Whether you’re going for full off-the-grid living, creating a backup incase of extreme weather, or simply trying to lower your electric bill, a wind turbine is definitely the way to go.
In this article I will explain how they work, what you need to make one for under $100.00, and give you all the do’s and don’ts of creating and placing your wind turbine.
Before we just build a turbine, we need to understand how they work mechanically, and what is best for your predicted situation.
How Does A Wind Turbine Work?
Wind power transfers kinetic energy into one of two things: mechanical power, or electricity. Propellers, or blades, are connected to a generator, or motor, to create either electricity, which can be stored and used, or mechanical energy, which can focus on tasks such as pumping water, grinding wheat (original use) or other singular tasks. Wind passes through the blades, turning them and twisting the shaft.
Electrical Energy Production
To generate electricity, you need to have the turbine’s shaft connected to a generator. Inside of the generator, the shaft spins a rotor, which has magnets of opposite charge working off each other. Copper wire is wrapped around this motor in loops, and voila! Electromagnetic induction begins by the core moving, and you have electricity.
Mechanical Energy Production
We have two options here. The blade turbines spin from the force of wind, and do so in different ways.
- Lift Type: Modern-styled HAWT mills use the lift type module. Both blade sides receive air across them, directly requiring more air to begin mechanical energy process. This can also be used to create electrical energy, though often isn’t associated with it. Lower air pressure rests on the blade edges, while higher pressure whips the tail around, creating a high rotational speed.
- Drag Type: The force of wind moves the blades. This type isn’t used for generating high volumes of energy specifically because of it’s inability to maintain momentum unless under extreme conditions. These were first invented for mechanical energy on sawmills to cut wood automatically.
Two Types of Turbines
You have two different models, each working in their own right. First, we have a Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine (HAWT) and secondly, a Vertical Axis Wind Turbine (VAWT), each giving you a different list of pros and cons.
- Horizontal Axis Wind Turbines: Traditional style of turbine, like you’d find in any windmill. Wind turns the blades, blade turns the shaft, and shaft creates energy.
- Vertical Axis Wind Turbines: These are, for lack of a technical term, really cool. These are the most popular type of turbines homeowners and homestead preppers are using for renewable energy. While most HAWT’s use their generator immediately behind the blades or close to, VAWT’s react entirely differently. These are, as one might imagine, vertical turbines with no loose blades.
Pros And Cons of Horizontal Axis Wind Turbines
It’s important to decide which type of turbine is useful for you. If you’re an off-the-grid prepper, and have a home somewhere in the middle of the woods or in other remote locations, there are many reasons why a HAWT is good, and plenty as to why it’s bad.
If you’re going for large-scale production, in a SHTF scenario where law has become null and void, you’re flaunting a beacon of energy independence for the biggest guy in the neighborhood to siphon from, or worse: steal it entirely. However, they can produce immense amounts of energy in short timeframes under the right circumstances.
HAWT’s are used more for mechanical energy, whereas VAWT’s are better for electrical energy. These blades generate the most energy under perfect wind direction and speed, and so, even in a windstorm, you would need four separate HAWT’s facing four different directions solely to ensure you could achieve 25% of your total energy potential.
One advantage over VAWT would be the ability to rapidly generate high volumes of electrical energy under the best circumstances. However, it’s a gamble. VAWT’s are your safe bet if that’s what you’re going for. In a worst case scenario, if you were able to create and operate a water pumping station to filter and process clean water, your needs would fall under mechanical energy, where a HAWT would be of far better use.
Pros And Cons of Vertical Axis Wind Turbines
There are mixed reviews about VAWT’s being more effective at producing renewable energy for your homestead than HAWT’s, however, we’ve come to find that it’s better to bet on good odds than gamble, especially when it comes to electrical output.
Vertical Axis Wind Turbines stand tall, and range from homemade designs built in tubes with spinning blades on the interior, to the more common design, which looks you can see in the video below.
They’re pretty funky looking, but don’t let that fool you. These can constantly operate under minimal wind conditions, making them a safe bet. VAWT generators are almost always at ground level, which makes them easier to maintain due to accessibility.
They don’t need tall towers; in torrential weather you could remove them and bring them into a safe structure to avoid damage. More often than not, these are installed on steeple-style rooftops for optimum wind performance.
They can capture wind from just about any direction. They don’t have to point towards oncoming wind direction.
