Archive for the ‘Ideas’ Category
All motorized vehicles, including cars, boats, ships, trucks, buses, planes and trains should come equipped from the factory with integrated carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.
Vehicles should contain carbon monoxide and smoke detectors because power trains can fail and sometimes deliver deadly carbon monoxide into the passenger compartment, killing everyone inside. This happened yesterday, April 1, 2013, when three men got stuck in some mud while driving their sports utility vehicle in the early morning dark. One of the passengers, Shain Gandee, was famous for his starring role in the Music Television reality show Buckwild. The coroner ruled the deaths accidental and declared carbon monoxide poisoning to be the cause of death. The mud reportedly covered the muffler of the truck. That may have forced exhaust through holes in the exhaust system underneath the passenger area, and perhaps some of that exhaust infiltrated into the cabin. The truck was an old model that looks like it’s had a rough life.
It was probably cold and dark out, and I can see the three wanting to stay inside with the motor running to stay warm until daylight. Had there been a carbon monoxide detector on board, the three would have been warned of the danger they were in, and could have shut off the engine and stepped outside for some fresh air. Better to be cold than dead.
Even electric vehicles should have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, since batteries also are dangerous. Additionally, people might use propane heaters inside, and they emit carbon monoxide that can kill you when they are malfunctioning.
Detectors should be hard wired to the vehicle start battery, but should have 10 year on board battery backup as well, like all detectors should. Detector design should be standardized so a detector from a Rolls Royce Phantom will fit a Chevrolet Aveo, and vice versa. That way the cost to replace detectors at the end of their life will be low enough that people will be inclined to do so. There should be an interlock so the car won’t drive past 55 miles per hour unless a working and non expired detector is installed. This will more than gently nudge owners to replace expired or defective detectors. A red light on the dash is not sufficient reminder. Making the car not start is too extreme, since a user might be in danger if they got stranded. A speed limit is a powerful incentive.
A detector like I propose here should cost about USD $10.00 in quantity with the standardization I propose. I am sure Gandee’s family would have loved for him to have had a detector.
In the meantime, before my idea gets implemented on a universal scale, go buy a home style smoke and carbon monoxide detector and install it in your vehicle. If it goes off and saves your life, please tell me so in a comment so I know that people are reading this and acting upon my advice.
I don’t know how many unintentional carbon monoxide poisonings inside vehicles occur each year, but the number must be in the hundreds worldwide. An extra $10 to avoid these deaths is worth it.
Smoke, fire and carbon monoxide detectors should chirp to signal low battery condition only during waking hours – here is how
I have learned that smoke and fire detectors almost always signal low battery condition in the early morning between midnight and five o’clock. This wakes me up and forces me to replace batteries when I am sleepy. I suspect many people don’t have spare batteries always on hand like I do, and simply take the batteries out until they can go to the store. This leaves the premises less well protected, and I suspect fires have started during this period and that people have died.
The fix is so simple I can’t believe I only thought of it today.
Simply include a clock in all battery operated smoke, fire and carbon monoxide detectors. Have this clock powered by its own battery that can last a decade or more. Set this clock at the factory for the part of the world where the detectors will be sold. The low battery circuitry should consult this on board clock, and should suppress the chirping ‘low battery’ notification during typical sleeping hours, say from 10pm to 8am. The chirping can resume at 8am each day until the batteries are replaced. Alarms typically will chirp for months before they run out of power entirely, so the delay in chirping during the night will not cause a significant safety issue.
The clock should be user resettable so the detector can be moved between time zones by the buyer, or set to accommodate unusual sleep schedules.
I suspect the clock I am proposing costs no more than USD $.50 in bulk, and the feature that it will enable can be promoted to boost sales. I suspect such a detector will sell well because I suspect everyone with a detector has been awakened by their chirping.
Chirping during waking hours is likely to be a measurable advance in fire and poisoning safety, since awake and alert people are less likely to make mistakes, like removing the batteries or putting in replacement batteries backwards.
While the circuit designers are at it, they should program the detectors to keep track of the passing years and notify the user when the detector has reached its end of life, around ten years after manufacture. I am sure there are millions of ‘expired’ detectors still in use because people forget when to replace them.
This is my second post on how to improve detectors. My first post Smoke detectors should send activation warnings via text messages via Wi-Fi I wrote July 23, 2011.
I believe detectors chirp now early in the morning because batteries deliver less power when cold, and in many homes the temperature drops lowest early in the morning. Here’s a post by The San Diego Real Estate Inspection Company that agrees with me.
Thank you to SoftTech VC venture capitalist Jeff Clavier for sparking my imagination today to think up this fix. Clavier asked on Facebook this morning why detectors report low batteries exclusively at 3:30am. It’s then that I thought of including an internal clock to solve the problem. I posted my suggestion in a comment on Clavier’s Facebook Wall, and then decided to write this post to formalize my suggestion, with the hope the idea gets discovered and implemented.
If this idea makes money for you or your company, please send me an industry average royalty for using this, out of the goodness of your heart. I am guessing that will amount to about USD $.05 per detector, but that could result in my getting ever more wealthy over time given every residence on Earth should have multiple detectors forever. Thank you!
I will not patent this so it’s now in the public domain if it hasn’t already been patented, which is not unlikely given how simple the idea is. I could quickly find no mention of this idea after performing a Google search for this idea.
I wrote about Jeff Clavier last year, and I took the picture of him that accompanies this post. Clavier speaks colorfully. My favorite quote from when I saw him speak August 30, 2012?
“I passed on airbnb that some showed me when it was called air bed and breakfast and I said ‘air bed and breakfast… are you f—ing kidding me?”
My preference is that the world move quickly towards hard wired sealed detectors that have backup batteries that will last ten years. It also seems that non hard wired detectors should have solar cells like calculators and watches, to keep the batteries from having to drain themselves so quickly.
My clock idea I present here is still relevant to such detectors, since I would prefer to learn the detector needs replacing while I am awake and likely to buy a new one at once.
To my knowledge, in the United States it is illegal to record conversations unless you have permission of the parties you’re recording. I believe the rules are more lax in some jurisdictions, but those exceptions are not that helpful if one wants to record a phone conversation with a company representative, because call centers are so dispersed over the planet. A representative could be anywhere.
I think United States Federal law should be changed to specifically permit consumers to record conversations they have with employees and other representatives of companies. Nothing stops me from asking for permission today, but I have never been granted permission when I have asked, so that’s why the law should be changed.
Companies routinely give themselves the right to record calls, so they should understand why a consumer would also want to have that ability.
I came to my recommendation January 29, 2013, after I had a frustrating conversation that day with Brian G., a supervisor at Godaddy, the Internet domain name giant. Brian’s email address is email@example.com. Brian refused to give me his last name, citing a Godaddy security policy.
