Steam/Electric power plant

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Steam/Electric power plant

Post by teotwaki » Fri Aug 17, 2018 7:20 pm

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Re: Steam/Electric power plant

Post by Halfapint » Fri Aug 17, 2018 7:31 pm

That is really cool! I wonder what that set up cost.
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Re: Steam/Electric power plant

Post by JayceSlayn » Sat Aug 18, 2018 6:42 am

That is a pretty cool steam engine setup! It is probably more for fun than practical in charging batteries, but it is great to have an extra-steampunk option. :clap:

Using an alternator to charge batteries is very convenient for a number of factors: it manages voltage regulation for lead acid batteries, and can operate in a wide speed range (particularly in the low-speed range). However, automotive alternators are not as efficient as some permanent magnet electric generators (difference of about 70%-80% vs. 90%-95%), but the added complexity and potential maintenance would probably still tip the engineering decision in favor of an alternator for small scale power. You are losing a lot of energy that you would otherwise want to capture, and since that energy is lost as heat, that is the reason alternators require significant air cooling (which also introduces its own energy loss to run the fans).

I'm always wary at first about people trying to make their own steam engines, because boiler explosions are basically the reason that the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) even exists, and the Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code (BPVC) are their crowning standard. Steam is scary stuff: it is compressible, condensable, corrosive, very high thermal mass, etc. That combination leads to a lot of "gotchas" that can really ruin your day if you don't design and maintain a system correctly. Short version/caution: Listening to this guy talking and looking at the boiler design he made, it sounds like he generally knows what he's doing. If you're not a similar expert, I'd suggest buying such a boiler from someone who is, because making your own is risky.
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Re: Steam/Electric power plant

Post by flybynight » Sat Aug 18, 2018 9:59 am

I've always thought about this idea except with one of those old hit/miss engines
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Re: Steam/Electric power plant

Post by teotwaki » Sat Aug 18, 2018 12:14 pm

flybynight wrote:
Sat Aug 18, 2018 9:59 am
I've always thought about this idea except with one of those old hit/miss engines
That's a neat setup!

In the PAW there could be plenty of alternators available from your old or non running cars.
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Re: Steam/Electric power plant

Post by Halfapint » Sat Aug 18, 2018 1:52 pm

The cool thing with these engines is if you can build yourself a bigger flywheel the more efficient they get. There's a reason the old timers build flywheels the size of a house it keeps things moving and the engine is mostly there idling once the fly wheel is up to speed. If you got yourself a big flywheel you could probably run 3+ alternators quite easily. I've wanted to design something off a small single cylinder motor with a huge fly wheel to power things. For giggles. Maybe one day I will.
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Re: Steam/Electric power plant

Post by teotwaki » Mon Aug 20, 2018 4:53 pm

This one appears to be a modified lawnmower 4 stroke engine

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Re: Steam/Electric power plant

Post by JayceSlayn » Mon Aug 20, 2018 6:14 pm

Halfapint wrote:
Sat Aug 18, 2018 1:52 pm
The cool thing with these engines is if you can build yourself a bigger flywheel the more efficient they get. There's a reason the old timers build flywheels the size of a house it keeps things moving and the engine is mostly there idling once the fly wheel is up to speed. If you got yourself a big flywheel you could probably run 3+ alternators quite easily. I've wanted to design something off a small single cylinder motor with a huge fly wheel to power things. For giggles. Maybe one day I will.
Slower engines, and those with fewer cylinders require larger flywheels. The purpose of the flywheel is to store the needed energy to keep the engine moving until the next power stroke. Since stored energy is proportional to the square of the rotational speed, particularly slow engines require massive flywheels. And since power strokes occur less frequently in few-cylinder engines, the flywheel must keep the engine (and whatever load is connected as well) moving for longer until the next power stroke. After that, having a larger flywheel reduces some of the speed-up/down inconsistency of few-cylinder engines, and reduces the ability of the engine to change speed quickly (because of its great inertia). The "slow and steady" operation is advantageous to some applications (like water pumps or grain mills), and not necessarily others (like modern cars, which often we want to change speed rapidly).

