Beacon 10 Stirling Engine Ideal for Home Electricity Generation (Albert D. Kallal)

The following comment was originally posted on this thread by Albert D. Kallal (the post has had minor edits for clarity)

@Omega wrote:
“The Beacon 10 [Stirling engine invented by Dean Kamen in partnership with NRG] is supposed to provide an absolute minimum to a village of people who have absolutely nothing. And I mean Village.”

No, that not the case at all. Dean Kamen started out looking to build a power source for those villages, but realized the design and technology is IDEAL for co-generation and residential use.

Quote from Dean Kamen

“the Beacon 10 is just right for businesses like laundries or restaurants that use a lot of hot water. With commercialization partner NRG Energy, he’s so far deployed roughly 20 of the machines.”

Kamen expects to put them into production within 18 months. “Within two years I would expect high-end builders to be installing them.”

But the 10 kw models are just the beginning. It won’t be long before Kamen has a smaller version ready for commercialization. He’s already been running a 2.5 kw Beacon at his New Hampshire home for four years.

The INTENT is a washing machine sized unit and SPECIFIC for the residential and home market.

The basic setup results means that the natural gas you use to heat your home and hot water ALSO results in generating electricity.

The electricity is essentially a free byproduct of heating your home.

@ Omega wrote:
>There is a reason society & power companies don’t use stirling generators. Contrary to the claims, They are not cheap, dependable nor durable.

Let’s not be silly. Durable compared to what? You think a steam turbine for home use is practical? Going to place a cot down there with a full time engineer to maintains the water levels and keep that system going?

No one is suggestion to take a “large” commercial sized steam generator and scale down to home size. And NO ONE is suggesting to scale up a sterling engine to replace a large coal plant. However keep in mind those large power plants take up several city blocks and have 100+ full time workers to maintain and keep that system running.

With a stirling engine you can run 24/7 – WITHOUT the maintenance.

In fact larger commercial systems generating electricity expend a LOT of waste heat for no good use. You THEN have 20% loss for electric transmission.

Why not send that SAME natural gas to on-site generation? The result is far more efficient.

The key concept here is stirling engines require FAR LESS mainnance then a typical gas (internal combustion) engine used to run a generator. The MAIN reason of course is that you don’t mix the fuel (heat source) with the internal moving parts and working fluid (in this case air or helium). Thus such engines are sealed, and run for years on end – just like your refrigerator.

The stirling engine runs ABSOLUTE CIRCLES around the internal combustion engine in terms of maintains and trouble free operation.

The cost of building such a durable engine is more then a “cheap” internal combustion engine, but not more then something that needs to be durable (run 24/7).

You don’t see small sterling engines on the end of a say a “weed eater” because the power to weight ratio in a sterling engine is LOWER then a typical small gas engine. However the efficiency of stirling engines can easy compare or even exceed internal combustion engines.

So you are DEAD wrong about durability issue.

So you are DEAD wrong about the efficiency of such engines. What power plant are you talking about that needs ZERO maintenance for say 10 years at time of 24/7 operation?

Please do share with the readers as to such a setup? Most solar batteries systems require more maintenance then the stirling engine – just to check battery fluid levels.

Do a simple BinGoole on co-generation. You find Honda and tons of example systems. Most are NOT sterling since the given manufacture ALREADY has good smaller gas engines. Some are using steam engines, but they tend to be more expensive then a stirling engine.

The simple matter is construction costs for a smaller sterling or “heat” engine is not “that” much more then a using a gas engine. And this is ESPECIALLY if you building engine that runs 24/7. Just try running that small portable Honda generator 24/7 for 5 years — forget it! (you have to change oil and even check the oil level). And they are NOISY!

The BECON 10 is DESIGNED exactly for operating 24/7 and MORE important the exhaust output can be vented directed to the room. And it is QUIET – no muffler is required. And the TARGET IS residential.

No one suggests your running a wal mart 5000w generator 24/7. (they not durable enough). And larger systems are turbines.

On the small residential/commercial level the Beacon 10 is IDEAL for home owners.

Listen to Dean Karmen speak about his design and look at the unit he has for home use – an absolute home run.

