or sometimes just a passing thought.

Energy Conversion Card Game

Date of original idea: Aug 1, 2012
but just found in the “drafts” folder.

A card game that is based in energy conversion methods.  Goal is to maximize profitability while minimizing CO2 emissions.  Cards have sources (coal, oil, sun, wind), storage (chemical: hydrocarbon, electrochemical, or kenetic or ?), energy releasing steps (burning, catalyzing), electric generation,… and end uses (buildings, cars, planes, ships, …).

but what’s the next step here….

goal is to illustrate the many paths, educate that there is no one solution but minimizing end uses should be the target, and that costs are based on balance.

Needs more thought, but it seems pretty ripe.

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Leveraging the Cold

Date of original idea: been kicking around for quite awhile, this cold snap made me finally make the calcs

Can I utilize the cold cold outside to (significantly) reduce the energy my fridge uses?


I’m staying with round numbers to keep this a proof-of-concept calc, so don’t get hung up on my use of “approximate values”.

Results: About 1400kJ of reducing heating load per jug. The lion’s share of the heat absorption (about 96%) is due to the phase change from ice to water, which means this only has a chance if you can fully freeze and then fully melt, and the melting of a large block takes time. This puts an upper limit on the frequency that you can do this, I’m guessing that if you used a gallon jug that this limit is on the order of at least 1 day (from some empirical data I have with pop). Therefore, optimistically, this 1400kJ is the max per day for this shape jug. Maybe a flat, thin container could speed this up- we’ll hold that aside for future funding requests.

The electricity savings, and therefore money savings, would depend on the “efficiency” of the fridge (which would also include the number of times the door is opened and the temp of items put in and and and, which is why I put “efficiency” in quotes- it’s a mix of efficiency and consumption). The 1400kJ does work as a lower bound on the savings: 0.4kWh/day minimum.

My fridge is listed at “606 kWh per year” though that’s a marketing value. I would put a meter on the plug but the thing is big and difficult to pull out of the way to get to the plug. Using the marketing value 606/365 = 1.6 kWh/day of electricity. How much heat rejection that is I don’t really have a good handle on right now. What we can see is that, assuming this 1.6kWh per day is accurate, you can’t get much out of this even at 100% savings ($0.18 or so, which is $5/month and not nothing, but only when it is below freezing out).

Conclusion: The savings are small, likely less than $0.10/day of electricity, but a significant portion (> 25%) of the fridge consumption. Admittedly, however, a better test is needed to quantify the benefit: Energy meter for a some time of normal use followed up by an energy meter for a some time of normal use with frozen water jugs. I’ll get on that the next time it is both cold out and the fridge needs to move anyway.

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Thermal transport

Low cost FLIR ( ) attached to a roomba. A large thermal mass, as large as the roomba can carry, rides on the back of the roomba. The little guy wanders over to the warmest spot it can find, soaks up heat, then when the temperature of the thermal mass rises as high as it’s going to, the roomba finds the coldest spot in the room. Using an on-board peltier device, the roomba charges itself and any extra energy can be used for other things (details omitted for brevity). It will work in the summer and winter. You can program it for certain areas to help with comfort (search out the coldest spot near the couch to release its heat for example).

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Direct Methane Fuel Cell in a Fanny Pack

Date of Original Idea: Sept 3, 2014

Power your cell phone with a direct methaNE fuel cell hanging on your belt in the middle of your back. The methane side left open to the atmosphere. When the charge gets low, you just head off to Arbys.

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Piss Powered

Date of Original Idea: May 20, 2012

Little turbines in the drain of urinals.  Must be constructed so that that aim results in no splash-back, as well as preventing spin-out due to the turbine itself.  The energy collected from such a device could be used to run an LED somewhere.  Get enough urinals together and you could light several LEDs for a short period of time.

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Harvesting Remaining Energy from Batteries

Date of Original Idea: a couple months ago

Most battery powered devices stop working when the voltage on the battery drops too low, but there’s still energy in there.  As I see it, the only useful way to get all the energy out is to take it out as heat, as that would be the only useful voltage independent and cost effective method.  So if you’re in a part of the world where you heat your home from external sources (wood, gas, oil, electricity), you just save your almost dead batteries for the winter.  Then you jam them in a bucket of BBs.  They will short out the batteries, drawing every last Joule of energy out and supplement the heating of your house.

