I’ve written about energy several times before, but I seem to be reading more and more about it in the media and on various websites. At Christmas we got an electricity monitor, you plug it into your mains, program in how much you’re charged per unit and it calculates what your current spend is (per hour). It did cause us to adjust our energy usage slightly, we definitely turn the lights off more often when we’re not using them.
It also sparked me into looking for ways to generate energy at home. We could install solar panels and and a wind turbine, but that’s far too expensive and high on the hassle factor for us (and most people) so I looked at generating personal power. Most of the household could stand to loose a few pounds, and if we’re going to burn it, well then why not convert it into power. After some investigation I found that a) there are practically no small power generation devices available and b) it takes a lot of effort to generate much of any benefit (so plans of spending an hour a day on a exercise bike style generator which would power the entire house were out).
There seems to be only two devices that allow human power generation to run them: radios and torches. I did find one example of a solar charger that would charge a battery pack (or it could be hooked up to the mains) and then used to power/charge small devices like phones or iPods. All this seems a bit of a shame. Aside from the benefits to the environment, it would mean that we could all carry one small charger to maintain the growing number of devices we take with us on holiday, or to help us through power cuts (something that still happens in developed countries, sometimes for weeks).
So, here’s a couple of ideas for you (incidentally, I totally agree that ideas are Britain’s greatest natural resource):
1. Heat generation in the conservatory, I’m sure I’ve seen info about generating energy using heat differences, if nothing else most conservatories get so hot they could generate heat using a condenser. I want a simple box that can be used to charge a battery or feed back into the mains.
2. Exercise bike for generating power, a simple addition of a fly wheel and a dynamo and away you go, people have already knocked up their own versions, but the only commercial product is a rip-off. A good way to get exercise and generate power, and gyms could use it to lower electricity costs.
3. Manual recharger, a hand crank device that stores energy in a battery and can then be used to recharge phones or other devices.
4. Use falling water in drain pipes, when it rains (and it does a fair bit in the UK) water drops from the roof, accelerated by gravity, down drain pipes, which could easily be adapted to have a small generator inside, although I’m not sure how much power would be created and you’d need easy access to remove leaves etc (although a grill at the top could help that).