Why small home solar systems sense in 2022
As world energy demands grow (and energy steadily increase), solar energy is becoming an increasingly popular option for homeowners. Whether to offset short-term price gouging or to reduce reliance on fossil fuels in the long term, solar energy is a viable – and increasingly affordable – choice for many people looking to better manage their energy costs. Most people think you need a full roof of solar panels to reap the benefits of solar energy, but that’s not always the case. Small residential solar systems can provide a homeowner with some or all of the energy necessary for their home, and they come in a variety of configurations to suit any budget. These include balcony solar systems, window solar systems, and even courtyard solar systems. With electricity rising across Germany as well as the rest of Europe, and increasingly accommodating policies found in many European countries like Germany and the UK. small residential solar systems just make sense. In this article, we’ll discuss what small home solar systems are, their benefits, and how to get started with this type of renewable energy system (with step-by-step specifics in our leaflet ). Let’s dive in.
- What are small home solar systems?
- Why small home solar systems make sense in 2022
- The current global energy market
- Rising electricity prices
- Accommodative policies
- How Hoymiles is helping with small home solar systems
- The benefits of balcony solar systems
- Energy independence
- Short payback period
- No need to report or register (in Germany or Austria)
- Simple, plug-and-play installation
- Safe and homeowner-friendly
- How to plan your balcony solar panels
- Calculate your energy usage
- Get the necessary components
- Solar panels (with suitable power output)
- Step-by-step installation guide
- Choose Hoymiles for small home solar systems
- 4-in-1 microinverters
- Standard warranty
- Next-generation monitorin
WHAT ARE SMALL HOME SOLAR SYSTEMS?
Put simply, small home solar systems are solar energy systems that are sized specifically for low-power residential use. While there is no definitive capacity limit, these systems generally have a capacity of 800kW or less, and don’t need to be permanently fixed to a roof or building.
This tremendously reduces the logistical and financial barriers to solar energy installation. Additionally, the lower power requirement makes small solar systems an attractive option for those living in apartments or condos where a traditional rooftop system might not be feasible.
Small home solar systems can take a number of different forms: from stand-alone units that generate electricity which is then used by the home, to systems that are integrated into the home’s electrical grid and provide power back to the utility company.
The most important thing is that small solar systems are designed to be modular and scalable – this means that they can be easily expanded as your energy needs grow (or as your financial resources allow).
WHY SMALL HOME SOLAR SYSTEMS MAKE SENSE IN 2022
With both short- and long-term global energy tending only one way (up), small solar systems offer a number of compelling benefits for homeowners. Let’s take a look at some of their biggest ones.
The current global energy market
As a result of the European natural gas supply shortage, energy have increased significantly across the continent. In some places, average power have tripled in the last year.
Rising electricity prices
generally, electricity are rising across the globe as utilities scramble to meet growing demand. In the EU, for example, the average price of electricity has increased by more than 2.5% per year for the last decade.
This trend isn’t slowing down any time soon. Energy demands are only going to continue to increase, as industries and populations grow and become more affluent. Installing a small solar system can help you begin to insulate yourself from future price increases, and keep your electricity bills under control. They’re also a great introduction if you’re considering a larger solar installation down the line.
In response to recent energy events, as well as the growing popularity of solar energy, more and more governments are introducing policies and incentives that make small solar systems more accessible to homeowners. In Germany, for example, solar system installations not exceeding 600W don’t have to be registered with the local energy department, leading to reduced bureaucratic hassle. In Austria, that limit is 800W. Many other countries are following, in an attempt to stimulate solar energy growth.
Additionally, many governments are now offering financial incentives in the form of tax breaks and rebates to homeowners who install small solar systems. These incentives can often offset a significant portion of the system’s initial cost, making solar energy an increasingly affordable option. Countries like Germany are also soon making it a requirement to have solar installed on certain types of buildings during construction and renovation.
How Hoymiles is helping with small home solar systems
Hoymiles’ 2-in-1 microinverters are the perfect fit for small residential solar systems. With their modest power requirements and easy installation, Hoymiles microinverters are the perfect DIY way to add solar power to your home and do it in a simple fashion that doesn’t involve a costly installation bill.
