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Author Topic: A Steam-Powered House  (Read 11852 times)
Prof. Douglas Von Dragoon
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« on: February 10, 2009, 01:15:43 am »

Seeing as I know absolutely nothing of steam engineering, I simply wanted to ask this question: Is this feasible? Would it be possible to have a constantly-running steam engine with minimal maintenance to power enough major appliances for a house?
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« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2009, 01:21:03 am »

As far as I know it would be quite dangerous unless you live Arcadian Snips' world, and even then things have a habit of going BOOM!
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« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2009, 01:32:56 am »

Ok first of all i want to say I know absolutely nothing about this.

But the nothin I do know is that steam engines require steam to be under alot of pressure to be able to do the work they do.  This is a potential bang situation.  Every thing I've read seems to say usefull steam = high temperature = high pressure = Potential major problems


It may be possible to use steam at a lower pressure to operate a heat engine (e.g Stirling) but AFAIK these aren't really available to the general public at decent enough power levels and costs (i.e nuclear submarine sort of costs).

If you have the water source to run a full time steam plant, would it not be easier to look at a simple hydro-electric (e.g water wheel and dynamo) to generate part of your electricity needs?

<edit>  However there is a thing called Whispergen that uses a domestic gas supply to generate cenral heating and power using a stirling engine
« Last Edit: February 10, 2009, 01:36:12 am by misterwobbley » Logged
Zorch
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« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2009, 01:41:18 am »

I would imagine it would cost more (both in time and money) to heat a boiler and keep it running at all times than to just live "on the grid".  Unless you are near a geothermal hotspot - then the sky is the limit!  There is a resturant in Iceland that is 100% steam based and they use it to boil water in less than ten seconds
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Prof. Douglas Von Dragoon
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« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2009, 01:45:10 am »

Hmm... I think I'll stick with plans for very, very small steam-based appliances.
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Mr. Boltneck
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« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2009, 02:28:44 am »

I have seen some (mostly homebrew) installations of Sterling-engine-driven generator systems out on the web. Mostly people who went off-grid either full-time or at a vacation cabin, someplace with lots of huge trees, but not a lot of sun or ground-level wind, thanks to those same trees. These are not, of course, little kit-built Ringbohm engines but larger units running either pressurized air or similar as a working medium. No high-pressure steam, good efficiency, and just a decent firebox system for the hot side.
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« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2009, 02:35:39 am »

I have seen some (mostly homebrew) installations of Sterling-engine-driven generator systems out on the web. Mostly people who went off-grid either full-time or at a vacation cabin, someplace with lots of huge trees, but not a lot of sun or ground-level wind, thanks to those same trees. These are not, of course, little kit-built Ringbohm engines but larger units running either pressurized air or similar as a working medium. No high-pressure steam, good efficiency, and just a decent firebox system for the hot side.

I'd love to see the designs/links to these engines
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HAC
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« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2009, 02:39:53 am »

Hmm... I think I'll stick with plans for very, very small steam-based appliances.
Steam and low maintenance is an oxymoron. There's a very good reason that even small steam plants have folks in attendance 24 hours.
   But, lets look at it this way. The average home consumes about 30 kilowatt hours of electricty per day, which is equivalent to roughly a 40HP steam engine.
That engine would need roughly 600 pounds of steam per hour at somewhere around 200 PSI. A pound of steam requires roughly 1400 BTU. Heat input requrement
for your 40HP system is then 840,000 BTU.
  That means that for your boiler (and steam engine HP ratings are based on the boiler, not the engine) you would need about 85 pounds of coal per hour, or just under one MCF (thousand cubic feet) of natural gas per hour. Water consumption would be about 75 gallons per hour. This equals about a ton of coal , or 24MCF of natural gas, and 1800 gallons of water per day. (and I've not taken into account here, the various efficiency losses inherent in a steam system)
  That's going to take a fair bit of attention, montoring boiler pressure, water levels, etc. (and any boiler generally is dangerous, as is steam. True steam is a heck of a lot hotter than the stuff you think is steam that you see coming out of your kettle.). Any malfunction generally equals an explosion.
  It could be done, but it would be maintenace intensive,and not cheap or easy.
Hope that helps give an idea of the scale of things..

