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  #1  
Old 07-28-2009
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Air-X Marine fiasco

I am going to post this as a warning to people considering Southwest Wind power products. Ever. I am a long time customer, but things have changed, evidently, with the customer service side of the equation. Radically. This is my rant. Let me explain:

I bought an Air-X Marine wind generator from Alt-E.com in July 2008 (at a decent price) as a replacement for one of my ten year old units (which I was quite happy with) and had it shipped to Curacao at ridiculous FedEx expense. It worked for two days and died. I contacted Alt-E and they told me to contact Southwest Wind Power, the manufacturer, to send the unit back (at my ridiculous FedEx expense) for 'evaluation and repair'. I just wanted an exchange or my money back. However, I contacted Southwest Wind Power and they were like dealing with your local MVD. Tedious, bad music on hold (calling from Curacao, remember?), useless, insensate, and utterly without and sense of customer service. Unfortunately I run a charter yacht business and can't sit around waiting for RMAs to be generated by low level delta minus trainees. I just wanted to ship the unit back (at ridiculous FedEx expense) and get a new one so I could be on my way.

Didn't happen.

As I am in and out of the US for ten months of the year I have had to depend on spotty internet and phone connections to plead my case with both Alt-E.com and Southwest Wind Power. Well, it's been kind of like dealing with United Airlines and broken Taylor guitars (which I own as well). No response. No return emails. No calls. No post cards. No carrier pigeons. No hand delivered apologies from Juan Valdez. No assurances of righting wrongs. No righteous redress. No smoke signals. No ****...

Hence, the rant.

Did I mention the ridiculous FedEx expenses?

I finally stopped in Trinidad before heading back to the States and replaced the two Air-X units with Kiss units. Fabulous. They work! And the people were NICE! What a concept.

So, in summary, if anyone is in anyway thinking about wind generation products, I highly recommend that you DO NOT under any circumstances consider Southwest Wind Power products (yes they look cool but don't try to send them back for love or money or exchange). There are a multitude of quality, well established, courteous and customer oriented wind generator manufacturers out there. Avail yourselves of their products.

I hope this helps prevent at least one future customer service bacchanal.

Richard Haner
s/v North Stand
Cape Canaveral

P.S. I'll be glad to ship this unit to anyone who thinks they can fix it and use it. You have to bear the ridiculous FedEx expense however...
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Old 07-28-2009
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Oh man, that stinks! How much would it be to ship it to Connecticut?
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Old 07-28-2009
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Errr.... yeah. Sorry for your ordeal, but that's not a new phenomenon. SWWP has usually required you to ship them the entire (bulky, heavy) unit, which they will repair (or not) at their leisure. I know people whose Whispers were out of commission for six months. The installer who helped set up my home system had given up on SWWP; he said of their sales staff, "Their technical ignorance is exceeded only by their arrogance." He was a listed dealer but couldn't get parts. And boy, did those machines need parts. Wyoming plays hell on small wind turbines.

Anyhow, I had heard that they were getting better, but maybe not. They are throwing all the company's weight behind the Skystream residential turbine, which does seem to get pretty good company support and field repair (too heavy to ship back?) I'll wager smaller units like the AirX are being marginalized.

BTW, I own the small Bergey, and while it's useless for boating and certainly has its own (serious) reliability issues, I can vouch for the people & company behind it. For the five years under warranty, all I had to do was call them and say "Igor, I need another stator/rectifier/slip ring assembly," and one would appear about four days later. No charge, no questions asked. Main fuse kept burning out; they sent a circuit breaker. It kept kicking, they sent an inline resistor to brake the turbine. Blades roots tore out, they mailed new sets. Guy wire fatigued thru, they sent a new tower section. Entire turbine fell off pole, they shipped a new unit. Dodgy wind genny, honest people. I cost them a fortune!



ALL wind turbines break. That's part of the ownership experience. What matters is the company behind them. Sounds like SWWP is still disappointing customers. BTW, the new Kestral models intrigue me; the mid to large sizes have passive blade pitching, which is the best governing method. & the company is owned by Eveready, which has some serious engineering money to throw around. The E150 may be too heavy for all but the biggest cruisers; don't know if it's marinized, either.
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Old 07-28-2009
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I'll second your comments about SWWP. My AirX failed a few days before we were to depart to the Bahamas for the winter. The unit was still under warranty so I called them. I was told they were very busy and it would be a couple weeks before they could look at it. We departed with it broke. Lucky for us I had installed more solar so we did pretty well w/o the AirX. Returning to the states, I called again, explained the problems and the fellow says "you can send it here or there is a new repair center in FL". This is all by emails. I respond back asking for name and address for the FL center. No response. I email again "did you get my email?". No response. So I call and ask to speak with the general manager. Left a message on his voice mail relating my frustration with his tech support person. Next day I get an email from the tech guy. No message just the contact info for the FL center. Took it there and I was surprised to find that the warranty begins on the date of manufacture! Lucky for me it was still in warranty, but not by much. So if sits in someones inventory, they care less about the date on your bill of sale.
Never again for me for sure!
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Old 07-28-2009
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Just got my Air-X back from service today. Second repair, this one out of warantee. I paid for shipping both ways + ~230 for repair. It "only" took 6 weeks to get it back despite calling every week for up-date. Luckily, I'm in a marina for the Summer so I didn't need it.
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Old 07-28-2009
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Have had a KISS for five years. Thought I had a problem in the first year (the problem was me and a loose wire). They were ready to ship me a replacement in the Bahamas. Excellent service.
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Old 07-28-2009
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Rich...sorry for your poor experience and thanks for the post. NOW...can you comment yet on relative output from the KISS units vs. the SWWP ones?
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Old 07-28-2009
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Anyone heard of Electrovent out of Canada? Based on an AC Delco alternater[25 amp], repairs are economical and I've gotten years of life out of mine. I bought it second hand from another cruiser six years ago.In light air, it is always the first in the anchorage to start charging. They finally put an English translation on their website a couple of years ago. I have yet to deal with the company though, as I have found it to be the Energizer Bunny of wind generators. I also have an Air-X . As this forum is sometimes viewed by kids and other sensitive people, I will keep my comments to my self on it !
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Old 07-29-2009
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I got an Air-X 24 volt unit at a yard sale (never used, still in box) for $300 a couple of years ago. When I ordered a bunch of solar panels from an outfit in B.C., the fellow said that they had a 12-volt unit with no blades, new, and would I like to trade?

As the extra gear required to make a 24v genny play nice with the rest of a 12 volt system would be considerable, I agreed. So we will see how it works this winter on land, because I intend to keep my batteries charged on the hard.

For $300, it will be a learning experience. Frankly, if it breaks, I can recycle the body for home-cooked generators myself. If not, the KISS seems like a good alternative.
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Old 07-30-2009
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thanks all

I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one with negative experiences regarding SWWP. Sadly.

As far as KISS vs Air-X performance, I would argue that in conditions less that 15knots of wind the output on both units is the same. Over 15knots the Air-X has a slight advantage in terms of output. Not enough to make me go back to the Air-X however...
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