Reprint made on 6/25/10:
Alternative Energy Gadgets (Blog excerpt reprint)
Thu 3/18/2010 10:03 AM Potential Energy Generation From Wind
Household wind energy generation possibilities are multiplying in my mind as I look at the length in feet between the eave and the ground on the North corner of our house. On that corner I might get three wind electricity generators, stacked on top of each other within the 10 or so feet that we have there. Three wind turbines gives six sets of wire windings to put out electricity. Times four corners per house, that is a potential for 24 electricity streams per household, although, theoretically you'd half that amount when considering that the wind can only blow from one direction -- if it is blowing at all -- at each moment of time. Most of the time, however, halving would be offset by the fact that most wind does not blow directly, or perpendicularly to any one wall of a house. Three corners, more than likely, would receive wind, so that most of the time the wind is blowing, only 1/4 of the turbines would be completely still, which makes 18 out of 24 streams of electricity.
Mind you, this would work best when you already have your solar panels set up to generate electricity, because you could then feed the wind-generated electricity into the same electrical system which is complicated.
I am still -- as you should be well aware by now -- trying to develop viable designs for such wind turbines. These designs need to be well considered regarding the entire life cycles of components, as well as environmental hazards such as kids, pets, weather, wild animals, yard mowing, replacement costs, and safety factors related to live wires. This list of factors is why I prefer to consider designing this end of the wind turbine energy generation rather than trying to reinvent the wheel regarding hooking up the electricity to the house wiring or net meters with the electric companies.
Designing and building the whole electricity generation for a household can be daunting, but if you already have solar power set up with batteries, hook-ups with the house and the electric company, then you are already ready for more, alternative power to be produced for your home.
Hopefully, as more households buy into solar panels, solar panel prices will eventually shrink, thus providing more opportunity for going solar and thus providing more opportunity to add my wind turbines. These wind turbines should provide electricity at night and on cloudy days, as long as the wind is blowing near the ground, which should offset some of the down time that solar power experiences. In other words, if you are considering generating your own electricity, then consider buying only the minimum number of solar panels that make such a system viable, but with all the electrical hook-ups and connections so that you can diversify into wind-powered electricity generation. What happens, for example, to your solar electricity generation when you have a foot of snow or inch of ice on your roof in the wintertime?
Of course, the wind turbines also suffer from snowfall, so I shouldn't be too smug about that. Maintenance is required -- perhaps more maintenance for household wind-powered electricity generation than for solar. Still, it doesn't hurt to diversify, once you already have the electrical system that can handle on-site generation of electricity.
Sun 3/7/2010 7:46 PM Whirligig Updates
I plan to build two- or three-tiered whirligigs that have plastic pipes at their cores through which I will stick barbeque skewers to hold up hoops that will contain spherical magnets. Today I cut two skewers to 43.5 cm each, which fit nicely inside the Oriental Trading Company hollow plastic hoop quarters that have been assembled into hoops. After I cut down the skewers to size, I filed their ends to take off burrs and all roughness and sharpness because these things are subject to the vagaries of weather and animals that might try to destroy them, not to mention other accidental shocks such as lawn mowers or deer accidentally running into them.
Most people have kids and pets, most people's yards suffer weather-related events, not to mention possible vandalism, and the innocent babes who could be exposed to dismantled whirligigs, for whatever reason. When young kids get together -- especially with pets around -- practically anything can happen. The skewers could be misused as mini-swords, or some kid could run with them and seriously damage themselves. Even the builder is much better off filing down sharp and rough ends of the skewers so as not to cut him or herself accidentally.
I imagined, today, making a video to explain how to assemble these wind turbines, and why I was making each measurement and taking each precaution because I can't control the level of expertise of every viewer, and I worry about liabilities for selling products that are not fully developed yet not to break or hurt somebody.
These whirligigs are test subjects. People need to test how these gigs will spin and fare around their yards before investing in higher-end, more durable, and more expensive equipment.