On or around December 14, 2012, I learned a domain I’ve been wanting for a dozen plus years was in ‘redemption.’ This means the prior owner didn’t pay to renew it, so the registrar placed the name into redemption, a kind of holding place for domain names before they are eventually released to the public for purchase.
My heart raced. I was going to finally be able to reacquire the Hotpaper.com domain. I sold the name in 2000. My first reaction was to write to my friend Dan Luis and ask if I could pay the redemption fee to Purple, the company I sold the name to a dozen years ago, so they could retrieve the name from redemption status. This would then give Purple the right to transfer the name to me.
But after I composed the email to Luis, who I have been in touch with as recently as 2012, I decided to run this idea past GoDaddy, which was the registrar for Hotpaper.com.
I told the representative about my connection with Purple and proposed doing what I just outlined. The representative then advised me to not bother, and just sign up for GoDaddy’s Domain Name Backorder service, which cost about USD $20.00 and included a full year of registration. This made the cost for getting the domain about $8.00, which is just 1/10th what it would have cost me to pay Purple to get the domain out of redemption status.
The representative told me that since GoDaddy was the registrar for Hotpaper.com that they would be able to get the domain name for me through their backorder service. He said that if Hotpaper.com had been with another registrar then they would have had to fight to try to get the name. The representative assured me multiple times that in this situation their backorder service was a sure thing. Not once did he even hint that I would be rolling the dice. Had he alerted me that I was speculating, I would have hung up and pursued the sure thing of contacting Luis.
Either Luis would have redeemed the name for Purple to hold on to, or he would have allowed me to redeem it through Purple. Luis would not have ignored me and let the name hit the open market — he’s my friend, and even though we haven’t seen each other in ages, we share a bond, for we both sold our companies to the company that is now Purple. Why am I so sure of this? Luis is the one that keeps our association alive by saying hello to me from time to time, not the other way around. I believe Luis respects me and does not want to upset me, so he would not take an adverse position, especially on something like this that is of no consequence to Purple, since they retired the Hotpaper name around a decade ago.
I would have been fine had Luis redeemed the name and had Purple hold on to it for decades to come. My desire is for the name to not fall into third party hands, so it was great that Purple paid the registration on the name for so long after they stopped using it. I saved over USD $100 over the last decade thanks to the kindness of Purple. Thank you.
I have explained to GoDaddy that their representative promised to get me the Hotpaper.com domain and failed, and to fix this failure they need to buy the domain and give it to me for the backorder fee I paid. This is a case of an employee being insufficiently skilled and trained, and their failure led to this sad result. GoDaddy the company is at fault, I believe. Yes, there may be some fine print somewhere on the GoDaddy website explaining the backorder process is akin to gambling, but GoDaddy’s sales representative negated that fine print.
I believe I was behaving reasonably when I took the word of the GoDaddy representative.
I figured that GoDaddy would have an advantage in ‘catching’ domain names dropping from their registry in the same way that high speed Wall Street traders benefit from extremely close proximity to stock exchange computers, so much so that high speed traders rent space in premium Wall Street colocation space to get faster connection times, since the speed of electricity is only so fast.
I have never bought a domain through a name catching service, so I was not an expert when I placed the order. But I felt the representative I ordered through knew what he was talking about, because he was so articulate, well spoken and because his explanation of why GoDaddy would definitely get the name sounded technically and practically believable.
If I had recorded that conversation, I believe GoDaddy would buy Hotpaper.com on the open market and give it to me for the backorder fee I have already paid. The conversation was so crystal clear and frankly damning that GoDaddy would not want to risk the recording and this story hitting the front page of Reddit, where I predict GoDaddy would have taken a beating from the readers of that news site.
This domain issue is of little importance. I survived a dozen years without the domain, and I’ll be fine without it for the next dozen or three dozen years. I have Hotpaper.net if I ever want to do anything Hotpaper related in the future.
The right for consumers to record calls with businesses, without notice, however, is a right US residents should have. There are so many business that will only correspond with customers over the phone. All banks I know are like this, and will simply not engage a customer by writing emails or letters back and forth. If you try to send a letter, often you’ll get a letter back asking you to phone. Banks I am sure force business to be conducted by phone because they know there will not be a record the customer can keep and refer to or publicize if the customer is mistreated.
Customers need to be able to believe what they’re told by company representatives, which, sadly, is a bigger and more difficult issue. I appreciate and recognize that I should have independently verified by reading the fine print on the GoDaddy website what the representative told me. I didn’t do it because the representative was so confident and self assured, and because the stakes were not material. Frankly, I’ll save hundreds of dollars over the years by not having to pay to keep the Hotpaper.com domain for myself, so you can even say GoDaddy did me a favor by the failure of their representative to explain how their backorder service works.
Companies should do the right thing by their customers when their representative makes such an obvious and glaring error. If a car dealer sells you a lemon, they’ll have to buy it back from you. If a doctor amputates the wrong limb, they’ll pay you plenty. If a lawyer drops the ball and forgets a filing deadline and you lose your case as a result, she’ll pay you.
Here we have a salesperson that sold me a product by misinforming me about its most important workings — whether intentional or not is irrelevant. This strikes me as fraud, though I am not a lawyer. GoDaddy should fix this apparent fraud by buying the domain and delivering it to me.
While researching this story, I found the website Anti GoDaddy, which collects GoDaddy horror stories from consumers. I posted a screen shot of this site’s home page at the top of this article. Notice the reach of GoDaddy — the embedded advertisement near the top of the page is for GoDaddy.
If this domain had been really important to me, I would have not handled the matter so casually. On a scale of 1 to 10, the Hotpaper.com domain ranks a 0.1. Note that I have not linked to the domain so as to not give traffic to the domain name speculator that ended up acquiring the name. The last time I checked, which was just once, there was a generic page offering to sell the domain.
The US Federal government should allow recording of conversations by consumers with businesses to reduce the harm that comes from currently insufficiently documented conversations. I suspect there are thousands of people that lost their homes in recent years because a bank told them verbally not to worry about their loan modification delays, but then foreclosed anyway. Had those promises been recorded by the consumers, the banks may have not been so quick to make promises they couldn’t respect, and homeowners could have pursued other options with more awareness of their true situations. The ramifications of only the business being able to record conversations are likely widespread and quite substantial, in every field, with every size business. It’s simply not fair to let only one party avail themselves of voice recording technology. Society would not stand for lopsided court reporting during trials, where the transcription was for the benefit of only the defendant or only the plaintiff. Why does society permit injustice with documentation outside the courtroom?
Laws need to change. I don’t know about the laws outside the United States, but I suspect this post applies to most of the planet.
I am dismayed with how the United States responded to four plane crashes 11 years ago this day, September 11, 2012.
Wars were started that still continue. Trillions of US dollars have been wasted destroying much more than just property and life.
Osama bin Laden still could have been found and brought to trial to determine his guilt or innocence, and we wouldn’t have wrecked our good will like we have with these needless and counter productive wars that are a drain on the world. Constant war is a drain on the mental energy of everyone in the world, I fear.
