energy source that doesn't need to be high-tech and expensive, and doesn't have to be turned into electricity to be useful. One interesting concept that could be DIY-ed at home would be a solar pond:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_pond
The idea here seems to be that a layer of brine sits underneath a layer of fresh water, and the heat that builds up in the brine is trapped and stored because the thermal gradient is overwhelmed by the salinity gradient, keeping the heat from rising. The heat that builds up in the brine can be tapped off for use.
 
Posts: 70
Location: Colorado Springs, Zone 6a, 1/8th acre city lot.
18
  • Likes 9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Wow. The steam powered trike is inventive but I can only imagine the trail of fire he'd leave if he used that in Colorado. And you'd never worry about sneaking up on people!

I think the off-grid power I'd most like to try next is the trompe (sp?) for getting compressed air from running water. But of course you have to have running water with at least 4ft of head. There's all kinds of air tools already available and you could probably adapt things.
 
Posts: 27
Location: PNW
2
dog food preservation homestead
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Lol. All I keep thinking about is Gilligan riding that bicycle that powered the lights or record player. If my rower could charge my cell phone, I'd probably use it more often.
 
Posts: 35
Location: Zone 8: hard clay soil
3
forest garden foraging woodworking
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I always thought it would be cool to have shoes that click and flick a motor when you walk and it charges a battery every step
 
Seth Japheth
Posts: 35
Location: Zone 8: hard clay soil
3
forest garden foraging woodworking
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
What would work great imo though is an elevator off the side of a cliff (structurally sound of course) that has a wire you use your own weight to lower just by standing in the elevator but it spins an alternator generator setup as it goes down. So like a 'gravity' capturing elevator
 
Carl Nystrom
pollinator
Posts: 219
Location: Clackamas County, OR (zone 7)
126
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

What would work great imo though is an elevator off the side of a cliff (structurally sound of course) that has a wire you use your own weight to lower just by standing in the elevator but it spins an alternator generator setup as it goes down. So like a 'gravity' capturing elevator



The equation for potential energy from gravity is Energy = Mass * Height * Acceleration due to gravity and gives a unit in Joules. 3,600,000 Joules makes one kwh. Also, factor in a reduction from losses, lets assume 50%.

So a 100kg person + elevator falling 1000 meters would generate ... E = (100*1000*9.81)/2/3600000 = .136 kwh

You would then need to walk back up to the top of the mountain, and hoist the elevator back up 3000+ feet to reset the machine. I am not sure how much 1000 meters of steel cable costs, but since you only generate 1 cent of power on each trip, I am guessing it is not going to pencil out.

I am teasing you a little bit, but I am not trying to be mean, just trying to point out how hard the numbers are to pencil out with these sorts of devices. If anything it should make abundantly clear the fact that we consume a LOT of energy when we plug things into the wall.
 
Pearl Sutton
steward & bricolagier
Posts: 13936
Location: SW Missouri
9398
2
goat cat fungi books chicken earthworks food preservation cooking building homestead ungarbage
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have been thinking what I'd like small power to do right now if I could. I have a couple of LED flashlights that charge off USB. I keep one by the front door, one by the back door. If every time I opened the door, it made a bit of a charge for the battery of them, I'd always have a charged flashlight when I grab it.
 
pollinator
Posts: 820
Location: South-central Wisconsin
327
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Seth Japheth wrote:I always thought it would be cool to have shoes that click and flick a motor when you walk and it charges a battery every step




If I recall, there was such a shoe back in the 90s. It had little lights in the heel, and were charged by the motion of walking.

