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Publication Title | Steam Power an Introduction

Organic Rankine Cycle

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Skip Goebel ©1997 Skip Goebel

uman beings have a habit of continually seeking ways to improve their condition.

Sometimes, they go full circle in their quest for comfort and revert back to the basics. In the realm of alternative energy, steam can be considered “basic.” It may not be the best or cheapest thing available but it certainly works. Fortunately, all the technology has been discovered, proven, and documented. When we are tired of all the other energy sources being absorbed into “the system” many self- sufficient folks will try their hand at steam.

What is Steam?

Steam is a gas, not a water vapor. It is clear, tasteless, and odorless, so if you can see it then that is actually only water vapor and not capable of doing any work. It takes a given amount of heat added to water under a given amount of pressure to convert from water to steam.

A simple and safe experiment to observe water and steam is to “can” some water. Put an oven thermometer in a canning jar with a small amount of water. Using a pressure cooker, evacuate all the air and seal the lid. Gently heat the water and notice at what temperature the water boils. Watch the volume changes closely. Then with the water around 120°, have some fun by putting an ice cube on top and watching the water continue to boil all the way down to about 60°. You’ll get an idea of how water changes states at different pressures and temperatures.

Steam System Sizing

The first step in a steam system, as with any system, is planning. First, determine your needs or task. Then work back to your source of power and then to your fuel source. It all ties together in a full circle and you can go around and around making refinements until you have a system that is suited to your needs.

The best tool there is to plan this way is a flow chart. The flow chart will give you a visual representation of what you are trying to accomplish and you can see how one aspect relates to another. The idea is to break down the entire system into as many individual elements as possible to determine what they require and how they relate to each other.

You can follow our example flow chart and make changes to suit to your needs. Starting at the top is the task, or actual needs. Determine exactly what you are

50 Home Power #62 • December 1997 / January 1998

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