President Bill Clinton handled the 1993 World Trade Center truck bombing as a police matter, and I recall that some of the perpetrators were located, tried in civilian courts, convicted and punished. That’s the way to handle both daily criminal and infrequent catastrophic criminal events.
I believe the people behind the 9/11/01 attacks were upset with how the United States conducts itself on the world stage. I think a sane and proper response would have been to admit to the world that the United States does overstep its place more than it cares to admit. We should have attempted to open a rich and ongoing dialog with those who attacked us to solicit their advice on how the United States could tone things down in the future so that others wouldn’t be so hopping mad that they attack us.
Would such a polite and measured response have worked? I don’t know. But I think it would have cost less in every measure.
If a prestigious entity with world visibility were created where we would yearly sit with our attackers and those who think of attacking, we would have taken the wind out of the sails of our attackers to a substantial degree. The entity would need to have power, prestige and money for it to be seen as more than window dressing by those who might attack us. It would need to make sure action was taken after meetings so all those watching would know their voice was being heard and acted upon. This would be one heck of an organization, and I don’t know how to pull it off, but it needs to be built. We know how to build huge, costly organizations that can cause action. The US military is one such huge costly organization, for example. The organization for good I propose might need to rival the US military in size, scope, power and budget. That might sound crazy, but what really are we getting for our military expenditures now? I would argue a lot less than nothing. We are building negative equity like at no time in the history of the United States. We could fund the organization I propose by reallocating half the budget of the US military as a start. With just half its budget intact, the United States would still have a huge military, but we would also immediately have the largest organization for world change on the planet, and just by having made that commitment, I predict more than half our ‘need’ for a military at all would evaporate. Half of our military is still a lot, and think of the new friends we would make with the new organization for change I propose. Far fewer people would wish us harm if we were doing good on such an intense global scale.
Now prepare yourself for the most provocative text I’ve written in my life…
Soon after the September 11, 2001 plane crashes, United States of America President George W. Bush should have said something like this:
“The United States is profoundly sorry and embarrassed.
Without an invitation, the United States has been acting like the policeman of the world.
We recognize that there are other valid points of view on how to live life. We don’t want to be attacked like this again, so I ask those of you who wish us harm to please share with us how we can avoid such attacks. We are willing to make big changes, and we’re willing to spend a lot of money to be a nicer world citizen. To demonstrate our resolve to change and see the point of view of others, the United States today is contributing USD $100,000,000,000 to get the ball rolling towards a more fair and sane planet. We will spend to improve the lot of the people that attacked us.
On behalf of the United States of America, I am sorry that this country has acted such that you believe you had to attack it. While this country may not agree with your points of view, it does recognize that you view your points of view as valid and worth advancing. Clearly, we need to talk, and we will talk. I personally will talk face to face with your representatives.
The United States feels so strongly that it will learn to play nice on the world stage that beyond the USD $100 billion I just spoke of, I am committed to working with the US House and Senate to gain approval to spend up to USD $3,000,000,000,000 over the next decade to fix what’s wrong with the world.
The United States is not a vindictive nation.
The United States could respond by starting wars and destroying entire countries, but we’re bigger than that, and we will show our attackers that the people of the United States are your friends, not your enemies. War is terrible. Peace is golden. The United States stands for peace, not war.
On behalf of everyone in the United States, including the families of those who lost loved ones today, I appologize for our actions, attitudes and positions that led others to believe that they had to attack the United States so violently to get our attention.
With hard work and determination, today will be the last time that any people of the world should feel that they have to attack us to get us to change our overstepping ways.
The United States in fact is ashamed that it has come to this, that we have upset other people so dramatically and profoundly that they have responded by flying airplanes into our landmarks, ending the lives of so many earnest people in the process.
Let us spend the following ten minutes in silence to reflect on the enormity of the events of today. Let us imagine a world filled with peace, happiness and enough to eat and drink. Let us cast aside our revengeful impulses so that we can come together at a meeting table to plan how the people of the world shall overcome the horror of today in favor of the brightness of a more promising future for all of humanity.
To the friends and family of those who lost their lives today, if you want to be upset with somebody, be upset with me and the past Presidents of The United States of America. What happened today was a reaction to this country overstepping its place in the world. It simply is not nice to tell other people how to live while we consume such a disproportionate percentage of the resources of the planet. In the decades ahead, we will need to learn to share our bounty with others more than we have done so far. Look on this redistribution of wealth as your insurance payment for the future safety of you, your property and your loved ones, not as a handout. The United States has been acting like a rich, spoiled kid on the playground eating the finest candy and laughing while others nearby starve and have little. We can remain a wealthy and prosperous and happy nation while at the same time leveling the playing field. We are a nation of thoughtful and ingenious innovators, and if we put forth our full effort, perhaps 100 times greater than what was required to place a man on the moon, we can solve the really big problems the world today faces.
Three trillion dollars is a lot of money. We can spend that amount building peace, love and goodwill. We can also spend three trillion dollars killing hundreds of thousands of people and destroying countries.
I am certain that three trillion dollars of peace, love and goodwill is more valuable than three trillion dollars of rubble, hate and death.
May September 11, 2001 be viewed by history as the first day of the most kind and peaceful period the world has yet known.
For those of you that worship a higher power, may that higher power give you comfort on this historic day of new beginnings. Let us rejoice in the saved lives of the hundreds of thousands of people this nation will not kill in response to the events of today. Let us rejoice in the new lives of the hundreds of thousands of babies by coincidence born this historic day. It is tragic that the United States lost thousands of its residents today, but keep in mind more babies were born in the United States today than lives were lost in these four plane crashes.
The United States is your friend, not your enemy. The United States wants peace, prosperity and fairness for all the people of the world.
Tomorrow will be better.
I love you.”
Instead, President Bush said something genuinely and dramatically stupid:
“You’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists.”
This is such an unwise thing to say it sounds like something out of the mouth of a high school student at a third rate institution. Yet his short statement formed the basis for spending of even more trillions of dollars than I proposed the United States spend in my mock speech above.
The United States ruined itself by its unwise response to four plane crashes.
I don’t spend a lot of time delving into the deep details of world politics. I am not a historian. I am not particularly well informed about what I write about here. I admire Noam Chomsky and Dennis Kucinich. I think Chomsky and Kucinich would like what I have written here today. I hope to meet both men one day, perhaps in response to this post if I am really lucky.
I believe I possess a very fine and properly working moral compass. I am proud of and guard my moral compass. I’ve made profound and life altering changes in my life when needed to protect and guard and respect my moral compass, even when it would have been so easy for many others to compromise. Perhaps the above makes me look childish and unrealistic. Perhaps I will lose a friend or three by what I’ve written. But what I’ve written has been on my mind for ten years now, and today I decided to just say what I first thought starting about 2 seconds after I first heard about the first plane striking one of the towers of the World Trade Center complex in New York City, New York, USA.
