Residential wind turbines are wind-generated, energy-producing innovations that may help provide a lower-cost energy resource for homes in regions that maintain constant, high-speed winds. By transforming wind or kinetic energy into mechanical energy, these windmill-like turbines may, in some cases, produce enough power to fulfill the electrical energy-consuming needs of a household. There are many factors involved that determine the amount of energy residential wind turbines may produce; the most important of these is wind speed. For most residential wind turbines to function properly and avoid frequent maintenance, they should be located in areas that receive average wind speeds greater than 15 mph (24.14 kmh).
The principle parts found on conventional turbines generally include structural support, a generator component, and a rotor component. The structural support is typically in the form of a tower that elevates the rotor so as to better catch the wind. A generator component houses an electrical generator with various unit controls, and may also include a gearbox which acts during low-wind situations to help sustain enough rotation to generate needed electricity. The rotor component includes the blades which convert wind energy into mechanical energy, which is then transformed and generated for electrical purposes within the home. The composition of these parts may vary, although one can expect most structural supports to be made of steel or other sturdy metals, and most rotors to be made of composite fiber materials designed to withstand extreme weather conditions.
There is much debate about the practical use of these smaller wind turbines for homeowner purposes. Some individuals claim that the noise emitted by these machines is an unwelcome burden. Likewise, their sometimes obtrusive size might be seen as both an environmental hazard and an unsightly eyesore. Another major concern brought to light by some consumers and turbine owners alike is whether or not a residential wind turbine is in fact a money-saving device. The price and general maintenance of these turbines can be so great that homeowners may not see a substantial profit for many years, if ever.
Some residential wind turbines do indeed have the potential to generate enough wind energy so that the surplus energy is actually "sold" to a power company, thereby giving some homeowners virtually “free” electrical power. Again, most homeowners should not expect immediate, or even consistent, results. The upkeep needed to maintain residential wind turbines may sometimes outweigh the economic benefit of this "free" energy, particularly in situations where constant high winds are not guaranteed.