olar panels have become commonplace in many residential areas across the United States. The sight of solar modules covering the roofs of grand, upscale homes can be quite impressive. Yet, for those living in tiny homes, it's not always clear if a solar panel system is a practical choice.
If you're on the fence about starting your solar journey in your tiny home due to concerns about the benefits of solar panels, we've got you covered. Let's address the top questions about going solar in a tiny house to help you make an informed decision.
If you have a tiny house, where can solar panels be installed?
When it comes to placing solar panels tiny house is no exception. There are generally two options: a home solar panel system can be rooftop or ground-mounted. Rooftop solar panels are more common today; their installation is cheaper, and it is easier to obtain a solar permit. But if the roof of your tiny house doesn’t meet all requirements of a solar panel installation place, going solar with a ground-mounted panel system might be a better decision.
Why do we think solar panels on tiny house roofs may not be the best idea? First of all, your roof obviously must have enough space for a solar array, and a tiny house often means a tiny roof. What is more, solar panels should be oriented and tilted properly to generate power at their highest efficiency, and there is not much choice of how you can install solar panels on tiny house rooftops. With a ground-mounted solar panel kit, you’ll have more freedom in terms of space and installation.
Sometimes, rooftop solar panels also work well for a tiny house. The amount of solar power tiny home may need can actually be produced by several solar panels. If your tiny house consumes not much power, simply buy two or three solar panels that won’t require a lot of space on your roof. Moreover, if you are not sure if your roof will handle some extra weight associated with a solar panel system, you can choose thin-film panels, as they are very light compared to traditional ones.
How much electricity is needed to run your tiny house?
To calculate how many solar panels tiny house needs, you should first know how much power a tiny home requires. With this information, making a decision to purchase solar panels becomes easier. Besides, you may have different goals: some owners of tiny houses are willing to be completely independent of the utility grid, which means a solar kit of a bigger capacity, while others prefer a grid-connected solar panel system that will serve as backup power during outages.
The most effective method for determining how much solar power tiny home needs is to check power bills. On average, a tiny house will use around 4 kilowatts or 4000 watts per day, with 80% of the power going towards heating and cooling. In contrast, the kilowatts consumption in American average-sized houses is 30 kilowatts or 30000 watts per day. In the table below, we will show you an example of tiny home power usage. Such a breakdown for your specific case will make it easier for you to decide how much solar power tiny home may need. So let’s have a glimpse at that:
How many solar panels tiny house may need?
With regards to the number of solar panels tiny house requires, it totally depends on the amount of solar power needed to satisfy your home needs. When you already know how much power is necessary in your case, calculating the number of solar panels for your future solar panel kit will be as easy as pie. Simply divide your daily power usage by the number of hours of sunlight in your area. Thus, you will get the number of watts per hour you need your solar panels to generate.
For instance, you live in a place with four hours of sunlight per day, and your tiny home uses eight kilowatts per day. This means that you should install a 2-kilowatt solar panel system to fully meet your power needs. To make up a 2-kilowatt solar system, you will usually require 8 solar panels, assuming that you use 250-watt panels. Each 250-watt panel is about 1.6m x 1m, so you need at least 13 square meters of space. You can use panels of a larger capacity; you’ll then need to install fewer.
Pros and cons of solar for tiny house
As with any solar panel system, a solar system for tiny house has both its merits and demerits. Before starting with solar in a tiny home, consider all pros and cons of the solar panels tiny house can host.
Benefit 1: Your home will use clean energy produced by solar panels
Small acts create a huge impact: solar for tiny house is a perfect opportunity to live a more sustainable lifestyle. By harnessing the sun's energy, solar panels generate clean, green power. Having a home solar system reduces your carbon footprint, aiding in the fight against the adverse effects of non-renewable energy sources, such as climate change. Although solar panel production is reliant on fossil fuels and is not emission-free, the clean energy generated by solar panels compensates for the energy required for their manufacturing.
