Editors' Take

Rooftop Wind Turbines Coming Home

From San Francisco to New York City, rooftop wind turbines are hitting the home front. Rooftop wind turbines are being installed on both homes and businesses at an unprecedented rate due to several factors including the desire to save electricity, cut down owns dependency upon fossil fuels and as a visible symbol that one is doing their part to go green.

Critics of rooftop wind turbines say that they simply don’t work or don’t work as well as advertised. The critics are right in some instances and that is why the consumer needs to know what they are getting into and what to watch out for before investing in a rooftop wind turbine.

Some of the factors that will influence the output of the rooftop wind turbine include the design itself (horizontal or vertical axis), the kilowatt rating of the generator, where the rooftop wind turbine is placed, the angle or pitch of the roof, how much wind the region provides and any obstructions that may block the wind.

The design of the rooftop wind turbine is important for several reasons. Aesthetics is one of the larger reasons homeowners today would want to put a renewable energy generator atop their houses. Also, rooftop wind generators can be a status symbol that one is doing one’s part to help the environment, create jobs for others and lower bills in these tough economic times.

Some wind turbines make more noise than others. The biggest complaint about a series of rooftop wind turbines placed at the Logan International Airport in Boston has been from an office worker below that says they make too much noise.

As I’ve stated in other sections of this website, celebrities like Jay Leno and Ed Begley, Jr. have decided to place rooftop wind turbines on their homes and garages. In both cases vertical axis magnetic wind turbines were chosen to fill the bill.

Some homeowners state that vertical axis wind turbines in general are a little quieter than their horizontal axis counterparts. Rooftop wind turbines generally come with a kilowatt (kW) rating such as 5 kW, 10 kW or 20 kW that reflects how much electricity one can expect it to generate for one’s home or business. It is important to either have a large enough rooftop wind generator or several that add up to enough in order to provide the needed power.

Some rooftop wind turbines will work more favorably when on the edge of a rooftop, such as one that is long and flat (sort of like being on the edge of a cliff with an updraft). Others, however, on roofs with more angle or pitch will work more favorably in a higher location. Finding the right spot on the rooftop can add 5 to 40-percent more efficiency in electricity generation.

One of the most obvious points is for home and business owners in rather windless areas to not buy rooftop wind turbines but rather opt for other alternative energy resources. Wind maps may help some determine if there is enough regional wind to justify the purchase of building of a rooftop wind turbine. Buying an inexpensive anemometer and tracking results is also helpful before making a decision.

A less obvious issue when deciding on putting up a rooftop wind generator may be any obstructions current or future that could block the full wind from getting to the generator. Trees, other buildings, hillsides or even large vehicles can deflect the wind away from the turbine. If the rooftop is inside a city filled with buildings the wind path can become quite tricky as it may bounce from one structure to the next causing turbulence and an inconsistent flow.

Near homes, neighbors’ trees grow and leaf out, people may put up a second story or business may build structure in close proximity to homes which all may impact rooftop wind turbines. The important thing is to think about as may variables as possible when deciding if a rooftop wind turbine makes sense and the location that fits well.

That said, many people are now rolling back their electrical meters using rooftop wind turbines. Manufacturers of these turbines are busier than ever before. With a little forethought and planning, a rooftop wind turbine may make sense (and dollars) for homes and businesses across the nation. So, what are you waiting for? The time is now just like the name of this website indicates.

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