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Is a Wind Turbine for the Home a Good Idea?With all the hype about "green energy" these days, there is a lot of misinformation available on the internet about wind generators. Some people have been misled into thinking that getting a home wind turbine will dramatically cut their energy costs and save them a tremendous amount of money. BALONEY! The reality is that many home wind generators will be a tremendous WASTE of money and be nothing more than an expensive spinning lawn ornament. I know that this might sound very negative, but I am trying to spare others the disappointment and waste of time and money that go along with many of these wind turbines. I am writing from actual personal experience. Sure, dreaming about things can be fun, but the fact is that you can dream all you want, but in the end the reality might be a nightmare. I am going to share this in the hopes of saving others a tremendous amount of trouble. You will notice that the pictures on this page have a stamp with the address www.fakefarmer.com. The reason for this is because I made that website a while back to try to share some aspects of country living; and for whatever reason, that website never did rank well or get much traffic. It's probably because it was a brand new site that did not have a lot of credibility yet. In any case, I decided to delete the wind turbine page off that site and move it over here where more people visit and there is a better chance that others could benefit from it. If you are seriously thinking about a home wind turbine, then read below and learn from my mistakes. My hope is that I will save you the headaches and nightmare that I created for myself by getting into wind turbines ignorantly and with some wrong assumptions.
My Original 2 KW Home Wind Turbine
Back in 2009, I became very interested in the idea of a home wind turbine. By then, I had lived out here in the country long enough to know that the wind blows. Oftentimes, it blows more than I'd care to see, especially when it destroys things and creates more work for me. In fact, we have had enough strong winds to damage my irrigation wheel lines more than once, repeatedly tear up some fencing, tear off roofing shingles, and generally put the "fear of the wind" in me. Many a night, when the wind was howling outside, I would lie in bed wondering what additional wind damage (and additional work) I would find the next morning. At the same time, it seemed like the wind could be harvested for something good, so my interest in wind turbines was peaked and I began to do my usual extensive research. I had a lot to learn. Even after I did a LOT of research and made my first home wind turbine choice, little did I know that most of my learning was to come in the future with some painful hands on experience. The wind generator I selected was a 2 KW unit that had a 10 foot rotor (swept blade diameter). As I often do, I was trying to find the best bang for my buck in terms of the most wind turbine that I could get for the money. Nothing wrong with this. Why waste money if you can accomplish the same goal at much lower expense? Unfortunately, the old saying "you get what you pay for" does hold true in many areas of life. It doesn't matter how good something looks on the outside, or how convinced you are that you got a good deal, the reality is that you won't know if it was a good deal (or not) until some time passes. It's like getting a "great deal" on a used car. You won't really know how great of a deal it was until some time has passed and you add up all your expenses for troubles and repairs over time. Well, in my case, not much time passed at all before I started to discover that I got a very bad deal. I had problems with my home wind turbine from Day 1! The first time the wind blew after I got my wind generator set up, I was so excited to see what it would do, but it just sat there barely turning. I was puzzled. According to the specs, the wind turbine was supposed to be spinning and producing power at much lower wind speeds than I was already seeing, but I thought that perhaps the wind still needed to blow stronger. So I waited for some stronger winds. Since we live in a pretty good wind area, it didn't take too long to get some stronger winds. I can still remember the day that the winds were gusting up to 30mph and I stood on my deck watching the wind turbine hardly spinning. That day, the wind generator produced a tiny bit of power during the most powerful wind gusts, but it was essentially NOTHING even during good 20-30+ mph winds. I should have been seeing in excess of 2 KW being produced from this wind turbine at those wind speeds. At that point, I knew something was very wrong! After a lot of going back and forth with the company that sold me this home wind turbine, we finally concluded that the controller for the turbine was probably defective. I packaged up the controller and shipped it back. After waiting for what seemed like too long to me, they finally got around to testing the controller and confirming that it was defective. Then, I had to wait even longer for a new controller to arrive on the slow boat from China (literally). Finally, the company shipped me the new controller. When I got it hooked up and let the wind turbine spin again, I finally began to see some power being produced. At that point, it had been a good 2-3 months that I had my wind generator standing as a big "lawn ornament" and not good for anything else. With the new controller and things finally working, I thought that finally I was in for some trouble-free wind power. Not quite!
