When we think of fitting our homes with renewable energy, most of us will turn our minds to solar power, and the installation of solar panels in our gardens or on our rooves. The idea of building and maintaining a wind turbine is not necessarily the first thing that jumps to mind, as the turbines we see in wind farms are far too large and seemingly complex to be used at home. However, today’s advances in renewable technology mean that, thankfully, installing your own manageably-sized wind turbines at home is well within your means.
Where solar power can fall short of its desired power output in areas of poor weather conditions, low light, or fluctuating sun-exposure, wind power is a fantastic and readily-accessible alternative. Wind turbines work like fans, except the other way around. Where fans use electricity to generate wind, turbines use wind to generate electricity. The wind rotates their blades, which in turn rotates a generator in the hub of the turbine, creating electricity which can be used to charge batteries, feed into your mains, or power specific appliances.
When building your own wind turbine, however, you’ll need something other than the standard generators used in the (much larger) turbines constructed for the energy grid. What you’ll need is a permanent magnet DC motor. These motors are small and affordable enough to be the backbone of your personal renewable energy system(s), and have been designed not only to fit a range of needs, and be as efficient as possible in their operation, but also to be durable – especially necessary in a field (wind energy) in which it’s not always easy, cheap, or quick to hire someone to carry out maintenance on your turbine.
Having reviewed the market, we’ve chosen our favourite wind generator motors available for wind turbines today.
The Walfront NE400 is easily the most powerful home wind turbine motor on the market today. It’s good for charging batteries or appliances up to 24 volts, and can produce 400 watts when rotating at its maximum operational limit of 950RPM. Resistant to high and low temperatures, and built with industrial-grade materials, the motor is durable and built to last, whilst being efficient too.
This 350W motor from YaeTek is remarkably cheap, with a speed rating of 2,700 RPMs. It is easy to install and can be used in a wide variety of installations, making it a perfect inexpensive component for power generation in a small, high-wind area turbine. Made of cast-iron, it’s not as durable or weatherproof as other competing models, and it will require a lot of wind power to produce its 350W at 0.7-14 amps, but then you get what you pay for, and you really can’t complain about the price of this small wind industry motor.
We really like the look of the Marsrock motor, here. Producing 100-130W at 600RPM, it’s the most efficient motor for wind turbines we’ve found yet (producing a respectable 0.17-0.22 watts per revolution). This particular motor actually puts out and AC current, so do keep that in mind, in case you’re going to need to buy a converter to go alongside it. Operational wind speeds for this motor are 3-20 m/s, and it’s built with strong, durable materials which are built to be weatherproof and anti-corrosive.
Having had a brief look at our product top picks, let’s examine the products the wind power market has to offer in more detail.
KVC Useful Micro 24V 25oW Permanent Magnet Motor
- Brand: KVC
- Color: Black
- The tools are complete and practical
- DIY, play the ability of your hands
- Micro hand drill
Here’s a super-affordable small power motor from American manufacturers KVC. Resistant to moisture and corrosion, this motor is designed for a range of applications, but can also be useful in a small (or “micro”) wind turbine. With a no-load current of 16.4 amps, and a voltage rating of 24 volts, it would be used suitably with all 12 volt batteries, and any 24 volt batteries or applications (provided your area’s wind speed allowed it to achieve its maximum revolutions of 2700RPM). It can produce 250 watts at 2700RPM.
- Inexpensive (second most affordable motor on our list)
- Corrosion and water resistant
- Low-efficiency rating (0.093 watts per revolution)
- Brush-type motors require more regular maintenance
Marsrock 600RPM 100-130W 12V Permanent Magnet Generator
- Brand: Marsrock
- NdFeB Permanent Magnet
- High-grade pure copper winding
- Specially-designed rotor and rotator
- Low resistance moment in start-up
If you’re looking to kit yourself out with a super-efficient (albeit relatively low power) motor – perfect for installations in low win areas – then look no further. We made the Marsrock motor our ‘Best Efficiency’ winner because, at a max RPM of 600, it has a pretty respectable watt-revolution ratio of 0.17-.022:1. With this ratio in mind, you can quickly calculate how many watts the motor will produce given your area’s particular wind speed.
The Marsrock motor is built with high-grade pure copper wiring and a die-cast aluminium-alloy case, making it resistant to corrosion from acid, alkali and salt. This is a motor for wind turbines designed to last (the product specifications estimate it has a service life of 20 years). This motor’s output current is 12 volts of AC, producing 100-130 watts at 600RPM.