The United States has ruined itself by its response to four plane crashes.
PS – I am sorry for the loss of the family and friends of those who lost their lives in the events of and following September 11, 2001. By writing this post, I do not intend to upset anyone who lost a loved one. My heart also goes out to friends and family of those who have been killed or injured in the response to the events of 9/11, including those serving in military forces on all sides. I love the United States, and I love people generally, from all countries. I am so sad that all this death and suffering and hate has happened. It’s all so unnecessary and wasteful. Thank you for reading. I love you.
Kevin Laurence Warnock
San Francisco, California USA September 11, 2012
Note: I published this post on September 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Today, September 11, 2012, I published this post again, changing the first sentence from “I am dismayed with how the United States responded to four plane crashes 10 years ago this day” to “I am dismayed with how the United States responded to four plane crashes 11 years ago this day, September 11, 2012.”
I am proud of this post, and I plan to republish it annually on September 11th.
On my bus conversion I plan to have two propane water heaters. These will be low flow on demand models that can heat up to 1.6 gallons per minute. That’s plenty in a vehicle where water should be carefully conserved.
There are two main styles of on demand water heaters in this low flow category.
The first style is vented to the outside via a chimney, just like most on demand and tank style gas water heaters.
The second style, so called vent free, is not vented to the outside. This means all the combustion gasses stay inside, just like when you use an unvented gas fireplace or a Mr. Heater Buddy space heater.
The vent free propane water heaters cost slightly more than conventional vented on demand water heaters. Presumably the extra expense is to pay for the safety features not found on the vented models. The ventfree water heaters have a low oxygen sensor that will shut off the gas flow if there is insufficient oxygen for proper combustion. Improper combustion can produce more deadly carbon monoxide gas, which can kill you if it builds in concentration.
I am happy to pay more for safety. I already have a carbon monoxide detector on board since I use a Mr. Heater Buddy heater while I continue the build out of the interior. That heater also has a low oxygen sensor like the unvented water heater.
About a week ago I had what I think is a bright idea:
Install both vented and unvented water heaters routinely in all buildings that offer hot water to their users.
The reason this is a good idea is that both types of water heaters transfer only a portion of the heat they produce to the water passing through them. The rest of the heat either goes up the chimney or into the room depending on if the heater is vented or vent free.
When it’s cold enough outside that heat is required indoors, then it would be wise to use the vent free on demand water heater. Part of the heat will heat the water, and all the remaining heat will be deposited into the living quarters with the same 99%+ efficiency as if the gas were burned in an vent free fireplace.
When it’s warm enough outside that air conditioning is required indoors, then it would be wise to use the vented on demand water heater. Part of the heat will heat the water, and most of the rest of the heat will be sent up the chimney and out of the air conditioned space, saving electricity that would otherwise be needed to remove the surplus heat from a vent free water heater.
This could be complicated to set up and control, but not if one does the following small amount of extra work.
Run separate hot water lines from each water heater to the fixtures. Under the counter where the faucet valves are, install a three way valve before the hot water faucet valve.
Buy two faucets, and make sure they are the kind where you drill three holes in the counter top and mount three separate parts into their respective holes. Such faucets are called widespread faucets.
You’ll want two faucets because you will need nice looking matching knobs for my system. You’ll need to modify the second hot water valve and handle so that the part that’s above the counter line is unchanged, but the part that’s below the counter line will be mated to the three way valve I specified above.
This extra knob will control which on demand water heater is used when you turn on the hot water. If you set the three way valve to position A, then the vented water heater will be used and the vent free heater will stay off. If you set the three valve to position B, then the vented water heater will stay off and the vent free heater will be used.
If you need a greater amount of hot water, you could put the three way valve in its middle position, which would cause both water heaters to be used simultaneously.
This proposed system gives built in redundancy in case one heater fails.
Such a system would work for houses and offices as well, with a big benefit for water savings. Vent free water heaters only deliver 1.6 gallons of water per minute, so this would limit how much hot water a user can waste. If users insist on mimicing the flow of a normal tank style water heater, more than one 1.6 gallon per minute vent free water heater could be installed in parallel such that they would all start when the hot water faucet is turned on. That is provided code permits this, of course.
Both styles of water heater are available in propane and natural gas versions, so what I suggest here can be applied to all manner of installations, providing of course that building codes where you are permit such a system. Here’s a natural gas traditionally vented model that at the time of this writing sells for USD $175.99.
I care about such efficiency because I am building my bus conversion to be a model of efficiency. For example, I am installing triple pane windows with steel insulated window shades, for a total of 5 unbroken surfaces separating the indoors from the outside when the shades are drawn at night. I am also installing 8 inches of foam insulation on the roof, for an R rating of almost 60. I am hoping to be able to heat and cool the interior just with solar energy. I will have the propane water heaters on board for use when it’s too cloudy to warm enough water with the rooftop solar hot water collectors I plan to build.
Store meaningful amounts of electricity in rocks or sand? Engineers, please help me run some numbers.
Today solar and wind plants sometimes provide round the clock output by using daytime power from the sun to pump water up hill to a resevoir, which is then allowed to flow downhill through turbines at night to generate electricity. This takes space and water, which probably makes it unworkable at home. This form of energy storage is called Pumped Hydro Energy Storage.
There is also another storage method called Compressed Air Energy Storage, which works like it sounds — air is compressed with solar energy and the compressed air is used later to run a turbine to generate electricity. I can see that working for industrial scale systems, but for home use I see it as being too noisy, given the racket my Harbor Freight air compressor makes filling an eight gallon tank. I wonder how noisy the residential Honda natural gas compressors are to fill your compressed natural gas Civic automobile in your home garage? I bet they’re not silent.
What I propose is to lift rocks or sand with solar or wind generated electricity. Then, when the sun is down or the wind is calm, lower the rocks or sand back down and have the cable spin a highly geared generator to make electricity. The mechanics of this would seem to be similar to what’s been developed for electric vehicles with their regenerative braking systems. In such systems, a heavy car is brought up to speed at great cost in energy, and when the driver steps on the brakes, that energy is harvested and put back into the on board batteries where the energy was earlier, before the driver stepped on the accelerator. An elevator of weights in the backyard or basement would work similarly, and would be far less complex to design and build than an electric vehicle, I suspect. The most complicated part would probably be figuring out how to pull large irregular amounts of electricity out of the system, to run a hair dryer for a couple of minutes, for example. Since houses draw power almost all the time, the weight would always be in motion, but ever so slowly if the only load was a few electric clocks at night during moderate weather when neither heat or air conditioning is needed.
