DIY Power Generator Ideas

There are a lot of different options for generating power that you might not have thought about or realized was even possible. Knowing how to put together power generators is not only a valuable skill for trade and barter but could make your life a lot more pleasurable during a SHTF situation.

When I started researching this subject, it was amazing how much old junk there is laying around that could be utilized for power generation with a little bit of know how and tools.

After reading this, my goal is that you will be inspired to “take charge” of your future power needs. For those of you on solar power, this could be a valuable addition to the options you have for charging batteries when needed.

At the same time I realize that not everyone is comfortable putting some of these things together and some things have to be bought regardless unless you have a lot of skills.

I for example would not want to attempt to make a wind mill but if you are handy then by all means I encourage you to explore. I have included some generator options that are in varying price ranges for those that need to just get something now or have limited space.

A lot of these ideas are fairly involved so I have included some links to Youtube videos where innovative folks show you hands on how to make these generators.

Whole books could be written on any one of these concepts and probably have been so for the sake of brevity and getting you started, I have included these links and encourage you to watch a few videos before getting started on your own project. There is nothing like watching something hands on.

Generator From Lawn Mower Engine

Utilizing the alternator of a lawn mower is a proven way to generate quite a bit of power. While you are dependent on gasoline for this, lawn mowers burn so little that it is still worthy of consideration. Some report that a 2 horse power motor will run about 4 hours on a gallon of gas.

There are plenty of mowers out there that have decent engines but need other repairs that make it not worth it to someone to keep. You will also need an alternator. Truck alternators can be found at junk yards or if you have a friend that is always working on trucks you may want to put the word out you need an alternator. You can use smaller alternators but bigger ones are better for power production.

Keep in mind that this produces 12 volt power so you will need to purchase an inverter to step up the power to standard 120 volt to run your typical appliances and such. Those with solar power probably already have one of these on hand but if not they are not super expensive. The larger the inverter of course the more expensive.

In the video above, a 500 watt inverter is used which allows for quite a bit of power on hand and substantial battery charging capability. There are many versions of this generator out there and watching a few videos is one of the best ways to get an understanding of the basics.

Water Turbines

Those that have running water on their property are at an advantage when it comes to this type of power generator. The faster the flow the better your power generating capabilities.

If your flow is lacking there are things you can do about that. Digging out a section of creek so there is more drop can help. Essentially you need water to turn a wheel and anything you can do to facilitate that is going to be a major help.

Having a reservoir of water can help. There are several ways to do this. First off you can practice water catchment. If you catch rainwater or storm flow and store it in a reservoir you can release this water to turn your turbine faster. This allows you to generate some extra energy at key times.

Another way to look at it is using a ram pump to use water pressure to pump water up to a reservoir from your creek, river or stream. This water is then put into a damed up area or tank and can be released or set to flow out as needed so you have better flow through your water wheel/turbine.

This can be especially helpful it your water flow rate of your stream is sporadic at times or just to allow for peak power usage at your home. The more drop and velocity you can achieve the faster you are making power.

There are so many ways to divert water or capture the extra that comes down. Water turbines are fabulous things to have if you are lucky enough to have the water source but even if you do, if there is a period of drought you are going to need another back up power source or cut back a lot on energy usage.  Here are some links to videos on Youtube that are helpful.

Wind Turbines

Small wind turbines are inexpensive and I have been tempted to try it myself but I figure it would meet the same fate as the large ones around here. You also need to be aware of the issue of birds versus windmills.

Environmentalists and bird lovers have lamented and battled with the reality of how many birds are killed in areas that use a lot of wind turbines. Even a small wind mill can contribute its share of casualties. Deciding if that is something you can deal with is up to you.

Here are a few turbines that are available on Amazon for charging up a battery bank or just providing some direct power to your home. Most people charge batteries up so they can take advantage of wind when needed. I am including a large and smaller turbine for you to look at.

WINDMILL 1200W 24V 42A Wind Turbine Generator kit. MPPT charge controller included (Amp, Volt & Watt display) + automatic and manual braking system. DIY installation.

