How to Install Solar for Your Off-Grid A-frame House
When you’re living off-grid, it’s important to have an inexpensive source of power to keep your overhead costs low. That’s why so many people who live off-grid turn to solar power for most of their energy needs. In this guide, we’re going to look at how many solar panels you should install, how you should house your battery, where you should install your solar panels, and a whole lot more. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get right into it.
How many solar panels do you need?
Figuring out how many solar panels you’re going to need is fairly simple, but there are a lot of variables involved. Let’s start by looking at your energy consumption.
The easiest way to go about this is usually to look at your power bill. Your utility will typically tell you how much power you’ve used each month – you can simply divide the number of kWh you see on your bill by the number of days in the month. Divide that by 24, and you know how much power you use an hour.
Things usually aren’t that simple when you’re off-the-grid – there are no utilities to report your power usage to you. That means you’re going to need to do research. You should look at your lighting, appliances, HVAC, and other electric-powered devices, and figure out what their kWh usage is. From there, you’ll want to determine how often you use those devices in a typical day.
If you can’t figure out how much power an appliance uses, check out Silicon Valley Power’s Appliance Energy Usage Chart for some average power usage. Wherever possible, however, we recommend finding out exactly how much power your device uses. Precision is powerful when it comes to solar arrays.
Once you’ve figured out your energy needs, you can conduct the following calculation:
Your hourly energy requirements (kWh) x peak sunlight hours in your area / wattage of your panel (kW)
Let’s say your off-grid home uses.83 kWh per hour. You’ve got 4 peak sunlight hours a day, and your panel produces 300 watts. 300 watts is.300 kW. That means our calculation is:
Of course, solar power generation isn’t always optimized. Clouds, for example, can obscure the sun and reduce (though not eliminate) solar power generation. As such, it’s usually a good idea to include about 25% more panels in your array than the calculations above yield.The full formula, then, is:Hourly energy requirements (kWh) x peak sunlight hours / solar panel wattage (kW) x 1.25.In our example, we’d need.83 x 4 /.300 x 1.25 = 13.83 solar panels. Round that up to 14, and we’ve got an array.
Mounting your solar panels
When it comes to mounting solar panels, you’ve got a lot of great options. A-frame houses are perfect for roof-mounted solar panels – the 60° angle means you have a lot of space, and the panels will be quite well positioned to absorb as much sunlight as possible – especially in the winter.
That’s true, at least, for people at higher latitudes. At lower latitudes, you want lower angles. In these cases, or in the case that your roof is obscured by trees, you may want to use a fixed ground solar installation. Tracking installations are also possible, but they’re generally not worth the extra cost.
Fixed ground installations are handy if you’ve installed your A-frame close to the equator because you can tilt the panels at a shallower angle than your A-frame might allow. It’s quite a bit of extra labor, however – you’ll need to pound metal poles into the ground, then create a framework of metal beams, supported by the poles, to install your panels.
Whether you’re going for a ground or roof-based installation, how you’ll install the panels will depend on the solar modules or kits you’ve purchased. For roof installations, a roof rack can help you maintain consistent power generation. Roof racks allow the wind to cool both sides of your solar array – solar panels work better when they’re cooler.
A question many would-be solar adopters get stuck on is this: “How do I get power at night?”. When you’re grid-tied, the solution is simple – at night, you get power from the grid. For off-grid solar, you’ll need a solar battery or a more compact solar generator.
There are three competitors in the solar battery world: lead acid, lithium ion, and saltwater. Saltwater batteries are currently prohibitively expensive, so let’s look at lead acid and lithium ion.First, you’ll need a home for your battery. Lead acid batteries require venting, as they emit volatile gases which can explode. Lithium ion batteries need insulation. We won’t go too deeply into battery installation here, as it varies heavily depending on the type of battery you use, and how much capacity you want your battery to have. Remember, however, that if your solar panels generate more watts than your battery needs to get charged, you’ll need a charge controller.
A few quick notes before we go
The best way to keep your costs relatively low is to use AC power in your A-frame home. That means you’re going to need an inverter to switch your solar array’s output from DC to AC. Almost all modern homes are AC – that means DC-powered devices are much more expensive. There are inefficiencies when converting DC to AC, however, so you may want to add an extra panel or two to your array.
