Use It or Lose It

By , September 5, 2015

You know, I really do make an honest effort not to be stupid.

I often find myself stupidly, stubbornly pursuing an idea or practice beyond reason. A classic example: I’m always reluctant to heat my home with the wood I’m gathering for winter. That’s what it’s there for, of course, but I become miserly as I try to fill the wood shed, unwilling to burn any of it even as the days grow cooler.

With this in mind, I tried to be careful about our electricity.

Ever since we installed and “commissioned” our new solar array at the end of April (see Power Shift: An Early Unveiling) I’ve been monitoring our power intake. I really appreciate that we’ve been able to charge the battery bank to 100% from the previous day’s use almost every day since then—it took two days on a couple of occasions during particularly cloudy weather.

I only ran the wind generator once, briefly, since the solar panels came on line. I did that to test a replaced mother board. Beyond that, it became a point of stubborn pride for me not to use the wind generator for charging.

Then, one day last week, I changed my mind.

After a few days of heavy weather, the solar panels hadn’t been able to charge the battery bank to full capacity. We set our Trimetric to warn us after 5 days below full charge, and the warning light began to flash. Swallowing my pride, I flipped the wind generator breaker on, and turned off the brake switch.

And . . . nothing happened.

The wind generator, sitting unused for more than three months, had seized up.

Using a method developed during winter freeze ups and snow caps, I took a long pole to the PowerPoint, where I gently nudged the lowest blade of the prop until it began to turn feebly. This showed that the seizure wasn’t too serious. It doesn’t take much to slow or stop that delicately balanced prop. Freed of the need to lower the tower to lubricate the rotor somehow, I waited till the next blow to turn on the generator and let the wind free it up.

I am a male American, so as a teenager I often heard the advice (inevitably reported as coming from someone’s earthy grandma): “wear it out, don’t rust it out.” I guess that applies to machinery as well. At any rate, this appears to be a “use it or lose it” situation. I now plan to run the generator, whether it’s needed or not, for an hour or so once each week.

It effectively eliminates my bragging rights on the solar array, but limbering up the wind generator periodically ensures that it will operate when called upon. That seems smart to me.

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