Home hydroelectric power

Home hydroelectric power systems offer an opportunity for humans to forge an intelligent and sustainable partnership with sunshine, rain and running water. Sometimes dubbed “microhydro,” this approach uses low-impact mechanical systems to harness moving water to generate clean, reliable electric power. In this post, we will be discussing the home hydroelectric power kits, home hydroelectric power plant and how to build a home hydroelectric power systems.

Home hydroelectric power systems offer an opportunity for humans to forge an intelligent and sustainable partnership with sunshine, rain and running water. Sometimes dubbed “microhydro,” this approach uses low-impact mechanical systems to harness moving water to generate clean, reliable electric power. In this post, we will be discussing the home hydroelectric power kits, home hydroelectric power plant and how to build a home hydroelectric power systems.

how to build a home hydroelectric power systems

Home hydroelectric power

To build a hydroelectric generator you must follow these steps:

1. Preparing the Disks

Our hydroelectric generator will consist of two main parts:
-The stator (this part is not moving and it is equipped with coils of wire to collect electricity)
-The rotor (the rotor is the part that moves and has some powerful magnets that will induce electricity in the coils)
First you need some templates and a cardboard. The two templates that contain the rotor and stator scheme must be cut and attached to the front and back of the cardboard. After these templates are well glued to cardboard make a hole (1 cm) at the center of the stator disk.

2. Attaching the Stator

Now, you have to make 4 coils that will be attached on the cardboard. This requires you to use a cardboard with an oval section. Then, start winding the wires on this cardboard to form a tight coil (200 turns). Remove carefully the coil from the oval section and then, repeat this procedure to make three more coils.

Arrange the coils on the cardboard according to the template scheme (their windings have to alternate between clockwise and counter clockwise). You must be sure that an electron would follow the path shown by the arrows in the template, begining from the left counterclockwise coil.

Connect the ends of coils and use insulation tape to prevent any errors. Use a multi-meter to cehck electrical resistance (ohms). If the wires are properly connected the meter should produce a reading of about 10 ohms.

3. Attaching the Rotor

At this stage you need 4 strong magnets to be attached on the stator template. Check the magnets, mark the south pole on two of them and the north pole of the remaining two. The magnets should be arranged on the template so that their polarity alternates (N-S-N-S).

Then you need a cork and 8 plastic spoons. You have to shorten the spoons so that the handle will not measure more than 1cm. Look at the rotor template and insert the spoons into the cork (1cm depth).

4. The Turbine

Make a 6mm hole through the cork (make sure the hole is centered), fix again the geometrical position of the spoons and add some hot glue to each spoon to secure it.

5. Generator body and Final Assembly

Find a plastic tank or a bottle to attach the rotor, the stator and the small turbine. After you find the center of the tank, make a hole in that place (6mm) and fix the stator with its coils just above the hole. Then, attach on the same shaft the turbine and rotor (the spoons have to face the neck of the bottle and the magnets should be close to the coils (3mm between the coils and magnets)).

It seems that our small hydroelectric generator is almost ready to use. All we need now is a stream of water so that the turbine to spin continuously as long as there is water to drive it. If the turbine is properly connected to the generator this stream should produce enough hydroelectric power to provide juice to our utilities or charging batteries.

Home-scale hydroelectric power systems offer an opportunity for humans to forge an intelligent and sustainable partnership with sunshine, rain and running water. Sometimes dubbed “microhydro,” this approach uses low-impact mechanical systems to harness moving water to generate clean, reliable electric power. Unlike the intermittent power from wind or solar systems, hydroelectric power can flow night and day from year-round streams.

A hydroelectric system converts the force from flowing water into electricity. You take the kinetic energy of water flowing downhill from a stream or river and direct it onto a wheel in a turbine that converts the rotational energy to electricity. The amount of power produced depends on the volume of water flowing onto the turbine and the vertical distance it falls through the system. Equipment costs range from about $1,000 for the smallest, to $20,000 for a system large enough to power several modern homes.

“Many microhydro systems generate 75 to 350 kilowatt hours (kWh) per month,” Scott Davis explains in his book, Microhydro: Clean Power from Water, a new title in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS “Books for Wiser Living” series. Davis is a renewable energy developer with decades of microhydro experience. In fact, it’s his life’s work, and he’s gathered all his knowledge, experience and enthusiasm into this concise, easy-to-understand manual. His book covers the entire subject, from the essentials of site selection to the nitty-gritty of hardware choices and installation.