You’ll also want a backup source of power for the winter – solar panels can do a lot, but they can’t do everything. A diesel generator is a good place to start.We hope this article has helped you gain a better grasp of what goes into installing solar for your A-frame, off-grid house. If you have any questions about off-grid A-frame living, check out our other guides!
Jimmy Carter was the first president to have solar panels installed on the roof of the White House, back in 1979.
Published Oct 7, 2022
Image Via White House Staff Photographers Collection/National Archives/Wikimedia Commons
Former U.S President Jimmy Carter was considered to be ahead of his time on issues surrounding climate change, exemplified by his installation of solar panels on the rooftop of the White House in the 1970s. Years later, Reagan removed the panels when he came into power, and they returned decades after, during the Obama administration. Some sources have reported that the solar panels installed by Obama are still in place. We are in the process of verifying that.
A photograph of Carter showing off the panels he had installed at a dedication ceremony in 1979 was popular on Reddit in September 2022:
The above caption does correctly state that Carter displayed the solar panels to guests at the White House, but it’s incorrect as to when Carter’s successor, President Ronald Reagan, had the panels removed. Carter had 32 panels installed there, and for seven years they were used to heat water in the household until the Reagan administration removed them in 1986.- not two years later as the post claims. According to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, which now has one of the original panels in its collection, they were a symbol of Carter’s faith in “the power of the sun.”
The above photograph is taken from the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library collection, and was published in The New York Times and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The same image can be seen on Britannica. The New York Times’ caption stated: “In 1979, President Carter showed off new solar panels on the West Wing that would provide hot water for the White House.”
Various shots from that event are available in the National Archives catalog, and shots of that particular moment can be seen in the bottom half of the photographic film scans. These photographs were taken at the White House dedication event for the solar panels.
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
At the ceremony, which was held in June 1979, Carter said:
In the year 2000 this solar water heater behind me, which is being dedicated today, will still be here supplying cheap, efficient energy [. ] A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people.
Other photographs from the same event show the panels more clearly displayed on the rooftop of the White House’s Cabinet Room, which is where the dedication event appears to take place.
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
What happened to those panels after they were removed? According to Scientific American, one ended up at the National Museum of American History, one is in the Carter Library, and one is at the Solar Science and Technology Museum in Dezhou, China.
Solar panels made a comeback at the White House during former President George W. Bush’s tenure in 2002, but not on the Executive Mansion’s roof. According to the White House Historical Association, the National Park Service oversaw installation of three solar energy systems on the White House grounds starting in 2002. The installation during his tenure helped heat up the White House swimming pool.
In 2010, then-U.S. President Barack Obama announced that solar panels would once again be installed on the White House rooftop. The installation was completed in 2014. The video below highlights the process:
We reached out to the White House Historical Association to learn if any updates or changes were made to the panels during the Trump administration. They shared with us a photograph from a July 2021 news article in which the panels are still visible, stating, It appears from photographers that the panels are still installed on the roof. While they confirmed that the panels are still there, they could not verify with certainty if the Trump administration had made any changes to them before 2020.
Bergman, Megan Mayhew. “‘Decades Ahead of His Time’: History Catches up with Visionary Jimmy Carter.” The Guardian, 4 May 2021. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/may/03/jimmy-carter-climate-change-carterland-film-biography. Accessed 6 Oct. 2022.
“Biden Sees Virus ‘Independence,’ But COVID Takes No Holiday.” WTTW News, https://news.wttw.com/2021/07/04/biden-sees-virus-independence-covid-takes-no-holiday. Accessed 7 Oct. 2022.
Blinder, Alan. “Jimmy Carter Makes a Stand for Solar, Decades After the Cardigan Sweater.” The New York Times, 11 Feb. 2017. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/11/us/jimmy-carter-solar-energy-plains-ga.html. Accessed 6 Oct. 2022.
“Jimmy Carter Leases His Land to Solar Power Much of Plains.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8 Feb. 2017. https://www.ajc.com/news/jimmy-carter-leases-his-land-solar-power-much-plains/XwFS50Kf1wEI9fXxpvSUnM/. Accessed 6 Oct. 2022.
North America. Hydroelectricity. Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/place/North-America/Hydroelectricity. Accessed 6 Oct. 2022.