Checking Blades on my Defective 2 KW Wind Generator
Shortly after the wind turbine started working properly, I began to hear a funny noise. I can still remember the first time I noticed it. I was working outside on something near the wind turbine, when I heard a faint knocking sound in the distance. At least, I thought it was in the distance. My first thought was that one of our distant neighbors was building something and hammering some nails. Well, I wasn't so lucky. I then realized that the frequency of the faint knocking sound varied with the wind speed. I began to realize that the sound was coming from my nearly new wind turbine. I put my ear against the tower and verified that the faint knocking sound was in fact coming from the wind turbine. My first impression was that maybe the bolts on a blade had worked loose and the blade was shifting and knocking against the shanks of the mounting bolts as the blades spun around. I was a bit puzzled though, since I knew that I carefully tightened the bolts and applied Loc-Tite to prevent this sort of thing from happening. Nevertheless, I figured it must be a loose blade since what else could it possibly be on a nearly new wind turbine??? Well, it could be that the wind turbine was a Made in China piece of junk that was already failing! I just didn't know that at the time, or at least I couldn't imagine it being true. Whether I liked it or not, reality was going to set in. To avoid a loose blade from causing more damage, I immediately shut down the turbine and decided to wait until I rented a man-lift for a project I had to do in my shop. I figured I'd save myself the trouble of lowering the whole wind turbine tower to the ground, since I needed to rent a man-lift anyway for another project in my large shop. Once I had the lift, I went up and verified that the blades were in fact tight. Then, what was causing the knock??? While I was up there, I greased the main bearing. I also removed the tail because after only a few months (and not much use during that time), the rubber tail stop was disintegrating and falling apart. Without getting into too many details here, the tail was designed to pivot out in high winds to help turn the wind turbine out of the wind to protect it from over-speeding. This is what's known as furling. In any case, there was a rubber piece that acted as a cushion when the tail shaft came back to it's normal position. That bump stop cushion had already failed and was allowing metal to rub against metal. I then thought that perhaps it was this metal-metal contact that was causing the knocking sound as the wind turbine shook while the blades were spinning. While I was working on the tail, I also replaced the original sheet metal fin which was very thin and looked prone to cracking. I installed a thicker and stronger aluminum alloy tail fin. I replaced the worn rubber bumper with a section of car tire and put everything back together hoping that the mysterious knocking sound was gone. It was not. The knocking sound continued. I finally concluded that I had wasted enough time working on it, and that I would just wait and see if the knocking sound would get worse and what would happen. And boy, did something happen!
