How to Make Your Own Backyard Wind Turbine on a Budget

How to Make Your Own Backyard Wind Turbine on a Budget

Making your own backyard wind turbine can be an exciting and rewarding project. With some planning and DIY skills, you can build an efficient and cost-effective renewable energy system to help power your home. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to make your own wind turbine on a budget.

Choosing the Right Location

The first step is choosing the right location to install your wind turbine. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Wind Speed – Look for an elevated, open area with consistent wind speeds of at least 10 mph. The higher and more consistent the winds, the more energy your turbine can generate.

  • Local Zoning Laws – Check your local zoning laws and homeowners association rules to ensure wind turbines are permitted. Obtain any necessary permits before installation.

  • Proximity to Home – Locate the turbine as close as possible to where the energy will be used to minimize transmission losses. Most experts recommend within 300 feet.

  • Clearance – Ensure there are no obstructions such as trees or buildings within 300 feet upwind or 100 feet downwind of the turbine site.

  • Accessibility – Choose a site that allows easy access for maintenance and repairs.

Selecting the Right Turbine Design

Once you’ve identified the ideal location, the next step is selecting the right turbine design. Here are some popular options:

Savonius Vertical Axis Wind Turbine

  • A simple drag-based vertical design that accepts wind from any direction.

  • Easy and inexpensive to build from 55 gallon drums or other recycled materials.

  • Lower efficiency than lift-based horizontal axis turbines.

Darrieus Vertical Axis Wind Turbine

  • Lift-based vertical design with good efficiency.

  • More challenging to build than Savonius but still relatively simple.

  • Accepts wind from any direction.

Three Blade Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine

  • Most efficient lift-based design but requires orienting into the wind.

  • More complex to build than vertical axis options.

  • Can be scaled to different sizes depending on your power needs.

For a backyard DIY project, a vertical axis design like Savonius or Darrieus is likely the best option. They accept wind from any direction and are simple to build and maintain.

Sourcing Materials and Components

Here are some tips for sourcing turbine materials and components affordably:

  • Use recycled and repurposed materials like PVC pipe, steel drums, wood pallets, and even bike parts. Get creative!

  • Check online classifieds like Craigslist and eBay for used wind turbine parts and materials.

  • Shop at salvage and surplus stores for things like electrical components, bearings, bolts, and metal bits.

  • Buy directly from manufacturers for blades, generators, and hubs when possible.

  • Make your own blades using inexpensive wood, PVC, or even cardboard/plastic sheets.

Avoid the high costs of pre-made wind turbine kits and instead source materials affordably to meet your specific design needs.

Key Components You’ll Need

These are the main components required for a functional DIY wind turbine:

  • Blades – Most designs utilize 3 or more blades to capture wind energy. Wood or PVC work well for DIY options.

  • Generator or Alternator – Converts the rotational energy into usable electricity. Can be scrapped from an old car.

  • Frame – Houses the generating components. Can be made from wood, PVC, or metal tubing.

  • Bearings – Allow smooth rotation of turbine. Scrap steel or skateboard bearings work well.

  • Pole/Tower – Elevates turbine high enough to reach good wind speeds. Galvanized steel recommended.

  • Batteries – Store the generated electricity. Deep cycle marine batteries are a good affordable option.

  • Inverter – Converts power from DC to AC for household use. A 600W inverter should suffice for small systems.

  • Wiring and Cables – Transmits power from turbine to batteries and inverter. Use 10-12 gauge electrical wire.

  • Dump Load – Safely dissipates excess power by converting it to heat. A space heater or water heater element will work.

Key Steps for Assembly and Installation

Follow these key steps to assemble your wind turbine and get it up and running:

1. Build the Turbine Frame and Mount the Bearings

Construct a sturdy frame that will house all the components using your chosen materials. Mount high quality bearings like skateboard bearings on the axle to reduce friction.

2. Add the Blades and Connect them to the Generator/Alternator

Attach 3 or more blades to hub of the rotor. Then connect the rotor to the shaft of the generator/alternator.

3. Mount the Turbine Head on the Tower/Pole

Attach the turbine head assembly containing the blades, generator, frame, and bearings on top of your tower/pole. Use very secure fittings.

4. Wire up the Components and Connect to Batteries

Run wiring from the generator down the tower to your batteries and dump load. Connect inverter between batteries and household wiring.

5. Raise the Turbine and Test Rotation

Hoist the turbine up on its tower. With proper bearings and balance it should spin easily. Troubleshoot any issues.

6. Connect to Household Wiring and Monitor Output

With proper dump load and inverter setup, you can now carefully connect your wind turbine to household wiring and monitor the power output.

Take your time assembling all components safely. Don’t connect to household wiring until everything is tested and running properly.

Maintaining Your Wind Turbine

To keep your wind turbine operating efficiently for years to come, follow these maintenance best practices:

  • Inspect bolts, connections, and moving parts for wear at least twice per year. Replace any deteriorated components.

  • Check blade condition and look for cracking, chipping, or defects. Repair or replace damaged blades promptly.

  • Lubricate bearings with appropriate oil or grease at least annually to prevent rust and reduce wear.

  • Check electrical systems including inverter, dump load, connections, and wiring for problems. Perform repairs as needed.

  • Test generator/alternator annually. Replace brushes and bearings as required.

  • Monitor power output frequently. Decreased output could indicate a maintenance issue.

Take a proactive approach to maintenance. Following a schedule will prevent most major repairs or turbine failures.

Safety Considerations

Building and operating your own wind turbine does come with some safety risks. Follow these precautions:

  • Have structural components like the tower professionally engineered to handle expected wind loads in your area.

  • Use guy wires anchored in concrete to provide extra support in holding up the tower.

  • Electrical safety gear like insulated gloves and protection for all connections is a must when wiring.

  • Restrict access around the turbine to avoid blade contact injuries. Post warning signs.

  • Lower the turbine in high wind conditions to avoid damage.

  • Disconnect batteries and wiring when performing maintenance to avoid shocks.

With proper design, installation, operation, and maintenance your homemade wind turbine can safely provide renewable power for your home for years to come! Let me know if you need any clarification or have additional questions.