Article Image
IPFS News Link • Energy

The Power of Steam – Part 1

•, by A.Y.

You bug out to your retreat and have everything ready to weather the storm of looters, power hungry officials, and no infrastructure, but have you considered an alternative way to pump water? What about an alternative way to power electric generators? An alternative way to power machinery? An alternative way to move heavy equipment place to place? A way to help rebuild your community, using some clean water and anything that will burn? I am referring to the 200+ year old technology of the steam engine. In this article, I will discuss what comprises a steam engine, types of engines, what it takes to run and maintain them, benefits of operation, some dangers, and where to find them and information about them. 

Using steam for power can be traced back a few thousand years, but it did not become practical until the 1700's, when steam was harnessed to pump water out of mines and strapped to wheeled carriages to make the first locomotives. Since then, steam power grew exponentially. It is the reason for the Industrial Revolution, as it provided power where water wheels could not. To be technical, it is an external combustion design where the steam heated in a pressurized boiler must be piped somehow to the engine, which either by reciprocation with pistons or steam turbines energy is turned into useful work. These engines, though labor intensive, brought forth the modern era and rushed many blossoming countries to become industrial powerhouses. While the "golden age of steam" vanished in the 1950s, doing away with most railroad locomotives, tractors, and the like, steam has kept up with technology and is still a large part of infrastructure today. Super high-pressure boilers in nuclear power plants, coal and gas power plants, and industrial facilities turn out energy in fantastic amounts. For our purposes, the nineteenth and twentieth century older brothers are the best choices.