Defective Wind Turbine Dead After Very Little Use
One windy day in July 2010, the winds were blowing in the 20's and gusting in the 30 mph range. Normally, with a good wind generator system, this would be peak power producing time. That is, unless you have a cheap Chinese piece of junk wind turbine like I had. I'll never forget that day (unless I get Alzheimer's)... As the winds were gusting outside, the cheap wind turbine controller was really getting a workout trying to slow down and brake the turbine. It was getting really hot. The room where I had the controller started to smell like something was burning. Rather than continue to cook the controller, I decided I better shut down the wind turbine entirely. So, I was went into the shut down routine and began flipping a couple switches which would manually brake and slow down the turbine. That's the way it's supposed to work, in theory at least! That was a fateful moment. As the wind continued to howl outside, I flipped the switches in my basement to begin braking the wind generator. I was expecting the sound of the wind turbine to go away. To my horror, the noise from the wind turbine dramatically increased and it began to really ROAR! I ran outside to look at what was happening, and the wind turbine was spinning wildly out of control. I ran back inside and I frantically began to try different ways to slow down the wind turbine before it blew apart from over-speeding. It was all in vain. The wind generator was electrically disconnected and freewheeling in the high winds. The sound that it made was spine chilling. Best I can describe it, it was like the sound of a helicopter landing on the roof of my house. It was so LOUD! More significant than the sound was the fact that the wind turbine was close enough to my house that the over-speeding blades could come flying off like a missile at any moment. I told my whole family to stay away from the windows and get down to the basement immediately. As everyone was hunkered down in the basement, we sat there while the wind turbine roared out of control for around 1 hour. There was nothing I could do. I already tried different ideas to slow it down electrically, but since it was electrically disconnected, nothing worked. I kept expecting to hear the wind turbine fly apart and throw one or more of the blades. This could have broken some of the large windows on that side of my house. If the turbine did throw a blade in the high winds, the extreme imbalance of the remaining 2 blades would have shook the tower so violently, that the whole tower would almost certainly come crashing down. My mind was running through all my options, which were extremely limited at that moment. To avert expensive damage to my home, I seriously considered cutting the guy wires on the windward side of the tower and just let the whole tower come crashing down to the ground. The wind generator and tower would be a total loss, but at least I would avoid expensive damage to my house. I didn't want to even think how expensive those large windows would be to replace. Another idea I briefly considered was to take a high powered rifle and shooting into the generating unit. My hope was that this might cause the rotor inside to bind up and create enough friction that it would slow down the blades. I didn't think about that idea too long, for fear that this would cause the entire turbine to fly apart sending the blades flying like missiles. I didn't have too much time to think about this for very long, because soon there would be a new distraction that would surface and demand my attention.
During that time, the power was flickering on/off as the strong winds were causing problems with the utility's power lines somewhere down the line. When the power flickers, my irrigation pumps on the farm shut down. When they shut down, they don't just restart automatically. I have to go down to the well pumps and manually restart them again. When the power glitched and the pump shut off, this meant that the water in my irrigation wheel lines would begin to drain. Without the weight of the water, the relatively lightweight wheel lines would be vulnerable to being torn apart from the winds. I thought, "OH NO! NOT THIS! NOT NOW!" In the past, I learned the hard way what high winds can do to my irrigation wheel lines, and I did NOT want to have to deal with a bunch of broken 40' long irrigation pipes again if I could help it! Every time the power glitched and my irrigation pump would shut down, I'd run out and drive down to the well pump and start it up again. Finally, one time the power glitched off, but this time it stayed off. With the water quickly draining out of my wheel lines and the winds continuing to roar, I knew there was going to be trouble! As the winds continued to blow, with the wind turbine still spinning out of control, I quickly drove down to my irrigation wheel lines out in the fields. I began to use steel fence posts to try to secure the wheel lines from being damaged by the winds. As I was frantically working in the fields, I would occasionally glance up towards the house to see the wind turbine spinning out of control. I knew that my family was safe in the basement, but I kept expecting the wind generator would blow apart and throw one or more of the blades with the likelihood that it could damage my house. Then, as I was just about done securing my wheel lines out in the fields, I glanced up towards the house once again. To my utter surprise, the wind turbine was spinning slowly. It was almost stopped. I rushed up to the house and watched in amazement as the wind turbine blades slowly spun around. I knew that it was nothing that I could have done! Best I can tell, something inside the generating head melted down to the point that it began to cause serious internal drag on the wind turbine and dramatically slowed it down. Whatever it was that caused it to slow down, I thanked God for it!!!