I've been viewing videos of instructions for building various parts of electric generation equipment related to wind power as well as magnet power. These videos basically come with packages I bought from other tinkerers in this field. So, I was imagining making and selling the same kind of videos with a package I could sell for making these whirligigs.
A certain "affiliated" group -- I do not know what name they go by yet -- is basically showing me some of what it takes in order not to be sued for inadequate or harmful designs. You see, if the customer is told exactly how to do it correctly and why -- warned about how it could fail -- also offered a money-back guarantee -- then the customer cannot say the manufacturer didn't warn them, lol.
Also, K & J Magnetics has a great little set-up on their website. You MUST agree to read and hold them blameless -- a prepared set of warnings -- before you can purchase their highest-powered magnets on their website. This kind of set-up would make it possible for me to sell my product without having to worry so much about liability that I would opt out of doing business.
If I make a build-it-yourself kit or set of instructions that lays out all instructions and warnings, plus a money-back guarantee in case somebody refuses to read the instructions, the warnings and cautions -- what could be fairer?
Sat 3/6/2010 2:47 AM Capacitors
I need to study capacitor behaviors and uses. Capacitors act like batteries -- in a way -- storing electric power, but I am not sure how much actual amperage can be stored there. I think of capacitors as storing mostly voltages. Probably the little solar lights that you see in yards and for sale at hardware stores use capacitors to store their electricity. They certainly must use photo-sensitive on-off switches so that they wouldn't produce light in sunlight, for example, but would turn on in the dark.
Night lighting is the biggest use I envision for my small, wind-powered electricity generators, but batteries bring a whole new level of problems into the equation. I hope capacitors are a manageable alternative to batteries.
Sat 3/6/2010 1:46 AM Potential Problems With Home Wind Power Gadgets
I suddenly have in my psyche the information that most homes will have trouble with the ground-based wind turbines because of their pets, kids, lawn-mowing, vandals, and pests such as squirrels, raccoons, and deer, not to mention neighbors who don't want twirligigs spinning around their neighborhoods. That last problem should change over time with habituation, and when real electricity is being generated. Oh yes. The weather and maintenance are other problems, not to mention the danger of fire from damaged devices or wires where electricity is still being produced or drained from batteries and/or house wiring, or from improperly and incompletely designed and tested devices.
Part of the problems could dissipate with time byaccommodating ground-based turbines when mowing the lawn, although there may still always be problems with lawn mowers bumping into the turbines -- depending upon the turbine's base design. Needing to weed-eat the grass under the turbine means having to always have a weed-eater, and to take the extra step of weed-eating. I imagine that always installing landscaping gravel under the base of ground-based wind turbines would be the most efficient practice. That is: digging up grass roots, then laying down landscape fabric, weighted down with a nice, neat layer of landscape gravel.
But when a new, ground-based wind turbine is set up in a yard, I envision canine pets trying to destroy it by jumping on it and biting any part of it they can reach -- especially when it is new or if it squeaks. Even if the squeaks cannot be heard by humans, the squeaks or squealing might drive dogs nuts, especially when ball bearings are super-exposed to weather.
We should think of this as an engineering problem: how to design systems that can easily be lubricated in order not to drive our pets out of their minds, but more likely, we wouldn't even know when it squeaks or squeals from the perspective of the canine. I envision a constant lubrication feed system, like those bulbs filled with water that you up-end into flower pots, only these would have fine tubing feeding lubrication from above onto bearings, instead of water into dirt.
This above-turbine lubrication would work for a bearing on top of the turbine, but for a bearing on the bottom it would not.
I wonder how long a magnetic set-up could last on the bottom? I suppose that would depend on the strength of the magnets and the weight of the turbine. The weight can be made minimal, but I don't believe the anti-gravitation magnet set-up would last forever.
