Saturday, January 9, 2010


A couple of nights ago we were sitting here on the desert minding our own business with the generator humming away in the background.  It was humming quieter than it used to a year ago – all my efforts in that regard have not been fruitless but its still more than noticeable when it is running. So we both immediately noticed when it hiccupped and then dropped to idle.  The engine has an idle control on it that takes it to idle whenever there is no load but there was no reason for there not to be a load at that moment.

We need to run about 3 or 4 hours of generator time every day to support our lifestyle.  Otherwise our batteries get too depleted, even with the fancy new tilt up brackets that we now have on our two solar panels.  The generator isn’t under much load when it is charging the batteries – at most it puts 70 or 80 amps into them and that quickly tapers off to 20 or 25 amps at 12 volts which is something under 300 watts.  If we put too much load on the generator it has an internal circuit breaker which will trip and cause it to idle down but battery charging alone couldn’t have caused that.  When I went out to look it pretty soon became clear that the generator head had suffered some kind of calamity.  I could see shiny ends of copper wires on the stator windings that looked like they had burned themselves off – not a good sign.

Since then we have been subsisting on solar power and doing rather well I might add.  Yesterday I pulled the generator head out and we drove it to Phoenix where I left it with some very nice people at Allstate Electric.  I had phoned my friend Clifford the night before but he didn’t have any particular recommendations so we took the closest motor winder on the west side of Phoenix & I think we stumbled on a good one.  Danny said he would tear it apart and call me this morning and he was as good as his

word.  When he called though he said the reason the stator winding had burned up was because the voltage regulator had failed.  The voltage regulator is one of those anonymous little bits of black plastic with wires coming out of it and I knew from experience with other similar bits of black plastic that it wasn’t likely to be a cheap piece of plastic, no matter how small or insignificant it might appear to be.

After several phone calls by me and Danny we tracked down a Kubota partsman who in turn was able to track down a regulator which – for an obscene amount of money – was relatively quickly available.  It was in Alabama I believe.  When I called Danny back with that news he suggested that I should at least check to see what a new stator was worth and that conversation led into one about a whole new generator head from Kubota.  So that is where we are now – waiting for a generator head from Kubota to arrive in Phoenix from Kubota’s warehouse somewhere in California.  The partsman seemed surprised that parts for this particular generator were as readily available as it appears they are.  I’m not wild about dumping more money into this moneypit but I am reassured that there still are enough of these gensets running that Kubota feels it is worthwhile to stock parts for them.

Losing our generator has taught us to keep a close eye on our power consumption but it hasn’t stopped us from living.  The TV is a huge power hog so we have sworn off it until we get our batteries built back up.  Today was a cloudy day so we didn’t make much headway but yesterday we gained close to 10% over the day.  Over time we have built up the tools necessary to actually monitor what we are doing and know what we are capable of and that feels pretty good.  Last year we worked hard at reducing our consumption with LED and fluorescent lighting.  We also installed a monitoring system so we actually know what our batteries are doing.  We have about 750 amp hours of battery capacity but it is very important to only use the top half of that in order to get reasonable life out of the batteries.  We have a Bogart Engineering Trimetric system which counts the individual amps coming and going from the batteries and displays a running tally of our battery state of charge.  That same system also allows us to very accurately determine what it “costs” us in energy to use any particular appliance.  Normally we don’t worry about it because we just make up the difference with a few more minutes of generator time but until we get the generator back in service that isn’t an option.

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