(I could be remembering wrong. It was a while ago.)
 
gardener
Posts: 1227
357
7
trees wofati rocket stoves
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Years ago I received an emergency flashlight/radio that has a hand crank on it to charge the battery, and it's been the only one I've used for 10+ years. Maybe 30 seconds of cranking and I get 5-10 minutes of light.  I've heard that pedal-powered appliances like blenders, flour mills, and clothes washers work well with a modified bike setup, if you have the room to spare the setup. Pedaling to generate an electrical charge for batteries is really inefficient for the time though, unless the person was already going to do mindless cardio anyways. A non-pro cyclist can generate at best 50-75 watts for over an hour, and while I've heard people talk about gearing up their bike trainer to generate 500-1000 watts when under zero load, I always think of this world-class olympic cyclist trying to toast a slice of bread in a 700 watt toaster, generating a total of 21 watts before his body starts to shut down:


When I think about appropriate technology, it's not that LOL! Maybe a contraption consisting of 2-3 small sticks which are ignited, and the bread is placed just over them to transfer the heat from the chemical reaction? I'll start putting my money where my mouth is next week when I start living on Wheaton Labs and build my wofati. I have a 1200w solar setup to cool a chest fridge, power DC LED lights and my InstaPot, and charge my phone/Chromebook. In the shorter, darker winter months when there are weeks of overcast weather and I'll be lucky to get 50w per hour, I expect it will usually be colder at night as well, where I can chill/freeze milk jugs with water and put them in the fridge bottom, to save that 250wh/day, and use perhaps 300-400wh/day for the rest. But that will involve changing the way I do things, fortunately I'm already at around 3kwh/day instead of the average 30kwh.

I don't see myself trying to Gilligan contraptions to emulate a "modern convenience society" setup. I have a Vitamix blender that hasn't been used in years, and a food processor that I think I've used twice... but those plant based cooking recipes I've been watching always seem to involve blending/processing something, so a minute or two of electricity seems pretty handy there, and maybe a human powered blender would work, and provide some needed cardio. I'd need to build extra space for storing my bike/appliance setup though, or perhaps walk across the yard to the eventual shed to blend things. I'd like to start with a "how do the 3-4 billion people who live on $1200 a year or less right now do these things" and go from there.
 
Pearl Sutton
steward & bricolagier
Posts: 13936
Location: SW Missouri
9398
2
goat cat fungi books chicken earthworks food preservation cooking building homestead ungarbage
  • Likes 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Mark Brunner wrote: I'd like to start with a "how do the 3-4 billion people who live on $1200 a year or less right now do these things" and go from there.


I think that would be a cool thread! I vote if you start one, drop the link in here :D

 
Carl Nystrom
pollinator
Posts: 219
Location: Clackamas County, OR (zone 7)
126
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

I have been thinking what I'd like small power to do right now if I could. I have a couple of LED flashlights that charge off USB. I keep one by the front door, one by the back door. If every time I opened the door, it made a bit of a charge for the battery of them, I'd always have a charged flashlight when I grab it.  



Ok, so the power that you are putting into the battery does not come from the door, it comes from you opening the door. Basically the door acts as a compulsary reminder to do the task that generates the power - this could also be a turnstile, or some sort of lever you had to step on, or just a sign that said "Please turn the crank 1 full revolution!"

So, it is an interesting idea, and it of course makes me wonder just how much power would need to be added in to the system? First, we would need to define how much light we need. Lets say an LED produces about 100 lumens per watt, and a flashlight is about 100 lumens (sort of a generic flashlight). To get 1 hour of usage, you would need 1 watt-hour.

Lets say that to charge the battery, the door is going to hoist a weight when it is opened, and then the weight will drop and drive a little generator. The door only swings about 3 feet, so call the height 1 meter. Lets start with an ambitious weight, lets say 30 lbs or 13.6kg. Each time the mass is hoisted, it then produces 13.6kg * 1m * 9.81 m/s^2 = 133 joules. Divide that by 3,600,000 to get kwh, and multiply by 1000 to put it in watt hours. 0.037wh per cycle. Not to forget about efficiency, we better cut it in half: 0.019 wh. So, you would have to open your 30lb door 52 times. Which is actually not terrible. 30lbs is of course not a trivial amount of weight to lift 3 feet, so it might be better to reduce it to 15lbs and figure you will need to open the door 100 times for an hour of light.

It would be sort of a fun project to build, and now that I think about it, I seem to recall some sort of gravity based lighting that somebody designed for producing light in underdeveloped countries. I would think a hand-crank that raised a larger mass would be more efficient, but enforcing compliance might produce more watts in the long run. Switching it to a revolving door would get you straight to rotational motion, reduce heating losses in the winter, AND give your house massive appeal to the neighborhood kids, who would probably volunteer to help charge your flashlights for free!
 
