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Nearly all forms of conventional power generation today involve producing electricity from steam generators. That steam can come from coal, oil, and even nuclear power. So… why not get up a little of that for yourself? If you live near a natural coal seam, or you want to make your stove do more than just heat your house and cook your food, then let’s really multitask and make some juice while we’re at it. A well-maintained steam generator and boiler kit with enough spare parts can last for years on end. The technology is certainly within reach if you spend some time learning it now.
The big drawbacks are somewhat numerous, but two things stand out immediately: heavy-duty pressure-tight plumbing, and keeping the boiler stoked.
This should really be an option only for those who can run plumbing *very* well. Keeping the boiler stoked, even part-time, will be a full-time job if you don’t have sufficient material to keep burning. Forget wood for this case – even if you live in Western Oregon, two people won’t be able to get up enough wood for the job. Also, even a small boiler will be under a lot of pressure, which means a serious potential for explosion. This thing will also make noise, and lots of it.
Maintenance will require three things: insuring that both the plumbing and boiler are in good shape and pressure-tight, treating against corrosion, and insuring that the steam generator is in top condition. It will also require stockpiling (or insuring a near-constant supply of) fuel.
Overall, if you live near a small-but-workable coal seam (West Virginia, Central Utah, and similar areas are excellent for this), you can provide
a ready-made supply of fuel that burns hot and doesn’t require a lot to get it.
7/20/2011, 9:36 am
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