"TEG Power" 12 volt Thermoelectric Battery Charger--Any good?

paulstamserpaulstamser Posts: 85Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
Does anyone have any knowledge, opinions or experience with this particular unit and/or the concept behind it in general?

http://www.tegpower.com/pro8.htm

The item is a "TEG Power" 12 volt (15 watts) thermoelectric generator that retails at $289.99. It operates by sitting on top of a woodstove and converts heat into electricity that can charge a 12 volt battery.

The TEG Power company is based in Morgantown, WV, and looks to be a small but ambitious outfit with good ideas. But how practical is their product and how well does it deliver?

For years I've thought that a generator of this type would be the perfect thing for a small off-grid 12 volt PV/battery homepower system like mine. This time of year of short days and lots of clouds and overcast weather in Northern Wisconsin provides very little PV electric power generation and I am forced to run a gasoline-powered generator. But at the same time my woodstove is fired up and hot 24/7. A near continuous 15 watts would help my battery bank alot when my PV array is putting out almost nothing.

Heck, we're even talking about the charging the battery at night!

A Google search doesn't turn much up about this unit or the TEG Power company in general. One party in Alaska had trouble getting the product delivered and after much delay got a refund. That does not sound very encouraging. Nor does there seem to be anything else like this on the market. Gotta wonder there too. Because a 12 volt thermoelectric generator working off a woodstove seems to be an ideal thing for a small off-grid PV system like mine and I can't be the only one also heating with wood.

You people know a lot more tech stuff than I do so any comments or information would be much appreciated. I'm ready to buy one of these units as $289.99 plus shipping is reasonable, but I don't want to be ripped off or vastly disappointed either. Please help.

Thanks!
Herb

Comments

  • CariboocootCariboocoot Posts: 17,615Banned ✭✭
    Re: "TEG Power" 12 volt Thermoelectric Battery Charger--Any good?

    Sounds like a Seebeck sandwich to me. This is what powers the Eco fan, and that works. But has tiny power demands compared to recharging a 12 Volt battery.

    I doubt this is a thermionic generator, although they'd like you to think it is.

    This claim bothers me: "PV panels typically produce about 0.0036 kWh per rated watt"
    Really? Try putting them outdoors in sunlight instead of in the basement under a tarp. Mine produce 4 W hours per rated Watt in the Cariboo. If they're telling lies like that they are most likely selling a piece of junk. The claim that this thing is equal to a 100 Watt panel in S. Cal. is suspect. Such a panel would produce 385 Watt hours per day. Their device @ 15 Watts over 24 hours: 360 Watt hours, if it could maintain its maximum output (as opposed to the derated number for the panel).

    The price is about the same as a 140 Watt Kyocera. From that POV it doesn't look like a good value to me, even if it did work. I see no mention of it being charge regulated either. It does say the output is 13.9 Volts, which is okay for floating a battery but insufficient for charging it (especially a deep cycle).

    My opinion: avoid it.
  • BB.BB. Posts: 25,229Super Moderators admin
    Re: "TEG Power" 12 volt Thermoelectric Battery Charger--Any good?

    From the website:
    This TEG is a lower-powered version of our Source-1 TEG designed specifically for charging 12 volt DC batteries. Easily charge any 12 volt battery from any horizontal heat source of 350F or greater. This is a Plug n’ Play device. No cooling system or wiring to mess with, simply place the TEG unit on a wood stove, camping stove or other heat source and hook the clamps to your battery. Have emergency backup AC power when you need it by adding an AC voltage converter and any 12 volt battery to our 12 Volt TE Battery Charger! Being prepared will not cost you an arm and a leg!


    Solar Comparison: Solar PV panels rarely operate at the full rated power output. In the real world, PV panels typically produce about 0.0036 kWh per rated watt, per day if operated in sunny Southern California. Since we do not all live in California, one should expect even lower daily output. Our 12 Volt TEG Battery Charger (rated at 15 watt), operating continuously on a wood stove for one day is the equivalent to a 100 watt solar photo voltaic panel operating for one day in sunny Southern California. Note: Figures based on real world performance data supplied by manufactures.

