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Installing a Wind Generator
At the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in January of 2011, I was delighted to meet PondPutz, who travels extensively in his 29 foot Travel Trailer. He needs quite a bit of electrical power, so he has four, 100 watt solar panels. But, I was really intrigued by his wind generator. He generously allowed me to take these pictures and told me all about his wind-gen. His is a 400 watt model made by Air X, one of the leaders in small wind-gens for homes and RVs. Let me say that I had a negative impression about wind- gens until I actually saw this one in use, and now my mind is completely changed. Let’s look at some of the common misconceptions about wind-gens.
- They are too expensive. Not so, in fact you can buy this model on Amazon.com for $550. That is much less than buying 400 watts of solar panels. Everything else you need to make the electrical connections and the mast may add up to another $100, if you can do the work yourself. If you aren’t handy and need to pay someone to help you, that will add to the cost. This model of wind-gen has a built-in regulator, so you don’t need to buy one.
- They are just toys and will quickly break. Not true at all, they are a proven product with a very good track-record. One look at the construction of the Air X wind-gen and you know this is not a toy. It is extremely well made and reliable.
- They take too much wind. There is some truth to this; it all depends on where you live/travel. PondPutz spends a lot of time in the mid-west and desert southwest, where wind is generally plentiful. The best thing about them is that when a storm blows in, you generally lose the sun to clouds, but gain lots of wind. So wind-gens are the perfect complement to your solar panels. During the several weeks I spent with PondPutz, his wind-gen was producing power at least half the time, and probably more. The wind blows a lot in the desert.
- They are too noisy. Again, there is truth to this, they do produce a constant high-pitched whine when turning and producing power. Most of the people camped around PondPutz, said it didn’t bother them at all, but a few did find it annoying. I spent time with him in his travel trailer and didn’t find it a problem when it was turning. But you are going to have to hear it for yourself to know if it will bother you.
- You have to put them so high up in the air that raising them up will be impossible for one guy alone. Completely false. This one was only 20 feet up in the air and worked perfectly. I watched PondPutz put it up and take it down and it was as simple as simple could be. Anyone could do it with no problem.
Okay, let’s look at the process of raising the wind-generator.
When the wind is blowing at 50 mph or more there is a lot of force trying to blow the wind generator away, so it has to be very securely held to the trailer and the ground. The mast is made of two, 8 foot sections of schedule 40, 1 1/2 inch galvanized pipe. He bought it at Home Depot and they put in the threads for free.
In the pictures above you see that he has a 4×4 piece of lumber underneath the tongue of his heavy trailer. That is plenty of weight to keep the wind-gen stable in even the worst winds. The mast is secured by two mounting brackets. He lag screwed the lower mounting bracket to the 4×4, and bolted the upper bracket to the tongue.
In the lower bracket is a short piece of female threaded pipe that he screws the mast into. It has a bolt through it that allows it to swivel from horizontal to vertical. The upper bracket has a hole through it, and a matching hole through the mast, that he puts a pin through to keep the mast upright. In the pictures you see the three ratchet straps that he added to give the mast extra stability. He used “eye” bolts into 4x4s that are held down the weight of the trailer.
In the picture above is the lower bracket that is lagged screwed into the 4×4. The mast screws into the threaded piece of pipe in the lower bracket, and swivels up 90 degrees to vertical.
To raise the wind-gen, he screws the lower 8 foot piece of mast into the base bracket (picture above) and then (in picture to right) screws the top piece of mast into the lower piece of mast…
…and raises it up onto a short step ladder to make it easier to work on.
The next step is to screw the wind generator into the top of the mast.
In these pictures we see that he uses a short piece of PVC pipe between the wind-gen itself and the mast. We also see that he uses a T made out of PVC to get the electrical wires out of the wind-gen. The wires come out of the T and are attached to a heavy-duty quick connect.
The next step is to screw the propellers onto the wind generator. (Next 2 pictures)
In the picture that follows you see the quick connectors he uses to make connecting the wind-generator to his system fast and easy. They only cost a few dollars from powerwerx.com and they can’t be plugged in wrong.
In the picture below you see how he attaches the ratchet straps. They are just holes drilled into the mast.
With everything screwed together, connected and attached, the next step is a simple matter of walking the mast up, and putting a pin through upper mounting bracket on the tongue. Very simple! All he needs now is a wind to start producing power.
You need a place to store the power the wind-gen produces. Here we see the battery bank on the tongue of the trailer. He has 4, Trojan T105, 6 volt golf carts batteries giving him a total of 450 amps of storage.
Here is the storage bay under his trailer where he stores all these parts. Everything is made to break down into small pieces and fit in this bay. This bay runs across the width of the trailer so the two 8 foot sections of mast are stored in the PVC pipe you see. The propeller is too large to fit here, so he stores it behind his couch inside the trailer.
One question you may have left is how would you mount the wind generator if you were living in a van, instead of a heavy RV? PondPutz had that figured out as well. He suggests you get a piece of 3/8 inch steel plate 24 inches square. Next you would weld a 2 foot long piece of 2 inch square tube standing straight up at a 90 degree angle to the tube to act as a vertical receiver for the mast. The mast would mount to the tube just like his does on the trailer. At the bottom would be a short piece of tube with male threads to receive the mast. At the top of the tube would be a hole that you put a pin through to hold the mast in place. To give it extra strength he recommends you weld gussets on three sides. To add weight to hold the wind-gen down, you would drive one of the rear wheels up on the base-plate, which would be more than enough weight and eliminate vibrations. If you are a welder, this should be easy, and if you aren’t you can find one in the Yellow Pages who will fabricate it for you. Buy the sections of pipe to take with you and print out this article, and that should be enough information to get what you need.