One way to minimize energy usage and possession of material items is to own a tiny house. If you’re already living in or planning to build a tiny house, you can drastically reduce utility bills by generating free electricity with solar panels.
Tiny homes typically exist off-grid, making solar panels the perfect energy source. However, you might be curious about how much solar power you need for tiny houses. The amount of solar power needed largely depends on the number of appliances you require, your overall electricity usage, and the surface area and level of sunshine your roof or alternative solar panel installation location receives.
Let’s explore how much solar power you need for your household and what is required to build a solar system for your tiny house.
How Much Solar Power Do You Need For a Tiny House?
The first step is to determine how much electricity you need. You can evaluate your electricity needs in two ways:
- Examine your current utility bills
- Add up the energy consumption of everything you plan to use in your tiny home
Using the second method, you’ll want to list your appliances and see how much energy they consume daily. For example:
|Item||Watts||Usage Time (in hours)||Energy in Watt-hours|
|5 Led lights||5||5||125|
|Solar booster pump – for water pressure||100||2||200|
In this example, you’ll use 21,631 watt-hours per day.
Now that you’ve identified the amount of electricity you need, you can determine the number of solar panels and battery storage needed for your home.
Benefits of Using Solar Power for Tiny Houses
Going solar for your tiny house comes with many benefits. The main motives for living in a tiny house are reducing environmental impact and saving money. These reasons also happen to be why homeowners choose solar energy. Here are the primary benefits:
Cost-Savings from Utility Bills
As on-grid electricity rates continue to rise, one of the significant benefits of using solar power is the cost savings of your energy bills. While tiny houses already have reduced utility bills due to their diminutive size, installing solar panels can eliminate all, if not most, of your electricity charges. You can increase your savings by living in an area with high levels of sunlight and taking advantage of net metering.
Living an Eco-Friendly Way
If you own a tiny house, there’s a good chance that you’re seeking an eco-friendly lifestyle.
Unlike fossil fuels, solar energy doesn’t harm the environment and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Solar also helps reduce particulate pollution and wastage by creating renewable energy.
Opting for solar energy plays a pivotal role in saving the planet.
Going Off the Grid
You never know when blackouts or natural disasters can occur. Being connected to the grid makes you reliant on a utility company. A storm or power outage can quickly wipe out your electricity.
However, with solar power, you’ll rely on the sun’s energy to power all your electronic devices and appliances. If you have sufficient battery storage for backup, you won’t ever have to worry about going without power. You’ll live off the grid and can easily take your power with you if you decide to move elsewhere.
Increasing Your Home Value
If you plan to sell your tiny house down the line, installing solar panels in your home is a wise decision. A renewable green energy system increases your tiny home’s value since future buyers are willing to pay more for a house that uses free, clean, and renewable energy.
Taking Advantage of Rebates and Government Incentives
Local governments subsidize the cost of solar power through rebates. Canada offers numerous Federal tax breaks and subsidies for switching to solar.
Enjoying More Freedom
If you own a tiny house on wheels, you can travel anywhere and take your home with you. Solar power allows you to bring your home to the most remote places while still having access to modern conveniences. No matter where you go, you can harness the sun’s power.
How Many Solar Panels Do You Need for Your Tiny House?
The number of panels needed for a tiny house depends on your power consumption, occupancy, location, roof space, and more. Using the example mentioned earlier, let’s say your average energy consumption is 21,631 watt-hours per day.
A single solar panel typically can produce 250 to 400 watts per hour. A 250-watt panel that captures sunlight for 8 hours produces 2000 watts daily. That means it’ll take 11 solar panels to produce 22,000 watts per day to power your home.
On average, most tiny houses need about 12 400-watt panels to produce sufficient energy.
Here are the primary factors influencing the number of panels required for your tiny house:
- Power Consumption: The more appliances and devices you use, the more panels you need. Tiny houses can still use lots of electricity if you power many devices.
- Occupancy: The more people you have in your home, the more energy you use.
- Roof Space: Tiny houses typically have a limited capacity for solar panel installation. Roof surface area often determines how many panels you can install. However, you can choose fixed ground and pole mounting options if you don’t have sufficient roof space. Installing solar panels on the ground makes them easier to clean as well.
- Solar Panel Efficiency: Highly-efficient solar panels produce more power with less surface area than inferior solar panels. High-efficiency panels are perfect for tiny houses with limited roof space
- Location: Depending on your location, you’ll want to tilt the panels so that the sun’s rays hit the solar panels directly during the day.
What to Consider Before Building a Solar System For Your Tiny House
There are many factors to consider to ensure you get the best setup for your tiny house to maximize your cost savings and the efficiency of your solar panels.
