Wind has become one of the most commonly harnessed sources of alternative power—and for good reason. Small wind turbines use the wind to create power for your home, lowering your electric bills along with your carbon footprint. For a homeowner willing and able to make the investment, a small wind turbine system can really live up to the hype.

Why Wind?

Wind power use in the United States is spreading like never before. A small wind turbine produces no air or water pollution, and though installation may be costly, small wind turbines cost very little to maintain after installation and cut down on utility bills. It’s even possible for homeowners to receive utility bill credits if their wind-powered systems produce excess energy that feeds back into the electric grid; additionally, the federal government offers tax credits worth up to 30 percent of the system’s value to homeowners who purchase and install small wind systems. Wind energy can be especially beneficial to homeowners who live in remote areas, because in many cases, installing and taking advantage of wind energy can be more cost-effective than having a utility company extend power lines to a remotely located home.

From Wind to Power

Small wind turbines aren’t really that small—in fact, to be most effective, small wind turbines should be taller than the average telephone pole. The basic design of a wind turbine includes a set of rotor blades and a generator attached to the top of a tower along with necessary wiring. The movement of the wind causes the rotor blades of a wind turbine to turn, which in turn spins a shaft that supplies the rotary motion necessary to power the attached generator; the generator is what converts the energy of that movement into electricity for your home. Generally speaking, small wind systems with larger rotor blades and higher towers are more cost-effective over time and will produce more energy, but they are often more expensive.

Small Wind Turbines for Your Home

In order to determine what size and type of small wind turbine system is best for you, you’ll need to do your homework. It’s best to check out wind maps of your area to get an idea of how much wind you experience around your home, and keep in mind how much electricity you use. You can use these figures to decide whether a small wind turbine will be cost-effective for you. Manufacturers and installers of small wind turbines will often be glad to work with you to settle on an energy budget and determine what kind of small wind turbine is the best fit for your home.

With careful planning, small wind turbines make great long-term investments and clean, efficient sources of energy. However, the average small wind system may not be ideal for every homeowner. Here are a few things to bear in mind if you’re thinking of installing a small wind system:

  • According to the Department of Energy, small wind turbines are most likely to be cost-efficient when installed on properties that are at least one acre in size.

  • Some neighborhoods have instated zoning restrictions that prohibit homeowners from installing structures that exceed a certain height. Before you install a small wind turbine, make sure your neighborhood will allow you to do so.

  • Remember to consult your power usage and local wind maps. If where you live isn’t consistently windy enough, or if your home uses enough electricity that a small wind turbine in your price range would not make a significant change in your utility bills, home wind power may not be best for you.

A small wind turbine is a big investment, but in the right home, the payoffs of lower utility costs and clean energy will benefit both you and the environment. Getting in touch with a knowledgeable, reputable clean energy contractor will help you find the most efficient and cost-effective small wind system for you.

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Sources: DoItYourself; Mother Earth News; US Department of Energy; Wind Energy Foundation.