When one thinks of a home wind turbine, what most probably comes to mind is a gigantic tower with jumbo-jet sized spinning blades. But, with everyone becoming more aware of conserving energy, the technology has advanced so much that it is now possible to have your own small-scale wind turbine at home. Even better is the opportunity for us to make our own, without having to rely on the professionals.
So, how does a home wind turbine make power?
A home wind turbine makes power by spinning a generator. The generator is attached to the rotor, made up of three aerodynamic blades, that is then attached to a tower. To keep the turbine facing the wind, the rotor has a tail, that acts as a weather vain.
The generator is basically an electric motor. As the coils in the motor spin past the magnets, an electric current is produced. The power produced is stored in batteries, which are connected to an inverter to change the direct current to alternating current, which can then be used to power your home. The advancement of motor efficiency, is the reason wind turbines have become so popular for home use.
Depending on your area's wind conditions, the tower can vary in length. If you live near the sea where it is windy, the tower can be shorter, but in low-wind areas the tower needs to be taller to catch as much wind possible.
Over time the blades have improved drastically as researchers developed lighter, stronger, more efficient blades, with the capability of turning even in the lightest breeze. Back in the day, wind turbines had five blades, and looked similar to windmill water pumps, but recently they have moved to three blades, taking the form of over-sized airplane rotors. Like the tower, the blades vary in size, according to your wind conditions and energy requirements.
While so far we have been explaining the typical horizontal axis wind turbine, there is another design that is starting to gain popularity for small-scale projects. It is the vertical axis wind turbine or VAWT. Very different to the standard horizontal axis turbine, the VAWT spins on a vertical axis, and almost looks like a waterwheel put on its side. Since the VAWT tends to operate low to ground, it needs far more wind to make it turn efficiently, so it is not the ideal option for homeowners or small businesses. The VAWT has also been accused by ecologists of interrupting and harming various migratory birds, making it less attractive for green enthusiasts.
Before going out and installing a wind turbine, it is best to ask yourself the following questions:
- How big is the property?
Wind turbines generally operate better in large areas that cover an acre. This is because wind flow is not deflected by any nearby buildings.
- What is the average wind speed?
The recommended wind speed should be at least eleven miles per hour, but if that isn't the case then you may have to use a taller tower and larger blades to catch higher altitude winds.
- What else can I use the wind turbine for?
If you could use the turbine for other purposes, such as pumping in water from outside, then it may be useful than you think. This is the reason you see so many windmills scattered over farms - they help pump water from reservoirs to the farmhouse.
- Does my house need a constant power supply?
This is why so many people want to get a small wind turbine in the first place - to keep the house powered during blackouts, and prevent economic losses. Although the wind turbine may not power the house all the time, it's stored power can be used in emergencies, when the utilities are just not enough.
Answering these questions will give you a good idea of how much power you need, how big the tower a blades need to be, and how much it would be worth investing to start making your own power at home.
The great thing about technology is that it is always improving. So much so that motors have become smaller, efficient and cheap enough for us to attach a few small turbines right on the roof, and produce the same power as a larger turbine on a tall tower.
Although professional home wind turbines can run into several thousands of dollars, it is possible to make your own for a tenth of the price, with components found at home and your local hardware store. Furthermore, the U.S. offers both state and federal tax credits that you can use to offset the installation cost. So not only will you reduce your electricity bill, but also your tax at the same time.
Tim McDonald and his wife have been living off the grid since June 2008. If you want to learn to make your own home wind turbine, get off the grid and save thousands on your electricity bills, then try Earth4Energy for free before you start any renewable energy project.
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