My friend Jim Castelaz over at the very cool startup Motiv Power Systems has a lot of very smart engineers working on electric power systems for buses, and I suspect any of them could figure out in minutes if this blog post has any merit. I simply don’t know how to calculate how big a weight would be needed to store enough energy to be practical. What I do strongly suspect however is that this is not far fetched. Sure the weight may need to be 100 tons, but so what? That’s not going to dent the earth, and since sand can be used, the weight can be carried in via wheel barrow if needed, by one person.
The big benefit of this is that the efficiency would not decline like with batteries, and such a system could last for decades with proper maintenance, like elevators do in buildings. Also, there are few environmental hazards with such a system. No explosive gasses emitted during ‘charging.’ No chance of explosion. No chance of getting acid burns. No worry if the system freezes. Easy to understand and repair. Easy to manufacture. I love it.
There is also no issue with an idle system losing power just sitting there. So this could also work for backup power for data centers. Seems far easier to engineer than huge concrete flywheels on the roof like I’ve heard about.
Maybe ocean shipping conainers could be used as the energy storage elevator cars. How much would a container with sand weigh, anyway? Would it burst from the load if you tried to lift it by the lifting points? How much trouble would it be to reinforce a container to handle the weight if it were filled with sand?
I love this idea, which I had while falling asleep November 23, 2011 at 1:45am and I wrote up minutes later on my blog so I would not forget it. I finished refining and editing this post today, December 20, 2011, when I made it public to my readers.
It turns out I’m not the first to think of storing electricity via lifting weights. Have a look at this educational piece from a website that describes itself as about primitive Christianity. Here’s a discussion about using weights hanging from an ocean seasteading platform. Here’s an even more thoughtful analysis from someone who also independently thought of doing this. Finally, here is a presentation by Gravity Power Storage which is proposing to build utility scale versions of what I describe here, with 2,000 ton weights storing megawatts. I came up with this idea independently. While I could have discarded this post upon discovering lots of other prior work in this field, as shown by these links, I am publishing it anyway because I am proud to have independently developed this idea, and I think it deserves more attention. It looks like Gravity Power Storage has concluded I am not nuts. Thank you.
The idea of storing energy in heavy weights is so elementary I suspect this idea dates to soon after the harnessing of electricity by man. What I want to know is whether my idea is practical. If it is, why has it not been implemented more widely?
Yes, in much of the United States, the power utilities are required to buy any electricity you make and then sell it back to you when and if you need it. This makes the power company into nearly a perfect battery that sidesteps the energy losses inherent in chemical battery storage.
But what if we could get rid of electricity companies over time? Do we really need to have electricity companies? If we cover the roofs of our homes with solar photovoltaic panels and switch to electric bicycles and live close to our jobs, perhaps there would be no need to import electricity from afar.
Sure, my system as described would cost over USD $10,000, even in quantity. But so does a swimming pool, and there are plenty of those around, with many sitting idle most of the time. A pool also requires a big hole in the ground, so there are lots of hole digging experts around. A pool of water probably weighs 100 tons, so such a huge weight at home has been routinely handled for centuries. The alternators and inverters required by my idea are commodities. Elevator mechanisms are commodities. Tying everything together will take some expertise that needs to be developed, but I don’t see any insurmountable challenges.
Again, a system like I describe will have a long and relatively trouble free life span. Such systems probably can store enough power to last a week provided electricity use is cut to what an off grid solar house uses today. All houses ought to cut down their usage to such levels, even without adding the on site storage component. There are very efficient appliances out there already. Heating can be done with solar hot water collectors. Everything needed has been invented and is already made at scale.
If what I write about is practical, let’s just implement it already. Cheap and efficient electricity storage is a market likely to be worth tens of billions of dollars. This is exciting enough that I could be persuaded to work on this full time. If you’re an engineer, please run some numbers and let me know what you conclude.
A small way the world wastes big money can be fixed by super sizing our plumbing. Switch to toilet sized drain pipe for all drains.
On January 27, 2011 I wrote a post suggesting people could live a more comfortable retirement if they stopped frittering away their money by buying necessities in quantities far smaller than made sense. The example I used was dental floss. We all need it, but we typically buy it in tiny little packages that we have to keep buying every couple of months forever.
This is stupid.
It would be far better to buy a roll of dental floss the size of a softball and have it last for a decade. Think about how many plastic containers for dental floss you’ve thrown out over the years and multiply that number by billions. That’s a lot of plastic containers.
Another product the world almost universally buys in too small a size is waste water pipe.
In the United States and all the other countries I’ve visited, the diameter of the drain pipes under the sinks, bathtubs and showers is about 1.5 inches. This is too small for our own good. Because of this small size, there is a section in every grocery and hardware store that I know of where I can purchase caustic chemicals that I am instructed to pour down the drain and into our water supply. Think of the huge tanker trucks of this drain ‘cleaner’ just slobbering their contents into our water treatments plants every day of the year. Yuck!
We buy these nasty products that will burn out your esophogous if you drink it because building codes call for drainage pipe that is too narrow in diameter to not get clogged up periodically.
I don’t know if it was a giant conspiracy between Mister Plumber and Joe the Plumber, his colleagues and their ancestors, or if nobody has seriously considered the societal benefits of super sizing the world’s drain pipes. Super sizing your meal is bad. Super sizing your plumbing is good.
But consider this: When was the last time the pipe connected to your toilet needed to be unplugged by anyone? I’ll bet the answer for 99.9% of the population is ‘never.’
Sure, the toilet trap can get stopped up pretty easily, but a USD $7.99 toilet plunger or a USD $8.78 toilet auger can take care of that for no incremental cost. The toilet user can clear the obstruction without pouring caustic chemicals into our water supplies.
But the 4 inch diameter pipe in the floor that carries the toilet waste away almost never gets clogged. Sure, there are truly rare situations like a tree root breaking into an old ceramic pipe in the backyard. But generally, a 4″ pipe is very hard to clog up with household or human waste. Here’s a video showing common drain pipe and how to calculate how much to slant the pipe so it drains properly.
What I propose is the the plumbing codes be modified planet wide so that only 4″ or larger pipe is used for all drains. It’s that simple. Problem solved. Billions saved over time. When can I schedule my TED talk?
Probably half the service calls of plumbers are to unclog drains. I can’t imagine any plumbers like this monotonous work. They can do something more fulfilling in life with their newfound spare time. Sure, many plumbers would go out of business, just like many buggy whip manufacturers went out of business. It’s a good thing to eliminate dumb repetative work, and cleaning drains century after century is certainly dumb when the solution is so easy and cheap.
Think of the brilliance of putting in 4″ drains under sinks, bathtubs and shower stalls. If you drop your engagement ring in there, just reach your hand in an pluck it out yourself. No need to dismantle the trap when you can stick your hand right into the trap. If huge hair balls accumulate, just stick your hand in the trap and grab them. Elapsed time? 10 seconds. I would suggest there be a grate over this larger opening, and I further suggest this grate be removable without tools. Some sort of child resistant solution would be best. I don’t want to read about a newborn infant being given a bath and falling down the drain never to be seen again! If a baby can pass through the birth canal, a baby can navigate a 4″ drain pipe trap, I suspect. Just to make this fool proof, I recommend a pencil thick rod be permanently affixed at the bottom of the U trap, perpendicular to the fluid flow. That would prevent a baby from squeezing past but since you can get your hand down there easily, hair and other obstructions could be cleaned away in seconds.
