Science Energy Is a Home Wind Turbine Right for You? By Katherine Gallagher Katherine Gallagher Writer Chapman University Katherine Gallagher is a writer and sustainability expert. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Chapman University and a Sustainable Tourism certificate from the GSTC. Learn about our editorial process Updated December 15, 2022 Share Twitter Pinterest Email Ralph125 / Getty Images Energy Renewable Energy Fossil Fuels In This Article Expand What Is a Home Wind Turbine? Is a Home Wind Turbine Right for Me? Other Options for Green Energy Frequently Asked Questions Home wind turbines are a smaller version of the large turbines you see on the side of the highway generating clean electrical energy from the wind’s kinetic energy. While commercial wind farms use machines whose blades can create a diameter of 130 feet—about as long as a football field—a home system is much more condensed. If your area is windy enough enough, home wind turbines can help lower electricity bills by as much as 50-90% and provide an uninterrupted power source through extended utility outages—all with zero emissions and pollution. Not only are they one of the most cost-effective home-based renewable energy systems, home turbines can be used for other applications such as pumping water for irrigation, which can be helpful in farms or ranches. What Is a Home Wind Turbine? A wind turbine has a blade, a pole, and a generator. The blade works a bit like an airplane wing: as blowing air passes by both sides of the blade, its unique shape causes the wind pressure to become uneven, making the blade spin. This is where technology surpasses the traditional windmill. A weather vane on the top connects to a computer to keep the machine positioned to run as efficiently as possible. The blades only turn about 18 revolutions per minute—not fast enough to generate electricity on its own—so they are attached to a rotor shaft and a series of gears that help increase the rotation to about 1,800 revolutions per minute. Since the higher up you go, the windier it is as a general rule of thumb, so larger turbines can pack a hefty punch when it comes to energy generation. Smaller properties that only need to power residential homes or small businesses may benefit from a small wind turbine, especially in rural areas that are not already connected to an energy grid (though home wind systems can also connect to an existing electric grid through your power provider). Is a Home Wind Turbine Right for Me? Home wind turbines require a specific kind of planning and maintenance to be successful and a significant upfront investment. Home wind turbines should be installed by a qualified professional, and are not a DIY job. Most importantly, you’ll need to find out if small wind electric systems are even allowed in your area. Potential buyers should estimate their site’s wind resource and research potential neighborhood zoning issues. You'll want to consider monthly electrical usage, the rate you pay for electricity, and the amount of energy the wind turbine is estimated to generate. It's also a good idea to compare the installation of home wind generation with other clean energy options, like rooftop solar and efficiency upgrades, to make sure you're getting the best value for your investment. Check Out Your Property Start by contacting your local building inspector, your board of supervisors, or your planning board—they’ll be able to give you information on requirements and whether or not you’ll need a building permit. If you have neighbors or a homeowners association, they may be concerned about the noise level or aesthetics of a wind turbine, as well, so be prepared with objective data in order to address these issues. Information like height limits (a majority of zoning ordinances have a 35-foot height limit for structures) will come in handy while shopping around for home turbines. According to the United States Energy Department, most residential turbines have a sound level that is just slightly above ambient wind noise, and “while the sound of the wind turbine may be picked out of surrounding noise if a conscious effort is made to hear it, a residential-sized wind turbine is not a significant source of noise under most wind conditions.” Estimate Your Wind Resources Local terrain influences wind levels more than most of us realize. Just because it feels windy in one spot doesn’t mean an area a few miles away is just as blustery. A great place to start your research is a wind resource map, available on the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy website and organized by state. You can also consult wind speed data from a nearby airport or see if there is a local small wind system with annual output and wind speed data available. For the most accurate measurement, direct monitoring by a professional wind resource system at your site can take readings at the specific elevation on the top of the tower where the wind turbine would be installed. These are pricey, however, and may cost between $600 and $1,200. Do the Math Find out if a home wind energy system is economically viable by taking a look at your current electrical costs and compare them to the overall cost of things like installation, output, savings, and your return on investment. Use the Department of Energy’s small wind consumer guides to help estimate the costs of purchasing the machine, how much you stand to save by making the switch, and how long it will take to regain your capital investment. A professional home turbine installer should be able to help estimate your costs as well. The costs to install a free-standing home wind turbine vary depending on the location, output, and size of the machine. In the San Francisco area, for example, a small wind system can cost anywhere between $5,000 and $40,000 depending on the kW size. A standard single-family home in the region uses just over 5,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, which would require a turbine in the 1-5 kilowatt range. Other Options for Green Energy If your home or property isn't wind-friendly, there are other options to get clean energy. Solar panels are the most popular home-based technology for clean energy, and there may be tax incentives to offset the cost of installation. Hybrid solar and wind systems are gaining momentum in the United States. Treehugger has a guide to the best solar panel installation companies to help make the process easier. Another option for some properties is geothermal heat pumps. Dandelion is one company that offers homeowners geothermal heating and cooling solutions, and currently operates in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. If your home is not suitable for either wind or solar, it may still be possible to switch to clean energy via your utility. You can contact your utility company and ask if there are any renewable or clean energy options available. If you live in an area with competitive electricity markets, you may be able to switch to an energy provider or electric utility company that uses clean energy, such as Green Mountain Power. Usually switching to one of these programs does mean paying a small additional premium, but this extra cost helps pay for building more clean energy resources. Frequently Asked Questions How much is a residential wind turbine? Expect to pay $4,000 to $8,000 per rate kilowatt. The average residential wind turbine system, without incentives, costs about $50,000, but less comprehensive options exist. How many wind turbines do you need to power a house? The average American house uses about 900 kWh of electricity per month. In a location that gets an average wind speed of 14 mph, three 1.5-kW wind turbines would be needed to power the average house. Is there a tax credit for wind turbines? Yes, the federal government provides tax credits for installing residential wind turbines. The Production Tax Credit provides $0.01 to $0.02 per kWh for the first 10 years. Up-to-date information on tax credits and incentives can be found at WINDExchange.energy.gov. View Article Sources "Planning a Small Wind Electric System." U.S. Department of Energy. "Buying a Small Wind Turbine, a Consumer Guide and FAQ." SF Environment. Energy Saver. “Buying Clean Electricity.” U.S. Department of Energy. "How much electricity does an American home use?" U.S. Energy Information Administration. 2021.