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Posted by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 12/12/2011

Bummer of a week, but at least there's light at the end of the tunnel.

The Inverter: As I mentioned a few days ago one of my two Outback inverters (VFX3648 models, top of the line) burned up in a fury of voltage-consuming fever. This has left me with a single inverter that can only handle 3600W, which seems like a lot until you realize that a microwave is 1500W and the well pump is another 1500W, so if they should come on at the same time while you probably have a couple of lights or a TV or something like that on--well, you may find yourself in the dark, as the inverter cuts off power to prevent an overload (they are apparently something like 10 times faster than a regular circuit breaker). Kinda a pain to deal with when you have a big house.

Solar LeRoy came up to take a gander at it and after some consultation with the kind folks at Outback (who said, "Yeah, sometimes that happens") he took it off the wall and back into town. Rather than ship a 50-pound mostly steel box across the country, Outback is sending him a new set of electronics and cards for the inverter; he'll replace them, run it through a couple of tests and then hopefully bring it back in a day or so.

The Backup Generator: We got our Ecogen what seems a long, long time ago now, (back in the heady warm days of mid October) and have been trying to get it up and running ever since. All kinds of things have interfered with getting it up and running... we had trouble getting it set up on its pad, then we had trouble getting a proper regulator for it (the first one was too small), and then the timing didn't work for Solar LeRoy to come hook it up, then when he did hook it up he had to wrestle with wretchedly poor installation instructions (to adapt it from 120V to 240V), and after all that, we had a problem getting a silly manometer before we could hook the thing up. But eventually we DID get it all hooked up, fired it up--and it stopped after about a minute with a neat looking "Low Voltage" error on its status screen.

Ooookkkkkaaaaayyyy.... what the heck did that mean?

So out comes the local Generac guy, Generac Luke. He's a great guy and real easy to talk to, and tells us all kinds of stuff about this generator. Apparently Generac came out with them because they had so many customers using their "regular" generators as off-grid backup jobs, and since they're not really built for that, having lots of complaints and problems as a result. The first generation sold out so fast that they were flabbergasted and quickly came out with a second and it promptly sold out too. Our model is a third generation, incorporating some fixes and efficiency improvements but (apparently) not any better documentation--the whole device is so new that most of the Generac techs don't even have updated installation and repair manuals for it yet. 

So Generac Luke pokes around and runs some tests, then calls Generac, then does some more tests. He finally decides that the control board is bad... and, of course, they don't have any on hand (new generator, remember?). They've ordered a couple (so they can more quickly respond to other folks in the area should they need to) and the replacement should show up in a week or so. So there's that at least.

In the meantime though we are flying without a net... no backup for the system, and carefully watching our simultaneous power usage so we don't overload our single inverter.

The joys of living off grid! The good news is I know it'll get better soon, and since we're nearly at the darkest time of the year, the daylight (i.e., power producing) hours will soon be increasing...


Steven in Colorado Springs

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