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Local Steam Energy

Shar Tillet


Joined: Jan 19, 2012
Posts: 8
Hi,
Is anyone doing any tinkering with steam engines. Had a thought that a wood pellet burning steam engine would be a great way to utilize some of the bug damaged wood around here.
I think it would be fun to have a little two person cart powered by steam. Doesn't seem like it should be that difficult if you have the tools but I'm just guessing.
Thanks
Tahj Kjelland


Joined: Jan 07, 2012
Posts: 30
I have looked into steam a bit but have been apprehensive about working with pressurized water systems, I like it though.
Tahjbo
victoria hitchcock


Joined: Apr 02, 2012
Posts: 1
i was just reading last night about nikola teslas amazing steam engines, i would love to try to build one and partner with whoever else would be interested, these motors should've been allowed to transform our whole world, why they weren't i don't understand, but the technology is available now, i have several of his books, but i'm not a mechanic or anything, but i think with enough common sense we could figure it out. they were amazingly simple and inexpensive and efficient, which was always his priority in his thinking and they were very safe and user friendly, if you could get the books we could just both work on our own projects comparing notes with each other as we go or i could send you photo copies, oh but then i might get into copyright trouble, i'll see what i can find out about that, I have alot of informational resources like that but I'm not sure if we are allowed to freely share them. otherwise we could just get together
Mat Baker


Joined: Feb 12, 2012
Posts: 5
You should look at the old Stanley Steamer cars. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Motor_Carriage_Company

I don't have any hand's on experience with steam engines or turbines, but I passionately love steam. Growing up in Southern Colorado the family business was beekeeping, and we used steam for everything. Heating, cleaning equipment, warming granulated honey, rendering old combs for bee's wax, etc. All with a wood fired boiler. Like a lot of the old ways it requires a lot of work and attention, but it is worth it. Keeping it fed with wood, keeping pressure up, keeping it full of water, and all of this is a side operation to whatever you are using the steam for. I can understand why people fall in love with old locomotives, a boiler is like a living organism, it eats & breathes, creaks and groans, and you can tell a lot about what is going on just by listening.
Kurt Lance


Joined: Nov 13, 2012
Posts: 2
i've been kicking around the idea for a steam cart, 4wheel bycycle type, with a little trailer behind it.
although i dont have the tools at the moment to even think of starting to build one.

Also though about using steam as a energy source, found some great alternators
at a decent price that have decent output..
http://www.windbluepower.com/Permanent_Magnet_Alternator_Wind_Blue_Low_Wind_p/dc-540.htm

hook a Small steam engine up to them and gear it right, you could get it up to 3200 rpm and get a decent
charge out of it for a battery bank. Combine that with some solar and wind generators and if you had
a cabin in the woods you could have all the comforts you needed.

Abe Coley


Joined: Nov 13, 2010
Posts: 76
Location: Missoula, MT
    
    1
Old water heaters can be had for cheap, the internal tanks from which are quite useful. Gas water heaters usually have a 3" or 4" tube running through the middle, which, if you build a fire beneath it, becomes a chimney insulated by water. With a barrel placed over the top similar to an RMH design, you could probably boil a good bit of water pretty darn quick.

Be sure to use your pop-off valves!


My gig: http://www.homeresource.org
Me: http://www.abecoley.com
James Givens


Joined: May 18, 2013
Posts: 2
I have a 8hp steam turbine if someone would like to have a go at steam power.
Marcos Buenijo
pollinator

Joined: Dec 18, 2011
Posts: 583
Location: Southwest U.S.
    
  12
James, I'm curious to see what you have. Let us know.
James Givens


Joined: May 18, 2013
Posts: 2
It is a Coppus Turbine TF-16
1340 RPM 100 p.s.i steam 338 degree steam

It is 8.5 hp and has 6 nozzles 3 of them are controlled with valves and 3 are always on.
I have some old pictures of it that I will attach I can take some new ones with a better camera it someone wants a better look.


