Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sigh - we're still limping along, but a bit slower now

We're trying to keep our dying solar energy system running until we can get some new and improved components in our container late this year. We've been gradually losing batteries, and recently we had an apparent electrical surge from a nearby lightning strike, which caused the fan on our inverter to quit.

This morning, perhaps related to the same apparent surge, the inverter itself suddenly blew up (we had replaced the fan, so overheating shouldn't have been the problem). It didn't blow up all over the place, but something inside the unit blew, with a big "bang" and a shower of sparks. Sigh.

What does this mean? I don't mind your asking, as I don't really understand too much of the technology we're using here, but Allen explains it to the rest of us. Here's the scoop:

Currently, with no inverter, we can't use power from the batteries we still have. That means that if the power keeps coming in from the solar panels, the batteries would overcharge and possibly be damaged. So, the first order of the day today was for people to climb onto the roof and cover the solar panels with blankets.

We can (hopefully) purchase a new inverter in the city of San Pedro Sula. As soon as we made the decision to try to do this, Russell hopped into the Land Cruiser and headed out. The inverter we think we can purchase is smaller than our current one, and it won't work in conjunction with the new components we'll be installing in December - so it's an unexpected and unplanned purchase, but it still seems to be the way to go. Having the temporary inverter will allow us to continue using refrigeration . . . really, I think, that's worth something, and the inverter should only cost about $100.

After he'd driven about an hour from home, Russell remembered something we'd all forgotten with all the other excitement this morning - that a bridge on the road between here and San Pedro Sula washed out recently. We don't know if traffic is getting through now or not. We're hoping and praying that he can drive through to the city - otherwise it seems like he will park, walk across, and catch a bus to the city on the other side.

If we can't get the temporary inverter, we'll be running power only from our generator. This works fine for laundry and computer use, but the refrigerator needs long hours of continuous use, not short spurts.

Using a generator for that purpose gets expensive. With an inverter, we can run the solar panels (or the generator, when there's no sun) to charge the batteries, and then use the stored power, but without an inverter, we only have power when the generator is actually running.

The good news is that the components which are dying are parts which we were already planning to replace. They were originally cheaper than some other options - and perhaps we got what we paid for. The parts which were more expensive are still running, and will work with our new components.

The bad news is we have a wedding coming up, and guests, and lots of reasons why this is a bad time for us to try living with such limited power. But, we'll figure it out.


deena said...

Hi Trish maybe i can help. I know someone who travels to and from every month. She is due to be here next week. Tell Allen to email me the info i need and i will buy the inverter for you guys. The only thing is that one of you will have to pick it up in San Pedro Sula. Regards

Trish said...

Wow Deena - what a generous offer! We've already purchased an inverter in country, so we don't need to take you up on it . . . but perhaps you wouldn't mind us keeping you in mind for our next emergency? It seems like we manage to have them regularly enough. ;-D

deena said...

Sure no problem, anything you need don't hesitate. I will forward my personal e-mail to you. Like i said my friend travels every month, so keep that in mind.