Our 2-in-1 microinverters come in a variety of power options – whether you need a 600W, 700W, or 800W microinverter – so you can find the right fit for your home whatever your power needs.
For example, if you’re buying two 300W–400W panels, you’d only need one HM-600/700/800 2-in-1 microinverter (because it connects to two panels at a time).
Want a more modular solar configuration? You can always buy two smaller 400W panels and two HM-300 1-in-1 microinverters.
Our microinverters are flexible and match up to common system capacities. And whatever your needs, our team is always available to help with installation and support.
THE BENEFITS OF BALCONY SOLAR SYSTEMS
Balcony solar systems are small, discrete, and affordable. They’re also easy to install – most systems can be set up in a matter of hours by a trained professional, and you can use one whether you live in a house, condo, or apartment. Let’s look at some of their benefits.
A small, modular balcony solar system helps provide your household with independence from the electrical grid. This means that, in times of high energy or emergencies, you’ll have a reliable source of power to keep your home running, and you can limit the amount of power you purchase from the grid to offset costs.
Short payback period
With an average payback period of just 2 to 3 years, balcony solar systems offer one of the quickest returns on investment of any renewable energy technology. And unlike other investments, such as installing insulation or a new roof, solar provides benefits long after the initial investment has been paid off – like reduced energy bills, a smaller carbon footprint, and an increased property value.
No need to report or register (in Germany or Austria)
As long as your balcony solar system remains firmly under a certain capacity (no more than 600W in Germany and 800W in Austria), you don’t need to report it to your local utility company or government. This makes the installation process quick and easy, removing the added hassle of paperwork, bureaucracy, or waiting periods.
Simple, plug-and-play installation
Because of their modest size and power requirements, small solar systems are generally very easy to install. Many systems can be set up in a few hours by a homeowner, or in even less time by a trained professional, and (as mentioned) they usually don’t require any permits or special approvals. This makes small solar systems a great option for homeowners who want to go solar but don’t have the wherewithal to invest in a large system.
If you’re using a Hoymiles inverter – either our 2-in-1 or 4-in-1 microinverter – our installation process is even simpler; you’d just connect your microinverter to your solar panels using our supplied equipment, and you’re good to go.
Safe and homeowner-friendly
Solar can be intimidating if you’re a first-time user. But unlike fuels like natural gas or propane, there’s no risk of an explosion, and the panels themselves produce no emissions or pollutants. What’s more, they’re quiet, so you won’t even know they’re there – until you look at your cheaper electricity bill!
If you’re using a Hoymiles microinverter (like our HM-600, HM-700, or HM-800 models), our equipment comes with built-in surge protection and reactive power control. This prevents voltage spikes and reactively stabilizes voltage levels, improving distribution effectiveness and minimizing damage to electrical components over time.
Additionally, when plugged into an AC outlet, our microinverters modulate their voltage to below 34V to avoid shock hazards. We’ve made our microinverters safe and user-friendly: even if you accidentally touch the metal on the AC cable, there won’t be any danger.
HOW TO PLAN YOUR BALCONY SOLAR PANELS
Now that you understand what small solar systems are and how they work, let’s take a closer look at how you can practically install one on your property.
Calculate your energy usage
The first step is to calculate your energy usage, and use this to determine the type of balcony solar system your home needs.
This can be done by looking at a full year’s worth of monthly electricity bills and figuring out your average daily usage. Energy consumption is reported in kilowatt-hours (kWh). Keep in mind that you’ll need to account for both regular use and peak demand – the latter is typically highest in the winter months (because of more lighting and heat required).
If you’re having trouble finding this figure on your electricity bills, you can also work it out by simply looking at the figure on your meter at the beginning and end of the month. For example, if your meter at the end of February was 8,500, and at the end of March it reads 9,000, this means you’ve used 500kWh over the course of the month. Divide 500 by (roughly) 30, and you’ll get your daily usage for the month of March: 16.6kWh.
