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Tom Karches


Are paginated digital versions available?

kris de decker


The third volume will appear as an e-book in a few weeks -- if that is what you mean?

Cliff Bates


I retired 16 years ago from the utility electrical generation after 35 years. I have experience in all forms of electrical generation, except solar and wind machines. I was also a load dispatcher, which was the worst job I have ever had.
Let me assure you that when I retired I built a new home, packed to the gills with insulation in its 8" thick walls. floors, and ceilings. It also has solar panels, and a 16 KW propane fueled generator, with a 150 gallon tank. I also have a fair sized wood stove. (I should of made a stone stove after reading the book.)
Due to my knowledge of the utility industry during my experience, I believe, and have for some time, that the "good old days" of reliable power is in a declining phase. Not because most of the utilities are negligent, but because the natural sources of energy have been exploited long ago. Wind machines are the new rage, but they have a problem that is not discussed publicly of changing the local weather. You do not suck thousands of horsepower out of low altitude winds without affecting their flow. Wind energy is NOT FREE !
Hydro generation also has its problems. But on the whole, it does prevent floods, supplies irrigation water, creates recreation areas. and has a large power output without the CO2 outfall.
Nuclear power is a joke. It uses low pressure steam, and therefore is extremely inefficient due to the fact that the reactors heat has to heat the water into steam through a heat exchanger.
To make the heat exchanger walls thin enough to transfer the heat efficiently through the heat exchanger walls requires that its working pressure be less than 1000 psi. The lower the steam pressure, the more thermal energy required to change it from water to steam.
Nuclear energy is only practical due to the governments subsidizing the cost of the nuclear fuel to make it so for the rate payers. This of course is totally disregarding the handling of the nuclear waste produced for thousands of years. This cost factor isn't discussed, and again is stored at government expense.
Surprisingly, gas, oil, and coal fired steam plants are capable of steam pressures of up into 3200 psi range, and are one of the most efficient large power sources known. However,they require HUGE volumes of fossil fuel to do so. I once worked at a large coal fired steam plant. It produced at full load, (its most efficient mode), 1600 megawatts of power. It had its own coal strip mine, and coal processing plant. It used, 20,000 tons of coal in 24 hours at full load. 10,000,000 pounds of air were required to burn that much coal an hour to generate 10.000.000 lbs of steam and hour at 3200 psi.
And at the plant site we had to maintain by government regulations, a coal supply reserve of one million tons of coal in storage, which we lost a third of per year due to spontaneous combustion.
The plant was amazingly complicated. I can recall many times staring at the plant as it did its thing with amazing reliability, wondering how after mining and processing the coal, the boiler of each unit contained 88 miles of 2 1/2 inch stainless steel tubing, seam welded together. The boiler was 13 stories tall.
The amount of heat released into the boiler to make the steam was so intense, that if the boiler wasn't cooled by the water being changed to 3200 psi steam, it would of melted that 88 miles of steel tubing in one and a half minutes !
It was amazing to me, that after running all the accessory equipment to make it work, that it could even light a 100 watt light bulb !
Natural gas, and oil boilers use just as much energy as a coal fired plant, but are slightly less complicated. But only from their fuel processing taking place off site.
Solar is about as undamaging to the environment as you can get. Unfortunately the Sun must reach the ground in order for them to do their thing. Plus, solar cells currently are extremely inefficient, while occupying huge tracks of land, and are expensive to build.
I haven't mentioned diesel engines, or using jet engines, and geothermal power, as they can't be built to a large enough scale to contribute with any practical effect to the needs.
And yet now electric cars and trucks are becoming practical. However, no thought is given as to how we are going to generate the power to supply their electrical charging needs, when we are hanging by our fingernails just supplying our "personal needs".
Currently storing electrical power for later use isn't practical. Batteries in the size and volume required are way-way to expensive. Plus high efficient batteries are made of extremely rare minerals, which the U.S. has only one small producer of the required minerals that I am aware of, and that comes as a very small waste product from other mining operations.
What I foresee in the future is the evolving of small neighborhood power plants. Say 5 to 10 square miles in size to a power plant. This would increase future reliability, lessen storm damage, and lessen transmission line losses. Besides allowing tuning of the power plants energy needs, to that areas resources and needs requirements. However, the utilities are highly against any such proposals.

