Are you looking for ways to make your home environmentally friendly while cutting energy costs? A small wind turbine could make sense for you!
You can install a small wind turbine for homes both on-grid and off-grid.
Here’s what you should know if you’re considering this investment.
1. What is a wind turbine?
A wind turbine is a machine that turns kinetic energy into electricity using aerodynamic force from its rotor blades.
It operates like a reverse fan — instead of using electricity to make wind, it uses wind to make electricity.
Wind turbines can be a great option for residential properties.
Unlike the most efficient solar panels on the market – which can convert only 20 percent of the energy harnessed from the sun – wind turbines can convert between 60 and 90 percent of the harnessed energy.
When it comes to natural, clean energy, wind energy is the way to go!
2. Are small domestic wind turbines worth it?
You’ve probably seen commercial wind farms in the countryside.
These turbines generate clean and cost-effective energy on a larger scale.
But if you put a small wind turbine in your backyard, would it really do much?
In short, yes.
These wind turbines can absolutely be worth it.
You can use these turbines in both an on-grid and off-grid context.
When you connect to the grid, you benefit from net metering, meaning that the turbines will feed any excess power back into the grid (and you’ll receive some type of payout for this).
If you’re off-grid, then your turbine will charge batteries to provide power to your home.
Off-grid turbines aren’t usually powerful enough to supply the total electricity a residence needs, so they’re best as a supplementary power source that decreases the homeowner’s bills.
3. What are the advantages of a wind turbine?
Are you wondering why it might be worth it to go through the process of investing in and installing a wind turbine?
Here are the top advantages you’ll want to consider.
Aids the environment
Wind energy is a sustainable and renewable source of energy.
It causes absolutely no pollution, which means you reduce your carbon footprint when you install it as a source of energy for your home.
Reduces your energy bill
After you’ve paid for your wind turbine, you’ve essentially paid for all the energy it produces.
Even a small rooftop wind turbine can help you significantly reduce bills, even if it doesn’t entirely cover them.
Produces additional income
When you connect your small wind turbine to the grid, you can sell unused energy back to the energy company.
This will help produce additional income for your household.
4. What are the disadvantages?
Like any other home installation, wind turbines do have their drawbacks.
Here’s what you should keep in mind before you take advantage of this clean energy source.
Arguably the most problematic part about installing wind turbines is that you’ll never be sure of their production.
They’re inconsistent at best in their energy generation because the wind doesn’t blow at the same speed.
For this reason, turbines are often used as a supplementary power source via net metering because no one wants to be without power if the wind is slow on certain days.
The best thing you can do as a homeowner is to research the wind patterns at your chosen site prior to installation.
We also recommend having other options besides wind power.
You may not realize that wind turbines can be quite noisy; thus, they’re often located in rural settings.
If you’re located in a densely populated residential area, this may not be the best option for you.
Small wind turbines can still require planning permissions from your local municipalities.
This can be a barrier to some homeowners who don’t want to go through a complex process.
In general, wind turbines need to be 30 feet higher than any other object within a 300-foot radius (including trees).
Depending on the terrain and wind patterns of the property, this means your wind turbine may need to be 60 to 120 feet high.
Some property owners can struggle to accommodate these requirements, especially if they only have an acre or two of land.
Although wind energy pays out over time, there can be a steep upfront investment.
To install a quality wind turbine, you’re likely looking at paying at least $3,000 for every kilowatt of power capacity as well as maintenance costs over the years.
5. How does installation and maintenance of wind turbines work?
We don’t recommend installing a domestic wind turbine yourself.
Invest in a credible installer to ensure your turbine is set up correctly.
The best installer will be a licensed electrician with references.
If this seems rigorous, remember that a small wind turbine can last over 25 years when properly installed and maintained.
Routine maintenance includes the following:
Checking and tightening bolts and electrical connections (as necessary)
Checking machines for corrosion and guy wires for proper tension
Checking for and replacing any worn leading-edge tape on the wind turbine blades (if appropriate)
Replacing components like turbine blades and/or bearings as needed
Check with your installer to see if they perform routine maintenance or if they know anyone who they can recommend to you.
6. How do you know where to put a small wind turbine?
One of the most important factors when installing a small wind turbine is location, location, location.
The benefit of working with a professional installer is that they can find the best location for your wind turbine.
Here are the elements they’ll consider.
Complex terrain can make it difficult to decide where to place your wind turbine.
You’ll have varied wind resources within the same property.
Consider the annual wind speeds and the prevailing wind directions at your site when selecting the installation site.
You should also note any existing obstacles to the wind, like trees, houses, or sheds as well as any future obstacles like buildings or trees.
In general, your turbine will need to be sited upwind of any buildings and trees, and it’ll need to be 30 feet above anything within 300 feet.
We recommend only purchasing and installing small wind turbines that are both tested and certified to national performance and safety standards.
You should also leave enough room to raise and lower the turbine for maintenance during installation.
If your turbine is guyed, then you should leave room for the guy wires.
