It's been a while since I updated this blog. I'm afraid to report I turned the grid power back on in June. I had a lot of work to do in my work shop and it just wasn't practical to run the generator that much. It was cheaper dollar wise, and more energy efficient to use grid power. My wind generator also broke down in June. After lowering it from the pole I found the welds on the axle shaft had broken and allowed the rotor to contact the magnet disks. I took it apart and rewelded the assembly. This time welding deeper and welding the axle inside the frame tube as well. I reinstalled the generator back on my roof pole, it doesn't get nearly as good of wind there, but I can look at it and work on it if need be. It's been running fine since I repaired it, but I'll have to get it back on the high pole before winter rolls around.
I'm using my RE power for home lighting, cloths washing, vacuuming and when I have extra power the TV. I usually fill up my batteries by late morning, so I can get in a load of cloths and some vacuuming in the early afternoon and still have the batteries full before I lose the sun in the early evening.
Here's Casey at just over 5 months.
Casey has really grown! When I had him to the vet a couple of weeks ago for vaccines, he was 47 pounds. I'm sure he's well over 50 pounds now and still growing. He's been in the house with me now for about a month. He still likes to chew everything, and insists on dragging all his toys to the center of the living room, but he's still just a puppy and gets better every day.
I was in Menards (building center) the other day and noticed they now sell 12 volt compact fluorescent bulbs, yey! They are $8.99 for a 13 watt warm light bulb. Not a bad price and it's handy to be able to pick up the bulbs locally rather than mail order them. Now I can keep a couple of spares on hand. I'll say it again, try not to install the compact fluorescents into a ceiling fixture, the heat goes up into the ballast and kills them quickly. About a year is all I get out of ceiling bulbs, where the bulbs mounted upright in a lamp are going strong after several years.
It's possible I'll be moving in the next year or so. There's a manufacturer next to me that's expressed interest in buying all my property here. I've been working on a new house plan and the cost for a new house. Providing I do all the labor it's possible I may be able to make it work. I'm looking at building near a small pond on property my brothers and I already own. I'd really like to get farther from town, no neighbors or noise and Casey could run free. But the real nice aspect would be I'd build an earth bermed house and go off grid. Solar panels have come down this year, enough so that I could put in a 1 kW system that should more than meet my electrical needs.
Here's an early draft of a floor plan I'm considering.
As you can see I'm dedicating about as much space to a work shop in the garage as I am the rest of the house. The North and West walls would be completely bermed, while the East and South walls would be landscaped up to the berm grade. There is already a shallow well on site, so water wouldn't be an issue. I'm undecided on putting in a septic tank or a composting toilet and a gray water recovery system. That may depend on the expense of the septic system, if it runs into too much money, I'll just go with a composting toilet.
4 May, 2009:
I ran my generator once for about 1.5 hours to top off my batteries during a cloudy/rainy spell over a weekend in late April. That's the bad part of RE, on those days you can't be outside doing something are the days you need the most power inside, and have the least power available. I can see the wind generator is really a huge part of my power supply, there's almost some wind every day, and a couple of days a week it seems to really blow hard, giving me all the power I could want on those days.
I fried my laptop computer a week or so ago. What I did was stupid, and I knew better. I had my computer running on 12 volt power straight from the batteries, I wanted to print a document and my bubble jet printer was out of ink. So I hooked up my laser printer, turned on the big inverter and went to plug the USB cable into my computer, zap! Burned out the power supply. The inverter has floating AC, with no true ground. So when I connected the USB cable the ground from the laser printer was carrying one side of 120 volts AC, which then went through the computer to ground on the battery bank. Oh well, live and learn. I'm back to using my desk top, but it uses so much more power than the laptop...
One thing I found with my 12 volt DC compact fluorescent bulbs, they don't like running in the inverted position, in a ceiling fixture pointing down that is. Pretty much every bulb in that position has burned out in a few months. Those in lamps and mounted vertically are doing fine. I did manage to fix a couple of the CF's, the power supply diode seems to be a common thing to burn out. I also started drilling a few more, larger vent holes in the base to keep them running cooler.
Here's the newest member of the family, Casey the Golden Retriever.