Cheers
Harold
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« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2009, 03:30:09 am »

You've raised his hopes and dashed them quite expertly, sir! [/Futurama reference]

Sorry, I've just never really had an excuse to use that line.

I'll see to myself to the door.
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HAC
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« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2009, 03:40:32 am »

You've raised his hopes and dashed them quite expertly, sir! [/Futurama reference]

Sorry, I've just never really had an excuse to use that line.

I'll see to myself to the door.

Well put!   
I hate to really dash anyone on steam power, but it really does have limitations at times. In Victorian times, steam was do-able because labour costs were not a big factor. Coal was plentiful, and cheap. Steam became the way to increase productivity and profit.
  Oddly enough, nowadays, really LARGE steam plants are actually pretty good, cost wise.
Cheers
Harold
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« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2009, 03:56:53 am »

You've raised his hopes and dashed them quite expertly, sir! [/Futurama reference]

Sorry, I've just never really had an excuse to use that line.

I'll see to myself to the door.

Well put!   
I hate to really dash anyone on steam power, but it really does have limitations at times. In Victorian times, steam was do-able because labour costs were not a big factor. Coal was plentiful, and cheap. Steam became the way to increase productivity and profit.
  Oddly enough, nowadays, really LARGE steam plants are actually pretty good, cost wise.
Cheers
Harold

I do believe I've brought this up before but what about Fresnel based steam generation?  A linear Fresnel lense focused on a copper pipe filled with perhaps water or perhaps some liquid with a lower boiling point.  All that hooked to a steam turbine/generator and a condenser on the output to recycle the water.

I can't recall if we determined it was able to produce useful work without being a health hazard.
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« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2009, 05:02:49 am »

It's not impossible, but it would be a huge job.

First, you need a http://www.pioneer.net/~carlich/RSE/RSEhome.html reliable steam engine. Steam engines for marine use are still available, and in reasonable sizes, like 5 to 1000 HP.

Then you need a boiler. There are packaged steam boilers, and you can get ones rated for 500PSIg, suitable for the marine engines.  They require electrical power for the controls, but you could easily generate enough power from the engine to power the thing through a UPS.

What do you do with the power?  Probably run an air compressor, so you can distribute the power to air-powered appliances.  Overhead pulleys and belts are just too much for home use.

Converting a washing machine to run off compressed air is possible, but doing the control system would be a neat trick. Fluidic logic, maybe?

The overall efficiency would probably be terrible.

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HAC
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« Reply #12 on: February 10, 2009, 05:32:31 am »

It's not impossible, but it would be a huge job.

First, you need a http://www.pioneer.net/~carlich/RSE/RSEhome.html reliable steam engine. Steam engines for marine use are still available, and in reasonable sizes, like 5 to 1000 HP.

Then you need a boiler. There are packaged steam boilers, and you can get ones rated for 500PSIg, suitable for the marine engines.  They require electrical power for the controls, but you could easily generate enough power from the engine to power the thing through a UPS.

What do you do with the power?  Probably run an air compressor, so you can distribute the power to air-powered appliances.  Overhead pulleys and belts are just too much for home use.

Converting a washing machine to run off compressed air is possible, but doing the control system would be a neat trick. Fluidic logic, maybe?

The overall efficiency would probably be terrible.




Well, its a bit more complex than that. Reliable really sells plans, and castings for their engines, and for that you;d need a bit of machining experience as well as a shop. Similiarly for their boilers, only the smaller ones are available built.  As far as boiler controls. the best boiler management system is a fireman who knows what he's doing  Grin  . In large plants, there are electronic boiler management system, but even they are monitored closely. As far as compressed air, wouldn;t it be simpler to drive a generator?  Compressed air, like hydraulic systems, has its own share of issues..
 Not to mention the whole problem of boiler water treament and such, you don;t want foaming and you really ened to combat scaling.  and 500PSI steam is really a dangerous beast

Cheers
Harold
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Prof. Douglas Von Dragoon
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If gods were realists, this world would be boring.