So they are MORE durable and HAVE LESS maintains than an internal combustion engine.

The burner using in such a system is much the same as a typical stove top burner which also does not need venting to the outside.

Like many technologies, they become practical on a smaller and smaller scale. Today most co-generation makes sense for hospital or apartment buildings. As technology improves (and cost of electricity goes up) then burning natural gas on site to produce heat (which you have to do anyway), and using such heat to produce electricity makes HUGE sense.

Do watch the above videos – feel free to follow up with any counter points – clearly the LONG list of co-generator systems available today don’t agree with your assessment.

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
[email protected]

  • Andreas Moraitis

    As long as there are no highly efficient thermoelectric generators and direct electricity production from LENR is still a long way off, Stirling engines might be the best solution for low-temperature domestic systems. Effective turbines that would work in this range are expensive, and perhaps not more reliable than a good Stirling motor.

    We usually tend to assume that mechanical systems are more prone to failure than non-mechanical systems – but is that really the case? Maybe we are just biased since mechanical devices often make a lot of noise when they break, whereas, for example, electronic parts die rather ‘peacefully’. Once I had a broken shock absorber in my car – I will never forget the pandemonium. In addition, even in normal operation mechanical devices are mostly not completely silent, thus they remind us constantly of their existence. We might be more afraid of a hard disk failure in our computer than of any other possible error – independently of the likelihood of such events.

    • Ophelia Rump

      There are Stirling engines in South America still running from the 1920s. Being sealed systems and if designed and built well they can be virtually friction-less.

  • Allan Shura

    Looks like a possible application for HHO (or experimentation since there are no HHO specific
    engineered internal combustion engines I am aware of) although HHO has a lower heating value
    but a higher mechanical value. George Wiseman described Al Throckmorton’s overunity water pump at TeslaTech 2014 that demonstrate the utility of the ‘vacuum effect’ of the HHO (BG)
    on the return stroke. So much to explore on the new frontiers to seek out new worlds.

  • Warthog

    A huge amount of research has been done on Stirling engines. Back in the heyday of “alternative energy”, one company designed a Stirling engine to be used directly in a focussing solar collector (parabolic mirror). The Stirling engine would sit with its pistons at the focal point of the collector and would generate AC directly into the grid. Helium working fluid and gas bearings. A spin-off of the tech was a Stirling refrigerator, which basically inverted the generator…fed in AC current, and oscillating the piston, expand the compressed gas to refrigerate. Still used helium working fluid and gas bearings. Needed NO fluorocarbons. Supposedly, a far more efficient and reliable means of refrigeration, but too big a paradigm jump at once…..they couldn’t get the funding agencies interested.

    A book about their work lurks “somewhere” on my bookshelf.

    • Omega Z

      “helium” is an issue. It leaks out of everything. Even Glass. Refrigeration manufactures use it to test sealed systems & determine by helium’s leakage rate as to how well it will hold in other refrigerants.

      It’s also going to get expensive in the near future. The U.S. reserves are running out. These Huge reserves have suppressed the price for 6+ decades. Helium is used in many medical devices(MRI’s Etc) & prices for these procedures are expected to at least double.

      Many refrigerants today are made up of mixtures of Methane, propane, butane, etc. In the late 90’s, A company had such a mixture that was labeled MX-12 that replaced R-12. Supposedly non-flammable, but apparently they had QC problem as a couple people suddenly had room for a walk-in cooler. It may have been flame proof, but a dead internal short that burnt thru would result in an explosion.
      This lead to a new formulation now known as MX-12a.

      R-12’s replacement R134 is actually more harmful then R-12 was & if a large enough leak occurs in presence of a flame, can be deadly. It’s kind of like experiencing Halon exposure. You can’t breath as if your lungs just locked up.

      Notice Refrigerants become a known problem about the time Patents are ready to expire. Thus giving U.S. Chemical companies an advantage. There in another transition now replacing the replacements. In 20 years it’ll all start again.

      • Albert D. Kallal

        @Helium leakage

        Actually helium does not permeate most bulk metals.

        It is Hydrogen tends to be more of a problem and the gas that you thinking that permeates into metal.