Concerned that the turbine could begin spinning freely again at any moment, I went on my deck with some rope and some rocks. I then tied the lightweight rope to a rock and began to throw the rocks. My goal was to try to get a rock to fly over the tail section and wrap around so that I could try to pull the tail and manually turn the wind generator out of the wind. After many failed attempts, I was painfully reminded that I sucked at sports, and I would never make a good baseball player! But then something unexpected happened. The rock flew in the wrong direction and ended up causing the rope to get tangled in the slowly turning wind turbine blades. As the blades continued to slowly spin, I seized the opportunity and began flipping the rope side to side and intertwining it at the front of one blade and behind the next blade. I continued to do this and then I also let the rope wrap on the generator shaft until the wind turbine blades were securely entangled up with the rope. Then, I tied the rope to the deck railing and the wind turbine could not spin any more. After around 2 hours of drama, the whole ordeal had finally ended! A few days later, after it was calm, I lowered the tower to the ground. When I removed the dead wind generator, I found that one of the blades had cracks forming around the holes where the mounting bolts went through. Thankfully it did not throw a blade! I didn't bother to take apart the generating unit itself. I had already wasted too much time on that piece of junk! There was some black goo that oozed out of the bottom weep hole. It was probably a combination of grease and some of the lacquer coating of the internal windings that melted down. That's just a guess. As I mentioned, I wasn't about to waste any more time doing a complete autopsy on this defective wind generator. So much for a home wind turbine! Trouble from Day 1.
Defective Wind Generator that Burned Out and Failed
UPDATE: After it sat for over 1 year, I decided to take apart the old wind turbine generating head. One of my sons was really interested in seeing what was inside, so I took it apart and this is what we found. The windings were burned out as I suspected. The insulating coating on the wires was burned off and the windings were shorted out. It had a strong, burned electrical smell.
Burned Out Windings in Defective Wind Turbine
Since I had it taken apart, I also took a picture of the slip ring assembly. This did not appear to be damaged in any way. This is basically a set brushes that slide on 3 slip rings. The slip rings and brushes transmit the 3 phase power from the generating head down through the tower. The slip rings allow the wind turbine to pivot in the wind without twisting up the wire that runs down the center of the tower. I didn't want to waste any more time on this junk wind turbine, but for the sake of "education" I took it apart so that my son could see how it was made.
Three Phase Slip Ring Assembly
While the out of control wind turbine drama had ended, some new challenges had just begun. I had invested a lot of time and money into this wind turbine system. Even though I got the "best deals" possible, it was still a significant investment of time and money to build the system. Now the wind turbine was dead and many 1000's of dollars wasted. What to do next? I e-mailed the company that sold me this home wind turbine and explained what had happened. At first, they were slow to respond. In fact, it seemed that they were trying to ignore me. I told them that I wanted a refund on the wind generator. It was defective from Day 1 and it was nothing but trouble. It was only up for 7 months, and much of that time it was shut down because of problems. Now it was completely dead. Even if I got my money back from the wind turbine itself, I still had $1000's more invested in the battery bank and the rest of the system. They offered to give me another of the same wind turbine. NO WAY! I had already wasted way too much time and money with that particular home wind turbine design. I was not about to waste any more on another of the same unit! At first, they would not cooperate. Finally, they agreed to give me credit towards a different model wind turbine. That was all they would do. They offered me a more expensive 2 KW home wind turbine. They said they would sell it to me at their cost, and I would only pay the difference in price and freight costs. You can imagine that I was reluctant to move forward, because how did I know that the other wind turbine would be any better. I thought that I could be throwing good money after bad. The last thing I wanted to do was to waste more time or money on this project. Since I had the infrastructure already in place for a wind turbine system, I decided to take the risk and sink some more money into this new turbine in the hopes of salvaging all the time and money I had invested thus far. After what I had just been through, I knew that it was a definite risk! I was so disappointed and burned out with my experience with my first home wind turbine, that I felt like forgetting the whole idea all together, but I moved ahead anyway. In the end, I am glad that I did try the other wind generator. It turned out to be a much better unit, and it was a day and night experience from my first wind turbine.
