A few of the following homemade energy contraptions have the potential to produce a good amount of electricity while others may only provide enough to power a small LED or grain of wheat bulb. Some of these setups require purchasing special equipment while others do not.
Solar energy is a growing craze around many parts of the world and can provide power for countless people in rural areas. Not counting commercial set ups, solar powered items available today range from small handheld devices to gran-diose $100,000+ multiple panel systems. A simple system comprised of a few panels, one charge controller, one or more battery banks, and an inverter may provide enough power to keep a basic American household running during a short-term power outage: for items such as a well pump, lights, a small refrigerator, etc.
One caution to be aware of when using this type of system is its chemical makeup. A key component of many solar panels is Silicon Tetrachloride Crystalline. It produces a chemical reaction within its cells called artificial photosynthesis. Silicon tetrachloride is a corrosive and highly toxic chemical which can kill plants and animals, so handle the panels carefully.
Potatoes, citrus fruits, etc: According to smithsonianmag.com, “The Hebrew University of Jerusalem released their finding that a potato boiled for eight minutes can make for a battery that produces ten times the power of a raw one. Using small units comprised of a quarter-slice of potato sandwiched between a copper cathode and a zinc anode that’s connected by a wire, agricultural science professor Haim Rabinowitch and his team wanted to prove that a system that can be used to provide rooms with LED- powered lighting for as long as 40 days. At around one-tenth the cost of a typical AA battery, a potato could supply power for cell phone and other personal electronics”.
Potatoes are not a source of energy, but rather, they are high in electrolytes (nature’s form of battery acid), like other foods, such as grapefruits, lemons and pumpkins. These electrolytes in the potato creates a salt-bridge, or chemical reaction, between zinc electrodes (negative charge reaction) and copper electrodes (positive charge reaction). This allows an electron current to move freely across the wires. Although it may sound simple, there is more to it than that. Different electrode makeups, like zinc, copper, etc., different shapes or surface areas, internal resistance, and other variables can all affect the voltage output; even using two pennies from different years can affect it due to their composition. If everything goes well, a single potato may produce up to .5 volt.
While studies have shown it is possible to charge a smart phone by linking many potatoes together, a more appropriate and simple use for a potato battery is to provide enough energy to for a small LED light bulb to glow in the dark.
Hydroelectric comes from harnessing the kinetic energy of falling or moving water which turns a turbine to move the copper armature inside the electric generator.
The use of waterpower has been around for thousands of years. The Greeks used the power of water to grind flour. They connected the stone grinding wheels to water wheels, so the force of the water did the hard work for them. This technology came to America with the early colonists.
To use a water wheel, attached to an alternator, as an effective generator for home power, a proper balance of torque (resistance) and rotations is critical. Although almost any alternator can be used in a pinch, using the proper one for the designed system can greatly improve efficiency.
An average alternator will produce between 40 to 320 volts of alternating current, per day, from between 2,000 to 10,000 RPM (rotations per minute). This high number of required RPM isn’t very practical for a traditional water wheel, which only turns about 15 to 20 RPM.
Besides using the best alternator for the job, the position of the water flow onto the wheel will greatly affect the final amount of power produced. Here are how the different positions may influence the outcome:
• Undershot water wheel: 30 percent efficiency, at most
• Breast-shot water wheel 50-75 percent efficiency
• Overshot water wheels: 80+ percent efficiency
The typical American household’s use of power is approximately 28 to 33 kilowatt hours per day. A waterwheel can generate one to two kilowatts. This creates at least 24 kilowatt hours of sustainable green energy in a day; however, this may not be the end result. If a breastshot wheel has an efficiency of 50-75 percent to generate around 650 watts of electricity, then it is just enough to run ten 60-watt light bulbs for as long as the wheel is turning.
Wind power happens as wind turns the blades of a turbine to move the copper armature inside an electric generator. This process is similar to hydroelectric power (waterpower). Both of these power sources use rotational mechanical energy to produce electricity.
Steam power comes from thermal energy and is the power applied to an engine by the force of steam. Wood, coal, natural gas, propane, sunlight and geothermal heat can all heat water to form steam.
The stream is then trapped and funneled through a small opening. The force from this pressure spins a turbine that is connected to a generator, which, in turn, produces electricity.
Although some alternators, and other parts, are better suited for some systems more than others, most can work with hydroelectric, wind, bicycles, steam and any other turbine set-up.
A bicycle can be used in much the same way as a water wheel and wind turbine, but will only work while someone is pedaling.