    If you can keep a stove at 350 degrees F 24 hours per day--Then, yes, it appears that it will meet its specifications.

    Second, I do not like the " 0.0036 kWh per rated watt, per day" number... kW/W is just throwing a factor of 1,000 confusion in there... If they said 0.36WH/W of panel rating per day--I could buy that:

    1 watt panel * 0.77 panel+controller deratings * 7 hours of sun / 24 hour day = 0.22 Watt*Hour of rated panel wattage over a 24 hour day

    So, using the above, I would even use a larger derating number than the website lists...

    There is no charge controller and only you know if you can keep a stove operating at 350F+ for long periods of time. It is not energy efficient, but it is "free" if you need the heat.

    I would be careful, TEG modules do not like heat and will probably self destruct if overheated (fan fails, something covers fans, stove gets really hot, etc.). 500C (932F) is a pretty high max temperature rating--Hopefully, it works fine for years to come.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • icarusicarus Posts: 5,070Solar Expert
    Re: "TEG Power" 12 volt Thermoelectric Battery Charger--Any good?

    Keeping the stove top 350f for even 12 hours a day, would roast me out! For 15 watts, I would make. Bicycle driven genny, and get my 100wh that way...or just use a 100 wtt panel, a less than half the price!

    Tony
  • nielniel Posts: 10,311Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: "TEG Power" 12 volt Thermoelectric Battery Charger--Any good?

    tegs may be fine to play with, but don't design a whole system around it as it won't work out for you. one of them may put a few insignificant float charging watts toward a regular system and often a voltage upconversion is needed when only one or 2 are employed. the guys are correct that these things are picky, but can work on a very very small scale if planned out right. is it worth the effort? i'd say not as i considered doing that years ago, but on an experimental basis you can play with them.

    btw bill, even you got confused as that would've translated into 3.6wh. that proves that their tactic does work even on those familiar with the way kw and w work as it increases the chances of a mathematical error and you to less likely get a proper perspective. you also meant to put per day on the end of that
  • SlappySlappy Posts: 251Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: "TEG Power" 12 volt Thermoelectric Battery Charger--Any good?

    Peltier..... Google search....peltiers hooked in series ???
  • nielniel Posts: 10,311Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: "TEG Power" 12 volt Thermoelectric Battery Charger--Any good?
    Slappy wrote: »
    Peltier..... Google search....peltiers hooked in series ???

    yes, that is essentially what they are. the series connections would up the voltage, but it will require more physical room to attach these to the heat source. way too many would be needed for it to be relied upon as a significant source of power.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Posts: 17,615Banned ✭✭
    Re: "TEG Power" 12 volt Thermoelectric Battery Charger--Any good?
    Slappy wrote: »
    Peltier..... Google search....peltiers hooked in series ???

    And because someone felt it necessary to "correct" me when I mentioned this in the "short form" on another thread ...

    Technically this is the Seebeck effect; converting thermal conduction into electrical current. Peltier is the other way around: converting current into thermal conduction (think of those coolers for cars). They are usually thought of together as "Peltier-Seebeck" but even the companies that make devices using this dual principal (including Eco fan) just call it by the shorter "Peltier".

    You usually get <2 Volts from a typical sandwich, and only a few mA of current. Likely this would have about 8-9 in series to produce that 13.9 Volts, and possibly another parallel set to get enough peak current to make the 15 Watt (under perfect conditions) claim. Most likely it's all done in one custom-made sandwich.
  • vtmapsvtmaps Posts: 3,736Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: "TEG Power" 12 volt Thermoelectric Battery Charger--Any good?
    but even the companies that make devices using this dual principal (including Eco fan) just call it by the shorter "Peltier".