Get the necessary components
Now that you have an idea of how much energy you’re using on a daily basis, it’s time to determine the equipment you’ll need.
You’re probably not going to be able to offset the entirety of your energy needs with a balcony solar system, but the point is to increase your energy independence and offset costs. Figure out how much of your energy you’d like to produce via solar. From there, you can pick the solar panel with the power output you want and calculate the number of solar panels you’ll need.
For example, if you’re getting four good hours of sunlight per day, and you have a single solar panel rated for 600W, you can expect to generate approximately 2.4kWh. This would mean approximately 15% of your energy needs would be handled via solar (assuming 16.6kWh of usage per day). Make sure to use a sunlight calculator to determine how much sunlight your area receives on average.
Want a more in-depth walkthrough? Check out our guide on How Many Solar Panels Do You Need?
Once you’ve determined what you’re looking for, it’s on to getting the right components.
Solar panels (with suitable power output)
For balcony solar systems, most homeowners settle on a solar panel with a power output of between 300W and 600W. Depending on the size of your balcony and what you’re comfortable with, you could get one or more. Note that this will impact the number of microinverters you need in the next step.
Microinverters take the energy generated by your balcony solar panels and convert it into a usable form. They should be small and easy to install, and they come in many configurations: 1-in-1 (which means one microinverter per solar panel), 2-in-1, and even 4-in-1.
Hoymiles’ 2-in-1 microinverters, like our HM-700 and HM-800 series, are purpose-built for small-capacity solar installation, and are thus an ideal choice for balcony solar systems. They’re modular, efficient, and safe. Assuming your average daily energy usage is 16kWh, with an HM-800 2-in-1 microinverter, two 400W solar panels could cover upwards of 20% of your energy needs.
The Hoymiles 600W inverter, 700W inverter, and 800W inverter are also built to make your payback period as short as possible:
- With other microinverters, you need to factor in the cost of replacing or repairing equipment into the overall cost of your system. Our 12-year warranty (which can be extended to 25 years) means that, once you’ve made your upfront investment, you won’t need to worry about buying replacement equipment – making your system less expensive in the long term.
- Microinverter systems need a bigger upfront investment than string systems, but they produce 5-30% more power. That means you’ll earn back more of your investment in less time.
Additionally, our HM 2-in-1 series can be plugged into a wall outlet to provide your home with simple, sustainable power. We make it easy to go green (and save on your energy bills while doing it!).
Step-by-step installation guide
Now that you’ve determined your equipment needs, let’s provide a light overview of how to practically install balcony solar panels. If you want a more detailed, in-depth walkthrough, check out our leaflet.
Choose where to place your balcony solar panels. Look for areas that maximize the amount of consistent light you’d be getting, and make sure a wall outlet would be accessible.
Orient your solar panels so that they’re approximately perpendicular to the area of maximum sunlight exposure.
Connect your microinverter. If you’re using a Hoymiles HM-series microinverter, this is as simple as plug and play.
Connect the configuration to a wall outlet. Hoymiles’ HM-series microinverters come with built-in surge protection and reactive power controls to maximize safety.
CHOOSE HOYMILES FOR SMALL HOME SOLAR SYSTEMS
Our HM-series microinverters can help homeowners with a full range of energy needs. Whether you’re looking to install a particularly small residential solar system or want to retrofit your entire home with renewable energy, Hoymiles has you covered. Our microinverters are efficient, flexible, and easy to install – perfect for any small solar system.
In addition to our popular 2-in-1 microinverter line, our HM-series 4-in-1 microinverters are also quickly becoming a favorite among homeowners as well as business owners.
These versatile microinverters can be used in a variety of small solar system set-ups, including carports, courtyard systems, and rooftops. Whatever your installation needs, Hoymiles has you covered. Our full product line-up can meet any kind of installation scenarios, whether it’s DIY or professionally managed.
We know how important it is to have confidence in your solar energy system. That’s why we offer a standard 12-year warranty on all of our microinverters (extendable to 25 years) – one of the longest warranties in the industry.
