Using the Gas Generator

By , August 7, 2010

The “wind drought” of the last couple of weeks has us contemplating drastic measures, namely, starting up the gas generator.

Our three gas generators pulled us through some tight spots in the early days on the homestead. The battery bank, housed in the outhouse, had lost half its capacity through freezing batteries. The wind generators stopped working several times for various reasons. We bought a battery charging unit that connected to the gas generator; every great once in awhile we’d use it.

Once we got better control of the power system and added solar, we’ve used the generator rarely, when power tools are needed.

Besides the philosophical resistance to burning fuel for power when we have both wind and solar, we dislike the expense of fuel. If we buy gas, we have to haul it to the property. Then there’s the noise. Even though it’s a 4-stroke, the generator is disconcertingly loud. The noise and exhaust are incongruous with our life. For these reasons, the generator sits idle for months at a time.

Our frugality also complicates generator use. Maximizing the generated power means extra thought and preparation. Consider this example:

We needed a power grinder to work on our wind tower. We decided not to charge the battery bank, so that simplified the process by one task. Still . . . .

We ran extension cords through our bedroom window to two power strips, one for each floor. We filled all available outlets with battery chargers and rechargeable devices. Aly chose a movie to watch while we worked.

Maximizing use of the generator was the logistical end of the process. Next came the execution, timing tasks so that, to the extent possible, the grinding finished about the same time the batteries charged and the movie ended. We agreed on a hierarchy. The movie would get turned off unfinished if needed. The grinder was most important, but we had to make absolutely sure we were through with it before disassembling the entire set up. After that, we decided which of the rechargeable devices, or which size of small battery we needed most.

I think this is why most people just turn the dang thing on for one task, and don’t worry about it. But, as we’re so fond of saying, we have more calories than cash, so we sweat the details, to be as frugal with our resources as we possibly can.

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