Wind Power for Homes: 10 Essential Tips

Planning wind power for homes can be complex so here are 10 essential tips to get you started on the right track.

1. Do a wind power design assessment first (see below)

A full assessment will determine how much energy the property currently requires, how much it costs, what is the capacity of the wind resource there is, whether there is a location for a tower, the cost of a suitable system, cost of installation and maintenance and in the end, whether there will be a benefit in residential wind power.

2. Buy a complete system

Some people gather and purchase different components as they see bargains, find them for sale in the classified or mix and try to match in their quest for a complete system. This is not advisable due to the possibility of mis- match, incompatability and warranty difficulties. A complete wind power for homes system will compliment itself, componentry be much easier to setup, and easily pay for itself in the end. Remember, there are no 'minor' components of a residential wind power system.

3. Tall towers are essential

Fact is, wind speed increase as you move away from the earth. To get over 8 kph/5 mph wind speed a tall tower is required, especially in residential or semi rural areas, where there are obsticles such as trees. For instance, as a guide, estimate the mature height of the trees on the property and add 10 meters / 30 feet. Or be content with a 30 yr+ payback.

4. Feel out your neighbour

"Not in my backyard"... or the neighbours. There is noise produced by residential wind power, loved by owners of the system, as it means 'power' being produced, loathed by neighbours who believe it to be irritating. It also appears neighbours believe wind power systems to be an eyesore and bring down property values. Make sure you quietly raise the issue before investing any time and especially money in a wind project.

Wind power for homes

5. Use experts to install your system

Have you built a tower before, laid tower foundations, assembled a turbine or wired one up? The best system can reduce you to tears if it is poorly installed. Residential wind power towers need to be expertly constructed, electricians must install the wiring and get it fully checked before the rotor turns one rotation in anger.

6. Reduce your load

There are many ways to minimise the energy use of the property, before embarking on wind power for homes. if the load is lowered, the system can be smaller or produce more than first thought. Eliminating phantom loads, replacing older appliances, lowering water heater settings, installing energy star lighting, installing attic insulation, applying reflective paint to the roof ect will all help reduce the load.

7. Use quality equipment

Super reliable equipment is the base level here. The turbine can be spinning night and day for decades. It needs to be the best you can buy, and a little bit more. Efficiency will beat cost every time in this game so talk to every product salesman available and research till it hurts.

8. Be realistic

A small setup with a 1kw turbine on a short tower is a hobbyist venture. To get a payback, you need a large rotor, tall tower and very few property obstacles. By payback I mean a return on the investment that pays off within a decade. Wind power for homes is much more expensive per KW than solar power so a wind power design assessment is imperative.

9. Maintain the system

To keep a rotor spinning and generating power, good maintenance is imperative. Once a year you need to inspect and service the turbine mechanism, the tower fasteners, wiring and its insulation and for signs of vermin or corrosion.

10. Maintain safety

There are many hazards to installing and operating a wind power turbine. Using an experienced crew will reduce the hazards, but good communication is the key. Working at height presents many risks and using cranes, ladders, cherry pickers or climbing gear, can cause injury or death. Spinning and yawing turbines can surprise a maintenance worker, electrical shock hazards are at all points of the device, batteries can explode and are corrosive. Lastly, ensure the system has an easy disconnection system, overload / over-current cut out device and effective grounding.

Careful wind power design to create wind electricity on a property can change a virtual money pit into a sustainable operation.

Residential wind energy has a capital cost that is initially daunting, and many false promises are made by sales people in the industry, not to mention ongoing maintenance. 

And if the design is wrong, that cost can be a burden. Investigation and planning are the key as with most investments.

There are 6 basic conclusions to be made before initiating the design of a wind power operation.

  1. The home is energy efficient
  2. The property has permission to install a wind turbine tower
  3. The property has space for a tower
  4. The property has a good wind resource
  5. The property owner has finances to commit to capital costs and maintenance
  6. The property owner has a long term outcome mindset

Wind Power Design Plan: Elements

Carry Out an Energy Assessment of the Property

  • Existing KW Hours the property uses
  • Amount the property was charged per KW
  • What is using the energy, and in what amounts

Describe the Goals of Creating Wind Energy

  • Lower property environmental impacts
  • Save property owner money
  • Long term investment

Understand the Property's Relationship and Access to the Grid

  • Existing and reliable connection
  • Off grid but potential to connect
  • Off grid and no access

Evaluate alternate energy options

  • Solar arrays
  • Solar water heating
  • Natural gas
  • Wood heating

Cost Options to Increase Existing Energy Use Efficiency

  • Passive solar enhancements
  • Insulation and double glazing
  • Utilise off peak time zones

Determine Potential Tower Sites

  • Assess property wind energy potential
  • Map land gradients and obstacles 
  • Determine wind speed averages at height

Design a Suitable System

  • Select tower, rotor and generator assembly
  • Select electronic components: inverter, grid interface
  • Select storage components and or backup generator

Cost the Selected System

  • Capital / component costs
  • Investigate incentives: subsidies, bonuses, discounts, renewable energy certificates
  • Quotes for installation
  • Estimated cost of maintenance, component guarantee and replacement

Determine Efficiency and Payback of the Potential System

  • Total cost of componentry and on-costs
  • Utility net / payback schemes
  • Cost of finance

Reference: Wind Power For Dummies, Ian Woofenden

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