Wind power is one of the most popular forms of renewable energy, and in some parts of the country, you can drive by huge fields of turbines with their fanlike blades. Home wind turbines, like solar panels, capture energy and help lower your electricity bill. But can this clean fuel source actually power your entire house? And if so, at what cost?
How do home wind turbines work?
If you’ve ever seen a wind farm, you already have a general idea of what the turbines look like when they’re operating. But how exactly do they work?
“They convert the kinetic energy in wind into mechanical power, which in turn is used to run a generator that makes electricity for the home,” says Dan DiClerico, a home expert at HomeAdvisor. The turbine’s long, narrow blades are aerodynamically designed to capture the maximum energy from the wind.
“As the blades rotate, they turn a shaft that is connected to a generator, which produces electricity that is delivered directly to the home,” he explains.
Are home wind turbines practical?
Residential wind turbines are a good option if you live in an area with consistent wind flow—but not gale-force winds, which would cause the National Weather Service to issue a wind advisory.
“Wind turbines operate within a range of wind speeds, below which they do not produce power and above which they will cut out to protect themselves from damage,” says Michael Ginsberg, author of “Harness It: Renewable Energy Technologies and Project Development Models Transforming the Grid.”
So, what’s a good wind speed range? Typically, 8 to 55 mph.
“The rated power output of the wind turbine is based on the rated speed, usually 25 mph to 35 mph,” Ginsberg says.
Location matters when installing a wind turbine
If you live in a crowded residential area where the wind rarely blows, wind turbines are probably not a good idea. DiClerico says the strongest breezes are usually on the coast, along ridge lines, and on the open plains. But there are other location-specific requirements as well.
“Your home needs to be on a lot that’s at least 1 acre in size,” he says. If it’s smaller than that, the wind turbine could interfere with your neighbor’s property.
“Even if your lot is large enough, local zoning codes and covenants must permit wind turbines,” he says. And if you live in—or are considering living in—a homeowners association, DiClerico says many HOAs and suburban communities won’t allow residential wind turbines.
“For all these reasons, wind turbines are most common in rural areas, where the winds blow fast and frequent, neighbors are scarce, and few codes and covenants apply,” he says.
How much does a home wind turbine cost?
If your home meets all of the requirements, using a wind turbine could result in substantial savings on your utility bill. However, the upfront costs are high, so it will take a while to recoup your investment.
“The average cost of a residential wind turbine is around $10,000 per kilowatt installed,” DiClerico says, and most homes would need a turbine sized between 5kW and 15kW to be fully powered. So your installation costs could range between $50,000 and $150,000.
Even with federal tax credits to help offset some of what you spend, don’t hold your breath waiting to see a return on your investment.
“That’s why a lot of people end up installing a smaller, less expensive turbine to power specific items, like a charging battery for a sailboat, golf cart, or recreational vehicle,” DiClerico says.
Is a home wind turbine a smart investment?
For homeowners who plan on staying put for a while, a wind turbine in your yard could be a good idea.
According to Ginsberg, residential wind turbines cost about $5.50 per watt.
For a 10kW turbine that reaps 17,520 kilowatt-hours per year in energy, the cost would be $55,000. If your electricity costs 11 cents per 1kWh—which is the average in the U.S.—you would save $1,927 per year and take 28.5 years to recoup the cost of the investment, he explains.
If electricity costs 20 cents per kilowatt-hour, as in California, that would be $3,504 in savings per year, and it would take 15.6 years to recoup the cost of the investment.
Home wind turbines vs. solar panels
While rooftop solar panels aren’t cheap, DiClerico says they’re more affordable than wind turbines.
“According to HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide, solar panels have a national average installation cost of $23,000,” he says. With tax credits, you can recoup your costs much sooner.
With the well-documented price decline of residential solar panels and wind turbines, Ginsberg recommends outfitting a house with a combination of the two energy-harnessing systemsOriginal Article