Solar Shed.- Shed and Collector Wall
The storage shed is 24 ft by 12 ft, with the long dimension facing south. The shed is adapted from one described in Build a Shed, Taunton Books. It has a gambrel style roof, which has been modified on the south face to allow a maximum area to integrate solar collectors (see picture). The south wall of the shed uses conventional 2X6 24 inch on center framing with OSB sheathing. The collector frame is mounted directly to this sheathing (the sheathing is the back wall of the collector). The collector glazing also acts as most of the south wall siding and roof. This sharing of components reduces material use and cost for both the shed and the collector.
The collectors are site constructed, but use an absorber plates that were purchased pre-assembled.
Since this is a drain back system, the absorber plates must be installed such that they have a drainage slope toward the storage tank.- this insures that the water in the collectors drains when the pump is turned off.
The shed design was adapted from the one pictured here, which is from a Taunton Build A Shed book. Basically, the steep part of the roof slope on the south side was extended all the way to the ground so that it forms both the roof and the south wall. This makes an about 11 ft high surface for integrating solar collectors. The length of the shed was increased from 16 ft to 24 ft to provide more storage area, and more collector area.
There are six collectors of 4 ft by 10 ft each. The collectors are integrated with the south wall of the shed. The collectors are site built, but use pre-assembled commercial absorber plates.
Click images for full sized pictures
The finished Solar Shed with 240 sqft of solar water heating collectors in south wall
Collectors.- Make or Buy?
There are several options on how to make/buy the collectors:
- You can buy commercial collectors at 30 per sqft.- good quality, less work, more money.
- You can make the entire collector yourself.- lowest cost, most work, more skills, perhaps somewhat less performance (depending on what scheme you use).
- You can order completed absorber plates (the guts), and make the rest.- this is midway in all respects between the two options above.
I chose the third option of ordering pre-made absorber plates, and making the framing myself. This offered a substantial cost saving from commercial collectors, and a substantial labor saving from making the full collector myself. It also allowed me to better integrate the collectors with the wall and make maximum use of the wall space for collectors. The resulting collectors cost about 1/4 what commercial collectors cost.- a 5500 saving.
This paragraph updated October 31, 2011: I ordered my absorber plates from SolarEnergy, a company that has since gone out of business. Some of the makers of solar collectors will sell absorber plates SunEarth would be one place to try.- the don’t appear to be as good as when I got my plates. Another possible source that several people have used is http://www.sunraysolar.com/index.php. Other possibilities here.- sources. If I were doing this project today, I would make the collector absorber plates as is done in this project.
Cost of Collectors Per Square Foot
|Twin Wall Polycarbonate glazing (1)
|Other Glazing components
|glazing retaining strips
|Insulation (1 inch)
|one inch polyiso insulation
|collector glazing provides siding
|about 1/4 of commercial collectors
(1) If using polycarbonate glazing, see the section on collector venting below.
The table does not include shipping charges, which can add up if you can’t get glazing and absorber plates locally.
The pictures below show a bit of the construction of the shed.
Since most people will want a different style shed, I have not included much detail on the shed construction.
The main idea is to provide a large south wall that is well oriented for solar collection, and to integrate the collectors with the wall as much as possible.
Click images for full sized pictures
The basic framing of the shed. It is supported on concrete piers, and uses mostly ordinary stick framing. The gambrel roof area is constructed with homemade trusses that leave a large, open storage attic.
The excavated area just that is just visible inside and to the right is where the thermal storage tank lives.
Building the roof trusses for the shed in the shop. The stacks of precut lumber in the back are for the rest of the trusses. With some marks on the floor, and everything precut, the truss building goes surprisingly fast. Each truss is light enough for one or two people to put in place easily.
One thing to be careful of is that the stud spacing must line up with the collector frame (described below). Since most of the twinwall glazing panels want their supports spaced 48 1/4 inch apart, the stud spacing will probably want to be a bit over 24 inches to so that the centerline to center line distance over two stud bays is 48 1/4 inch, not 48 inches.
The next four pictures show how the collector frame can be laid out on a flat surface to save some time and increase the chances of things fitting.
