The Real Know How

How-Tos, Videos, Tutorials — Ramping Up for the 21st Century

Archive for the category “energy”

Compost Heater How-To

Chris Towerton, in Australia, shows us an experimental compost heater he build to provide heat for at least two hours per day for up to 9 weeks. He’s using his system to heat one room in his house with a hot water radiator.

Happily, he talks in detail about what he did – so if you’re interested in doing something similar, this is a good starting point.

Helpful here too are Chris’ comments about how long the process took to ramp up, how long the effects lasted, etc.

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More on the Pot-in-Pot Refrigerator

The Rojases at Green Power Science, in Florida, give us more info on the pot-in-pot refrigerator. They highlight the need to be aware of your surrounding humidity levels. If the humidity is above 75%, they note, the zeer pots won’t work because they require evaporation to work and that’s a no-go when it is very humid out.

Small Scale Ethanol Production Demo

Jim Yager and Jim Baker, retired engineers in Alabama demonstrate their fuel alcohol still. To cut their costs they’ve used mostly PVC piping (traditionally copper would have been used throughout). They estimate that their PVC design costs about $150 to build.

How to convert a washing machine into a water powered generator

buddhanz1, in New Zealand, shows us how to convert a washing machine into a water powered generator. It looks as if he may be using the municipal water supply to power his generator. At any rate, he gets enough power to live off-grid (powers his fridge, PC, lights, appliances — all the modern conveniences) and as he used mostly recycled parts the costs were minimal.

The Dakota Fire Hole/Pit

The Dakota Fire hole/pit offers a highly efficient way to create an outdoor camp fire.

Advantages: Burns very hot, the fire is well-contained, uses much less firewood than a conventional above ground fire, is less smoky, is easier to conceal (if that’s a concern) as and after you’ve used it than conventional camp fires. It is also easier to fully extinguish (back fill the hole) and integrates a stable cooking surface into its design.

Disadvantages: Will be harder to dig the two pits necessary for this kind of camp fire if the ground is very rocky, sandy, wet or a tangle of tree roots. It may take more time and physical effort to prepare, since you need to dig dual holes than a conventional fire pit.

The design is actually similar to that of a Rocket stove only instead of constructing out of clay or brick or whatever, here you are digging your heating and cooking chambers.

Some good views of the fire in action here:

I’ve read that Dakota fire holes are NOT good options for use inside a shelter or dwelling unless you can be sure that your fire is venting properly, as you can run a carbon monoxide poisoning risk.

Rocket Stove

“The Rocket Stove is a variety of wood-burning cooking stove. It is easy to construct, with low-cost materials. These are low-mass stoves designed to burn small pieces of wood very efficiently. Cooking is done on top of a short insulated chimney. The stoves are typically constructed out of trash: tin cans, old stovepipes, etc. A skirt around the pot will help hold heat in, increasing the efficiency.

Rocket Stoves use branches, twigs, small wood scraps, or just about any small combustible material. The pieces of wood or other material burn at their tips, increasing combustion efficiency, creating a very hot fire, and eliminating smoke. The low-mass stove body and insulated chimney ensure that the heat goes into the cooking pot, not into the stove. Rocket stoves used in conjunction with hayboxes can save enormous amounts of fuel, cooking complete meals while using very few resources.” You can read the rest of the descriptive article here.

In the following videos, Chris Towerton, shows us how to construct a rocket stove cob oven. He uses clay, a steel pipe and straw.:

Chris’ inspiration video was by Jon and Flip who have built these ovens for firing pottery and for baking/cooking food as part of their relief work in Haiti.

How (Commercial) Biodiesel is Made

A step-by-step explanation of how the folks at Tristate Biodiesel take used cooking oil from around NYC and transform it into biodiesel heating oil that heats New Yorkers’ homes

Biogas System

This is the best small farm biogas system video I’ve seen so far.

As with many other useful technologies, we don’t hear much about biogas in this part of the world while it’s being rolled out extensively in the developing world and is a technology that could be universally useful.

Here a small farmer, Edward, in Uganda shows us his underground biogas system. It’s actually pretty elaborate and if maintained properly, he says should last about 70 years.

Edward keeps cows and sheep but seems to just use the cow’s dung and urine for the biogas system. He says that he mixes one part dung and one part water or urine and lets this mixture drop into a digester.

From the digester the digested solids and gas are separated in an underground dome (7 feet deep and 14 feet across).

From there the gas is piped into the farm house to the stove (which looked pretty much like a normal propane stove to me) and to fuel one gas lamp (which I found produced very dim light, but before they probably had no light at night or used kerosene lamps, so for them it’s a huge improvement).

The digested solids, now good for use as fertilizer/compost, drain out into a kind of pond area.

Edward notes that the covers to all of the biogas system access points are very heavy concrete to prevent children or vandals from fiddling around with them and either falling into the dome to their deaths or letting the precious biogas escape.

As he shows us his biogas system, Edward also points out his 10,000 liter rain water collection cistern.

Note that this system only uses waste from livestock but that other systems would also use humanure.

John Njendahayo, a Ugandan engineer, explains more about this kind of domed biogas system. Cue the following video to 4:25 where he starts to talk about the system itself. He covers the sizing of the systems, the relationship of input to output and what you can run on the biogas (including a modified paraffin fridge).

The system uses dome shapes so that none of the gas gets trapped in corners as it would in a rectangular digester. He notes that the reason for burying the digesters is to keep the temperature constant for the bacteria.

Here he talks about being able to sell the compost the digester produces as fertilizer and about needing to clear the pipes of condensation and how the gas is piped into the house.

How to Produce Biodiesel from Vegetable Oil

Lance Hall shows us how to make biodiesel (he uses it for his car and tractor) from vegetable oil. Lance recommends biodiesel.org for more info on biodiesel.

Lance covers making biodiesel manually and making it with a reactor. He has quite the set up.

This is a dangerous process, in which he uses methanol (“wood alcohol” -a poison that can be absorbed through your skin) and potassium hydroxide (an extremely caustic chemical). It seemed to me that Lance probably should have been wearing longer, thicker gloves and protective eyewear, but…

How to Make an Inexpensive Vertical Axis Wind Turbine Using Plastic Barrels

Jeff Berezin of Berezin Technologies shows us how to make a vertical axis, Savonius wind turbine using plastic barrels.

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