Posts: 92
Location: Columbia Missouri
15
forest garden urban bike
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am getting to the point where I'm thinking about the last house I'll live in and kicking around ideas about how it should work.  That business of converting solar to electric then using the electricity troubles me also.  My parents used to have a home that had a trombe wall.  It was the south wall of the house, 14" thick, painted black and was glass covered.  It saved them a lot on heating costs over the winter.  But, there wasn't enough over hang to shade it in the summer and they spent all the savings cooling the house in the summer.  I've been told such a thermal collector is about 40% efficient.  The latest photovoltaics are just over 20% efficient.

   So, here's my wild idea.  What if the photovoltaics were mounted so they could track the sun.  They are on the ground to the north of a building.  In the summer they are pointed directly at the sun.  In the winter they are aimed such that they reflect the light they don't use at a trombe wall or some other thermal collector on the north side of the building.  That way the thermal collector would be shaded all summer.  But, it could capture part of the 80% of the energy the photovoltaics reject.  Such a system could also be designed to concentrate that reflected energy and get even more heat at the coldest time of year.
 
Posts: 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Pearl Sutton wrote:I have been thinking about how power generation is generally focused on the big things: solar panels, serious hydro, big wind turbines. I think there are a lot of ways to do things VERY low tech and small, and am hoping others do too. I'm thinking up things I have either heard of long ago and don't have sources for, or that are coming out of my own head. If anyone has done any of these, I'd love to know. If anyone has other ideas, I want to hear them too!

I think we all do a lot of things every day that could casually generate a bit of power, or move a bit of water, or do something that needs to be done. And lots of "problems" could be harnessed into solutions. Waste or excess heat is a big one, I think.

And I always like direct power rather than transforming it to electricity first. We have all heard of things like water wheels that grind grain, but what smaller applications that take less force are useful?


Things that when you step on them go down just a bit and move a bit of water up a tube that has one way valves, when the water tank at the top is full it could either be a water source, or pour out suddenly and run a small hydro. If we had these in the floors of hallways in schools, we could harness the energy of lots of kids!

Speaking of energy from kids, pedals under the desk at school that if you are bored, pedal!

Tubes that go across the road, the traffic could activate them to move water or air to do something. Like the old gas station bells.

Small wind turbines (Savonius rotors are always my visual) next to a busy highway where the traffic wind moves them. Under an underpass you'd get some serious movement. Wonder about tunnels? Could the subways make power that way?

Tubes under the road that run water through them so the solar heat on the road heats water for home use or radiant heating. Wonder if you could radiant heat the floors of a small neighborhood with it's road?

The sweep of opening doors, put something on a busy door and use it to make something happen. Even if it lifts a small weight and the drop does something.

Thinking about the little cars at the fair when I was a kid that had a pole or floor sweep that gave it power to move. I think it's possible to have it go the other way and  your car has a sweep that makes power as it goes over a certain surface. Might be how to recharge some of the power off an electric car, not all, but some. How many little sweeps could a car move and generate power on a surface? Hmm...

If the water in a town comes off a tower, use the force of it on the way out to do stuff Power from the Tap: Water Motors  Low Tech Magazine

Concentrating solar heat into an area probably has other applications than just hot water, what else could it do?

The solar chimney effect could be used to move air for turbine power.


I look forward to ideas! Share yours!



All of the options you are referring to are small scale. You cannot generate power for million people through these small sources. Even wind & solar sometimes struggle to fulfill the needs of people, which are growing at an exceptional rate. So until and unless there is no solid source of power hydro, solar & win energy will continue to grow and thrive.
 
Pearl Sutton
steward & bricolagier
Posts: 13936
Location: SW Missouri
9398
2
goat cat fungi books chicken earthworks food preservation cooking building homestead ungarbage
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Solar Sme wrote:

All of the options you are referring to are small scale. You cannot generate power for million people through these small sources. Even wind & solar sometimes struggle to fulfill the needs of people, which are growing at an exceptional rate. So until and unless there is no solid source of power hydro, solar & win energy will continue to grow and thrive.