Our products are reliable and have double the standard lifespan of microinverters, so you can be sure your solar system will keep running for years to come.
Our engineers have packed decades of experience into our next-generation monitoring software. You get module-level performance data for every inverter in your system, so you can keep an eye on your solar energy production at all times with precision and high fidelity.
This includes detailed information on power levels over the course of the day, as seen above. Power production of each microinverter is closely tracked, which you can use to diagnose and optimize your solar system performance.
This picture illustrates how each panel’s performance is tracked thanks to our accurate MPPT (maximum power point tracking). It also captures how modules are actually placed on site.
Additionally, through the use of our data transfer units ( DTUs ) and our S-Miles Cloud monitoring software. you’ll have 24/7 access to your solar energy data – perfect for keeping on top of your system at all times.
Want to start your small home solar journey today? Simply contact our sales team at email@example.com, and one of our representatives will walk you through the process!
How Do Hoymiles 4-in-1 Microinverters Perform at High Temperatures?
Solar Panels for Apartments: 5 Best Ways
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There are actually a few ways you can solar power your apartment or condo — even if you don’t have a suitable roof (or a willing landlord).
I live in a rental house and, over the last couple months, have explored every possible way to go solar as a renter. I’ve been encouraged by what I found.
Let’s run through your options.
Join a Community Solar Project
Community solar projects are large-scale solar farms that are built locally and power multiple homes in a community. They’re a great option for people who, for whatever reason, can’t put solar panels on their roof.
When you join a project, you usually continue to pay your electricity bill like normal — either through your existing utility or the company that runs the project. And the cost savings can be instant.
The main downside is that there aren’t that many community solar projects out there at the moment. Don’t be surprised if there aren’t any in your area.
- Doesn’t require you to install solar panels on your roof
- Can instantly save you money on your monthly power bill
- Helps support new clean energy projects in your community
- Reduces your carbon footprint
How to Do It
Go to EnergySage. It’s a good place to start your search for community solar projects.
Scroll down to the community solar section and click “See Local Projects.” This will take you to their community solar marketplace.
Enter your zip code and monthly power bill and click “Search Projects” to see if there are any projects you can sign up for. For instance, I entered the zip code for Providence, Rhode Island, where I knew there were a few projects.
Note: If EnergySage doesn’t show any projects in your area, do a Google search for “community solar near me” and see what pops up.
Choose a project you want to join. Browse the list of nearby projects. Read project reviews and details for things like estimated savings, billing info, and estimated environmental impact.
Click “Get Started” and submit an application. The project provider will review your application and reach out to you to finalize your subscription.
Once enrolled in the project, your monthly power bill will be going toward buying solar energy rather than carbon-intensive fossil fuel energy. You’ll also likely be paying less for power. It’s a win-win.
Ask Your Landlord to Install Solar Panels on Your Roof
This option works best if you rent a house with a suitable roof. You’ll be trying to convince your landlord to do a major home upgrade, so you’ll have to come prepared.
You can get quotes from local solar installers to show your landlord. That way, you can better talk about potential cost savings, increase in home value, and environmental impact.
- Replaces most of your home energy use with solar power
- Lowers your monthly power bill
- In some places, can get a credit for sending excess power back to the grid
- Reduces your carbon footprint
How to Do It
Go to EnergySage. It’s also a good place to start when adding solar panels to a house.
Scroll down to the rooftop solar section and click “Compare Solar Quotes.”
Fill out your property’s details and click “Get Quotes.” Then complete the registration process to start getting quotes from local solar installers.
Wait for your quotes to arrive. It may take a week or so for the first ones to trickle in. Solar installers may also reach out to you to get more information about your property before putting together their quote.
Pitch your landlord on installing solar panels. Once you’ve got a good quote, it’s time to pitch. Your landlord isn’t paying the utilities, so the typical pitch of reducing your monthly power bill isn’t going to work here. Instead, you can talk about how homes with solar panels sell for 4% more on average, and the environmental benefits of going solar.
