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Wondering if a residential solar carport is right for you?
These practical, multi-purpose, and inexpensive structures can benefit your home in many ways, From providing your vehicle with a dry, shady place to park to cut down on your monthly electricity bill.
Here’s everything you need to know about building your own!
How Do Residential Solar Carports Work?
So many benefits come with utilising renewable solar electricity. It’s good for the environment and your wallet, but finding the right place and enough space to mount your solar panels can pose a challenge.
That’s where residential solar carports come in! An easy-to-build structure that protects your vehicle from the elements and provides an inexpensive addition designed to maximise the capture of renewable energy to power your home.
There’s little difference between the construction of a typical carport and a solar carport. Just add rigid solar panels! Connect them to a portable power station, and you can then use that electricity to power many appliances in your home.
What Are the Advantages of a Residential Solar Carport?
Residential solar carports have many benefits to offer. Consider some of the significant advantages you’ll enjoy with the addition of one to your property!
- Optimised Orientation and Positioning of Panels: It’s common to install solar panels on the roof of a house. Still, chances are, your house wasn’t built with optimising the angle and orientation of solar panels in mind. Your solar carport, on the other hand, can be built precisely to optimise solar electricity generation.
- Easier Maintenance: When it comes time to perform maintenance, it’s much easier to reach your panels with a solar carport than if they’re installed on a rooftop. This setup is more conducive to keeping your solar panels in pristine condition.
- Easier to Install and DIY Friendly: If you’re a handy person, this is a project you can take on yourself. The panels are also easier to install than they would be with a DIY rooftop installation.
What To Consider Before Building a Solar Carport
Before you break out the tools and materials, it’s essential to carefully consider whether or not a solar carport is right for you. While building one yourself is possible, it’s still a significant undertaking!
There are several factors to consider before you get started to ensure that the design of the solar carport best suits your needs.
What Do You Intend To Use Your Solar Carport For?
Obviously, your solar carport makes a great place to park your vehicle and shelter it from the elements. However, what are you planning to use the solar-generated electricity the PV panels provide to power?
Deciding what you’ll power using the electricity you generate is crucial. It’s the only way to determine how much electricity you need for your solar carport to produce.
Is your primary goal reducing your home’s electricity bills?
If so, calculate how much electricity your home uses. Depending on your home’s size and electricity consumption, you might be able to generate all of your power using multiple solar panels!
Even if your residential solar power system only cuts down on your on-grid electricity consumption, it still provides a solid long-term return on investment.
Despite the name, most solar carports, on their own, don’t generate enough electricity to charge an EV regularly. However, you can use a solar carport in a pinch to partially charge your electric vehicle using a Portable Power Station Grounding Adapter with the DELTA Pro or DELTA 2 Max.
But what can you use your solar carport for on a daily basis?
If you already have solar panels on your home’s roof and need an additional surface area that receives peak sunlight to increase your electricity generation potential, a solar carport can be an affordable multipurpose solution. As long as you have room on your property, you can build it to your specifications to accommodate the number of 400W rigid solar panels you need to meet your renewable energy goals.
What Size Should Your Residential Solar Carport Be?
Understanding the right size for your residential solar carport involves considering several factors, including how many cars you’d like to fit under it and how many solar panels you’d like the design to support.
Deciding on the right size requires you to balance the cost of installation, the space you have available, and the amount of electricity you want your carport to produce.
As a general starting point, your standard carport measures 12ft by 20ft (3.65m x 6m).
Which Materials Do You Have Available?
Consider what materials are available to you. When it comes to carports, there are two main material types to choose between. There are timber-framed carports and steel-framed carports.
While steel-framed carports offer more reliability in terms of structural strength, they’re also more expensive. Steel builds are recommended if your carport will be on the larger side.
Timber-framed options are more affordable and still have the structural strength necessary to support solar panels.
How Many Solar Panels Do You Need for Your Carport?
How many solar panels you’ll require for your DIY solar carport comes down to numerous factors, including:
- How much electricity (wattage) do you want to produce?
- How many hours of peak sunlight (on average) will your solar carport receive?
- How big is the carport?
- What rated power wattage are your solar panels?
- What is your PV panel array’s efficiency (conversion) rating?
The appropriate number of solar panels for this type of project will vary from person to person. While some solar carports may have 11 solar panels, others may have more or less.
The more solar panels you have of the same rated power output, the more electricity you’ll produce – but the higher the project cost.
Determine how much electricity you need your residential solar carport to produce before you build the structure or buy your solar panels.
How Much Does It Cost To Build a Solar Carport?
The total cost of your solar carport project will vary depending on numerous factors, including:
- Size and materials used for construction
- Number of rigid and flexible solar panels
- Cost of a portable power station or other balance of system
Your solar carport could end up costing you around $12,150, and that number could be smaller or greater depending on the design of your specific solar carport.
Don’t forget to look into any incentives that might be available to you. Government programs can make switching to solar a much more attractive option and significantly decrease your solar payback period.