Test Raising Tower with Adapter Pipe for New Wind Turbine
Once the semi-truck delivered the new wind turbine, it was not just a simple matter of slapping it on the tower and being done. There was more work to do than that. The new wind generator had an entirely different bolt pattern. I needed to make an adapter pipe that had different flanges on each end. One end of the adapter would would bolt to the top flange on my existing tower, and the other end of the adapter pipe would bolt to the new wind turbine. I decided that at the same time I would raise the height of the tower a little (6 more feet) and add a 3rd set of guy wires for extra security. So, I bought the necessary flanges, pipe, and some other steel. I cut all the pieces out that were needed, and I decided to take it to a shop to have it professionally welded together. I weld things myself around the farm, and I can do some rough welding, but I figured that this was a critical structural part of the tower. I didn't want to take any chances. When I weld stuff around the farm, the consequence of it breaking are usually insignificant. If something that I welded breaks on my farm equipment, then I'm only going to be operating it at low speeds around the farm, so it's not going to be a big risk. I can't recall anything that I welded ever breaking anyway, but I wanted to be extra careful with the wind generator tower. I decided to pay a "pro" to do it. As it turns out, when I picked it up, it didn't look like a pro welded it at all. I paid around $200 to have this adapter pipe welded together, and some of the welding looked very sloppy. There were pieces that were welded on crooked, there were voids/holes in some of the weld beads, and overall I was very disappointed. I concluded that maybe I should have done it myself, or at least taken it to another shop. I ended up spending a couple hours with my welder to fill in voids and reinforce areas that concerned me. So, much for having a "pro" do it. If he was a pro, then he sure was in a big hurry (or half asleep) when he worked on my project! Oh well, just some more "live and learn" experiences in life.
Bolting New Wind Generator to the Top of the Tower
Once I had the new adapter pipe bolted to the top of the existing tower, I extended the wiring and then I was able to bolt the new wind generator to the top of the tower. Speaking of bolts... you would be surprised at how much time I spent researching and ordering new bolts for the new wind turbine and tower adapter. This is another case where "ignorance is bliss". I can still remember when I was younger (and before I went to engineering school), that I used to think that any bolt that would fit is the right bolt. That is not always the case! Just because it fits, doesn't necessarily mean that it's the right bolt. For example, for a standard US bolt size, there will be Grade 2, Grade 5, Grade 8, and even higher grades for specialty bolts. On top of that, there are different coatings offered on bolts for corrosion resistance depending on the application. For projects where strength is critical, you don't just use whatever bolt you can find at the local Home Depot! Just because it fits, doesn't mean that it's safe. You might get lucky, or your project might be such that it doesn't really matter anyway, since that bolt might not be put under much stress. In other words, the weak link in your project might be somewhere else, and a low grade bolt might be just fine. But if strength is critical, then you want to make sure that you choose the right bolt. There's good reason why in applications like automobiles and aircraft, that you'll find a wide variety of different high grade, high strength bolts. How would you like to fly in an airplane that was put together with cheap, low grade bolts from your local hardware store? I guarantee that you and the rest of the passengers on that plane would not like it when things started falling apart at 35,000 feet! In any case, back to the topic of home wind turbines. I sourced my high grade bolts through McMaster-Carr industrial supply, and I ended up replacing most of the bolts that came with the new wind turbine with higher strength bolts as an extra factor of safety.
