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Item: Windmill Mole Chaser
Item number: 47987
Retail price: $9.99
Sale price: $6.99
Target price: $6.99
Item Link (product removed from website)
Revised 23 August 2010: Well, as we predicted (see second to last paragraph below), this product didn't last long as assembled out-of-the-box -- it failed after only 6 months' use (spring through late summer). Because of this premature failure we are removing it from our Hot Buys list, although it doesn't quite make our list of The Junk for the reasons noted in the review below and because we got our money's worth in entertainment as a whirligig for the 6 months before it broke. Also, we reiterate our product warning about this item related to its sharp rotating blades with the addition that the blades may become detached without warning.
Although we are pleased that Harbor Freight has removed this item from their online sales, we do think they should keep a link to this product with an appropriate safety warning for those who have already purchased it. Thanks to Harbor Freight for getting this half right; too bad they didn't "go the whole 9 yards." (FYI: We'll be happy to receive a donation of any remaining stock to salvage the blades for use with our wind-generator prototypes.)
The poor fit between the two vertical support tubes leaves the main body of this windmill out of perpendicular to the ground, thus presenting the blades at the wrong angle to the wind which stresses the bearings of the windmill. The undue wear on the bearings which connect the blade to the horizontal shaft resulted in metal fatigue which caused the unit to 'break.' The winds were generally less than 20 mph with no strong gusts noted for the 48 hours preceding the unit's failure. (Yes, we collected data from a weather station located about 20' from the windmill.) Our original review of this product follows unmodified below.
This is one of the very few items from Harbor Freight's extensive inventory that we decided to return shortly after assembly. But then we didn't and we're real happy we kept it. This windmill is perhaps the flimsiest item yet from Harbor Freight's product line (yes, they do carry some pretty bad stuff amongst their treasures; see our list of "The Junk"), and it looked like a real rip-off when we unboxed it. After sitting for nearly a year in our garage (waiting to be returned to Harbor Freight for a refund because despite the low price, we REALLY felt ripped off), we finally reassembled it and placed it in the yard. Then it began to spin . . . and to spin and to spin.
It takes a pretty strong wind to get it moving, but our Buffalo blows provide more than enough wind-power to rev up the blades. In fact, with our 20-30 mph winds that frequent the area it looks like it's ready to take-off and fly away. Its torque is so strong once it gets going that we're considering converting it to a wind-powered electrical generator (ah, another project) but don't expect much from a gentle breeze. The bearings and the mount for the blades to the horizontal shaft are very poor, and the wobble makes it immune to small breezes. (Perhaps we'll modify the blade connection later too, after we've turned it into a wind-powered generator.)
Warning: The blades are quite sharp when rotating at high speed, making this a very effective 'meat slicer.' We've mounted ours on heavy-metal electrical conduit several feet above the ground and well out of the reach of dogs and small children. We've had one bird fatality (perhaps a suicide but more likely blown into the blades by a strong gust of wind) in the 5 months it's been up and running. This product definitely needs a safety warning!
The windmill mole chaser is very poorly constructed. The entire device is extremely loose, and the main shaft for the windmill blade wobbles. Of course the manufacturer could try to argue that this was in the design; after all, it's supposed to vibrate to scare those pesty moles and other ground-burrowing critters away. We think it's just cheaply made (What do you expect in a $6.99 [on sale] windmill?), and we will forgo any serious discussion of its design merits. Even the back fin is so thin that it bends in a strong wind and has to be reshaped constantly.
Other online reviewers have reported that it does really chase away moles and other ground-burrowing vermin; we haven't be able (fortunately) to test that feature yet. Sasha does a great job of keeping the wild things out of our yard. Most everyone reviewing online reports problems with its construction, especially the bearings as noted above. The majority claim that the unit lasts a year or two before it needs a major over-haul or to be replaced. Ours has only been running since early spring and it has yet to endure our Buffalo Winter Test.
The real value of this "mole chaser" for us is not in its intended purpose but in its entertainment value. As one ages it becomes increasing satisfying to watch someone or something work while we're resting in a leisurely repose. (I can always tell my wife that I'm busy chasing the moles away, while sitting in the backyard enjoying a refreshing gin and tonic during a hot summer day.) So, for us it's a whirligig and a damn fun one at that. The aluminum blades are quite shiny and reflect the sunlight very well. We have a solar-powered floodlight which illuminates the blades at night when the windmill is pivoted in the right direction, and that presents a rather eerie flicker of light on a dark gusty night. And if we can actually generate a bit of electricity for our yard lights, then this will indeed have been an amusing project. (As noted above, the blades are somewhat resistant to rotating [i.e., it take a substantial, sustained breeze], but once running they seem to produce a surprisingly large amount of torque.) For its entertainment value alone (and this is purely subjective), it makes our Hot Buys list.
Buy it as you see it -- for us it's an entertaining whirligig; for others it's actually a mole chaser as advertised. It is definitely not expected to last long as assembled out-of-the-box, but the simple construction makes modification to a slightly better windmill an easy task. And if we're successful in modifying it into a wind-powered electrical generator, then the blades alone are worth the target price as anyone working with wind-generators can aptly confirm.
Bottom line: We can't attest to its ability to chase away moles as the manufacturer claims, but we can rave about its entertainment value as a whirligig and the hours of amusement it's provided us. Be sure to buy it at the target price (even use a 20%-off coupon to knock off another buck) and you probably won't be disappointed.
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