Dogs' initial negative reaction to having a new twirligig in the yard could either indicate territoriality or sensitivity to sounds the device makes. How could we tell which reason was causing the destructive behaviors of our pets? I imagine that even cats would jump on it, at least when it is not spinning. As we don't have either types of pets currently, I'll have to imagine these behaviors from what I see on AFV: America's Funniest Videos. I do know that squirrels seeking food will walk on anything, though.
All these problems make me want to go back to Howard Johnson's Magnetic Motor. Johnson's patent was issued in 1979, btw, which should make it lapsed by now. That gadget would sit inside the house and could have a case built around it although magnet motors are not on the list of electricity generators that Ohio utilities must legally recognize and accommodate -- at least according to a 2007 list from a North Carolina university.
Fri 3/5/2010 11:27 AM Shopping for Magnets
A list of magnet suppliers appears at Science Hobbyist that I have been going through to find the least expensive magnets for making test wind turbines for around the outside of homes. Or you could call them hobby kits that I am trying to develop for sale to people interested in testing the wind conditions around their homes.
There is a great big hole in the wind turbine universe, made by engineers who feel that we should ignore the wind around our homes and in our yards for the purposes of electricity generation. Those engineers seem only to want to deal with open fields, but that is not where most people live. OK. Lots of people live in apartments and I have no solution for them except what they might find on their balconies. Apartment dwellers could only generate enough for a battery charger, I imagine -- both from small wind and solar power gadgets. I am targeting homeowners, in other words.
Anyway, for building my test wind turbines without electric generation built into them yet, I found an inexpensive source for 1/2 inch sphere magnets. 20 of them for $5.50 plus shipping at Arbor Scientific. The sole review says these are weak magnets, but for my purposes as this early stage of development, the weight, size, and shape are probably quite equivalent to the higher-powered magnets.
Higher-powered magnets seem reasonably priced at K & J Magnetic Spheres where I got 50 1/2 inch sphere magnets for $79.50, including shipping cost. That is $1.49 apiece plus shipping. Keep in mind that I'll be stuffing these spheres into plastic hoops with 1/2 inch spacers between them, so I'll have enough magnets to fill two hoops, one for each of two competing turbine designs. (I got 4 confirmation e-mails from K & J. I hope that doesn't mean I'll be getting four times what I ordered! BTW, K & J has a nice warning system for what magnets will do to video tapes, computers, and other electronic devices around the home.)
I got a good deal on plastic hoop quarters -- some assembly required -- at the Oriental Trading Company. These hoops are hollow. There is 11/16 inch of clearance for stuffing the magnet spheres inside them, but sphere prices rise quickly as diameter increases, so I chose the smallest size I felt would stop them from bunching up inside the hoop. I am going to buy dowel and cut lots of spacers to keep the magnet spheres away from each other, giving a larger sweep of magnetic flux with which to affect wire windings that will eventually be fixed outside the hoops that will be spinning.
The orientation of the spheres will take care of itself because they will automatically line up with opposite poles facing each other, thus automatically maximizing the changing of the direction of magnetic flux as the hoops spin next to the stationary wire windings.
Tue 3/2/2010 5:47 AM Internet Research on Alternative Energy Projects
I have only just discovered (yesterday) that there are lots of YouTube videos on energy projects. I was stuck running the freakin' gauntlet among "GreenDIYenergy" products. That marketing "affiliation" caught me in their web of Google advertisements and products which I am now examining. So far I haven't found anything useful except for little bits of information here and there. I will be doing a more complete report on them eventually.
I got a call from their sales department. They want $250 to become affiliated on the web with them. It is tempting. Maybe someday if I have a product I'll consider them, but so far I am only at the preliminary stage of gathering information before actually designing a product.
It bothers me, though, that they seem to be gate-keepers for this sort of home energy project on the web, and so far I have not yet seen a viable magnet device for producing electricity from GreenDIYenergy....but I'll keep reading and hoping. Unfortunately, my husband just informed me that a lot of scams come out of Budapest....which is where Magnets 4 something reports it has been doing research lately....
