Thursday, March 26, 2009

Squeezing More Power From Solar Energy

I was pleased to hear from someone at Cool Energy Inc., a developing company out of Boulder Colorado, who posted a response to my last article on how to Master Solar Panel Efficiency. They liked the article, and more vindicatingly added that they have been developing just such a system over the last 2 years thanks to the brainstorming of the company's founder and CEO, Sam Weaver, father Sam Weaver Sr., and brother Dan Weaver, during a Christmas holiday chin wag. I was downright tickled.

However, remembering the chant of consistent success as delivered by leadership guru John Maxwell, "yesterday's victories are over, focus on today's battles", I am forging on in this same vein to see if I can mine any more nuggets from the higher solar panel efficiency golden goose.

In reading through the articles and associated links from Cool Energy Inc., I was impressed by the fact that they widen the needs summary list in their approach to developing solar energy. (Translation: they pointed out that if you are making the effort to provide for a home, why stop only at heat, when you can also provide electricity too with the same device.) I found it a very motivating eye opener and decided to take a closer look at the panel construction of a solar collector for ideas where I could make additional improvements. Here's what I came up with.

Harness the Parabola in the Solar Panel

To start with, we'll need to do the obvious and that is make sure the maximum solar exposure is hitting the copper pipes. Instead of laying the copper pipes onto a flat metal backboard which has been spray painted flat black, we'll alter the shape of the backboard to form parabolic trays. Then we'll line the trays with a reflective coating to form a sort of mirror which focuses on the copper pipe in the center. If the pipes are roughly 4 inches apart, then the parabolic shape will collect the sun's rays over that width and focus them onto a 1/2 inch wide pipe, increasing the temperature of the fluid higher than would normally be collected with a flat backing board. Here is a sketch demonstrating this idea.

By increasing the temperature of the fluid, we end up collecting more energy overall giving us more to work with when converting it to other usable forms like electricity or mechanical power. Cool Energy Inc. makes use of this principle by employing evacuated glass or lexan tubes to encase the copper pipe collectors. This is a much higher tech version of the same 'tray' idea, using half of the evacuated tube as a mirror to focus more rays onto the copper tube, but also insulating it by means of the vacuum.

Tesla's radiant energy collector
Now, part of Cool Energy's approach makes their system unique on the market because they are developing a solution to provide both heat AND electricity. They have developed the Stirling heat engine further to create a generator that can make use of excess solar heat collected with the panel, and turn it into electricity. I won't add to that solution itself since I believe they are doing a great job as it already stands.

Instead, I would like to turn back to my old favourite (yes, I like to using
Canadian spelling... we like throwing extra letters in all over the place) inventor, Nicola Tesla, and see if we can employ some of his ideas to make this project produce even more.

Nicky boy, brilliant lad that he was, discovered back in the late 1800's that our Sun was bombarding our atmosphere constantly with some type of radiation. We know now that he was detecting gamma rays. Nicola's research led him to discover that when this radiation bombards a metal plate, like a collector, and if that plate were connected electrically to a strong electrical ground wire, that there would exist a voltage differential between the collector plate, and the ground wire.

Well hot dog... look at that parabolic tray thingy I described in the previous section. If it were made of some sort of metal, it could act like a collector plate for all those little gamma gizmos. All we'd have to do to make use of that, would be to provide it with a good strong opposite charge from something like a ground wire.

Do you doubt me? (Go ahead... make my day... OK, OK, quit laughing. I'm no Clint Eastwood.) Anyway, check out this guy's YouTube channel. Boxa888 is a pretty cool electrical inventor type guy who sets up lots of Tesla experiments and captures them on video. Here is a vlog (video log) account of some of his radiant energy experiments...

Now if you're collecting this energy anyway, why not beef it up a bit, amplifying it to something we might be able to make some use of? Here's another YouTube vid showing how to make a circuit that filters electricity out of thin air! What if we feed that circuit with our radiant energy collector plate? This video even provides the circuit plan and parts list to build your own!

Even more strange ideas
Now I don't want to get too weird so I think I'll leave the idea of using thermocouples to convert the heat inside the panel into even more electricity. We could go too far after all.

As always, let me know your thoughts. Click the rating boxes or leave a comment!


Friday, March 20, 2009

Master Solar Panel Efficiency

We're back today to bring you another hot idea... efficiency. The way I see it, you can get efficiency for something in two ways. First, you can simply do whatever it is you're doing well, and get nearly everything out of your efforts that you put into it, without using any tricks. That is difficult to accomplish though and actually somewhat rare. The second strategy is to do what you do and receive moderate return for what you put in, but then boost your efficiency by reusing some of the wasted product.

