A guide to domestic wind turbines and how they can power your home

07 May 2021 | Aimee Tweedale

There’s a strong chance that wind is already powering your home here in the UK, at least some of the time. In 2020, wind turbines generated more than half of our electricity1. After all, we are the windiest country in Europe2 – which won’t surprise you if you’ve ever taken a windswept walk along the British coastline!

But what if you want to cut out the middleman, and install a wind turbine of your very own at home?

Domestic wind turbines are on the rise. They can help cut down on bills, and they make guilt-free green energy. Plus, they’re often stunning to look at.

However, they’re also expensive, and need a lot of unobstructed space to generate energy (which means they won’t work in the average back garden). This is why sleek solar panels remain the more popular choice for homeowners who want to go green. 

Still curious? Read on to find out everything you need to know about home wind turbines. 

What is a domestic wind turbine?

A domestic, or home wind turbine, is a device that can turn wind energy into clean electricity for your home.

It’s like a miniature version of the much bigger wind turbines you’ve likely seen around the UK, in fields, or just off the coast. The basic science is the same, but home wind turbines are more compact. 

Find out more about full-size wind turbines and how they work, in our complete guide

How does a home wind turbine work?

Like bigger wind turbines, home turbines harness the energy of the breeze to turn it into electricity.

When the wind blows, it pushes the blades of the turbine and makes them spin. This spinning turns a shaft inside the turbine, which powers a generator, which turns the kinetic energy of the spinning motion into electricity. 

Regular wind turbines are usually very tall, and have gigantic blades, to catch as much wind power as possible. Obviously, when you have one in your back garden, you can’t have it built to the same scale, so you won’t capture nearly as much energy. That’s why domestic wind turbines are only recommended for people who live in rural, extra-blustery areas. Find out more about the ideal spot for a home wind turbine below. 

Want to know more about the science behind wind energy? Read our full guide to the UK’s favourite renewable power source.

Types of home wind turbine

Generally, you could have 2 main types of wind turbine installed at home.

Roof-mounted wind turbines

These small wind turbines sit on top of your roof, just like solar panels would. Putting them on the roof gives them the best height to take advantage of the wind blowing over your house. 

They’re usually cheaper to install than standalone turbines. But since they’re not as big, they tend to be less powerful, usually generating 1-2kW. 

Standalone or pole-mounted wind turbines

Free-standing wind turbines are likely to be more powerful than those that fit on a roof – but only if you put them in the right place. They work best if they’re in a big, open space where there’s nothing to slow down the wind: think in a massive field – or even better, on top of a hill.

Unless you have this kind of land available around your home, a standalone turbine might not work for you. They’re also usually more expensive. But if you do have the space and the money for one, the good news is that you have a better chance of powering your entire house with it than with a roof-mounted system. 

What are the benefits of powering your home with wind energy?

Advantages of home wind turbines

  • Wind is plentiful in the UK: did you know that 40% of the wind energy in Europe blows over our little island3? It’s one of our greatest natural resources.
  • Wind turbines are low-carbon: they’re a green, renewable source of energy, and don’t release any carbon emissions, which fuel the climate crisis.
  • They can save you money: by generating your own electricity, you can cut back on your energy bills. Plus, you may be eligible to get payments from the Smart Export Guarantee.
  • They look cool, too!: if you’re prepared to splash out, there are lots of architecturally innovative wind turbine designs out there. Why not go the extra mile and make your home look as futuristic as its energy?

Disadvantages of home wind turbines

  • The upfront cost is high: a pole-mounted system that generates about 6kW could set you back between £23,000 and £34,0004. Read more about pricing below.
  • They’re not suitable for every home: home wind turbines just don’t work for everyone. You need to have the right wind speed to power them, which means you need lots of unobstructed space – which is usually only the case in rural homes (sorry, city dwellers!).

Wind energy is green, clean, and sustainable. But it’s not the cheapest or easiest option, especially for urban homes. That’s why many home-owning eco-warriors opt for solar panels instead. These can be fitted on your roof, so they don’t take up extra space, and they’ll work anywhere (not just on top of a windy hill!). 

Find out more about solar panels, how they work, and how to get them installed.

A child making a model wind turbine

Can I put a wind turbine on my property?

If you want to know if a home wind turbine could work for you, the first thing to consider is how much space you have. Remember, your wind turbine will capture more energy the higher it’s placed, and the bigger its blades. 

