Installing a wind turbine
Home wind turbines
Article 2 of 2
Home wind turbines
What you need to know about having a wind turbine installed at your home, including the types of domestic wind turbines and wind turbine costs.
Read on to find out more about home wind turbines, including whether you can earn money by generating your own wind energy and whether a wind turbine is suitable for your home.
You can also find out what happened when we installed our own wind turbine.
If you already know that you want to install a wind turbine, scroll down to see our checklist of essential steps, including wind speed and planning permission.
What size of wind turbine to power a house?
There are two types of home wind turbine: roof-mounted and freestanding mast or pole-mounted wind turbines.
Home wind turbines come in a range of sizes, prices and powers, generating from less than 100W to around 50kW. Smaller micro-turbines are often used to charge batteries, while those of 600W upwards can also be used to generate electricity for homes and businesses.
- Rooftop models generate between 0.5kW and 2.5kW
- Pole-mounted domestic turbines generate about 5kW to 6kW
Home wind turbines can either be connected to the National Grid or stand alone, storing the wind energy they produce in a battery. Read more about batteries in our advice on home energy storage.
How much does a wind turbine cost for your home?
As an indication, the Energy Saving Trust (EST) estimates that domestic wind turbines (including installation and VAT) cost:
- Up to £3,000 for a roof-mounted 1kW micro-turbine
- Between £9,900 and £19,000 for a 2.5kW pole-mounted wind turbine
- Between £21,000 and £30,000 for a 6kW pole-mounted wind turbine.
Although roof-mounted micro-turbines are cheaper, they are also less efficient and produce a lot less electricity than pole-mounted ones.
How much money can you save by using wind energy?
The government's Feed-in Tariff (FIT) pays you for generating renewable energy.
It guarantees a minimum payment for all electricity you generate, plus a separate extra payment for electricity you export to the grid. You'll also be saving money on your energy bills by importing less electricity from the grid.
Terms and conditions apply to the scheme. For example, the wind turbine must have been installed after 1 April 2010 by a certified Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) approved installer – so it's definitely worth looking into this before you get a wind turbine installed.
FIT payments are made by energy companies. To find out more and to see the latest FIT rates for wind turbines, go to Feed-in Tariffs explained.
How do wind turbines work?
Electricity is generated when the blades are turned by the wind, a bit like a windmill. The stronger the wind, the more electricity is generated. How consistently the wind blows also affects the power produced.
The generated electricity is ‘plugged-in’ via a box (called an inverter) to your home’s standard mains supply.
The turbine doesn't operate as a stand-alone system, so you still need mains power. It won't work if there's a power cut. Instead, the wind power supplements your normal electricity supply and can contribute towards reducing electricity bills.
When Which? tested a small home wind turbine at a suburban house in England, we found that it used more electricity than it produced. This was because the inverter (which converts wind energy into electricity) used power constantly, even when the turbine wasn’t turning.
Although this test was in 2008, with the first small wind turbine from Windsave (which is no longer trading), it revealed that a strong wind is needed to generate enough power to cancel out the inverter’s energy use. Our tester’s area had an average of 4.7m/s wind speed, compared with the recommended minimum wind speed of 5m/s.
Do wind turbines make noise?
Our wind turbine made two distinct noises.
From the outside of the house it made a whooshing and whirring sound that wasn't excessive or annoying. From the inside, however, the noise was more of a moaning, humming sound, changing in frequency as the wind rose and fell. This was a more disturbing noise that frightened our tester's children during the night.
As well as making noise, our turbine vibrated at higher wind speeds, which we felt inside the house. We suspect the vibration was caused by an imperfect mounting of the turbine blades.
Should you install a home wind turbine?
Use our installation checklist to help determine whether a wind turbine will work on your home and whether getting one will be cost effective.
Installing a wind turbine checklist
Choose your site
Choose a site where the turbine can be mounted as high as possible. You’ll need somewhere where there are few surrounding obstructions such as trees and tall buildings.