If you saved up a couple dozen batteries and jammed them in a little pouch of BBs, you could wrap it around your neck or where ever and enjoy the heat directly.

Is it alot, no.  Is it free, yes.   Is it easy, yes.

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Home Heating from Fracking Failures

Date of Original Idea:  Feb 28, 2010

We’ve seen the news reports and videos of failed attempts cleanly fracking natural gas.  The gas and other “secret ingredients” get into the drinking water of the people living nearby, who subsequently video themselves lighting their tap on fire.

There’s energy in them pipes!  Now all we need is a furnace that separates the gas from water and uses it to heat a home or, more ironically, heat water.  It is apparently a low gas flow volume and the supply is probably not too stable, so a low flame, much like a mutli-stage furnace on low setting.  It would be excellent for heating a volume of water as in a boiler system, where a low but fairly constant heating would get the system warmed up eventually and then kept at the temp, the thermal capacity of the system would deal with lapses in the gas supply.  In very cold climates it would probably need to be supplemented by other heating sources.  The problem might be that you have to keep the water running to get the gas to flow, and then you’re running a well pump that is not meant for such continuous duty, so a beefing up of the pump might be necessary too.  The water could be recirculated back down the well–it’s not potable anyway.

Need to get cracking on this one, with gas prices going up there will be a big demand for this type of device in just a few years!

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Clean (and Fresh Scented) Energy

Date of Original Idea:  A couple years ago

Idea:    Dryer sheets remove the static cling from clothes. Where does it go?

Next Steps:  Research is needed into harvesting that static electricity from the used dryer sheets and converting it into useful energy. Added benefit: the dryer sheets can be re-used several times before they begin to fall apart physically.     I could sell small devices that recharge your iPod with the used sheets.

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Date of Idea:  Back in the summer when electric bikes were out front of the bike shop.

Electric cars are, in popular press, better than non-electric cars.  Electric bikes are marketed much the same.  The next logical step is of course, electric shoes.

A small motor with a cam built into the hell that rotates to help push off the ground for you.  Regen capable either by capturing your heel-strike or with a sole that allows you to slide forward a bit spinning the motor through a linkage while going down hill.   Batteries are packaged on the top of the foot, additional batteries can be strapped to the leg or waist for longer treks.  Lights on for safety at night.

Think globally, act locally.

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Fuel Economy Indicator That Teaches Proper Braking

Actual Date of Idea:  About 2 years ago on the way to work.

On many cars there is an indicator that tells you your mileage.  It shows some value from 0 to lots and is updated constantly.  If used as a gauge, it can help people learn how to drive more efficiently.  A problem with it is that it doesn’t give specific feedback as to what you can do, and there are many variables.  One of the biggest ones is to use the brakes as little as possible.  When brakes are used, it turns momentum into heat  (in the case of regenerative braking with electric motors, it captures some of it, but there are still losses.  Never braking is and will always be more efficient than regen).  I think of it as burning gas.  It would be possible to estimate, from the vehicle characteristics and deceleration rate, the amount of energy lost into the brakes, and combined with the fuel economy estimate would indicate how much gas, in gallons, has been spent by braking.

Perhaps having a real time display you watch while braking isn’t as safe as you’d think.  So instead how about a calculation that shows your total gasoline lost per the trip and/or another display with what your fuel economy would have been had you not done any braking.   It’s very rare to get anywhere without braking, but learning to look far down the road and coasting as often as possible will make for quick gains, and the display proposed here will give you an indication of whether it’s making a difference or not.

Could other feedback suggestions be made by computer.  Something that estimates vehicle weight and tells you to empty the trunk might be good, but would be hard to calculate that from the inexactness of the variables.  A display that shows where the engine is operating with regard to efficient zones is nice, but difficult to deal with in real time while also safely driving, and having an automatic tranny or an indicator of when to shift a manual helps keep things in line.   Something that tells you to slow down, especially when cruising on the autobahn at over 110 mph would help, but it would be very naggy.

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