When I get done reading their materials I hope to go back to YouTube videos on making electric generators....
Tue 2/23/2010 11:50 AM Looking for Magnetic Spheres
While looking for magnetic spheres for my wind generator, I ran into another video: Here it is at Magnetic Levitation. I'll be going back to get more links. What I know about magnetic levitation is that if you push too hard on magnets that are repelling, you will weaken their magnetic fields, over time -- at least with the weaker magnets this has happened to me. I suppose it takes longer for the stronger magnets to fail, but the stronger magnets are MUCH more expensive....
For a readily available wind turbine see Vertical Axis Wind Turbines, which turns out to be horizontal, for some reason. Another: Tesla Turbine. Junkyard Wars here we come, except I ran into a site that just rubs me the wrong way. I hate it when a site has a full line of products they want to sell you for practically nothing and make you say yay or nay before you get what you came for....so I am not reporting on GreenDIY Solar Energy Panels project.... If you go there and buy into it, please let us know how it worked out. (Please See Below at ***Later Note.)
Now, if I were to get the Bucky Balls that are in the 6 X 6 X 6 inch set that seems popular now, they would be too small for my hoop. They would congeal into more than a single strand of balls inside my hoops. The inside diameter of the entrance to the inside of my hoops is 11/16th of an inch, and there is give in the hoops that the balls could also "take advantage of" in order to surpass the single strand design that I have in mind. The average diameter is 3/4 inch. I think the balls would have to be at least 1/2 inch in diameter in order to keep them from doubling up inside the hoops.
The price on those things goes way up quickly depending on their diameter and strength. Let me search some more.
***Later Note: After sleeping on this I changed my mind and bought the package that GreenDIYEnergy dot com was selling -- the one with no extras, except I got "How to build your own wind turbine" for free with the How to Bulid Your Own Solar Panels -- for a total of $55+change with shipping....
They say you can download it immediately, but it is supposed to come on CD-ROM. You also have an option to receive it on DVD but I didn't want to wrack up any extra charges -- our budget being SO under scrutiny right now as we try to plan for retirement....I am trying to plan for retirement, btw -- trying to find a way to lessen utility bills.
Mon 2/22/2010 5:02 PM Future Developments
Because Whirligig #3 has less material above the plastic hoop than #2, #3 will lend itself more readily to stuffing its hoop with magnets and letting them generate electricity on wire windings. Also #2 requires more extra material "padding" to stop its quarter-bottles from shifting because its hole is larger -- the hole through which the hoop is "threaded". That is, there is more space to fill within the handles than within the neck of the bottles. #2 also requires extra tape on top of the handle to stabilize its position relative to the hoop.
I am working on designs for making multi-tiered turbines, using a plastic or PVC pipe in the center to connect the multiple tiers. U.S. Plastics has several "furniture-grade" plastic pipes, of various colors, although, they come in 10-foot lengths that must be drop-shipped or cut. I have no idea the cost of that.
I have been working on designs of 15 inch lengths for the pipe. I don't know how much or if U.S. Plastics would be willing or for how much they would cut the lengths down in order to ship normally. As I am working on prototypes, I cannot get involved in bulk ordering yet, so I am using some left-over plastic legs from some Loews black plastic utility shelving kits. Prototype development, it would seem, must settle for whatever it can get.
I am also looking at the corner cornice boards of our house for ideas on how to hang multi-tiered whirligigs in the summer when I get to them for painting and refurbishing -- when I will already have the ladder standing there. The downspouts are obstacles there, but maybe I can turn the downspouts into places to hang twirligigs.
Mon 2/22/2010 4:13 PM Circuit Diagrams
I have started collecting circuit diagrams for battery chargers off the web. A Google search works well for this although not all the images are readily copiable by the control-PrtScr command. Some must be "saved" instead.
The reasons I am collecting these diagrams have to do with the fact that battery chargers must control voltage. Many should also contain rectifiers, though not all of them do so. Most diagrams are not so basic as I am looking for because they contain chips, but at least they give the names of the chips and values for other components.