        Helium is used for leak detection because it permeates about 3 times faster then air and is not flammable. And detectors are easy (relative) to make. Helium is NOT used in leak detection because of some special ability to leak though metals.

        Hydrogen is thus able to penetrate into steel better then helium.

        Regardless, the folks at DEKA (Dean Kamen’s firm) have created a sealed system that deals with this issue (just like helium tanks do).

        Albert D. Kallal
        Edmonton, Alberta Canada

  • GreenWin

    These guys are using a NASA patent for their thermo-acoustic “PowerStick” Stirling CHP. Haven’t heard much of anything since their announce last year.

  • Andre Blum

    Dean Kamen, coincidentally, according to wikipedia, lives in Bedford, New Hampshire. Rossi should know his way around that town, he used to live here and it is where leonardo corp is registered.

  • Omega Z


    The Sterling’s tho simple, doesn’t equate to cheap & they still have reliability issues. There are some interesting new developments i occasionally follow, but nothing near marketability & at 20% efficiency, more expensive then Grid power even if they make them dependable.

  • Bernie777

    Cannot believe Kamen and Rossi have not crossed paths, someone should lock them in the same room for about two hours. (:

    • Omega Z

      It’s probably because Sterling’s aren’t efficient enough(20%) as Rossi has said before.

      I also don’t understand Albert’s thinking they are dependable.
      He talks about IC engines & he’s right about them, but a Sterling generator has all the same failings.

      A piston, wrist pin, connecting rod, rod bearing, 2 crank bearings, all which will need regular maintenance & oiling. It will suffer all the same stress, 100’s of ft. pounds of pressure & heat as an IC engine. I would expect a sterling engine to maybe last between 15K & 20K hours if properly maintained Verses a well maintained car getting between 8K & 10K hours. There’s 8760 hours in a year. Allow a sterling engine 2 years of 24/7 may be generous.
      Oh well. If the become available, he can lease 1 & let us know.

      • Bernie777

        Maybe they just don’t like each other, they did live in the same small town, I am trying to get some kind of answer from Mr. Kamen, no luck so far.

      • Albert D. Kallal

        Been busy during the holidays – great discussion here folks!

        The difference between the internal combustion engine (IC) and that of the sterling is the “external” combustion issue.

        Because the burning of fuel is EXTERNAL to the moving parts, then they can be sealed like a transmission in a car. Thus no mixing of burning fuel comes in contact with internal moving parts.

        We are talking maintains levels that of a refrigerator (say 5 or 10 years running constant). Exactly what IC engine can run in your home for 5+ years at a time without maintains?

        So the oils (lubricants) system is SEALED and separate from the process of burning fuel. So just like an electric furnace motor or your refrigerator – they run for years and years without maintains. The same goes for the sterling engine.

        That refrigerator also has a pump and crank and bearings, but such parts are not in contact nor “mixed” with the burning fuel source and thus can be sealed. The result is thus very low maintains.

        You don’t have to change the oil in your refrigerator due to everything being sealed – same goes for the sterling engine.

        Albert D. Kallal
        Edmonton, Alberta Canada

        • Omega Z

          I’m well aware of the internal/external difference.

          “We are talking maintains levels that of a refrigerator (say 5 or 10 years running constant). Exactly what IC engine can run in your home for 5+ years at a time without maintains?”

          If your talking a car engine cycled like a refrigerator, You may be surprised how many would last 5+ years without maintenance.
          Furnace blowers & Compressors & such don’t run 24/7 365.

          Your refrigerator/compressors run 25% to 30% of the time. If they run 24/7, they have a short life. From weeks to maybe a year dependent on it’s age when this takes place & individual circumstances such as ventilation Etc..

          No, you don’t have combustion particles, but you still have metal flaking, heat, & torque pressure & these all increase wear & tear along with the breaking down of Oil viscosity.

          On larger, expensive refrigeration systems(commercial), there are recommended service periods according to run hours for changing the Oil, accumulators & filters. I’ve done this. Many businesses try to avoid paying out a few hundred dollars many times resulting in a half life. Surprise. They end up shelling out 1000’s of dollars for replacement far sooner then they should. Preventive maintenance is crucial to all mechanical devices.