President Jimmy Carter’s Remarks at White House Solar Panel Dedication Ceremony, 1979. Energy History, Yale. https://energyhistory.yale.edu/library-item/president-jimmy-carters-remarks-white-house-solar-panel-dedication-ceremony-1979#:~:text=President%20Jimmy%20Carter%20spoke%20on,20%25%20renewable%20energy%20by%202000. Accessed 6 Oct. 2022.
“Solar Energy at the White House.” WHHA (En-US), https://www.whitehousehistory.org/solar-energy-at-the-white-house. Accessed 7 Oct. 2022.
“Solar Panels Here to Stay atop White House Roof.” Washington Post. www.washingtonpost.com, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2014/05/09/solar-panels-here-to-stay-atop-white-house-roof/. Accessed 7 Oct. 2022.
“The Roof of the White House.” Whitehouse.Gov, 9 May 2014, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2014/05/09/roof-white-house. Accessed 7 Oct. 2022.
“The Strange, Tumultuous Life of Solar Power at the White House.” University of California, 18 Apr. 2017, https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/strange-tumultuous-life-solar-power-white-house. Accessed 6 Oct. 2022.
“White House Solar Panel.” National Museum of American History, https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_1356218. Accessed 6 Oct. 2022.
By Nur Ibrahim
Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.
How Many Solar Panels to Power a House? 4 Facts to Know
Given the ongoing awareness of and interest in solar energy sources in the United States, many homeowners are looking for ways to reduce their electricity bills. Solar power has become a popular choice for millions of people, as it’s highly renewable and can be used to replace up to 100% of your traditional electricity sources if desired.
But have you asked yourself, “How many solar panels to power a house? Is it a realistic number, and how much does it cost to get installed?” We answer these questions and more to make the best decision for your home in this blog post.
How Many Solar Panels Do You Need to Power a House?
An average-sized home in the United States (2,480 square feet) will need about 15 to 22 full-sized solar panels to completely replace traditional energy sources. That being said, the exact number of solar panels needed for your house depends on several other factors.
Those factors include the total square footage of your home, your typical electricity usage for one month, the efficiency of your solar panels, where your solar panels are placed, and any solar panel maintenance costs. If you haven’t measured these factors before, now is the perfect time.
Use these tips to measure each factor:
- Home square footage: First, measure the width and length of each room in your house (in feet). Second, multiply the width by the length. The result is your square footage.
- Typical electricity usage: You can find this in your current electricity bill. It will show you how much you used over the past month as well as your average per day. If you need specifics, request the complete bill or reach out to your provider’s customer service team.
- Where your solar panels are placed: Solar panels facing south end up receiving the largest amount of direct sunlight. If your panels are facing a different direction, changing them will maximize their efficiency and lower your total cost.
- Maintenance costs: After buying the panels, prepare for a government-approved inspection. Many areas in the US have mandatory solar panel inspections and typically cost 150, though it may be as low as 140 or as high as 450 (up to 1,000 for commercial projects). Budgeting the inspection cost into your solar panel plans ensures there are no surprises later on.
If rounded up, the average US household has three people in it. The average American individual uses roughly 900 kilowatt-hours (kWH) per month. That’s 2,700 kWh per household, per month.
The average solar panel under average conditions produces the equivalent of 0.26 kWh to 2 kWh per hour. Based on this, you’re looking at 10,384.62 hours on the high end of operation or 1,350 hours on the low end of operation to generate enough electricity to replace your entire monthly bill, with just one solar panel.
This proves why having multiple fully operational solar panels is necessary to partially or completely replace your traditional energy bill. By using at least 17 solar panels in constant operation, they can harness enough energy to replace your home electricity expenses in about one week.
How to Get Solar Panels for Home
Once you know how many solar panels you need to power your home, the next step is learning where you can get them. Here are the best places to buy your solar panels from:
- Solar panel manufacturers / professional installation
- Local solar installers / third-party companies
- Home improvement stores
- Lowe’s Home Improvement
- The Home Depot
Some of the highest quality solar panel brands include:
- Canadian Solar
- REC Solar
- Trina Solar
- Windy Nation
If you’re purchasing solar panels without installation service or buying a self-installation kit, first make sure they’re compatible with your home’s electrical system. If you choose to have them installed by a professional, they’ll ensure the solar panels are properly installed and functioning well.
Regardless of which option you choose, make sure you buy from a reputable name and that the panels come with an industry-standard warranty or better. This provides peace of mind that your solar panels will last for many years and offer more convenient electricity for years, perhaps decades to come.