During high winds, these smaller turbines could potentially break. As long as you’re within distance to maintain your VAWT systems, this shouldn’t be an issue.
Pro Tip: You don’t want to uninstall your VAWT system to bring it into safety, but abnormally high winds are on the rise. Use metallic trashcans as covers for these turbines, and secure them with screw to the base of the VAWT mounting system.
Now that we’re associated with both types of turbines and both types of power, you probably have a pretty good idea of which type you want, and where you’re going to put it. Let’s look at the construction and standard pricing of each.
Vertical Axis Wind Turbines
You can make this for as little as $20.00. While you’re not looking at the most absolute solid construction, we do have the most economically friendly model. Gather the necessary materials below, and prep yourself to spend a short amount of time constructing this VAWT model. We still have $80.00 to play with on a quality generator and power bank.
- Four (4) 25mm ID Bearings (1 Inch Diameter)
- Four (4) 50mm OD Bearings (2 Inch Diameter)
- PVC Tube (Longer than broomstick; 55mm Diameter)
- 2 Plastic 22 or 55 Gallon Buckets
- 8 Long Screws
Grease The Bearings
They move easily, but not easily enough for this project. Pop off the seals and withdraw any grease; rinse with turpentine, replace. It should spin easier now. Note: this will decrease the life of the bearings, but we’re going for maximum electrical storage capabilities here. The better it spins, the more energy you can harness.
Creating The Shaft
Cut the PVC tube to be just slightly shorter than the broomstick. Place broomstick in center; attach 2 bearings to be close in the center of the broomstick. Attach PVC pipe to exterior and secure. You’ll attach one of each bearing to each end of the PVC pipe, as well.
Create The Blades
We need a way to actually capture the wind; this is where those buckets come in. Cut both buckets directly in half. Using a hole saw, create a half-circle hole (50mm) on the left side of each bucket halve. This will be used to connect it to the shaft.
Use two screws per bucket halve to attach to the PVC shaft exterior. Put the top two blades opposite each other, and the other two blades beneath it, covering precisely the top half of the shaft. (This is so the bearings will properly spin, allowing the entire structure to operate properly.)
Pro Tip: Cut small 5mm holes in appropriate sections of bucket blades. The bottom of the top ones, and top of the bottom ones, and attach with wire. This will provide more stability.
The biggest part of this is finding a proper generator to attach this to; we’ll get into generators in a little bit, but until then, find where you want to affix this to.
Rooftops may provide too high a wind gust depending on conditions; these are ideal for placing in low areas, like the top of a fence post or in your yard. It also keeps low on visibility to intruders. Potentially, you could craft a whole farm of these inexpensive models for under a thousand dollars. Low-key on the radar.
This will get the job done; it should work well up to 12.5MPH. Not the best durability, but inexpensive. You could cover these with metallic trash bins without having to remove them from their positions under high winds. Let’s look at a higher durability model.
Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine
We’re looking at about $70.00 here; that’s because with a HAWT, your generator is directly connected behind the rotor blades. In industrial large scale wind production, you’re only going to see horizontal models; as we discussed earlier, enormous HAWTs definitely can produce more power, but for residential use, it’s a bit tricky.
There’s no way to camouflage these; in a SHTF scenario, you’re bringing immense attention to yourself. If this is in use just for personal home energy efficiency in the meantime, be certain to take it down when news strikes.
Potentially violent intruders or scavengers may think you’ve dismantled it because you packed up and left. Others may be onto this. Use at your own risk.
- Three (3) pieces of 36 inch long aluminum
- Ametek 38V Motor
- 36 Inch x 1 Inch aluminum rod for tail boon
- One (1) 60 inch x 2 inch aluminum pipe for mounting
- Your choice for what it’s mounted to
- One (1) aluminum sheet to cut into rear blade
- Electric sander or sandpaper sheet
- Concrete glue
Using a jigsaw or handsaw, take one 36-inch aluminum slab. You’re going to ignore one side, and cut the other. Take the side you’re going to cut, use your preferred tool, and cut to look like the standards wind turbines in the photograph below.
Once finished, use a piece of sandpaper or electric sander to smooth out the edges where you’ve made cuts. It allows for better aerodynamic wind pickup.
Conjoin the blades to the bearing of the Ametek 38V motor rotor and secure tightly with the concrete glue. Afterwards, apply a light layer of silicone to all places where concrete glue is still visible. It adds stability to the piece, while also removing the possibility of erosion from rainwater, etc., to the concrete glue.