Yup. That they are!  :D
I'm looking at a different question than you are, so I'm looking for different answers.
We all have different goals for different reasons. There are a LOT of solutions, large and small, and the large are easy to learn about, I'm looking for the small, which is harder to find, as fewer people are talking about it.
 
pioneer
Posts: 103
Location: 5b-6a borderlands
18
plumbing books wofati food preservation medical herbs building wood heat homestead
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Robert Murray-Smith is well worth investing your time in watching:
https://www.youtube.com/c/RobertMurraySmith/videos

You can go back quite a ways in his videos for many ideas that help clue you into solutions that can work from peddling, innovative water engines that humanity used just a couple hundred years ago with great success and we've forgotten about, wind and solar arrangements to even batteries that you can yourself maintain (such as bromine zinc). Wonderful info!

He has another channel too now that he's doing a little different stuff with but completely related:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1E8OmOG17VckoPviOPmkMw/videos
 
gardener
Posts: 5060
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
961
forest garden trees urban
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I want to design a pedal powered flywheel that can be built from any bicycle.
My goal would be to turn the kind of repetitive work that causes pain and injury into smooth even effort.
The first thing I would want to power with it would be a chaff cutter.
Reducing branches and such to small bits without gas or electric, and without opening and closing a pair secateurs a thousands times over could really help produce soil.
The second thing I would want is a flexible shaft drill.
Important to these designs is arranging the tool to be operable by the person providing the power, much like a potter on a kick wheel.

Pumps, jacks, and winches could be powered off a flexible shaft so the power could be moved from the bike to where its needed, within reason.



Back to tools used by the person providing the power, a treadle hammer with different head attachments is high on my wish list.
Splitting firewood is the obvious application, but powdering glass, punching holes and pulverizing food all seem useful.

Because earthmoving is so useful and yet backbreaking I find myself wanting a way to translate my body weight into an upward force.
Shovels do a good job of turning it into a downward cutting force and also an upward prying force, but at that point the clod you have dislodged and easily be two large to easily lift.
I can envision setting up a two man shovel with an over head pully, but making it a one man thing is hard to imagine.




 
Pearl Sutton
steward & bricolagier
Posts: 13936
Location: SW Missouri
9398
2
goat cat fungi books chicken earthworks food preservation cooking building homestead ungarbage
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

William Bronson wrote:
Because earthmoving is so useful and yet backbreaking I find myself wanting a way to translate my body weight into an upward force.
Shovels do a good job of turning it into a downward cutting force and also an upward prying force, but at that point the clod you have dislodged and easily be two large to easily lift.
I can envision setting up a two man shovel with an over head pulley, but making it a one man thing is hard to imagine.



Now you have me thinking... What about the overhead pulley (which I'd have on a wheeled frame) having a shovel that is angled to pick up and move only, the cut and pry force being a separate shovel that is not on the frame....

I'm big on making things do only what they do best, and have something else do the rest.
 
Jay Angler
master steward
Posts: 11387
Location: Pacific Wet Coast
6338
duck books chicken cooking food preservation ungarbage
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Pearl Sutton wrote:

William Bronson wrote:
Because earthmoving is so useful and yet backbreaking I find myself wanting a way to translate my body weight into an upward force.
Shovels do a good job of turning it into a downward cutting force and also an upward prying force, but at that point the clod you have dislodged and easily be two large to easily lift.
I can envision setting up a two man shovel with an over head pulley, but making it a one man thing is hard to imagine.



Now you have me thinking... What about the overhead pulley (which I'd have on a wheeled frame) having a shovel that is angled to pick up and move only, the cut and pry force being a separate shovel that is not on the frame....

I'm big on making things do only what they do best, and have something else do the rest.


OK, so maybe the "lift with pulley" equipment should be sort of an oversized version of the clam-shell post-hole "digger". The digger part is in quotes, because I find those things useless for digging on my land - they're only useful for grabbing the dirt and pulling it out of a deep hole.
 
William Bronson
gardener
Posts: 5060
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
961
forest garden trees urban
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This is rather silly, but you could dismantle solar powered led lamps and mount them on your ceiling fan blades for a swirling light show.

