Closeup on the blades and hub of a small wind turbine

Tapping into wind energy to power your home can be hitting two birds with one stone. Besides being environmentally friendly, it will also help you cut down on electricity costs in the long run.

But how long will it take before you start seeing a return on investment?

Small wind turbines can be a rewarding investment if you’re in a windy region. Otherwise, you’ll have to rely on the grid or on other renewable energy sources like solar.

If you’re thinking about investing in a small home wind turbine, this article will help you make an informed decision.

What Is the Average Payback of a Small Wind Turbine?

The average payback of a small wind turbine is approximately 15 years. This return on investment can be extended depending on the type, capacity, and model of your home wind turbine. Wind speed and maintenance cost also influence the payback.

How To Determine the Average Payback of a Small Wind Turbine

Let’s use the example of Primus Wind Power Air 40 Turbine. This small wind turbine can generate around 40 kWh of electricity per month. The wind speed required for this output is an average of 13 mph (21 km/h).

Suppose you live in an area where the average wind speed is around 13 mph. This model is rated to deliver 40 kWh, but you can expect up to 50 kWh if the wind speeds are a tad generous. However, for simplicity, you can use the rated power generating capacity to calculate the payback. 

When connected to the grid, the cheapest electricity cost is around 10 cents per kWh. The average is about 14 cents per kWh. We’ll consider both for this calculation, but bear in mind that the cost per kWh can be as high as 40 cents in some states, such as Hawaii.

  • At 10 cents per kWh, the Primus Wind Power Air 40 Turbine generates $4.00 worth of electricity per month.
  • At 14 cents per kWh, the Primus Wind Power Air 40 Turbine generates $5.60 worth of electricity per month.
  • If the price of such a small home wind turbine is around $1,000, your payback will be 15-20 years, depending on the wind speeds.  

You should note that this calculation doesn’t include the installation cost. Many small wind turbine kits don’t include the mast or pole to mount the unit. You’ll have to pay for this separately, and some people may need the assistance of professional installers to set up the whole thing. 

A small wind turbine in a field with clouds and blue sky in the background

We’re not highlighting maintenance costs because there are brands that offer onsite assistance if a unit has any manufacturing defect or other issues that aren’t a result of any fault of the user.   

What To Consider When Installing a Small Wind Turbine

Not all properties are suited for small wind turbines.

A non-negotiable requisite is a minimum of around three m/s (9.84 ft/s) wind speed at the installation site. You should also consider permit or zoning regulations and the payback period. 

Measure the Average Wind Speed in Your Area

The first thing you should do when deciding whether a small wind turbine for your home makes sense is to determine the typical wind speeds in your area. 

Small wind turbines generally need at least seven mph (11 km/hr) of wind speed to be viable. For starters, you can check the wind speeds in your area from government websites. 

The US Department of Energy has a comprehensive database of wind speeds for every part of the country. You can use the data from this website as a ballpark figure to decide whether your area can support a small home wind turbine. 

Keep in mind that wind speed varies significantly based on the local landscape. Obstacles such as buildings and trees drastically change wind speeds and direction. Therefore, asking an installer to provide you with a thorough assessment of viability is essential.

You can also install an anemometer at your planned installation site and collect data for a few months or an entire year before installation. This route will give you more realistic expectations of how your turbine might fare in different seasons. 

Amazon offers a wide range of options when it comes to anemometers.

If you’re looking for something affordable, XRCLIF’s Digital Anemometer might be the one you need. This device is light and readily fits in your pocket, making it easy to use and carry.

Promo photo for the XRCLIF's Digital Anemometer
Courtesy of Amazon

Check for Zoning and Permitting Requirements

After you have wind speeds and patterns at hand, the next thing to factor in is whether your zoning laws permit installing a wind turbine. 

Since regions have different zoning and permitting requirements, you should consult a local building inspector about your plan to install a small wind turbine on your property. 

Calculate the Estimated Payback Period

The last and most crucial factor to consider is whether your wind turbine will be worth it.

Compare the average cost of your electricity consumption with the installation and maintenance of the small wind turbine you’re planning to install. Then, work out the calculations with an installer to ensure you get a precise estimate on when you’ll recoop the investment. 

Some areas have incentives for the installation of renewable energy systems. You should factor these benefits into your payback calculations. 

If the payback period is close to or greater than the lifespan of the wind turbine, this renewable energy option is not the right fit for your home. You can explore other renewables instead, like solar power. 

Conclusion

Installing a small home wind turbine requires a considerable investment. More importantly, the energy output won’t be reliable unless you thoroughly assess local wind speeds throughout the year. Also, it would help if you bought a small wind turbine that actually delivers.

That said, small wind turbines are extremely useful for remote installations, especially for devices that don’t require a lot of power. Wind and its speed may be intermittent, but a small home turbine can store the energy in a battery to power quite a few needs.

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