How Do Solar Panels Work on a House?
Solar panels use the energy from the sun to generate electricity. This electricity is then used to power your home and its appliances. Solar panels are typically installed on the roof of your home, where they can be exposed to the greatest degree of direct sunlight.
If you’re curious about the exact workings of solar panels, here’s a more detailed breakdown:
- Solar panels come with dozens of photovoltaic (VC) cells, which capture sunlight’s energy
- The PV cells convert this energy into electrical charges
- The electrical charges interact with internal electrical fields, which is a direct current (DC)
- The DC power is inverted into alternating current (AC)
- That power is transferred to your house’s electrical system, making it available for electronic appliances and devices
How Much Does One Solar Panel Cost for a House?
The cost of a single solar panel varies greatly, depending on the size, efficiency, and type of solar panel you choose. For a single, general purpose solar panel, you may pay anywhere from 99 to 1,000. For a robust, home-sized solar panel system, you’re going to pay anywhere from 15,000 to 30,000.
Self-install solar panel kits cost less because they provide less energy, are often portable, and don’t require advanced technical knowledge. Full-blown household solar panel systems cost thousands of dollars because they can replace your entire electricity bill with just one or two weeks of work. They’re also more time-consuming to set up.
In addition to the cost of the solar panel itself, you’ll also need to factor in the cost of installation. Most full-scale solar panel systems come with built-in installation costs, but in the event they don’t, you need to be prepared.
Professional installations can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. Research typical costs in your area from leading providers to get a feel for how much you’ll need to invest.
How Do I Calculate How Many Solar Panels I Need?
You can calculate how many solar panels you need with a few pieces of information. We created a formula to make it easier:
Number of people in household X average electricity usage per month (900 kWh) / solar panels with optimal kWh conversion = Number of hours one solar panel must operate to provide enough electricity
4 people X 900 kWh per month usage / Solar panels producing 2 kWh = 1,800 operation hours with one panel
Then, divide 1,800 by the amount of solar panels you’re able to purchase. For many homes, 15 is enough but 20 or more is better:
1800 operational hours for one panel / 15 solar panels = 120 operational hours
1800 operational hours for one panel / 20 solar panels = 90 operational hours
Another way to look at it is the following:
Number of people in household X average electricity usage per month (900 kWh) / solar panels with optimal kWh conversion / amount of solar panels you’re buying = Peak operational hours required to meet electricity demand
This formula applied is the following:
4 people X 900 kWh per month usage / Solar panels producing 2 kWh / 20 solar panels = 90 hours each of your panels need to charge at peak sunlight hours
Bear in mind all of these formulas assume optimal sunlight hours only, and in real life, optimal sunlight isn’t occurring 24/7 for most regions. 90 hours is a little less than four days total, which is why most solar panel owners have them outside and operational 24/7. This allows your solar panels to gather sunlight whenever it becomes available.
Frequently Asked Questions About How Many Solar Panels You Need for a House
Deciding to invest in solar panels is not a swift or easy decision. This may have led to more questions, in which case, you’re in the right place. Check out these frequently asked questions about how many solar panels you need for a home and our answers now:
How Many Solar Panels Do I Need for a 2000 Sq Ft Home?
Since 2,000 square feet is smaller than the typical American home, you don’t need as many solar panels. You’ll likely only need about 10 to 17 solar panels to power your entire home each month.
How Much Solar Power Is Needed to Run an Average Home?
Most US households require anywhere between 2,700 to 3,000 kWh to power their home monthly, so you normally need between 15 to 25 solar panels to meet this demand. Homes, locations, family sizes, electricity usages, and power inversion requirements all differ, however, meaning your solar power needs depend on your individual situation.
Can You Run Your Whole House on Solar Power?
Yes, you can run your entire home on solar power as long as your electrical system is 100% compatible with enough solar panels for your annual electricity usage. Running an entire house on solar power takes a serious financial investment, some work, and regular maintenance checks, but it’s definitely possible.
What Are the 2 Main Disadvantages of Solar Energy?
The top two disadvantages of solar energy are the high costs to get started and the weather’s natural fluctuations. To have enough electricity to power a modern American household for even one month, you’re looking at a minimum of 14,000.