You'll still need an engine capable of enough power to run a more powerful load (e.g. multiple alternators), since the energy being put into the flywheel must equal that being taken out by the load, or it will still spin down over time.
Rahul Telang wrote:If you don’t have a plan in place, you will find different ways to screw it up
Colin Wilson wrote:There’s no point in kicking a dead horse. If the horse is up and ready and you give it a slap on the bum, it will take off. But if it’s dead, even if you slap it, it’s not going anywhere.

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Re: Steam/Electric power plant

Post by teotwaki » Sat Sep 01, 2018 2:00 pm

This is a step in a simpler direction.You could charge cell phones and other small devices with this approach.

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Re: Steam/Electric power plant

Post by Halfapint » Sat Sep 01, 2018 2:03 pm

That's pretty cool! The video isn't playing at work. but I like the use of the pressure cooker as your boiler, and it looks like some sort of home made turbine connected via pips that spins, and is connected to a small electric motor. That would be super easy to build.
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Re: Steam/Electric power plant

Post by RosieTheRiveter » Fri Nov 23, 2018 4:27 pm

Wow, that is so cool! Did you make the engine/boiler yourself? From scratch? It sounds from your video like you make and sell them. Someday, hopefully when I've got the disposable income and spare time to do so, I want to attend a steam power class/workshop. They have an annual one in northern Iowa geared towards traction engines. Learning safe boiler operation seems a logical first step.

I've always thought steam engines would be great for preppers. When you can't count on a supply of anything ending in -ene or -ine, steam engines are the way to go, right? Talk about flex fuel! Wood, coal, garbage, cow patties, zombie corpses. I wonder if there is such a thing as a boiler that is set up to burn solid OR liquid fuel. That would be the ultimate.

And the things you can do with a steam engine! Running an electrical generator, sure--but also running any kind of machinery you can think of. Water pump, grain mill, woodworking equipment, heck, you could even build a washing machine! Not to mention the possibility of capturing waste steam to steam-heat your domicile or hot water tank.

Thanks for sharing! I know I'm a little late to the party but I love live steam and wonder why not many preppers are talking about it.
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Re: Steam/Electric power plant

Post by teotwaki » Sun Nov 25, 2018 11:54 am

RosieTheRiveter wrote:
Fri Nov 23, 2018 4:27 pm
Wow, that is so cool! Did you make the engine/boiler yourself? From scratch? It sounds from your video like you make and sell them. .
They are not my videos. I am just sharing the videos of others as I thought it would be a good topic.
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Re: Steam/Electric power plant

Post by boskone » Sun Nov 25, 2018 1:28 pm

RosieTheRiveter wrote:
Fri Nov 23, 2018 4:27 pm
Thanks for sharing! I know I'm a little late to the party but I love live steam and wonder why not many preppers are talking about it.
Probably because they're kinda dangerous. Here's a Mythbusters video of a waterheater blowing up. That's a lot cooler, and lower-pressure, than a steam boiler for an engine.

You can mitigate the danger with safety features, but it's still a dangerous way to go about making power compared to some of the options we have available. If you have the materials and expertise to produce power from a steam engine, you could probably make a windmill, watermill, or some such more safely.

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Re: Steam/Electric power plant

Post by teotwaki » Mon Nov 26, 2018 12:57 pm

boskone wrote:
Sun Nov 25, 2018 1:28 pm
.... If you have the materials and expertise to produce power from a steam engine, you could probably make a windmill, watermill, or some such more safely.
Not everyone has free flowing streams and rivers for reliable power generation so steam provides a good alternative. Wind power requires sustained air flow for reliable power generation and a large wind turbine sticking up in the air near your BOL is sometimes unwanted. In a similar vein solar panels can be highly visible, daytime only operation and very peaked delivery with any clouds in the sky. Both wind and solar require battery storage to deal with the peaks. A steam plant will have a smaller physical signature but a downside is the smell from burning fuel. However if the fuel is fed properly they can provide steady power regardless of weather or time of day.