New Wind Turbine Attached and Ready to Raise
All throughout my home wind turbine projects, my tractor came in very handy. From some of the pictures on this page, you can see some of the ways that I used my tractor. Take for example the relatively simple task of bolting the wind generator to the top of the tower. It might be simple in theory, but if the wind turbine generating head weighs around 150 lbs, then it sure comes in handy to have a way to hold the turbine in place while bolting it to the tower. That is, unless you are Hercules and can easily lift up 150 lbs with one hand and hold it completely still, while you then fumble around trying to thread in 6 bolts with the other hand. Of course, if you had a couple other strong people around to hold things in place while you bolt things together, that could work too. In my case, it was just much simpler (and safer) to use the front loader on my tractor. I also used the front loader on my tractor to do a pre-lift of the wind turbine tower up to a certain angle. Then I built up a stack of hay bales and some wood to hold the tower up at that angle. Afterwards, I drove around and used the front loader on my tractor to pull up on the tower at a more favorable angle and raise it all the way vertical. During my first attempt, I felt one of the rear tires of my tractor raising off the ground momentarily! I carefully lowered the tower back down, and I went and hooked up my heavy rear tractor mower. This gave me the extra weight I needed to counterbalance the tractor and keep the wheels firmly planted. I raised the tower very slowly and everything went very well. I had done a test raise of the tower earlier, and all I had to do was some final adjustments on the guy wire turnbuckles to tighten the cables.
Family Picture Under the New Wind Turbine
Once I got the new wind turbine raised up and operational, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked when the winds began to blow. My new wind generator was made by a company called HY Energy. My particular wind turbine is known as the HY-2000. It is rated at 2000 watts at a wind speed of around 28mph. In reality, I have seen more power than this at those wind speeds, and I have actually seen over 3000 watts in higher winds. Unlike my first wind turbine, this HY-2000 wind turbine actually cranked out more power than it was rated for by the factory. It exceeded all my expectations in terms of power output, and it also exceeded the power curves posted by the factory. I was impressed. The question then was how well would it hold up. Having been burned with my first home wind turbine, I was a bit apprehensive at first and kept expecting something to go wrong with this new wind turbine. That wasn't the case. By the time I am writing this, it is around 1.5 years now that I've had my new HY-2000 home wind generator in operation. I have been pleasantly surprised at how well it works.
Part of the New Wind Turbine Control System
Even though everything was working well, I decided to be proactive with the wind turbine control system. The original controller that came from the factory worked fine, but I decided to put together a new wind turbine control system around a new product that had been recently released. It was the Midnite Classic charge controller. If you are reading this and are interested in delving into the world of home wind turbines, then just do a Google search on: MIDNITE CLASSIC and you will find some good information about it. The Midnite Classic is the long, black item in the picture above (front cover removed). The rest of the wind turbine control system I sourced after a lot of thinking and extensive research. I ordered a heavy duty 3 phase rectifier from Germany. My AC and DC solid state relays came from electronics suppliers in the US. In designing the new control system, I had safety and reliability as a top priority. I bought a massive heat sink on which to bolt my critical electronics to keep them cool. Not shown in this picture, I also added a thermostat and a set of electric fans at the top of the large aluminum heat sink to help keep the electronics cooler for long term reliability. My home wind turbine system is designed to be an off-grid system. I charge a battery bank that I can use for emergency backup power, and once the batteries are fully charged, I divert all the wind power to a large water heater with special DC heating elements. This water heater is set up as a pre-heater to my main water heater. That way, my main water heater doesn't have to heat as much once the preheated water enters. This is how I save on my power bill. Since I have a big family, this works well for us. Even so, it really doesn't save as much power as I hoped. Anyway, this is just the way I have my home wind turbine set up. Other people might want to have a grid tied wind turbine system where you sell back power to the utility (assuming you have anything to sell). Just keep in mind that doing this is more complicated and requires a lot more red tape in dealing with your local utility. It's also not cheap to get all the necessary equipment for a grid tied wind turbine system. For me, the off-grid set up that provides emergency backup power if needed, and then utilizes most of the wind power to heat water works very well.
