Installing Methanol Fuel Cells as Backups Installing Methanol Fuel Cells as Backups

What You'll Need
Direct methanol fuel cell kit
Ventilated work area
Protective gloves, goggles, and clothing

Methanol fuel cells can make a good backup fuel source for home appliances and other gadgets. While this technology is not widely used, it is becoming more frequently seen in new home construction. A methanol fuel cell can serve as back up power in the event of power outages. Instead of relying on a battery—which can discharge when not in use—or on an oil powered generator, a methanol fuel cell can provide a charge any time it's needed without extra costs. The cell will need to be installed directly to the gadget you are wanting to power. Installing these cells as a replacement to a full home generator is not typically recommended as a DIY project, but if you understand how they work, you can install them with a little help from a professional.

Step 1 - Decide on a Kit

Methanol fuel cells can be used to power several different devices, but you will need to decide up front exactly why you are going to install it. If you just want to power a light or a fan, the cell doesn't have to be large. A fuel cell kit will provide you everything you need. Check to be sure the kit includes the fuel cell storage tank, load measurement box, funnel, cables, voltmeter and ammeter.

Step 2 - Prepare the Cell

Check to ensure the venting holes are clear. Some kits will have the vent holes at the top of the cell covered with a tab for shipping. This needs to be removed before you can begin to work with it.

A methanol fuel cell will need to have a methanol solution in order to work. You can order the solutions, purchase them from specialty science stores or find directions to make your own. You will need to follow the directions provided in the kit, but you will need to add the solution to the cell before you can begin.

Step 3 - Check Voltage

Using the voltmeter and ammeter, check the charge according to the directions in the kit. You need to be sure the voltage is correct before you attach the nodes to the gadget. Failure to do this can result in damage to the appliance, or it simply won't work.

Step 4 - Attach the Nodes

With the cell ready to use, you will simply attach the nodes in place of the battery. The cell will provide enough power to power small gadgets and appliances for a few hours. If the appliance stops operating, check to ensure the cell hasn't dried out.

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