I see all of the means of power generation as having a place in the toolbox where each solution has issues for the planner to consider.
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Re: Steam/Electric power plant

Post by raptor » Mon Nov 26, 2018 3:10 pm

This is a neat thread with great information. Thank you teotwaki!

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Re: Steam/Electric power plant

Post by teotwaki » Mon Nov 26, 2018 4:04 pm

raptor wrote:
Mon Nov 26, 2018 3:10 pm
This is a neat thread with great information. Thank you teotwaki!
Thank you!

More resources -

A link to a forum with a post on the 1902 handbook of steam engines https://www.smokstak.com/forum/showthread.php?t=152753
Note the Google Drive link for a downloadable copy

A blog on a 2 KW steam engine to drive an alternator https://www.otherpower.com/steamengine.html
Image

A 20 HP steam engine for sale (not cheap! no boiler) https://www.mikebrownsolutions.com/steam-engines/

some sites with all sorts of downloadable plans for small hobby engines

http://www.plans-for-everything.com/hen ... plans.html

http://www.john-tom.com/html/SteamPlans.html

http://www.vintageprojects.com/machine- ... hobby.html

http://www.packratworkshop.com/lib15.htm
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Re: Steam/Electric power plant

Post by teotwaki » Mon Nov 26, 2018 4:20 pm

This guy build engines that can drive large alternators and has lots more videos posted



https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNwdzF ... wiw/videos
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Re: Steam/Electric power plant

Post by raptor » Mon Nov 26, 2018 7:12 pm

The exhaust of this engine will also provide 40,000 BTUs of heat, ideal for steam heating your cabin, providing a heat source for the alcohol still described in our junkyard still book, heating hot water for cooking and other uses.

Our 2-cylinder 3 horsepower steam engine will provide 1500 watts of electrical power and over 100,000 BTUs of exhaust heat.
I like steam engines they are IMO very interesting. They are a true multi-fuel engine. As long as the fuel (any fuel) burns and produces BTUs it can be used for fuel.

That said the efficiency unless you can recapture the BTUs in the exhaust is rather poor. In order to produce 3 HP, the engine allows 100,000 BTU of heat to escape. That is roughly the same BTU produced by 1.1 gallons of propane or .72 gallons of #2 diesel or 8 lbs of coal.

That is also why they are frequently on the heat recapture side of thermal processes. When you are trying to use waste heat; a boiler and steam turbine generator is a great application. In this case the waste heat from another process is used to produce the steam. This type of hybrid system is very efficient since it uses mainly waste heat.

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Re: Steam/Electric power plant

Post by teotwaki » Tue Nov 27, 2018 12:27 pm

If a hybrid system could be built with a solar or wind power and a steam plant then a 24 volt battery system could be the way to go. There are large DC output alternators available that can offer a peak of 525 Amps at 28 volts/ 6,000 rpm (C.E. Niehoff C-803D). I couldn't find a spec on how many horsepower it needs to drive it but a rough guess would be 14.7KW = 20 (minimum) mechanical horsepower so a modest steam engine might be practical. Mike Brown Solutions for example.

Big diesel engines can come with large alternators or maybe salvage the alternator from a large generator that has no fuel available?

As Boskone pointed out the boilers are a point of danger so I will try looking for resources on that topic.
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Re: Steam/Electric power plant

Post by teotwaki » Tue Nov 27, 2018 12:34 pm

For sale on Ebay at $4.1K and it gives an idea of the challenges of building a boiler with all of the plumbing and features needed. The boiler body is made of 3/8" steel so a post-PAW community would need a good shop to manufacture working boilers.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Steam-Engine-B ... 4062066219

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Re: Steam/Electric power plant

Post by teotwaki » Tue Nov 27, 2018 12:50 pm

This video is heavily shortened from the total time of 7 hours it would take to fire up a steam locomotive. In the course of the video you get a lot of closeups of the construction and complexity including neat factoids such as a steam take-off valve to power external equipment, similar to a PTO on some trucks.

