Green Thoughts: Modern technology converts waste heat into electricity

Graphic obtained The United States produces a large amount of electricity from various means, but also a large amount of waste heat through inefficiencies. The ElectraTherm could be a solution to this problem.

By James walls
Campus News Editor

The second law of thermodynamics states that there is necessarily a limit to the efficiency of any heat engine, and therefore no engine will work at 100% efficiency. Because of this, it is estimated that nearly 60% of the energy produced in the United States is wasted, merely escaping as heat or steam without serving the purpose it was intended for. That is why Loy Sneary developed the ElectraTherm Green Machine, a generator which transfers waste heat into electricity.

How it works

According to an interview with Joe Hennager in 2008, Sneary described the process of the ElectraTherm and how it works in easily understandable terms.

“In the back of the 50 kW machine, a 6-inch supply hose feeds in cold water, and another feeds in hot water or a hot fluid. Inside the machine is a closed-loop, organic Rankine cycle system,” said Sneary. “The temperature differential (delta T) between the hot water and the cold water causes the refrigerant in the system to expand and contract. Two things come out of the machine: lukewarm water and electricity.”

According to Joel Lamson, solar energy instructor at Crowder College, the organic Rankine cycle (ORC) uses a fluid with a lower boiling point than water. Because of this it can be boiled with hot water and the gas run through a gas turbine which is the same as how a steam turbine works. Thus, by connecting the generator to such devices as boilers where a great deal of waste heat is emitted, the ElectraTherm will run just like a steam turbine.

Estimated productivity

According to an article on, Sneary states that his generator can power up to 70 homes an hour at a cost of two cents per kilowatt hour. Whether this is true is uncertain, but many articles relating to the ElectraTherm prove positive.

At a demonstration, Sneary hooked his Green Machine to the boilers at Southern Methodist University in Texas where he then converted their wasted heat into electricity. Proving his machine to be successful, one can only wonder at the potential this device has for other locations.

Therefore, with the United States producing so much waste heat, the development of a generator that converts that waste heat into electricity is more than welcome. Whether one can truly call this a renewable energy, I’m not sure, but it is definitely a technology worth considering. And with no harmful emissions being released into the atmosphere, it proves its superiority over the ever-depleting fossil-fuels easily enough, and thus is worth considering taking a chance on. After all, it is not too late to think green.