There are a few devices that work tirelessly to protect our lives. We’re talking about smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Increasingly these either need to be hardwired into the home, or have a sealed battery which is good for ten years (in the case of smoke detectors). [Gelmi] recently had to change the battery in his Carbon Monoxide detector — which happens very rarely — and he it got him to thinking. If the batteries need to be changed so rarely, how hard would it be to harvest energy to power the device?
Our first thought was that he’d use inductance like those spy birds which perch on power lines. But instead he went for the heat lost from using the hot water spigot. Above you can see his test rig which attached a Peltier device to the faucet in his bathroom. Whenever you turn on the hot water the faucet also heats up. The differential between faucet temperature and ambient room temperature generates a small amount of power. This is a suitable source, but only if he could also cut the amount of power needed by the detector. This adventure takes him down the rabbit hole, learning about how the sensors work and designing for reliability at the lowest consumption level possible.
The faucet application might seem peculiar. But if you use a natural gas water heater you want a carbon monoxide detector near it. Attach the Peltier to the outflow and every time any hot water tap in the house is opened your system will get a bit of a recharge.