Benefit 2: Solar panels will help you save on your home utility bills
By generating solar power tiny house owners get the opportunity to significantly lower their utility expenses. With the small number of solar panels tiny house requires, you can even completely eliminate your electric bills. A tiny home solar panel system between 1 kilowatt and 3 kilowatts in size is enough to cover the power needs of almost any tiny house. Such a small solar panel system will result in annual savings of between $250 and $750.
Benefit 3: A solar system can make your tiny home energy-independent
Not satisfied with the fact that your tiny house relies on the grid? There is a solution for you – add a battery system to your home solar panels array and enjoy all the advantages of being energy-independent. The best thing about an off-grid solar panel system, which is relatively inexpensive in the case of a tiny house, is that you will always have some surplus solar energy to power your home during eventual outages. But there is not the only benefit that comes with it. If your tiny house is located in a remote area, it is highly likely that connecting to the grid would be too expensive or even unavailable; with an off-grid solar panel system, you will solve your power issues.
Concern 1: A tiny home may not have enough space for solar panels
One of the first concerns connected with planning solar in a tiny house is the space requirements. Although the number of solar panels tiny house needs is not as big as a large home requires, you still need to find a suitable place for a solar panel system. As we have already mentioned before, one possible way to handle it will be to install solar panels on the ground near your tiny house, although such a home solar panel system can be more pricey.
Another alternative would be to pick high-efficiency solar panels, which will produce more electric power in the same amount of space in your tiny home. Monocrystalline panels are the most efficient solar panels in today’s solar market, but a solar system made up of such solar panels will also be the most expensive. Besides, you can try to make your tiny home as energy efficient as possible. The key to energy efficiency is doing more with less: the less power your house uses, the fewer solar panels and the less space you’ll need to go solar.
Concern 2: The upfront cost of solar panels may be pricey
Solar panels for tiny houses are generally more affordable than a solar panel system for a large living unit since a tiny home needs fewer of them. However, solar panels will still be a solid investment, even with a tiny house. For example, a small 1-kilowatt solar panel system will cost around $3000, while a 3-kilowatt solar system will cost about $10,000. Advantageously, as long as you are a taxpayer, you can benefit from various solar incentives, particularly the 30% Federal Solar Tax Credit. Also, there are usually many different solar initiatives available on state and local levels. Please check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency to find out more.
Concern 3: A battery system for your tiny house may be expensive
A tiny house with solar power has all the chances to become entirely energy-independent. But adding a battery solution to your solar panel array will imply a considerable increase in the price of your solar system, no matter how tiny your house is. A solar battery system installation can set you back several additional thousands of dollars, with average estimates of anywhere from $4000 for a small 4kWh battery. Given that solar batteries don’t offer the same payback as solar panels, a tiny house owner should weigh all the pros and cons and decide whether this extra addition to a solar panel system is worth purchasing. The major plus will be the backup power your house will have.
How to DIY solar for tiny house
Here is the good news about switching to solar in a tiny home: you can hugely reduce the upfront cost of your solar panels with a DIY installation. It is much simpler to install DIY solar for tiny house because the solar array necessary to satisfy your tiny home power needs shouldn’t be complicated. Begin with designing your solar panels array based on your calculations of the amount of solar power tiny house will need. Continue with the permitting process and choose a supplier for solar panels tiny house will host. Finally, you will need to deal with the installation process. Find some easy step-to-step instructions and follow them: a tiny house requires a small solar array that is easy to DIY.
Solar panels for tiny houses: key takeaways
In conclusion, with a tiny house, choosing solar power is both a smart and practical choice. Even in a tiny house, you can enjoy the benefits of solar power. A tiny house may not have much space for extra installations, but it also has relatively low energy needs, so you can install fewer panels, which will be enough to power your tiny house. To know exactly how many solar panels tiny house needs, you should calculate your electricity consumption. Solar panels have many pros, but the upfront cost is one of the main issues. If you have a tiny house, you can substantially reduce your initial expenses by DIYing your photovoltaic array.