How To Build a DIY Residential Solar Carport
Ready to get started on building your DIY residential solar carport?
Here, we cover the basics of what you need to know to build a timber-based carport:
Tools and Materials Needed
Start by gathering the tools and materials necessary for your project.
Consider the following:
- Power screwdriver or drill
- Paint brushes
- Wood sander
- Any necessary small components, such as screws and bolts (depending on the type of fittings used)
- Fixtures, such as a 4×4 wood fence post anchor base and rafter anchors
- Timber posts, rafters, and beams (the appropriate type will depend on your build)
- Concrete footings, including cement and river sand
- Solar panels (we recommend EcoFlow’s 400W Rigid Solar Panels)
- Finishes, including wood stains and wood sealer
Throughout the process, take all appropriate precautions and wear safety gear as necessary.
Step 1 – Casting the Concrete Footings
You’ll need to cast concrete footings to hold up your timber posts. Doing so helps stabilise the carport and acts as the foundation for the structure.
Plan exactly where you will construct your carport. Mark the place where you will erect each post. Make sure your posts are in line. If your carport is going to be 12ft by 20ft (3.65m x 6m), for example, your design could include six posts with two 12ft (3.65m) beams and four 9.6ft (3m) beams.
As a general rule, concrete footings should have a depth of one-third the length of your post. They should be double the width of the post.
Dig the holes for your footings. Don’t worry about smoothing out the edges, as this provides more friction resistance for the posts.
Next, mix your sand and cement with water in your wheelbarrow. The ratio should be 1 part cement, 2 parts sand, and 0.5 parts water.
With gloves, pour your concrete mixture into the holes. It’s essential to complete all of your pouring in a single day, so ensure you have adequate cement and sand.
Cement can take at least seven days to dry properly. If you use quick-set cement, your concrete should dry in around 48 hours.
Keep in mind that concrete goes through a process referred to as curing after being cast. To prevent your concrete from cracking during the drying process, keep it wet by giving the footings a good watering with your garden hose at least once daily for a minimum of three days.
Step 2 – Timber Posts
Once your concrete footings have dried, it’s time to attach the anchor bases by bolting them into the concrete.
Next, sand and insert the 4” x 4” posts into your anchor bases and use screws to fasten them.
You need to ensure that your posts are steady. Otherwise, the structure may collapse. Add additional braces as necessary.
While this step might seem simple, keeping your posts steady and perfectly vertical can be a challenge.
Step 3 – Beams and Rafters
Before attaching your beams to the posts, you must create a datum line to ensure that your beams will be level.
In this example, the carport is 7ft (around 2m) tall, so you’d want to start with a post that’s cut to 7ft (2m)(double-check the measurements). You’ll want to mark the other posts using a spirit level and string to ensure they’re the same level. If the posts are off, even slightly, they must be unbolted and cut/sanded to the appropriate size.
Once your posts are back up, fix your beams to the timber posts.
You can do this using timber housing. Metal housing will allow your beams to rest and attach to the posts.
You want the roof to have a slight slope to allow the rain to flow off your solar panels rather than pooling up.
Let’s say your carport is 12ft by 20ft (3.65m x 6m). To create a slope at the end where the water should run off, measure 0.15 inches (4mm) from the top of your beam downwards. Get a string and attach it from the mark you made to the top of the opposite beam (along the long side).
Now, using your rafter anchors, attach those rafters to your beams. Then, space your rafters out with 4 feet (1.2m) between the centre of one to the next. The top of each rafter should align with the string you just put up.
Once the timber is built and fixed, you can stain and seal it. It’s recommended to do this after construction and all drilling is complete. Drilling holes in timber that’s been sealed allows water to seep into your wood and can lead to substantial damage over time.
Step 4 – Install Solar Panels
Finally, it’s time to install your solar panels and connect them to your residential solar power system. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific solar panels to ensure you do this properly. Here’s a mounting guide for EcoFlow’s rigid solar panels. Remember, you’ll be installing the panels onto a roof that is already sloped.
Now is the time to optimise the angle and position of your rigid solar panels for maximum solar energy capture and electricity generation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Solar carports are a great way to generate renewable energy for your home. A solar carport can be eco-friendly and cut down (or even eliminate) your electricity bills at the same time. If you have the space on your property and a rooftop solar installation doesn’t provide enough off-grid solar energy, a solar carport is a worthwhile investment providing a wide range of benefits – including providing a shady, dry place to park your car.
Residential solar carports provide a wide range of benefits, from giving you a dry and shady place to park your car to cutting down on your monthly electricity bill, helping achieve net-zero carbon emissions and more.
Generating more clean, renewable solar electricity helps reduce your carbon footprint. It also gives you a reliable source of electricity during a blackout if you use an off-grid solution like EcoFlow’s DELTA Pro to store electricity.
While it’s a significant project to undertake, the payoff can be well worth it.
Check out EcoFlow’s 400W Rigid Solar Panels and get started on your solar carport planning today.