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What Are Residential Windmills Good For?

When investigating wind as an alternative source of power for homes, farms and small businesses, one of the first questions many people ask is “What are residential windmills?” Other questions, such as:

  • How well will a small windmill work?
  • What kind of expense is involved in installing this type of wind machine?
  • How much money can I expect to save by using a residential wind generator?
  • What else do I need to know about utilizing wind power as an alternative energy source?

Residential Windmill: Definition

A windmill is any one of a number of machines which operate on wind power. For most home-owners, a residential windmill provides electrical power, and is used as an alternative energy source for the home. This type of machine is also known as a wind generator.

To further clarify, Dictionary.com defines a wind generator as “an electric generator situated on a tower and driven by the force of wind on blades or a rotor.”

The basic parts of most wind generators include:

  • Motor
  • tower
  • turbines
  • tail/propeller
  • batteries

People have been using wind as a source of power for hundreds of years. Yet, only in recent years has it become possible for almost anyone, even the average home-owner, to take advantage of this clean and inexpensive energy source.  Residential scale wind generators provide enough electrical current to power a home or other small building. On grid wind machines may also generate enough power to create a profit, if excess power is sold to utility companies, locally.

How Well Does a Small Wind Generator Work?

Wind generators rely on natural air current, or wind, to rotate blades. In most areas of the US there is sufficient wind available to power a small wind generator. Efficiency, however, fluctuates as wind speed and wind availability also fluctuate in any environment. Since a small scale wind machine often uses low voltage turbines, a wind speed as low as 10 mph is often enough to power a residential wind generator.

The US Department of Energy provides resources for home-owners who are considering installing a wind generator to supplement or replace their traditional energy supply. Detailed charts and graphs are available, as well as specific formulas which can be used to calculate the approximate amount of energy a wind machine could supply, based on local wind information.

Most experts recommend a combination of wind and solar power, for those looking to replace their existing power supply entirely. These two alternative energy sources often function well together. When sunlight is less available, wind speeds are often at their peak. The reverse is also true, so the combination is often optimal for those in need of uninterrupted power.

What Kind of Expense is Involved in Installing a Residential Windmill?

Since the size of the machine may vary, depending on your energy needs, it is best to shop around if you want a professionally built and installed machine. On the other hand, if you choose to build your own machine, experts rate your initial expense at somewhere between $100.00 and $400.00, including the cost of a manual and necessary building and installation materials.

How Much Can I Expect to Save by Installing a Small Windmill on my Property?

According to the US Department of Energy, using a small wind generator alone you can expect to save between 50 and 90 % on your current utility costs. If you choose to use wind power in combination with solar power, you may find that you can make a reasonable profit, by selling the excess power your system provides back to the local utility company.

Other Considerations

Windmills work well in open areas, and in areas where the wind speeds are generally greater than 10 mph. A small wind machine may not be the best choice for those who live in large cities or other densely populated areas.

Most professionals estimate that you will need about an acre of space for your wind machine. Depending on the size of your machine, however, you may need more or less space, in order for the machine to function at maximum capacity.

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