Questions you should ask yourself about steam:
- How much wood do I want to cut?
- Most people say "I have plenty of trees." What they dont realize is the material handling involved in using
an unrefined fuel. There is a lot of elbow grease involved in the handling of wood. What you need to realize
is that in all practicality, there is just not that much electricity in a stick of wood. In typical steam systems, a
small 500 watt genset may consume 20 lbs. of wood an hour while a larger 10 kW AC power plant if run
constantly could consume a cord of softwood in three days. Now you see why coal and oil can look like
viable options! Sure, you can get more by being more efficient, but that is a matter of cost.
- How much $money$ do I want to spend?
- A steam system is going to cost you between $3 to $5/watt. Used equipment is cheaper and of course, the
more efficient and automatic it is, the more expensive it is. You have to determine the practicality aspect vs.
your capital investment aspect. Oftentimes, a lot of money can be saved by buying separate components such
as the engine and boiler and assembling them yourself. This is hard work, but is very self gratifying, not to
mention you get a better understanding of your system. Figure a 500 watts system to cost you between $2,000
and $3,000. A 10,000 watt system could cost you $15,000+. This may not be cost effective for you unless
you have a use for the main product of steam - heat.
- What am I going to do with the heat?
- Even a 500 watt steam genset will produce 35,000 BTUs of useable heat in the steam exhaust. That's a lot of
heat and it makes no sense to waste it. This very point is usually the deciding factor between a steam
generator and a diesel generator. Now, if you have a use for large amounts of useable and controllable heat,
no other form of alternate energy can touch steam. A typical 10,000 watt steam genset can give you up to 1/2
million BTUs of controllable heat. In other words, steam will light the chicken farm and process the chickens
too. Kiln drying, wood bending, food processing, refining and chemical processes all are typical uses for
steam heat. With steam, production processes are possible with raw resources. What you can do with the
steam depends upon your knowledge and aptitude for mechanical things.
- Do you have the savvy to utilize unrefined fuels like wood?
- We live in a time where the world is spoiled on the luxuries that refined fuels have to offer. Unfortunately,
burning a solid and unrefined fuel requires full time attention. That is why there are refined fuels. Refined
fuels allow the energy process to be automatically regulated and controlled, or when its on its on and when
its off its off. Not so with fuels like wood. There is an inherent danger when using a raw fuel and storing
the energy such as in a boiler. That is not a problem but, the operator must be educated in the process. It is
better still if the operator enjoys it. If you like it, youre into it and you are always finding ways to improve
the process. Forget what mom said and remember, "There is no shame in playing with fire."
Offered by Glenna.