NEW PRODUCT: Free Spirit Energy Wind Generators
- Friday, January 18 2013 |
- Written by Gordon White
Imagine having a power source trickle charge your camper batteries twenty four hours a day, for free. Introducing Free Spirit Energy Windwalker wind generator systems for truck campers.
Jack Wright, Co-Owner of Free Spirit Energy, contacted us in the fall of last year about his wind generator systems designed for truck campers. At first we were skeptical. Free power from the wind? That sounds too good to be true.
Then Jack explained how he initially invented the Windwalker wind generator system for his own truck camper use. In a nutshell, he wanted a free power source that worked 24/7, not just when the sun was out. He envisioned a small wind generator as the solution, but couldn’t find a commercially available mounting system or kit to make his dream a reality.
Like many truck camper owners we know, he decided to create what he needed. Jack found the right wind generator and designed two mounting systems to accommodate a truck camper installation. He kept the system simple and affordable and successfully tested it for over a year in all kinds of weather conditions.
During that time, folks began to notice the spinning device on his truck camper. As more and more people began to inquire about the wind generator, Jack and his wife realized they might just have a business opportunity. That was the beginning of Free Spirit Energy and the Windwalker line of wind generator kits for truck campers and RVs.
We have yet to experience Jack’s wind generator system, but it’s clear that the concept has tremendous potential to extend the power source options available to truck campers. We are especially excited about the idea of generating power at night, a time when solar panels are inactive. After talking to Jack, we have no doubt we’ll start seeing wind generators spinning over truck campers in the very near future.
Above: Jack’s Great Pyrenees, AJ, enjoys the shade under Jack’s Lance Camper and Windwalker wind generator system.
The following is an interview with Jack Wright, Co-Owner of Free Spirit Energy, on the Windwalker 150 and 250 wind generator systems.
TCM: Before we talk about Free Spirit Energy and wind generators, tell us how you got into truck camping.
Jack: I got into truck camping in the 1980s when I bought an used Six Pac camper and put it on my Ford Ranger truck. Before that I was a tent camper, but I got tired of being cold and wet. The truck camper changed everything. I could go anywhere, park anywhere, and explore. It was a revelation. I took that Six Pac from Seattle to Montana and down to Baja to camp and fish.
I eventually sold that rig and really missed it. I later moved to Las Vegas where there are lots of camping opportunities in the nearby southwest. Finally, I bought a used Lance and took off around the southwest to explore the many points of interest.
I never go to KOAs where I could plug in. I like boondocking. I could always take enough water on trips with my camper, but I often needed more power.
A couple of years ago, my wife Crystal and I were camping with our dog at Navajo Lake. It was beautiful, but we only had a 15 watt solar panel. Naturally, that solar panel was not able to restore the batteries. After three days at the campsite, I started up the vehicle to charge the camper. Running my truck for twenty to thirty minutes at a shot got to be expensive because it burns up a lot of fuel.
I thought there had to be a better way to get power into my camper batteries. I considered a larger solar panel system or a portable gas generator, but then I started thinking about wind generators. After some research, I discovered that no one had figured out how to mount a portable wind generator to an RV.
When we got back to Las Vegas, my wife and I began development of the wind generator mounting systems. Once we had the prototype made for the roof mounting plate, we went back to Navajo Lake and stayed for two weeks. For the duration of our stay, the wind generator trickle charged the batteries. I no longer needed to start the truck. We continued to test the wind generator for about a year in horrendous weather. During that testing, there were no problems, no failures, or glitches. We also developed a ladder bracket as a mounting option for campers without a roof railing.
TCM: When did you realize that this could be a business?
Jack: We would be dry camping and people would come up to our rig and look at our wind generator spinning around. They were absolutely amazed. That’s when Crystal and I decided to start up the business offering wind generators and mounting systems to RV owners.
Above: Windwalker 150 mounted on the roof of a truck camper
TCM: The concept of a wind generator is almost too good to be true. What kind of wind is necessary to make these products work?