This illustrates a niche for suboptimal power collection.
One could engineer a way to deliver 120v power to the ends of  spinning fan blades, but getting the power there would take more trouble than it's worth.

When you can convert otherwise wasted energy into work in exactly the place you want it, you come out ahead.


If we build a horizontal axis wind turbine that floats on water as a low friction bearing,  and heats that water by moving magnets past coils, then we have a passively heated thermal mass that doesn't depend on solar.

That amount of heating is insignificant in most homes,  but it could be useful in any place that lacks infrastructure.
 
Posts: 55
Location: Vancouver Island
15
7
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

William Bronson wrote:Because earthmoving is so useful and yet backbreaking I find myself wanting a way to translate my body weight into an upward force.



It's already been done! Well, for digging your garden, that is -  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZiziSP23BY

I haven't seen one of those gadgets in years. An old friend of mine with a bad back had one and it worked just fine. Did a good job and was quick too.  According to the videos, you could still get them 10 years ago - in England, anyway. Did they ever make it across the Atlantic?
 
pollinator
Posts: 241
61
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I would build a machine that generates electricity and stores it in a battery when you drag it across the ground. Harness it to yourself just before walking out to your "project pile".

One HuP per X amount of distance = Y amount of power.

Might not be very efficient at this point, but, now we'll kick it up a few notches ... Once at the pile, you'll realize you forgot a tool, so you turn around and walk back to wherever, get the tool, and walk back to the pile. 2 more HuP's ...

Back at the pile, you've got the tool, but forgot the right screw or screw bit ... turn around, walk back, get the item, walk back to pile. Another 2 HuP's ...

One HuP per X amount of distance = Y amount of power, times Z "forgetfulness cycles". Still not enough power for you? But wait, there's more!

Everything's finally there, all ready to go, when your better half calls you back for something; somehow, she times it just right, as I'm about to swing the hammer for the first time ... back up to the house, back down to the pile.

One HuP per X amount of distance = Y amount of power, times Z forgetfulness cycles, + AA spousal interruptions + BBB whatevers, +, +, ...

See the efficiency getting higher? It's the ultimate "perpetual motion" machine!

If you are anything like me, there are a lot of wasted HuP's in a day of working at a project pile, and if I just strap on this thing, I'd get a lot of that energy back.
 
Jeremy VanGelder
gardener
Posts: 942
Location: Proebstel, Washington, USDA Zone 6B
505
2
wheelbarrows and trailers kids trees earthworks woodworking
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

William Bronson wrote:
Because earthmoving is so useful and yet backbreaking I find myself wanting a way to translate my body weight into an upward force.
Shovels do a good job of turning it into a downward cutting force and also an upward prying force, but at that point the clod you have dislodged and easily be two large to easily lift.
I can envision setting up a two man shovel with an over head pully, but making it a one man thing is hard to imagine.



I've been thinking about this idea. So I looked up the old steam shovels, which live on in the strip mining world as Power shovels. If you go to that Wikipedia page, you should find an animation of how a power shovel works. It turns out that a power shovel has four different actions. The platform on which everything is mounted rotates 360 degrees. The "Dipper", which is the arm that the shovel is connected to, can run in and out from the boom. The shovel is lifted by a cable that runs from the main winch, up the boom, and then down to the shovel. And then the clamshell of the shovel can open.
 
Jeremy VanGelder
gardener
Posts: 942
Location: Proebstel, Washington, USDA Zone 6B
505
2
wheelbarrows and trailers kids trees earthworks woodworking
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thinking further, if you had a shovel on an arm like the steam shovels, mounted on a pintle (or a swivel), you could have a useful tool for lifting dirt out of a trench. If the clamshell for the shovel was kept closed by a spring loaded pin or cam, you would be able to open the clamshell by pulling out the pin. You might be able to close the clamshell by knocking it against the ground. With the dipping stick mounted on a pintle you wouldn't have the in and out (crowding) action. But I think that would be okay if you aren't using the shovel to dig, just to lift dirt and dump it in a wheelbarrow. You could cut the face with a normal shovel, and put the dirt into the lifting shovel. Then, when the lifting shovel is full, you would walk around, grab the rope that is tied to the back end of the dipping stick, and heave to lift the shovel. Once the dipping stick is within arm's reach, you would grab it and pivot the shovel over your wheelbarrow. Pull on the clamshell release rope, and your dirt falls into the wheelbarrow. Pivot the arm back, lower it against the ground to close the clamshell, then lower it into the trench.
LiftingShovel.jpg
Lifting-Shovel
 