The collector frame 1) holds the absorber plates in position, and 2) supports the glazing panels.
To preview how this frame fits on the shed collector wall, skip down a few pictures.
Cutting and prparing the collector framing:
This shows laying out the collector frame on the driveway to make sure everything fits.
Use a chalk line to layout the collector dimensions on the driveway (or any flat surface).
Once you have checked that the dimensions are correct, precut all the pieces of the frame.
Once you have the frame laid out, its a good idea to trial fit an absorber panel, and a glazing panels.
(note the glazed shop doors in the background.- these glazed doors heat and light the shop all winter.- the white filler panels are installed in the summer to reflect some sun and prevent overheating. A standard overhead garage door behind the glazed door provides night insulation. more)
Marking off the line for notches that the top collector manifold is going to be supported by. For drain back systems, this must be sloped at least 1/8 inch per foot toward the supply line end of the manifold.- more is better.
Marking all of them at once in this saves time, and reduces the chance of errors.
All of the vertical frame members cab be clamped together to so that the notches for the glazing supports can all be cut at the same time. This also insures that all the glazing support notches will line up.
The notches visible at the bottom support the collector absorber plate lower manifold. Note the down slope for drainage.
Note!- no manifold notches in the end (most east and most west) frames.
The things to accomplish at this stage:
This is also the easiest time to do the painting.
Installing the collector bay framing:
This shows the collector wall with the OSB sheathing installed and painted.
The first (center) 2X4 for the collector frame is being positioned. Do this one VERY carefully.
In mounting this first vertical, make sure the following conditions are satisfied:
- That it lies over one of the wall studs, so that it can be anchored into it.
- That it is plumb.
- That the bay spacing to the left and the right works out correctly.
- That it runs straight from top to bottom.
The vertical 2X4’s at the edge of each collector must be correct if the glazing panels are to fit, and this first, center frame is the one that sets up all the rest. So, make sure its right.
Attach the center vertical frame to the underlying wall stud with 6 inch lag screws, using the holes that you pre-drilled earlier. Make sure the heads of the lag screws do not stick out above the face of the 2X4 that the glazing is going to be mounted to.
The open horizontal slots in the OSB are for a venting system to prevent collector overheating when the collector is stagnated.- see Collector Venting below.
This shows the collector frames being built on the OSB sheathing. Each 4 ft collector bay has a vertical 2X4 on each side, and horizontal 2X4’s at the top and bottom.
Once the center 2X4 in in, the 2X4’s at the top and bottom of the adjacent bays can be installed.- these will precisely set the spacing to the next vertical 2X4. For the 48 inch wide twinwall glazing that I used, the center to center spacing of the verticals is 48 and 1/4 inch.- the panels are 48 inches wide, and the 1/4 space allows for some expansion.
To insure that the vertical 2X4’s do not wander off plumb, use a scrap spacer 2X4 that is cut to the bay width to check the spacing at several points.- that’s what the unpainted 2X4 in the picture above is being used for. All this precision is to make sure the glazing panels fit properly.
Its a good idea to have one of the glazing panels handy to check that the spacing of each bay is correct as you go.
Installing Insulation Panels:
This shows the polyisocyanurate insulation board being installed in the collector bays. This insulation reduces heat loss out the back of the collectors.
The panels are one inch thick, and cut nicely with a razor blade knife.
Be sure to use the polyisocyanurate insulation, as the polystyrene (pink, blue and white stuff) will NOT hold up to the temperatures (trust me on this).
Most lumber yards carry the polyiso, but may not know it by that name. It is usually light brown in color, and has face sheets of alum foil or fiberglass.
Installing the collector absorber plates:
The absorber sheets positioned for soldering by temporary scrap wood supports. They are supported about 4 inches out from the collector frame by the temporary supports. Once all the panels were soldered together, they were just slid back as a unit into the notches on in the 2X4 collector frame.
This was a method I used to avoid putting unions in between each absorber plate. I think that if I were doing it again, I would probably use the unions. The negative side of the unions is they are a bit spendy, and I have seen many reports of leaks at unions. The plus side is that they allow easier assembly, and allow easier replacement of an absorber at some (hopefully) very distant time.