« Reply #13 on: February 10, 2009, 06:46:53 am »

By Jove, this has indeed escalated, and I am pleasantly surprised. Please continue, I am learning much.
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Khem Caigan
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« Reply #14 on: February 10, 2009, 12:38:02 pm »

Seeing as I know absolutely nothing of steam engineering, I simply wanted to ask this question:
Is this feasible? Would it be possible to have a constantly-running steam engine with minimal
maintenance to power enough major appliances for a house?


For some values of "minimal", yes Wink

Here is a link to a site offering steam engines
that operate with pressures as low as 20 psi :

Quasiturbine Steam Engines
http://tinyurl.com/bpkfhs

Less likely to go boom, although working with
steam still demands a healthy and unwavering
respect.

I used to fire up the enormous boiler in a paint
factory first thing every morning, and then use
the steam to boil large vats of linoleic acid, all
with a hose and an attached nozzle made from
a length of pipe.

The factory was very 'steamy' - it started out
as an explosives factory with concrete walls
several feet thick, then became a pheasant farm
with lots of steam pipes snaking across the already
low ceilings of the hallways and rooms, and then
vats and settling troughs were installed when it
was 'upgraded' for paint manufacture.
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Khem Caigan
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« Reply #15 on: February 10, 2009, 01:33:50 pm »

And here is another sort of steam-powered
generator that might be worth a peek :

Lloyd Tanner's Friction Steam Boiler
http://tinyurl.com/dlsrn4

And on YouTube
http://tinyurl.com/dhz3mb
« Last Edit: February 10, 2009, 05:24:44 pm by Khem Caigan » Logged
HAC
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« Reply #16 on: February 10, 2009, 05:09:50 pm »

And here is another sort of steam-powered
generator that might be worth a peek :

Lloyd Tanner's Friction Steam Boiler
http://tinyurl.com/dlsrn4


Rube Goldberg, move over... so many of these "weird steam" devices turning up now, all looking for venture capital.. the old snake oil medicine men are still with us.. Cynical,moi? Yep..
Most of these have prior art, along with reasons why they didn;t work.. The best way to use steam to generate ellectrical power is with an turbine. The axial turbines which operate today in steam plants  have efficiencies as high as 50% (per stage).
Cheers
Harold
« Last Edit: February 10, 2009, 05:21:38 pm by HAC » Logged
Khem Caigan
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« Reply #17 on: February 10, 2009, 05:34:25 pm »

And 500PSI steam is really a dangerous beast


Hi, Harold ~

I was wondering if you had a chance to look
through the Quasiturbine site ~

Quasiturbine Steam Engines
http://tinyurl.com/bpkfhs

~ which offers turbines that run on a much
smaller head of steam - tens of PSI, instead
of hundreds(?)

Best,

~ Khem
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akumabito
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« Reply #18 on: February 10, 2009, 06:29:53 pm »

The question that immediately popped in my mind was "why?"

Why on earth would you want a steam power generator to run your house? If it's about self-reliance, there are myriad other ways to achieve energy self sufficiency for a much, MUCH smaller cost (both initial setup costs as well as long term running and maintenance). Systems that are much easier to operate - hell, a decent diesel genset could literally run for weeks uninterrupted and unchecked if it had good cooling and a sufficient fuel supply!

So if it's not for the practicality of it, then what's left? The look/sound/smell of steam power? I got to agree steam engines can be fantastic pieces of machinery from a design point of view - but let's face it - most steam engines in the 40Hp+ range are relatively modern, industrial looking jobbies. Not the prettiest things in the world. So unless you find a very old steam engine (which, almost by definition will also be HUGE and incredibly expensive), even this criterium would not be met.. 

With those factors tossed out the window, I am genuinely at a loss why anyone would even begin to consider steam power..
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Khem Caigan
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« Reply #19 on: February 10, 2009, 06:40:17 pm »

Here is another low-PSI steam engine
that is currently available :

Green Steam Engine Home Page
http://www.greensteamengine.com/

That steam-powered canoe looks pretty
spiffing, to me!

If you scroll down the page, you will see
one of the engines configured to drive
a model airplane propeller.