- Built to last
- Not particularly powerful
- AC output current, rather than DC (will require converter in most situations)
YaeTek 24V DC 350W Permanent Magnet Electric Motor
- Brand: YaeTek
- Color: Black
- 24V Permanent Magnet Motor Generator
- The shaft rides in two high-quality ball bearings
If you’re new to wind power, and perhaps looking to get to grips with it before investing too much money, then you’ll want to take a look at this motor from YaeTek. We awarded it the top prize in our ‘Best Price’ category. Quick and easy to install, the YaeTek 35o watt motor functions most efficiently at 2,700RPM (quite high – so do make sure you live in a high wind area, else you’ll not get the most out of this motor).
Built of cast iron, it’s durability and resistance to corrosion are unfortunately called into question; still, for the price, you do get up to 24 volts of DC output current when hitting those 2,700 RPMs, and a nice 350 watts of power to boot.
- Most affordable motor on the market for DIY wind turbines
- Easy to install
- 24 volts
- Made of cheaper, less weather-proof material than competing products
- Requires very high winds to reach maximum potential
Walfront NE400 24V 400W Permanent Magnet Electric Motor
- Brand: Walfront
- Permanent magnet generator, high reliability and more energy-saving.
- Resistant to high and low temperature, -40℃~80℃ working temperature.
- Low loss, high efficiency, energy conservation and environmental.
- Convenient to use and easy to install, perfect for industry use.
- Made of high quality material, durable with long life.
Walfront have built something really neat in the NE400. Low loss, high efficiency, energy conserving and environmentally-friendly, the NE400 is one of the most efficient motors on the market, and for a little more money than the cheaper alternatives is the ideal choice for someone who’s really serious about getting the most out of their DIY wind turbines.
Requiring only 950 RPM to produce an impressive 400 watts of power, the NE400 is suitable for use with 12 or 24 volt batteries and appliances. It is also built of industry-grade materials, making it resistant to corrosion, with a long service life.
- Built to last
- Powerful (won our ‘Best Power’ category)
- Slightly more expensive than other products on the market
We know that shopping for the right motor for your home wind turbine can be confusing and stressful, so we’ve compiled a guide to help you make the most informed decision.
Permanent Magnet or Permanent Coil?
There are two main types of DC motor to consider, when choosing a motor for your wind turbine, but both work in essentially the same fashion. Both are constructed of wound copper wire and magnets. As wind hits the blades of your turbine, and begins to push them, electricity is generated and dispersed into the copper wire, in turn creating a magnetic field. This magnetic field then interacts with the magnets (pushing back against them), which turns the motor, converting the electricity generated by wind into AC or DC power (depending on the motor) and sending it to your battery/grid/appliances.
The difference between the two competing types of motor comes from the interaction between copper coil and magnets. In permanent magnet motors, the copper coil moves freely in the centre of permanent magnets, and electricity is generated by the revolution of brushes created by the copper and magnets’ resulting magnetic field. In permanent coil motors, the copper coils are permanent, and there is a moving magnet in the centre of them, requiring no brushes to rotate and generate electricity.
Whilst permanent magnet motors are the kind we’ve here featured (due to their affordability and accessibility for DIYers), their use of brushes means that they are prone to quicker degradation and thus require more frequent maintenance, than their brushless, permanent coil motor cousins. If you’ve got the budget and the know-how, we’d recommend searching for a brushless, permanent coil DC motor instead.
This is one of several crucial considerations (and measurements) you need to make before settling on a wind turbine motor for your renewable energy project. Wind speed is typically measured in MPH (miles per hour), KPH (kilometres per hour), or M/S (metres per second). You’ll need to scout out the area you intend to build and install your wind turbine(s), and establish the average wind speed (and direction) of that area.
Upwind wind turbines (this depends on the design of the blades) face into the wind, whilst downwind wind turbines face away from it. You’ll need to ensure you’ve got the space to install the correct wind turbine to face or face away from the normal direction the wind in your area comes from.
Wind speed is most important though. Permanent magnet DC motors (like those shown here) are great, in that they require very little torque to start turning and generating electricity; still, the electricity generated depends entirely on how your motor interacts with the environment.
Standard wind speed is 10-30 MPH, which can affect about 400-600 RPMs in a household turbine; as such, you want to base your own location’s windspeed-RPM calculation on the above, and ensure that the motor you purchase falls close to the RPMs you judge your area to deliver. You don’t want a 1500RPM motor in a 700RPM area, as it will only work inefficiently. Similarly, you don’t want a 500RPM motor in a 700RPM area, as it will take on stress and its internal systems will quickly degrade.