These are the scrap wood jigs I used to position the panels for soldering.
The notch in the small one (upper left) just fit over the upper manifold, and held it out about 5 inches.
The left one supported the lower manifold about 4 inches out.
This shows soldering one of the manifold connections using an ordinary 1 inch copper pipe coupling.
Once they are all soldered, the whole 6 panel assembly is pushed back into the supporting notches in the 2X4 collector frame.
See the Lessons section for a potentially better way to do this.
Shows the absorbers in their final position. Note the 4 inch down slope from the west side to the east side for drainage. The horizontal metal members that are 1/3 and 2/3rds of the way up the collector are supports for the glazing to eliminate buckling of the twinwall glazing as it warms up. They are made from EMT electrical conduit, with a bead of silicone caulk between the twinwall and the EMT.
Update: I would recommend positioning the upper EMT glazing panel support closer to the top.- the panel tends to deflect more at the top, so this is where the support is best positioned.
Picture of the EMT conduit glazing supports. I used a bead of silicone caulk to keep the glazing from directly contacting the galvanized surface of the EMT.
These EMT supports do not really do any supporting of the glazing, they just keep the glazing panels from buckling as they warm up. EMT is cheap, straight, and galvanized, so it should last well.
Showing four of the 6 twinwall polycarbonate glazing panels installed, with two to go. The glazing panels are secured in place with 1X2 members and stainless steel screws. There is no caulk, glazing tape, or gasket between the polycarbonate and the 2X4 edges of the collector frames.
The panels are simply pushed against the 2X4’s with the 1X2’s battens. So far, this seems to be working fine, and keeps the water out. This arrangement (it is claimed) allows the PC panels to expand more easily.- I’m not so sure about this, but one advantage it does definitely have is that its very easy to remove the glazing panels if (for example), you missed a solder joint inside the collector 🙂
For the vertical 1X2 ish battens that hold the glazing in place, I tried one of the plastic deck woods. Ordinary wood can be used for this, but a number of sources have said that it does not hold up well with the constant exposure. My logic is that the plastic deck woods are supposed to last more or less forever in deck applications, and so may have a good life for this application. There are also a number of commercial choices of twinwall panel edge hold downs.- your glazing supplier will no doubt have some.
A drain hole is provided at the bottom of each collector bay to drain any water that happens to get in. Except for the leak caused by my bad solder joint, I have not seen any water get in, and we have had a couple good rains.
Note that after this picture was taken I extended the roof edge about 5 inches to prevent any tendency for wind driven rain water to get into the collector boxes. I plan to add a gutter so the collectors don’t get runoff from the roof. Update: the gutter should definitely be included, in that when snow accumulates on the roof, and then melts, it tends to drop onto the glazing panels bringing some dirt with it. The other option would be to make the collectors vertical, which I have come to think is a better all-around arrangement.
I was a bit concerned about the glazing becoming overheated when the collector is stagnated (no fluid being pumped through it). I decided to include air vents in the back wall of the collector that would allow cool air from inside the shed to enter the collector near be bottom through a lower vent, and heated air to exit the collector near the top. This effectively makes a thermosyphon air collector, and should keep the stagnation temperatures down. This paper discusses a somewhat similar approach: http://www.builditsolar.com/Experimental/44-31-%20Harrison1Stagnation-temp-control.pdf. I am working on some type of thermally actuated gadget to close the open the vents automatically when the temperature exceeds (say) 190F.
These vents should be screened to keep the critters out. There should be a small airflow passage on the back side of the absorber plate, so that any dust in the air does not settle on the sun side of the fins.
It appears that these vents (or some equivalent form of cooling) are required for the stagnation condition.
This chart shows the temperature of the inside surface of the glazing near the top of the collector.
This is around solar noon. Initially all the collector vents are closed.
At minute 1, the circulation pump is turned off, and the collector temperature starts to rise. It continued to rise until it leveled off at about 205F around minute 8. At this time, the temperature of back near the absorber surface is a bit over 300F.
I opened the vents at minute 9, and the glazing and collector temperature immediately begin to drop, and eventually reach a very nice 110F.
This was done under sunny conditions, Tambient about 60F, and windy.