Amount of Electricity
While tiny houses typically use less electricity, energy needs vary from one household to another. By determining your total power consumption, you can calculate how much you’ll save when switching to solar energy.
The US Department of Energy has an online calculator where you can determine precisely how much energy you use per day and how many panels you’ll need to install.
EcoFlow also offers a calculator for Power Kits.
Grid vs. Off-grid
If you’re new to renewable energy, you may assume that all solar energy is “off-grid.” However, you can also choose to have your solar system backed up by a traditional power grid.
A power grid can be a helpful backup if you’re worried you won’t receive enough sunlight in your region or won’t have enough power accumulated to get you through cloudy or stormy days. Essentially, you’ll buy energy from a utility company when the energy you generate from solar is insufficient to meet your needs.
Rooftop vs. Ground-Mounted Solar Systems
Before buying an off-grid system, you’ll need to decide whether your roof is suitable for installing panels. Here are three questions to ask yourself:
- Does your roof receive sufficient sunlight?
- Is it advantageous to secure the panels using racking equipment?
- Is the roof’s surface area large enough to hold the number of panels needed to power your home?
The suitability of roof panel installation differs case by case. Some tiny houses have a uniquely shaped roof that doesn’t allow panel installation. Or, perhaps, your roof doesn’t have enough structural integrity to support panels mounted on top.
DIY or Professional Installation
Properly installing your solar system allows you to maximize its effectiveness and safety. If you’re new to solar energy, a professional installation may be best. EcoFlow’s Power Kits are easy to install for most people familiar with DIY projects, and professional installation is also available.
Your budget will help you decide the type of solar panels, inverters, and generators you buy. We recommend choosing monocrystalline solar panels for improved efficiency. While the initial outlay is more per panel, they’ll save you money in the long run since they can produce more power with less.
Set a realistic budget to purchase the solar power system necessary for your tiny house. Banks may offer solar financing and loan programs suitable for your needs. Often, they work similarly to other home improvement loans.
How to Build a Solar System for a Tiny House
Follow these steps to build a reliable, renewable solar power system for your tiny home.
Step 1: Choose the Right Solar System
Once you’ve defined how much energy your tiny home needs, you can look for a solar power system. We recommend the EcoFlow Power Kit, a solar power system designed for off-grid builds like tiny homes ranging from 160 to 430 square feet.
The EcoFlow Power Kit features two solar charge controllers, an inverter charger, solar panels, and a smart generator for everything you need to power your tiny home. With the Ecoflow App, you can easily monitor power usage, charging data, and energy output from your smartphone.
The Power Kit can power all your essential appliances, such as your microwave, crockpot, air conditioner, water heating, fridge, TV, lights, and more. There are multiple battery stacks to choose from, so you can find the optimal storage capacity to fit your power needs.
Step 2: Know Where Your Solar Panels Go
Now that you know your energy requirements and the number of solar panels needed for your home, find a spot to install your panels where they will receive the most direct sunlight. There are solar pathfinders tools you can use to determine the best placement.
In many cases, we recommend installing your solar panels on the ground instead of on the roof. Panels on the ground are more accessible — you can position the angle exactly how you want it.
Furthermore, solar panels installed on the ground are easier to fix, clean, and monitor.
Roofs can get hot, and panels will operate at reduced efficiency when they overheat. Ground-mounting can often be a more viable solution.
Step 3: Choose Your Racking System
Positioning your solar panels to face the sun allows you to maximize the amount of energy captured. You can choose to mount your panels on the roof or on the ground. Roof-penetrating racks are drilled into a roof with screw holes on their surface, so the panels can easily attach to them.
Most tiny homes have limited space on their roof, so it might be better to ground mount your panels. There are many ground mount systems that accommodate a wide range of sizes and panels. Some racking systems, such as pole mounts, allow you to adjust the panel’s angle. You can secure the panels onto the racking equipment using clamps or connectors.
Step 4: Wire Your Solar System
Wiring your tiny house for solar involves connecting the panels to the battery, controller, and inverter. Follow the instructions and check for proper connection before you install the panels.
Double-check that you have connected the correct wires to each component when wiring these systems to ensure energy transfer occurs.
You’ll need to ground your system when you’ve connected all of these components. Connect all of the cables from your panels, inverter, and charge controller to the chassis of your tiny house.
Grounding the system delivers better power and voltage to your home.
Fortunately, the EcoFlow Power Kit contains fewer wires and modules than many alternative options, saving you a lot of time with the assembly. All components plug right into a one plug-and-play power box for added convenience.
Tiny houses and solar energy are made for each other. Using solar power helps you save on electricity bills, contributes to a greener planet, and may provide tax incentives.
Follow this guide to calculate your energy consumption, then decide on the best way to install your solar system and which EcoFlow Power Kit is right for you.