An example of the first method might be a teeter-totter. Whatever energy (or weight) you put into pushing down on the one side, is going to be roughly the amount of lifting power you receive on the other side... assuming of course that the middle is pivoting nearly friction free.

For the second example, we might think of a turbo charger on a car engine. Some of the exhaust from a moderately efficient power stroke in the engine, is recycled and fed back into the engine to be more completely burned.

So those may be simplistic examples but that sets us up for today's topic on how to master solar panel efficiency. Oh, and let me state that we are speaking today of solar panels for heating water, not solar photovoltaic panels for generating electricity. If you're going to make a solar panel, you're going to want to make one that gets you as much heat as possible, or it won't be very beneficial to spend all your free weekends huddled over tinker-fodder in your workshop instead of enjoying life.

My brainstorm solution today involves gathering heat, separating heat from cold, and capturing a little extra mechanical oomph to power the circulating pump, and recycle some of the cold fluid.

Solar heating panels can be set up in many different configurations, most of which are designed to allow them to work in sub zero temperatures. There are open systems, closed loop systems, drain back systems and many others. The basic difference between all of these is how they handle the potential problem of having water freeze in the collector's pipes overnight when the sun isn't shining. In a drain back system, water is used in the pipes during the day when the temperature in the collector panel is sufficiently warm, and then completely drained from the pipes into a reservoir for the evening. Closed loop systems use two separated loops, one of which contains ethylene glycol, an antifreeze, which circulates around the solar collector on one side and then through some sort of heat exchanger in a water tank on the other. The glycol carries the heat from the panel to your water tank and then heats your water inside the tank.

Regardless of which configuration you decide to use, I think my idea can help it. You see there is a somewhat obscure science that, for the life of me, I don't know why we've overlooked. It is the science of vortex phenomena. Rather than explain the full details of a device which employs this feature, I will simply provide you with a link to an excellent article about harnessing the vortex to separate hot from cold in a pipe of compressed air or fluid (whatever is in the pipe). The device is referred to as a HILSCH" VORTEX TUBE.

The first issue I want to deal with is the inefficiency of converting solar rays into heated water. There are many different tricks employed in construction of a well built homemade solar collector but I'm content to settle for moderately heated water coming out of it. You see, coming out of the solar panel, I would configure a Hilsch Vortex Tube to extract hotter and colder streams of water. Since we are removing cold water from the moderately heated water, we end up with a higher temperature stream of water that we can use more easily in the house. It's what to do with the cold water stream that gets us the opportunity to increase our efficiency.

Now I want to introduce, or rather, RE-introduce an engine that is really interesting but not used much. I'm talking about a Stirling engine, or heat engine. In Stirling engines, air is used as a quickly expanding and contracting gas, to move pistons. These engines make use of a heating container, and a cooling container. They usually work best when the difference between the two is greatest. Air enters the heating container and expands, pushing the piston out. At a slightly delayed interval, a displacer piston follows the original piston, and moves the heated air into the cooling chamber on the other side of the now returning original piston. The hot air is then cooled by the cooling chamber and contracts, pulling the original piston back again. Again, there are better explanations out there, so click here to see a good one.

So what would happen if we hooked up a vortex tube to the exiting pipe from the solar collector, send the heated water into the house to be used, took the colder water and use it to cool the cooling container on a Stirling engine, while using a parabolic solar mirror to heat the hot end, and then harness the mechanical energy to run a circulating pump for the whole system?

And there you have it. A solar collector that makes far better use of the available renewable energy source, the brilliant Sun!!

Let me know what you think, below and leave some comments!

Until next time,


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Do You Want The Most Unique Electric Generator?

Imagine what it would be like if you never had to pay for any of your electricity. What would you do with the power you generate? What if you could generate that electrical power by building your own water fountain and harnessing it to power your home? Picture a water fountain in your front yard that also runs a charming water wheel.

Today's post is going to give you my idea for free... and as you read every word in this article, I want to help you begin to think about your own idea. Remember that inspiration you had years ago that you were discouraged with? Well as you absorb this information, you're going to see new ideas in your own mind. Write your ideas down.

Michael Faraday discovered many of the fundamental secrets of electricity and magnetism that we base so much science on today. If you... combine two separate inspirations, you will slowly begin to see more harmony with the pattern layed out for us by nature. Little by little you will begin to notice details you skipped over before that unlock the hidden potential of those ideas you had so long ago. I combined Faraday's discovery regarding homopolar generator effects, with another lesser known science great... Hero of Alexandria.

Hero studied things like air and steam pressure and invented both the first steam engine, as well as the device I use in my combo-idea, the Hero Fountain. Hero noticed that water is heavier than air, but under pressure, they can each exert the same force. So he harnessed a long column of water pushing down, to send air pressure (which has very little gravitational weight to overcome) up to a water chamber somewhere higher. The pressure then pushed the water out of the upper chamber into a reservoir that feeds the tall water column. It looks like perpetual motion at first but once you look more closely, you see that it will only last as long as you have water in the second chamber that receives the air pressure. When it runs out of water, that's it, and it has to be replenished.

I decided that it would look nice in a front garden, and since you could use if for landscape, you just have to have a waterwheel to go with it. And since you have a water wheel, you might as well put it to work, since it is spinning anyway. My idea uses the rotation of the water wheel to turn a second drum, around which are a bunch of Faraday's homopolar generators.

Faraday discovered that if you spin a magnet with a copper or alluminum disk glued to its face, that you could generate a voltage difference between the center of the disk, and its outside edge. From what I've read, it is not a large voltage, but it is a voltage none the less. The interesting characteristic of it though, is that the power required to spin the magnet is not very high, since the copper disk (or aluminum, but we'll just keep speaking about copper for simplicity sake) is not fighting it's rotation... it's glued to the magnet.

I have some theories on why this doesn't create back emf (force that fights you, by resisting the turning of the magnet) but I'll leave that for another post some day.
So although one Faraday disk creates a small amount of electricity, if you put lots of them around a drum that will turn them all, then you'd be able to harness some more usable power amounts. For now, I'll simply post my picture of this setup and leave you to be inspired with more of your own improvements or even completely new ideas altogether.

With the right application of storage batteries and power inverters, you could conceivably power many items in your home right now, and isn't that what we're all about here anyway? Post comments to this. As always, subscribe so everyone can benefit.

Until next time,


Monday, March 16, 2009

Get Serious And Make Any Tool You Want

Well today we forge into the first realm of putting some of these ideas together to come up with something that may not have been done yet. If anyone tries anything from this blog, please come back and update the posting with your news.

So we've now talked about having a blow torch powered by water, and hopefully you've watched the videos on the idea for creating your own hydrogen generator. You could now cut anything you wanted with the torch or maybe even weld anything you want. But what if you want to forge a new piece of hardware? Well today I'm going to pass on to you a really cool site that describes how to make your own blast furnace where you can melt iron and start your own hobby molding metal in your very own foundry.

The temperatures required can be quite high but that's ok when you're using Hydogen since it burns close to the 3000 degree mark. The videos I'm passing on don't use hydrogen and before you attempt any of this I need to warn you that I haven't either... but it sounds like something to try. As always, safety must be first and you have to allow for flash back in your burner tips , isolating the hydrogen from the rest of the back pipe that would feed your system. I recommend a bubbler fairly close to the forge so even if you get some flash back, that it won't have too much fuel to cause major damage.

Bulding a forge should be pretty straight forward given the methods used by these setups (from the videos) but I have an idea using vortex wind patterns.
I think by adding 3 fins to the inside of the furnace, you should be able to set up some whirlwinds that would help cushion the heat layer and protect the inside of the refractory (the heat brick material on the inside of the furnace) from breaking down too quickly.

Yes, this is my first brainstorm idea on the blog. Send me your ideas too!

In one of the pictures, the owner showed his refractory material melted and eventually needing replacement. I wonder if with this design, it might extend the life somewhat.

Anyway, vortexes are very interesting phenomena and produce some pretty cool results when applied in the right circumstances.

Here are the links to the resources I promised for today.
Here's a working home made little blast furnace...

Here's a vid on making a flash arrestor for a homemade torch:

HHO Flashback Arrestor + Torch - HOW TO - For more funny videos, click here

Once you can melt metal, you're well on your way to making forms and pouring out your super duper exclusive highly ingenious do-ma-thing-a-ma-bob.

Enjoy, and get sharing in the comments section so everyone can benefit!


Friday, March 13, 2009

Hydrogen Lust and it's Fatally Deadly Secret

OK, today's post is going to start out somber with an incredibly serious and up front safety message you MUST not ignore.
We're talking today about how to extract copious amounts of clean burning freely available Hydrogen gas from it's watery prison. Oh, sorry... translation: You can make a hydrogen generator to use to build other newer breakthrough inventions like a water fueled car or anything else powered by water fuel. I'll get to the very cool invention later in the blog but I first want to focus your attention on something so important that you could unwittingly poison not only yourself but your entire neighborhood simply by the curiosity of your inventive little minds. (Sorry... did that sound condescending?)

Of course Hydrogen is freed along with Oxygen by pushing electricity through water. But water doesn't like allowing that, without some extra persuasion. That persuasion happens by adding a little bit of chemical to the water to make it electrically conductive. One of the best chemicals to add is Potassium Hydroxide or KOH. This creates a caustic solution (fancy word that means the water will burn your skin if you dip your hand in it) which conducts electricity.

Once we can get Electricity to run through the water, we have the set up for separating the water into its two parts, Oxygen and Hydrogen. The oxygen gets pulled out of the water at one electrode and the hydrogen at the other. The safety lesson I want to share with you today happens at this very point. If you use Stainless steel as one of the electrodes, and you're using it in a caustic solution like KOH, then after you separate the hydrogen, your fluid that you're left with, will contain Hexavalent Chromium... the nasty nasty substance that causes all the problems in the movie "Erin Brochovich".

Hexavalent Chromium should NEVER be flushed or poured down the drain, or poured out onto the ground or into water sources. It causes serious nasties. Just watch the movie Erin Brochovich to see what I'm talking about.

However, once you DO have some hydrogen to burn, then you're able to start using it to better mankind and lower your heating bills. So how do you make a device that will get you this extra fuel? Well it wasn't easy. You can build your own homemade hydrogen generator using the information the following video:

Go here to see how to make HHO really easily and quickly.

Oh, and just to give you one last chance... watch this video on safety!

Next time we'll talk about one of the really cool ways to use this Brown's gas stuff! (Hydrogen and Oxygen mix or HHO gas.)

Over and out,


Need Your Own Water Fueled Blow Torch?

That's right, I said water fueled. Now, I know what you're thinking, so before you start with the comments about me dipping into too many solar panel reserves from yesterday's post, let me clear the subject line up right away. A breakthrough application has come out in the last couple of years that makes having your own blow torch as easy as a little elbow grease and a reasonable amount of safety consciousness.

There is a man who has invented a blow torch that runs on Brown's gas. What is Brown's gas you say? Well I'm glad you ask! Let me tell you right now. Brown's gas is basically the mixture of hydrogen and oxygen which results when you break down water with electrolysis but you don't bother to capture the gases separately. It's kind of a neat mixture because the proportions are perfectly premixed for you to fire them up and return them straight back to their original bonded state... water that is.

The interesting characteristic about this invention is that although it burns at a temperature somewhere in the range of 1500 degrees Centigrade (that would be over 2700 degrees Fahrenheit!), the tip actually remains cools to touch. I haven't actually seen any information about why that happens, but my personal theory is that since the gas mixture is so perfect, it doesn't need to 'suck' oxygen from outside the nozzle to support combustion, and therefore the entire flame exists entirely outside the nozzle outlet, allowing the housing to remain cool. Other gases require feeder holes before the outlet that allow air in to mix with the fuel, and the flame starts burning inside the nozzle tip, heating it up.

I'm thinking there are a TON of things I'd love to do with the power of my own incredible torch like that. This guy runs his car on water too and gets over 100 mpg. Can you imagine your own water powered car going 100 miles on a single gallon of water subsidized gasoline? How much would that save you?

I still haven't heard from anyone yet on their own ideas, thoughts or inventions. Come on everyone, let's work together, share some ideas and get free energy out of the labs and into everyone's backyard!

Over the next couple days I'll post some ideas on how to make the gas in a very efficient way, and what you can use it for once you have that setup.

I'll talk to you tomorrow!


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Solar Energy From Beer Drinking?

So I was finished work last autumn, sitting on the back porch drinking beer from a can (why waste power getting glasses dirty?) and I noticed my fingers were getting cold. I know, I know, you're thinking the blonde hair colour is definitely NOT dyed. Anyway... I started thinking about the fact that my cold hands were annoying me, and also that holding my beer can was making my beer warm before I get it drunk (drank? drunked? dranked? whatever.)