We already have sinks that have large diameter drain holes in them — they are called kitchen sinks with garbage disposals. In the sinks I propose, one wouldn’t even need those rubber flaps like on a kitchen sink. On a typical modern bathroom sink, there is a drain plug attached to a lever behind the faucet handles. Pulling up on that lever causes the drain plug or cover to move down to cover the drain opening. These covers are now about 1.5 inches in diameter. In my new improved world, these covers get bigger by 2.5 inches. Big deal. There’s more room for the logo of the fixture manufacturer, and perhaps advertising can be sold in this space for commercial sinks.
Under the sink I propose the same trap system we have now, but with the larger pipe. Maybe a more compact U shaped bend can be engineered so the trap doesn’t take up too much space under the sink. But right now space under the sink is used for plungers and bottles of nasty caustic chemical drain cleaners that kids often swallow. Once we get those items out from under the sink, there’s plenty of room for a larger trap.
In most bathrooms, the sink is in the same room with the toilet, so the extra larger diameter pipe needed to shunt the sink drain water to the toilet drain pipe should be under 10 feet, a negligable expense compared to buying chemicals and paying generations of plumbers hundreds of years into the future to clean absurdly tiny drain pipes in use now.
Of course, the sinks themselves will need to have larger drain holes, but after simple retooling, that means less material consumed since a sink with a bigger hole consumes fewer resources to construct.
The kitchen will cost a bit more to prepare, but I suspect there is almost always a toilet within 50 feet of a kitchen sink. Fifty feet of 4″ diameter drain pipe in quantity costs less than USD $100.00, judging from the fact I can buy a single 10 foot section of 4″ ABS pipe online for USD $29.95 today. This is peanuts compared to plumbers and chemical drain cleaners into infinity. Since it will take more work to install the bigger pipe, perhaps the plumbers won’t lose any billable hours at all if my idea is adopted. The work gets front loaded into building construction.
Having a stuffed up drain is no fun. It’s messy and time consuming to deal with. This hurts productivity across the planet. Think of all the hours away from work that homeowners spend waiting for a plumber to arrive. Think of all the truck trips that plumbers won’t need to take. Think of how many fewer vans will need to be produced to move all those plumbers around. Think of the former plumbers doing more important work to improve the planet. Think of all the drain clearing snake machinery that won’t need to be built. Think of how many fewer children will be poisoned by drinking drain cleaner by accident. Think how many plumbers won’t accidentally drop a glass bottle of strong acid and get splashed with it when the bottle shatters all over the room. Acid is a step up from consumer drain cleaners, and it’s what the pros will sometimes use to clear a really stopped up drain. It has to be sold in glass because plastic can’t contain it — the plastic will be attacked by the acid and fail. There must be hundreds of acid accidents every year, and they’re sometimes horribly disfiguring accidents.
Think of how many people would not ruin their good looks by being splashed in the face with drain cleaner, like this grandmother whose face was ‘melted’ by drain cleaner.
Household chemical drain cleaners are dangerous, really nasty and should be made unecessary if only larger pipe were used in place of smaller pipe. This slide deck published by the pediatrics department at the University of Chicago says there were 1.5 million cases of corrosive ingestions by children 1 to 5 years old in the United States in 2002. That should be all the country needs to know to force my suggestion into the national building code.
One and half million children ingesting corrosive household products per year almost a decade ago. I had no idea the problem was so widespread until I began my research for this post tonight.
If saving innocent children doesn’t convince you, consider this. I have a strong suspicion that the waste water treatment industry has to apply more chemicals to counteract the millions of gallons of drain cleaner dumped down the drain by design. If someone knows about this, please contact me. I think it’s likely that for every gallon of drain cleaner made there’s an ounce of some counteracting agent also mixed in at the treatment plant. The company that makes this chemical can switch to making something else, like green household cleaners that are non-toxic, for instance. The waste treatment plant can cut its budget.
I propose that the building codes be modified. These codes will apply to remodeling projects and new construction, not existing structures. So we’ll still be stuck with our current rediculous narrow guage pipes for generations. This will give plumbers decades to adjust to their new, more exciting profession where they are solving higher order problems that call for more thinking. Millions of additional kids are going to ingest drain cleaner over the next half century or so it will take to phase out most of the narrow gauge pipe out there. But it’s far better to start the change today than to wait or even worse, to never make the change. Do we really need to poison hundreds of millions of kids over the next 100 years in just this country? No, we do not. 4″ drain pipe is cheap. Not as cheap as 1.5″ drain pipe, but still extremely cheap in the face of the horror that is happening right this minute. As you read this, there is likely a child drinking drain cleaner that will soon be rushed to the emergency room, never to really be the same again I suspect. Ouch!
Right now my bathroom sink is plugged up because I’ve been rinsing the water dish for my backyard chickens. The chickens manage to get the dish dirty with actual dirt, and the dirt has been accumulating in the trap for a while now. Finally the trap is stopped up. I’ve been thinking about writing this post for months now, but having a currently stopped up drain inspired me to sit down an write this post.
I recognize not all residential walls are thick enough to accomadate 4″ drain pipe, but for them, new oval pipe could be developed, like the gas appliance vent (chimney) industry developed. The area can be the same in an oval pipe, and it should have similar clog resistance. If not, make the oval larger until the unclogability is equal to round 4″ drain pipe. I understand toilet manufactures like Toto and Kohler are expert at using powerful computers to model water flow inside toilets. They had to develop this expertise in response to government demands for low water use toilets. I bet the engineers at those two companies could quickly calculate how large to make oval drain pipe that would be the functional equavalent of round drain pipe, which would allow builders to keep the current standards for wall thickness while achieving nearly uncloggable plumbing for every fixture in the house.
I think the building industry should get behind this project. They can charge slightly more for their new houses, and make the customer want to pay more by boldly demonstrating how superior a home is that has uncloggable plumbing. Think of the persuasive YouTube videos that could be produced where side by side installations are compared, made from transparent plastic pipe so viewers could see how impervious 4″ pipes are to clogging.
I even have the brand name: It should be called ‘DrainYes.’
Compared to what we have now with tiny pipes and lots of ‘DrainNO‘, what’s not to like?
PS – While researching this post I encountered a novel use for even larger drain pipe. I promise this pipe won’t get clogged no matter what you throw at it! Trust me.
Here’s a pair of gadgets that will warm your heart.
Romantic partners use Pillow Talk communication rings when they’re apart from each other overnight. The goal is to make the partners feel more tightly connected to each other.
