Friday, September 14, 2012

Time delay for inventions to public acceptability.

14 Sept 2012: Blackthorn Environmental left a comment about the article which discusses why there may be a 30-40 year time lag between an invention and its acceptance. 
Blackthorn: "Good article! Explaining details about catalytic converters."

DNC's reply, with additions:  Thanks. Another analogy is that of elevators. Everyone now says that the elevator led to skyscrapers, but this is not so. The Safety elevator was invented and demonstrated by Elisha Otis  in 1853, but was of very limited use. The first Tall Building did not come along until 1883, thirty years later in Chicago, the Home Insurance building by William LeBaron Jenney. (Otis never lived to see it, having died in the 1860s, but his name lives on as the most famous names in elevator technology, rather like Daimler and Benz.)

Otis demonstrates the safety elevator with himself
as the victim, should it go wrong.
   What was the reason for the delay? Well, in the early days they were steam powered, and seen as suitable only for 2 or three storeys, for example in the first Department Stores. After a long battle between Edison and Westinghouse, AC Electricity didn't come as a usable system in buildings until 1881 after which it was possible to consider using an elevator up to or beyond ten storeys. So the 'systems context' in which an invention exists has to be right too. Until Ground source heat pumps with boreholes are more commonly installed, there is less demand for solar charging of the ground. 
   Of course, there is a chicken-and-egg conundrum because if more people know about solar earth charging they are more likely to opt for a vertical borehole with a ground source heat pump.

Will it happen?
    Only today, I had an enquiry from PV installation company who are moving into heat pumps who want to do their own GSHP installation in a building they are refurbishing. The very existence of solar charging (as a possibility) encourages them to think of using a GSHP with vertical borehole. I am aware of the logistics of plumbing and control and metering for the solar charging, so this looks like an interesting project for the future. Brings me back to the idea of Value Engineering - how much would I charge to instal one of these systems? Materials, labour, time.


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