DIY Home Wind Power: Is It Practical To Install A Wind Turbine Yourself?

Can you install your residential wind turbine yourself? Well, let's be honest. There's very little determined human beings can't do when they set their minds to it. The real questions are:

- Do you currently have the mechanical and electrical skills required?

- Do you have friends with those skills who will help and/or teach you?

- Will doing the work yourself save enough money to make the time and effort worthwhile?

- How is a do-it-yourself project likely to be reviewed for local zoning and code compliance purposes?

You also need to consider the fact that there are different levels of "do it yourself."

- You can purchase a home wind energy kit.

- You can research the required parts of a home wind system and buy those components separately, but intact, and simply interconnect them.

- You can buy a set of instructions or research the many sets of plans and "how to" sites online and start completely from scratch.

Home Wind Energy Kits

These fully-contained residential wind power kits are generally affordable, but with limited energy-producing potential. They do, however, have the advantage of few moving parts and rarely require wiring, relying on batteries to store and to dispense power. A good example of this kind of product is the Sunforce 900-Watt Wind Generator Kit sold by Home Depot for $2,497.97.

The package includes a three-blade Whisper 100 Generator (turbine)and a 1000-Watt Pure Sine Wave Inverter. The turbine's blades are made of carbon fiber composite. There is no tower included. The turbine is designed to fit on a pole, or customers can order the Sunforce 44455 Wind Generator 30-Foot Tower Kit, which retails for approximately $550.

(Note that most professionally installed wind turbines are at a height of 80 feet or greater. In a residential setting, turbulence from adjacent structures will have a negative affect on a turbine's ability to function at low heights.)

The unit is capable of producing 900 watts maximum or 60 Amps under "ideal" conditions. (As a rule of thumb when discussing wind energy, "ideal" conditions are steady winds of 10 mph or greater year round with no turbulence from nearby structures.) The turbine is described as "perfect for power failures during emergencies." Power is fed into a 12V battery (not included) and fed out through two 110V household electrical outlets.

With only three moving parts, the kit will deliver a functioning system, but in the end, the homeowner will have spent more than $3,000 for a unit with extremely limited power production. Still, that's a far cry from professionally installed systems that tend to carry an opening price of $22,000 or higher.

Buy Wind Energy System Components

Obviously all the components of a home wind turbine system are available in varying sizes and capacities and can be readily found online. The potential variations in configuration are almost limitless. Essentially, this is a matter of reverse engineering for the do-it-yourselfer comfortable with simple electrical wiring and basic construction.

You'll be looking at securing a tail and propeller assembly, a tower, and an inverter. Power will either be fed into battery banks for storage or the system will be tied into the home's electrical system. Make sure that you have investigated an interconnection agreement with your local power utility in advance and that you know what kind of metering will be required. Also investigate all relevant zoning restrictions, compliance codes, and homeowners association covenants.

Some of the basic rules of turbine construction to consider are:

- Fewer blades = more speed.

- Larger propeller diameter = less speed but more power.

Like car engines, turbines have power and torque, with different speeds required for maximum levels of each. Wind shadow must also be considered in the building of the tower and mast. Wind shadow is the effect caused by the passage of the blades past the mast. A sudden pressure change as the blade crosses the mast can result in varying degrees of vibration.

In almost all modern designs, the "sweet spot" for the power, torque, speed equation is a three-blade turbine. Given that, a typical residential wind turbine has three blades with a propeller diameter of 2 meters and the ability to spin from 100 to 600 rpm, supplying more than 500 watts of power.

This is where the "buy components" method intersects with the "start from scratch" approach.

Starting from Scratch

Whether you are buying and interconnecting components or actually making your own turbine blades in your shop, your work will benefit from the experience of others. The Internet has been a major boon to the broad community of do-it-yourselfers who love to talk about their projects and to swap ideas.

Search online and you will find a wealth of websites -- most with photos and videos -- discussing the merits of design and chronicling failures and successes. Get to know these people. Join forums and discussion boards, read accounts of complete residential turbine installations, and don't hesitate to contact these people with questions.

It is certainly possible to build and to install your own residential turbine system. If you don't have the money to invest in commercial, turn-key solutions, but either need or want to cut your energy expenses, this may be the most viable avenue open to you. You will, however, need to educate yourself about:

- the basics of turbine design and function,

- the quality of wind at your site,

- interconnection with your local power utility,

- compliance with zoning laws, electrical codes, and HOA covenants,

- and maintenance and repair procedures for the unit you construct.

For many people, DIY wind projects are a source of great pleasure and pride. You'll enjoy every step of the process, those that go right, and those that go wrong. Other people just want someone to come in and do the work and fix everything so their electrical bill goes down. Only you can decide into which of those categories you fall. (If you want to learn more about wind turbine maintenance, continue reading.)

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3 Responses to “DIY Home Wind Power: Is It Practical To Install A Wind Turbine Yourself?”

  1. How to Buy a Residential Wind Turbine Says:

    […] Power Production Estimates in Residential Wind Turbines DIY Home Wind Power: Is It Practical To Install A Wind Turbine Yourself? […]

  2. Jackie the Dallas Handyman Says:

    Saving electricity is not just a fad. It’s a big leap to saving our resources. And one of the best thing to do it is to find and utilize whatever alternative resource we, as a part of the humanity, can get our hands on. But while there are a bunch of manuals on how to install your very own wind turbines, it’s really more of the safety issue that we’d like to focus on as well. I mean, although we can read, write and follow instructions, it’s better sure than sorry when it comes to these things. No disrespect with these people for creating such easy to do and understand manuals, but in my own perspective, it would be so much better if we just cooperate with the company or a professional to handle the installation and maintenance of these power resources.

  3. Preston Yarbrough Says:

    I have seen very good results from vertical axis wind turbines or (VAWTs). For residential usage, I much prefer my rooftop vawts over blade type wind turbines. I have 4 vawts that produce 600 watts each in relatively low wind (5 to 10 mph) and have less than $200 invested in each one. I feed any excess power back into the grid and the cost of my electric bill has been cut by about 35% to 40%. That means I have cut my electric bill by about $40 each month (it varies, but this is the average savings). So, my initial cost of $200 times 4 vawts equals $800. Since my rooftop units have been in operation for the last 19 months, I have saved about $760 on my electric bill. By next month, my vawts will have paid for themselves, and they are still working perfectly. The only drawback I have encountered is that one of my units makes a little whirring noise when the wind gets over 15 to 20 mph. Other than that, I have no complaints.

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