19 June, 2014

Do You Know Where Your Generator Is?

It's that time of year again. Blow the dust off the old Hurricane Preparedness Plan, Upset all the snakes, spiders, Scorpions, Cucaraches, Geckos, Mice, and whatever else that has been making the hidey-hole under the stairs where the generator has been lurking, their home for the past year or so. Drag the generator out to the light of day and see if it will start.

That'd be a big no. So, I called Terrence Leslie to come give it a swift kick and see if he could get the thing to turn over.

Of course. With one pull by Terrence, the generator fired right up. We shut it down and he departed to help someone who couldn't get their outboard motor to start.

After I re-stowed the generator, I decided to fire it up once again. This time intending to put it under load by hooking up a floor fan and the chest freezer while it ran. Guess what? It wouldn't power either thing. In fact, it wouldn't power anything. It wasn't producing juice, current, or anything resembling electricity. The engine ran like a top though.

As luck would have it, I called Terrence and managed to catch him before he returned to town, so he was able to stop by that same morning and look at the thing. He couldn't make it produce current either, so it was going to require a trip to his shop and a visit with an electrician who specialized in these things.

It was a couple days later, when Terrence brought the generator back. This after a few phone calls to let me know that a capacitor (I hate capacitors) had blown and the electrician was trying to locate a replacement.

For those of you who have been regular readers of this blog, you've seen pictures of the smallish, rectangular capacitors as used in ceiling fans. Well, this capacitor is nothing like that. It's huge. Kind of banana-shaped and prongs and no wires at only one end.
Generator Capacitor - Blown
Anyhoo, it took the electician a day or so to locate a suitable (not exact) replacement. And, so, as I said before, it's back, working, and properly stowed in its cage.

I used to think that it was a huge generator and that it could power the whole house. Well, it probably could, back in the day. Back when we had one fridge, a couple of fans, a few light bulbs, and a well pump. Not now with us using two fridges, a freezer, the well pump, a swimming pool pump, lots more lighting, lots more fans, and a whole assortment of electrical and electronic gadgetry.

If I tried to fire up the generator under a load involving the whole house, why, it would probably blow a capacitor... Oops. I wonder. Could that have been why it blew before?

So, I conducted what is called an energy audit of everything we had. Number of fridges and their power requirements, the power requirements of pumps, etc, even down to the number of lightbulbs used. Not that you would normally turn all the bulbs on at the same time, but you never know. This was all to get some sort of idea of what our electrical load throughout the place is. And it's a lot more of a load than the generator can handle all at once.

Winjama Electrical Load Calculation
So, I've been modifying my 'Switch-On Sheet.' This is the sheet that I keep up next to the circuit breaker panel that tells me what order to bring electrical things back up while under generator power, but what circuit specific items (each fridge, the freezer, fans, etc., are located on, so I can bring critical things back up under generator power and not blow the generator. It also helps me to be able to switch between the various circuits, do do just that.
Upstairs Breaker Switch Chart
I could solve the problem by getting a generator (preferably with auto start) that could take care of the whole place. But that might be something to think about down the road. Like when there's more money laying around not doing anything in particular.

Now, for something entirely different.

Here's something I've been kind of casually pondering. Trojan - you know, the folks who make Condoms, Rubbers, Cock Socks, Condomus Maximus, French Letters, Gentleman's Jerkins, Raincoats, and at least a hundred other names for the same thing, have come out with a new condom.
I saw an advertisement for them on TV. They're advertised as a 'dual-lubricant' condom - on the outside for her, on the inside for him.

Now, unless Trojan has invented a new way of rolling rubbers, I've been wondering just exactly how they accomplish that feat - keeping the two different lubricants separate. Know what I mean? It just sounds like some sort of magic trick to me. Kind of a wallet-sized magician's kit.


Here's something else.

I always thought AA batteries were AA batteries. That they all had the same voltages (well, except the cheap Chinese knockoffs), and pretty much operated the same. Not so.

I learned this thanks to my weather station that I've been fighting with for months now. It seems that AA batteries come in at least three or four or more different versions, configurations, or whatever. Alkaline, Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH), Nickel Cadmium (NiCd), and Lithium Ion (Li).

Even Wikipedia has some wrong or outdated material regarding AA batteries. They say that Li batteries are not rechargeable. There is a rechargeable version.

I'm going to concentrate on the Li and NiMH and Alkaline, because that's what I ran into trying to get correct power for my weather station. What I recommend is that you read the instructions (strange thing to say, I know) for your particular piece of equipment and do what it says. it's not that the manufacturer is in cahoots with one battery type or another, but that the piece of equiprment they have manufactured may actually have different power requirements and really needs to use different batteries.

Case in point. My weather station instructions, at the very tail-end of the manual, says to use rechargeable Li AA batteries in the transmitter and Alkaline standard batteries in the receiver. It did come with a couple rechargeable AA batteries, so i lucked out and used the correct batteries in the transmitter when I initially set the station up.

But when it came time to replace those same batteries, did I read the instructions? No. All I knew was that it took AA batteries. I stuffed NiMH ones into the transmitter and had nothing but frustration for months while I was trying to figure out why the damned thing just wouldn't work right. I also put NiMH batteries in the receiver. All contrary to the instructions.

Well, there's a reason they specify those different batteries. it seems they produce different voltages when they're being used. Why? Who knows. It is probably a conspiracy to complicate consumer's lives. I'm sure it is.

Anyway, it wasn't until I was at my wits-end and the virtual end of my rope that I sat down and really read the manual. And that was when I finally found out about the different voltages and such and why they specified the batteries they did.

Which brings us to now. I'm trying to find rechargeable Lithium Ion (Li) batteries here in Corozal. Hah! But wait. There's more. Not only am I trying to find rechargeable Li batteries, but they also take a different charger than the NiMH batteries - unless you happen to luck out and have a charger like Colleen has.

Her charger has a switch on it so you can change from Li to NiMH charging, but only if you charge two of either type at a time. You can't charge one Li and one NiMH. Time will stop and the world will end if you do that. You have to charge two Li or two NiMH. And remember to put the switch in the correct position for the batteries that you're going to charge.

I have access to Alkaline AA batteries with no problem. Those I'll use on the receiver. it's the transmitter that is the problem until I get the Li rechargeable batteries.

I have a whole slew of NiMH rechargeable batteries and a charger for them. The only problem with all that is that I have nothing that needs an NiMH battery - rechargeable or not.


JRinSC said...

It's a good thing Michael Faraday didn't live in the tropics or we may never had had capacitors -- and we'd figured another way to do that job.

I'm with you, Dave. Just paid $80.00 for a "5 year guaranteed" capacitor for my heat pump. Same capacitor handles the start-up for both the fan and the compressor. The compressor side failed so the fan just ran and ran and ran -- while the temperature rose and rose and rose. Shucks... (or worse).

Of course, in my case they had one on their truck, bless their little hearts!


Dave Rider said...

Hi Julian,

They had a truck? With parts for your unit? That fit?

It's a miracle!