And here is a link to the patent :

Flexible Rod Transmission
United States Patent 6647813

Abstract:

A drive mechanism for converting rotary
movement to an oscillatory movement for
operating switches, valves, pumps and
light implements wherein the oscillating
member is a flexible rod having a curved
profile from which to attach output levers
positioned in a simple manner to vary the
amplitude, phase timing, and duration of
stroke of individual output levers; whereby
numerous output functions may be
performed from a single rotary input
source.

Inventor:

Green, Robert R. (Chicago, IL)

Publication Date:

11/18/2003
http://tinyurl.com/akbyuc
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akumabito
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« Reply #20 on: February 10, 2009, 06:42:44 pm »

low-PSI by definition means low-power, unless you have the surface area to multiply such a low force. Wink
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Khem Caigan
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« Reply #21 on: February 10, 2009, 06:52:35 pm »

low-PSI by definition means low-power, unless you have the surface area to multiply such a low force. Wink


Here are some specs from the Quasiturbine site
< the folks who manufactured the turbine used
by Floyd Tanner in his demo model >:

Product Description

The Steam Quasiturbine research application
unit is very similar to the pneumatic one,
except for dilatation provision, lubrication
and corrosion consideration. Each chamber
has a 75 cc maximum volume, and the motor
expands 8 chambers per revolution:

Displacement: Total = 8 x 75 cc = 600 cc
intake per revolution.
Cylindrical outside about 7 7/8" (~20 cm)
in diameter excluding peripherals.
Thickness 2 1/2" (~6.35 cm) excluding shaft
and peripherals.
The casing and rotor are made of metal
(no aluminum at this time).
Power shaft: 3/4-inch (~1.90 cm) diameter
throughout.
2 intake ports 1/2" male NPT pipe threads.
2 exhaust ports 1" male NPT pipe threads.
Weight (all metal) about 20 pounds.
Simple in-line lubrication.
A silencer may be suitable for some
demonstrations.
Not to be used as compressor.

Present typical prototype limitations
under proper lubrication:
- Intake pressure: 60 psi (4 bar) peak.
- Revolution: 500 rpm.
- Temperature: Under 150 °C (300 °F)
- Torque (2009 version and later):
Up to 12 to 25 N-m (~10 to 20 lb-pi)
peak (with no gearbox).
- Power 1,5 kW (2 HP) peak

~ from :
Quasiturbine> Product> QT.6LSC Steam Engine
http://tinyurl.com/b25xmc
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akumabito
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« Reply #22 on: February 10, 2009, 06:58:51 pm »

I saw that, and I call bullshit on those power claims. Wink

4 bar and 500 rpm do NOT make for 2Hp.

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Khem Caigan
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« Reply #23 on: February 11, 2009, 01:07:55 am »

Here are the specs for the larger steam-driven
model offered by Quasiturbine :

Quasiturbine QT5LSC Steam

Product Description

The Steam Quasiturbine research application
unit is very similar to the pneumatic one,
except for thermal dilatation provision,
lubrication and corrosion consideration.
Each chamber has a 600 cc maximum volume,
and the motor expands 8 chambers per
revolution:

Displacement: Total = 8 x 600 cc = 5 liters
intake per revolution.
Cylindrical outside about 16" (~40.6 cm) in
diameter excluding peripherals.
Thickness 5" (~12.7 cm) excluding shaft and
peripherals.
The casing and rotor are made of metal (no
aluminum at this time).
Power shaft: 1 1/2-inch (~3.81 cm) diameter
throughout.
2 intake ports 1" male NPT pipe threads.
2 exhaust ports 2" male NPT pipe threads.
Weight (all metal) about 150 pounds (70 Kg).
Simple in-line lubrication.
A silencer may be suitable for some
demonstrations.
Not to be used as compressor.

Present typical prototype limitations under
proper lubrication:

- Intake pressure: 60 psi (4 bar) peak.
- Revolution: 500 rpm.
- Temperature: Under 150 °C (300 °F)
- Torque (2009 version and later):
Up to 100 to 200 N-m (~80 to 160 lb-pi) peak
(with no gearbox).
- Power 12 kW (15 HP) peak

http://tinyurl.com/dfujlz
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HAC
Steam Theologian
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« Reply #24 on: February 11, 2009, 01:27:02 am »

Aint venture capital seeking a wonderful game?
Cheers
Harold
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