Yet this idea would also isolate a little known threat, very seldom discussed publicly. And that threat is the effect of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP). This threat is being taken seriously in Europe, but not very seriously in the States.
This threat is a REAL possibility that could throw our Country back into the late 1800's in an instant, and kill literally millions and millions, from starvation and lack of water.
Unfortunately it can be generated either by a simple high altitude nuclear explosion, or by a large Sun solar flare. It is a simple effect, with devastating consequences, and has happened several times naturally already on a small scale around the world. As well as by nuclear testing in space in 1963. (Those two nuke tests scared the Hell out of the scientist at the effects created, and they have never been repeated in space again.)

I mention all this, because where electrical power comes from is not really a considered thought by most people. It is just there, like gravity, at least most of the time. And now, in one hundred years, our lives and economy are totally dependent on it. Take it away and your water stops flowing out of a tap. Gas pumps don't work. Grocery stores can't order their stock. The internet ceases. Your cell phone doesn't work. And, depending on the model of your car, it might not work either.

I started reading the book, "Low Tech Magazine 2007-2012". mostly out of curiosity. I can honestly say I was stunned at how wise some of these old time engineers were in coming up with a means of transporting power over several miles by mechanical means.
True, these ideas in the book will not solve our National electrical energy problems. But locally, or applied to your home, it could well be extremely practical for you to adapt, or at least consider some of them seriously that could apply to you.
I am 79 years old. I consider that if Climate Change worsens, (and it will a bunch), and the U.S. as a Country continues declining, that I have lived in the U.S. at it's peak in history. Like the Roman Empire.
If something occurs that forces this issue to happen during the rest of my limited life time, then if I and my wife can last 3 months, I will consider that I won the game.
Why just months ? Because by then, the pills I require will be gone.
One of the most positive aspects of this book is the authors approach to employing some of these aspects to your lifestyle. He pulls no punches on the practically in their use and application. He gives a very honest assessment of the practical applications both pro and con. However on a small scale, many are more efficient than present day methods,
The idea's, and their need in an emergency situation may cause you to change your view of having some of these ideas available. Or maybe even as a method to entertaining the Grand Kids in doing something totally different in pedaling away to create dinner. They have a lot of energy to burn off anyway, and give them something to talk about in school.

I commented to my wife that I was considering making some kitchen appliances that were pedal operated. She scoffed at me and said, "You'll have to pedal them, not me !"
When I next came in she said, "I've thought over what you said, and I think you should try making one with attachments. I pedal an excerise bike to stay fit, and do nothing worth while burning the calories. Might be kind of fun to do some food preparation while I burn up the calories doing something useful.



The past few years, I've loved popping into your website to explore random articles every now and then whenever I've had down time, but I've finally started sitting down with your books, reading them cover to cover -- and I love this website even more in that format. I'm very excited that there's a third volume! Publishing smaller volumes more frequently is an idea that makes me very happy. Thank you for creating such an amazing website with such beautiful content! Your articles are quietly life-changing.



i hope to read a french version of all of this soon!



The first French volume will be out in about one month !



Will there also be a Spanish volume?



Sí, pero probablemente no será para este año.



I will not buy unless any of the volumes until I have the choice to buy it with full color, non-dithered images.

kris de decker



A book in color will not happen. The printing cost is too high, and most original images are black and white.

The book has no dithered images.



A response to Cliff Bates (#3 above), or others interested:
I realize that this reference is hardly "low-tech", however there are some interesting aspects that might be appreciated as relevant and interesting. There is a company in the US called Capstone Turbine, which manufactures micro turbines that are extremely efficient reliable and clean. They are entirely without friction (no need for lubrication) since the shaft is a floating "air-bearing". These are relatively small generating units that can easily be combined (utilizing exhaust) with hot water generation or chillers, creating even greater efficiency. But because of their size they can be utilized in a decentralized facility you suggested in your comments above. Because of very high combustion efficiency, decentralization, and combined utility, even though these units can burn any fossil fuel, they could therefore also be used for bio-mass off-gas utilization (from composting, etc.) Hope this is helpful.

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