Got the space? Great – but hang on a second! There are 2 more key questions you’ll need to answer before you go putting a wind turbine in your garden. 

What’s your wind speed?

Wind turbines ideally need an average wind speed of 5m/s (meters per second) to be cost-effective. 

Not sure how fast the wind is around your home? The best way to find out is with an anemometer – a nifty device that uses sonic waves to measure the wind – or a wind gauge.

The Energy Saving Trust recommends installing one of these devices in the place where you plan to put your wind turbine, and leaving it there for a couple of months. This will give you the best, most precise data, to help you decide whether a domestic wind turbine would be worth it for you. You could do this yourself, or hire a professional to investigate for you. Find out more from the Energy Saving Trust. 

Do you need to get planning permission for a home wind turbine?

Depending on where in the UK you live, you might not need to have planning permission to install a wind turbine. 

In England, you don’t need planning permission for a roof-mounted wind turbine, as long as it meets a list of rules – including:

  • The installation meets MCS standards
  • You have a detached house, surrounded by other detached houses
  • You’re only installing one turbine
  • You don’t already have an air source heat pump installed
  • The turbine doesn’t extend more than 3m above the height of your chimney

You might also be able to install a standalone wind turbine without planning permission if meets the rules – including:

  • The highest point of the wind turbine is no higher than 11.1m
  • You’re only installing one turbine
  • You don’t already have an air source heat pump installed

See the complete rules for permitted development of home wind turbines here. 

In Scotland, you’ll need to get planning permission for a roof-mounted wind turbine. 

You don’t need to get planning permission for standalone turbines, as long as:

  • It’s the only wind turbine on your property
  • It’s more than 100m away from your next door neighbour
  • You’re not putting it on a world heritage site, scientific research land, near a listed building, or near land for archaeological purposes

Check the full rules here. And whether or not you need planning permission, make sure you (or your installer) speak to your local authority to get clearance for your turbine.

In Wales and Northern Ireland, you’ll need to apply for planning permission to install any kind of wind turbine. 

How much does a home wind turbine cost?

The cost of a domestic wind turbine depends on what type you go for, how big it is, and who installs it. 

The average cost of a small roof-mounted turbine (between 0.5 kW to 2.5 kW), is about £2,0005. But these don’t generate very much electricity, so it will take a very long time to recoup that cost.

On average, a free-standing 5kW wind turbine may cost between £20,000 and £25,000. But don’t forget that you’ll also have to cover the costs of planning permission, preparing the site, and connecting your turbine to the electricity grid. This could bring the total to £30,000-£40,0006.

Do I need insurance for a home wind turbine?

Your wind turbine might be covered by your building insurance. Check your policy to be sure. If not, there are specialist insurers who can give you a quote. 

Can I get paid for exporting energy from my wind turbine?

It used to be that people with home energy generators could earn money from the Feed-in Tariff scheme. The government unfortunately closed that scheme in 2018 – but the good news is that they replaced it with the Smart Export Guarantee (or SEG). 

The SEG rewards you for exporting any energy that your wind turbine generates back to the National Grid. If you’re eligible, you could get SEG payments 4 times a year. How much you get will depend on the size of your turbine, how much electricity you use, and how much you export (based on meter readings). 

Find out more about the Smart Export Guarantee here.

What size home wind turbine do I need?

How big a wind turbine you need to power your house will depend, of course, on how much power you use.

The average UK home eats 3,731 kWh of electricity per year7. A pole-mounted 1.5 KW turbine could deliver around 2,600 kW over the course of a year, depending on the wind speed and other factors8. A 10kW system could generate around 10,000 kWh per year9.

Remember: these numbers are estimates. To work out whether it makes financial sense for you, you’ll need to know how much energy you actually use, and how much you’re likely to get from the wind speed around your home. 

Want to start tracking your electricity use? Find out how to get a smart meter installed at home for free.

So, are domestic wind turbines worth it?

Powering your home with wind energy is a fantastic way to stay green – but it’s not cheap or easy. Before you take the leap, remember, you need to consider these 5 crucial questions:

  1. Do you have enough space for a wind turbine, either on your land or on your roof?
  2. What’s your local wind speed?
  3. Considering the space and wind speed you have available, will a wind turbine be able to give you as much power as you need?
  4. Have you got enough cash to cover the upfront installation costs?
  5. Do you have planning permission (if you need it)?

If you’re looking for more ways to go green, check out our guide to reducing your home’s carbon footprint, and our ultimate guide to being efficient with heating and hot water.

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