In a later test the next day, with Tambient at about 25F, the collector reached even higher temperatures, and the glazing near the top of the collector had a noticeable inward deflection from the expansion. This did not look good to me for the long term health of the polycarbonate panels. The polycarbonate glazing is listed as having a temperature capability of 270F, and I don’t believe that this was exceeded, but I don’t think it would be good to routinely expose the panels to these relatively high temperatures.
While I plan to do some more testing, my tentative conclusion is that this collector when glazed with twinwall polycarbonate needs some form of cooling when stagnated under sunny conditions.
One thing to be alert to is that this high internal temperature condition develops very quickly when stagnation occurs under sunny conditions.
The following are possibilities to resolve this overheating issue:
- Use a venting system similar to the one I have incorporated on my collectors.
- Use single wall poycarbonate glazing (e.g. SunTuf corrugated glazing, or Dynaglass). I think that better heat transfer through the single layer would take the glazing temperature down. Be sure to include adequate horizontal glazing supports to control the buckling of the panel as it warms up.
- Use an absorber that does not have a selective coating on it. This would reduce the collector temperatures.- I’m not sure if this change along would be enough to eliminate the need for venting, but it might be.
- Use glass.- this would not reduce the temperature, but the glass will withstand the higher temperature better. This just adds a lot of cost and labor.
- Make the collectors vertical. This reduces the solar radiation on the panel during the summer, early fall, and late spring. This is just because the sun in higher in the summer sky. It also makes it easier to incorporate an overhang above the collectors that shades all or part of the collectors in the summer.
Some other things that I plan to do on my collectors that I think will improve the situation (but probably not eliminate the need for ventilation at stagnation):
- Use 3 of the horizontal glazing supports instead of 2 to control and tendency toward thermal buckling, and make sure that one of them is near the top of the collector (which runs the hottest).
- Increase the distance from the glazing to the absorber plate. Using 2X6’s for the collector frame would allow for more glazing to absorber space, and also allow the use of 1.5 inch polyiso insulation on the collector back.
I believe that the combination of making the collectors vertical and somewhat deeper (use 2X6 framing) will eliminate any serious tendency for overheating. Its still not a bad idea from a glazing life point of view to keep the collectors from cooking all summer.- this might include: 1) seasonally used vents as described above, 2) an overhang that shades part of the collector from the high summer, or 3) a shade cloth covering.
I am still looking for a good way to automatically open a cover on the upper vent when the temperature in the collector exceeds (say) 200F, and close when it goes below this. Any ideas?
My thinking in using collectors tilted at 70 degrees was that this is a good angle for winter collection, and that it looked better with the shed (basically its just an extension of the gambrel roof slope to the ground). While the 70 degree tilt is not a bad scheme, I have come to think that a vertical collector would be an all-around better choice for these reasons:
- The collector would not be subjected to rain or melting snow dripping off the roof. And, it would be less likely to have any accumulation of snow on it after a snow storm (although snow accumulation on the collector is an infrequent occurrence with the 70 degree tilt, it does happen once in a while.- as indicated by the picture above).
- The vertical collector would be less subject to overheating in the summer. The summer radiation levels on a vertical collector are substantially lower than a tilted collector due to the high summer sun.
- It is possible to include an overhang above a vertical collector that shades a portion of the collector during the summer, early fall, and late spring. This further reduces any overheating tendency.
- The low winter sun works well for vertical collectors. They collect nearly as much heat as tilted collector. If there is a reflective surface in front of the collector (like a snow field), a vertical collector will collect even more solar radiation than a tilted collector.
- Its probably a bit easier to build a vertical collector/wall, and easier to further integrate the collector bays right into the wall.
All of this said, if you have a reason that you prefer tilted collector, it will work just fine.
A few things I might do differently on the construction:
- I would increase the number of horizontal glazing supports to 3 instead of 2, and make certain that the top one was within 2 feet of the top of the collectors. Again, these can be very light weight supports.- there only function is to keep the glazing panels from thermal buckling as panels heat up.
