The January “Curse” Strikes Again

By , January 10, 2013

Luckily, I’m not an overly superstitious person, or I’d be seriously freaking out. Once more, the early January “curse” has struck our homestead.

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, we awoke to the wind generator, which didn’t sound quite right. The sound of the spinning turbine had an odd buzz to it, almost like a rattling wheeze. I got up to turn it off, but found that I couldn’t. The “off” switch on the charge controller, which switches the turbine to regulation mode, couldn’t slow the prop as it usually does, nor could our hand-built back up brake switch stop it.

Uh-oh.

For some odd reason, trouble with the wind generator seems to strike in January, almost always within the first week. For instance:

January 7, 2007: Our original generator stopped charging. We had to take it off the tower and send it in for repairs.

January 15, 2009: We gave up trying to solve a problem with the old controller. None of the techs could figure out what was wrong, although long afterward, I found a short sentence in the original manual that explained the whole problem, and how to fix it. That led to a whole new slew of problems trying to install the new controller.

January 2, 2010: A new episode of controller failure led to installing a third new controller in the course of a year.

January 2011: the brake switch failed. This was the easiest to remedy, and since I’d built it myself, we couldn’t have called for help if we’d wanted to. I overhauled it myself, and had it working in a day.

The system is still under warranty, which means we don’t have to pay for the repairs. However, we do have to ship it off to Arizona to be fixed, at a cost of $50 in 2010, probably considerably more now. Far worse is the time it takes to get the repairs done and the unit returned. I found notes in my planner from one repair job with a quote from the technician that it would take “about a week or less.” We got it back over a month later. That was a good year—in one instance two months elapsed between sending it off and getting it back. They repaired our unit, then lost it on their loading dock. They ended up sending us a brand new replacement. The original never showed up at all.

Despite all this, I managed to take a positive, proactive approach to the new crisis. Instead of going back to bed and laying awake thinking about it, I pulled open the charge controller and ran a few tests with my voltimeter. I matched my readings to the troubleshooting guide, and found that a diode had likely shorted out. With that much knowledge, I went to bed, and soon got to sleep.

The next morning, I opened up the controller and ran some diagnostics. I also found some new tests on the company’s Web site, where I had to go to email them. It used to be they wouldn’t take emails, now they don’t take calls! I assume it’ll be a few days before they respond. In the meantime, I’ve run all the tests I can. It looks like I’ll need to send it in for repair. Luckily, we still have the original controller, that works fine. It’s a hassle to hook it up, but we shouldn’t be without power for more than the time it takes. It’s unlikely we’ll need to pull the generator off the tower, which is the main thing to avoid.

The timing of the incident remains troubling. The only common factor in these various problems is the time of year. We haven’t experienced unique weather at any of these times. I’m tempted to speculate that there’s some sort of computer issue, but that seems unlikely.

The experts say that humans look for patterns so much that we often find them where none exists. Even so, this is getting to be a little too weird.

6 Responses to “The January “Curse” Strikes Again”

  1. Linn Hartman says:

    I know this probably seems like a trivial problem to you guys up there, but dealing with companies anymore is a pain. Our dryer, which we bought from a national lumber and hardware chain, quit heating around the 20th of December. After numerous phone calls and speaking to nice Indian girls I’ve yet to see a real live repairman. As of this morning I should receive a phone call from a repair facility within the next 24 to 48 hours to setup an appointment. Ain’t that great! Remember the Maytag repairman adds – well it’s all a lie. My red haired wife is quickly loosing her cool so that makes it all the more fun. Hope you get your generator back working and don’t have to wait for a phone call in the next 24 to 48 hours to setup an appointment.

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Linn, not trivial at all. Think of your frustration, and add to it gratuitous shipping and handling costs because we’re in Alaska, people who don’t understand the difference between “continental” and “contiguous” and dealing with people who see that Haines is within a mere 100 miles of Juneau, so why not just drive down there and take care of it?

    Customer service is almost a lost art anymore. Companies don’t know how to find, keep, and reward valuable employees, much less make valuable customers happy. Good luck with the dryer!

  3. Potential Santa says:

    Hi friends, thank you for sharing your thoughts on interesting topics, G-rilla gardening was very nice HeHe

    About wind power, tried to mail you a while back with info that might help you with your “Curse” but not shure it arrived to you.

    Attempt II

    Install and forget operation always attracted me, so sick of fantastic stuff that don´t deliver, so one have to search a lot, never mind, to the point, there is a rare company in your “hood” Canada, VP Turbines,( Paul Stearns ) the only one I found that have variable pitch turbines 300 watt where you can buy DIY parts as you like.

    This turbine starts earlier and dont have to furl ever, for you who flies ,think constant speed propeller.

    Had the opportunity to deal with these nice people and the American made charge controller they reccomend which may not be one of the flashier ones is bulletproof with a LOT of useful options Flexcharge NC 25 Look it up.

    Hope this helps you solve your ” Challange ”

    Kind regards from Swedish Lapland

    ps Food for thought for all open minded people , find out the TRUE story about Amanita Muscaria ( Song of Solomon ) and Cannabis Sativa and why it was ( Can you believe this ) made Illegal, live well and enjoy the reasearch ds.

  4. Mark Zeiger says:

    Hi Folks,

    Yes, I received your earlier email on my brother’s boat plans account, and have been looking at the link you sent. Thanks for sending it along! Their system looks very nice, and would definitely be a front runner for us if starting from scratch. However, I’d need to run three of their units to equal the output of our generator. While their’s would provide power over a longer range of wind, our current system is better than those they show on the fixed vs. variable speed chart–our system delivers power over a much wider range of wind than the chart indicates. The furling system, when it works, works well, and doesn’t stop generating power in the furled position, but cuts it back to useable levels, just as the variable speed system seems to.

    Also, such a new system would not address our current problem, which is with this system’s specific charge controller. It’s all under warranty, and is still putting out plenty of power. Our issue is that there’s a problem that needs to be addressed (under warranty) and we need the company respond to our requests for assistance.

    I wish I had the money (or grant writing ability) to offer our place as a proving ground for various wind generator systems–I’d gladly test them out, provided they donated the systems and supported them when necessary.

    Mark

  5. Linn Hartman says:

    Hope this finds things going well – snows coming down here – looks like this winter maybe as wintery as our summer was hot and dry – Just a little tidbit on our dryer delema – after they finaly got a fixit person located he looked at the situation and called home depot = it was going to cost more to fix it that we paid for it – As of this morn they are going to send us a check and be done with it – of course it will take 7 to 14 days – looks like maybe another trip to the rub-a-dub. ha
    have a good day

  6. Mark Zeiger says:

    Linn,

    Sorry to hear about this. I suppose it must be a relief to have it resolved? I just got a reply from the wind generator people, with trouble shooting suggestions. Some of what the current person tells me directly contradicts what I’ve been told in the past. I’m relieved to have some sort of progress, but not confident. So it goes!

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