Jack: As long as the wind is blowing at six to seven miles per hour, the Windwalker 150 will trickle charge your camper battery. It puts out up to five amps, which is more than some trickle chargers. Keep in mind that five amps is at maximum efficiency. Actual charge varies just like the solar panel systems with clouds. Overall, the Windwalker 150 is cheaper, a little lighter, and starts with less wind speed.
Above: The Windwalker 250 mounted on a camper ladder
The Windwalker 250 will start turning in eight to nine mile per hour wind. It gives you up to eight amps and performs like a full battery charger. It’s more expensive and takes more wind. If you have the wind, it’s a great system.
When the wind generators are mounted on a truck camper, they are up fourteen to fifteen feet up in the air. At that height, the wind is clean, unobstructed, and much stronger than it is near the ground.
TCM: How do wind generators compare to a solar panel system?
Jack: In a way, wind generators are like solar panels. Where solar panels need sun, wind generators need wind. The main difference is that wind generators can work twenty-four hours a day, including at night. Solar panels really only work for about eight hours a day, if it’s sunny. There’s nothing like knowing that your wind generator is spinning on top of the camper charging your batteries all night long.
TCM: What can run off a wind generator? Can you run a microwave or an air conditioner?
Jack: No one makes a portable wind generator that could run a microwave or air conditioner. To run those appliances, you would need a much bigger, and much heavier wind generator, like what you see on a wind farm. What our wind generators do is trickle charge your batteries, like a solar panel system.
TCM: How are wind generators installed on a truck camper?
Jack: There are two installation methods that work for both the 150 and 250. The ladder bracket is a four piece set that marries the wind generator mast to the camper ladder. That’s the most popular mounting solution for truck campers. The other mounting method is a horizontal mounting bracket that can be installed on a camper’s roof rack.
The least expensive mount is the ladder mount. The ladder bracket is also easier to use because you don’t have to get on the roof to install the wind generator.
With the ladder mount, I can connect and disconnect the system with one hand.
The horizontal mounting bracket can be installed on a camper’s roof rack and leaves your ladder and roof access free. To install the wind generator with the horizontal mounting bracket, you simply put the mast into the hole on the plate and give it five turns. Using the horizontal mounting brackets, you can actually put two wind generators on your vehicle.
TCM: What comes included with a Windwalker wind generator?
Jack: Windwalker wind generators come as a kit including the blades, tail fin, frame and motor, quick-disconnect wiring, and all necessary nuts, bolts, and washers.
The only tool you will need for assembly is a 7/16” wrench. It’s very easy.
The assembly time is two beers. Basically, you put the tail fin on your frame and bolt that on. Then take the hub and start attaching the PVC blades to it. Each blade takes two bolts. Put them on and tighten them down. Then all you have to do is screw the hub and the blade onto the motor. There’s one simple bolt that does that. It’s very simple and it comes pre-wired.
I pre-wire the wind generator with enough wire to go through the mast including a quick disconnect. I make sure you are supplied with two quick disconnects; one from the wind generator, and the other on the terminal end of the power cord.
Since every application and installation will be different, the end user needs to supply the wire from the battery to the wind generator.
TCM: Are instructions included with the Windwalker systems?
Jack: Yes. We have spent more time on the instructions than anything else. There is nothing more upsetting to me than getting a product and not having the appropriate instructions and tools. You get detailed step-by-step instructions.
Above: Windwalker 150 mounted on a camper ladder
TCM: How easy is the Windwalker system to set up and take down?
Jack: For set up, all you have to do is reach up, put the wind generator on the camper or ladder bracket, plug it in, and walk away.
It’s also very easy to take apart and stow. I disconnect the electrical cord from the wind generator to take it down. That takes seconds. There is one bolt that releases the blades and the hub. When I’m driving, I lay the blade assembly on the bed.
TCM: What kind of maintenance is needed for a wind generator?