Jeremy VanGelder
gardener
Posts: 942
Location: Proebstel, Washington, USDA Zone 6B
505
2
wheelbarrows and trailers kids trees earthworks woodworking
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thinking about what I could do with materials I have on hand, I could build a shear leg with a pulley. Attach the rope to the bail of a five gallon bucket. park my wheelbarrow plumb under the pulley, right next to the A arm of the shear leg. The A arm keeps the wheelbarrow from tipping over. Anyways, once the bucket has been filled with dirt, heave on the rope to drag the bucket to the wheelbarrow. As the bucket approaches the wheelbarrow, it is lifted off the ground (we might have to lean some boards against the wheelbarrow). At the top, the bail allows the bucket to tip into the wheelbarrow and dump itself.

I like this idea because it is simpler and uses materials that I already have available. Moving the sheer legs would be a pain if it was guyed into the ground. But if it was built on some kind of trailer or truck it could work out. Whatever movable platform it was built on would need to be heavy enough to counterbalance the weight of the fully loaded bucket. But 5 gallons of wet clay only weighs 76 pounds. (19 liters and 35 kilograms) From past experience, a shovel-sized clump of dirt is a bit too wide to comfortably load in a five gallon bucket. This could be mitigated by using a square bucket or a larger one. Of course, the bucket has to fit in your trench in order to be useful.
SheerLegTipple.jpg
Sheer-Leg-Tipple
 
Jay Angler
master steward
Posts: 11387
Location: Pacific Wet Coast
6338
duck books chicken cooking food preservation ungarbage
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Jeremy VanGelder wrote:

Moving the sheer legs would be a pain if it was guyed into the ground. But if it was built on some kind of trailer or truck it could work out. Whatever movable platform it was built on would need to be heavy enough to counterbalance the weight of the fully loaded bucket.

If you put platforms on the base of the feet, you could put jugs of water on them to add a little mass that was easy to move every time you needed to shift the shovel. It would be quicker than messing with hammering in stakes for guy ropes (at least on my land where we have a plethora of rocks).
 
Posts: 86
Location: Blackhills SD. 4600' zone 4b/5a ?
36
4
forest garden gear trees earthworks wofati building seed solar rocket stoves homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Mark Brunnr wrote:.       this world-class olympic cyclist trying to toast a slice of bread in a 700 watt toaster, generating a total of 21 watts before his body starts to shut down:


     

This a very impressive video. However  I think they they did a very poor job of designing their equipment.  I also think the design is deliberately un-usable by a lesser athlete.  

They built their load at 700W this sprint level work load for a human.  750W is 1 horse power.  A 1000# horse can supply this steadily for hours.  This 5x what can by expected from a 200# human.  They cut away and never showed a clock but 21W/hours = 700W for 1.8 minutes (108seconds) pro bicyclists can supply 300+W during an hour, with short rests, they are not always pedling.  They deliberately set this overload up for drama.  

The bike is a racing frame style with a vertical leg position(safety bike).  This an inefficient design mandated by international bikeing rules.  But he is not in a bike race so those rules do not apply.  I think they probably used this to match his normal riding position.  If you want power from a stationary bike always use a recubant design with the legs Horizontal and a good back support to push against.  

If you are building a human power station look up stationary bike racing.  They have done the testing on what works.  Something to push against and a 50 rpm pace are the 2 things I remember.  Tom
 
Pearl Sutton
steward & bricolagier
Posts: 13936
Location: SW Missouri
9398
2
goat cat fungi books chicken earthworks food preservation cooking building homestead ungarbage
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I want to try working with a variant on a shaduf for moving things. I would find a pivoting sweep more useful than a straight lift, but I like the counterbalance part of it all.  