- I would make the collector box 5.5 inches deep (i.e. use a 2X6) instead of 3.5 inches deep. I would use the extra thickness to 1) go to 2.0 inch thick polyiso back insulation (about R 12), and 2) to increase the spacing between the glazing and absorber plate, which would make the glazing surface run a little cooler and also eliminate any chance that the glazing would deflect inward and touch the hot absorber plate.
- I would use unions between each of the collector bays. I think that overall the extra cost of the unions would be worth it for the labor saved on the installation, and allowing for easier repair or replacement of a collector panel. Note: I have been told that silicone rubber hose can be used to join the absorber plates together for non-pressurized (e.g. drain back) systems. The silicone rubber should be protected from long term sun exposure with heavy aluminum foil. You would also have to make sure that no weight rests on the hose connections.- that is, the manifold would need to be supported by some form of bracket.
Power Your Shed on Solar: Go Green and Save Money!
Solar energy has an immense capacity to power tools and appliances around your home and community. If you have off-grid system setup in a shed, you can charge your batteries when the sun is shining or whenever the grid is off.
Most solar-powered sheds take advantage of solar energy to charge batteries and produce electricity. They are built with roof panels that capture sunlight and help store energy for future use.
We will tell you everything you need to know about solar power for sheds and how much it costs.
What is a Shed
A shed is a small, garage type enclosed space, typically made of wood or plastic that can be used for storage, recreation, shelter or home office.
Sheds come in many shapes and sizes, but all of them have some common features and usage.
Most sheds have Windows to let in light and air, a roof to protect the interior from rain or snow, and side walls that are long enough to store tools or other equipment.
Can I power my shed with solar?
Yes, you can power your shed with solar. As long as you have a rooftop to install a solar array on.
In fact, many shed homeowners do this.
When the sun is shining, a solar-powered shed can charge batteries. The batteries store energy for later use.
The battery system provide electricity to power appliances inside and outside the shed when the grid is offline.
Shed Size and Structure Matters
In order to install the solar system, you need to make sure that you choose the right solar panel system for the size and structure of your shed.
The size of a shed can vary from a small one to a large one. The largest can reach 12 × 20 feet. The smallest is 6 × 8 feet. The average shed size is about 10×12 feet.
It is common for photovoltaic panels to be attached to the roof of your shed,
Panels vary in size and voltage. It’s important to consider the size of your shed when choosing solar panels.
The next factor to consider is the structural suitability of the shed. Make sure it can support the weight of the solar panel system.
Check the size and wattage of the PV system you are considering before purchasing solar panels for your shed.
Also consider how much sunlight your shed receives and how much power you’ll need.
What is the wattage of a solar panel system for a shed?
The wattage of solar panel system for shed varies depending on the type of solar panels and their power rating.
The average wattage of solar panel system to power a shed ranges from 100-250 watts.
How Much Roof Space Do You Need for a Solar-Powered Shed?
The wattage of your solar panel system and the size of your shed will determine how much roof space you need for a solar-powered shed.
For example, you will need at least 17 square feet of roof space if you have a 200 watt solar panel system.
How much does it cost to install solar panels on a shed?
The cost of solar panels for a shed varies depending on the brand and size of solar panel system.
The average price range for an installation of solar panel system ranges from 1,000 to 2,500.
it should provide much energy for tools, appliances power consumption or charging batteries.
if its a large or grouped shed, There must have a roof large enough for several solar panels linked together, By cables and components merging, you can save a lot, but it still costs a lot more than the individual parts.
Calculating Wattage and Size of Solar Panel for Your Shed
To calculate the wattage,size and number of panels for your shed, you will need to determine:
amount of power (kwh) the shed required.
The wattage of your solar panel system
the larger the panel surface area the bigger in pv watts and power output.
100W solar panel is enough to power the shed interior and outbuilding lights, ventilation fans and charge electronics like smartphone.
300W Solar Panel is ok to power the circular saw and heating system if there is a solar inverter installed.
Advantages of Solar Power for Sheds
Solar power for sheds is the best way to power your shed without relying on the grid.
Solar is also a highly eco-friendly sustainable energy source, and doesn’t require electrical permits to be installed.
Solar power for sheds also has a long lifespan, with most systems lasting around 20-25 years.