Jack: There is absolutely no maintenance. I have done my best to destroy them including leaving them out in rain, snow, and hail. The wind generators are completely sealed so no water gets in. The blades on 150 and 250 are made out of PVC, which is the toughest plastic there is. The frame is heavy duty aluminum stock. There is nothing to break or rust. The only thing that can possibly damage our wind generators is high wind.
TCM: How can high wind damage a wind generator?
Jack: Our systems are designed for wind up to thirty-five miles per hour. Beyond that, it’s possible that the motors could get burned out. If the wind gets to be more than thirty-five miles per hour, you need to take the wind generator down.
TCM: What do the wind generator systems weigh?
Jack: The Windwalker 150 weighs 4.5 pounds and the Windwalker 250 weighs 6 pounds. That includes the wiring and the unit itself. The ladder bracket weighs about a pound and the horizontal bracket weighs maybe two pounds.
TCM: Is there any danger of over-charging the batteries with a Windwalker?
Jack: No, wind generators do not put enough amperage through your battery to overcharge them.
TCM: The Windwalker 150 generates 5 amps with 6.5 to 35 mph wind. The Windwalker 250 generates 8.5 amps with 8 to 30 mph wind. How do you monitor the charge?
Jack: The Windwalkers are designed to be wired directly to your batteries, like a trickle charger. You could connect the leads from the wind generator to a tester to see the charge. I use a weather station mounted on the wind generator mast that tells me the wind speed.
TCM: On your website it says that Windwalkers need to break-in for optimal efficiency.
Jack: The brand new wind generator motors are very tight. It takes time for them to loosen up. That can be done in a week or a day depending on how much wind you have. There is a noticeable difference in charge from a brand new motor and a broken-in motor. The broken-in motors start up with less wind and run more efficiently.
TCM: Which Windwalker and mounting bracket would you recommend for most truck camper applications?
Jack: The Windwalker 150 with the ladder bracket is an excellent starter system. You can always add another if you want more power later. There’s no problem with running two 150s on the same rig.
TCM: Why is the mast not included as part of a Windwalker kit?
Jack: The Windwalker wind generator systems come as kits. I assume that the kind of people who are buying these kits know how to turn a wrench and where the local hardware store is. You can go to Home Depot, Lowes, or ACE hardware and buy a mast for about $18. If I were to buy, paint, and ship the mast, it would add cost to unit.
You need a Schedule 40 threaded steel pipe with a one inch inside diameter. You’ll need a 30” pipe for the horizontal bracket and 36” pipe for the ladder bracket.
TCM: Where are Windwalker wind generators manufactured?
Jack: All the parts are made in the USA. We tune them, pre-wire them, add the quick disconnect, and test them. We developed the mounting system from scratch and applied for the patents.
TCM: What is the warranty for a wind generator?
Jack: Our mounting systems have a lifetime warranty. The wind generator’s warranty is 90 days. If you are careful about not leaving your wind generator in wind over thirty-five miles per hour, it will run for many years without maintenance.
TCM: What do the Windwalker wind generator kits cost?
Jack: The Windwalker 150 with ladder bracket is $295. The Windwalker 150 with a Mounting Plate (horizontal bracket) is $325.
The Windwalker 250 with a ladder bracket is $395. The Windwalker 250 with a Mounting Plate (horizontal bracket) is $425.
Shipping is free and you can order the Windwalker systems directly from our website, www.freespiritenergy.com.
TCM: If our readers have questions about the Windwalker system, how can they contact you?
TCM: Is there anything you would like to add about wind generators that we haven’t asked?
Jack: I’ve been truck camping for thirty years and there’s nothing worse than being in the middle of nowhere and wondering if your vehicle is going to start, or if the camper lights are going to come on. It’s a horrifying thought to be out of juice. I sleep really well knowing that my wind generator is up there.
For more information about Free Spirit Energy and the Windwalker 150 and 250 wind generators, visit their website at www.freespiritenergy.com.