 
Pearl Sutton
steward & bricolagier
Posts: 13936
Location: SW Missouri
9398
2
goat cat fungi books chicken earthworks food preservation cooking building homestead ungarbage
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Thomas Michael wrote:However  I think they they did a very poor job of designing their equipment.  I also think the design is deliberately un-usable by a lesser athlete.  

 If you want power from a stationary bike always use a recumbent design with the legs Horizontal and a good back support to push against.  


I never bothered to watch that video because the concept of using a toaster as the thing to challenge with is just bad in my eyes. Toasters are one of the most inefficient machines out there. If I wanted bread browned, off lower tech power, I'd start by having the bread on a heating surface in contact with the heat source, not hanging in the air in front of the heat source .

And yes, recumbent pedaling is way more effective than vertical.

To me the whole thing smelled of using bad technique to do a task inefficiently.
But, as you say, drama!!  :P
 
Posts: 542
119
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Pearl Sutton wrote:

Thomas Michael wrote:However  I think they they did a very poor job of designing their equipment.  I also think the design is deliberately un-usable by a lesser athlete.  

 If you want power from a stationary bike always use a recumbent design with the legs Horizontal and a good back support to push against.  


I never bothered to watch that video because the concept of using a toaster as the thing to challenge with is just bad in my eyes. Toasters are one of the most inefficient machines out there. If I wanted bread browned, off lower tech power, I'd start by having the bread on a heating surface in contact with the heat source, not hanging in the air in front of the heat source .

And yes, recumbent pedaling is way more effective than vertical.

To me the whole thing smelled of using bad technique to do a task inefficiently.
But, as you say, drama!!  :P



Not necessarily.

Electric heat is not a bad thing. On a comparison basis, it is actually really good. By that I mean it is almost a one for one deal. It is 100% efficient. You don't get that with most things, like burning propane, is 95% efficient, and burning oil is 85% efficient.

Myself, I prefer toasted bread, but to do so on a woodstove would be really inefficient since it is only 50% efficient... 50% of the heat goes up the chimney. So to fire up a toaster makes sense from an efficiency point of view. I pull 1500 watts from the wall outlet, and I get 1500 watts of heat energy. It really is a sweet deal, it's just... well.. electricity is expensive. That is why it is considered "bad".

But it may not be "bad".

I work at a hydro dam and we use a ton of electric heaters. We produce 15 megawatts so we have plenty of power. It reduces our output for the grid granted, but without heat we could not operate at all. In this case we are using zero emission electrify to produce zero emission heat. That is a good thing for everyone. And that is the case with the human powering the toaster. It's just a conversion of energy (calories) to another form of energy (electricity), but it's not bad.

The same could be said for a homestead next to a sizeable stream. If they scale up their microhydro plant, they would be amazingly efficient at providing electric heat for their home all winter, or cooking, or domestic hot water, etc. To put in a rocket mass heater would be quite inefficient since they would have to collect wood, take out space from their home, etc.

As for my analogy of toasting bread on a woodstove, that still works. It would be really silly for me to fire up a woodstove to just toast my bread, but if my woodstove was running already to heat my house, then putting bread on it to toast it would make sense. It would be super efficient too because it's doing double-duty. That is just stacking function at work.
 
Pearl Sutton
steward & bricolagier
Posts: 13936
Location: SW Missouri
9398
2
goat cat fungi books chicken earthworks food preservation cooking building homestead ungarbage
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Pearl Sutton wrote:I have been thinking about how power generation is generally focused on the big things: solar panels, serious hydro, big wind turbines. I think there are a lot of ways to do things VERY low tech and small, and am hoping others do too. I'm thinking up things I have either heard of long ago and don't have sources for, or that are coming out of my own head. If anyone has done any of these, I'd love to know. If anyone has other ideas, I want to hear them too!

I think we all do a lot of things every day that could casually generate a bit of power, or move a bit of water, or do something that needs to be done. And lots of "problems" could be harnessed into solutions. Waste or excess heat is a big one, I think.

And I always like direct power rather than transforming it to electricity first. We have all heard of things like water wheels that grind grain, but what smaller applications that take less force are useful?


