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"Victorian" Electricity

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Hello everyone!

The title of the thread might seem a bit strange so let me explain what I mean. I've seen a few videos and read about some of the earlier engines such as the Stirling engine, and seen modern recreations or home-made versions of these types of engines and how some people have set them up with small generators to power a radio or a small light bulb. I've also seen examples of early batteries, such as a Voltaic pile. My question is, is it possible to create some sort of "grid" or electric power set up using a combination of some kind of engine and a simple battery? Something that has a sort of antique or even "steam-punk" aesthetic to it, but still functional? I've always appreciated how older machines and automobiles were built to be functional but with an obvious decorative touch to them. I would be needing it to power lighting, and charge laptops and mobile phones. Something that can be made with just wood, metal, glass, cloth, rubber etc. Preferably without any plastic parts unless necessary?

Thanks a lot!
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What type of fuel?

Obviously gasoline / diesel generators are commonly available items, a stirling engine could be practicallly powered by anything that creates heat.

A "steam punk" generator setup might be asthetically attractive, but it might not necessarily be as effective or create as much power as a modern generator.

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Bahgat Rushdi : Welcome to Permies.com and our sister site Richsoil.com. We often speak about our World-wide Membership and the benefit of

being able to Reach out 24 / 7 / 365 days and talk to someone who wants to talk about what you want to talk about !

Part of the problem here is the good old days were not really the good old days, While there are several 10s of thousands of craftsmen dedicated

to keeping older machines running, these machines were replaced with new ones because the newer ones were better, this usually means more

efficient and less maintenance

The original '' Ford Model T '' got good gas milage compared to some of todays cars but weighed only 1200 lbs / 560 Kilos, almost all cars made

today have many more items of personal comfort, and weigh 2 Xs or more ! So the Model T was not more efficient, and needed more hours for

routine maintenance !

We also have the economy of scale issues, if it takes a million dollars to bring a prototype to production then you will make a profit sooner selling

2 million units than 20,000 units and the larger number of units means that the price being low will attract MORE buyers.

The Economy of scale means that while you and I want to' live off of the Grid' the cost of putting the individual components together prices most

people like you and me out of the Market !

While this fact seems bad we can turn it around and say that todays costs to go '' Off Grid '' are actually much less in equivalent Dollars than the

cost of doing so at anytime in our past !

There is also a lot of hope in the future, this is where someone re-purposes an '' off the shelf / already made component '' to do one of multiple

personal power supply jobs and does it cheaper, this new use will take advantage of already paid Development and Economy of scale costs !

I am not trying to preach " Pie in the Sky, by and by ", just that events are moving us in the right direction if we have the time !!!

What I can only suggest- is find out exactly what your personal power needs are and count everything ! Keep a daily / hourly log !

Years ago there was a cartoon of a Fat American looking at himself in the mirror and announcing " If these fools don't stop wasting

Electricity," "We are going to have to brush our teeth by hand !!! " Everything counts !

I hope this was timely and helpful, for the Good of the Future ! Big AL
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I am not sure about steam punk but I do like older engines and not all older ones are finicky. For a small power output with small fuel usage I would set up an old appliance gasoline motor and belt drive a modern car alternator. As for fuel it would be easiest to stay with gasoline but if you really want the steam punk apocalyptic look and feel you could power it with charcoal. Very simple to do, relatively, and the byproducts of your fuel production are heat, cooking charcoal, forging charcoal and biochar. Try watching all the videos by " Gary Gilmore, Charcoal, Simple Fire and charcoal production".
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What an exciting project. I love the steampunk philosophy which combines older technologies with modern knowledge to create something new and useful.

When it comes to electrical and mechanical systems, it is easy to fall into the efficiency trap. Yes, there are some methods that are more efficient than others if we measure simply input/output numbers. But if we were only to live by these standards, no one here would get out of bed in the morning because our digestive system isn't efficient enough systems by this kind of Math.

Of our awareness of the world increases, and we move away from the values our society adapted during the Industrial revolution, I feel that people are starting to look at efficiency differently (again). Is it efficient in that it uses materials to hand? Is it efficient as in it does minimum environmental damage? Is it efficient in that it requires minimal upkeep - or that the upkeep needed can be done by the user instead of a specialist? Can it be created by any enthusiastic person with a basement, or does it need a fancy lab with many hours of university education fueling it?

If efficiency was the only measure in our life, then who amongst us would have our own vegetable garden? That's what I love about this group. The people here seem willing to go against all the modern ideas of how things should be or must be - and create things awesome despite the objections.

Bahgat Rushdi, I think your idea is brilliant and well worth experimenting with. Now we know some of the potential issues that may come up, I bet the other people here can help brainstorm some useful solutions. Besides, with this sort of project, I find that the theoretical objections usually aren't the things that cause the most trouble when one actually gets started.

Because you are creating this system for your own use, you don't have to be hampered by the modern worries of 'how much profit can I make', is it as efficient as xyz fancy expensive system, and so on. This gives you a tremendous amount of freedom with how you approach your system. It also means, there may be more trial and error, but take heart. Almost all our modern technology began with someone tinkering in a basement, or barn, or...

A Stirling engine
requires so little maintenance when it's set up properly, and so little energy to run, that I can see why you would start there. My understanding is that it works on temperature difference. So, my unheated glass greenhouse might be the most awesome fuel source for a stirling engine - as an example. During the summer the air temp inside and outside can vary over 60 degrees C, during the day and about 25 degrees C at night. In the winter the temp diff is usually about 10 to 40 degrees between inside and outside - that's enough to run a stirling engine at least part of the time - more so if I had a heat sink in the greenhouse. No daily energy input from my part, relatively easy to create engine, easy to maintain... Not a bad starting point and something I would dearly love to play with.

I'll be watching this thread with eager anticipation to see what solutions the amazing users of this forum can come up with.

The Greenhouse of the Future ebook by Francis Gendron
will be released to subscribers in: soon!
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