First page of the Thermoelectric archive.

Lessons in building a 120-Watt thermoelectric wood stove

Posted by Earth Stove on August 31, 2017 with No Commentsas , , , , ,

Guest Blog: We are reposting a 2012 blog from Instructables by Tecwyn Twmffatt at Goat Industries. It describes an early effort to build a thermoelectric wood stove.  This blog is part of a series of blogs providing information for the 2018 Wood Stove Design Challenge.

Introduction: Thermoelectric Power Generation (TEG) 

These videos document my first attempts at generating electricity from a thermoelectric peltier device in 2012. The TEG that I used is a high powered unit able to withstand high temperatures and specially made for electricity generation. In terms of instructions, I don't think many people would want to build the 10 TEG system as it was ridiculously expensive, so I'm putting in a section for creating the 1 TEG arrangement, which is relatively easy and low cost.

Step 1: Part 2 of 3 


A ten unit Thermoelectric generator system is shown being constructed and then fitted to a wood burner. The theoretical maximum output is 200 watts. The video shows how the generator was put together and how the wood burner was modified to get maximum heat through the TEGs. The TEGs themselves are able to withstand a constant 325 degrees C on the hot side and require plenty of heat to get the 20 watts that each of them are capable of producing.

Step 2: Part 3 of 3 


In part 3 we successfully generate a significant amount of energy from the woodburning stove. In the first session, a circulation pump, a fan and 10 x 10 watt flood lights are powered up. In the second session, we attempt to get a more balanced load wired up to the tegs and measure a noticable increase in power output. The 10 tegs are wired up in 2 parallel strings and, from the manufacturer's specification, the optimum output voltage is 14.4v . The nearest that we manage is 13.8v, at which we generate 120 watts. The specifications suggest that 200 watts is possible when the load is matched.

Step 3: Full Playlist

31 Minutes of Thermoelectric video heaven!

Step 4: Creating the 1 TEG Generator

Here we are going to build the single TEG generator shown in the first video.

Step 5: Tools and Equipment  

Thermoelectric power generator TEG module (GM250 449 )
...... buy direct from China at:
Aluminium block 102 x 115 x 20 mm
Steel block 102 x 115 x 10 mm
1/4" BSP blanks x 6 of
1/4" BSP male stud push fit pneumatic fittings for 10 mm pipe x 2 of (See photo above)
5 mm Hex bolts x 40 mm x 2 of
25 litre water butt
OD 10 mm ID 8 mm nylon pneumatic pipe
12V water pump
12V LEDs, 1 watt x 20 of Tools:  1/4" threading tap
5 mm metric coarse threading tap
Drill 11.5 mm
Drill 5.5 mm
Drill 4.2 mm
Drill press
Torque wrench
MIG welder
Plasma cutter / Grinder with cutting discs

Step 6: Drilling and Tapping the Cooling Block

Use the engineering drawing to produce internal coolant passage ways in the aluminium block. I ended up drilling all the way through to the other side and using more of the 1/4" blanks. Connect the 1/4" pipe fittings to the block and plumb in the pump. Add antifreeze to the water in the water butt if it's likely to get cold at all. To create a 'sandwich' with the hot block (steel block), the TEG and the cooling block, drill and tap holes in the steel block for the 5mm bolts. Weld the hot block into the side of the wood burner and recreate the TEG sandwich, tightening the bolts up with a torque wrench (see attached file). Connect up LEDs on the TEG, turn on the pump, light the wood burner and off you go!

Step 7: 10 TEG Layout

If you really must build the 10 TEG generator, the photo above shows what is involved. I have got CAD drawings, PCB drawings etc. If anybody is interested. Not for the faint hearted! PCB 03.pcb
CAD files Heated Up!

Could a Thermoelectric Wood Stove Pay for Itself?

Posted by Earth Stove on July 13, 2017 with No Commentsas , , , ,

By Ken Adler, AGH Senior Technical Advisor

Payback calculations are common in the residential solar photovoltaic industry where homeowners want to know how long it will take for them to recoup their initial investment. If you purchase panels outright, payback periods depend on a variety of factors including a utility’s price for electricity, tax incentives, and amount of daily sunlight hours. A range of 5 to 8 years is possible however, it can be as wide as 3 to 15 years.[1]

Answering the payback question for thermoelectric wood stoves is one of the objectives for the 2018 Wood Stove Design Challenge. In the meantime, there are several ways to begin answering this question with information already available. It is also useful to look at how use of a thermoelectric wood stove in combination with another energy-saving system, i.e., solar, could prove beneficial to the homeowner and thus both industries as well. For example, in northern states and Canada, a thermoelectric wood stove could reduce the number of residential panels needed and thereby save the homeowner thousands of dollars in panel costs.