Things that when you step on them go down just a bit and move a bit of water up a tube that has one way valves, when the water tank at the top is full it could either be a water source, or pour out suddenly and run a small hydro. If we had these in the floors of hallways in schools, we could harness the energy of lots of kids!

Speaking of energy from kids, pedals under desk at school that if you are bored, pedal!

Tubes that go across the road, the traffic could activate them to move water or air to do something. Like the old gas station bells.

Small wind turbines (Savonius rotors are always my visual) next to a busy highway where the traffic wind moves them. Under an underpass you'd get some serious movement. Wonder about tunnels? Could the subways make power that way?

Tubes under the road that run water through them so the solar heat on the road heats water for home use or radiant heating. Wonder if you could radiant heat the floors of a small neighborhood with it's road?

The sweep of opening doors, put something on a busy door and use it to make something happen. Even if it lifts a small weight and the drop does something.

Thinking about the little cars at the fair when I was a kid that had a pole or floor sweep that gave it power to move. I think it's possible to have it go the other way and  your car has a sweep that makes power as it goes over a certain surface. Might be how to recharge some of the power off an electric car, not all, but some. How many little sweeps could a car move and generate power on a surface? Hmm...

If the water in a town comes off a tower, use the force of it on the way out to do stuff Power from the Tap: Water Motors  Low Tech Magazine

Concentrating solar heat into an area probably has other applications than just hot water, what else could it do?

The solar chimney effect could be used to move air for turbine power.




I haven't been thinking about this for a while, but Jay Angler just shared a video with me and he's talking about the same things I was throwing out, I didn't know there ARE footstep generators in use, I'm enchanted by the backpack generators, and the thing he's playing with in this video totally entrances me. Thank you Jay! I am not a fan of video, but this one was cool, and has made my head start thinking about this stuff again!



 
Jay Angler
master steward
Posts: 11387
Location: Pacific Wet Coast
6338
duck books chicken cooking food preservation ungarbage
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think what's *really* interesting about the Seiko gizmo is that it was invented in 1956! I'm pretty sure my dad had one at one point although he may have been given it to "fix it if you can". So why isn't it still in use today? When I wrote to Pearl about it, I mentioned that if a version of it could be installed on a door hinge, it could generate a bit of power every time the door was opened or closed. If it was on each hinge, there would be 2 or 3 bits of power.

What other bits of lost tech are out there that use less embodied energy, or simply last far longer, than those *^(*&% button batteries that have to be exactly the right "version" to replace the dead one in whatever I was powering. (I try to avoid things that use them, but it's difficult... I try to get things that can use rechargeable double or triple A's, but it's not always possible.)

The video fellow, Mr. Murray-Smith, mentioned that if someone could create a system that took some power from every step he takes every day, it would power his smart phone. Considering I walk to my back field 3 times a day in the summer with rare exception, I could power a lot more than just my smart phone!

The examples used in Science Centers showing how hard you had to cycle to light a TV, always bugged me. Good cycling is based on doing *lots* of revolutions using only light force, so your muscles don't fatigue. The Science Center ones were set so I could barely get them going with my light mass and atypical body dimensions, not to mention, they used upright stationary bikes, and I've since read that recumbent style bikes are far better if you're trying to generate power. It seemed like they were trying to convince people it wasn't worth doing???

Humans used to use dogs running on conveyor belts or animals harnessed to mills to do mechanical tasks. We also used humans on "hamster wheels" to raise loads like a crane does today. These had to be set up for success, not for exhaustion!
 
Jay Angler
master steward
Posts: 11387
Location: Pacific Wet Coast
6338
duck books chicken cooking food preservation ungarbage
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm not sure this foot-fall harvester would qualify as "low tech", but certainly it fits with into the "look for small bits of energy that can be collected easily" idea at least.


You can get the plans free from Thingiverse and I think it would be really interesting what some of our permies might come up with.

Now if there was an easy way to attach it our chicken perches...

Incorporating it into the stairs of our house might be easier - I seem to go up and down them plenty of times a day!
 
Are you okay? You look a little big. Maybe this tiny ad will help:
Learn Permaculture through a little hard work
https://wheaton-labs.com/bootcamp
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic