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Small steam engine - 2-3kW

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  • Small steam engine - 2-3kW

    Hi everyone. I have been through the forum and almost everyone counting mainly on solar energy for homesteading, or when the grid goes off. But has anyone thought about building a small steam engine? The principle is pretty straightforward, not too complex to construct and it can go on for ages...

    What do you think?

  • #2
    What to use as fuel? what about maintenance and water sources???

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    • #3

      Steam near the top of the list for being useful and flexible. Heck, they're even talking about using it for propulsion in spacecraft now. Since pretty much every large space object has water on it, the propulsion gases are everywhere.

      As for its uses in SHTF, I think it certainly has its place if you have enough wood. But here's the problem, generating electricity with steam is not only dangerous, its difficult to do at a small scale efficiently.

      Wood gasification is far more efficient energy wise, and the gasses are more useful since they can be stored, channeled into an engine, or used for heating water or cooking with.

      Small scale steam is just hard to do and comes with a lot of hazards. I gave it a lot of consideration in my preps and it just wasn't for me.

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      • #4
        Murphy, I like the idea of wood gasification. You think it might be after some modifications usable in petrol piston engines somehow? And how to manage the storage of the gas?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Yenix View Post
          Murphy, I like the idea of wood gasification. You think it might be after some modifications usable in petrol piston engines somehow? And how to manage the storage of the gas?
          Yes, it absolutely can be used in a gasoline engine. The German people did it during WWII when petroleum products were in serious shortage. Others have also done so. I haven't really looked into it, so I am not sure about storing it. If you do research it, I would be interested in seeing the information.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by SonofLiberty View Post

            Yes, it absolutely can be used in a gasoline engine. The German people did it during WWII when petroleum products were in serious shortage. Others have also done so. I haven't really looked into it, so I am not sure about storing it. If you do research it, I would be interested in seeing the information.
            I built my own wood gassifier out of stainless steel drums and stainless exhaust pipe.

            There are a few ways to store it that I've tried. The one I found that worked best was using water bed mattresses. I collected a few water bed mattresses from Craigslist and also had an old one myself. You simply pump the gasses into the bed mattress until it inflates like a balloon. Throw an old army blanket on top, a piece of plywood, and some sandbags to provide pressure. Make sure you router and sand all the edges of the plywood so they are smooth.

            You have to use a U-Tube Manometer (easy to make) and play with the weight of the sandbags until you get the 5 inches of water column required for most appliances. It doesn't need to be exact, anything between 3.5 and 5.5 will work fine. Put your sandbags in a plastic garbage bag or your pressure will change when they get wet. Then you just pipe the gas into any appliance and run it as you regularly would.

            The second technique that also works, but doesn't store nearly as much, is to just pressurize the gas into a propane or air compressor tank. This is a lot noisier operation as you need a small compressor to do it, but it works. Only drawback is that wood-gas doesn't liquefy and so you're basically left with what amounts to the same volume as would be expected from regular air. The nice thing about this method is that your gas supply is now as portable as your tank. I have some 500 gallon propane tanks and I mounted one to a Dexter trailer axle and can tow it. It will provide enough wood gas to do quite a bit of stuff, but needs to be regulated when using it.

            My gassifier also heats water. We run cold potable water through the heat exchangers to cool the gasses and heat the water. Its limited in how much water it can heat, as not much water is required to cool the gasses, but it does work and the colder the gasses are when they come out, the more compressible they are and the more you can store. You wouldn't think it would make much of a difference but it does. There is a significant difference between how much we can store in the summer and how much in the winter.

            Wood gas rocks! The only MAJOR drawback is that a large portion of wood gas is actually Carbon Monoxide. Its not that it produces carbon monoxide, IT IS carbon monoxide. The CO is a large portion of the combustible parts of what is generated from the gassifier. And if you're not careful or know what you're doing, you could earn yourself a Darwin award and be taking a permanent dirt nap.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Murphy View Post
              I built my own wood gassifier out of stainless steel drums and stainless exhaust pipe.
              Wau. I mean, wau. This is pretty awesome. I even did not expect to meet so many crafty people here.


              Originally posted by Murphy View Post
              Its limited in how much water it can heat, as not much water is required to cool the gasses, but it does work and the colder the gasses are when they come out, the more compressible they are and the more you can store. You wouldn't think it would make much of a difference but it does. There is a significant difference between how much we can store in the summer and how much in the winter.
              It could be a huge difference!! I am having a Volkswagen car running on CNG (compressed natural gas, which starts to be more and more popular over EU) and it can take about 12kgs of gas in the summer, but more than 16 in winter, which is over 25% difference.

              Originally posted by Murphy View Post
              Wood gas rocks! The only MAJOR drawback is that a large portion of wood gas is actually Carbon Monoxide. Its not that it produces carbon monoxide, IT IS carbon monoxide. The CO is a large portion of the combustible parts of what is generated from the gassifier. And if you're not careful or know what you're doing, you could earn yourself a Darwin award and be taking a permanent dirt nap.
              You mean not get poisoned by CO?


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              • #8
                Originally posted by Yenix View Post

                You mean not get poisoned by CO?
                If you get poisoned by CO, consider yourself lucky... usually you get dead.

                Carbon Monoxide is NOT forgiving in any way and I consider it more dangerous than firearms.

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