I picked up Casey from a nice home in Charles City, IA. He's from a litter of 10 with six brothers and 3 sisters. He's a real independent pup, really surprised me as he never cried even once after I got him home. I bought him on his 8 week birthday, he turns 10 weeks tomorrow and I swear he's already twice the size he was when I got him! I started him out in the house, but after 5 days of taking him out every 30 minutes and still having to clean up behind him, I moved him to my workshop area. Now he has the entire workshop to play in, plus a dog door going to an outside pen that's 10'x24'. I spend a lot of time with him out in the shop and yard every day, plus I bring him inside a couple of times a day so he stays familiar with the house. I've got AKC papers to register him, but since I really don't intend to raise more pups, so I'm not sure there's any reason to register him.
15 April, 2009:
This week I've been just getting by power wise. On Monday we had little wind and partly cloudy skies, then Monday night I did a load of laundry in addition to usual loads such as lights, TV and computer time. On Tuesday I had no wind at all, but clear skies all day. With just the sun, I didn't quite get the batteries to float voltage. I'd say they were at about 98% by late afternoon though. Today was partly cloudy but there was a nice breeze, my batteries reached float voltage by 1:30 in the afternoon so I used the extra power to vacuum.
I'm still a couple of months away from my peak solar months, so things should get better as I move into the summer. But the winds will become less frequent as well. Things are going pretty much as I expected, but to be comfortable I'm going to need more solar. I'm leaning towards building a second, slightly larger wind generator too. It would be nice to use the extra wind power to run my work shop on windy days. As it is now, I really don't have the spare power to use in the shop, except for maybe a stray hour here and there. There's no way as it is I'll have enough power come winter to keep my sanity. With luck, next fall I can add a couple of hundred watts to my solar array, that and a new wind generator should keep me happy.
Well, the off internet part didn't last long. I'm back online again...
Bad news this week, on Monday my dog and best friend of 12 years, Cosmo died. It's been a tough couple of days for me... The good news is we didn't get the 12" of snow last week, we did get a couple of days of winds sustained in the 25 to 40 mph range though. But that was a good test for the wind generator and the new mount. It all worked great, I had so much power I couldn't use it all, and with the generator off the house, no noise either.
It'll be tough to get much done for the next week or so. With the loss of Cosmo, I just don't feel up to doing anything, I can't even really eat anything. Food and drink both are just bland. Time heals all wounds....
3 April, 2009:
Off grid, no cable TV, no Internet. So far so good, as I expected, without the plethora of multimedia sources I'm getting more done around the place. Now if Spring would just get here to stay I'd really be happy. The forecast is calling for 10" to 14" of snow this weekend, one last blast of winter, at least I hope it's the last blast of winter. Today I got the wind generator moved.
Here's the generator mounted to a utility pole.
The pipe that I used and mentioned before, is 3" boring rod, very heavy at 130 pounds per 16' section. There's two sections up there, with the sections starting a couple of feet off the ground, so the generator head is up at about 34'. I made a pocket at the base of the pole to hold the pole up, it's lag bolted directly into the wood pole. I made two brackets to lag over the steel pole and into the wood pole, plus I have a chain bolted tight around the two poles near the top. The wood pole is 25' tall, so it made a nice gin pole with good mechanical advantage due to it's height. I chained a pulley to the top and hoisted it up with my Blazer and a heavy rope. It was still a lot of work, but having done it now, it should be easier in the future to lower and raise.
I was ready to install guy wires, but after seeing things and being up on the pole on a ladder, it looks and feels pretty strong. I don't doubt the poles can take the load, since a 6' wind generator only has a loading force of less than a 4' x 4' piece of plywood up there. But it is possible the vibration could loosen the pole in the ground. I'll keep an eye on it, and install the guy wires if needed.
This location isn't the greatest, but it's where the utility pole was located, and is much, much better than being mounted to a building. Not only is it a good 15' higher, but the grade is also about 6' higher at this location, gaining me even more. It should be perfect for picking up the winter wind, perhaps marginal in the summer, but summer means lots of hours of solar power going into the batteries.
Speaking of which. My solar panels are doing very well. I'm getting all the power I need at night for TV and lights, plus I've been vacuuming, doing laundry and running shop lights and tools during the afternoons. All this, and my batteries are filling up by 1:30 in the afternoon on days without wind. When I do have a nice wind blowing, the batteries pretty much stay full all the time.
