kitchen table math, the sequel: a brilliant invention

Friday, November 9, 2012

a brilliant invention



ChemProf's spouse said...

Be aware that with gas storage you'll need to use STA-BIL or other stabilizer, and even then you'll need a system where you rotate out the old gas (into a car) and buy fresh. Basically figure a one year turnover.

As for the generator if you just want a stand-alone portable fuel efficient relatively quiet model that you plug things into via an extension cord (you can run the fridge a couple of hours a day and keep everything cold) you probably want a Honda. The eu2000i is a great generator and if it doesn't provide enough power you can buy two and chain them together which is a great feature. Disadvantages of cheaper models include weight, loudness, being overly optimistic about how much power they produce, and producing output that's not a clean sin wave. As an example all professional photographers use Honda generators because anything else will fry their strobes over time. I wouldn't plug a laptop into a cheap generator!

If you basically just want to power the regular house lines you'll need a transfer switch and possibly other infrastructure, all of which involves electricians and some larger generator power. Without the transfer switch you'll have problems like pumping your power back up the line and frying some worker who expects a dead line. They frown on that.

Some people prefer a system of batteries and an inverter - it has advantages and disadvantages and I'm sure if you Google it you'll find info. In a perfect world you would have a solar system to charge the batteries but we're talking big bucks at some point.

SteveH said...

I see more people buying generators, but I don't think the problem is more severe than it was in the past. We were out of power for two days and that was not too bad. I started thinking about a generator, but power loss just doesn't happen that often. There was that time, however, when Disney's Big Red Boat dragged its anchor and pulled up the main line to our island. We were out of power for many days.

With the future heading towards some sort of "smart grid", I expect that all new houses will eventually be required to include inverters. More people will be generating their own electricity, even in micro amounts. It will be easier to build in some sort of backup.

In the longer term, I see more hybrids for homes, where an oil or gas furnace generates electricity that will heat a house. Why have two separate power systems that aren't connected? Why should you have to buy a generator when you have a furnace sitting right there? Why have a furnace? Why not a power generator?

With electric heat, each room can be computer controlled. Right now, our house uses oil heat to inefficiently heat water that goes to only two zones. With electricity, you have less loss and more control, room by room. My huge hot water tank will go away and be replaced by just-in-time hot water heaters. You could have a console that tells you how much electricity you are using and which devices are using the most. That could be tied to the smart grid which tells you what the current rate is. You could show your kids exactly how much those 20 minute showers cost! You could put in water flow meters too.

Even large ships are moving to electric motors. Diesel engines are just used to generate electricity. If I were to build a new house, it would be all electric. It would include an inverter and a separate power generator backup run on natural gas or oil. If the Smart Grid wanted to charge me peak hour high rates, I could go local. Perhaps solar panels will become more cost effective. I'm not a big fan of large battery banks (they are no solution for being without power for a week), but maybe lithium will get close. There are lots of sources for generating micro amounts of electricity. You just have to have a way to accumulate the electricity. With any excess, it would be simple to push it out to the grid and earn some money.

There is a slow, but clear change towards having electricity be the front end power source for everything. It's much more flexible, and it's a way to isolate, and maybe someday eliminate, the use of fossil fuels. All of our fuel could then be created in a carbon neutral fashion. It will, however, take time to build the infrastructure needed to isolate and distribute power generation.

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