In addition, solar power is contingent upon great weather. It’s for this reason that anyone who wants to switch fully to solar power must also invest in a backup power generator. A lack of fresh sunlight coming in means you need a way to keep your home running despite different daily weather.
Can AC Run on Solar Panels?
Yes, air conditioners and portable AC units can run on power from solar panels, as long as your solar system is compatible with your home’s electrical grid. Many people have built entirely off-grid systems through 100% solar power.
Do Solar Panels Affect Home Insurance?
Home insurance providers respond in various ways to the addition of solar panels. Some providers consider solar panels part of the home since they’re integrated with your home’s systems and electrical box. Other providers view them differently because they’re a third-party tool and not always part of coverage.
If you want your solar panels to be covered under your home insurance premium, contact your provider to request a coverage limit increase. Keep in mind this usually means a slightly higher premium for you.
Solar panels are a major step towards a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Take one step further and invest in an organic, hybrid mattress for phenomenal sleep. Shop our certified organic mattresses now and make your home greener than ever!
What You Need to Know If You’re Buying or Selling a House with Solar
and more Arizona homeowners are taking advantage of the benefits of solar energy, which means more and more houses throughout the state are equipped with rooftop solar panels. This is a good thing for home buyers and sellers alike, but it can also raise some questions if you’re thinking about buying or selling a home with solar.
If you’re considering selling your house after a home solar panel installation or buying a home with solar panels already installed, keep reading! In this guide, we’ll answer common questions about buying and selling a house with solar panels so you can be prepared to buy or sell with confidence.
Buying a House with Solar Panels Already Installed
Buying a house with solar panels is a good idea, especially if you were considering installing them anyway. You won’t have to deal with the installation and you’ll be able to start benefiting from solar as soon as you move in. But there are a few questions you should ask the homeowners before you decide to make an offer:
Is the solar system leased or owned?
Not all solar systems are owned by the homeowner. Sometimes they’re leased from a third party that owns the panels and charges the homeowner a monthly fee to use them. You’ll want to find out who owns the system and review the contract. In the case of a lease, you need to make sure the lease is transferable and find out how much the monthly payments will be.
When were the solar panels installed?
Most solar panels have a lifespan of 25 years and carry a 25-year warranty. When thinking about buying a house with solar, find out when the system was installed so you know how much longer it will last before it needs to be replaced and updated. A solar system that was installed a few years ago has more value than one that was installed 20 years ago.
How much electricity is the solar system producing?
The main benefit of an Arizona solar system is the amount of money you can save on your electric bills every month by producing your own electricity. But not every solar system produces the same amount of electricity. To get an idea of how much you can expect to save, ask to see some recent electric bills.
Selling a House with Solar Panels
Are you an Arizona homeowner with solar panels who’s looking to sell? We’ve got some good news for you! Solar panels increase home value in Arizona and can even help your house sell faster. When selling a house with solar panels, make sure you ask yourself these questions:
Is your solar loan paid off?
If you used a home equity loan to finance your solar panels, you’ll need to pay off the loan balance before you sell your house. If it’s an unsecured loan (or one that’s not tied to your property), then you can sell your house prior to paying off the loan, but you will still need to pay off the remaining balance.
Do your roof or solar panels need maintenance?
Having your roof and solar panels inspected prior to selling is a good idea that will help prospective buyers feel more comfortable buying a house that already has solar panels installed. Buyers will likely have questions about the roof and solar system’s condition before making an offer, and having up-to-date information to share with them will be incredibly helpful.
Are your realtor and assessor familiar with solar?
In order to get the most value out of a home you are selling with a solar system, it is important to have a realtor with some experience with solar. An experienced realtor will be able to convey the value of the solar system to buyers. Ask your assessor and realtor if they are familiar with the Green Energy Addendum and ask if they have ever sold a home with solar before.
SouthFace Solar Electric Is Your Local Solar Expert
SouthFace Solar Electric is the solar company Arizona homeowners trust. If you’re thinking about buying a house with solar panels and want to talk to an expert, or if you want to install solar panels on your house but are worried about what will happen when you sell, give us a call.
We can answer all of your questions about how home value increases with solar and what to look out for when buying or selling a house with solar panels. Thinking about adding more panels or upgrading to backup power after buying a home with solar – we can answer those questions too!
We also offer solar panel maintenance and can help you get your solar system ready to sell or inspect the solar system on a house you’re thinking about buying.