That said, I haven't run into days of no sun and no wind. They will happen, albeit infrequently. I'll be curious to see how long I can go between running the gas generator, if I have to run it ever at all. By timing my heavy power usage to times of good sun and/or wind, I should be able to go a good deal of time even under poor power generating conditions.
1 April, 2009:
I'm officially off grid! As of today, my utility electric meter is gone, a full 2 weeks ahead of schedule. The combination of sun and wind has been giving me more than enough power to run everything I need. Yesterday I welded up the tower bracket for the wind generator, although I haven't moved it yet. Friday sounds like a nice day with low wind, so I'll try to get the new tower up then.
This morning I wired my large inverter into the house AC wiring system. I used the 6 gauge wire running from the dryer in the utility room to send inverter power to the main breaker box. I should note, that with the type of inverter I'm using, it's necessary to unhook the ground wires from a standard grid AC system. You need to just use the two wires coming out of the inverter, a floating AC system I guess is the best way to describe it. After connecting the innovator to the house wiring, I gave most of the circuits a test. My 120 volt fluorescent lighting all works fine, I even ran my metal lathe off inverter power. I'll still just use the inverter only when needed, most of the time it won't be on.
The system that's up and running now should get me through the summer, but come next fall I'll need to add more capacity I'm sure.
29 March, 2009:
I didn't get my wind generator moved this weekend, I ran out of wire on my Mig welder just short of getting the brackets done. It sounds like we're in for another week of winter, so I decided to check up on the wind generator again today. Everything still looks like the day I put it up, but I decided to check out the pole it's mounted to, with storm systems moving in and clouds predicted all week, I'll need the wind power. The pole seemed just a bit loose to me, so I tightened up the bolts holding it to the side of building, then went into the attic and added a couple of more 2x4's to reinforce the beam the pole is bolted to. With the bearings now worn in, and no wind today, I checked the balance on the blade rotor again too. It did tend to stop in one position each time, so I added a small weight opposite the heavy side on the blade hub. By the time I had the weight in place the wind had picked up, so I'll just have to hope it's close...
I've switched computers now, I'm using my laptop for internet. I've got a 12 volt car adapter for it and I made a power cord to plug in the cable modem to a 12 volt outlet. Handy the modem is 12 volt...
I used a lot of power yesterday and today, most of it watching NCAA tourney basketball. Today was the first day I didn't get the batteries to float voltage in a long, long time. But I got them close, another hour and they'd have been there. I watched a movie on my home theater system last night, I wanted to see if I could run the whole system on my 500 watt inverter. It worked, but at the end of the movie the inverter was very warm. In the future I think I'll have to run the big inverter for the home theater. I like to use the small inverter on my TV, the small inverter is much more efficient than the large inverter on fairly small loads.
I finally found a temp setting on my fridge that won't freeze my milk! A setting of 2 is where I finally reached about 36 degrees. Speaking of temperature, I picked up a couple of the old fashioned thermometers the other day. Everyone is so used to digital this and digital that, but these old time thermometers work great and no power required. Probably last a decade or two longer as well. I need to start thinking about lighting in my work shop. For the most part, I intend to run the big inverter to power the shop, but I'd like some 12 volts lights out there for times I just need some light. I debated cutting the south shop wall up and adding some windows. Of course the free light is nice, but the heat in the summer would be a killer.
27 March, 2009:
The water heater made it here today, the last piece of equipment needed to get me off grid arrived! It was about an afternoon's job getting it installed. In the morning, before I started the install, I decided to use up what hot water I still had in the old water heater so I did a load of laundry. I was a little concerned about using the extra battery power today for the laundry, as I had used a fair amount of power the night before. I had watched several hours of TV, vacuumed, then watched a 2 hour movie on my home theater projection system. Today was forecast for low winds and partly cloudy. But by late afternoon the solar array had the batteries back up to over 14 volts, the wind helped, but was only making 2 or 3 amps.
I've been wondering what to do about drying clothes in the winter. Today was a good example as it didn't make it out of the 20's today. I went ahead and hung the clothes on my outside line for the afternoon. The shirts were fairly dry when I brought them in, but the jeans were pretty much frozen boards... I asked my mom what they did when she was a kid, as they didn't have clothes dryers then. She said she thought most people put up clothes lines in the basement or unused rooms to dry clothes. I suppose I can do the same, I've got a large office/work space that I close off in the winter. It warms up nicely though on sunny winter days, and should do the trick for clothes drying.