          There are multiple types of compressors. Most seen in residential are scroll, rotary & reciprocating. The main difference is noise level, but not much difference in longevity. 10K hours run time is a goal, not the norm & this is not continuous operation. How long these things last is very deceptive.

          Note- You may or may not be aware. You can turn a generator by hand, but as soon as you draw power from it it pushes back. You need torque power to overcome this so-

          One of the issues is scale. Small scale doesn’t provide enough torque to generate much electricity. To offset this they run them at high speed(Sometimes very high speed) and gear them down to the generator. This all produces excess wear & a short life span.

          Large scale power plants due to their size have plenty of torque & may only spin at a couple hundred RPM. Much less wear & longer life span.

          Another issue with sterling’s is it’s efficiency. 20% isn’t that great. About half of the U.S. average of power plants & about a 1/3rd of gas turbines. This along with how electricity is utilized in homes means that your either way short of what you need or way more then you need. Wasting just half doubles the cost of what you use. They just aren’t cost/benefit economical regardless of maintenance Etc.. I’m thinking the Beacon home version would be doing good at 15%. The water heat is also low quality. To improve it would reduce electrical generation.

          If we consider matching a sterling to a 10Kw E-cat. COP & Efficiency are joined at the hip so to speak. The E-cat control box itself requires 300watts.

          COP-6 @ 20% is breakeven at best. 1.67Kw+ 300watt for the E-cat
          COP-10 may allow enough to run your refrigerator @ 20%.
          COP also has diminishing returns. Starting @ COP-10 leaves about 700watts excess. COP-20=1200, COP-40 =1450 excess usable. To many here at ECW think high COP is most important. As you can see, Electrical conversion Efficiency is equally important if not more so.

          Note: I don’t know your background, but here’s what you can expect in bearings pertaining to topics in this post.
          Rod bearings. Some just burnish the Rod ID itself to size in place of a bearing. Either way, It’s metal to metal.

          Thrust bearing in some compressor designs.

          • Albert D. Kallal

            For sure the refrigerator is not running 24/7, but the point still stands.

            Even with that 25% cycle time, the maintains of such sealed engines is simply in a DIFFERENT league as compared to say using a small gas engine to co-generate electricity. In other words, at this scale level, there are few alternative engines that provide such a low maintains schedule for the given cost. And toss in additional issues such as no muffler or exhaust needing to be vented outside, then you actually “gain” cost advantages in some areas.

            As we look at more and more factors, then again the advantages of the sterling make sense. Keep in mind the “context” we are talking about here is affordable “residential” co-generation.

            We can get into semantics about the cycle time, but no matter how one slices and dices this issue, I don’t think you find a small gas IC engine that can compete with a sealed sterling (EC) for a given cost and such low maintains.

            As I stated, and you point out, as you increase size such as larger commercial refrigerator systems, or large commercial power plants, then the maintains becomes a larger and larger issue. And you can justify the REQUIREMENT to have people maintain such a system. In other words, you “could” build a larger refrigerator or power plant with lower maintains, but such a design would cost MORE then the people and maintains schedules that such designs have.

            The context here is practical co-generation on a SMALLER scale such as for your home. The “reason” why this is so interesting is because the marriage between a small LENR device and small generator system is of course the match made in heaven.

            Such a marriage will create affordable and practical off grid system in which both heating and electricity is provided at VERY low FUEL costs – and one that is very low maintains.

            The simple issue is I am not aware of a small IC engine that can compete with the sterling given the above context. If you choose examples outside of this context, then you are choosing examples outside of this context.

            As for crank and bearings? All engines are quite much on equal par. Since both types of engines are in the same boat then this issue applies to all systems – not just IC or EC engines. Logically then this point has no more or less merit for both types of engines. In other words, the issue of bearings etc. applies to most engines and thus does not constitute an advantage or liability for one type of engine over the other.

            Thus both IC/EC engines can have VERY long mechanical part life. However the DIFFERENCE in maintains due to the sealed lubricants and NOT mixing the oil with combustion materials STILL remains, and this is an advantage of a sealed EC engine.