Hydroelectric power on a residential scale

It is well known that energy is generated by building dams over giant underwater turbines; however it is possible to use micro hydro generators (<100kW) or pico hydro generators (<5kW) on more modest water flows. In this section we explore where the technology can be used in a small scale area, for example the home or a community project. More about industrial size dams and solutions can be found in the green commercial section.

Obviously, there is a fundamental requirement on a steady stream of moving water, however they have an advantage over solar power (both solar PV and solar heating) and wind, in that they can run day and night and in any weather conditions provided the we don’t have a prolonged drought period where streams and brooks can dry up.

The amount of energy produced is reliant on two things:


The flow of water is simply the quantity of water flowing in the water source, which is measured in litres per second.


The other key factor is the head – this refers to the pressure at which the water hits the turbine blades, and is the vertical distance from the water source to the generator. The larger the distance that the water falls before it hits the blade, the higher the head. Ideally both the flow and the head will be high, however if one of these is particularly high, while the other is low there is still the potential for a rich source of electricity.

You can estimate the number of kilowatts of energy produced by multiplying the flow (litres/sec) by the head (m) and multiplying by 9.81 (gravitational constant). Remember a typical house uses 4500kWh per year.

Busting energy saving myths


How does micro hydroelectric work?

The type of turbine that is used varies depending on the type of flow available, however typically a residential generator uses a pipe to collect water from a river or a stream. Using gravity the water moves through the pipe ‘downhill’ and a generator situated within the pipe acts to change the kinetic energy from the water flow into electrical energy.

When you have high head (the vertical distance from the water source to the generator), you are best using an impulse turbine (such as a Pelton turbine). This turbine is not submerged in the water, instead it sits in the air, and consists of buckets around a central hub. The nozzle at the end of the pipe converts the water into a fast moving jet. This jet of water is directed at the buckets, and the force of the the water causes the turbine to spin generating the power. The smallest type of high head turbine requires a head of at least 10-14 metres, and a water flow of 3-4 litres/ second, and this is rated at producing 200 watts of power.

For medium head water flows, it is best to use a reaction turbine. With a 3-12 metre head and a water flow of 45 litres/ second, you can get a reaction turbine that will produce about 3000 watts of power. Obviously as with the high head turbines, if either the head or the flow increases, you will see dramatic increases in the potential electricity your system is capable of generating.

For low head water flows, you obviously require a high flow rate, and in this situation an old style water wheel is the best. So the water fills the buckets which fill up, then pulling the wheel down, so the next bucket is filled, and this process is continued so the wheel spins (albeit very slowly). However the advantage of this type of system is that any potential blockages just simply wash through the system. Gearing can be used in conjunction with water wheels to increase the speed that the generator spins to help electricity production. Water wheels are also aesthetically pleasing on the eye!

Summary of micro hydroelectric power

If you are lucky enough to have a water flow source on your property that either has high head or sizeable flow, a micro hydroelectric generating system may be the perfect solution for your energy needs. Despite potential seasonal fluctuations in flow and head, a micro hydroelectric system will provide you with electricity 24/7, with very little maintenance necessary.

Domestic Wind Turbines – The Basics

Households can now make use of wind power technology by installing micro turbines, also known as or small-wind or ‘microwind’ turbines. When the wind is strong enough it turns the blades of the turbine, generating electricity. The U.K. climate is ideal for wind harnessing technologies as 40% of the wind in Europe is experienced here, and in the right area you should be able to see substantial savings on your electricity bills.

