A Complete Buyer’s Guide to Stirling Engines
So, you want to buy a Stirling engine but there are thousands of choices on the web. It can be a little bit confusing.
An Organized List of Your Options
I’ve been in the Stirling engine business for over 20 years. This website is older than both Google and Facebook.
The purpose of this page is to help you organize your options, so you make the best choice for you with less hassle.
I do list my Stirling engine products here, but I also list my competitor’s products. In fact, I’ll often recommend that you buy from someone else if I think they can serve you better. See the “Tips for all Buyers” section for more details.
My two surprising safety tips are at the bottom of this article.
How This Guide is Organized
This list is grouped first by type of engine and by educational vendors.
Next on the list are engines by sellers in different geographic regions.
Highly-rated Amazon and eBay sellers who sell Stirling engines round out the list of available engines.
Click or tap on any of the groupings below to jump to that portion of the list.
- Low-Temperature Difference Models
- Flame Heated Models
- Power Producing Engines (often labeled combined heat and power)
- Coolers and Cryocoolers
- Educational Vendors
- Vendors Throughout the World
- Amazon and eBay Top Sellers
- Tips for all Buyers
- How to buy Engines for Boys
- Safety Tips
Look for More Engines in the Comments
All manufacturers and sellers of Stirling engines are welcome to link to their most popular product in the comments section below.
All comments are moderated, so it may take a few days before your comment appears online.
Low-Temperature Difference Models
My personal favorite type of model Stirling engines are Low-Temperature Difference Stirling engines. The main reason I like them so much is because they don’t utilize flames so they are:
- Safe to use indoors.
- Safe for students to use in classrooms.
These engines can also be a lot of fun: just make sure you use them outdoors or in a space with excellent ventilation.
Flame-heated Stirling engines are most often run by an alcohol or kerosene flame and occasionally by a propane or butane torch.
If you have a choice, the propane torch or the alcohol flame models should produce cleaner burning flames than the kerosene flame heated engines.
You can find a list of Stirling engine models already available for sale in the “models” section on our recommended page.
Stirling engine fans were quite popular a century ago. If you wanted to cool off in a hot place like India, you either had to hire someone to fan you or use a Stirling engine fan.
Today, most hot climates have readily available electricity so Stirling engine fans have mostly gone out of style.
But, there’s still one Stirling engine fan that is needed by some customers and that is wood stove fans for remote cabins.
Moving Air Without Electricity
These fans are designed to sit on top of a wood stove and run on the temperature difference between the hot stove and the cooler air in the room.
This is convenient for any place that has a wood stove and even better for somewhere like a cabin that might be in a remote area with little to no electricity.
This fan is designed to keep the cold side of the engine cold so it continues to produce its designed output power.
Power Producing Engines (often “combined heat and power”)
Every engine of every type rejects waste heat to the environment. But Stirling engines reject most of their waste heat to their cooling water, not to hot exhaust.
This means that they are excellent choices when you want to capture this waste heat and do something useful with it like heating a building.
If you have a business need for both electricity and lot of hot water, like a commercial laundry might, a Stirling engine configured for both combined heat and power would be an excellent choice.
We have a list of companies that deliver Power Producing Engines on our recommended page here.
Coolers and Cryocoolers
Stirling engines can be used as coolers and to cool certain applications to cryogenic temperatures.
There are a few places that sell Stirling engine coolers and cryocoolers, which I’ve put together in a list on our recommended products page.
There are a few places that still develop Stirling engines for use in the military, including SAAB (formerly Kockums).
SAAB developed the Stirling engine used to power Sweden’s Gotland class submarine.
Other companies, like Sunpower, are continually working on various research projects that use Stirling engines.
Schools and universities can often more easily buy from the companies that they already buy a lot from.
If you are a teacher at a school or university, I’ve put together an educational vendor list from places you probably know and trust. They all sell at least one Stirling engine.
You can find that list under the “models” section on our recommendations page or by following this link.
Vendors Throughout the World
Stirling engines can be found many places throughout the world, if you know where to look.
From the UK to Australia to Canada, there are quite a few vendors.
To see all of the vendors I’ve found throughout different parts of the world, check out this list of worldwide vendors!
Amazon and eBay Top Sellers
Of course, in today’s world, websites like Amazon and eBay make it easy to find almost anything available for purchase. But, there are so many sellers and stores that searching for what you need can get confusing.
To help with your search, we’ve put together the top two sellers from each site, based on customer reviews and seller ratings. These sellers can be found in this list on our recommended page.
Tips for all Buyers
Buy close to home if you can. Any Stirling engine that you buy will probably last for several years. If it ever needs to be repaired, you will be much better off having purchased it closer to your home.
Should You Buy From Amazon?
I like Amazon and I buy a lot of things on Amazon, but consider buying directly from the manufacturer if you can.
Amazon and other retailers are so good at moving products around, that it’s easy to think that every purchasing experience will be better if you buy on Amazon, but that’s not always true.
Amazon’s Comission is Invisible but Real
The commission that Amazon takes out of the sale price is invisible to you, but a very big cost to the manufacturer of the engine that reduces his profits a lot. Those profits lost by the manufacturer will not be used to develop new products for you in the future.
Buying Gifts for Boys
As the proud father of a little boy, I am especially aware that little boys might like Stirling engines a lot. So which one should you buy?
First, how old is your boy? At the moment, I can’t find any Stirling engines toys on the market that are appropriate for boys younger than about 10 years old.
If you don’t yet trust your son with a pocketknife, there probably isn’t an appropriate Stirling engine toy for him.
And that’s a pity.
Which Should You Buy Your Boy: a Kit or a Ready to Run Engine?
If your boy is at least 12 years old and is interested in mechanical things, you should consider buying him a kit and having him put it together.
Ideally, I would suggest that you buy both a ready to run version and a kit version of the same engine, like my MM-1 and MM-5 Coffee Cup Stirling engines.
Surprising Safety Tips
Air Pressurization = Bad
One way to build a Stirling engine that puts out more power, is to pressurize it with a gas and, since the most readily available gas to pressurize a Stirling with is air, you might consider pressurizing your engine with air.
Many designers have tried this and indeed the engines do indeed put out more power.
Air Pressurized Stirling Engines Have Exploded
Please remember: Stirling engines that are lubricated with petroleum and pressurized with air are bombs.
In air pressurized, oil lubricated engines, you have all the elements of the fire triangle present only under pressure.
It only takes a little bit of oil, leaking around a piston into the hot section to become the fuel source for an explosion
Air + Oil + Pressure + Heat = Danger
There are no modern Stirling engines designed to be pressurized with air but beware of homemade engines on the market which might be made for air pressurization. There also might be a few antique Stirling engines available that can be pressurized with air.
While these engines are fairly safe to run at atmospheric pressure, they’re not safe to run when pressurized with air.
If you do want to pressurize an engine that was designed for air, use dry nitrogen instead. Nitrogen is a very safe gas to use in pressurizing Stirling engines.
Surprisingly, hydrogen is also a very safe gas to use in Stirling engines for reasons that I won’t get into on this page.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
I’ve already mentioned that I don’t really like the idea of flame-heated model Stirling engines because they’re usually used indoors without ventilation and, often, the flames are usually not clean burning.
You must always be aware of the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning. Learn more about it here.
Please Link to Other Stirling Engines For Sale
The world is very big and we can’t possibly know about all the Stirling engines for sale, so please link to any others that you know of in the comments below this.