Remote homes, whether cabins, hunting lodges, or vacation homes are excellent places to implement alternative energy systems. But where do you start? And how do you maintain a wind turbine for cabin use when you’re not always at that cabin?
Missouri Wind and Solar wind customers have long trusted our products to electrify their cabins and remote homes. We’ve helped advise users on the best systems for their cabins and, in turn, we’ve learned from their experience.
As time has gone on, we’ve learned more and more about what works best for wind power-using cabin dwellers. If you’re looking for efficient, self-sufficient ways to power your remote home, we created this guide for you.
We’re going to outline why wind turbines are a good choice for powering remote homes, how to buy a system that suits your needs, and how you can maintain a system when you’re not constantly on the premises.
Is Wind Power Right for My Cabin?
Determining if wind power is right for your cabin involves many of the same considerations you would make when choosing wind power for your home. The most important factor is your power demands.
When we say “cabin,” different readers are going to picture very different buildings, with hugely different amenities. Someone reading this may even be surprised to see “amenities” mentioned in same sentence as “cabin.”
One person’s cabin is another’s mansion. Therefore, the system we say meets one customer’s minimal needs will struggle to keep up with the demand of another.
What we recommend to every customer is that they first look at their power consumption and consider what they really need and what is not actually essential, however nice it is to have on hand.
Electric heat sources are heavy consumers. We recommend that customers increase the size of their system or consider a hybrid system that uses both wind power and solar panels.
Heating is both essential and a huge drain on your energy. We recommend that our customers don’t rely on their wind turbines for it since there’s not going to be much power left over for everything else.
An alternative to electric is gas heating, though that can be a logistical problem for especially remote locations. There are several things you can do to reduce your heating needs (we covered several of them in this recent post).
A fireplace or wood burning stove are other options for heating-one that can also save on energy when you need to cook your meals. If you're not using an electric heat source, we won't that into sizing your off-grid system.
With that being said, let’s now address the main question when it comes to evaluating your cabin for wind power potential.
What are you using the cabin for? Do you intend to stay there for long stretches of time, or is it more for weekend jaunts and hunting trips? The answer to these questions can go a long way toward helping determine what you need on hand.
Once you enumerate the essential points of the system, then you can go further and include the things you want.
For example, what sort of food storage options will you need at your cabin? Short visits may allow you to get by with just a cooler, but longer-term storage may entail a full-scale refrigerator or even a chest freezer.
All of this is to say there is no cookie-cutter wind turbine for your cabin. A bare-bones bungalow is going to need less power than a fully-stocked second home.
The closer your cabin is to a typical home with all its amenities, the more power your wind turbines need to generate in order to keep up.
Cabins with less demand, though, can be hugely successful in harnessing the wind to go fully off-grid.
Whether you adapt some things like heating and cooking to methods that don’t require electricity or simply go without some luxuries, energy independence is within your grasp. You just need to choose the right turbine.
Choosing the Right Wind Turbine System for Your Cabin
Once you have a good estimate of your power demand based on your needs and the electrical load those appliances demand, you can begin to narrow your search for wind turbine systems.
Here are some key components you’ll want to familiarize yourself with.
You’ll see on our site that the wind turbine is made up of the blades, mounting and tail assemblies, and the generator.
Wind turns the turbine blades which allows the generator to convert kinetic energy into voltage for your battery. Generally speaking, the more efficient the generator, the faster you’re able to charge and recharge your battery bank.
Your battery bank is the reservoir from which you draw your cabin’s power. Your battery bank’s capacity determines a lot about what you’re able to run off wind energy.
Your battery bank connects to your power inverter, which converts Direct Current (DC) power from your turbine into Alternating Current (A/C) power usable by most appliances.
There are DC versions of appliances but, depending on your needs, you may still need an inverter for other things.
One more component that needs to be mentioned is your charge controller. Your controller sits in between your generator and your battery bank and it helps keep your batteries from overcharging.
With a wind turbine, you’ll need a dump load attached to your charge controller. This keeps your wind turbine under a load which prevents excess power from harming your system’s components. You could also use a grid-tied feed inverter for this, but only if you are able to connect to the power grid.
To figure out your system needs, it’s helpful to start from the end point and then work backwards. Calculate the wattage use of your appliances, and then find an inverter (if needed) that easily meets that capacity.
Your appliances have continuous and starting or peak wattage loads. Multiply the appliance’s amp use by 120 to get a close ballpark of its continuous wattage. The startup capacity for most appliances is double that number but can be even higher for certain things.
Once you find an inverter that can comfortably handle your estimated demand, you can build a battery bank to feed the inverter and correctly size the charge controller.
With that information in hand, you can select the wind turbine and generator's wattage needed that can most effectively meet your system’s needs.
Our wind turbine kits contain many of these components, and some can fit your needs on their own. Users with higher demand may need to add additional wind turbines.
Until you know your demand, it’s not possible to give you a good estimate for the sort of wind power system you’ll need. Once you do these calculations, it’s much easier for you to get a clear picture of your project. Meanwhile, we’re just an email away.
Maintaining Your Cabin’s Wind Turbine
Cabins and remote homes present a special challenge when it comes to wind turbine maintenance. After all, the whole point is that you’re not always there. So what does that mean you have to do to keep your system in good working order?
Let’s start with your batteries. If you’re using lithium batteries, you’re in good shape as long as they’re stored properly. Flooded lead acid batteries still require ventilation to the outside, so make sure that no environmental factors will interfere with this.
But the most crucial part of your system to address is the turbine itself. At the very least you should ensure that your turbine is put in a mode that will not have negative impacts on your equipment as well as your wind turbine.
Depending on how your system is mounted the easiest and safest solution may be to take down the turbine and remount it when you return. Whatever you do, make sure your turbine prepared for any weather event that may occur while the property is vacant.
As long as you do these things, your system should be safe while you’re off-site. Inspect your system when you return to make sure every component has held up in your absence and enjoy your energy-independent cabin.
Is a wind turbine a good idea for my Air BnB or vacation rental?
If you are on site to maintain the system and disconnect the turbine if needed, then it could work. Otherwise, consider the amount of training you would have to provide your guests in order to trust they know how to handle it.
A solar panel would be a better choice, since you don’t need to worry about diverting excess loads.
Can I combine wind turbines and solar panels?
Yes! In fact, we recommend it, especially for our customers who wish to be entirely off-grid. Having two inputs helps provide a greater range of working time for your system, since often the wind is higher when there is less sun and vice-versa.
Make sure that you are using a charge controller capable of receiving power from both turbines and solar panels.
How high should I mount my turbine?
As a general rule, the higher the better. Sixty feet is the ideal, given that the higher you go, the higher the general wind speed is.