[Thumbnail for IMG_0195.JPG]

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Bill Bianchi


Joined: Mar 03, 2013
Posts: 226
    
    1
I came across DIY instructions to convert small gas engines to run on steam. Things like old lawn mower & weedwhacker engines.
Follow up instructables show how to hook these engines to a small generator for battery bank charging.

Since there aren't many purpose built steam engines out there sized for home power production and the few I found are either thousands of dollars or have to be built from scratch, I was wondering if converting small gas engines over to steam is a viable way to accomplish a steam powered backup energy system.

There has to be downsides to this, otherwise everyone would be grabbing small used engines and converting them. I'm assuming they're not as efficient or they wouldn't last as long or they don't output enough power or they're too loud, or something.

Thoughts from those who know more about steam power? Is there a good way to convert a gas motor to steam and reduce the downsides somehow?

When considering efficiency, remember that some stoves can burn materials other than wood, so we don't have to chop all the trees down for power. Also, there is such thing as cost efficiency. If gas motors can be converted much cheaper, then it may be worth doing as opposed to paying $6K for a Mike Brown steam engine. Could build a lot of lawn mower steam conversions for that price.
Marcos Buenijo
pollinator

Joined: Dec 18, 2011
Posts: 583
Location: Southwest U.S.
    
  12
Bill Bianchi wrote:I came across DIY instructions to convert small gas engines to run on steam. Things like old lawn mower & weedwhacker engines.
Follow up instructables show how to hook these engines to a small generator for battery bank charging.

Since there aren't many purpose built steam engines out there sized for home power production and the few I found are either thousands of dollars or have to be built from scratch, I was wondering if converting small gas engines over to steam is a viable way to accomplish a steam powered backup energy system.

There has to be downsides to this, otherwise everyone would be grabbing small used engines and converting them. I'm assuming they're not as efficient or they wouldn't last as long or they don't output enough power or they're too loud, or something.

Thoughts from those who know more about steam power? Is there a good way to convert a gas motor to steam and reduce the downsides somehow?

When considering efficiency, remember that some stoves can burn materials other than wood, so we don't have to chop all the trees down for power. Also, there is such thing as cost efficiency. If gas motors can be converted much cheaper, then it may be worth doing as opposed to paying $6K for a Mike Brown steam engine. Could build a lot of lawn mower steam conversions for that price.


In general, the answer is no. Converting an internal combustion engine to a steam engine is unlikely to result in an efficient system. However, I am aware of two exceptions. A three cylinder two stroke Lister Diesel engine was converted to steam engine with good efficiency. If you google "White Cliffs solar steam engine", then you can find a description. Also, Karl Peterson converted an automobile to steam by doing a conversion similar to the White Cliffs engine.... in fact, he did that back in the early 70's and the engineers on the White Cliffs project got the idea from Mr. Peterson.

The main problem in converting a gas engine to a steam engine is that gas engines are designed to lose heat where steam engines are designed to prevent this loss of heat. There are many other problems, and again the main difficulty is in the steam generating (and engine lubrication). I say the most important design criteria that one should adopt if considering a steam engine project is to design the system for a low and continuous output. You mentioned the Mike Brown engine at $6000. That would be his 20 hp engine. That is far to large for residential scale power generation. His 1 hp engine is enough provided electricity is supplemented with other sources like solar and wind (and assuming a modest off grid home). The main problem with the Mike Brown engines is their very low efficiency. However, they are good engines.

Some figures for you to consider: A Mike Brown engine will see a net thermal efficiency of about 4%. That is, only about 4% of the energy released in fuel combustion will be converted to mechanical energy at the engine shaft. By contrast, a good wood gas engine system running at optimal output will see 15%, and 20% is possible.
Also, a wood gasifier can be supplemented with other forms of biomass, and it's possible to design a gasifier for non-wood biomass fuels. One example is an engine system designed to use exclusively pine needles. If shaft power is desired and biomass is the fuel, then go with gasification.

NOTE: I do believe that a small piston steam engine system fueled by biomass can be very useful in many off grid settings, but only under certain conditions. In particular, the heat from the system must be put to full use. Making such a system proper is beyond the ability of most. It would be a very difficult undertaking.



