Time to Unwind

By , May 18, 2013

Just when I thought the general weirdness of our wind generator had finally settled for a bit, a new twist appeared.

One morning, a breeze developed from the north, but the wind generator remained facing south. We’re used to fluky winds. Often there will be a strong breeze on the water, but it won’t rise high enough to affect the generator. But, when the blades began to turn slowly counterclockwise, I realized something was amiss.

I climbed the tower and faced the generator into the wind. I noticed some resistance, but none that couldn’t be attributed to pulling a wind vane through the airflow to face the opposite side. A day or so later, when I had to climb up and turn it back to the south, I confirmed that the pivot had grown stiff.

This troubling development isn’t covered in the manual’s trouble shooting section or anywhere else. This appeared to be something new.

Lucky for me, we still have the old wind generator. I’ve been repairing it in hopes of using it while the current machine goes south for maintenance. I had a theory, which I tested on the old unit, and confirmed my idea.

To operate, the wind generator pivots 360° around three wires that feed power to the batteries. Apparently the design assumes that the unit won’t turn consistently the same direction long enough to tangle those wires; testing proved that doing so does eventually wrap the wires. I believe that we had a period of wind shifts that pivoted the unit clockwise long enough that the wires tightened the pivot down on the tower!

The solution: climb up and manually turn the unit counterclockwise until it pivoted freely. I tried this, it loosened up, and has worked ever since.

It may be that the rain that started about this same time lubricated a stuck pivot, but I doubt it. I’m amazed this possibility hasn’t been addressed on some level in the manuals. I’m afraid, though, that this oversight is consistent with the company’s overall attitude toward customer care and service. On the other hand, this is the first instance of this in more than seven years of using these machines. It’s probably just a fluke. Who knows if or when it might happen again?

2 Responses to “Time to Unwind”

  1. Jon Marshall says:

    Mark,

    You should write to the company and tell them what you have discovered. Or just write your own self help book on living off the grid.

    Jon

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Jon,

    Excellent idea. Years ago I started a letter to the owner of the company, detailing my experiences, and those of some of my neighbors (most wind generators on Mud Bay are the products of this company) but then realized that, based on the poor customer service they’d become known for, he probably didn’t give a damn. I stopped that project, but still have the original file. Now we hear that the company has sold its newer design to an overseas company, and has discontinued my model. They say that they’ll continue warranty repairs, but I’m waiting to hear if a neighbor ever gets his mill back from the “shop” before sending mine down.

    All of this, plus the recent fun I’ve had putting together an ebook about our life here has led me to consider a user-driven “survival manual” for using these machines. So, it may happen!

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