Is a Small Wind Turbine Right For Your Home?
Wind turbines have been around for centuries but their massive size has made it nearly impossible for regular homeowners to bring this technology to their homes. Today, however, you can choose from small to micro wind turbines to power your home. The question now is whether a wind turbine is right for you. Before you jump on the next small wind turbine you see you’ll need to first consider a few things.
What is your main purpose for a wind turbine?
Are you looking to generate a little extra electricity or are you planning to go completely off-the-grid? What you want out of your wind turbine will affect the type and size you need to purchase. To create enough energy to power a typical Canadian home, the turbine would need to generate a minimum of 5 kilowatts. This will require a turbine that has a diameter of 18 feet! If you live in the city or suburbs it’s probably a better idea to see if your or other service providers offer green electrical power.
If you want to reduce your electricity bill or have a backup power source, a micro wind turbine might be a better option. While these don’t have the ability to create enough energy for your entire house, they can create up to 1.2kW of electricity depending on how windy it is. Plus many of these turbines work right out of the box. In addition, if there isn’t any wind on a particular day, you are still connected to the grid so you won’t experience any lapse in power. The best part of this is if you produce more energy than you use, you will receive money from your utilities company.
For those that want to completely get off the grid there are still small wind turbines you can purchase. It’ll end up costing more than $50,000 in some cases as you’ll not only need to buy the turbines but a battery system as well for energy storage. With that said there might be some rebate or tax credit programs available in your area.
Do You Have the Right Location?
To get the most out of your turbine, you should have at least 4, 407 square meters and winds that can reach at least 16 Km/hr. You can check your average wind speed at your nearest airport or find a wind map for your area. For best results, the turbine should be located on a relatively clear field so trees or buildings do not block access to the wind. As well, it should be located on tall tower that is somewhere between 80-100 feet tall. This is because wind speeds increase with height. While you can produce electricity on shorter towers, it’s likely the turbines will not be as efficient.
Knowing the minimum requirements for land size and height is only half the battle. You also need to make sure the wind turbine of your dreams clears local zoning codes and your Home Owner’s Association requirements. This might mean you cannot install a wind turbine at all so before you make a purchase check with your regulatory officials first.
Of course, even if you can’t install a larger turbine or you live somewhere without steady winds, you might be able to supplement the power you do produce with solar energy. Most renewable energy experts actually suggest a hybrid system as it provides more security than depending solely on one kind. Again, installation of solar panels will have to align with zoning codes, so make sure you do your homework.
How Will You Maintain the Turbine?
As with any other machine you need to maintain it in order to keep it running efficiently. While wind turbines are fairly rugged they do require routine inspections every year to make sure everything works properly. In general a professional installer or technician from the manufacturer will physically check the turbine, though nowadays there are many that can be inspected remotely. While these routine inspections are free, actual upkeep, repairs and replacements will cost you money, especially if you hire a professional.
You can opt to do all the maintenance yourself, but you should make sure you know how to spot issues. Things like broken blades are obvious signs something is wrong but you might not notice small rust spots or dents if you’re not looking properly. If you plan to go the self-maintenance route, you should choose a tilt-down turbine versus one that will require you to work on it while 80 feet in the air.
Should You Get a Small Wind Turbine?
The most important question, of course, is whether you actually want to install a wind turbine or not. While these might not be as expensive to install as solar panels, there are some downsides to having one in your backyard such as:
- Being in the path of migratory birds
- Expensive initial investment costs
- Neighbor and HOA complaints
- Repair costs if damaged during storms
- Not 100 percent reliable
Before making your purchase, be sure to do all of your research. Check up on the different manufacturers in your area, certifications associated with the particular model you want, find rebates that can help lower the initial costs, read reviews on the turbine and company and compare prices. More importantly, don’t be afraid to ask questions when making your purchase. Some good questions to ask are:
- What is the energy output in kWh of the turbine in one year with wind speeds of 16 km/h? Is this field data or wind tunnel tests?
- What is the warranty length and coverage?
- Has the turbine gone through reliability tests?
- What problems have other customers encountered?
- Can you refer me to customers who have had this turbine for a long period of time?
- How long has this model been available to the public?
The more information you have, the better your chances of making a wise investment.