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worm gears used in these units will result in short life and poor efficiency.

* Cost is an approximation for newly manufactured units. The author spent less than $50 at a recycling center for all the generators discussed in this article. If you build this project, you may have problems finding similar units. Look for the Windstream Power Systems Inc. advertisement found elsewhere in this magazine. They manufacture a small pedal generator system that can be used as is. Or the crank and generator could be remounted on a bicycle frame.

* Cost is an approximation for newly manufactured units. The author spent less than $50 at a recycling center for all the generators discussed in this article. If you build this project, you may have problems finding similar units. Look for the Windstream Power Systems Inc. advertisement found elsewhere in this magazine. They manufacture a small pedal generator system that can be used as is. Or the crank and generator could be remounted on a bicycle frame.

A work in progress. Microchip 16C73A controlled monitoring and control system, with LCD readout. The circuit in the lower right is the light-tree driver.

Sony TV for half an hour. The back of the TV indicates that it requires 90 watts. I measured 77 W at 16 V, with 4.8 A input to the inverter. Today I am able to power an entire two hour movie on the larger TV, and can do it again the next day!

The maximum power output of my machine is more than I can pedal. As of November 1, 2000, I am able to power a 100 watt light bulb for over an hour without any flickering. I can maintain 150 W for 2 minute intervals, and 210 W for about 15 seconds. These values are all observed by operation of light bulbs at the 120 VAC output of the pedal generator. At best, I estimate the machine efficiency to be 85 percent due to losses in the frame, transmission, generator, and inverter.

Although not required, an ammeter could be added. This will let you do power calculations. Multiply the voltage reading by the current reading to obtain power (volts x amps = watts).

I had always assumed the power consumed by the TV would be constant, but this is not so. Brightly-lit scenes or white backgrounds require substantially more pedaling effort. Remember, you are the regulator. Keep the voltage as close to 13 VDC as possible. If the voltage drops, the inverter or the TV will shut down.

Future Improvements

I want to purchase or build a better frame. The one I am using was never built to stand up to this abuse. The frame flexes with each push on the pedals. Thicker or stiffer metal or a better quality design would work. Also, it would be nice to sit about 10 inches (25 cm) higher relative to the pedals.

I'm also working on a "light-tree" to visually indicate voltage. Voltage, current, and wattage will be shown on an LCD display. Five lamps will provide the light-tree indicating voltage. I based this circuit on a microcomputer. The circuit is mostly complete, and the code has been written and tested.

But this aspect of the project has turned out to be academic. When the machine was first built, I monitored the voltage every minute. With practice, it was unnecessary to monitor voltage all the time. I can feel what the machine is doing, and how much power is required.

I'd also like to add an automatic battery assist to take over for quick breaks. If the voltage falls below 11.5 VDC, a PIC circuit will automatically connect a battery to the inverter via a relay. The peripheral interface controller (PIC—microcomputer) is a powerful device. If readers are interested, refer to the Microchip Web site (www.microchip.com).

Thanks

A big thanks to my wife Robin, who assisted in testing and building the machine. Thank you to the people at my local recycling center, where I found many parts at low cost. Without your service, this project would never have been completed.

I hope I've given HP readers some ideas about how to design and construct a pedal-powered generator. Please share your results with Home Power, and keep on pedaling!

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Aaron Dahlen, 8285B Valley View Dr., Sebastopol, CA 95472 • [email protected]

Grainger (over 350 branches across America) 847-535-1000 • [email protected] www.grainger.com • Sprockets and chain

MCM Electronics, 650 Congress Park Dr., Centerville, OH 45459 • 800-543-4330 or 937-434-0031 Fax: 937-434-6959 • [email protected] www.mcmelectronics.com • Capacitors and inverter

Digi-Key Corporation, PO Box 677, Thief River Falls, MN 56701 • 800-DIGIKEY or 218-681-6674 Fax: 218-681-3380 • [email protected] www.digikey.com

Microchip • [email protected] www.microchip.com • Peripheral interface controller

Recycletown, 500 Meecham Rd., Petaluma, CA 94952 707-795-3660 • Fax: 707-584-8291

[email protected]www.garbage.org

[ENGINEERING.) Authorized Distributor

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