    Caframo, manufacturer of the Eco Fan, describes its operation as based on the Seebeck effect:
    http://www.caframo.com/hearth/common_faq_howdoecofanswork.php

    --vtMaps
    4 X 235watt Samsung, Midnite ePanel, Outback VFX3524 FM60 & mate, 4 Interstate L16, trimetric, Honda eu2000i
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Posts: 17,615Banned ✭✭
    Re: "TEG Power" 12 volt Thermoelectric Battery Charger--Any good?
    vtmaps wrote: »
    Caframo, manufacturer of the Eco Fan, describes its operation as based on the Seebeck effect:
    http://www.caframo.com/hearth/common_faq_howdoecofanswork.php

    --vtMaps

    Uh-huh. I was just talking to one of their techs on the phone this week and he called it Peltier.

    If you keep picking at nits they never heal.
  • mtdocmtdoc Posts: 600Solar Expert
    Re: "TEG Power" 12 volt Thermoelectric Battery Charger--Any good?

    One application where these might make sense - powering a small circulating pump in a woodstove hot water heater coil set up that cannot rely on thermosiphon.

    BTW - I have one of the Biolite camp stoves - which combines a jet stove design with a termoelectric generator to power a small fan and charge usb devices. It works great as a small woodburning camp stove - but it's usb charging capability is pretty limted. The last time I used it I burned a whole lot of twigs and heated a whole lot of water just to maintain a minimal charge on my iPhone.:roll:
  • RossmanRossman Posts: 166Solar Expert ✭✭
    Re: "TEG Power" 12 volt Thermoelectric Battery Charger--Any good?

    Go Stirling Engine!

    I see they use these in some crazy solar concentrator projects in the desert in the USA, saw some stuff on Discovery the other day about them really cool...series of mirrors bouncing and concentrating the sunlight onto the engine to make steam to drive it...darn cool!
  • peakbaggerpeakbagger Posts: 325Solar Expert ✭✭✭
    Re: "TEG Power" 12 volt Thermoelectric Battery Charger--Any good?

    Unfotutunately the firm that was going to commericialize the Sandia Lab Sterling Cycle units went bellyup, another firm in a long list of Sterling Cycle generators that werent quite ready for pirme time.

    There used to be an Icelandic firm that sold TEGs for woodstove use. The firm's name was very icelandic and I think Home Power had a articel about them at one point.
  • paulstamserpaulstamser Posts: 85Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: "TEG Power" 12 volt Thermoelectric Battery Charger--Any good?

    Thank you all for the intelligent and helpful replies.

    The 350 F. temp necessary to run this thing at peak 15 watts and no chart showing a temp/output curve raised red flags for me. So did the lack of testimonials or feedback about this device. Also a lack of similar products on the market. But you guys put it all in very good perspective and others may benefit from this thread.

    Electricity from a woodstove is still a very good idea but it's time is not yet come--so it seems. But I sure do HATE running that generator which I have been forced to do lately. PV just isn't very good this time of year. Although the sun is out today. Yippee!

    Thanks again.
  • icarusicarus Posts: 5,070Solar Expert
    Re: "TEG Power" 12 volt Thermoelectric Battery Charger--Any good?

    Somebody once made a Stirling engine wood stove fan. Have seen one available in years. I would like to find one.

    Tony


    PS. Seek, and yee shall find!


    http://www.gyroscope.com/d.asp?product=VULCANSTOVEFAN

    http://www.modernoutpost.com/gear/details/te_heat_wave.php

    http://www.amazon.com/Vulcan-Stove-Stirling-Engine-Powered/dp/B002Y4UOYM/ref=pd_sxp_f_pt

    It does seem to not be available any more,, except possible front he UK at £150!
  • mtdocmtdoc Posts: 600Solar Expert
    Re: "TEG Power" 12 volt Thermoelectric Battery Charger--Any good?
    icarus wrote: »
    Somebody once made a Stirling engine wood stove fan. Have seen one available in years. I would like to find one.

    I have one of these. It never worked very well and then stopped working completely.....:grr
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Posts: 17,615Banned ✭✭
    Re: "TEG Power" 12 volt Thermoelectric Battery Charger--Any good?