Here’s the description from the inventor’s website:
Pillow Talk is a project aiming to connect long distance lovers. Each person has a pillow for their bed and a ring sensor which they wear to sleep at night. The sensor wirelessly communicates with the other person’s pillow; when one person goes to bed, their lover’s pillow begins to glow softly to indicate their presence. Placing your head on the pillow allows you to hear the real-time heartbeat of your loved one. The result is an intimate interaction between two lovers, regardless of the distance between them.
Reading about this product brought tears to my eyes it’s so simple and sweet. I wish I had thought of this. It’s a genuinely thoughtful use of technology to improve the human condition. Here’s the promotional video. Warning: you may cry when watching this! I did.
I have a big improvement for this pair of devices:
Make the pillows talk. After all, the product is called Pillow Talk, not Pillow Heartbeat.
Since voice consumes so little bandwidth, and Skype-to-Skype calls are free and may be of unlimited duration, I suggest the pillows be outfitted with speakers and microphones that stay on all night, so the other partner can hear the other breath. If the lovebirds want to talk, they can just start talking.
This ‘always on’ connectivity might take some getting used to, but I think such a system would for some become a must have product that they would miss terribly if it were taken away. The pull on the heart strings would be so powerful once a couple got used to ‘sleeping with their sweetie remotely’ that they wouldn’t want to give up the experience.
When I was a teenager, the father of one of my next door neighbors died without warning of a brain annurism. My mother was good friends with the mother whose husband had just died. My mother told me how much her friend told her that she missed hearing her husband snore. That story was so sad to me back then, and it still made me cry as I wrote this piece, years later. I was a teenager when this happened.
There is something so powerful about just sleeping beside your mate. It’s so intimate and irreplaceable and special.
A true pillow talk system with heartbeat, breathing and two way voice could be one Valentines ‘technology gift’ that would be loved by both men and women.
I recommend that such a product be initially built as a USB pillowcase that would plug into a power brick that plugs into the wall. Inside the brick would be a small computer running Linux plus a WiFi transceiver that would connect to the home or hotel’s WiFi connection. This way a computer would not need to be by the bed and batteries would not need to be charged. It would also keep the radio frequency part of the system away from the heads of the sleepers, probably a good thing since some people might use such a system for months or years at a time, particularly when you consider military personnel away from home for long periods of time.
If Apple starts making what I just described, they should call it iSleep! They could make an iPhone charging cord that splits off in two wires: one to the power brick and one to the pillow. An iPhone certainly has all the computing power necessary, and many people already sleep with their phones.
I have too many projects to do in life, so if you like this, build it and pay me the industry mean royalty for similar ideas. Let me know when it launches!
One more joke: This is a true peer to peer system! P2P or ‘pillow to pillow’ lol…
According to news reports like this one on TechCrunch.com, a host’s home was ransacked by a paid guest. Apparently this is the first time this has happened, even though Airbnb says their site has arranged over 2 million nights of stays.
If this is the worst that’s happened in 2 million nights, that sounds like a better record than hotels and motels likely have. I suspect that the rate of guests being actually attacked in a hotel is higher than 1 in 2,000,000, though I have no facts to back up that hunch.
There is controversy about what happened, with Paul Graham, the founder of Y Combinator saying the host may be lying. I don’t know what did or didn’t happen, and I’m not taking sides here.
Here are some more links to stories about the controversy:
I will share my experience with Airbnb below.
I was an Airbnb host in 2009. I made about USD $800.
I offered the living room in my detached San Francisco house at USD $40.00 per night. I had a lot of takers, and I absolutely loved being a host. It was a highlight of that year. I got to meet so many interesting travelers, including guests from France, Czech Republic, Austria, Japan, Oklahoma and even San Francisco.
I never felt unsafe even though I hosted groups as large as four people.
I increased my feeling of safety by installing an electronic deadbolt. I assigned a new door code for each guest or group of guests, and I deleted the code when they departed. So nobody retained access to my house after their visit.
I also made a copy of the government issued identification documents of each guest, and I locked these copies in a safe and scanned them and emailed them to myself. So even if a guest burned down my house, I would be able to give the authorities copies of the IDs of my guests.
I would guess that the person who allegedly had their apartment ransacked didn’t make a copy of the ID of their guest. I think AirBNB should instruct hosts to do so. After all, hotels and motels in the US are required to ask to see your ID, so guests are trained to not think anything of such a request. I’ve been asked for my passport at all the hotels, motels and youth hostels I’ve stayed at outside of the US, so I suspect there is a law requiring such requests almost worldwide.
I suspect that people are less likely to ransack a place after they’ve had their ID copied by the host.
One of the most interesting guests I had in 2009 was a guy who arrived by motorcycle from his San Francisco apartment. He stayed the night but didn’t shower in the morning. He went home for that, I guess. Why did he stay here, alone?
Airbnb was considering hiring him, and part of the hiring process required that applicants try the service. He was very talkative, and since we were both in the Internet field, we had a lot to talk about. I recall Airbnb had fewer than 10 employees at the time. I could tell Airbnb was a great company on its way up, up, up. What a business model — I recall they collect 20% of the rental price for playing matchmaker and escrow agent.
According to recent news reports, Airbnb recently closed a USD $112 million dollar venture capital investment at a valuation of USD $1,300,000,000 (sic). If that guy that stayed with me for a night got hired, he’s likely now worth millions on paper. I’m happy for him.
Here are some links to articles about Airbnb:
I know two people who used Airbnb to book a multinight stay in an apartment in Paris, France. They got the entire place to themselves. I saw pictures and the home was charming and simply lovely. There was no elevator and there were six flights of spiral stairs to climb, but I bet those stairs made the place particularly memorable for the travelers. I am not criticizing Airbnb or Paris for the stairs. I really believe that charming old buildings help their occupants form strong memories. It was probably a pain to lug suitcases up six flights of stairs. But as those memories fade, I believe the fond memories of the apartment will remain, and that even 50 years from now those travelers will fondly remember their cute Paris apartment, but they won’t remember any of the corporate hotels they stayed at back then, no matter how costly or opulent.
I was inspired to become an Airbnb host by my brother Andrew Warnock. On his honeymoon with his wife, they booked an apartment in Prague, Czech Republic by visiting a booking booth in the Prague central train station. He said the apartment was really great, and that he would repeat the experience.
Now, back to the Airbnb property damage controversy. AirBNB is worth more than a billion dollars now. They are famous. They are targets, and they’ll need to deal with that, sadly.
I can easily see a situation where hosts stage a trashing of their home, hoping to get new housing, courtesy of a rich and well liked startup. I would think that Airbnb will ultimately decide to require hosts to email them the IDs of guests on the day of checkin. This will allow Airbnb to be a central repository of the identification documents, and will help greatly if a host is ever hurt such that they can’t point the authorities to the location of the IDs. Airbnb already stores the credit card details of its guests, so storing their IDs should not raise the eyebrows of well intentioned guests. However, it should greatly alarm poorly intentioned guests.
