Most RVers want to learn about cost-effective, environmentally-friendly methods of charging their batteries as they travel. Solar gets a lot of attention for this reason, and it’s no longer unusual to see solar panels on RVs and vans. But why don’t you see many RV wind turbines? Let’s find out.
What Is an RV Wind Turbine?
An RV wind turbine is essentially a tiny windmill that generates electricity using the wind. It’s a type of renewable energy generator like a large windmill in a field, though on a smaller scale.
They usually have two or three propeller-like blades that are aerodynamically designed to catch the wind. They perch on an RV’s roof and generate energy as they spin.
How Do They Work?
RV wind turbines are on a shaft mounted on top of an RV so that the turbine has room to turn high in the air where it’s windier. Wiring runs from the turbine to the battery.
The details of how wind turbines generate power are very scientific. But to sum up, when the wind blows, it turns the blades. As these blades turn, a rotor in the windmill shaft turns as well, operating a generator so you can store any new electricity.
If you’d like a more detailed understanding of how wind turbines generate energy for your rig, check out this graphic from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Is Powering Your RV with Wind Too Good to Be True?
Is it possible to generate power that can fully charge a battery with the wind? Some RVers say the resulting energy they get from the wind is similar to what they get with solar panels. If the wind continuously blows to produce adequate power, that is.
You might think that you can improve your results by driving with the turbine on your roof or parking in a very windy area. However, large wind gusts are not helpful, and in some cases, they might shut down the system.
RV wind turbines can begin to generate power at winds just under 10 mph but require wind blowing at 26-30 mph to achieve their rated capacity. That’s a relatively strong breeze, and it needs to be continuous.
It’s just difficult to know if you can rely on a steady wind. You know the sun will rise daily. Even if there are clouds, you know it’ll come out sooner or later. But you can’t predict the wind.
Advantages of RV Wind Turbines
The largest advantage of a wind turbine is the ability to generate renewable energy during the night when a solar system would not produce power. This of course only works if it’s windy. During cloudy or stormy days a wind turbine could keep generating power as well when solar shuts down.
They’re also environmentally friendly and relatively easy to install. Sometimes they can also be more cost-effective than a large solar array.
Cons of RV Wind Turbines
One of the biggest cons of an RV wind turbine is that they need wind. The wind is many RVers’ (including ours) least favorite weather by far. The wind is noisy and can even shake an RV.
By adding a wind turbine you will exacerbate the annoyance of wind. Many wind turbines are not silent and make a clicking or wooshing sound as well as transmit vibrations into the RV they are connected to. We have heard more than one story of people removing them after finding this out.
RV wind turbines need to be lowered or even completely removed from the RV for traveling and then raised again to charge your batteries.
Besides, suppose bad weather interrupts your night. In that case, you might be running outside to lower or remove the shaft to avoid damage. If you’re away from your RV during a storm, you could lose your wind turbine.
Unfortunately, these tiny windmills cannot generate a lot of power consistently, which means you can’t entirely rely on them. Moreover, you won’t always be stationary in windy locations, so you’ll miss out on prime charging time.
In talking to multiple people with RV wind turbines installed, they all agreed that an equivalent costing solar system generated much more power than their wind turbines.
Why Do So Many Sailboats Have Wind Turbines?
To start with, a sailboat is designed for wind and usually is located in steady wind areas. Wind over the water also tends to be less gusty and more consistent. They can also leave them up all the time and generate power when underway.
Sailboat owners also are accustomed to the movement and vibrations of the wind. A boat is rocking and vibrating all the time where an RV is supposed to be still. Because of this the extra noise and vibrations from a wind turbine are more expected on a sailboat.
Why You Don’t See Many RV Wind Turbines
To sum up, we don’t see many RV wind turbines because they don’t generate as much power as other sustainable alternatives such as RV solar. If you’re on a trip, your RV solar panels could generate power as you drive.
Not so with a wind turbine that you have to put away before you go. You could try to set your turbines up every time you stop to fuel up or pick up groceries, but it’s not likely you’ll go through the trouble.
Imagine you’re traveling through parts of Arizona where the wind rarely blows steadily. If you were planning to use your wind turbines to charge your batteries, you’d end up with a dead battery on the side of the road. You can’t rely on them as you can on other energy sources.
Overall, RV wind turbines may be an intriguing slice of the renewable energy pie. Still, they aren’t as practical for RVers as solar panels are for many reasons.
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