So you finally took the leap and installed a home wind turbine. Congratulations! You’ve just taken a big step toward living a more sustainable life. What comes next?
Like any piece of machinery, turbines require regular maintenance. Here are some essential steps to follow if you want your wind power system to stay in tip-top condition.
You don’t want to wait until something goes horribly wrong to service your turbine. It may seem like a hassle, but regularly scheduled maintenance can save you time, money and headaches in the long run. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say.
There are two types of maintenance: scheduled and unscheduled. Unscheduled maintenance happens when something breaks or malfunctions unexpectedly. Scheduled maintenance can help prevent such mechanical emergencies.
You should schedule maintenance at least once a year for your wind power system, but twice a year is ideal.
Your annual turbine inspection should begin with the electrical components on the ground. You’ll want to check for loose wires and other damage.
You should also check the electrical output of your turbine. Changing wind speeds can make this difficult. In general, variations of more than 10 percent between phases are a sign that your three-phase output isn’t balanced.
The next step involves climbing, so be sure to also check the structural integrity of your tower while you’re still on the ground.
The best way to inspect your wind power system is to climb all the way to the top. Binoculars just won’t do the trick. This climb can be a dangerous task for beginners, though, so be sure to enlist the help of an experienced teacher as you learn.
Once you scale the tower, there are several routine things for you to take care of:
• Tighten or replace any loose or missing hardware – carry spare nuts, bolts and nut locks along to save you an extra climb
• Find and secure loose wires
• Check guy-wires for proper tension
• Remove rust and look for corrosion
• Lubricate bearings and change gearbox oil
• Replace worn leading edge tape on turbine blades
• Check blades and bearings for structural damage
Blades and bearings may need to be replaced after about 10 years of wear and tear, so keep an eye on them. Rust streaks and black powder are signs of bearing problems, and cracks and erosion can threaten the structural integrity of blades.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed after reading this, don’t fret. Self-sufficiency is great, but no one is an expert in everything. If turbine maintenance isn’t your forte, there’s no shame in calling in a professional. If you’re not sure where to start, try contacting your installer to ask if they offer a service and maintenance program.
Whether you choose to do it yourself or hire a professional, proper maintenance is the key to giving your wind turbine a long and productive life. Give your wind power system the care it needs, and it will repay you with decades of green energy. Welcome to the future!
James White is green builder and home improvement blogger who focuses on sustainable living via his family blog, Homey Improvements. He also enjoys sharing his recent discoveries with DIY projects, home tips and organic gardening. James is "Alaska Grown" but now resides in Pennsylvania. Connect with him on Twitter at @DIYfolks. Read all of James' MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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