How to Cut Your Electric Bill by Installing Small Wind Turbines in Your Backyard
Installing small wind turbines in your backyard can significantly reduce your electricity bills. Here is a comprehensive guide on determining if small wind turbines are right for you, choosing the best turbines, installing and maintaining them properly, and optimizing their energy production.
Determining if Small Wind Turbines are Feasible
Before installing backyard wind turbines, you should evaluate if your location has adequate wind resources. Ideal conditions are:
- Your property is at least 1 acre in size. Turbines need open space.
- Annual average wind speeds are at least 10 mph at the proposed turbine height.
- Tall towers (80-140 ft) can access stronger wind above roof level turbulence.
- There are few obstructions such as trees or buildings to block the wind.
You can use the Wind Resource Map to estimate your wind speeds. You may also rent an anemometer to measure on-site wind speeds for 3-6 months.
If your site has marginal wind resources, small turbines can still offset 10-40% of your electricity usage. Prioritize energy efficiency first to reduce your overall consumption.
Choosing the Right Wind Turbine
You need to select a wind turbine properly matched to your conditions:
- Wind speeds: Turbines are optimized for low, medium or high wind sites.
- Tower height: Taller towers access faster wind speeds but are more expensive.
- Power rating: From 400 W to 10 kW, matched to your electricity usage.
- Battery storage: Allows you to store excess power when the turbine produces more than you need.
Consult with a certified installer to select the right turbine make and model. Key brands include Bergey, Endurance, and Southwest Windpower.
You can also build your own turbine using a kit or plans if you have the technical expertise.
Proper installation is crucial for functionality, longevity and safety. Here are the key steps:
- Obtain permits and meet legal requirements like height restrictions or noise ordinances.
- Select an optimal tower location considering wind direction, turbulence and zoning setbacks.
- Pour a concrete foundation for the tower base or use guy wires for support.
- Erect the tower sections using a crane or gin pole. Professional help is recommended.
- Mount the turbine and blades atop the tower according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Connect electrical wires from the turbine to your breaker panel through a disconnect switch.
Work with an experienced wind turbine installer to handle the complex and dangerous aspects of the job.
Expect to invest about 1-3% of the initial turbine cost in annual maintenance:
- Inspect guy wires and bolts for tension and corrosion.
- Check joints for wear and lubricate bearings.
- Replace damaged blade tips or lightning protection systems.
- Repair cracks, chipped paint or rust on the tower.
- Clear debris buildup around the base and clean blades.
Develop a maintenance log and schedule to ensure you don’t overlook any critical upkeep tasks.
Maximizing Energy Production
To optimize the turbine’s power output:
- Orient the turbine perpendicular to the prevailing wind direction.
- Keep anemometers calibrated and yaw controls functioning.
- Add power control electronics to operate the turbine at peak efficiency.
- Angle the blades to limit rotor speed in high winds.
- Prune nearby trees or structures creating turbulence.
- Replace batteries before they degrade and lose storage capacity.
With periodic maintenance and performance monitoring, your backyard wind turbine can provide clean power and energy bill savings for over 20 years. Proper siting, selection and installation are key to success.