Anyway, my curious little brain needed to grapple with this concept for a bit but I was just too tired. In my embibing musings, I decided that since the heat trade between my fingers and beer seemed so quick, perhaps this beer can may hold a secret to cheaper electric bills. I decided to see what I could find about using beer can material to create some sort of solar collector. Alas, my procrastination has saved me time once again and since I did nothing, no solar heating happened in my home. But, I did stumble across the same idea on the web recently and it turns out there are a couple of folks doing this very thing... one of them in a huge way.

They're called beer can solar heater furnaces and I found one guy who's made his shop time a lot more enjoyable in the winter thanks to his homemade creation. He has taken a solar powered fan and blows air through a manifold of drilled out beer cans, assembled together to form tubes, and he increases his shop temperature by 30 degrees or so. I love the fact that all he had to do was drink his way into having the raw materials to work with!

So check this guy out and maybe after you're done with your after work guzzling, see if you can fight the urge to look tough... try NOT crushing the can for a change and save them up instead to make your very own solar furnace and save yourself some coin on the old electric power bill!

Here's the link to the Beer Can Solar Furnace guy's video.

Keep inventing!


Which Electric Energy Form For Power?

Well, I guess I should start out with the biggest hook... the one that got me into all this in the first place. I remembered a friend in junior high school talking about making a Tesla coil for the science fair. He didn't actually do that, but he did magnetize aluminum ( that caught my attention and has been stored in the ol' memory banks ever since) and the name Tesla stayed with me for all these years.

Well when I decided to find different ways to generate electricity, I thought I should start by looking up this Tesla guy... I had never heard of him other than through my buddy. In fact for years, I had thought that the name was pronounced Tulsa (like the place in Oklahoma) but couldn't find the great genius under that handle. I began following links on this Nicola Tesla guy and WOW. For some reason we don't study about him in school, but he is basically the founder of our modern age.

Did you know Tesla owns over 1800 patents in the US? His biggest contributions, or inventions that made him famous (or why he at least SHOULD be famous,) include the following:

  1. Harnessed Niagara Falls for electrical power

  2. Induction motor (yes, the thing EVERYONE uses today)

  3. Radio (no Marconi didn't invent it, he stole the idea from Nicola, and in 1943 the courts said so too.)

  4. Remote Control (wireless)

  5. Tesla coil - probably one of his coolest inventions

  6. Tesla turbine - look ma... no propeller... let's use flat plates instead!

  7. A/C electricity

Yeah, and there's more... did you know that the Star Wars program touted by Ronald Regan in the 80's was based on Nicola's ideas? Way.

So getting back to my title for this, did you know that Tesla used to work for Thomas Edison? In fact they had some big fights... first over the fact that Edison bilked Tesla out of $20,000.00 saying it was just a joke, and then over whether A/C electricity was better than D/C electricity. Of course we know today who won that argument... Thomas Edison was going for D/C because he sold D/C dynamos, or generators. He didn't go down without a fight though, and even tried to scare people away from Tesla's A/C current by electrocuting stray dogs (and in one case, an Elephant) in front of people to show them the danger.

OK so the purpose of this blog is to share with you the resources I've found. Here's my first two resources. The first is a link to the account of Nicola Tesla wiring up the 1893 Colombian Exposition in Chicago with George Westinghouse, to demonstrate A/C power.

The second is just a really really cool video of a giant Tesla coil in action. Check it out.

I'll keep posting these, you keep reading them and together we'll get this free energy thing licked yet!


P.S. Did you know Tesla drove his nephew around the countryside in an electrically powered Pierce Arrow in the 30's... uh... with NO BATTERIES! Yeah... the guy was a genius.

Looking for Electric Energy Powered Freedom?

Welcome to my blog. I'm not a rocket scientist, or even a college grad. I've spent a lot of time studying things that interest me. What I am is just a licensed carpenter, and a self taught computer technician.

Bills are always nasty to pay but the one that hurt me the most was the electric bill after I built my first home. I had spent a lot of time brainstorming new insulation ideas and thought I had come up with a way to make the home much more energy efficient. But when my first bill came in at over $1270.00 I was just a tich annoyed and upset.

Anyway, I decided to start looking for new ways to generate electricity and found that there was a whole world of obscure ideas available on the topic. I thought if I could gather some of these ideas and put them together, I just might be able to take myself off the grid and power my home for free.

This blog is just a place for me to keep track of all the really cool resources I found in my journey and share them with you.

I hope you like it and make use of it yourself. My goal is to have this information geared for do it yourselfers, and hobbyists.

Enjoy, and good luck! Make sure you comment and share your own ideas and links!