2008 was a horrible year. When oil prices kept rising, the cost of everything else went up also. Coupled with the sub-prime mortgage crisis, I found myself financially strapped. That’s when I decided to look for ways to cut costs. I stumbled upon the idea of generating my own electricity to save costs on my utilities. But I needed a plan for how to do it.
After lots of research, here is the most practical wind generator plan. It can be divided into 4 phases:
Making the wind generator
Making the body of the generator
Mounting the generator
The electrical connections for the generator
Making the Wind Generator
In case you’re confused over the terminology, a generator is a machine that converts kinetic energy into electricity while a motor does the opposite (uses electricity to produce kinetic energy). It follows then that a motor can be used as a generator due to the principle of electromagnetic induction (producing electricity from the flux in a magnetic field). Therefore, one of the main components you need is a motor. You may use an old motor from an electrical appliance like a fan or a treadmill but it is more advisable for you to buy one since this is the most important component of your generator. Look for the brand called Ametek or Windblue. Ametek motors are ideal for smaller engines (where your blades are up to 3’ long) whereas Windblue motors are more powerful and can generate electricity from longer blades. It is recommended that you make your blades no longer than 4’ long especially if you’re a beginner.
If you use an old motor, check whether it shows cogging. Cogging is where the motor shaft sticks at certain points of the revolution. Cogging will affect the efficiency of your generator. You can’t really do anything about an old motor that cogs. If the cogging is minimal, you can still use it. But the only solution is to buy a new Ametek or Windblue motor because they do not cog.
Your wind generator consists of the blades mounted onto your motor. So the first thing you will have to do is make your 3 blades. PVC is the most practical material for beginners who don’t have a high budget. If you can afford it, go for fiberglass which is better than PVC but more expensive. Otherwise, buy a 3” to 6” PVC pipe from the hardware store. Using a saber saw or a band saw, cut out 3 blades in the shape of the wing of an airplane. Then sand them into shape using a sander and paint them with UV protective paint to make them more durable under the sun. To save yourself this work, you can buy ready-made blades. The best brand is Windmax. They are made of fiberglass and much more efficient than any PVC blades.
You need to screw your blades onto a hub 120° apart. A hub is a circular piece of flat metal. A pulley or a scroll saw blade properly modified can be used as a hub. Make sure that the blade tips are exactly the same distance from each other. Now you need to balance your blades. Make a center hole using a lathe and mount it onto a horizontal rod. Hold it in place with a pillow block bearing and give it a spin. The blade that consistently ends up at the bottom is heavier than the others, which means your blades are not balanced. You have to do some sanding to balance the heavier one with the others. If you buy ready-made wind blades they would be perfectly balanced and you can skip this step.
Once your blades are balanced, you can mount them onto the shaft of your motor. You will need an arbor to do so. An arbor is a piece of metal shaped like a rod (usually only a few inches long) that comes in various sizes. You need one that is the same size as the shaft of your motor. Using an arbor, you can join your blade and hub to your motor. Get your arbor from eBay or any hardware store.
Making the Body of the Generator
Your generator motor needs to be protected from the rain, so you need a body for it. A PVC pipe would do fine. Mount your motor onto a length of wood like a 2 by 4. Then cut the PVC pipe down its length and slip it over the motor. Seal any cracks with silicone to prevent water from seeping in. Now construct a tail for the body so that it can turn towards the direction of the wind. The tail may be any piece of metal screwed onto a rod and joined to the back of the body. Don’t forget to paint the body as well.
Next you need to attach a flange to the bottom of the body so that it can later swivel at the top of a tower. Finally, you have to connect your motor to a battery body to store the electricity produced by the motor. Since you motor will be continuously swiveling, you need an electrical rotation connector to do so.
Now you are ready to mount your generator.
Mounting the Generator
Your generator needs to be at least 15’ higher than any other object within 300’ of it. Thus, you need to mount it onto a tower. One practical way is to use an old TV tower. Many people have these towers before they changed to satellite TV. Offer to take it down for someone and use it as your wind generator tower. You could also use a tilt-up tower or buy a ready-made one. Secure the tower with guy wires tied to stakes in the ground. Remember to use a bearing of some sort (like a lazy susan bearing) to allow your generator to swivel on top of the tower.
Your tower should be earthed in case of lightning. Use a heavy-duty wire to connect the tower to a metal rod in the ground. Also protect your batteries by using a fuse or lightning arrestor so that in case the some of the lightning travels towards your battery, the fuse or lightning arrestor would save it from being destroyed.
The Electrical Connections for the Generator
You cannot connect your generator directly to your appliances because the electricity generated from it is not consistent, just like the wind. That’s why your generator is used to charge up your batteries. When connecting your generator to your batteries, you need a diode so that the electricity does not flow from the batteries to the generator (if it does, you generator becomes a giant fan). Furthermore, your generator produces DC current, but your home appliances use AC current. Thus you need to use an inverter to convert the DC current from your batteries into AC current to power your appliances.
For the last year or so, I have been able to save up to 70% on my electricity bill because I can generate free electricity using my own wind generator.