Steam Engines... and Coal... TODAY - I Predict...

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europachris
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Stove/Furnace Make: EFM 350/Iron Fireman
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Location: N. Central Illinois

Post Fri. Feb. 04, 2011 9:06 am

A good place to start looking for ideas/feasibility would be the old steam farm tractors. I think most of them were rated somewhere between 10 and 20 hp, which would generate 5 to 10kW of electricity using the basic 2hp/kW rule. Steam tractors are pretty simple as steam engines go and run relatively low pressures ~100 psi. It would give an idea of how much fuel/water per hour is required, etc.

One thermodynamic point of note is that there is an enormous amount of potential energy stored in the water inside a boiler at 100psi. Aside from the obvious BOOM it would make if the boiler exploded, this energy storage gives a wonderful storage buffer to accomdate surges in demand. You could run an 8hp engine connected to a 4 or 5kW alternator with a fairly small boiler (less than 8hp continuous output) as long as you did not require the full output of the powerplant for a long period of time. It would cover the surge demands and be able to recover during the normal, continuous demand periods assuming they are not utilizing 100% of the boiler capacity.

No doubt it is impossible to compete with the electric company in generating your own power - even wind and solar have a long payback due to the amount of investment in the systems and applying a "reserve" to each kWh for storage battery replacement every 5 to 10 years. Even generating electricity with a diesel genset running on free WVO is more expensive when you include maintenance and overhaul costs.

However, for the same reasons I burn coal, I can see generating your own power. I have given serious thought to installing solar panels on the shop/boiler building roof and tie them into the water loop to the house. The roof faces due south and would likely collect enough heat to handle spring and fall heating loads and supplement the boiler in the winter.

Additionally, with the amount of wind we typically get, I could generate a decent percentage of my own power, and possibly even grid-tie and sell excess back, avoiding the need for storage batteries. Unfortunately a big tower and turbine wouldn't go over well with the neighborhood.
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Sting
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Post Fri. Feb. 04, 2011 10:35 am

I would do this if I were off grid

but otherwise its going to be an expensive hobby with no payback save entertainment

my rub isn't all the infrastructure to make it

its the control - I cannot see shackling a human (ME) to the system as an ECM for more than an afternoon

but its was fun to watch utube steam power flicks for a while last night
When you turn your boiler on -Does it return the favor?
I have finally lost my mind. Don't bother to return it. It wasn't working properly anyway!

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AA130FIREMAN
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Post Fri. Feb. 04, 2011 2:22 pm

europachris wrote:A good place to start looking for ideas/feasibility would be the old steam farm tractors.
They can be quite expensive, heavy, and they also need an inspection. If you go out of state you better take your state inspector with,or you may be in for scrap metal price when you bring it home. A man did kill a number of people with one about 8 years ago in Ohio, ran low on water on a hill and the boiler plug was replaced with steel, fire kept going, and killed a police officer that was after him for tearing up a new mecadam road with the cleets. It would be fun to see at Rough and Tumble in the steam games, may even win the SLOW race. 8-) Save some sawdust for the end of the night, they can really put on a spark show, just watch witch way the wind blows, women in dresses take cover :lol: :lol: :lol:

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pret
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Location: Schaefferstown, PA (23 miles North of Lancaster)

Post Fri. Feb. 04, 2011 6:12 pm

I stumbled upon the publication Yanche listed about 'town gas' - an interesting read. I also was impressed with the Doble steam car and how he got his auto moving so fast, without a clutch and had a range of 1500 miles after introducing some type of condenser. 20 HP I think it was...

Generating power is expensive. I love to research... ask questions... and dream!

Like I said, I always have ideas floating around... like using wind turbines to lift heavy objects then using the kinetic energy in the lifted mass maybe with fluids to push a simple turbine - dream... dream... dream...

I live on the top of a ridge - lots of wind and my house faces directly south... but I don't make enough money to get the federal rebates back in a timely fashion. So I continue to think, research, and ask questions...

This I love to do.

Dream fellow coal burners... dream... create... and then tell us about it. Don't forget the pics :lol:
Burning pea coal in a rebuilt 1954 AA - 130... ahhhhh - I'm feeling it!

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Freddy
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Location: Orrington, Maine

Post Fri. Feb. 04, 2011 9:25 pm

Don't mean to hijack the thread, but...... Coal gas.... Bangor Maine, way back... late 1800's? Coal gas was made from coal and it was piped into homes for lighting & maybe heat? The coal to gas building was near the river. It drooled an oily paste into the river. Eventually it shut down. Fast forward 100 years or so to the summer of 2010. Yes, last summer the feds spent super fund money to dredge the river to stop the oily globs from floating up during the summer. Barge....dredge...dump trucks lined up over the horizon. The icky stuff hauled to a special land fill. The news paper showed a photo of the bucket lifting out a bucket of goo. It gave all the numbers. I did the backwards math & it was $10,000 PER SCOOP to remove it and get rid of it. Our government money at it's best!
Orrington, Maine
Fred

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JJLL
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Post Sat. Feb. 05, 2011 10:07 am

It amazes me that more people don't come to this forum!