With the widespread adoption of smart phones with cameras, hosts can photograph and send photos by MMS or email. If it’s decided such systems are not secure enough, Airbnb could write a set of phone apps that would use the camera to take the picture. Then, the apps could encrypt the picture and directly connect to servers at Airbnb. In this way, the sensitive ID documents could be securely transmitted to Airbnb while bypassing the Internet’s open email infrastructure.
Again, I don’t know what happened in the current ugly situation in the news. If the host’s home was ruined by a guest, then perhaps AirBNB should pay the deductable for any insurance the host carries. I do think that AirBNB shouldn’t be fully on the hook for all the damages, because that’s what renters’ or homeowners’ insurance is for. What if a guest accidentally burns down an apartment building by careless use of candles or the stove? Should AirBNB have to spend millions to rebuild an apartment building? I don’t think that’s fair or just. The terms of service should require that hosts carry suitable insurance as a condition of being a host.
I’m sure all these issues will get worked out. I met one of the founders of Airbnb in 2009 when he came to my house with his camera and tripod to take pictures for my profile. When he learned I already had pretty good pictures on my profile, he didn’t take any and we used his time at my house to talk about Airbnb. I had a good feeling about him, and I suspect if his other cofounders are similar, that the company will come though this situation stronger. The founders of Airbnb are Nathan Blecharczyk, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia. I can’t remember which founder came by my house.
I have a website for my house where you can see the pictures I used when I was an AirBNB host.
I continue to be a huge fan of Airbnb and I hope to again be a host. The reason I am not a host right now is I have four young female roommates sharing my house as tenants, and it just doesn’t seem nice to ask them if I can allow random strangers to share their bathroom, as much as I think it’s safe.
July 24, 2011 when I was falling asleep I thought of an idea I love. I plan to try this idea in my bus conversion.
Here’s the idea:
Place a car radiator in the exhaust flow of a clothes dryer. Pump water or another heat exchange liquid through tubing that connects the radiator to a heat storage tank. The fluid in that tank will warm, and that warm water can be piped through hydronic floor heating piping to heat the home.
This heat recovery could be meaningful, especially in households where the dryer gets used a lot.
Alternatively or in addition, the recovered clothes dryer heat could heat the domestic hot water supply, and that water could be used for the clothes washer. In effect the heat from the dryer could make the washer more energy efficient.
Alternatively or in addition, the recovered clothes dryer heat could be used to heat an aquaponics fish tank, which generally makes the fish eat more and gain weight faster. I understand that catfish grow fastest when their water temperature is 84 degrees fahrenheit. It takes a lot of energy to warm hundreds of gallons of water, so recycling heat from a dryer is a good idea.
Car radiators are cheap. I discovered this when buying the parts to build my sound proof engine box for my bus conversion.
My idea is so simple and inexpensive. It’s applicable to gas and electric dryers, and it makes sense for nearly every home in every country I can think of that has a clothes dryer. Why hasn’t such a system already been implemented?
Others have conceived of capturing waste heat from clothes dryers. Inventor Richard A. Brunner patented in the United States a system that from my quick read of the full text of the patent uses a heat exchanger to warm house air with moist air from the dryer vent. I didn’t see anything about heating water or using the hot water to heat the house or the water for a clothes washer, as I have described.
I suspect all the major clothes dryer companies have also considered heat recovery systems. The idea is not far fetched. I believe many industrial factories capture ‘waste’ heat from systems all the time for use elsewhere.
As I understand it, home heating forced air furnaces of high efficiency already recover heat from the first combustion process in a so-called second stage. I have been told these super efficient furnaces are trouble prone, but that they do work. I was advised not to buy one due to their complexity. But these dual stage furnaces apparently work by burning the exhaust, not just capturing heat from it. My dryer heat recovery system would be much simpler and cheaper to construct.
I have read about devices to capture heat from waste drain water, which often contains heated water. I suspect the amount of heat those devices recover is relatively small compared to the available heat that could be cost effectively recovered from a clothes dryer.
When I converted my Kenmore natural gas clothes dryer to propane so I could install it in my bus conversion, I temporarily operated the dryer with the front cover removed. I got to see the flame size, and I would say it’s similar to the size of flame that would be produced by running four stovetop cooking burners at once.
Yes, a lot of the heat is consumed evaporating water, but when I put my hand over the outside vent when my dryer is running, it seems like at least as much heat as a 1,500 watt space heater produces.
I suspect about 2/3rds of that heat could be captured in a hot water tank. A space heater produces about 5,000 btus of heat per hour, so 2/3rds of 5,000 is 3,333 btus. It takes about 1,000 watts of electricity worth say USD $.20 to run 2/3rds of a 1,500 watt space heater. So the captured heat from running a dryer by electricity for an hour is worth about USD $.20.
If the dryer is run for five loads a week, a dollar a week in energy is saved, or $52 a year. A dryer might last for ten years, so $520 worth of energy would be saved over the life of the dryer, or enough money to pay for the entire appliance.
But energy is getting more costly, so over ten years the savings might be 50% higher.
Every little bit helps.
Gas water heaters and furnaces should also have heat exchangers installed in their exhaust stacks. If a house is built with the hydronic piping for these heat exchangers in place, the cost to add these recovery systems should be affordable. However, it would be much better to eliminate the water heater and furnace in most homes, in favor of mandatory solar water heating for water and the air.
I think it is one of mankind’s dumbest moves to ignore the sun for most water and home heating worldwide, in favor of burning fossil fuels which really should be saved for fueling aircraft and spacecraft and making advanced plastics.
Why are we not burning oil at a rate such that it will last for 1,000 years? Or 10,000 years? Some say we’ve used up half the oil on the planet already, in what, 150 years? That’s a snap of the fingers. What will we do in three snaps? Go back to sailing ships? Yes, by then we might figure out cold fusion or oil from algae such that it really substitutes for oil. But what if we don’t?
While I’m carrying on here, I should say that clothes dryers themselves are rather ridiculous when air drying clothes makes them last longer and is free. Garages should have enough clothes lines to dry multiple dryer loads of laundry, and garages should have fans that exhaust to the outside so that drying times can be reduced substantially. Outdoor clothes lines should be allowed everywhere, by law, in the same way that television satellite dishes are allowed everywhere in the United States by law. As I understand it, no contract can take away the right to install your own satellite dish. The exception is if you have free access to a community satellite dish.
Some housing complexes have legally enforceable covenants that forbid outdoor clothes lines, and your house can be foreclosed on and sold if you violate these contractual regulations. Such provisions should be against public policy and automatically be void and unenforceable.
Sadly, wet clothes don’t have the powerful lobby that the satellite television reception industry pays a lot of money to employ.