Each month, we will feature additional adventures for families to have fun outside of completing advancement that connects to the monthly theme. This month is all about Making It Move. Some age groups worked on staying physically fit and other learned about science and electricity, but did you know that you can ride a bicycle to create your own electricity to power everyday objects?
Do you think your home could be powered off of bike-powered generator?
Let's Find Out!
A typical house in the U.S. uses about 1,000 kilowatt-hours of energy in a month. So could you generate that much power all by yourself on stationary bike?
Not even close.
Pedaling a bike at a reasonable pace generates about 100 watts of power. That's the same energy-per-time used by a 100-watt lightbulb.
So if you pedaled eight hours every day for 30 days (no weekends off), then doing the math, you'd generate 24 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy.
That's only 2.4 percent of the energy your house sucks up each month via the lights, the dishwasher, running the AC and playing video games on your PS4.
Now stop and really think about that.
Biking, full time, every day, no weekends, for four weeks gets you to just a few percent of your monthly energy use. The discrepancy between what you personally can generate and what you personally use says a lot about what's happened with civilization and the planet over the past couple of centuries. Consider this. For all of human history the amount of power the average person had to expend across each day was, well, one person-power's worth.
And how much was that in terms of energy? Well, our bike example gives us a good estimate: Eight hours of biking per day yields 800 Wh (0.8 kWh). The energy running into our homes from some distant power stations is the equivalent to having about 40 people pedaling bicycles for us. But, as we know, using that much energy has consequences for the planet in the form of climate change. The trick now is to figure how to keep a reasonable level of power available to everyone by using energy sources that have less planetary blowback.
The average U.S. household uses 1,000 kWh of electricity each month, which equals approximately 33 kWh each day.
To pedal long enough to power your house for one hour will take:
1 person = 13.75 hours
2 people = 6.87 hours
3 people = 4.5 hours
4 people = 3.5 hours
Your family-fun challenge is to see if in the month of September, your family can bike 240 miles collectively. That would be enough electricity to power your entire house for just one hour!
Use the conversion chart below for miles per family size.
For example, each member of a family of four would only need to ride 60 miles this month to collectively bike 240 miles.
1 person = 240 miles
2 people = 120 miles
3 people = 80 miles
4 people = 60 miles
5 people = 48 miles
6 people = 40 miles
Learn more about how electricity gets to your house:
BUILD YOUR OWN!
If you want to take the adventure one step further, you can build your own Bicycle Generator!
The intention of this project is to build a straight forward human powered
generator from a used bicycle and to use it to power light bulbs, blenders,
cell phones, laptops, and other small appliances. This project has been
brought to you by Instructables.com
2" X 4" Wood
Wood screws or nails
Hammer or Screwdriver
Motor (12-V or higher)
Perforated plumbers steel (if motor does not have mounting bracket)
Note: The bicycle generator could be accomplished by skipping steps 4, 5, 6, and 7 to save money, but connecting anything other than a halogen lamp directly to the motor is not recommended due to the varying voltages.
1. Obtain a Bicycle and Remove the Back Tire. You will need to unscrew the back
rim to remove the tire and tube. Since the only part of the bicycle that needs to work is the
chain and pedals, a junk bike or an old used bike would work just fine.
2. Build a Stand to Elevate the Bicycle Off the Ground. The design of the stand
is completely up to you. A few examples are shown below. Just be sure that the stand keeps
the bike elevated and secure. If your bike has pegs attached to it, make sure your stand accommodates that feature. The stand should be built so that the rear wheel of the bike is about 5-7 inches off the ground. The dimensions of your stand will be specific to your bike. Before beginning construction of the stand, be sure to draft a design with appropriate dimensions. A design on paper will save time and prevent mistakes.
3. Attach the Drive Belt Along the Back Rim. A drive belt can be purchased
at any auto parts store. You will need to remove the back rim to attach it. Make sure to
measure the distance from the motor to the rim so you obtain the appropriate size.
4. Attach the Motor to the Stand. A 12-volt DC motor or higher is recommended.
The wattage of the motor depends on what you want to power. The motor should be securely mounted to the stand. Mount the motor at a distance that will tightly secure the drive belt on the motor shaft. The belt and motor shaft should spin concurrently – make sure there is no slipping between them.
5. Place a Diode in Series With the Motor and Battery. Make sure the diode is only allowing current to flow from the motor to the battery. The cathode should be pointing towards the positive terminal of the battery.
6. Connect Battery to the Diode. The battery should be connected in series with the motor and diode. The negative lead form the motor should attach to the negative terminal of the battery. The positive lead from the motor should be attached to the diode, and the diode to the positive terminal of the battery.
7. Connect the Battery Leads to the Inverter. You could use an adapter to connect the battery to the inverter, or you will need to solder or tape the battery’s leads to the inverter so the circuit is secure. Be sure to correctly connect the positive and negative terminals of the battery to the inverter or you will blow the fuse in the inverter.
8. Plug the Appliance of Your Choice Into the Inverter. Once the motor is secured to the belt, you will need to use a multimeter to measure how much voltage is being exerted while you pedal. Depending on how much you exert, you will be able to power small appliances. With the knowledge you’ve gained, try to make changes that will make your generator better and more efficient.
OTHER SOURCES OF ENERGY
What about other sources of energy? Similar to biking, both wind and hydro power are generated from the movement of wind or water.
Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into usable forms of energy through windmills for mechanical power, wind pumps for water pumping or drainage, and wind turbines to make electrical power. Wind energy is renewable and clean and produces no greenhouse gas emissions, but some people find wind turbines unsightly or noisy.
Hydropower, or water power, comes from the energy of falling and running water, which may be harnessed for useful purposes such as operating textile mills and other mechanical devices, and generating electricity. Hydropower is a renewable energy source.