I mostly lurk here but this thread is quality.

I too have pondered the idea of combining coal and steam but due to lack of time and education on the subject, I've never pursued the thought. I live in a major city, and as time goes by I'm becoming more and more interested in homesteading. City life is convenient, but not fantastic. Point is, to use coal to generate electricity I've read over and over again that for residential use, is not very feasible. Here in PA, natural gas prices are very cheap. Every think of using a tri-fuel generator? It's a generator that uses either gasoline, natural gas or propane?

Pret, I'm not sure if you are simply interested in steam or if you're looking for more "off the grid" methods, either way. HAVE FUN!
With guns, we are 'citizens'. Without them, we are 'subjects'.

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Sting
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Post Sat. Feb. 05, 2011 10:16 am

Stay in town --- hick life isn't what its cracked up to be
When you turn your boiler on -Does it return the favor?
I have finally lost my mind. Don't bother to return it. It wasn't working properly anyway!

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CoalHeat
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Post Sat. Feb. 05, 2011 10:20 am

Stay in town --- hick life isn't what its cracked up to be
I respectfully disagree!
Heating a circa 1832 farmhouse with a Harman Magnafire Mark I & a 1959 EFM 350 (heating DHW).
100% Oil Free!
"It's what we learn after we think we know it all that counts."


Dann757
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Post Sat. Feb. 05, 2011 10:23 am

I got this steam power plant to light a street light. :) Hooked up a little permanent magnet motor to it. 1/1234 hp. Ran out of Esbit fuel, if I get it run on coal fines, should have 1000 years worth. :lol:
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CoalHeat
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Location: Stillwater, New Jersey

Post Sat. Feb. 05, 2011 10:31 am

I remember those little steam engines!
Heating a circa 1832 farmhouse with a Harman Magnafire Mark I & a 1959 EFM 350 (heating DHW).
100% Oil Free!
"It's what we learn after we think we know it all that counts."

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Sting
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Post Sat. Feb. 05, 2011 2:27 pm

Wood'nCoal wrote:
Stay in town --- hick life isn't what its cracked up to be
I respectfully disagree!
its just my selfish opinion

I don't need another "townie" moving near the cottage! :sick:
When you turn your boiler on -Does it return the favor?
I have finally lost my mind. Don't bother to return it. It wasn't working properly anyway!

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CoalHeat
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Coal Size/Type: Rice and Chestnut
Other Heating: Fisher Fireplace Insert
Location: Stillwater, New Jersey

Post Sat. Feb. 05, 2011 4:55 pm

I'm not a city person, don't like city life, and it's not that I've never "been there".
Heating a circa 1832 farmhouse with a Harman Magnafire Mark I & a 1959 EFM 350 (heating DHW).
100% Oil Free!
"It's what we learn after we think we know it all that counts."

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coaledsweat
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Post Sat. Feb. 05, 2011 5:00 pm

I'm not sure what goes on here, but I did see a huge traction engine there one day. I'm sorry I didn't get some pics. The only thing I heard was the guy retired to open this place. Maybe he can help in your quest. :)

Yankee Steam Works Inc.
203-453-1453
679 Boston Post Rd
Guilford, CT 06437
Nothing is impossible for people who don't have to do it themselves.

coalnewbie
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Post Sat. Feb. 05, 2011 5:35 pm

The steam paddle boat Tulane Princess is still anchored at Bay City, MI. The paddle boat ran with a a walking beam engine that is regulated by DNR so requires no steam engineer. The S L O W engine can be geared up to making power. So not only is the power there but so is the entertainment and a place to live.

http://www.mlive.com/news/bay-city/index.ssf/2010 ... at_up.html

Ed is there still dreaming of getting $100,000 or so - try $15,000. I have been on it slow as hell but the sound is worth the trip alone. I had no idea these paddles were so inefficient and pointed out a stern wheeler running out of Newburgh in the summer that really moves along. I was told to look under the paddle to the 500HP diesel powered prop that really ran the ship. Sigh, another dream gone. If you buy Hiawatha (as she is now called) I want a ride.
Posted by an unreasonable adult.

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pret
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Post Sun. Feb. 06, 2011 10:18 pm

Alrighty then... anybody play with parabolic mirrors/lenses or even parabolic troughs to create steam?
Burning pea coal in a rebuilt 1954 AA - 130... ahhhhh - I'm feeling it!


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