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Domestic wind turbines

Thinking of harnessing wind power for your home? See if a domestic wind turbine is for you.

According to the Energy Saving Trust, more than 4,000 domestic wind turbines have been registered in the UK between 2010 and 2017.

Key points

  • Pole-mounted and building-mounted wind turbines can both be installed on domestic properties
  • Larger turbines produce more electricity, but are more expensive to install
  • Low wind speeds in the UK mean that domestic wind turbines for homes aren’t always cost effective, so check your property and seek professional advice before investing in one

By harnessing the power of the wind to generate electricity, it's possible for homeowners to run their appliances on renewable energy and export excess electricity to the grid, saving money on household bills and earning cash as part of a government-initiated renewable energy feed-in tariff scheme.

So are domestic wind turbines as good as they sound? As always, there are some things to consider before buying one. This guide will outline the important stuff you need to know.

What are the options for domestic wind turbines?

There are two main types of domestic wind turbine to consider, pole mounted and building mounted.

Pole-mounted turbines are large, free-standing units that can be erected in a suitably exposed position, allowing them to take advantage of the highest available wind speeds on your property (the faster the wind, the faster the blades of the turbine will spin, generating more kinetic energy and, as a result, more electricity).Gas and electricity

Building-mounted turbines are generally smaller than pole-mounted turbines. Due to their limited size and the fact that nearby obstructions can affect the air flow that reaches them, building-mounted turbines tend to operate at a lower efficiency than the pole mounted variety.

Wind turbines are usually labelled in terms of kW (kilowatts), which describes the maximum power output they're capable of. The higher the kW, the more electricity a wind turbine can produce. Domestic pole-mounted turbines tend to range from 2kW to 6kW, while building-mounted turbines are usually between 0.5kW and 2kW in size.

Pole mounted vs building mounted

Your choice of residential wind turbine will largely depend on your budget, along with your level of commitment to generating your own renewable energy.

There's no doubt that larger, pole-mounted turbines are capable of producing more electricity, and therefore offer a greater possibility for saving on energy bills than their building mounted counterparts.

However, pole-mounted turbines tend to be more expensive - you'll generally have to pay between £21,000 and £30,000 for a 6kW pole-mounted wind turbine.

Did you know...?

  • You can find out the average wind speed in your area using an online calculator, or install an anemometer (wind gauge) for a more precise figure

Building-mounted turbines are far cheaper, with an average cost of around £3,000 for a 1kW roof-mounted wind turbine.

They're also less intrusive, sitting atop an existing structure rather than requiring their own dedicated pole-mounted unit. The catch? You'll produce significantly less energy than if you opted for a pole-mounted model, raising the question of whether a building-mounted turbine is worth investing in at all.

The benefits of domestic wind turbines

On the surface, installing a household wind turbine may seem like an attractive option for energy-conscious households who want to reduce their impact on the environment.

Wind is a natural, unlimited and renewable resource, so electricity generated via wind turbines doesn't produce any waste or carbon dioxide.

According to the Energy Saving Trust, houses with a wind turbine installed can save around 4.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere every year.

As well as being environmentally friendly, a suitably located wind turbine could help to save on energy bills, and even generate its own income.

Thanks to the UK government's feed-in tariff scheme, people with wind turbines are eligible to be paid for the energy they produce and export to the grid.

While feed-in tariff payments have been reduced since being launched in 2010, the Energy Saving Trust still estimates that a well-situated 6kW turbine could generate an income of £1,500 per year through a combination of tariff payments and electricity bill savings.

Location is a key factor, though - not all homeowners will be able to achieve such impressive gains from wind power alone.

Are domestic wind turbines cost-effective?

Before you spend thousands of pounds on a wind turbine for your home, it's important to note that this method of energy generation isn't suitable for everyone.

The wind speed required to generate a profitable amount of electricity using a domestic turbine is around six metres per second. There aren't many locations in the UK that regularly reach this wind speed, so even with a more expensive pole-mounted system, you might struggle to break even.

Roof-mounted turbines, which have the added complication of obstruction from surrounding buildings, trees and hills, are even less likely to harness the required wind energy to make electricity generation cost efficient.

Taking into account the steep upfront cost of buying and installing a wind turbine, ongoing maintenance fees, insurance payments and the cost of running a mains-powered inverter to convert wind into electricity, wind turbines rarely offer the same bang for your buck as more predictable renewable energy sources, such as solar panels.

Of course, there are some exceptions - if you live in a remote, windy location without nearby obstructions limiting the flow of air around your property, you may find that the advantages of installing a turbine outweigh the negatives.

You can find out the average wind speed in your area using an online calculator, or install an anemometer (wind gauge) for a more precise figure. It's also advisable to seek advice from an MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme) approved manufacturer, who should be able to advise you on the approximate savings you could achieve using a wind turbine.

By Matt Ayres