Buy Plug In Solar Panels
Plug in solar panels — also called plug and play solar panels — are pretty much what they sound like. You can plug them into any standard wall outlet, and the energy they produce flows into your apartment, instantly solar powering some of your energy use.
I haven’t seen many people talk about plug in panels, but I’m hoping that changes soon. Stephan Scherer, founder of Craftstrom, a maker of plug and play solar kits, told me the kits are more common in Europe. “And the US is always a little behind Europe in solar,” he said. He added that, because much of the US is at a lower latitude, they can pay for themselves even quicker here.
In my opinion, plug and play solar kits are a great option for renters. You can mount them anywhere on your apartment that gets a lot of sun — a roof, railing, balcony. And they can be pretty affordable.
Just be prepared to do a bit of research to figure out the right size kit for you, and if your city has any regulations on these types of kits.
- Can be installed quickly and easily without professional help
- Can be mounted anywhere on your apartment that gets good sun
- Oftentimes doesn’t require any permits
- Portable — can be taken with you when you move
- Reduces your carbon footprint
- Must inform your utility and get permission from your landlord or HOA
- May have to sign an interconnection agreement with your utility if you produce more power than you consume
How to Do It
Contact your landlord or HOA and get permission to add plug-in panels to your apartment or condo.
Go to Craftstrom and research the right size kit for your apartment or condo. Knowing what kit you plan to buy beforehand will help when you contact your utility. (I like Craftstrom’s kits because they’re designed to never produce more power than you consume, meaning you won’t have to sign an interconnection agreement with your utility. Many other kits don’t have this feature.)
Contact your electric utility and ask them about their policy on plug and play solar systems. If they allow them, inform them of your intentions to install one. This is where knowing the size and specs of your preferred system is helpful. Some plug in solar brands mention they will provide electrical diagrams should your utility ask.
Buy and install the plug in solar panels according to the brand’s instructions. Many brands claim you can do it in less than an hour.
Yes, it’s a bit of a hassle to reach out to your landlord and utility and do research on what size kit to get. But contrast that with how much research and paperwork you’d have to do if you were a homeowner installing solar panels on your roof.
Make Your Own Portable Solar Panel System
I write a lot about DIY solar power on this site, so you might think I’d trumpet this option as the best one. In reality, I think it’s a poor option for most renters.
Because you’re essentially building a small off-grid power system, you need to buy all the equipment and connect it all yourself. It’s requires knowledge of solar electrical systems, and it’s the costliest route in terms of price per watt.
How to Do It
Note: This will be a very high-level overview of how to set up a small 100W DIY solar panel system that can power a few small devices like your phone, laptop, and some LED lights. For full instructions, check out this tutorial.
Connect the inverter and charge controller to the battery.
Connect the solar panel to the charge controller.
Mount or place your solar panel outside in direct sunlight.
Power your devices by plugging them into the inverter. For instance, I plugged my ebike charger into the inverter.
The panel will generate solar energy during the day and store it in the battery. You can then use the battery to charge and power your devices by plugging them into the inverter.
Buy Green Energy via Renewable Energy Certificates
Renewable energy certificates (RECs) track renewable energy as it moves through the US power grid. When a renewable energy provider — like a solar or wind farm — produces energy, they receive RECs to represent that energy. The provider can then sell the RECs as a sort of proof of ownership of that energy.
If you buy RECs equivalent to your energy consumption, you’ve technically powered your home entirely with green energy. But RECs are far from a perfect option. A lot of times, they don’t lead to any additional clean energy on the grid. They just end up being a way for clean energy projects to make a tiny bit of side income.
Here’s where I personally stand on RECs: I don’t expect my buying them to decide the fate of any clean energy project. But, in the aggregate, I think they make a small, positive impact across the clean energy industry as a whole.
In most places around the country, RECs are pretty cheap. If buying them is the only way to ‘solar power’ your apartment, then I think they’re a tad bit better than doing nothing.
How to Do It
Go to Arcadia. (There are many places to buy RECs. I’ll show you how to do it with Arcadia because I think they make it easiest.)
