Going green is trendy, better for the environment and great for the budget. Choosing sustainable materials for projects and energy-saving options to power the home helps minimize a homeowner’s carbon footprint and save money, too. Many homes are wired to operate on electricity or natural gas (for heat and certain appliances), but the utility company might not be the only source of power.
Some homeowners build their own wind turbines to generate power for the home or for other needs. If you’re curious about how to build your own wind turbine, check out these ideas and resources for this sustainable DIY project.
What is a Wind Turbine?
Wind turbines or windmills use wind or the air to generate power. They usually include a tall structure with a propeller at the top end. The wind catches the blades of the propeller, and the rotation provides energy in the form of electricity.
If you’ve taken a long road trip through Illinois, you might have noticed fields of turbines near Bloomington Normal. McLean County is the home of the Twin Groves Wind Farm, which generates enough megawatts “to power approximately 135,000 average Illinois homes.” According to the Farm’s webpage, it also saves about 700 million gallons of water a year. There are two farms, and each one features 120 turbines—so a total of 240 turbines.
The energy savings and water savings is quite significant given the number of turbines on the farm, but the savings also illustrates the impact alternative energy can have on the environment. With so many individuals across the globe lacking access to fresh water, saving every drop is imperative.
Before the Build
Building a wind turbine might not be a task for a novice, and this project might not be an option for everyone. While having an alternate source of power might save money and energy, erecting any structure in a yard could be problematic.
Before you start hunting down ideas for a turbine, check local codes and mandates first. Permits may be required for certain projects. Homeowners associations in certain states, however, don’t necessarily have to approve a project like a wind turbine that may be construed as “energy-saving improvements.” There could be stipulations, though, about the construction and/or installation of the turbine/windmill.
Permits exist as a means to audit projects and ensure that they are safe; after a permit is issued, inspectors review the project for code compliance. Some projects need to be inspected at different phases.
How Much Do You Spend?
If a homeowner is looking to build a massive wind turbine, the cost might be quite expensive. Yet, these DIY projects also can be fairly economical. One YouTuber offers a video about how they built a wind turbine for around $30.
Homeowners will have to figure out their own budgets for this DIY project. If a homeowner is looking to generate significant savings, the turbine might have to be larger in size. A small DIY turbine in the $30 range is probably not large enough to provide power for the home.
Building and Installing
For bigger projects to power the home, visit the Department of Energy’s site page titled “Installing and Maintaining a Small Wind Electric System.” Turbines might not be suitable for your home or location; remember, turbines are powered by wind and the amount of wind affects the power output.
The Department of Energy also emphasizes that homeowners need to review zoning requirements. This goes back to the need to research local municipality ordinances, codes and legalities. The Department of Energy focuses on purchased turbines, not necessarily DIY turbines. Yet, the same rules would still apply.
Installation is addressed, too. And, again, the questions outlined by the DoE illustrate how this project might not be suitable for every homeowner. Those who opt for self-installation should be familiar with: AC and DC currents and their wiring, how to pour a concrete foundation, how to safely lift the turbine (installing it upright), battery knowledge (handling/installing) and other electrical wiring capabilities.
What if you don’t have this background? The Department of Energy recommends choosing a professional installer. In addition, if you aren’t familiar with electrical components or other necessary features of turbines, then this probably isn’t the best DIY project.
How Much Energy Can You Save?
Savings can vary. The Department of Energy states that electricity cost savings could be minimal or quite significant…up to 100 percent. Again, the amount of wind affects the savings. And other factors do as well. And a small turbine isn’t going to be large enough to power the whole home, so don’t expect to invest under $50 to save 100 percent on energy costs.
Is a DIY wind turbine the right project for your home? Research all the details, set a budget and, most importantly, determine if you have the electrical and DIY know-how to make your wind turbine a reality.