Here's the water heater installed.
Originally I had planned on leaving the old water heater in place, using it as a room temperature preheater for the instant water heater. But the unit was a little big, and the utility room a bit small. So I ended up removing the old water heater completely. This heater is a Marey 10 liter per minute unit. It's pretty simple, it doesn't have automatic temperature control, you can adjust the water flow rate and the flame, at peak output it will heat the 10 l of water 45 degrees above the incoming water temperature. At higher water temps, it heats the water to a higher temp at a given flow rate. It's something you have to think about when using hot water. If you slow down the flow at the faucet, the temperature increases. At high flow rates the water comes out cooler, sort of counter intuitive from a standard hot water system.
It runs on 2 D cell batteries and starts up almost instantly when a faucet is opened. After playing with hot water at the sink, I had to give the shower a try. I hoped the low flow shower head would slow down the flow rate enough that even with the very cold incoming water I'd be able to take a hot shower. Sure enough, the flow rate and temperature of the water were great, not even a noticeable change from the old tank type of water heater. I'm glad I went with the 10 liter per minute rather than a lower rate heater, as it seems to be just enough to do the job. Of course in the warmer months I'll have preheated the incoming water with solar heat, so I'll be able to turn the BTU's down in the summer.
The propane fridge continues to work fine. I've been backing the temp control off every 8 hours or so, it's still freezing my pop! The freezer has dropped to under 10 degrees now, colder than I really need, but nice to know it's got some extra cooling capacity for the warm summer months to come.
I'm going to try to get some brackets made tomorrow to move my wind generator off the building and onto a pole in my yard. The forecast is calling for a couple of reasonably nice days, then next week cold and snow again... I'd like to have the generator moved before the bad weather moves in.
26 March, 2009:
I've made nice progress on several fronts the past few days. I installed my radiant, ventless propane heater in the house a few days ago. Yesterday I got my big propane tank filled so I was able to turn off all the electric heat in the house. I also got the propane fridge out of the trailer yesterday. Today I did the plumbing for the propane lines to the fridge and the new water heater, I capped the water heater line for the moment, with luck, the water heater will be here tomorrow.
I've been living pretty much off the power I'm making now. The wind has been strong most days and I'm not using nearly all the power that's available. Yesterday was the one day we had no wind at all. It was good to see the solar panels quickly fill the batteries from the previous nights electric loads. The propane refrigerator is running now. I had it set fairly cool to start off with, and it had the fridge compartment below freezing and the freezer at about 12 degrees. The propane fridge has a very tiny exhaust vent, which I'd guess could probably just go into the attic. But I went ahead and vented it into the water heater roof vent just to be sure.
I really want to get the wind generator moved from the roof to an unused utility pole in my front yard. But it seems winter is making a come back, it's been cold and windy with occasional snow. It sound like next week will still be cold and snowy...
22 March, 2009:
This morning had heavy cloud cover, but modest winds, my batteries reached float voltage around noon from mostly wind power. I decided to give the new inverter another work out and vacuumed after lunch. Out of curiosity, I timed myself. It took about 7 1/2 minutes to do a quick, but decent job of vacuuming my living space. The inverter did fine, the vacuum didn't seem to mind the inverter power at all as there was no noticeable difference.
Later in the afternoon I decided to try my cheapo microwave on inverter power. It worked, but sounded a little strange and the cooking time needed to be increased. I suspect the $40 microwave doesn't have a very high quality power supply. I may be better off using my lower power, analog timer microwave with the inverter.
As the winds picked up this afternoon, I spent a little time just watching the wind generator. I noticed watching the amp meter the unit didn't seem to be putting out as much power as it had been. After watching it outside in the wind, it was soon apparent the new tail vane was too light. The generator was furling out of the wind at very low wind speeds. So I went up on the roof and added about 2 pounds of weight to the tail. It still was furling too soon. So I replaced the tail with the old particle board I had taken down a couple of days ago. The old vane has a larger surface area too, about 5 square feet compared to 4 square feet on the new vane. It looks to me like I need the extra area, as well as the extra weight.