Regardless of if the system is on or off-grid, you’ll need to consider the length of the wires that run between the turbine and the load (house, batteries, water pump, etc.) into consideration.
When the wire run is longer, a significant amount of battery/electricity can be lost.
More wire can also increase the cost of installation.
If it’s possible to decrease this, then you should.
Additionally, your wire run losses are greater when you have DC (direct current) instead of AC (alternating current).
If you must use a long wire run, invert DC to AC.
7. How big is a small wind turbine?
The size of your small wind turbine will ultimately depend on the size of your property and the amount of energy you want to generate.
Turbines used for residential applications will generally range from 400 watts to 20 kilowatts.
This is another reason that working with a professional installer is helpful — they can help you determine the size of the turbine that you need.
8. How much annual energy does a small wind turbine generate?
Once again, it depends on so many factors.
It’s impossible to give a straight answer.
Your professional installer can help you estimate the energy production that you can anticipate based on the following:
Specific wind turbine power curve
Average annual wind speed at your site
Height of the tower that you plan to use
Frequency distribution of the wind
The elevation of your specific site
Once you receive the estimate of the annual energy output from your wind turbine (in kilowatt-hours per year), you can determine whether a small wind turbine will produce enough electricity to meet all of your energy needs.
9. What are the factors to consider when buying a small wind turbine?
There are quite a few factors you’ll need to consider when buying a small wind turbine.
Here’s what you should keep in mind.
Size and weight
The size and weight of your turbine are two of the most important factors.
It must be small enough to fit on the property in the correct location while being large enough to be sturdy in high winds.
Selecting a highly efficient wind turbine allows you to produce energy even when there is less wind near your home.
Wind turbines are designed to be efficient, but some are better than others.
Budget can be a limiting factor for homeowners who want to install small wind turbines on their property.
Small wind turbines can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.
The more you invest, the more features and benefits your wind turbine will provide.
However, not all homeowners have a large budget, so you may need to find a turbine that meets your needs without breaking the bank.
Wind resource and climate
Various locations have different climates, which means they offer fluctuating wind resources.
Before you select a wind turbine do research on the area where your property is and gain a general understanding of the typical wind speeds.
The best wind turbine will produce energy even when the wind isn’t blowing at its maximum speed.
Check customer reviews before purchasing to gain an understanding of turbine reliability.
It also helps to get one with a good warranty just in case anything breaks!
The length and terms of the warranty will vary from one manufacturer to the next.
Read the fine print before purchasing to understand how you’re protected.
Proximity to the maintenance team
Consider how close you are to a maintenance team.
If you purchase a turbine from a company located in another part of the world, then it may be difficult to get a repair done if something breaks.
However, if the company is local to you, then you will be able to repair your turbine quickly and efficiently.
Local zoning laws
When determining where to place a small wind turbine, you’ll need to keep your zoning laws in mind.
Some areas have height restrictions that require that a turbine be not more than 500 feet high.
Additionally, wind turbines must be placed at a minimum height of 30 feet to catch the maximum amount of wind.
Depending on the turbine you select, you may be able to attach it to your roof for simplicity.
That said, you’ll need to consider the wind volume, local regulations, community restrictions, and the property’s location when installing a turbine.
Finally, you should check to see if your area requires you to get permission before installing a turbine.
10. Can you connect a small wind turbine to the grid?
Yes, a wind turbine can connect to the electricity distribution system your utility provider uses.
By connecting your system, you can reduce your consumption of utility-supplied electricity for lighting, appliances, electric heating and cooling, and vehicle charging.
If your wind turbine can’t deliver the energy you need, your utility will provide the difference.
However, if your wind turbine provides more than enough energy, then you can sell your unused energy back to the utility company for additional income.
Here’s when a grid-connected system makes the most sense.
Your area has an average annual wind speed of at least 9 miles per hour
The utility-supplied electricity in your area is expensive (10 cents per kilowatt-hour)
It is not prohibitively expensive to connect your system to the grid and there is sufficient capacity to integrate your system
Reach out to your utility company for more information about connecting your system to the grid.
There may be additional specific requirements that you need to know.
11. Can you have an off-grid wind turbine?
Yes, wind power can also be used in an off-grid or microgrid system.
It does not need to be connected to an electric distribution grid.
If you’re using a wind turbine off-grid, you may consider combining it with a small solar electric system to create a hybrid power system.
Hybrid systems are great for homes, farms, or entire communities that are far from utility lines.
They can provide reliable off-grid power to these residences.
Here’s when an off-grid hybrid electric system (featuring a wind turbine) may make sense for you.
Your area has an average annual wind speed of at least 9 miles per hour
Your area doesn’t have a grid connection, or it is prohibitively expensive to make a connection
You’d like to gain energy independence from your local utility providers
You’d like to generate clean power
Do you want to produce clean energy for your property?
Solar panels can be a smart option, but wind turbines are even more efficient.
When you install small turbines, you guarantee a reliable source of energy while reducing your overall energy bill.
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Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants, or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.