Sunlight Exposure and Cost Considerations
It’s important to consider a few factors. One is the amount of sunlight available.
Factors such as obstructions, other buildings, and tree branches should be taken into consideration. This will help you determine if solar panels are worthwhile.
Solar Kits for Sheds
just like home and RV solar power system, you will need solar charge controller, solar inverter, cables, fuse box and solar batteries to form the ecosystem.
A kit from ZHCSolar will usually include panels, wiring, inverter and other necessary components for installation. This system is typically more expensive than buying the parts individually.
Battery, Inverter, Charge Controller and Cables
like in homes, sheds require alternating current electricity, an solar inverter is necessary to convert direct current (DC Power) in battery to usable alternating current (AC Power).
A charge generator is used to regulate the power output from the panels to the batteries. it prevents overcharging of the batteries and ensures optimal battery life and performance.
Cables are also necessary to wiring all the components together.
Benefits of Solar Power for Sheds
The main benefits of solar power for sheds are environmental and financial.
Sheds can be powered with solar energy without the need for grid electricity, saving both on fuel costs and carbon emissions.
Can My Shed Roof Handle Solar Panels?
Yes, sheds can have solar panels installed on their roof. This option is practical if you have good sunlight exposure and your shed is in an appropriate location.
The weight depends on the size of the solar panel and the number of solar panels you have installed.
Solar panels suitable for sheds range from 100W to 300W and weigh from 24 lbs to 45lbs, with mounting brackets not exceeding 70lbs, a weight the shed can handle.
Wind Power – An Alternative to a Solar Shed
Wind turbines can be an effective alternative to solar panels in powering a shed, especially in winter when there is less sunlight.
Wind power is a renewable and environmentally-friendly energy source that produces electricity from the wind.
Wind turbines are also much smaller and easier to install than solar panels, making them a viable option for many shed owners.
They are usually mounted on the roof or on a pole for better wind capture, and they generate power from light winds, making them a more reliable source of power than solar panels.
It’s possible to combine wind power with solar power to benefit from the benefits of both technologies.
wind solar hybrid systems can help provide electricity when it’s needed most.
The constant flow of electricity produced by solar panels provides a reliable source of power during the day, while wind turbines can help provide power at night or regardless weather conditions.
Still, wind turbines have their own set of advantages. Because they don’t require an electric grid connection, they’re perfect for remote locations such as sheds.
And because no permits are needed for installation, they’re a great option for anyone who wants to go green but doesn’t want to invest too much time or money into it.
Pros and Cons of Solar Sheds
The advantage of a solar shed is that it provides uninterrupted, clean energy. The energy is used as long as the sun shines, making it great choice for long time use.
the cons is it required some upfront investment and usually it not low.
Is It Worth Adding Solar Panels to Your Shed?
Installing solar panels on a shed can generate renewable energy and can help you power your shed with less electricity.
How to get the most out of solar power in your shed
When considering solar power for your shed, it’s important to understand how the technology works and what you need to consider. Here are a few tips:
Consult with an experienced solar installer about your specific installation requirements.
Calculate the roof area that will be best suited for installing solar panels—taking into account orientation, sun exposure and wind capture potential.
Select the right type of panel for your shed, Different panels have different efficiencies when it comes to harvesting sun’s rays.
What items should be kept inside a shed using solar power?
battery should stored in a battery box and always keep inside, it should be lithium or AGM/Gel type batteries.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I save money by using solar power to power my shed?
If you’re looking to power your shed with solar power, there are a few things you can do.
you can compare quotes from solar panel installers to determine the most cost-effective solution for your shed.
besides, DIY solar panels are available from 100 to 10,00, depending on the wattage needed. much cheaper than a solar installer.
How can I determine if powering my shed on solar is the best option for me?
There are a few things you can do to determine if solar power is the best option for powering your shed, the first it to compare the electricity bills before and after the system instalments.
Sheds can be an excellent choice for solar panel installation- if they’re well-designed and durable, of course.
If you’re looking to power your shed with solar energy, the options we discussed above are the ideal way to cut your electricity bill and reduce your carbon footprint.