    Because these things work on a basis of thermal difference there is automatically a diminishing return during operation: the close proximity of the 'hot' side to the 'cold' side means that as the air around the stove heats up there is less difference between the two sides, and thus less power produced.

    Kind of like running a refrigerator with the door open.
  • icarusicarus Posts: 5,070Solar Expert
    Re: "TEG Power" 12 volt Thermoelectric Battery Charger--Any good?

    I built one once, to try to run a computer fan in the cieling of our little house. I had a huge aluminum finned heat sink. Worked great...as long as I kept ice on the cold side! Not terribily practical on the wood stove!

    Tony
  • paulstamserpaulstamser Posts: 85Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: "TEG Power" 12 volt Thermoelectric Battery Charger--Any good?

    I'm not at all tech-savy, but it seems to me that if a hot/cold side interface is needed, placing the unit in an thinwall outside chimney would have some advantages. But there it would probably NOT heat up enough if it needs 350 f. You'd probably need a chimney fire for that.

    Sounds like Stirling engines aren't much good as a woodstove add-on either. Too bad. These short-day, clouding periods are difficult if a person hates running a gas generator. But the sun is shining today again and should be all week. Then I have no problem at all.
  • NormokNormok Posts: 36Solar Expert
    Re: "TEG Power" 12 volt Thermoelectric Battery Charger--Any good?

    I bought one of these like 6 months ago just to experiment with. (http://www.hi-z.com/products.php) I bought the 20watt model. I have not been able to get this thing to produce much power at all. I live in the dakotas so I have great cold sources. My idea was to use it on the furnace exhaust, the temp differential with the outside air would provide the 350f difference necessary. That being said I wouldnt buy another one unless the price came down 4 fold - because you have to fabricate an elaborate housing and install heatsinks, not to mention the expensive grease they recommend you use. Its a cool technology and if you have money to throw at it fine but otherwise it isnt very economical.
  • shomasshomas Posts: 6Registered Users ✭✭
    paulstamser said: The 350 F. temp necessary to run this thing at peak 15 watts and no chart showing a temp/output curve raised red flags for me. 
    You wont get a temp/output curve for any TEG because TEGs do not operate on temperature.
    Rather, TEG use heat flow that is in part, a function of the temperature differential between plates, surface area of the plates as well as thermal and electrical resistance. Furthermore, heat is not temperature. They are as different as energy and power. Yes it is a subtle, but very important difference. Given a sufficient heat source and radiator  to dissipate the heat on the other side, 15 watts is very achievable by many TEGs. 
  • shomasshomas Posts: 6Registered Users ✭✭
    niel said: way too many would be needed for it to be relied upon as a significant source of power.

    If one need power  then yes TEG's don't produce a lot of power, but they produce a little power over long periods of time. Power (watts)  over time = energy (kWh).  As pointed out earlier, a 100 watt solar panel would produce roughly the same energy as a 15 watt TEG over the course of a day. Seeing as he needs a generator when solar fails to produce enough energy over a day, he must have batteries, Both TEG and solar systems need batteries to be effective. As such, it is the batteries that provide the power per the momentary need, while either solar or TEG supply the battery energy over time.

    One last thing, it is unlikely an extra 100 watt solar panel will work better then a 15 watt TEG during a Wisconsin winter, especially when the stove is running 24/7 and the days are 1/2 as long as the summer and might not even shine for days. A TEG might be a good supplement for his system. 
  • shomasshomas Posts: 6Registered Users ✭✭
    mtdoc said: - but it's usb charging capability is pretty limted. The last time I used it I burned a whole lot of twigs and heated a whole lot of water just to maintain a minimal charge on my iPhone.:roll:
    Facebook will drain your phone's battery quickly, just saying  :p
  • shomasshomas Posts: 6Registered Users ✭✭
    Cariboocoot said: Because these things work on a basis of thermal difference there is automatically a diminishing return during operation: the close proximity of the 'hot' side to the 'cold' side means that as the air around the stove heats up there is less difference between the two sides, and thus less power produced.
    That is why it is recommended one use a radiator to dissipate the heat.  Even without a radiator, some heat will radiate off the 'cold' side. Just not as efficiently if one uses a radiator with a larger surface area.
  • shomasshomas Posts: 6Registered Users ✭✭
    icarus said:
    Re: "TEG Power" 12 volt Thermoelectric Battery Charger--Any good?