Even though my new HY-2000 wind generator works great and appears to be top quality, I wanted to have more options available to me for emergency shut down. Right now, I have the system designed so that I have 2 different ways to electrically load down and slow the wind turbine before I try to apply the final brakes to try to stop it. Actually, it never really stops completely, but it can be braked to the point that it turns very slowly even in the highest winds. Everything has been working out great. We've had some strong winds near 50mph and the system performs great. Even though the wind turbine is rated for 2000 watts, I've seen over 5000 WATTS during wind gusts in the 40's. The Midnite Classic not only improves the reliability of my home wind turbine system, but it also helps harvest more power from the wind. The new HY-2000 wind generator continues to work reliably, and the new control system with the Midnite Classic at the heart of it continues to work great. In the video below, you can see a short video clip of my new wind turbine spinning. When you watch this, keep in mind that the wind turbine is actually spinning much faster than it looks. The frame rate of the camera acts to sort of "stop motion", and this makes it look like it's turning slower than it actually is in real life.
In conclusion, I have learned a lot of different things while playing around with home wind turbines. These are a few recommendations that I can state in summary:
1) Make sure you really do live in a good wind area. First of all, if you are interested in wind power, then you better make sure that you actually live in a good wind area. Too often, people think that they live in a windy area, but the reality is that it's not windy enough to make a wind turbine worthwhile. Before you invest the money in a wind turbine, you better invest in a good weather station that you can set up and use to log wind data at your site. Don't rely on weather data from a nearby airport. The wind measurements must be in the same area where you plan to set up the wind turbine. Once you determine the average wind speed in your area, then you can see how much power different wind turbines would produce. An occasional storm that produces high gusts is no good for ongoing power production. In fact, really strong, violent wind gusts can be very destructive to your wind turbine system. In order to produce good power from a home wind turbine, you want non-turbulent steady winds that are high enough to produce useful power, but not so high as to destroy your wind turbine. Don't skip this step, or else you might be in for a rude awakening later. Just because you remember some strong gusts and feel like it's windy around your place, doesn't mean that it's adequate for useful home wind power. Measure your winds and keep track of them for a while to get a realistic picture of your wind resource. Some of the nicer weather stations can log weather data over time and give you some good wind data. Personally, I have a Davis weather station, and I like it a lot. It's not cheap, but neither is putting together a home wind turbine system, so consider a good weather station a good investment.
2) Forget those wind turbines based on a reworked car alternator. Unless you live in a place with near constant gale force winds (you wouldn't want to live there!), or you are just interested in impressing the neighbors with your pretty spinning lawn ornament, then stay away from wind turbines based on car alternators. They will not produce any useful power for most people. There is a lot of marketing hype out there and false claims. You can find many of these type of wind turbines on eBay. In addition, there are a lot of other small wind generators being sold that are just too small to make any substantial power. Some of these small wind turbines might work OK to generate a small charge for some batteries on a boat at sea with generous winds; however, most of them will not be very useful in a typical home wind turbine system. When shopping around, be aware that there are always scammers and snake oil salesman looking for a sucker. Don't fall for it. Don't believe all the hype that you read about on these small wind geneators. You better search the internet for other owners of the specific turbine you are considering to find out how they perform in real life. You also might want to contact the company that manufactures the home wind turbine you are interested in, and specifically ask them for some referrals of actual customers. Just make sure that you are talking with a real end customer who can give you genuine feedback, and not just one of the snake oil salesman's friend that wants to help sucker you into buying a worthless wind turbine!
3) Forget the idea of putting a wind generator on your roof! If you think that bolting a wind turbine to your roof will take care of all your energy needs, then you will be in for a big disappointment. The reality is that a wind turbine must get a steady flow of uninterrupted wind. Roof tops are turbulent locations and not high enough off the ground for most wind turbines to make good power. No doubt, you could just stick a wind generator on your roof (or on a short tower somewhere else) and get it to spin, but it just won't make useful power. If you are just interested in showing off to your neighbors with your spinning marvel, then go ahead and mount it wherever you want. Just don't expect to get any significant power out of it. Wind turbines need to be up higher than any surrounding obstructions including: buildings, trees, and surrounding terrain. The general rule is the higher the better. It is recommended that a home wind turbine be 30 feet above any obstruction that is within 500 feet. That leads into the next recommendation.
