A vertical axis small wind turbine against a blue sky

One option for green energy is wind power, and vertical and horizontal small wind turbines are the two most common types of equipment.

While more are familiar with horizontal wind turbines, vertical wind turbines have made their way into the industry recently. However, there are some key performance differences between the two.

One consideration homeowners are often the most curious about is which style is more energy-efficient.

This article will differentiate horizontal and vertical small wind turbines in terms of efficiency, compare their advantages and disadvantages, and recommend some small turbines for your home.

But first, a quick answer to the question that’s on everyone’s mind.

Are Horizontal or Vertical Axis Small Wind Turbines More Efficient?

Vertical axis small wind turbines are a more efficient choice than horizontal wind turbines, especially when it comes to residential applications. Vertical wind turbines are often cheaper, easier to maintain, and require less space. They also handle turbulent winds better than horizontal turbines.

Comparing Horizontal and Vertical Wind Turbines 

When it comes to residential applications, vertical axis small wind turbines (VAWTs) are more efficient. While horizontal wind turbines produce much more energy than vertical turbines, VAWTs have many features that make them more suitable.

Horizontal Wind Turbine (HAWT)

Horizontal turbines have blades that rotate at an axis horizontal or parallel to the ground. These are the more well-known of the two small wind turbine types and can be commonly found in large-scale wind farms.

A mountain peak with several wind turbines installed

HAWT’s most significant advantage over VAWTs is that it produces much more energy because it harnesses power from wind at higher speeds. However, there are some drawbacks you need to consider if you want one for your home:

HAWTs Require More Space

HAWTs need much more space than VAWTs since they need to be much bigger and taller to properly harvest energy from the wind. 

Researchers have suggested a distance of at least 150 meters (492 feet) from any obstructions for residential settings.

Energy.gov states that small wind turbines need to be 30 feet (nine meters) above anything within a radius of 500 ft (152 meters). You also need to allot enough clear space around the tower of your turbine for maintenance and if you add guy wires to your tower.

The primary purpose of this is to avoid turbulent winds. Unfortunately, horizontal turbines don’t perform well in rough winds, which are extremely common around homes.

So while these turbines might produce more energy in perfect conditions, the conditions often aren’t ideal.

Horizontal Turbines Have a Higher Initial Cost

HAWTs are much more expensive than VAWTs, both for initial and maintenance costs.

HAWTs require more materials to produce because of their size. They are also more complex and have more moving parts, increasing the possibility for malfunctions and bumping up any maintenance or repair costs.

Looking up from the ground at a small wind turbine and a worker with a clipboard about to perform maintenance

If you spend more to build and maintain your equipment, you ultimately reduce efficiency. 

HAWTs Are Less Flexible 

HAWTs must be high enough to take advantage of both steadier and stronger winds. In addition, their blades need to face the right direction and angle to work.

HAWTs have a higher-rated wind speed than VAWTs, meaning they require stronger winds.

However, if wind speeds also become too fast, brakes are needed to slow down the rotation of the turbine. Otherwise, it can be damaged. Therefore, HAWTs don’t work well with turbulent wind.

Vertical Wind Turbine (VAWT)

Vertical small wind turbines have blades that rotate at an axis vertical or perpendicular to the ground. These are more commonly used in smaller-scale projects and residential applications.

The top of a vertical-axis small wind turbine

Though HAWTs produce much more energy than VAWTs, vertical small wind turbines have these advantages that make them more efficient for home settings:

  • Less required space – VAWTs physically require less space because they are smaller. Their blades are designed and positioned in a way that requires less clearance. In addition, their towers are shorter because VAWTs can operate at lower heights than HAWTs.
  • Lower cost – VAWTs come at a cheaper initial cost and have less complex systems than HAWTs, lowering the possibility of malfunction and the price for any maintenance.
  • Easier to maintain vertical wind turbines’ shorter height and smaller blades make them easier to reach and take down in case of required repairs.
  • Omnidirectional one of the most significant advantages of VAWTs over HAWTs is that they can run and produce power at winds coming from 360°.
  • Lower rated wind speed – another significant advantage of VAWTs is that they require a much lower-rated wind speed to produce power.

Popular Wind Turbines for Your Home

The following list contains some vertical and horizontal axis small wind turbines proven for homes.

Each product will include some features and general information like:

  • Start wind speed
  • Rated wind speed: Minimum wind speed to be effective
  • Maximum safe wind speed
  • Blade size
  • Rated power: Energy output running 100% at optimal wind speeds

NINILADY Vertical Wind Turbine Generator

This vertical axis small wind turbine has three blades made of fiberglass. The blades’ shape and design create a small rotation radius, requiring less space than other turbine designs.

The NINILADY Free Energy Vertical Wind Generator's rotor component in front of a lake and buildings on the lakefront
Courtesy of Amazon

The aircraft wing design of the blades also makes this small wind turbine run quieter. In addition, this unit comes with its own MPPT controller.

