“Generating” Repairs: Winter requires more than just solar.

Living off the grid and relying totally on solar power is not a great idea.  There are days and even a month or two in the winter in which only a few sunny days will appear.  If we only had solar to rely on for electricity, it would become very unnerving seeing our battery bank’s stored energy dropping faster than we can make with our solar panels.

Choosing the right generator for us.

Our dream setup... The Generac 7kw home generator is our dream set up with an automatic on switch we can set when the battery bank is low.

A nice setup for an off grid home… The Generac 7kw home propane generator is our dream set up with an automatic on switch we can set when the battery bank is low. Photo by Generac Power Systems

We knew we needed a backup source of power. A wind generator was a possible option, but during the winter when the sun isn’t shining, the wind is not blowing either.  We knew a generator would be necessary, so how did we pick the right one for us.  I researched propane generators that can be turned on by the inverter when the battery bank is low and without needing me to go outside to start it.  I also looked at the diesel generators, powerful, strong and durable.  I liked the concept of a diesel generator since the military had relied heavily on them in the past for generating power for our ships, submarines, and rural bases.  The diesel generator has been tested and has proved their worth.  I also liked the possibility of eventually converting the generator to run on biodiesel.

Reliable workhorse... When 1st looking at generators, I seriously considered the Perkins 8 kw. It is expensive, but it too has an auto start and will last a long time. It's pricey, but beautiful.

Reliable workhorse… When 1st looking at generators, I seriously considered the Perkins 8 kw. It is expensive, but it too has an auto start and will last a long time. It’s pricey, but beautiful. Photo by Hardy Diesel

The last generator I looked at was the cheaper portable gasoline generator.  Not my favorite, not as quiet as the propane, but comparable in noise to a diesel. However, the one thing the portable gas generator had that changed my mind was the fact that it was portable.  When performing construction, a portable generator is extremely valuable.  I could move it about the property if requiring power further from the house than an extension cord could provide.

Our Choice... Without regrets, we chose the Rigid portable gas generator. It has run faithfully for over 5 years now. Our setup did not have the push button start, but it usually starts on the 5th pull every time. Photo by RIGID

Our Choice… Without regrets, we chose the Rigid portable gas generator. It has run faithfully for over 5 years now. Our setup did not have the push button start, but it usually starts on the 4th or 5th pull. Photo by RIGID

If I had a home already established and was plumbed for propane gas, I would have chosen the quieter and fully automated propane generator that produced between 7 – 10 kilowatts.  Which could be a real possibility in the future once my building projects are complete.  But, until that time in our life, we have our portable gas generator by Rigid.  We have grown to appreciate this generator for being faithful even when we haven’t with the suggested maintenance schedule.  The Zero Gravity system has been a blessing making transport as easy as a moving dolly.  The generator is loud and obnoxious, but when sitting in the dark, it’s loud growl is a welcomed noise along with the lights it powers up.  The generator has a vibration that has worn many of the wires and screws out, which has brought us to “generating” repairs.

If you are on the grid and are considering a backup generator for your home.  There are some things to consider.  Do you have natural gas line supplied to your home?  If so, you may want to consider a 10 kw -12 kw Generac, which can be turned on through a sub panel and power your entire house within reason.  If don’t have a natural gas supply line or don’t trust the system in a natural disaster crisis, such as living in a region with earthquakes,  you may want to consider a large propane tank option or have a large diesel tank and use a diesel generator backup instead.  The fuel, propane and diesel, in both these options can be stored long periods of time without needing fuel additives or worrying about the fuel spoiling.  Remember ethanol gasoline stored over a few months can easily clog the carburetor and prevent the generator starting when most needed.  Gasoline generators should not be considered for long term storage applications.

I must confess I am not an electrician, mechanic, plumber, or technically versed in fixing equipment.  I am a school teacher, an English teacher for 10 years and a full-time Social Studies teacher for the past six.  The salary of a teacher is pretty low compared to every profession out there.  Early on in our marriage, we realized we couldn’t afford to pay a mechanic to fix our cars without entering into ridiculous credit card debt.  I decided if I can read Shakespeare and communicate it to junior high students, I could read a technical manual.  So, I purchased manuals and the tools necessary to fix the cars and odd jobs around the house.   Through trial and error, I began to improve my skills as a self-taught handy-man.

Fixing the generator

Help offered... Our dog realizes I need a little helps, so she checks out the process and gives her approval to continue.

Help offered… Our dog realizes I need a little help, so she checks out the process and gives her approval to continue.

Now, the generator is down.  It still runs, but will no longer charge because of a breaker that keeps tripping.  In the video I show how I tear the generator’s electrical panel out and replace the damaged components.  I am glad everything turned out well.  I am discovering as I live off the grid and begin troubleshooting problems with equipment, that I am able to fix things without having a manual.  This is a great place to be as I long to be more self-sufficient and to repair my own equipment without facing the high hourly rates many repair shops are charging.

The downside to fixing your own equipment is having to face the poor workmanship many manufacturers are doing.  When installing the new receptacle, one of the screws for attaching the wires was cross threaded.  The flat head screw driver broke free from the screw as I was using as much force as I could, and it cut my other hand holding the receptacle. This frustrated me even more. It was so difficult to remove I eventually had to use locking pliers.    I am discovering as I purchase aftermarket replacement parts that the general care in the quality is being ignored and no quality control seems to be in place.  If this is the case, I wonder how much of the repair industry is running into the same problem and having people return for the same work due to inferior replacement parts.


Are you facing the same problem?  Are you running into poor workmanship when you purchase goods and have a sense that there is a lack of quality control?

Past Posts:  Electricity: When the backup generator is called upon

 

3 thoughts on ““Generating” Repairs: Winter requires more than just solar.

  1. I absolutely love the “If I’m smart enough to effectively teach Shakespeare to junior high kids, I can do anything.” !!!!!!!

    Yes, I see lots of quality control problems. Yes, I see designs that obviously were compromised to save a few pennies per unit. Yes, I see the use of poor quality components.

    I also see poor quality repairs and I blame flat rate repairs. “The book says I can charge six hours labor for this…if I can get it done in three hours, I’ve doubled my pay.”

    I see missing lock washers (bolts and nuts loosen from vibration) , inspection plates that were not properly secured (the plate falls off and dirt/water can get into “bad” places), wire bundles that were not placed back into the clamps (wire insulation rubs off and causes an intermittent short circuit). All of this I attribute to the rushing to move to the next job.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Again, you never cease to amaze me, way to go, Mark. ❤ Bruce can relate to you, always irritated with the quality of replacement parts. I think they just want people to BUY new, instead … LOL.
    Love Ya,
    Aunt Dawn

    Liked by 1 person

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