Put simply, if you live in a low-wind speed area, you want a smaller, lower-powered motor, whereas if you live in a high-wind speed area, you want a larger, higher-powered motor.
For a motor’s power output to reach its maximum potential, it will have to rotate at (or near) its maximum RPM (revolutions per minute). However, it’s unlikely that your motor is going to do so since (1) it’s being used in a wind turbine as a generator, so already only operates at around 80% efficiency, and (2) wind speed varies, and won’t always be strong enough to push your motor to its limits. As such, it’s important you choose a motor to suit your requirements and location.
When it comes to your requirements, you’ll know what output voltage you need based on the requirements of the battery or appliance you’re looking to charge. If you want to charge a 12V battery (as is most popular among DIYers), you know you’ll need at least 12 volts of output voltage from your turbine.
As for wattage, your optimal output depends again on what you need the power for, but it’s worth knowing how many watts of power you want from your turbine, before proceeding.
Essentially, you’ve got to pick a motor which has at least the voltage output you require, and around 130% of the wattage output you require (to cover any shortfalls in actual efficiency of the motor). For example, if you need 200 watts, you should invest in a motor with a nominal wattage of at least 250-300 watts, to ensure you get what you need, given the motor will rarely be spinning at its top RPM. Buying a motor that is less powerful than the demands of your battery/appliance(s) can quickly damage the motor.
Amperage Rating of the Motor
The amperage rating of a motor is a measurement of how much current the motor will produce. Put simply, the higher the amperage the better. You’ll often see amperage advertised as “No-load current = x amps”. Note that ‘no-load’ means ‘not connected to a battery’. When the motor is connected to a battery, it will operate at a lower amperage than advertised. Ultimately, you want an amperage rating of at least 5 amps (if it’s not advertised, you can work out amperage by dividing advertised wattage by voltage, because volts x amps = wattage).
Depending on what you’re looking to charge, you’ll want your wind turbine motor to produce either AC or DC power. Typically, you’re going to want DC power, but even with the permanent magnet DC motors we’ve featured here, sometimes you’ll find it’s AC power they produce. As such, you’d need a converter between the turbine and battery in order to project the right type of power. Take into consideration your AC/DC requirements when searching for the best wind turbine motor.
Maintaining any renewable energy – in a world which still unfortunately depends heavily on fossil fuels and non-renewables – can be costly, and as such, you want to buy a motor which is going to last, and which will require as little maintenance on its various components as possible. As we’ve already discussed, the most durable types of wind turbine motors are brushless permanent coil DC motors – though these are expensive and not widely available. Thankfully, even brush-operated motors with permanent magnet components can be more than durable enough. What you need to look for is the type of material your motor is made of: is it corrosion-resistant, is it weatherproof, is it made of quality metals which are resistant to acid, alkali, and salt corrosion? Anti-salt corrosion properties are especially necessary for any wind turbine DIYers who live anywhere near a coast (even if you’re miles inland, salt from the sea will carry to your home turbine).
Having taken into account budget, ease-of-installation, durability, power and power efficiency, we’ve reached the conclusion that our absolute favourite wind turbine motor on the market today is the Walfront NE400 24V 400W Permanent Magnet Electric Motor. Being the most powerful motor in the place isn’t always the best thing, but combined with stellar efficiency, a respectable price point, and high-quality manufacturing, we really think all amateur renewable energy enthusiasts should check this motor out.
As a general rule, the more blades on your turbine, the better it will work, and the more efficient it will be; but on average, you’ll want three blades on your turbine.
Yes, you absolutely can, however compared to the ease with which solar panels can be installed, wind power energy generation systems to undeniably require a little more time and patience. We recommend consulting an expert if you have any concerns regarding the optimal installation of your turbine motor.
This depends on the motor, of course. If your average wind speed is low, then you’ll want a lower powered motor – a high powered motor will not produce enough of a voltage in low winds to start charging your batteries, and as such will not operate efficiently. We recommend that you work out the power you need on a daily or hourly basis, and the power any given motor will need based on the RPMs your area’s wind speed will generate, and the RPM-Wattage ratio of the motor. Ensure that given your area’s wind speed, the RPM-Wattage ratio of the motor will still be enough to cover your desired hourly/daily wattage output.
If you buy a motor which is too low-powered to cope with high wind speeds, you’ll find that the turbine’s blade can’t handle the torque, and very soon its components will start to degrade, and your turbine will require regular (and costly) maintenance. Thus, it is paramount you buy a motor with the capacity to deal with the wind speeds in your area (though, as we’ve stated in the previous FAQ, it should also not be overpowered, as this can be detrimental, too).