Cost: $1000

While at $1000 this is a bit of an investment, you are getting a turbine that can produce a lot of power plus all the accessories needed to get it hooked up including an MPPT charge controller. One of the major bonuses of this turbine is that it has a lower cut in speed of 4.5 mph.

That means you can start making power at that speed which is not that fast really. This is a major improvement over older designs.

Cost:

For those that want to try some wind power out but not make a major investment, this 400 watt turbine offers a good option. It also features a low start up speed. 400 watts is a bit of power for $236. 

If you just want to have wind as a supplement and not a major power source to an existing system then this is a solution worth considering. Outbuildings and barns that need a little bit of power or that are facing the right direction to catch your commonly prevailing winds could handle this smaller turbine. It assembles easily and has a warranty.

Homemade Wind Turbines

It is possible to make your own wind turbine if you are a little bit handy. Here is a link to a video for making your own wind turbine with some basic supplies listed below.

  • 27″ Snow Shovels
  • 4″ Round Weatherproof Box.
  • 4″ Round Weatherproof Cover.
  • Galvanized Pipe Nipple, 3/4-Inch X 12-Inch
  • EMT Snap N Set Screw Connector, 3/4″
  • J-B Weld
  • Self-Drilling Screws
  • Pillow Block Bearings

You will also need a stick of 3/4″ EMT electrical conduit.

Please visit this fellow’s site. He has some great ideas for creating your own power systems.

Solar Power Generators

This is another power generation concept that has a million different options for how to go about it. To narrow it down a bit you need to think about what you need in these terms.

  • Something to make your generator portable. A lot of people use wagons or dollies. A wagon has a lot of advantages. For example you can pull it with an ATV or lawn tractor if you want or just pull by hand and move your generator around without having to break down components and move individually because they are so heavy,
  • Batteries. Sealed marine batteries are available at any major auto store or Wal-Mart and offer a cheaper and just as effective alternative to those sold as being strictly for solar. The more amp hours a battery stores the more power you have on hand thus two batteries will allow for more storage than one.
  • Inverter. This can vary in size. You will want to match the size of your inverter to the size of the system you want to create. Bigger inverters cost more so if you are just creating a small generator then there is no use spending on a really large one unless you have plans for expansion in a short period of time.
  • Solar Panels. These come in all sizes and some are made to be more space efficient than others or even fold up. A 100 watt panel is well worth the investment. Sure you can go smaller but with the price of panels being so low, why bother with smaller panels that are going to take longer to charge your battery supply up?
  • Misc wires and connectors. Again this is going to vary based on your other components. Sometimes these things are included but you will likely at least need some battery connector cables.

Here are a few links to some solar generators created by other preppers.

Pre-Built Options

You can take a short cut and purchase a small solar generator for a reasonable cost. Here are a few options that are lightweight and inexpensive. You can charge them a number of ways so if you don’t have solar panels yet, you can still buy one of these generators and add panels later if wanted.

5.2lb 300W (600W Peak) Pure Sine Wave 200WH Backup Portable Battery Generator Power Source PowerHouse Charged by Solar/AC Outlet/Cars with 3 AC & 4 DC 12V & 4 USB Ports

Cost: $229

This is an impressive power pack with outlets for all your needs. At just over 5 lbs this is light enough and small enough that even those living in small apartments in town can have some backup power on hand in a cabinet!

The $229 version is 300 watts but if you want to spend a little more you can get a 7 lb 500 watt version for $289.

Goal Zero Yeti 150

Cost: $199

Ground Zero makes solar generators that address a lot of different energy needs. The Yeti 150 is ideal for those that want some basic back up power. It will store 150 amp hours of power and at $200 it is something to consider for those that are not into getting into a major project putting together their own.

Ground Zero sells their own brand of solar panels but for the money I would just buy a different and less expensive brand. If you have higher needs for energy storage Ground Zero offers generators that can provide back up power for a whole household. 

Charging times for batteries vary based on sunlight hours and the size of your solar panels. There is a limit to how many panels can be hooked up.

Why Not Have Several Types?

No generator is going to be the ideal one for everyone. In fact you may very well want to make several types. If you have the space you may want to have a small wind turbine as well as a solar generator.