  • Start Wind Speed: 1.3 m/s (4.27 ft/s)  
  • Rated Wind Speed: 12 m/s (39.37 ft/s)
  • Maximum Safe Wind Speed: 40 m/s (131.23 ft/s)
  • Size of Blades: 1.05 m (3.44 ft)
  • Rated Power: 600W

Vertical Wind Turbine Generator 12V 

This VAWT has two fiberglass blades curved around one another. It is designed to have a service life of around 10-15 years and boasts easy installation, even including extra installation tools.

This small wind turbine has maximum RPM protection to run no faster than 300 RPM despite very high wind speeds.

  • Start Wind Speed: 1.3 m/s (4.27 ft/s)  
  • Rated Wind Speed: 11 m/s (36 ft/s)
  • Maximum Safe Wind Speed: 40 m/s (131.23 ft/s)
  • Size of Blades: 1.05 m (3.44 ft)
  • Rated Power: 400W

Pikasola Wind Turbine Generator 12V

This HAWT by Pikasola has three blades made of nylon carbon fiber, making them lightweight and resistant to corrosion. This small wind turbine also comes with a yaw adjustment system so the mast can rotate to adjust to the direction of the wind.

Promo photo of the Pikasola Wind Turbine Generator 12V 400W
Courtesy of Amazon

Its hybrid charge controller also allows for the option of an additional solar panel energy source.

  • Start Wind Speed: 2.5 m/s (8.20 ft/s)  
  • Rated Wind Speed: 13 m/s (42.65 ft/s)
  • Maximum Safe Wind Speed: 40 m/s (131.23 ft/s)
  • Size of Blades (Wind Wheel Diameter): 1.3 m (51.19 inches)
  • Rated Power: 400W

Dyna-Living Wind Turbine Generator Kit

The Dyna-Living Wind Turbine Generator Kit has three blue blades made of nylon fiber reinforced with fiberglass that is not easily broken or deformed. The blades are also resistant to high and low temperatures- -40°C~ 80°C (-40°F ~ 176°F). 

Promo photo of the Dyna-Living Wind Turbine Generator Kit 500W operating behind the peak of a roof decked out with solar panels
Courtesy of Amazon

This HAWT’s coil is made of Teflon wire, making it highly heat-resistant.

  • Start Wind Speed: 2 m/s (6.56 ft/s)  
  • Rated Wind Speed: 13 m/s (42.65 ft/s)
  • Maximum Safe Wind Speed: 50 m/s (164 ft/s)
  • Size of Blades (Wind Wheel Diameter): 1.3 m (51.19 inches)
  • Rated Power: 800W

Primus Wind Turbine Generator

This HAWT by Primus is an excellent choice for anyone planning to go off-the-grid with their power. It can be used in conjunction with solar energy sources to provide a consistent energy source during off-seasons.

In addition, the small wind turbine is lightweight and easy to install, designed to be plug-and-play.

  • Start Wind Speed: 3.1 m/s (10.27 ft/s)  
  • Rated Wind Speed: 4.5 m/s – 22 m/s (14.76 ft/s – 72.17 ft/s)
  • Maximum Safe Wind Speed: 40.2 m/s (132 ft/s)
  • Size of Blades (Wind Wheel Diameter): 1.17 m (46 inches)
  • Rated Power: 800W

This table summarizes the critical information about these turbines (links are affiliate links if you choose to use them. This helps support the blog so we can write more content!):


Product NameStart Wind SpeedRated Wind SpeedMax Safe Wind SpeedSize of Blades/ Wind Wheel DiameterRated Power
VAWTsNINILADY Free Energy 600w Vertical Wind Turbine Generator1.3 m/s (4.27 ft/s)12 m/s (39.37 ft/s)40 m/s (131.23 ft/s)1.05 m (3.44 ft)600W
Vertical Wind Turbine Generator 12V 400W1.3 m/s (4.27 ft/s)11 m/s (36 ft/s)40 m/s (131.23 ft/s)1.05 m (3.44 ft)400W
HAWTsPikasola Wind Turbine Generator 12V 400W2.5 m/s (8.20 ft/s)13 m/s (42.65 ft/s)40 m/s (131.23 ft/s)1.3 m (51.19 inches)400W
Dyna-Living Wind Turbine Generator Kit2 m/s (6.56 ft/s)13 m/s (42.65 ft/s)50 m/s (164 ft/s)1.3 m (51.19 inches)800W
Primus Wind Power Air 40 Wind Turbine Generator3.1 m/s (10.27 ft/s)4.5 m/s – 22 m/s (14.76 ft/s – 72.17 ft/s)40.2 m/s (132 ft/s)1.17 m (46 inches)800W

Final Thoughts

Under perfect conditions, a horizontal wind turbine might produce more energy than a vertical one. However, the wind conditions in residential areas are often not ideal.

Vertical small wind turbines tend to perform better in turbulent winds, and with lower startup costs, fewer maintenance costs, and omnidirectional functionality, they are more efficient overall. 

Sources

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