Moving on later in the day, I tested another kitchen appliance to see how it would handle the inverter power. I mixed up a batch of bread dough for a pizza in my bread machine. No problems with inverter power there...
With all the wind today it made it a good day to test things. I ran two extension cords from the inverter into my living area, one to the TV in the living room and one to the kitchen. Nice to see pretty much everything is working fine off the inverter power, also nice to see the wind generator holding up well on a gusty, windy day. It looks like the wind generator starts furling at 7 amps into the batteries, and is fully furled at about 13 amps. That actually looks pretty good to me. I'm guessing at peak output I'm losing about 100 watts into the stator as heat. Since that's intermittent peak, I think it should be able to dissipate that heat without damaging the stator coils.
Yesterday I went on a small spending spree. I picked up 4) new 6 volt golf cart batteries at Sam's club, a new 45 watt solar panel set and a 2000 watt inverter at Harbor Freight.
Here are the new batteries and power inverter.
The solar panel set was on sale for $179 and I had a 15% off coupon for the inverter, which brought it down to under $130. You can see the new heat sink for the wind generator rectifier in front of the batteries. The batteries came with a pretty good charge on them, so once I had them wired up, I tried the inverter on my vacuum. It powered up fine and the inverter didn't struggle a bit to run it. Today the big test was a load of laundry in the washing machine. After the solar panels had the batteries to float voltage, I loaded up the washer to give it a try. Once again, the inverter ran the full sized washing machine with no problem, the inverter didn't even get warm. Honestly, I'd rather spend $130 on a cheap inverter, and buy a backup than spend a couple of thousand on a high quality unit and not have a good backup. At this price, I wouldn't mind replacing the inverter every year if I had to.
For wiring the battery pack, I bought some 2 gauge welding cable for the battery interconnects, and some 4 gauge for the inverter. The 4 gauge is a little light for a 2000 watt inverter, but I've some 00 gauge cable I had wired my original 5000 watt inverter with. Now it's just a matter of finding it... But the 4 gauge seems to be working fine, it's a very short run so there just isn't that much loss.
Today sounds like the last nice day for about a week. The forecast is calling for several days of rain and wind followed by cooler weather late in the week. So I decided I better get my new tail section on the generator now, while the weather was still nice. The new tail vane is just 2' x 2' plywood 1/4" thick. It has to be about 3 pounds lighter than the particle board that was up there. I'm hoping this gets the unit furling a little sooner. If not, I'll have to offset the generator head another inch or so.
Speaking of wind generators. A friend of mine works for a company that bores underground cables and plumbing. He managed to get me 4) 15' long used boring rods. These rods are about 3" in diameter, made from spring steel and weigh about 130 pounds each. They thread together, and I intend to use them for a pole tower for a wind generator. While they are a bit heavy, I couldn't refuse them since the price was right. They would have gone for scrap metal, bringing maybe $15 at current prices. But when the company found out I was going to use them for a wind generator, they just gave them to me.
I'll have to wait a few weeks to do anything with them, but I think I'll use 3 of them for the tower and the fourth as a gin pole. I'm planning on making a new wind generator to put up on this pole, just a little bit larger than the 2x10 I just made. Perhaps slightly larger magnets with an 8' rotor diameter.
Things are moving closer to my April 15 date of cutting utility power. the bad news is I've decided to cut off my internet access as well. So at the end of March I won't be updating these pages as often...
The wind generator continues to work fine, we had 20 mph winds gusting to over 30 mph again the other day so I watched it furl in the higher gusts. I still think I need to lighten the tail to get it furling a little sooner.
On days with good wind I've been using the extra power to run my 32" TV off my 500 watt power inverter. I really wanted to see how many amps the TV was drawing, but didn't have an accurate enough amp meter to do it. My 50 amp digital meter arrived today, replacing the first one which was dead. This one works fine, so I hooked it up to the TV through the inverter. I was pleased to see it was only drawing 6.7 amps at 12.2 volts. That's only about 82 watts, low enough that I don't think I'm going to replace the TV in the near future. Even the new 32" LCD's draw more than that...
I priced some Trojan T-105's today at a golf cart dealer, $135 a pop. I think I'll stick with the Sam's Club batteries this time around. I'm planning a shopping trip later this week to pick up new batteries, another solar kit and a power inverter from Harbor Freight. Since I don't have to depend on the power inverter so much, I'm planning on picking up one of the cheap modified sine wave units, something in the 1500 to 2000 watt range.
