Plumbing Up Mother's Solar Steam Generator

Our solar steam generator can help you become less reliant on the grid or, depending on your energy needs, live free of it entirely.

| May/June 1979

  • 057 solar steam generator - thumbnail.jpg
    The assembled solar steam generator. Note the boiler unit mounted at the end of the boom arm.
    PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 057 solar furnace - bender.jpg
    The MOTHER EARTH NEWS bender tool.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 057 solar furnace 2 inlet and outlet.jpg
    Inlet and outlet fittings must be properly equipped with control valves.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 057 solar steam generator 4 completed unit.jpg
    Another view of the completed solar steam generator.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 057 solar furnace 3 phototransistor.jpg
     Don't forget to fasten your phototransistor switch housing!
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 057 solar furnace 1 sunrise-sunset switches.jpg
    The sunrise and sunset switches are important in keeping your solar furnace properly in sync with the position of the sun.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 057 solar furnace 5 generating electricity.jpg
    Steam from the solar steam generator can drive an electrical generator.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

  • 057 solar steam generator - thumbnail.jpg
  • 057 solar furnace - bender.jpg
  • 057 solar furnace 2 inlet and outlet.jpg
  • 057 solar steam generator 4 completed unit.jpg
  • 057 solar furnace 3 phototransistor.jpg
  • 057 solar furnace 1 sunrise-sunset switches.jpg
  • 057 solar furnace 5 generating electricity.jpg

Previous articles from MOTHER EARTH NEWS showed you how to build a low-cost solar furnace frame and a sophisticated tracking system. Now it's time to combine those components with a boiler and put them to work in our solar steam generator!

We previously featured a solar furnace designed and built by a fellow named Charles Curnutt out in Twenty-nine Palms, California. It seems that Mr. Curnutt had not only come up with an apparatus that captured the sun's energy and made it work for him, but he had done so for a total investment of only several hundred dollars. This meant that, for the first time, energy self-sufficiency was available on the "little guy's" level and that a small backyard — or even a rooftop — would provide enough space to house a genuine home powerplant!

Then — as if just inventing the furnace hadn't been enough—Charles granted MOTHER EARTH NEWS permission to copy and modify his design and make it available to her entire readership, which is exactly what we've been doing. Now we'll get on with the next phase after the solar furnace frame and the tracking system: plumbing the furnace so it can be used to generate steam!

How It Works 

A steam generator is — in effect — a "simple" boiler. Ours is mounted inside an insulated box and installed on a boom made of pipe about 10 feet above the mirror frame. Refer to the Steam Generator and Boom Detail diagram. Each of the one hundred 12-inch-by-12-inch glass reflectors is then aimed directly at the boiler, creating a total reflective surface area of 100 square feet. Enough (when concentrated on the 18-inch-by-18-inch target) to create temperatures within the insulated boiler housing in excess of 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit!



This intense heat then "flashes" the water (the liquid enters the serpentine boiler through one of its supporting sections of boom pipe) into steam, which in turn is forced out of the generator and through the remaining length of rigid conduit. Because the steam is under pressure (we achieved over 300 PSI during one test session), a check valve is necessary on the "feed" side of the plumbing system to prevent incoming water from being driven backward. This piece of hardware can be installed in the water line at any point between the control valve and the steam generator.

Getting Started  

If you've been working right along on your own solar furnace, you already have most of the tools needed to complete the steam generator assembly. The only additional pieces of equipment you'll need are a tube cutter and a pipe threader.






Mother Earth News Fair Schedule 2019

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: February, 16-17 2019
Belton, TX

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!

LEARN MORE






Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).


Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard
Free Product Information Classifieds

}