"The locomotive seen in the video is Denver and Rio Grande Western (D&RGW) mikado (2-8-2) #491, one of the largest narrow gauge locomotives ever created. It now runs at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, Colorado. It has ~37,100 pounds of tractive effort, and weighs ~150 tons or ~302,000 pounds. It was built in 1928 by the D&RGW Burnham shops in Denver, Colorado using the boiler off of a standard gauge D&RGW 2-8-0. #491 is a pristine example of a locomotive perfectly suited for rugged, mountain climbing work."

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Re: Steam/Electric power plant

Post by teotwaki » Tue Nov 27, 2018 1:17 pm

Interesting article on boiler making. Full article at the link http://thmsblog.com/?page_id=141



Dangerous Boiler Making

I occasionally read about the concern with the miniature steam boilers we use in our live steam hobbies. There is some concern about these devices being potential BOMBS. I purposefully emphasize the word bombs. Scare writers also like to use the word EXPLODE. Again emphasis added. These are nice scary words designed by writers and editors to grab your attention. I used the same scam in the title of this article. There is a modicum of truth to the use of these terms in dealing with heating closed vessels of water. So I will concede that their use is justified but over dramatic.

We live in a dangerous world. But humans don’t really like to live without some danger. We call it thrill, like the thrill of the hunt. I could go way off track on this subject (and I have a little) but suffice to say creating a danger free world by banning dangerous activities is an inglorious goal. Identifying risk is the noble cause. Determining acceptable risk is a judgment of the participants and all others that may be directly affected.

It’s a matter of perspective. Driving a car, flying in an airplane or Alaska crab fishing all look like murder compared to the live steam hobby, where miniature boilers live. I have not heard of a death by a properly designed and maintained miniature steam boiler.
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Re: Steam/Electric power plant

Post by teotwaki » Tue Nov 27, 2018 1:33 pm

I started a separate thread for discussions of gasifier systems for post-PAW power generation

viewtopic.php?f=13&t=122252
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Re: Steam/Electric power plant

Post by RosieTheRiveter » Wed Nov 28, 2018 2:51 pm

teotwaki wrote:
Sun Nov 25, 2018 11:54 am
They are not my videos. I am just sharing the videos of others as I thought it would be a good topic.
Well, it IS a good topic! That's a great resource list you compiled.

I have a little Stirling engine and a buddy and I put together a toy steam traction engine from a kit. The only thing keeping me from larger-scale steam hobbying (ie. machines that can do useful work) is the cost. The respectably-sized 3-HP Mike Brown engine costs $2400, and one could expect to pay about that again for a boiler sized to power it. Then there is the cost of education--going out and learning how to safely operate this sort of machinery. Plus most states require some sort of licensing to operate a boiler, and periodic inspections--which is a good idea!

With that sort of startup cost, no wonder there aren't a lot of steam engineers out there. It's much easier and cheaper to nip over to the big box store and pick up a couple of marine batteries, a diesel generator, and/or some solar panels, piecemeal. Honestly, I'll probably personally never be able to afford a working live steam setup. Mike Brown would call me an "armchair engineer" and he wouldn't be far off, although I HAVE blown the whistle of Union Pacific's 844 locomotive. 8-)

When it comes to prepping, my first question is always "is this sustainable?" I know diesel stores longer than gasoline, and marine batteries can last for many years. Hopefully it won't TAKE years to get manufacturing and oil refining going again...but...what if it does? A steam engine can power metal-working tools, and with metal-working tools, you can fabricate parts to maintain and repair your steam engine. Isn't that a beautiful equation?

The safety factor: This is why education is the first step! I'm not a mechanical engineer and would have absolutely no business building my own boiler. My husband blew the plug on our pressure cooker years ago, there is still a ding in the kitchen ceiling and every so often I'll find some more dessicated corned beef in a crack somewhere--but it did not explode. We had the pressure cooker refitted with a new soft plug and we're still using it today. Boiler explosions are, of course, very scary, but with today's standard safety features, it seems you'd have to be trying pretty hard (or REALLY not paying attention) to explode one.

This is a great discussion! I can't wait to hear more.
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