Early Thoughts on Payback

The retail price of a thermoelectric module is around $ 57.50 for a 22-watt module, or $ 2.61 per watt.[2] One critical point to make here is that the power output of our 22-watt module assumes an optimal hot-side temperature of 300 C (572 F) and cool-side temperature of 30 C (86 F). This ideal temperature differential is very difficult to achieve in real world conditions, so the real-world cost per watt for thermoelectric modules will be higher. However, cost should decrease and efficiency improve with widespread adoption of thermoelectric modules, similar to what happened in the solar industry. For example, DOE estimated that the installed cost of a solar panel declined from $ 7.06 per watt in 2009 to $ 2.93 in 2016, a reduction of 60 percent.[3] If we go back to 1977, the cost of a solar panel was $ 77 per watt. It is not unreasonable to expect a decline for the cost of thermoelectric modules as economies of scale reduce production costs.

Of course, when a thermoelectric module is placed into a wood stove there are other associated costs. The primary cost by far is the heat exchange system. As I’ve discussed in a previous post, to generate at least 100 watts of power, it’s likely that a water-cooled heat exchange will be needed. The current retail price for a 100-watt water cooled thermoelectric generator, which includes eight thermoelectric modules, is $ 599, or $ 5.99 per watt. One question the competition will attempt to answer is how much this heat exchange will cost when it is integrated into the design of the wood stove.

Secondary cost considerations include the price of the wood stove, its installation, and fuel costs. The price for a larger size 50,000 BTU wood stove can range from $ 900 to over $ 4000, and the average consumer spends about $ 2,500. Since a thermoelectric wood stove would be providing both heat and electricity, it is difficult to separate out how much of the cost of the stove is for each function. The more crucial point for now is that many larger size stoves, which can generate up to 50,000 BTUs and meet the 2020 EPA NSPS standard, are available for as little as $ 1,300. While this does not include the cost of installation, it does suggest that the wood stove portion of the costs should not be a major obstacle.

The cost of installing a thermoelectric wood stove into a home should not necessarily be that much greater than the cost of installing a traditional wood stove. One additional cost will be attaching the power outputs from the thermoelectric wood stove to an inverter. However, if we assume that early adopters will already have or are planning to get a solar PV system (more on this below) the cost of the inverter would not be a major obstacle.

Finally, one can assume that the fuel cost for a thermoelectric wood stove is essentially zero because the wood stove is already being used to heat the home. A thermoelectric module will convert only 3 to 6 percent of the heat from a woodstove into electricity, while the remaining 94 to 97 percent passes through the module and is released as heat into the home. In other words, the module is only using a very small percentage of the heat generated by the stove to produce electricity.

Value in Combining Technologies

While more in-depth analysis is needed, it’s possible that a thermoelectric wood stove could help reduce the size and cost of solar PV systems in northern climates that have limited sunlight/solar radiation in winter. For example, a typical 5000 watt solar PV system in Vermont produces 6,280 kWh of electricity per year, while the same system produces 7,913 kWh in Los Angeles.[4] Most of this difference is due to the low winter time output in Vermont between October and February: For example, the Vermont system produces 239 kWh in December, as compared to the Los Angeles system’s 473 kWh. If the Vermont resident wanted to generate the same amount of power as in Los Angeles, they would need to increase the size of their solar PV system from 5000 watts to approximately 6300 watts. At the current cost of approximately $ 3.36[5] per watt installed for residential solar, this could cost the Vermont resident an additional $ 4,368 for additional solar panels.

Alternatively, instead of purchasing extra solar panels, the Vermont resident could invest in a thermoelectric wood stove to boost their winter time power output. As we mentioned in our previous blog, a wood stove with a 150 to 200-watt thermoelectric generator operating 16 – 20 hours per day could generate 93 to 124kWh of electricity per month, which would be a good boost to the Vermont output of 239 kWh in December. And, at 0.16 $ /kWh for electricity in Vermont, the thermoelectric wood stove could save the homeowner an additional $ 15 to $ 20 per month.

While a real payback calculation for a thermoelectric wood stove will need to wait until prototypes go through more testing and we get results from the 2018 Wood Stove Design Challenge, the available information suggests thermoelectric wood stoves could help reduce the cost of residential solar installations, and potentially save homeowners thousands of dollars.

[2] See our Resources page for a list of thermoelectric retailers.
[3] NREL. U.S. Solar Photovoltaic System Cost Benchmark. September 2016. In 1977, solar panels cost $ 77 per watt.
[4] NREL PVWatts Calculator
[5] EnergySage. Solar Marketplace Intel Report. April 2017.

Heated Up!

Hybrid Residential Solar and Thermoelectric Power Generation

Posted by Earth Stove on June 16, 2017 with No Commentsas , , , , ,

by Ken Adler, Senior Technical Advisor at the Alliance for Green Heat Some of you may be wondering about thermoelectric wood stoves and why we decided to include them in the 2018 Wood Stove DesignChallenge, which will be held in November 2018 on the Washington Mall.  Our goal of this competition is to support development […]

Thermoelectric Wood Stove, Solar Power, and a Floating Cabin!

Posted by Earth Stove on June 16, 2017 with No Commentsas , , , , , ,

Guest blog post, by Margy Lutz Finally this winter, our thermoelectric wood stove generator is fully operational. Following our test runs, we placed the pump to recycle cold water down in the lake water under the cabin. In winter, it gets about 5 degrees C (41 F). That’s plenty cold for a good differential between […]