2015-11-12 Pedal Power Your Home

I have been into this kind of stuff for quite a while.  You can search my blog for more on this. It’s difficult for even the strongest  of bicyclists to put out 100 watts for a few minutes, let alone an hour.  Assuming that a person could pedal a 100% efficient 50 watts for an hour, that would be 50 watt hours.  That would be enough to power a 1000 watt toaster for 1/20 hour or 3 minutes, with nothing left for anything else in the home.  This does not even come close to powering a washing machine.  It might power a few 10 watt LED lights for an hour or two.  It seems to me that it will take a lot more than an hour of pedaling to get the house powered for a day.  And that assumes the pedal power is stored in a battery for use later.

Pedal power is very useful for charging batteries and cell phones. It’s a good way to burn calories, too. A home power system might consist of two 12 volt deep discharge batteries, a solar panel and a pedal generator to charge the batteries, and an inverter.

The inverter converts the battery voltage to 120 VAC, 60 Hz or whatever is standard in your country. The capacity of the inverter depends on the appliances that you want to run. For a few lights and small appliances, a 500 or 600 watt inverter might be adequate. you will have to determine what the highest wattage appliance is and add more watts for a margin of safety.

The batteries can be connected in series or parallel. Typically batteries are connected in series, two would give 24 volts. This saves on copper wire and other equipment such as relays, switches, connectors. But the inverter’s input has to be rated for 24 volts DC.

If you connect two or more batteries in parallel, you may have problems if the batteries are mismatched. More about this here.

Or the batteries may need to be connected with a pair of high current diodes mounted on a heat sink. These are used in RVs and portable systems. These diodes must be able to handle very high current, possibly a hundred amps depending on your inverter current. You can read about this here.

If you want a system that can handle more than a thousand watts, it may be cheaper to buy a generator that runs with gasoline. They can be found from a thousand watts to several thousand watts for a relatively inexpensive price.

Pedal power has a place in generating renewable energy, but it probably is not enough to power a home. It is definitely useful for emergency situations where all you have is a strong pair of legs.


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