I wrote another little software program to calculate power loss in wiring. I really couldn't find one that output loss in watts for all the wire sizes. So this software will calculate watts of loss from copper wire sized from 4/0 to 30 gauge. It's interesting to see how much power is lost as heat in the coils of a wind generator. In my little 2x10 generator, using 15 gauge wire in the coils, I'm losing 127 watts at 20 amps. That loss is of course heat, not that I'm sure how much heat the stator can dissipate, but if you get up to 40 amps that's over 500 watts of heat, and I seriously doubt it could sustain that much heat for any length of time. Another good indication I need to have the generator furl sooner than later.
You can download the program here.
Another week has gone by, so now I've had the wind generator up for 2 weeks. We had rain and ice, followed by snow, very cold temps and high winds yesterday. I knew ice was on the way again, so I made sure to leave the wind generator running through the storm. But by noon yesterday, the generator wasn't putting out any power in 20 mph plus winds, it would put out a few amps in higher gusts, but not nearly as much as it should have been.
I went out and took a look at the generator, it looked fine, wasn't making any strange sounds and was turning. It just wasn't putting out any power. The roof was ice covered and the wind still gusting to over 30 mph, so there wasn't much I could do.
By noon today the wind had dropped some, but the roof was still icy and the generator wasn't putting out much power. It did seem to be a little better, but still no where near what it had been putting out. Now I was getting nervous, most of the ice was gone from the trees, so I thought the generator would have shed any ice by now.
Finally by late afternoon the dark shingles on the roof had melted most of the ice, and I could get up there to see what was going on. I grabbed the tail and turned the generator out of the wind. To my surprise, I found the blades still covered with about an inch of ice, with a big tail of ice trailing off the leading edge. The blades are thin enough I could flex them to break off the ice.
That solves that mystery, it was simply ice. Once I broke the ice off the generator spun up and starting making good power again. I suppose I should polish the blades better to keep ice off them, and allow it to break free easier. Maybe even a darker color on the blades would help the sun melt ice off. Something to keep in mind for the future I guess.
Other than that, the generator looks just fine. I found no signs of any damage or loose bolts, blade damage etc.
4 March, 2009:
Strong winds again yesterday, I was making way more power than needed. In fact, I ran an inverter and my home theater CRT projector last night to use up some of the excess power. The diversion load controller is still working great. I put a new heat sink on the wind generator rectifier, it's one side of an old inverter heat sink. I also used silicone heat sink compound this time, it's working much better at keeping the rectifier cool.
Today I went up on the roof to inspect the wind generator, it's been up a week now in some good winds. Everything looks just like the day I installed it, blades nice and tight, no loose bolts, air gap looks fine...
I've been looking at propane whole house instant water heaters. They make camping or cabin size units for around $160, but I'm not sure that would do the trick in the winter. I'm going to use my batch type solar water heater in the summer, and I'm sure the small 1.5 gallon per minute unit would work in the summer. But in the winter I doubt it would warm the water enough for a shower or dishes. So I think I'll go with a 3.5 gallon per minute model. It's a hundred dollars more, but I think it will be worth the investment come winter.
I guess I have mixed feelings about using propane for space and water heating. It would be nice to not use any outside energy, but where I live that's not entirely practical if a person still wants to enjoy some of the benefits of modern living. I want to live in an energy efficient manner, not necessarily move into a cave. Propane is one of the cleaner energy sources we have, arguably cleaner than burning wood.
I got to see the furling mechanism in action for the first time today. In the early morning hours I had shorted the AC leads to shut down the generator. Since the batteries were full and my diversion load is a little light, I decided it was best just to shut it down. Late morning the wind really picked up, I went outside to see how much the blades turned in the higher winds with the alternator shorted. I was pleased to see the blades still pretty much stopped, while they were turning, it was more like seconds per revolution.
Now it was time to see if it would furl. I turned on just about every load I could, then removed the short on the AC wire. The generator quickly spun up and pegged my amp meter. I went outside and watched the generator head on, so I could see how much it furled. What made things easier, is that I have an old generator without a blade rotor or furling system to watch, it tells me the exact wind direction.
