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Ask the EcoGeek: Muscle Power

Instead of solar and wind power to supply to your own house - which are both weather dependent - has anyone thought about systems that might require some actual work, but provide a usable amount of power?

I was thinking, what if each member of my family carried a 40lb bag up 3 floors and hung it on a hook that was connected to a generator; would an effort like that actually provide a significant amount of energy? Just a thought.
Jens, London

Oh don't even know what you've done! Your question is totally a word problem from a physics exam. And as much as this will likely frighten most people reading this, I'm going to only here canadian drugs levitra treat it as such.

If 120 lbs is lifted thirty feet and then allowed them to drop slowly over twelve hours, how much energy will be produced?

120 lbs * 30 ft = 3600 ft/lbs = 4880 joules = 1.356 watt hours / 12 hours = 0.113 watts.

So, in answer to your question, no, that would not provide a significant amount of electricity. In fact, in order to power one 60 watt equivalent CFL for twelve hours, each member of your family would have to march up the stairs about ten times.

But that doesn't mean that you don't have an excellent point. Every person is a magical little energy factory. Whataburgers go in...watt hours come out, and it is possible to harness that energy.

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Some schemes in converting muscle power to electric power even seem pretty intelligent. A gym in Hong Kong has hooked its treadmills to a battery bank, using the energy of its clients to power the lights. A subway in Japan harnesses the energy used by people walking through turnstiles to power lights. And we've all seen various gadgets that can be shaken, squeezed, cranked or yanked to generate the best prices for viagra juice that makes them work.

But a more personal and powerful option for a muscle-powered home is cialis sale a pedal generator. Basically, it's just your average exercise bike, except there's a generator on the inside. The maximum output for a toned adult would be about 500 watts, but a sustainable level for someone like me (who's eaten his share of Whataburgers) is more like 150 watts. Amazingly, this would be enough to power both of my laptops, two CFL light bulbs and my cell phone charger for as long as I kept pedaling.

There are two problems though. First, no one can pedal forever. And second, they're not yet selling pedal generators at your local hardware store. But if you can get your hands on one, like the $230 pedal-a-watt bike-to-generator conversion kit, you could easily lower your electric bills, or charge an emergency backup battery, and become a healthier EcoGeek at the same time.

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Comments (12)Add Comment
Task sharing.......
written by rob, July 06, 2007
The pedal generator option could be feasible, if you have several children, or grandparents living at home.
You could finally get a return, for them eating you out of house and home.
Picture the scene:
Kids and grandparents chained to pedal generators in the cellar. Peace and quiet upstairs, helping to save the planet and professional viagra online no more electric bills.
RE: Task sharing.......
written by Niels R., July 06, 2007

I suppose you'll have to do link for you drug generic viagra your share too. Remember when you've been eating at your parents house ;)

Anyways... If they have a conversion kit for a rowing machine, that would be a great addition for me. I always row in front of the cialis online prescription television :)

Niels R.

PS: Cool website!
Task sharing
written by Leon, July 06, 2007
why don't more gyms hook up their treadmills, bike machines and rowing machines to back up batteries?

i spend 5 min on a rowing machine and generate about 65 watts!!
Again with the math ...
written by Jason Olshefsky, July 06, 2007
The original post was for 3 trips of 40 pounds each, not one trip of 120 pounds. But (for convenience, I assume), you've merged them together. Assuming a 60W-equivalent CF light uses about 11 watts (although it seems box-stores sell nothing but 13-watts and more) then that's 100 times more than the 12-hour average you calculated. Factoring in the 3 x 40 original, and it's 300 trips with 40 pounds.

Further, that's just the potential energy of bags 30 feet up. Given the weirdness of bags descending over time to generate energy, let's say you could hit a generous estimate of 75% efficiency converting that to online viagra gel to buy electricity. Now we're talking about 300 trips / 75% = 400 trips.

Further, let's say it takes 60 seconds to climb and descend the 3 flights of stairs -- in other words, 2 minutes per round trip. If it's just one person, that's 800 minutes or a bit over 13 hours.

And that's just for one light.
Treadmill problem; seasonal benefits
written by Dave Spicer, July 06, 2007
The gym I go to has treadmills, sure - but they're electrically powered. The only nonpowered ones I recall seeing are low-end household models. Seems like better-quality, nonpowered treadmills with built-in generators would cost a good bit.

Any indoor physical activity in winter, though, would warm up both the individual and their surroundings. (These would combine synergistically, but nonparticipants would still have to dress more warmly.) So make the goal heat, not light :-)
written by vigilant20, July 06, 2007
I've thought about this for our gym too. Nearly everyone has exercise equipment.
Muscle Power
written by Saul, July 07, 2007
If muscle power can not economically be used to generate power (too bad, it would have given jobless people a non charity option for extra money), what about health care providers and health and cialis injectable life insurance companies paying people for "registered exercise"? If exercise improves health and lengthens life span, would it be economical for them to calculate an average benefit to them based on how to get levitra no prescription your age and body weight of follow link what is levitra a given amount of exercise and split the cash with the customer, providing a small financial incentive to encourage fitness. Since even the poorest people use government health services they should be eligible to reduce taxpayer burden
Muscle Power
written by Jono, July 07, 2007
My muscle power is more than sufficient to dosage levitra transport me on my 30-mile commute to work and back, every day. I call it the bicycle!
No Free Lunch. No Free Energy From Lunc
written by corwyn, July 07, 2007

Humans are NOT sources of energy. They are users of energy and converters of energy (from one form to another). The increase in food energy you would need to power your house would be more expensive, less efficient, and possibly higher in CO2 output than standard forms of energy.

I once figured out that bicycles get somewhere between 65 and 200 MPG of fossil fuel. (fossil fuel is used to produce and transport all that food).

written by Josh, July 09, 2007
The politically correct answer to the question is "It depends on how many family members you have"

But nope, it's hardly going to give you much power. Even if you dug a mile long trench, you'd need quite a bit of dropps. (120lbs * 5280 = 633600 ft/lbs = 85903.488 joules = 23.86208 / 12 = 1.98 watts) And then you'd have to pick all these things up. Unless you have a never-ending pit(in which case you could have unlimited energy - a black hole).

When it comes to muscle work, i think the best solution is in synthetic muscles. If we can make a muscle which only requires sugar or dextrose or what have you, then we could feed it and it would turn a generator for us. No death by falling objects, no climbing stairs, and no crying!
written by jack downar, May 13, 2008
What are you talking about "an $230 pedal-a-watt" ...
If you buy it like prepared to do something usefull we're talking $1000...
Managing Director
written by David Sowerwine, December 25, 2008
Several years ago--2004/5--our two engineering interns built a pedal generator appropriate for rural areas. With help from the Development Marketplace we tested the prototype in 14 Nepalese villages. Defects have been redesigned. What we learned about Nepal however is that pedaling is not only a task--Nepalese don't look for more exercise-- but carries a negative social implication. We found that with this drive train, it's more realistic to expect about 50 W, maybe 70 from a person who knows how to viagra online pharmacy pedal, and is in shape. Questions are welcome.

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