    I built one once, to try to run a computer fan in the cieling of our little house. I had a huge aluminum finned heat sink. Worked great...as long as I kept ice on the cold side! 
    It sounds as if you were trying to remove heat from your house. Seeing as the heat is from the sun, maybe a small solar panel would have been a good fit for that scenario.  

    Worked great...as long as I kept ice on the cold side! Not terribily practical on the wood stove!
      You pointed out that you cooled one side with ice. Where did the heat come from, a candle, something else,  or just ambient air? 
  • littleharbor2littleharbor2 Posts: 151Solar Expert ✭✭
    edited July 14 #26

    If you keep picking at nits they never heal.


    On a lighter note, A nit is a head lice egg , Not sure how healing works into the equation                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             sion.

    9 Suntech 175 mono, Classic 200, Trace SW 4024 ( 15 years old  but brand new out of sealed factory box Jan. 2015), Bogart Tri-metric, 700 ah @24 volt AGM battery bank. Plenty of Baja Sea of Cortez sunshine.

  • shomasshomas Posts: 6Registered Users ✭✭
    Cariboocoot said: This claim bothers me: "PV panels typically produce about 0.0036 kWh per rated watt"
    Really? Try putting them outdoors in sunlight instead of in the basement under a tarp.

    That is statement is about right when averaged over a year. In other words a solar panel array rated at 1,000 watts of power will collect about 3.6 kWh of energy in a day, averaged over a year. Naturally, that factors in that  some places get more sun then others as well as seasonal variances. 

    Cariboocoot said: Mine produce 4 W hours per rated Watt in the Cariboo.

    That would not be surprising if taken around the summer solstice. What is your average watt hours per rated watt around the winter solstice?   I am guessing you mean Cariboo, British Columbia Canada. In 2016, On December 21 the town of Quesnel in the Cariboo may expect to get 07:34 hours of sun, if there are no clouds. But, on Jun 21, they received 6:56 hours, assuming a cloudless day. In Quesnel Cariboo British Columbia Canada, they can produce more that twice as much power 
    on the summer solstice as they can during the winter solstice. 

    Cariboocoot said: The claim that this thing is equal to a 100 Watt panel in S. Cal. is suspect. Such a panel would produce 385 Watt hours per day. Their device @ 15 Watts over 24 hours: 360 Watt hours, if it could maintain its maximum output (as opposed to the derated number for the panel).

    (15 watts) * (60 seconds in a minute) * (60 minutes in an hour) * (24 hours in a day) = 1296000 watt seconds or 360 watt hours
    A solar panel rated at 100 watts would on average, through the course of a year, produce an average 385 watt hours during 8 to 10 hours of a day. Without a battery backup, solar panels can certainly provide more power  100 watts vs 15. But, if one adds batteries into the mix, thermo electric generation produces electricity 24/7 and thus can help prevent deep discharging batteries for when the days are short and or doesn't shine for days.  


    Cariboocoot said: The price is about the same as a 140 Watt Kyocera. From that POV it doesn't look like a good value to me.

    Given his (paulstamser's) situation in Wisconsin during the winter, and a woodstove fired up and hot 24/7, a 15 watt TEG might not be a bad idea, Maybe an extra solar panel might take care of his needs on some days during the winter, but Wisconsin winter nights are long and some times the sun doesn't shine for days. a TEG is dependable, runs 24/7, and might help lengthen the life of his batteries.

    He mentioned he currently uses a gasoline generator when solar is not producing enough. Presumably, because he does not have grid service and is using batteries. If one does have grid service, the cost of grid electricity 24/7 is probably far cheaper then either solar and or TEG + battery. If one is connected to the grid, don't use waste their time and money with battery.
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