Enter your zip code, select your electric utility, then click “Continue.” I live in Atlanta, so I entered my zip code, 30312, and selected Georgia Power.
Note: Arcadia first looks to see if there are any community solar projects in your area. If there are, I’d recommend joining one rather than buying RECs.
Sign up then click “Continue.”
Sync your utility account to Arcadia. To do so, you just need to log in to your utility account.
Add a payment method. The first month is free. After that Arcadia charges just 5 per month to purchase and retire RECs equivalent to your energy usage.
Arcadia will now buy RECs on your behalf based on your monthly energy usage. You can go to your account to see things like how much green energy you’re using, and where it comes from.
The Bottom Line
There are ways to solar power your apartment — even if your apartment doesn’t get any sun, and your landlord doesn’t want to install solar panels.
As a renter myself, I spent hours looking into the options. After all that, here are my 3 favorites:
- Community solar doesn’t require a roof, can instantly reduce your power bill, and helps support solar energy projects in your community
- Rooftop solar panels are an option, too, but you’ll have to crunch the numbers and sell your landlord on the idea
- Plug in solar panels can be installed in a day and will instantly start solar powering some of your energy use
If those options don’t work for you, you can build a DIY solar power system or buy green energy via RECs. Neither of these last two options is ideal in my eyes, but in some cases they may be better than nothing.
Solar Panels for Tiny House
Going tiny doesn’t have to be just a daydream! It’s totally within your reach, and we want to show you how. We’ve got expert, friendly technical support and a ton of options so that you can be sure your solar system will be the right fit for your tiny lifestyle.
Shop Featured Tiny Home Packages
Our most popular tiny home solar kits. Browse all tiny home systems
Not just a dream
Picture your life in a tiny home with solar. No, really. Close your eyes. What would your home look like? Your Kitchen? Your living room? You’re free to really make the space your own without a landlord restricting your choices. When you go to the mailbox, there’s never a rent check you have to send or a power bill you have to pay. You know your carbon footprint is drastically reduced. Your life is simple and independent.
This doesn’t have to be just a daydream! It’s totally within your reach, and we want to show you how. We’ve got expert, friendly technical support and a ton of options so that you can be sure your solar system will be the right fit for your tiny lifestyle.
We’re excited to help you get started. This page is dedicated to arming you with the knowledge you need and the questions you should be asking yourself to get started planning your solar powered tiny home.
We love tiny homes!
At Unbound Solar, we’ve been designing and selling systems direct to homeowners for 20 years, and we’re excited to see a new generation embrace off-grid living.
Unlike installers who want to give you cookie-cutter systems, our specialty is in working with DIY and small homeowners to customize every aspect of a system to your needs. We offer expert design and tremendous flexibility both in choosing the right kind of system and in figuring out where to best place it.
No matter your familiarity with home solar — from absolute beginner to regular DIYer — our team of experts is ready to help you design the perfect system and installation for your tiny home.
Watch: How it Works
Want to see exactly how solar works with tiny homes? We paired up with Tammy and Logan from Rowdy Kittens to show you just how it looks and what it takes to get your tiny home set up with solar.
Love Tammy and Logan’s tiny home? It’s the Kozy Kabin build from Portland-based tiny homes company PADtinyhouses! See more of the Kozy Kabin here.
And check out The Acorn tiny home solar system if you are interested in a similar solar setup.
What’s the right system for you?
What are my energy needs?
This is the most important question to ask yourself before going solar. The size of your solar system depends on the amount of electricity you use, or plan to use, every month. And it’s tempting to think that a smaller home automatically means less electricity use, but that isn’t necessarily the case!
Do you mind downsizing to a smaller refrigerator, or do you need a standard-sized one? Do you look forward to a fresh cup from the coffee machine every morning? Are you okay with an electric stove/oven, or would you rather cook with propane? Understanding your current energy use and deciding which habits you’d like to keep or change is the first step in estimating your energy usage in your tiny house.
Sound complicated? We can help. At a basic level, you can estimate your current electricity use by looking at your utility bill or using tables that show common appliance power draws.
Where will my panels go?
