KISS Wind Generator FAQ

Got questions? Here are the most common ones and their answers:

1. How do you stop it in high winds?

You have several options:

  • You can just let it spin if you’ve got something more important to do, like dealing with a dragging anchor! The KISS is guaranteed to hurricane force winds, and we know of at least two that have operated through hurricanes with no damage.
  • You can shut it off with the electric break (located on the control box near your battery) which will hold up to 42 knots. The brake will slow the blades to a near stop. They will turn very slowly, allowing you to tether a blade to the mounting pole if you wish.

2. What’s “freewheeling”?

Two thermal-sensitive bimetallic circuit breakers are connected to the coils of the stator to prevent the motor from overheating. Depending on ambient temperature, the thermal switches will open in winds of 20-25 knots and outputs of 20-25 amps (higher speeds and amps with version 2.0, after July 2013), allowing the motor to cool enough to reset itself and again produce power.

 

3. What about during hurricanes?

Since the KISS does not use set screws to attach the hub to the shaft, it’s very easy to remove the blade assembly for hurricane preparation. The hub and shaft share tapered threads, with the wind spinning the blades clockwise, always self-tightening. To remove, simply place the flats of a wrench on the flats at the forward end of the shaft and turn the blade assembly counterclockwise by hand.

To prevent water intrusion from wind-driven rain (140 MPH winds WILL force water beyond the seal at the opening of the housing!), wrap a rag around the base of the shaft where it enters the housing, then secure it with duct tape. Stow the blade assembly below. The housing itself presents little windage.

After the blow, when you’ve reinstalled the blade assembly, again use a wrench to ensure that the blades are a little bit more than hand-tightened.

4. How much noise does it make?

Noise is entirely subjective, and all wind generators will make some noise in high winds. However, KISS owners report that the KISS is among the quietest units available. Aboard s/v HOTWIRE, we don’t hear ours up to 20 knots. Our neighbors and guests say they don’t hear it either. And other KISS owners report the same. (One KISS owner said she didn’t hear hers in 30 knots! But she was down below in cold weather and perhaps has a better insulated cabin than some of us.)

Between 20 and 30 knots, it begins to whisper and sigh like the wind in a pine forest, louder as the wind speed increases.

Above 30 knots, it will be noisy along with everything else on your boat. Libbie finds it objectionable at 35 knots and turns it off at the break switch. John doesn’t find it objectionable until close to 50 knots, but he was a drummer in a rock-and-roll band many years ago, so……… Draw your own conclusions.

5. How is this wind generator better than the others?

Each kind of wind generator is designed for certain conditions or functions. What you want/need from a wind generator determines which kind is better for you. The KISS was designed to provide a lot of power in the trade wind belt. If you’re planning to cruise high latitudes where the wind speeds are consistently high, there are other wind generators more appropriate for those conditions. If you only want a little bit of power from the wind, there are wind generators designed with smaller blade diameter that produce much less power than the KISS.

The following are some of the reasons why the KISS was our #1 choice:

  • The KISS is designed to meet the electrical needs of typical liveaboard cruisers in the eastern Caribbean. (Think in terms of wind conditions.) The power output is high.
  • The KISS is among the quietest wind generators available.
  • The KISS is very simply designed to reduce maintenance and repairs. Maintenance involves basically two things: occasional visual check of the blades for cracks, chips, and wear; and replacement of the bearings (standard 6203 sealed metric bearings available worldwide) every few years depending on how much the unit has been used.
  • The KISS uses a rare earth permanent magnet alternator, a more modern, more efficient, and lighter weight generator design than using a permanent magnet DC motor.
  • The rotating mass is lightweight enough to use even while underway. (Some other manufacturers have recommended shutting their units off while underway to prevent vibration, noise and stress caused by the gyroscopic effects of a rocking and pitching boat combined with a heavy spinning mass.)
  • The KISS is a three-phase alternator. The AC is rectified to DC (using a standard automotive part available worldwide) in the control box located somewhere near your batteries. There is less voltage drop in AC wiring than in DC, an advantage if you must install a lengthy run of wire, such as an installation up on a mizzen mast.
  • The KISS has no brushes or slip rings. Brushes wear out and need to be replaced. They can also create high frequency radio interference, especially if you’re using an insulated backstay as your antenna. With the KISS, however, you can charge the batteries at the same time you’re transmitting on SSB or ham.