Marcos Buenijo
pollinator

Joined: Dec 18, 2011
Posts: 583
Location: Southwest U.S.
    
  12
Shar Tillet wrote:Hi,
Is anyone doing any tinkering with steam engines. Had a thought that a wood pellet burning steam engine would be a great way to utilize some of the bug damaged wood around here.
I think it would be fun to have a little two person cart powered by steam. Doesn't seem like it should be that difficult if you have the tools but I'm just guessing.
Thanks


It would be difficult and expensive to do this assuming you wished to have a decent system that is reliable without requiring constant maintenance, and if you desired good efficiency.

You mentioned wanting to use wood. Well, in that case you could char the wood for use in powering a small charcoal gas engine system. This would probably the least expensive option that would see good results. Find the thread "charcoal gasification" and see some of the videos of Gary Gilmore's very simple charcoal gasifiers. Very small engines can be powered directly by these simple gasifiers (even fractional hp engines).

This seems more of a hobby project, but the most practical way to devise a two person cart would be to use an electric motor and battery system. It would be quiet, efficient, and have a near ideal torque profile for this application. While I believe there is a lot of potential in small scale steam power, without access to a modern engineered steam engine system the only practical alternatives are internal combustion and electric motors for such applications.
r john


Joined: Dec 21, 2012
Posts: 108
Shar Tillet wrote:Hi,
Is anyone doing any tinkering with steam engines. Had a thought that a wood pellet burning steam engine would be a great way to utilize some of the bug damaged wood around here.
I think it would be fun to have a little two person cart powered by steam. Doesn't seem like it should be that difficult if you have the tools but I'm just guessing.
Thanks


I tinker with a pair of Bellis & Morcom steam engines each generating 250kw from timber processing. My main concern with this thread is another word for steam is bomb hence my reluctance to encourage people to experiment with steam. Off the shelf steam solutions are out there at a price but you do pay for the inbuilt safety features and blow off valves. My suggestion would be to join your local steam society who will be able to point you in the right direction.
r john


Joined: Dec 21, 2012
Posts: 108
If you want a two person cart how about making one of these

http://www.steamtractionworld.com/lykamobile.htm
Len Ovens


Joined: Aug 26, 2010
Posts: 1279
Location: Vancouver Island
    
  15
r john wrote:
I tinker with a pair of Bellis & Morcom steam engines each generating 250kw from timber processing. My main concern with this thread is another word for steam is bomb hence my reluctance to encourage people to experiment with steam. Off the shelf steam solutions are out there at a price but you do pay for the inbuilt safety features and blow off valves. My suggestion would be to join your local steam society who will be able to point you in the right direction.


There is no doubt that boilers are a bomb waiting to happen without the right care, attention and knowledge. I expect large units like you are working with would use a boiler and come with an engineer. I have seen video of a boiler (or at least an over heated tank of water) blow, very impressive, at least in this case it was a demonstration and all people were kept clear. However, I have also seen video footage of a tube type steam generator blow and it was pretty much a non-event. Most of us have also seen IC engines blow up on dragsters and monster trucks which is not exactly harmless. I have seen a propane bottle blow (the house down) and high pressure gas tanks become torpedoes when the valve is knocked off. There are many things that the people who read here have sitting in their garage right now that are just as dangerous as an over charged boiler. Any kind of steam generator requires care in it's use, but there is a very big difference between a boiler as a steam generator and a tube steam generator so far as the danger side goes.

Having said that, the point about learning from those who have lots of experience is excellent. There is also a very good site on steam that details all the failures the author could find (I am sure he has not found all of them) so that people could learn from them. Kimmel Steam Power deals mostly with cars and higher power than needed for homestead power generation, but has lots of things to learn from anyway. I would say start small (sub HP).
r john


Joined: Dec 21, 2012
Posts: 108
Len

We dont have the problem with boilers as we use a thermal oil steam evaporator to raise steam which is a very safe process as the thermal oil is not under pressure.
 
 
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