4) Factor in the cost of a good tower. When you do your research, make sure that your tower is going to be high enough and also sturdy enough for your wind generator. It's not just a matter of it being able to hold up the weight of your turbine on a calm day. It must be able to stand up to the dynamic forces of the spinning blades and also high winds. It could be very expensive (and very dangerous) if your tower fails and your wind turbine comes falling down. In my case, my wind turbine is on a relatively short tower. My wind turbine is mounted around 40 feet up above the surrounding terrain. Normally, this would not be high enough for most wind turbine installations, but with my particular location it work fine. I live in a wide open canyon where the prevailing winds are channeled right into my wind turbine. Most people do not have this situation and a taller tower is usually required for good power production.
5) Beware of wind turbines Made in China! In my extensive research and personal experience, the ONLY Chinese wind geneators that I would recommend would be those that come out of the HY Energy factory. HY Energy produces home wind turbines including the: HY-400, HY-600, HY-1000, HY-2000 (what I have), and the HY-3000. Be aware that now there are other Chinese companies copying the HY Energy designs. I have read about one person's experience with one of these clones, and it has not been good. They might look the same, but they are not made the same. I have read about several other people's experiences with the HY Energy wind turbines, and they have all been very good. I'm not saying that it's not possible for there to be a another Chinese wind turbine manufacturer out there that makes a decent wind generator, but after reading so many other people's horror stories with Chinese wind turbines, I'd say that there is a 9 out of 10 chance that you will end up with junk. If you are bored, have lots of extra time, and have lots of money to burn, then by all means buy any cheap Chinese wind turbine you find on eBay. It's a little like playing Russian Roulette... maybe you'll get lucky and beat the odds. Most likely you will get burned. If you want quality, then you will have to be willing to pay a little more. I would recommend considering HY Energy or also Bergey wind turbines which have good reviews.
6) Have realistic expectations. One of the most common problems with people and wind turbines, is that people have unrealistic expectations about what a wind turbine will produce. People see a small wind turbine spinning and think that it must be making lots of power. Slap a couple of these small turbines on your roof and be on your way to energy independence from the grid (and saving the earth). NOT QUITE! In my opinion, wind power is not economically feasible in most cases unless you happen to live in a very windy, very remote area where it would be insanely expensive to bring in grid power. Most wind generators are not going to produce as much power as you think they should. You need a big turbine to produce big power, and you'll need some "big" winds to make it all work. Most places do not have high enough winds that are consistent enough to make home wind power feasible. I'm not saying that you can set up a wind turbine in just about any location that you want, but it's just not going to be feasible or useful in most cases. If you happen to be one of the few people that live in a truly good wind area, and you have realistic expectations of what small home wind turbines can produce, then you might enjoy having a wind generator if you are the right kind of person. If you just want something that you can set up and forget, then you probably won't be a good person for a home wind turbine. That moves me on to my final recommendation.
7) Seriously consider solar power. If you really want to pursue alternative power, then most people will probably be happier with solar power. It is a lot more straight forward and has the potential for working in a lot more areas than wind power. Installed properly, it's much more of the "set it and forget it" type of situation. There are no moving parts to wear out and if selected and installed properly, solar panels themselves can provide many years of trouble free power production. Click this link about home solar panels if you'd like to read more about my own experiences in setting up a 2.1kW solar system at my home.
After reading all that, you might conclude that I am pessimistic towards home wind turbines. Not at all! I am just a realist that has had to learn some things the hard way. I am sharing some of my experiences with wind generators in the hope that I might spare other people some of the trouble that I have experienced. I really like my HY-2000 wind turbine, I live in a decent wind area, and I am able to tinker and work on the system if necessary. So, for me, having a wind turbine makes some sense. This may not be true for you. Do your homework well and determine if a home wind turbine is the right choice for you and your location.