Get a reliable estimate of the wind speed at the site of your turbine. A professional measurement is preferable, but you can find an estimate on this wind speed calculator which uses your postcode.
Since December 2011, as long as some limits and conditions are respected, most domestic wind turbines should not require planning permission. See the planning portal for more information.
But always check with your local council whether planning permission is needed. It’s also good practice to speak to your neighbours at an early stage to smooth over any initial objections.
Finding an installer
To receive the Feed-In Tariff, your wind turbine must be installed by a Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) approved installer. The wind turbine itself should also be MCS certified.
Use the MCS website to find a local installer.
Factor in additional costs such as planning permission fees, cabling and installation. Ask your turbine supplier for an estimate of these and any potential additional costs. The inverter, at a cost of about £1,000, is also likely to require replacement during the lifetime of the wind turbine.
Maintenance checks should be carried out every few years and cost around £100-£200, depending on the size of your wind turbine.
Feed-in Tariff scheme
This is definitely worth researching if you are considering installing a wind turbine, as it offers payment for every kWh of electricity you generate.
Find out more about the Feed-in Tariff.
Speak to your home insurance provider to see whether it's able to cover your turbine for repair, replacement and theft.
How do you measure wind speed?
The amount of electricity generated by a small-scale wind turbine depends on the speed and direction of the wind in your area, and other nearby obstructions. Buildings, trees or hills could reduce wind speed or increase turbulence.
Many homes don’t have sufficient wind speed to be suitable for wind turbines, a study by The Energy Saving Trust (EST) found in 2009. Before investing in a home wind turbine, you should first install an anemometer (wind gauge) for at least three months to determine the average wind speed.
This will help you determine whether a wind turbine will be financially worthwhile for you. If you live in Scotland, the EST has a wind speed predictor tool.
Many wind turbine manufacturers, and the Energy Saving Trust, recommend installing at sites with a local average wind speed of 5m/s or more. The vast majority of UK households have an average wind speed of less than this.
Energy production increases with wind speed, up to a maximum level, and a minimum wind speed is usually necessary for turbines to start generating electricity. Ask manufacturers for the specifications of their products when choosing a turbine, including the rated wind speed and energy generated.
If your home isn’t sufficiently windy, you might consider solar panels instead. You can also earn money for generating electricity from these with the Feed-In Tariff.
Although small roof-mounted wind turbines are cheaper, they generate a lot less electricity than pole-mounted ones. So if you live in an area where wind speed is less than 5m/s, a roof-mounted turbine might not be a good investment.
Find out more about the pros and cons of wind turbines in our guide to the advantages and disadvantages of wind turbines.
Where to install your home wind turbine
Small-scale wind power is more suitable for remote off-grid locations where conventional methods of supply are expensive or impractical. Wind speed increases with height, so it’s best to have the turbine high on a mast or tower.
The best place for a wind turbine is a smooth-topped hill with clear exposure. This will be free from excessive turbulence and obstructions such as trees, houses or other buildings. However, other areas may have a sufficient wind resource to make a wind turbine worthwhile.
Building-integrated wind turbines can be suitable for urban locations. But findings from the EST's field trial of 38 building-mounted turbines showed that performance was generallyworse than expected, usually because of low wind speeds and poor positioning.
The trial also looked at 19 freestanding turbines. It found that freestanding or pole-mounted turbines, when properly installed, performed well.
Do you need planning permission to install wind turbines?
Since December 2011, as long as some limits and conditions are respected, many domestic wind turbines should not require planning permission under new permitted development rights.
In England, this includes building-mounted wind turbines, butt in Scotland you need planning permission for these.
In Wales and Northern Ireland, you’ll need to get planning permission for any type of wind system. Contact your local authority to find out more.
If planning permission is required, your neighbours will be consulted to voice any objections they have to the wind turbine. For this reason, it's good practice to speak to your neighbours before investing time and money in the planning process.
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