Those lucky enough to have some running water on their property may want to add in a water wheel. Using a lot of energy sources can add up to being able to provide a lot of or even all of your own energy, saving you a lot of money all while making you less dependent on the grid in any situation from a natural disaster to economic collapse.

Take your time when learning the skills required to build these systems and do it right. While it may take you longer than you expect if you are just getting started with these types of projects, it is well worth it to gain the skills and you might save a lot of money over buying something premade.

Even if you have to buy most of the parts, chances are you are going to be able to put together something that provides either more energy for the same cost as a premade set up or cut the cost on the smaller set up you have your eye on.

Have you made a generator at home? What was the most easy and most challenging aspects of it? Please comment below so we can all learn together. I am betting some of you have some great ideas for creating sustainable energy with what you have on hand!


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  1. As an electrical contractor I can tell all that any home has different needs for different times of the day temperature change and season. this is why having several layers of generating power is a wise choice. during the day little energy is used. except in the colder moments that require that surge to start a motor on a furnace having a larger generator with battery start and controlled by a thermostat that starts it a minute before the furnace starts saves gas or propane or natural gas whatever you use. this way you can keep the sizes of your batteries down and use the less expensive ones to keep them charged correctly. this method would allow you to power a home adding capacity later. the batteries are the critical point because if not cycled properly will damage them and shorten their lives. I always recommend the iron Edison. it will last many more cycles than a car type battery but costs much more. the money saved on fuel could be dedicated into upgrading and the end result is a more efficient system. I dont recommend installing your system in parallel with your regular power. too easy to cause a back feed that could kill a line worker. running lines for the furnace, laundry fridge and garage door opener installing low voltage lines for 12 volt lighting eliminates the problems with inverter failures for lighting that would be used the most. it would also let you regulate the discharge level of your inexpensive car batteries. so you dont cycle them too frequently. the led lamps will provide light far longer than incandescent and wont provide a heavy current draw on your batteries to overheat them. wow that is more than I intended to say. adding solar cells will also provide a small charging source that will also save gas. oh I knew I would forget something. Honda makes a lawn mower engine that has elect. start. this is the one I would use to provide the extra power needed for the laundry and furnace motors.
    Grampa

  2. A wind charger’s power is generally at wind speed of around 28 mph. At 14 mph a 1000 watt generator will only produce only 125 watts at 7 mph it is only 16 watts. It is important to know at what wind speed is required for the rated power and the average wind speed where you live so you have an idea of how much actual power you will get on the average.

  3. “Environmentalists and bird lovers have lamented and battled with..how many birds are killed..blah blah blah.”
    These would be the enviro-mental cases that brought on the era of wind turbines with their useless and incessant whining, in the first place.
    So yes, I choose to ignore the morons.

  4. If anyone’s considering human-powered generation, perhaps with a treadmill or exercise bike, it’s handy to remember that a well-conditioned adult can generate about 100W at a rate which can be sustained for about 10 hours per day. That’s one kilowatt-hour. If you can buy it off the grid, it’ll cost you about $0.10-0.15.

    If you’re wondering to what extent your wind turbine or solar panels can substitute for grid power, look at your electric bill, for the “kWh” figure. That’s a kiloWatt-hour, like having a 100W solar panel in full sun for 10 hours (which would require good weather AND turning to track the path of the sun). (The rest is simple arithmetic, which usually produces disappointing results. If alternative energy were easy, we’d have done it a long time ago.) I have 21, 250W solar panels, and after three years of operation, we’re just a little ahead of breaking-even (producing a little more than we consume). Today was nice and clear, near perfect, and we got 12 kWh of energy from them (as if they only saw perfect sun for two hours, but it’s late November in Maryland).

  5. I just bought a 100 W solar panel kit from Harbor Freight that comes with a charge controller and two LED lights. I know I need some type of battery and an inverter, but I have no clue what size would be best for either one. This is for an off grid small cabin at our farm. We are going to be using it mostly for light, and maybe recharging cell phones and a laptop, and perhaps a fan. Does any knowledgeable person out there have any good suggestions for this solar newbie? Suggestions would be most appreciated! Thanks in advance!

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