In wind speeds of about 20 mph gusting to 29 mph the generator was furling. It was sustaining a partial furl in high, steady winds, then almost move to fully furled in higher gusts. After running for about 20 minutes I went inside and checked the rectifier and heat sink. Again, it was getting pretty hot, which leads me to believe I was pushing the 35 amp rectifier to its max. The amp meter was still pegged pretty much all the time.
So the furling system seems to be working pretty well. I do think I'd like it furl just a little sooner though. The temporary tail is thick and heavy, I think when I get a lighter tail that should help it furl a little sooner. I could also increase the offset on the yaw bearing, by bolting the yaw tube on rather than welding it on, I can increase the offset if needed. I'll wait until I see what a lighter tail does first, before changing the yaw offset.
For the day, until the winds subside a bit, I'm going to keep the AC leads shorted. I'll also see if I can find a better heat sink for the rectifier today too.
2 March, 2009:
Very good wind today, pretty much 10 to 16 mph wind from sun up to after sunset. Gave me a good chance to see the load controller at work. One thing I can see, the single, 18 month old 12 volt marine battery is getting towards the end of it's life. It doesn't take much charging current or discharge current to really change the voltage. It still works fine to run my lights, but I'm really getting anxious to get my new battery pack to make use the energy I'm making. The solar panels didn't even charge today, the wind had the batteries full before the sun even hit them.
My new digital amp meter came in today, unfortunately it was DOA. I e-mailed the seller and he's getting a replacement out to me. The analog meter I'm using now doesn't seem to be very accurate. It almost looks like it's reading double what it should. I was getting a reading of some 20 to 30 amps into the battery all day, that's just too much for what wind I had and the rotor diameter.
I've been thinking about a water system, going with a roof catchment system into a cistern. I have half a metal tank that I inverted, cut out a door and made into a yard shed. With luck, I'll be able to get the door hole welded closed and use it to hold water. It's 11' diameter and about 6' tall, it should easily hold 4,000 gallons. I also have a small 12 volt water pump I've used for various pumping duties over the past few years. It's a Shur Flo 8000 series. It has an internal pressure switch set at 60 psi and a one way valve. It should work fine, providing I get a pressure tank in line to give me a bit of pressure capacity. The pump is only rated at about 1.4 gallons per minute. I suppose it would work without a pressure tank, but the pump would do a lot of start and stop cycling.
I'm not going to worry about the water system just yet, that'll be a spring job, once it warms up. If it happens this year, great, if not, it's something that can wait if need be. Water isn't overly expensive or a very wasteful utility, but at some point I want to get off the city water system. Of course I'll need to bury the tank in ground for winter use at some point too...
1 March, 2009:
I added another 12 volt outlet on the north end of my living room, since I'm making extra power I decided I wanted another light at that end of the room, thus the extra outlet.
Not much wind today, but there was wind last night that kept the batteries full, good sun today was wasted on full batteries... When the wind did pick up over 5 mph today, the generator started producing power and I got to see the load diverter at work. Not that it had much to divert, but it is working great.
When I checked my mail yesterday I noticed my digital amp meter is here. I couldn't pick it up as it needed a signature. Monday I'll pick it up and put it in line with the wind generator so I can get a better idea of the power being produced.
28 February, 2009:
I've had the wind generator up a few days now. It's running great, doing better that I had expected. It starts turning in very light winds, and it starts cutting in generating power in under 10 mph winds. The second day it was up, I had steady winds of 15 to 20 mph. It produced good power so I ended up running an inverter that afternoon and powered my small tv for a few hours. The rectifier and heat sink got fairly warm, so I may need to add a larger heat sink, or even double up the rectifiers.
Of course I'm still really just powering my lights, I wasn't even using all my solar power, now I've got even more power... I picked up a couple of incandescent 12 volt light bulbs to use up the extra power. But I could see I'd need a diversion load controller sooner rather than later. I had a plan in the back of my head to make one, so I spent the evening writing the code for a micro controller and soldering up a suitable board.
I sort of cobbled together the unit from parts I had on hand from some of my rocket work. I wrote the code to close the contacts on a 35 amp auto style relay when the battery voltage reached 14.35 volts, then open at 13.3 volts. I may play with those settings after I see it work for a while, but for now it's doing what it's supposed to do. The controller draws .016 amps when not in the control mode. That's only about .2 watts or under 5 watt hours a day. I'd say that's a pretty small price to pay for automatic regulation. At the moment, there's only one 50 watt bulb in the diversion load. I'll need to increase that to match the peak output of the alternator before the wind generator turns out of the wind.