Soon I'll be looking for Inverter diagrams, too.
Thu 2/18/2010 9:00 AM "Handicraft" Wind Turbines
Paul Gipe reports in his book Wind Energy Basics, Chapter 8 "Investing in Wind Energy,"
"CIEMAT's Ignacio Cruz examined the status of small turbine technology...reached conclusions mirroring those found at small wind turbine test sites in North America. He concluded that small wind turbines were developed principally by 'handicraft,' and that the 'maturity' of the technology was far below that of large, commercial-scale wind turbines" (page 128).
So I'm not crazy after all! There is still room for individual -- OK, amateur -- initiative in this field!
Click Once on the Photo to Enlarge It.
Here is a photo I promised in my journal, of icicles on Whirligig #3 -- the longest icicle was 16 inches long. This whirligig was still rotating, btw. I just thought I should rescue it before it became unrescueable, so it is defrosting in my bathtub right now. It had dropped even lower on the line it was hanging from due to weight than #2, though it had started out higher. I was taking down #2 also, to make its supporting structure more like that of #3 so that a fairer comparison could be had between the two blade forms. I had thought for a while that #3 might have continued turning due to water flow. It is good to see that #3 is hydrodynamic as well as aerodynamic, lol.
Click Once on the Photo to Enlarge It.
Wed 2/17/2010 9:49 PM Update
Today I fixed and re-hung three whirligigs whose fishing lines were broken. Whirligig 3, Rev. X, now spins at the north corner of our house but has grown foot-long spikes of ice! What is amazing is that these spikes don't seem to affect its ability to spin very much. I assumed that more weight was detrimental but I guess not, now. It may take longer to start turning around, but it may continue to spin longer after the wind dies down.
I can't be sure about that because it is closer to the corner of the house than Whirligig 2, Rev. X. They hang from the same line but their distances from the wind-concentrating sides of the house is necessarily different. Also, #3 might interfere with the amount of wind that #2 receives. I had planned to hang them at different heights in order to minimize interference between the two gigs, but once #3 got weighted down with ice, it hung lower. It is receiving drips from an icicle hanging exactly from the corner of the cornice there. There is actually a lot of ice on our roof right now, covered with snow.
I plan to redo #2 so that it is more like #3 -- so that the only difference between them -- more or less -- will be the shape of their quarter-bottles. (I've decided to stop calling them "half-bottles" since I have whittled them down so much. They are much closer to being quarter-bottles now.)
Also, I started reading a very good book with Chapter 8: "Investing in Wind Energy." The book is Wind Energy Basics: A Guide to Home- and Community-Scale Wind Energy Systems (2nd Edition) by Paul Gipe. Chapter 8 tells of wind turbines -- complete with brand names -- that have been making electricity for over 25 years now. The chapter discusses the economics of various sizes of turbines, too, not to mention maintenance and set-up costs. It likens investing in wind energy to getting married because many wind energy systems require maintenance and attention in order to function properly. That much is certain when considering the smallest systems. So much can happen to them, as I am finding out -- even though I haven't yet begun to generate electricity.
The book reports that inverters, too, must be replaced. Apparently nobody has designed a fool-proof inverter -- one with enough alarms or safety switches built into it to prevent parts of it from burning out. Part of the problem is that turbines keep producing electricity, even when the receiving circuitry is not functioning properly. Where does the electricity go then? I hope to ground....
Oh yes. There is now a job posting at our university for an Energy Manager. Hooray! Maybe they can get somebody in there to think about alternative energy generation and pollution control? I doubt it, though. I think that in the past they have basically just monitored use. Maybe the position isn't a high enough pay grade to consider advocating for alternative energy production and pollution control....or to ask for help from our engineering departments or staff or students for suggestions....It seems a shame to me that all that university brainpower can't be hooked up to work on practical energy projects at the level of university planning and operations.