6. What’s to stop the wires from pulling loose from the motor?

A tether connecting the tailfin to the mounting post will allow the unit to turn no more than 3 revolutions in either direction. We also have optional mercury-contact slip-rings for unlimited 360 degree rotation. ($250.00)

But think about it: when you’re cruising, how often do you spin in circles? Not often! You might tack when sailing to your next anchorage. At anchor or on a mooring, you point into the wind. At a dock, you’re probably plugged into shore power and won’t need the KISS, so just tie it off. It’s likely rare that you’ll find yourself doing 360′s.

For those times when you do, the KISS has a light spring which tends to turn the unit back to the forward position when the wind stops. If you are thinking of a mount at the top of your mizzen, please reconsider. It’s extra weight up there, and you won’t be able to use the halyard to support the unit during installation or removal for servicing. Both are safety issues.

7. What do I get for $1,195?

The KISS comes with the control box (containing the rectifier and the brake switch) and thirteen feet of heavy gauge wire. We also work hard here at Hotwire to maintain a high standard for customer service and assistance. We are available to answer your questions by e-mail or phone.

8. What regulator do I have to have?

The regulator goes on your engine alternator. With wind & solar, we use charge controllers. Regulators & controllers both prevent battery overcharge, but they do it in different ways.

Aboard s/v HOTWIRE, we don’t use a charge controller. We use a digital e-meter to monitor the state of our batteries. On those windy days when our batteries are fully charged, we’ll plug in the watermaker, transmit on the SSB/ham, make popcorn and watch a video, whatever uses the power as it’s being made. (If we can’t keep up, we’ve been known to feather the unit at an angle to the wind, reducing the blade speed and the charging rate.)

If all this sounds too complicated to you, we have charge controllers and divert loads (for excess power) to make your system fully automated and prevent overcharging, especially important if you’re using AGM or gel cell batteries.

9. What does the 3 year warranty cover?

Defects in material or manufacture. We have a warranty repair facility in the US. Or, if you are out cruising, contact us for authorization to have someone else do the repairs.

10. What kind of mount do I need?

Basically, you want the blades out of accidental reach. The pole cap will fit either 1 1/2″ Schedule 40 aluminum pipe or 2″ stainless steel tube. We make a mizzen bracket, pole kit, archtop bracket for a Manta cat, and (if you must) a hoisting bracket, or we can provide you with diagrams and dimensions to have a mount fabricated locally.

See photos & info by clicking MOUNTS.

11. Can I mount a KISS on my house

Yes, but…. Do you live in a location with steady winds of sufficient strength to make wind power cost-effective? Is your location free of trees or structures that would create “wind shadows”? Do you have enough property to cable a tower tall enough to get the wind generator well above the tree tops or surrounding structures. You’ll also need to check with your municipal or county regulations regarding wind generators.

We have mercury-contact sliprings for unlimited 360 degree rotation. ($250.00)

12. Can I use solar panels with a KISS wind generator?

Absolutely! We recommend supplementing wind power with solar because the wind doesn’t always blow. Take a look at some of the solar modules available from Hotwire Enterprises.

13. Does the electric brake use battery power?

No battery power is used to keep the generator from turning when the switch is in the off position. What happens is that when the blades start to turn, all of the power they produce goes into stopping them from turning. So, you’ll notice that they will turn a little (slowly enough that you could reach up and grab one to stop them). If you want to ensure that they’re stopped, just tether a blade to your mounting tower.

How do I keep the KISS from overcharging my batteries?

A typical cruising sailboat will use most of the power the KISS makes, most of the time, without overcharging the batteries.

When the batteries become fully charged, you can turn off the KISS at the switch. If the boat has “wet” (flooded) cell batteries, they can withstand some overcharging without damage. In fact, they need a controlled over charge (equalization) about once a month to stay healthy.

