Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Stirling Home System

All you need to generate Electric from temperature differences
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The Home Stirling is a relatively portable, low-temperature-differential sensitive Stirling Engine that can be set up to draw power from common temperature gradients around the home.

About the size of a vacuum cleaner, it can be wheeled into position, and the accompanying modular temperature conducting hoses, cooling fins and coolant pumps can be set up into whatever configuration is desired most.

Commercially available Stirling engines are extremely hard to find (believe me I've tried) and while that may qualify this idea a blatant me-too - I'd like to emphasise the modular heat trapping/radiating attachments that allow the home user to take advantage of any perceived temperature difference and profit from its exploitation.

Hook one end up via the big hose and insulated blanket attachment (imagine a water-entubed electric blanket, only in reverse) to the back of the fridge - or wood burner - or place the patented black-coated solar absorber under the optional perspex dome and place outside for sunlit heating - while on the other side of the house, set up the aggressively finned radiator array in that room that's always colder than it should be, or sink it to the bottom of the pond, or the bath - it's up to you.

The list of heat attracting/radiating attachments provides the marketing hook that could get the system off the ground.

The coolant tubes snake from each of these modules up to the Stirling proper, and once plugged into the appropriate "hot" and "cold" sections, will begin to power the engine.

A hand crank can be used to start the engine and to move the coolant around its respective circuits until the engine warms up enough to take over under its own steam.

Energy can be tapped either directly by attaching a belt to a revolving spindle (hidden behind a safety cap) or indirectly as AC/DC electricity.

But there's more! Since the whole thing can be used in reverse, it becomes a general mechanical/thermal/electrical converter - simply choose the appropriate input/output vector as desired.

zen_tom, Dec 02 2008

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       I need one of these. Every time our kiln gets used, about 60-80kWh of heat is lost, heating up our garden.
hippo, Dec 02 2008
  

       Everyone needs one of these - on warm nights, place the heat-sapping blanket over your bed, and the heat radiating fin array in Grandma's cold basement room. Cool yourself down, warm up Granny, AND trickle-charge the car battery all at the same time!
zen_tom, Dec 02 2008
  

       I love that the bakery teaches me something new everyday.   

       So, this is an Alpha Stirling, with two separate pistons located at their respective heating/cooling areas. All very well and good, being portable and all, but with a bit of forward architectural planning you could gain the added sustainability and lower maintenace that avoiding moving seals brings by constructing a Beta Stirling that connects to the back of your fridge, extends through the wall behind it and outside to a shaded area of your back garden where, for greater efficiency, it pokes out below your roof's runoff, allowing for further cooling from rain water.   

       Only problem is you get a diminished power output in Summer, when cooling is lessened by the heat outside. However, if coupled with a bank of solar panels, which slump in power output in Winter, you're on to a a fully seasonal, fridge-based generator unit. Ace!
theleopard, Dec 02 2008
  

       I don't think it's useful to generate work or electricity from the back of a fridge; if you have a handy cold sink it's better to directly cool the fridge's condensor with that, otherwise you are wasting power to generate a much smaller amount of power. Also, it's probably wasteful to use an expensive Stirling engine to generate a tiny amount of power from small temperature differences. Again, better to use those temperatures directly for heating or cooling, if possible. For solar or wood-burning heat, this is excellent; there is a large flow of heat down a large temperature gradient and thus an ideal opportunity to generate useful energy. I want one.
spidermother, Dec 02 2008
  

       The boon you get by working off the back of the fridge is that, by actively assisting cooling, you're increasing the efficiency of the fridge, while making a bit of energy on the side - and while you could cool the fridge radiator directly for increased fridge efficiency - you'd have to expend some energy to do that - with the sterling engine, the propulsion of the coolant could be powered by the engine alone - saving you time, and money.   

       All we need are machine tools and a marketing department.
zen_tom, Dec 02 2008
  

       You say 'low temperature differential'... this is code for 'low efficiency'... this is code for 'low power'. The idea of trying to make use of the waste heat from a fridge/freezer is a good one, but I think plumbing it into an underfloor heating system (for the next room) may be a better idea.   

       As for using a sterling engine as a retrofit small-scale CHP device for homes, I like it. You could then justfy having an AGA cooker, as it'd be contributing to the energy supply. Boilers are now on the market to 'run the meter backwards', but having a devivce thet'd run off the heat that usually goes up the chimney would be awesome!   

       A radiator on the outside of the chimney breast would act as your sink, unless you wanted to pipe the heat to another part of the house (a user controlled valve?).   

       Love it if used correctly!
Skrewloose, Dec 03 2008
  
      
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