However, you must ensure the shed is of good quality and that it is well-insulated to get the most out of solar power.
Solar Powered Shed: Can Solar Generator Run Your Shed
If your house has a shed which is a fair distance away from the main structure, getting power and light to it can be tricky. You can always use underground wires for electricity, but it is not the most economical and easiest way to power your shed. That’s why; you should consider investing in a solar powered shed.
It is independent of your house’s electricity system, you have to deal with fewer cables, you don’t have to change the landscape or destroy your garden to install it, and it is cheaper. You will find out everything you need to know about solar powered sheds and which Jackery products are best to create your off-grid shed or workshop in this post.
What is a Solar Power Shed
A solar powered shed is an outbuilding or a workshop with a solar system that collects solar energy, converts it into electricity and stores it in batteries so you can power appliances, tools, and electrical instruments in the shed. It enables you to go off-grid, as you don’t need an electrical connection from the main line or your house to power the outbuilding. A solar power shed is a great up-front investment for your house as it provides you with eco-friendly and cheap electricity based on your shed size.
For some people, their sheds are spaces to store tools and gardening equipment, but many people use them as their workshops for DIY work, personal spaces for relaxation and escape, and a place to get creative. However, you can’t do all of that in a dark place with no light or electricity. You can install underground cables to connect it to the grid but it will be a hassle for you, and you will have to ruin your back garden to install it. A solar powered shed, on the other hand, can save you money and return your investment in the long run. Here are some of the benefits of solar powered sheds
- Save cost on electricity bills.
- Adds to the property value
- An efficient way to charge electric vehicles
- Eco-friendly and renewable energy generation
Based on how much you are willing to invest into building a solar powered shed, you can have two types of solar systems.
DC System Shed:
A DC system for solar power sheds is the cheaper option that you can install within 100 to 300 to power a few low-voltage lights in the shed. It has one or two panels that supply direct current and doesn’t require complicated wiring or anything else. It is easy to set up and requires less investment, but it is not eligible for electric power tools or anything that requires high voltage. The only reason to avoid DC systems is that if you want to make them run-powered tools, you have to install a new system because you can’t convert your DC system.
AC System Shed:
If you are willing to invest 3K to 5K dollars in your solar-powered shed, you can install an altering current or AC solar system to supply robust energy between 400 to 800 watts. It is the ideal option for those who use their shed as their workshop and require high-voltage current to run powered tools and electric drills etc. Installing a solar system on a shed is an easy process if your shed already has a south-facing roof. All you need is to buy the required solar system kit from Jackery, and you are good to go.
How Does a Solar Power Shed Work
If you are thinking of investing in your solar powered shed, you need to understand how it works so you can easily figure out everything. Let’s start with the first component of a solar system, the solar panels. A solar panel has multiple photovoltaic solar cells that can directly convert sunlight into electric current. It means as long as there is sufficient sunlight, the PV cells can easily absorb it and give an electric potential difference output.
When solar panels create DC current, it passes through wires and goes into an inverter. The inverter converts the direct current into an altering current that you can use to run home appliances or powered tools. There is also a charger controller that sends the converted electricity into a battery. You can use the battery to power the shed during the night when the sun is not out.
When you talk about a solar power shed, it means an outbuilding with a dedicated solar power system that supplies electricity to it without any grid connection. Suppose you already have a shed, all you have to do now is put on solar panels, layout the wiring, and install the inverter and batteries, and you have a self-sufficient energy system that doesn’t give you any electricity bills.
How Many Watts Does a Shed Use
The most important thing that you should consider before installing a solar energy system, is how many watts your shed is going to need to power all the electric tools and appliances that you need running. When it comes to solar powered sheds, there is no one specific size that fulfills your requirement because your power needs depend on the type of shed you have and the nature of work that you do in it. Here are some common types of sheds with energy requirements.
An office shed is for those people who work remotely and need a quiet space to work during the day. Instead of setting up a home office, having an office shed allows you to work without distractions and don’t make changes around the house. Depending on the basic office equipment, a backyard or office shed requires 3000W to 4000W of solar power. Check out this energy consumption table to guess how much solar energy your office shed needs.
