Domestic wind turbines

Installing your own wind turbine can help to cut your carbon footprint and save you money on your energy bills. But how do domestic wind turbines work, and would a turbine be suitable for where you live? Find out more about harnessing wind to power your home.

Installing your own wind turbine can help to cut your carbon footprint and save you money on your energy bills. But how do domestic wind turbines work, and would a turbine be suitable for where you live? Find out more about harnessing wind to power your home.

Sofia Hutson
From the Energy team
minute read
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Posted 15 DECEMBER 2020

What is a domestic wind turbine?

Like the wind turbines you see in the UK off the coast or in the countryside, domestic wind turbines have blades that are rotated by the wind to generate electricity. As you’d expect, home wind turbines are much smaller than commercial ones, but they can still generate green energy for your household.

There are two main types of small wind turbine for homes in the UK – roof-mounted and pole-mounted.

  • Roof-mounted turbines are, unsurprisingly, installed on the roof of your home and feed electricity directly to your property. Rooftop wind turbines are the cheapest type to install but they tend to be less efficient than pole-mounted varieties, and you need enough wind power to make them cost-effective. They’re typically around 1kW or 2kW in size. This may not meet a household’s entire consumption needs, but can be paired with a solar power array if you want to go completely green.
  • Pole-mounted turbines are freestanding, like the ones you see in fields. Ideally, you position them on a hilltop or other raised site. They cost more to install than rooftop wind turbines but generally produce more energy because they have more capacity. They’re usually around 5kW or 6kW in size.

Is a domestic wind turbine suitable for my home?

The truth is, not many homes in the UK will be the right setting for a domestic wind turbine as they’re best suited to high-up, open spaces in the countryside or by the coast. If you’re thinking of installing a home wind turbine, the main points to think about include:

  • Wind speed in your area – a household wind turbine generally requires a wind speed of at least five metres per second. To find out if you’ve got a sufficiently breezy spot, you can install a wind gauge for a few months to see the average speed in your area. That way, you’ll have a better idea of whether a wind turbine for your home would be financially viable. Roof turbines in a built-up area can be inefficient as the wind at roof height is extremely turbulent.
  • wind turbine location – finding the right spot around your home is key to determining how cost-effective your wind turbine will be. Try to mount your turbine as high as you can, away from obstructions caused by trees and other buildings, which can hamper the strength of the wind
  • vibrations – there is a potential for noise and vibration from the turbine that some people find disturbing.

You may be able to install a wind turbine under the permitted development planning rules. But no part, including the blades, of a building-mounted wind turbine should be more than three metres above the highest part of the roof (excluding the chimney). Nor can they have an overall height (including building, hub and blade) of 15 metres, whichever is the lesser. 

How much does a domestic wind turbine cost to install?

It’s tricky to put an accurate figure on it as the cost of a domestic wind turbine largely depends on its size, type and location. Prices can range from £2,000 for a small roof-mounted turbine to £30,000 for a large freestanding one. You may want to add batteries to store power for calm days.

The good thing is that wind doesn’t cost you anything, so once you’re up and running, you can say goodbye to sky-high electricity bills – as long as your turbine generates enough energy to power your home. You’ll just need to budget for maintenance costs, as well as any parts that may need replacing over time, such as batteries or the inverter (that helps to convert the wind to electricity).

It’s worth getting a few quotes from reputable MCS-accredited installers and carefully considering the merits of each. MCS is a standards body that certifies quality standards for low-carbon products, used to produce electricity and heat from renewable sources and their installers and installations.

The outlay for wind turbines can be higher than other renewable energy sources such as photovoltaic (PV) solar power to generate similar amounts of energy. You’ll need to compare and weigh up your options regarding what is affordable and right for your situation.

Cash incentives for installing wind turbines

While there aren’t any government grants to help with upfront installation costs, wind turbines are eligible for the Smart Export Guarantee. This initiative came into force at the start of 2020 to replace the Feed-in-Tariff scheme. It means you can get paid for any excess energy your wind turbine generates, which is fed back to the national grid.

Eventually, you could recover the installation costs of your household wind turbine and start making a profit, although this will take some time.

Wind turbine vs solar panels – which is best?

Installing a wind turbine is a big decision, so you need to be sure it will be worth your while. Before you bite the bullet, it’s sensible to look into other renewable energy options, such as solar panels.

The main thing to think about when comparing wind against solar energy is where you live. Wind turbines can be beneficial if your home is in a rural or coastal area, as they have the potential to produce more electricity than solar power. But if you live in a town or city, solar panels tend to be a more practical option and need less maintenance – plus, they’re less visible.

The weather is a factor too. Solar panels won’t work at night or on cloudy days, and wind turbines only generate electricity when it’s gusty.

Both options substantially reduce air pollution, although solar panels release slightly more CO2 than wind turbines. So, as you can see, there’s a lot to weigh up if you’re thinking of going green.

Find out more about renewable energy.

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