Solar Panel Basics For A Tiny House

29 January 2015
 Categories: Construction & Contractors, Blog

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Solar power is the natural choice for an off-grid tiny house. Since these houses are usually less than 120 square feet, there's usually not a need for a lot of electricity. There are some things to keep in mind when choosing your solar power system.

Location

One way to minimize electrical usage is to site your house correctly. Placing it in a shaded area minimizes your need for cooling in the summer, although you will still want plenty of south-facing windows for winter warmth. Unfortunately, shade means that rooftop solar panels won't work. Plus the small size of a tiny roof doesn't give you room for many panels. One option is to site your house in summer shade and then have pole mounted solar panels in a prime area that receives all-day sunlight.

Usage

Minimizing your electrical usage means you need less panels. A few ways you can minimize usage without compromising comfort include:

  • LED lighting. LEDs use less power than both incandescent and fluorescent bulbs.
  • Few appliances. Stick with the bare minimum, such as a refrigerator and a coffee maker.
  • Alternate heating. A gas powered or wood stove won't drain your electricity in the winter when sun power may not be available.
  • Gas cooktop. A small gas cooktop can replace the energy hog electric range.

Finally, sticking with DC outlets throughout most of the house makes the most of your collected solar power. Using an inverter to change the solar power from DC to AC results in the loss of some stored electricity. You can get inverter adapters for items that aren't easily available in DC models, such as tablets and laptops.

System Basics

At it's most basic, you will need a solar panel and a battery bank to store the power. The panel collects the solar energy when the sun is shining, storing the excess in the battery bank until you need it. There will also be a charge controller, which effectively stops solar collection when your batteries are full, which prolongs battery life. The batteries will then be wired into your tiny home's electrical outlets, which can be DC equipped. If you opt for AC power, you will need to wire through an inverter first to turn the power to AC before it enters the home.

A small solar power system for a tiny house, whether pole mounted or on the roof, doesn't have to be complicated or extensive.