            Albert D. Kallal
            Edmonton, Alberta Canada
            [email protected]

    • ecatworld

      I commented about the Beacon 10 yesterday on the JONP, and Rossi responded thus:

      Andrea Rossi

      December 22nd, 2014 at 11:31 AM

      Frank Acland:
      Thank you for the information: no, I am not familiar with it, even if I contacted them a year ago or so and they were not ready with a product for our needs.
      Warm Regards,

      • Bernie777

        Right, I suggested they have a meeting two years ago, tells me they do not believe in each others tech or they feel in competition with each other. I do not believe it is because they are ignorant of each others tech. They live or have lived in the same small town!

  • Allan Shura

    A portable natural gas generator from a big box could cost in the hundreds and one could
    add to manage waste heat and noise. Such products and innovation as the Beacon 10
    most definitely should be encouraged but what would the capital cost be when they go in to production in 18 months with the control system? How much increase in power generation
    plus heat per unit of methane purchased or gathered from dung?
    Most natural gas is still under a distributed utility hence the rising demand for lower cost
    on site user owned hydrogen and HHO production to be seriously off grid. The hydrogen
    cars are here and now. I hope this works out for Dean Kamen and NRG since the competition
    is rapidly increasing and intensifying for portable clean energy.

  • Omega Z

    Tho I disagree with Albert’s assessment of the Sterling engine & the generator’s dependability at small scale, I decide to look beyond that issue & assume it works just fine.

    Different utilities tend to price costs by different means, MMBTU, Therms, Cubic feet etc. Probably this is done to confuse people or maybe just the type of meter they use.

    Anyway, I did the conversion to align with both the Beacon 10Kw & the proposed residential Beacon(2.7Kw) & allowed 24/7 operation though the financial conclusions would likely be similar as to gain or no gain whether continuous or periodic use.

    Hours in a year-8760 into 12 months=730 hours in a month
    UNIT___Output__Ngas used_xcost/total__cost Kwh
    10Kwh–7300Kwh @1241 thr x.67=$830.8 $0.113+
    2.7Kwh- 1971Kwh @ 335 thr x.67=$224.4 $0.113+

    This is according to Dekka/NRG statements on the Beacon 10 of 20%efficient & extrapolated for the residential unit. Note with scaling down, the residential unit will likely be less the 20% and/or require more Ngas input. Simply put, the Kwh’s could cost as much as 25% more.

    This does not include additional fees that I left out because these can vary substantially by where you live, But the cost will be higher then the numbers indicate which is already double what I pay for electricity. Which is also inaccurate as Again I left out additional fees that vary by local. But even with those included, It is still more expensive then I presently pay.

    So misleading. You can sell excess back to the Utilities. What isn’t said is at most, they pay you retail which is less then your cost & many states like where I live only have to pay you wholesale. I’d be giving them $2 for $1 in return.

    I’m also on the hook for the electrical system to sell it to them. It has to be completely isolated from your incoming service. Yes, you have to have a meter out as well as in. It’s not cheap. They charge you a monthly fee on that meter.They also don’t have to except it if it interferes with their base-load or have no demand for it. You could easily waste half your output which would double your Kwh cost.

    Also if the incoming service is disrupted (lines down whatever), You can’t feed electricity out. There has to be an automatic cut off. This is part of the outgoing service system you have to pay for & is done for safety reasons.

    Yes, You have hot water which would offset some of the cost. Up to 70’F rise. How much hot water do I need for the 8 months a year at 50 gallons an hour. 95% is going to be dumped. Of the 4 months when I can use it, it is substandard heat in to little quantity.

    We have electrical output that wont cover peek demand so I still need my local utility. I still need my HE Gas Furnace And as NRG has indicated, these systems will be leased. Another monthly bill for that.

    Note. I used present billing cost which is always lagged. Your always paying last months use/price. Presently that price is trending down. But even if the price drops by half, I still see no cost/benefit for the consumer& the price of N-gas will ultimately rise.

    A thought that has occurred to me is that due to a quadrupling plus of Power Plant Construction & Government interference, That this is the Energy companies cost shifting to the consumer. Bypassing 20 Billion$ power plants that will never pay for themselves in the normal distribution & directly leasing the hardware separately from energy consumed. Watch for Solar panels next to be leased if not already somewhere…