We put solar panels on our shed roof
We have been talking about getting solar for about 10 years and last week our electrician came to set up our new system. I’ll tell you all about the system that we chose, but first a bit of background.
A bit of background
When we first started looking at solar around 2011, our electricity bill was paid by my employer, so there was no incentive or cost saving for us at the time. I did read our electricity meter and work out the size system we would ideally need. And at the time the feed-in tariffs were high, so it was tempting, but we decided to wait. I wrote some analysis at the time here, and the calculations might still be useful if you are considering solar.
We lost that electricity payment at few years later, but by then we knew we were moving to Cheslyn Rise eventually, so there still didn’t seem any point investing in solar. Also the feed-in tariffs had significantly reduced by that time.
We briefly considered a full solar option for Cheslyn Rise, but at the time batteries were still very expensive. Even though we had to pay for several power poles to bring a grid-connection from our neighbour’s property, it was still cheaper than a full solar system with batteries. And a grid connection is better for Pete’s welding. We still intended to install a system eventually.
Then after we moved into our secondhand house in 2017, there were so many other things to set up, we didn’t have time to think about solar. But we did make sure to orientate one of our bigger sheds with a north-facing roof, with the intention of getting to solar eventually.
Electricity security during blackouts
When I started researching solar options again in late 2019, I was looking for an inverter that would let us have electricity when we lost our grid connection. Most inverters cut off power to the house if the grid connection is lost, this is to protect any lines-workers as they try to clear the faults. In that case, the only way to power the house is to have a battery system.
As batteries are still relatively expensive and we only lose power occasionally (maybe once or twice a year), I just wanted the ability to run a few freezers, not the entire house. Fortunately there are now a few inverters offering the capability to draw a small amount of electricity without the batteries.
The right inverter
The one that seemed to best meet our needs was the Fronius Primo Gen24 (there are a few similar options, but this was the simplest). It allows feeds from multiple generation sources, to charge batteries or feed the house, but also a PV point that can be used to power a few appliances if the grid connection is lost. It was due to be approved in Australia in early 2020, so I decided to wait.
Of course, things got delayed, and it wasn’t available until early 2021, and even then, it was hard to get. I found a supplier in Brisbane who was able to post the inverter to us. And I used our local electrician to complete the installation.
Strangely, the inverter was supplied without the front panel, and we are still waiting for that to turn up, but its kind of interesting to see the cooling fins behind the panel as that was one of the features of this inverter!
Fortunately our electrician has some experience with solar systems. He went through his normal supplier for the solar panels and other equipment we needed to complete the system. He installed the largest system we are allowed by our network provider. He looked after all the paperwork for, which was also a bonus.
It was difficult to get a photo of the panels, and I wasn’t here for any of the installation, so I really can’t tell you more about this part!
Making the most of a solar system
Monitoring. when I was first considering solar, I read our meter morning and night to get an idea of how many kWh we were using. Fortunately the new systems come with more sophisticated monitoring systems. Unfortunately our system needs a Wi-Fi connection and we don’t have that in the shed yet!
Use electricity when its sunny. our system is a bit oversized for our export requirements, so we can make the most of available electricity by running all appliances during the day. We have been using the timer functions on our washing machine and dishwasher, as well as a timer on our hot water system. This is a bit of a change from just using what we want whenever, but I think we will get used to it.
North-facing, no shade roof is best. if you are building new. try to face a roof to the north, preferably with minimum shading from trees or other buildings, this will maximise the electricity you can generate.
Future-proofing. you might not want batteries now, but when they get cheaper you will need a new inverter if you have not bought one that is battery-ready. Most of the cheap solar-deals are for basic inverters. If you can afford to invest in a better model, that is battery-ready, you will be able to connect batteries later when they get cheaper.
Use a local electrician. if you have someone local with solar experience, it can pay to use them, as these systems can have problems that require troubleshooting and repairs. This can be a nightmare if your installed travelled from a larger city to install and doesn’t want to come back to help you when you have problems.
This solar system is just one of the many ways that we use solar energy on our property. from our washing line, solar electric fence energisers to a solar oven, we make use of this plentiful source of energy as much as possible.
What tips to you have for getting most out of solar energy?