With the Ametek, you’ll see a small spindle where you can attach these. Ensure to do it carefully. You can check the stability before we hook it up by simply holding the motor and spinning the blades.
Beforehand, allow proper time for both the concrete glue to dry, and separately for the silicone to dry. Follow drying instructions on whichever package you had purchased.
Your motor/blades are going at one end of the 36-inch aluminum tube we’ll be using as a tail boon. Depending on your motor size, you may need additional electrical tape to wrap around the chamber of the motor to allow tight fitting.
Once placed inside one end of the aluminum tube, apply more silicone to the seal. We’re going for a bit more stability than you’ll find in most wind turbine builds of this size.
Craft and Place Rear Blade
With that spare sheet of aluminum, you’re going to craft a rear blade for the boon. Use your jigsaw to carve out a kidney-shaped, straightedge rear blade.
You’re going for a total diameter of about 30 inches, so as not to be too large that it will offset the main turbine. Slice a straight slit in the backend of the 36-inch aluminum pipe on both the top and bottom. Slide the rear blade into place with some concrete glue, and you’re ready to go.
This is mostly left up to preference. You’re going to need to cut a circular hole in the bottom of the boon and slide it onto the 60-inch pipe, applying concrete glue along the way.
From here, I’d recommend using your best judgment on what to mount this turbine post to. With its lightweight design, you could opt for bolting it to material such as wood, or filling a bucket with concrete; it’s your call.
Check out this video on how to make a miniature horizontal axis wind turbine out of an old printer and car charger/lighter combo, used primarily for charging devices, such as smartphones and rechargeable batteries. With such a small size, it’s undetectable and can remain close to the ground.
Unless you’re ridiculously inclined with small mechanics and electronics, you’re going to want to purchase one and hook it up on your own.
I’ll list what models are best, and we’ll go from there. It’s always better to purchase one of these instead of building one on your own. These three model types listed below work on both HAWT and VAWT models.
Textron 12VDC Motor
With excellent reviews and a history of being used in “How to” guides all across the web, Textron really build a great motor here. It’s only 12 volts, so it’s better to be used over time to store energy for your power bank, or charge small devices, but at only $4.00 a pop for quality, you can imagine the possibilities.
For only a $1.20, you get a slightly less-quality build, but the option of 6-24 VDC on this little number. Purchasing from the preferred retailer, allelectronics.com, yields a bulk buy option. If you purchase 50 or more of these mini motors for your project, you only pay $1.05 each. If you plan on making a small army of wind turbines, this is the way to go.
6-12VDC Johnson Motor
The title pretty much says it all. It’s a fairly powerful motor for only $2.25 a piece, offering a relatively low bulk option. After 10, you’re only paying $2.00 per motor, so even if you’re building that small army of turbines we talked about, this is a premier opportunity.
Your power bank serves two purposes: converting DC energy generated by your wind turbines to AC power, and storing said power in the form of usable electricity.
A power bank is essentially a battery, and this is the most expensive part of the project. You can get lead-acid batteries (our recommendation) for as little as $55.00; that wraps up even our most expensive design for a wind turbine/most expensive motor generator.
You can view this video link below for an example of a large-scale power bank.
Power banks need to be properly ventilated while remaining in mostly climate-controlled environments. If you live in a “never changing” environment such as Florida, Hawaii, or Alaska, you’ll be able to properly create your power bank enclosure with a certain air of consistency.
It’s important not to have your home draw energy off of this on a constant drip basis; it will most certainly wear out your battery quickly.
You’ll find instruction guides with any lead-acid battery you purchase describing how to hook it up to a DC wire, bringing in optimal power to your bank. The key lies in knowing which type is good for you.
Most of these power bank batteries run in 12, 24 or 48 volt outputs, which are the most common strength of outlets found in any standard home across North America.
This guide teaches you how to create a capture source of energy, generate that energy effectively, and store it into your power bank; you’ll need multiple of these $100.00 projects to sustain enough energy for off-the-grid living, but if you plan your watt-hours correctly, you can utilize even the smallest power sources.
My name is Teresa Fikes. I am a Homesteader, survivalist, prepper, historian, and writer plus much more all in one package deal. I was raised on a small family farm were I was taught at an early age to survive off the land without the help of modern conveniences. I am a writer by profession and a Homesteader by Blood, Sweat, and Tears.