With tiny homes, panel placement is a different story than with adding solar to a larger home. And if you plan to take your tiny home on the road, there’s even more options!
On the ground
By far the most common option for tiny home owners is an array of solar panels mounted on the ground. This is called, unsurprisingly, a ground mounted system.
There are a lot of reasons why ground mounted systems are the most popular option when it comes to tiny homes. First, the most obvious: tiny homes have tiny roofs! You can fit two or three panels on the roof of your average tiny home, which won’t be enough to cover most people’s energy needs — even in a tiny home. With a ground mounted system you can have as many panels as you need.
Ground mounted systems are also great because you can put them wherever you have the space for them. That means you can point them where they’ll be the most efficient, and position them to get the most amount of sun based on your property. They’re also easier to access if you need to brush snow or debris off of them.
On the roof
When most people think of solar, they picture the panels on a roof. Roof mounting is classic and looks cute, but for tiny homeowners, it only makes sense for a small number of folks.
This option is for those who have drastically low solar electricity needs since you can only fit two or three panels on the roof of a tiny home. This option might be for you if you are using solar to supplement another source of electricity, or if you plan to use just enough power to keep your lights on.
The reason roof mounting is so popular with larger homes is that they’re often in residential areas that lack the space for a ground mounted system and they’re often tied into the local power grid. With many tiny homes, there’s both enough space for a ground mounted system and tying into the local power grid isn’t an option.
On the road
We don’t mean that your panels will literally go on the road! Just on the road in the Jack Kerouac sense.
If you’re going to be completely mobile, designing your tiny home to go anywhere and everywhere with you, you’ll need a solar solution that you can move securely.
From a ground or roof mounted system that you can pack up, to a trailer that you hitch to your tiny home, there are solar solutions for you. If you want to see one great example of a mobile tiny home with solar, check out our friend and tiny homes pioneer Dee Williams’s build here on her blog.
Just give our solar experts a call and we’ll work with you to figure out the right design for your mobile setup.
What are my goals?
Most people who decide to go tiny are looking for the independence and simplicity of going off-grid. But there’s another option as well: connecting your tiny home solar system to your local utility grid and selling them electricity.
Find out the best option for you below.
If you’re going tiny, you’re interested in downsizing your life, the amount of stuff you own, your footprint on our green Earth, as well as your cost of living. One of the most natural ways to accomplish these goals is taking your tiny home off grid.
Off-grid systems use solar panels and batteries to store electricity and ensure your energy needs are met. And with an off-grid solar system, you never lose power regardless of what the local utility grid is doing.
If your tiny home will be in an urban or residential area, perhaps on the property of a larger home, you might want to consider tying your solar system into the grid and selling them the electricity you are creating.
When we talk about “the grid”, we’re talking about the power grid that your local electrical utility company provides. Grid-tied systems send the solar electricity your system makes to the grid, and you get credits towards your bill for the power you are creating.
Step by step guide on how to set up solar power at home
Clean energy is gaining ground rapidly just when greenhouse gases and carbon emissions are immensely hurting our ecosystem. Worldwide, two-thirds of solar power capacity have been installed since 2011. Fortunately, India has kept pace with the Rapid development of clean solar power. Reports indicate that solar power generation in India increased by a whopping 86% in 2017.
It is now ideal to use solar power not only in commercial units but also for residential ones. The costs of installing a solar power unit have steadily dropped, but you can always try the DIY option to keep it within your budget. However, if your budget cannot afford it and you need to go for a loan, then calculate your mortgage with the help of a Mortgage Calculator.
You can save money by setting up a solar with solar photo-voltaic (PV) system yourself by reading this simple guide to set up solar power. Here is an in-depth look at how you can build and install a solar power unit for your home:
Step-by-step guide to set up solar power unit
Step 1: Gather solar power components
It all begins with gathering the basic ingredients of a solar power unit. You will need four major items – solar panels, charge controller, inverter, and a battery pack. In addition to these items, you will require a breaker, meter, MC4 connector, and fuses among other things. Keep in mind that it is essential to read the solar panel module instructions.