Wet cell batteries have a higher self-discharge rate as well, so a little charging is needed to keep them topped off, compared to gel and AGM batteries that can go for several months with no charge.

However, a small battery bank can absorb less power before being damaged. Gel and AGM batteries are more sensitive than wet cells, and will be more likely to be damaged by overcharging.

Or, you can add a charge controller. The only down side to the controller is the extra $260 it will cost (including the necessary diversion load), but it would mean you can leave the boat with the KISS running, and you won’t have to get up in the middle of the night when the wind picks up to check on the battery state of charge.

If you elect to go without a controller, you’ll need a battery monitor to tell you when the batteries are charged. A voltmeter is not sufficient. A battery monitor (or system monitor) will tell you the state of charge, instantaneous amps, amp hours, and more. We sell the TriMetric system monitor.

If you elect for the charge controller, we have been using the Trace/Xantrex C-40 with good results.

This is the way it works. When the batteries reach the charging voltage set point (it is adjustable), the controller sends current to a diversion load, which turns the excess power into heat. The C-Series controllers can be used with wind or solar. However, if you have more than 150 watts of solar there are better choices for a solar controller than the C-40. (see MPPT controllers).

We have available two diversion loads: One is the HRLB, a set of wirewound ceramic power resistors mounted on a phenolic plastic board, about 8 X 11 inches. This can get very hot, and needs to be mounted such that sailcloth, plastic, fabric, etc. cannot be in contact. The engine compartment is a good place for it.

The other diversion load is our 12VDC/120VAC water heater element. It replaces the element in your hot water tank. It has two loops of heating wire; one is 12 volts (to dump the excess power from the wind generator) and the other is 120 volts (so you can still make hot water from shore power or a genset).

The 120 volt side is only 500 watts, so it will take at least twice as long to heat a tank of water from shore power. We have these made to fit just about any kind of marine water heater, but we’ll need to know the manufacturer to get you the right one. Isotherm and Quick water heaters have larger diameter threaded holes and either need an adaptor or may not be able to use our dual voltage heating element at all.

15. Can I use one charge controller for the KISS and solar panels or do I need one for each? Specifically, can the SB2512iX handle both?

The Solar Boost 2512i charge controller will control only the solar output, not the wind generator’s. The 2512i is the simplest and least expensive of Blue Sky Energy’s products which have a circuit (called Maximum Power Point Tracking, or MPPT) that boosts the output of the solar, making the system more efficient. You should see 5 – 10 % more power on a regular basis, and more increase than that when the ambient temperature is low or the batteries are significantly discharged. More info on that at:

Blue Sky Energy INC. – Solar Boost 2000E

Wind generators require the use of a controller that has a diversion feature. The excess energy from the wind generator gets diverted into a diversion load that turns the excess energy into heat. We have two different diversion loads available: Hotwire’s 12/120 water heater element or the Hotwire Resitive Load Bank (HRLB).

Our water heater element replaces the element in your tank and includes two loops of heating wire: one loop at 12 volts and the other at 120 volts. This allows you to get something from the excess power. The HRLB is a set of wire-wound ceramic power resistors mounted onto a 81/2 X 11 inch phenolic plastic board; it turns the excess power into hot air.

A diversion type charge controller can be used with solar, but there are no diversion type controllers that incorporate MPPT.

So, I would recommend an MPPT controller for the solar, and a Xantrex C-40 for the KISS , with either one of the diversion loads. If you prefer to save some money, Xantrex’s Trace C-60 could be used for both the wind and the solar, using a larger diversion load.

A Solar Boost 2512i is $179, the C-40 is $155, and the diversion load (either one) is $95. A C-60 is $199, and the larger diversion load (which could incorporate the water heater element) is $180.

Or, to further muddy the waters, you could use either one or both without a controller, and turn the wind and or the solar off as the battery reached full charge. This would require careful monitoring of the system, and is not recommended for battery banks of gel or AGM batteries.