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Week of 13 May 2019: Historical Energy Trends

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Sometimes it is worthwhile to look back on where we have come from to assess where we are and where we are going. Items in my garage give us a clue.

First, there is my air compressor. Ceiling mounted, and connected to the distribution header I put in my home in order to have compressed air on each floor without having to drag around an air compressor, it is rated at 5 HP. Take the cheap plastic cover off the top of the unit and peer at the motor. You will find a smallish motor reminiscent of the one I built for a science fair about 60 years ago. However, if you look at the rpm at which it spins and do the calculations, you will indeed find its output to be 5 HP.

On the garage floor, less than fifteen feet away, you will observe a cast iron contraption, unfamiliar in this day. It is a cast iron engine, single cylinder, water cooled, with two flywheels, about 24 inches in diameter. It is an "Economy" brand name gasoline engine, approximately one hundred years old. Economy sold these under several brand names. This one likely came off a cement mixer. It produces 1 ½ HP, according to the nameplate, and weighs approximately 300 pounds.

Sitting near the Economy is a Maytag air-cooled one-cylinder engine (they also made two-cylinder ones). It has a kick starter, weighs about 15 pounds and produces about ¼ HP. These were sold integral to Maytag washing machines sold to rural areas where there was no electricity. Again, about 100 years ago. Conveniently, these came with a flexible steel exhaust pipe that the lady of the house could hang outside an open window in order to avoid asphyxiation.

Then, hanging from a support beam of the mezzanine in my garage is a David Bradley chain saw, roughly sixty years old. I bought this at an antique tractor show a dozen years or so ago. It is not the one, but it is identical to one my dad bought new around 1959 - 1960. It was state of the art at the time, had a 26-inch cutting bar and weighed 56 pounds. Don't know the horsepower rating. It cost about $250 in 1960 dollars!

*** has hundreds of registrants! [03.01.19]


We have folks entering our industry now who were born around 1996. Except for the air compressor I described above, they have likely never seen any of these other motive sources, even though all of them were designed and built since 1900. I thought it worthwhile to show how quickly we have improved energy sources, which in turn has caused a tremendous decrease in energy usage.

Modern materials and modern designs have caused this tremendous improvement. Not so long ago, many items were made of cast iron because it was cheap. Flinging cast iron around in the air (paper machine dryer cans are an excellent example of this which the Light Green Machine Institute has been fighting for years). Today, most designs are done with finite element analysis, so extra material that used to be incorporated because the strength calculations were too cumbersome to do by hand, has been eliminated. Other experiences have resulted in even more energy savings when it comes to things that spin and turn.

No doubt there are energy savings ideas on the horizon, but many big gains have been made in the last fifty years. This is worth knowing as we move forward.

For safety this week, more compact, lighter weight designs have meant better safety is inherently built in.

Be safe and we will talk next week.

___________________ has taken off like a rocket! Over fifty jobs are posted, in many interesting categories. These jobs are in at least ten different US states. [06.19.19]


Employers are on board with There are nearly thirty employers located in fifteen different US states and two other countries. [06.19.19]


Other interesting stories:

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