I shorted the leads on the wind generator a couple of days ago for the night, since I didn't have a controller in place. The next morning we had about .3" of ice, needless to say, the stator and rotors were frozen together. The roof was also ice covered so I couldn't get up there to break the ice free. I did manage to use 20' of PVC pipe coupled together to push on the blades, break the ice free and get it moving again. I'm sure had the unit been turning during the rain/ice, it never would have froze up in the first place. Just something to keep in mind when I shunt the alternator.
I had a friend come over today to help install the new small wind generator. I decided to get it up now, rather than later to see how well the blades would work, what kind of power it made, if it would furl out of the wind, etc. So I went ahead and put it up on the roof, where I still have a couple of mounts from testing the first time around. I didn't get any pics today, it was getting late in the afternoon and we had to hurry to beat the sunset. The pole I put it on is on the south side of my building/house. It should get better wind there in the summer. The pole was 2.5" schedule 40 pipe, so I picked up a length of 3" pipe to slip over the 2.5" to make the yaw bearing. I welded the 3" pipe to a plate, then made square "U" bolts to attach it to the generator. I really didn't want to weld it on, as I may need to go with another size in the future.
No sooner did we get it up and wired to a battery in the shop, the light winds we were having died to pretty much nothing. A good sign though, was that about any little gust of wind got her turning. Later that night, the wind picked up a little, so I used the amp function in my meter to get some power readings going into the battery. In about 8 to 10 mph winds it starts charging into the batteries. At 12 to 14 mph it's putting in about 3 amps. In gusts above 15 mph it's putting in over 5 amps. So it seems the output is pretty much in line with what I was hoping/expecting.
It does make a buzzing sound when it powers up above about .5 amp to 1.5 amps. Then it's pretty quite up to about 4 amps, where you can hear the buzz again. Not a loud or bad sound, if the TV or stereo is on, you really can't hear it. But this generator won't stay on the building long anyway. I'll get it mounted on a tower in the yard as soon as I can this spring.
I've been working on the new small axial flux wind generator, you can see the progress on this page.
I ordered a digital amp meter from an eBay seller, since the wind generator is about done, I'm hoping it arrives soon. I'd like to be able to document how well the new unit works. It's still very much winter and I'm really itching for Spring, the snow has been melting though, we've had a couple of several day stretches where it made it into the mid 40's. My North driveway is still snowed in though, I have to use my "back entrance" through my big building in the winter...
20 February, 2009: My first alternate energy web page goes up.
Take a look at my history page for a brief summary of how I got to where I am today. It's still winter and too early to even think about going off grid just yet, but I'm making plans... At the moment I'm shooting for April 15 as my "cutting the cord" date. Before that can happen I need to pick up a new, lower power TV, start on a set of new golf cart batteries, make sure the propane fridge in the camper works and add either more solar panels and/or a reliable wind generator.
I've been working on a new wind generator, I'll document the unit on the wind page, but I'll give a quick overview now. I had some parts left over from the early years building wind generators, and enough scrap metal to put together something which should be useful, if not overly powerful. I'm using a 1000 pound trailer axle hub for the rotor bearing, that's something I have on hand. I also have a set of 15 gauge coils already wound up from previous experiments. So I'll base a new, small single phase generator on those. The frame and hub are built, I'm waiting now on the new magnets. I ordered a set of 20) 1" x 3/8" NiB magnets to go with the 10 coils I have. I'm going to wait until I have the magnets installed, and test a coil to see what kind of power they will generate before I cast the coils into a stator. If it looks like I can get at least a few amps out it, I'll put it together. If not, I'll end up ordering larger magnets and some new magnet wire for a larger, 3 phase alternator.
I'm building this unit with a gravity/hinged tail furling system. This will be the first time using the gravity system, but it's used so extensively with success on both home built and commercial units, I have high hopes it will work well and save the generator in high winds.
Today I picked up some clear pine to make a new blade set, an extra quart of polyester resin to cast the stator coils and some 1/2" plywood to make a stator mold. With luck, the magnets will be here tomorrow.