Monday, September 16, 2013

Energy-Generating Exercise Machines

To function properly, the typical electrical exercise machine requires a significant amount of power and electricity. While most of this power is currently provided by an external source, recent innovations are making it possible to harness the power that you produce while working out. Once harnessed, this power can be used to reduce the impact of your home workout on both your electricity bill and the environment.

Existing Generators
The ability of exercise machines to harness and use the power produced while exercising is not a new one. Most widely available exercise machines, such as stair masters and elliptical trainers, are equipped with power generators. These generators are designed to produce the energy needed for the operation of the digital readouts of the machines. Due to the small amounts of energy required to do so, however, most of the energy that you produce while exercising on these machines is lost as heat.

California Fitness
California Fitness, a Hong Kong-based subsidiary of 24-Hour Fitness, first introduced the use of electricity-generating exercise machines in one of their fitness centers in 2007. Designed by Lucien Gambarota and Doug Woodring, these energy-producing machines were created by modifying the existing generators on some of the gym's stair climbers and elliptical trainers. This was accomplished by rewiring the existing generators to capture the energy lost to heat, connecting the machines to a car battery to store the excess energy, then running the battery through an inverter to convert the energy from direct to alternating current. This inverter then connects to the gym's lighting system, with the 13 modified machines used to power 13 of the gym's fluorescent lights.

ReRev is a Florida-based company that was created to reduce the energy consumption of fitness centers across the U.S. Using a system similar to that designed by Woodring and Gambarota, ReRev rewires the existing generators on elliptical trainers to capture excess kinetic energy, which is then converted to alternating current for use in powering your home or gym. According to ReRev, a 30-minute workout on their retrofitted machines produces 50 watt-hours of electricity, which is enough to charge a laptop for 1 hour or run a compact fluorescent bulb for 2.5 hours.

Calories to Kilowatts
Between 2007 and 2008, a program was created by Clifford Harris and colleagues at Michigan's Albion College to evaluate the energy efficiency of modified exercise machines. Their modified elliptical trainers were found to produce 79 watts of power while in use, while their stationary bikes produced between 96 and 120 watts. When converting caloric output to the amount of power produced, however, these machines ranged from using only 6 to 8 percent of a person's overall caloric output. The use of these energy-producing machines, which cost between $500 and $600 to modify, was also associated with increases in both knowledge of environmental issues and environmentally conscious decision-making.

Homemade Bicycle Generator
Creating your own energy-generating stationary bike requires very little time and money. While modified machines are available for purchase online, creating your own requires little time and money. Using a training stand, direct current generator, battery and inverter, your bicycle can be used to create and store electricity to be used in your home. If you are not interested in storing such electricity, a simpler model involving only a bicycle, training stand and direct current converter can be used to power electrical devices during and immediately after your workout.

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