Before setting up a solar panel, it is crucial to choose a solar panel set that will be sufficient to run the appliances you want to operate. This is where the use of a solar panel calculator is seen. This Smart tool will instantly let you know the number of solar panel plates you need to install so that the appliances could be run without any trouble
Step 2: Calculate your power load
Before getting to the solar installation task, it is crucial to sum up the power that you use at your home. This isn’t rocket science. All you have to do is to note down the home appliances that you use on a daily basis, which include television, lights, fan, and so on. Next, add the time for which these appliances run in a day. Go through the specification chart in your household electric appliances to check their usage duration or run time, and their power rating.
Now calculate the ‘Watt-Hour’ by multiplying the runtime of an appliance with its power rating. Follow this step for each electrical device, then sum up the individual watt-hour numbers to get the grand total. You can also simplify this calculation by using an online off-grid load calculator.
Step 3: Select and charge the battery
A major hiccup with solar power is that it doesn’t provide electricity when the sun goes down. However, you can easily crack this problem by using a battery. A lead-acid or a lithium-ion battery stores solar power generated during the daytime and discharges it at night. This provides a steady supply of energy, provided you have selected the optimum battery storage capacity. You will need a power controller to monitor your battery’s charging. These come between the panels and the battery. Such controllers are typically fitted with a small LED light that announces the charging state of the battery, and it adjusts the power that flows into the battery.
Step 4: Set up the inverter
Solar arrays produce electricity in direct current (DC), but electrical appliances use power in the form of alternating current (AC). Inverter is a device that saves the day by allowing you to use electrical devices without using adaptors. Inverters come in varying power wattages and types including square wave, modified sine-wave, and pure sine-wave inverters. Square waves are not compatible for all devices, while the output of modified sine wave is not suitable for certain appliances such as a fridge. This makes a pure sine wave inverter the best choice for your solar system.
Step 5: Fix the solar panels on your roof
Once the battery, controller, and inverters are ready, you need to get started with mounting the solar panels. Select the best spot for the panels on the roof or on open ground that receives an unhindered supply of the sun’s radiation. You can either make a mounting stand yourself or get it from the market. The tilt of the mounting stand should almost be equal to the latitude angle of your location. The proper setting of the solar panels is critical for their operation maintenance. Hence, it is essential to ensure that the panels face the sun throughout the day.
In the last phase of this step, wire the solar panels. You can trace a small junction box at the back of the solar panel. The junction box has negative and positive signs of polarity. In a large sized-panel, the junction box has terminal wires too with an MC4 connector. However, you will have to align the junction box with external wires yourself if you use small solar panels. Use the black and red wire for negative and positive terminal connections, respectively.
Step 6: Connect the solar panels with battery
You need to connect the solar panels with the battery. In certain PV systems, these come paired together, so you don’t have to put in any additional effort. In cases that are not given as a single unit, you need to make series and parallel connections. You can make a series connection by connecting a device’s positive terminal with another device’s negative terminal. For a parallel connection, you need to connect one device’s negative terminal with another device’s negative terminal and so on.
Step 7: Setup stands for inverter and battery
Your residential solar unit is incomplete without stands for the battery and inverter. Again, you have the option of building the stands or getting them. Once the allocated positions for the inverter and battery are ready, you can start working on the wiring. Start with wiring the controller. The first connection from the left is for connecting the controller with the solar panels. The second connection is for pairing the battery with the controller. The last connection is for connecting the controller to the direct DC load connection.
For connecting the solar panel with the charge controller, you will need a separate connector called an MC4 connector. Once the controller is connected to the battery, its LED lights should light up. Similarly, you will have to connect the inverter terminal with the battery’s terminal.
Check this video for further guidance on solar panel setup —
Following these steps can guide you to set up a solar power unit at your home. The high costs incurred in installing one can be reaped later on as solar energy is not only clean but also a cost-effective investment.
Alycia Gordan is a tech junkie and a freelance writer who loves to read and write articles on healthcare, technology, fitness and lifestyle. You can find her on : @meetalycia