Pole mounted domestic wind turbine
Pole mounted domestic wind turbine

There are two types of microwind turbine:

  • Building mounted: These systems are installed on your roof, and have a fairly small capacity, averaging 1-2kW
  • Pole mounted: These installations are freestanding and have a larger capacity of around 5kW-6kW

The Energy Saving Trust has calculated that in an ideal location a roof mounted micro-turbine system could reduce your electricity bills by around £350 a year. Your system could also be eligible to receive payments for the electricity you generate through the government’s Feed-In Tariff (FIT) scheme. Here’s how the scheme works:

  • You are paid a ‘Generation Tariff’ for each unit of electricity you generate, regardless of whether you use it or not, at a tariff rate that is fixed when you make an application for the scheme. The scheme then pays you starting from when you apply to the scheme, for 20 years. A pole mounted installation in an ideal location could receive £2,700 a year at current tariff values.
  • You are also paid an ‘Export Tariff’ for any generated electricity that you don’t use. The same pole mounted installation could receive £160 a year in export payments at current tariff values.
  • The electricity that you generate is free for you to use. If you use more electricity than your system is generating at any point you will be taking it automatically from the grid as you do now, which you will pay for. Overall, however, you will still save money on your electricity bill.
  • You can get a loan to cover the cost of installing your system by instead signing up to the Green Deal scheme. The loan is recovered via your energy bill, using the money you have saved on your energy bill by using the system. This means that the installation should not cost you any additional money.

Calculate your savings now!

How Domestic Wind Turbines Work

How a domestic wind turbine feeds electricity to your home and to the national grid
How a domestic wind turbine feeds electricity to your home and to the national grid
  • When the wind turns a wind turbine’s blades this movement drives the rotating shaft the blades are attached to. This shaft sits inside a generator. Inside the generator the shaft is surrounded by a magnetic field, so that when the shaft rotates it generates an electric current. In smaller turbines the blades can be attached directly to a generator with a magnetic field.
  • The electricity the turbine produces is DC electricity. This DC electricity passes through a device called an inverter, which connects the turbine and your home’s electrical system. It converts the DC electricity to AC electricity which can be used in your home.
  • The electricity the wind turbine generates can be fed directly into your home or stored in batteries. The turbines can be connected to the national grid so that you can export any surplus electricity and receive FIT payments for your electricity, or you can keep your turbine off the grid and store your surplus using batteries, though this arrangement won’t qualify for FIT payments.
  • If your turbine is connected to the grid, any surplus electricity is automatically exported to the grid, and if you use electricity from the grid this is also supplied to your system automatically.

The providers of the FIT scheme do not currently measure how many units of electricity you export, but for microwind turbine systems it is assumed to be 75% of the electricity you generate. The capacity of a microwind turbine system to generate electricity varies according to the individual system, and can be described in kilowatts (kW). This value can range from approximately 0 to 15. The average capacity of a house mounted system is 1-2kW and the average capacity of a pole mounted system is 5-6kW.

Whilst this measure is valuable, it does not fully describe the capacity of a turbine as the wind speeds at which this capacity is reached differ from turbine to turbine. This means that the Small Wind Turbine Performance and Safety Standard is also used. Contained within this standard is the BWEA Reference Annual Energy. This is the energy in kWh that the turbine will produce annually at a consistent wind speed of 5m/s at a set turbine height. A second value, the BWEA Reference Sound Levels give the noise level of the turbine from 25 and 60m away rounded up to the nearest decibel (dB).

Installing Microwind Turbines

When considering a microwind turbine installation it is essential that you accurately measure the wind speed of your specific location. The average annual wind speed required to make wind turbines worth the investment is a minimum of 5 metres per second (11 mph), which is not usually achieved in urban or suburban areas. This is because the wind speed in urbanised areas is usually reduced by by closely arranged buildings and trees. Nearby hills can also affect wind speed, as does whether you live in a valley or not.

Building mounted domestic wind turbine
Building mounted domestic wind turbine

It is strongly recommended that before you commission a microwind installation that you accurately measure your local wind speed by buying and fitting an anemometer (wind measuring instrument). You should leave this device to carry out measurements for at least three months but ideally you should leave it for a year to get a comprehensive overview of the wind levels your property is exposed to.

