Kinetic Energy: Running Homes & Communities On People Power

Reading Time: 2 minutes

dancing feet

Remember the solar roadways idea? Some folks were developing solar panels to install in roadways to create electricity for powering lights and digital road signs.

I prefer solar being installed on every rooftop to keep it very local (power for that house), easy to maintain, and less loss of electricity through transmission lines.

I thought a solar road was an overly ambitious idea and not very practical, but here is an idea I like much better. It’s smaller, local, and people help generate power.

It’s already working!

Kinetic energy tiles are installed in busy walkways. When people step on them, small amounts of power are created. When many people walk, dance or play soccer on them, large amounts of power are generated.

There is a mobile device charging station at a university that is powered with two kinetic tiles. Lights at a soccer field in Brazil are powered with 200. Where there are active people, there can be electricity. High traffic areas, such as malls, dance clubs and schools are excellent candidates for kinetic energy.

At home

I love this idea! Imagine generating power for your house by stepping on kinetic tiles in the kitchen and family room! Wherever you have lots of foot traffic, you could install these tiles and produce your own power.

This is akin to solar on every rooftop – the energy is local and not lost in transmission, it’s easier to maintain that a solar array or a solar road, and you get involved with it.

One step on one tile can generate 2-20 joules of energy, depending on the person’s weight and the movement. According to this calculator, a one-second step on a tile creating 2 joules of energy is the equivalent of 2 watts. I’m no electrician or engineer, so this is a broad and wild estimation!

Human energy

What is so appealing to me is that we can power our homes with kinetic tiles. Why not use human energy that already exists to create electricity? I can see by my worn out oak floor that the area in front of the kitchen counter and stove would be the best place for an installation.

What about a home office? My comfy, mesh, ergonomic office chair is on wheels, and I spend a good bit of the day rolling it around. I wore a circle into the oak floor before I got a floor mat, so that made me think a home office would be another effective place for kinetic tiles.

These tiles can be customized with wood, carpet, corian or tile, so they don’t look industrial. They will stylishly fit into your house while you generate power and make your home and lifestyle more sustainable.

They will also work where solar is not the best option. Or they can be used in conjunction with solar. The more power we can generate on our own, the more self-sufficient we can be.

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.