Domestic Wind Turbine Installation Checklist

There are a few important things to consider:

  • Building mounted or pole mounted: Building mounted systems have a lower capacity than pole mounted systems, meaning that they will generate less electricity and are cheaper to install
  • Whether you want to connect to the grid: Currently you will need to connect to the grid toreceive FIT payments. Contact your local DNO (District Network Operator) to arrange connecting your turbine to the grid
  • Whether your local area is prone to power cuts: When the power in an area fails all inverters connected to the grid are switched off, meaning that your system will stop working. You can install batteries with your turbine to provide a back-up electricity store – ask your installer for more information
  • Roof integrity: If you are intending to install a building mounted turbine it’s wise to consult your installer on whether your house is durable enough to support the turbine – they can be heavy and vibrate when in use
  • Planning permission: There are currently permitted development rights granted for domestic wind turbine systems in England, which should mean that you won’t need planning permission for your installation. However, the criteria for this are complex and there are varying needs for planning permission across the rest of the U.K. It is therefore wise to check the planning permissions for your installation with your local authority well in advance. You will have to supply a number of documents as well as paying an application fee of £150. It is a good idea to meet with a local planning officer before submitting your application so you know exactly what is required, as is consulting with any third parties such as neighbours who may be affected by your installation. Some installers will provide information and support with filling out planning applications
  • Environmental permissions: If your planned turbine is over 15m tall or you are planning to install two turbines you may be required to commission a bat or bird survey of the area
  • Your energy supplier: The larger energy companies have a legal obligation to be registered FIT suppliers but for smaller companies this is optional. Check with your energy supplier to see what they provide regarding FIT
  • Are you carrying out other building projects? You might be able to reduce the size of your installation bill by carrying out the work at the same time as any other building or landscaping work you are planning

Installation Time

The time your system will take to install will vary with your specific circumstances, particularly if you decide to carry out the installation at the same time as other building work.

Domestic Wind Turbine Installers

If you intend to apply to the FIT payments scheme you will need to ensure that your installation is carried out by an MCS accredited installer using parts that meet MCS standards. When your installer signs off your installation as being MCS compliant they will give you an MCS certificate that you will need when applying for the scheme. If you are financing your installation through the Green Deal you will need to instead use an authorised Green Deal installer.

Domestic Wind Turbine Costs

A standard 1kW building mounted turbine installation costs around £2000, with a 2.5kW turbine costing around £15,000 and a 6kW around £23,000 including installation costs.

Pole mounted domestic wind turbine
Pole mounted domestic wind turbine

Typically larger systems cost more to install but can generate more electricity, delivering you bigger energy savings and larger tariff payments. An average system working in a 5 m/s wind speed location can save you around £350 on your electricity bill and pay you £160 in Export Tariff payments and £2,700 in Generation Tariff payments every year. You will be paid these tariffs from the date you register for FIT payments for 20 years.https://googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/ads?guci=!2&btvi=1&fsb=1&xpc=ZReE55zIJo&p=https%3A//www.diydoctor.org.uk&dtd=14797

The system will run for at least 20 years, and as the tariff value is set at the start of payments and index linked it is likely that the system will pay for itself in 7 years or less. After this point you will be receiving savings on your electricity bills and payments for around 13 years. For more information on the FIT scheme you can visit our Feed-In Tariff (FIT) page.

If you cannot afford to pay for the installation yourself the Green Deal scheme provides long term finance to cover all or part of your costs. These costs are recovered through your electricity bills using the savings you have made by using the turbine. Because the payment value should not exceed your saving this should mean that the installation doesn’t cost you additional money over what you would usually spend on your electricity bill. The scheme does include 7% interest in the payments however, so you will make more of a saving overall if you can afford to pay for the installation upfront. To find out more about the Green Deal, visit our Green Deal page.

In terms of maintenance, your installer will be able to give you specific guidance on any maintenance checks that need to be carried out. Usually it is recommended that you get your system professionally checked yearly at a cost of £100-£200. The turbine system comes with a lifetime warranty but the inverter may need replacing during that time at a cost of £1,000-£2,000 for larger systems. Any batteries used with the system will usually have to be replaced every 6-10 years.Find an MCS accredited local installer

The Benefits of Domestic Wind Turbines

An average household installing a well-sited domestic wind turbine system could benefit by over £3,200 a year. This includes the money you could save on your electricity bill as well as the Generation Tariff and Export Tariff payments you could receive from the FIT scheme. Our Feed-In Tariff scheme page contains more information on this new initiative. Domestic wind turbines deliver additional benefits:

  • Reduce your carbon footprint: A 6kW pole-mounted wind turbine system can save around 5.2 tonnes of CO2 a year.
  • Pays for itself quickly: Larger systems have a payback time of around 7 years at current tariff rates, meaning that your system’s payback time could be similar or less.

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