Going Solar in a Tiny House
The concept of tiny house living is built on self-reliance and minimization. Transitioning to a tiny house means minimizing your space and belongings, but it also goes hand-in-hand with reducing your negative impact on the environment.
It makes sense that many tiny home dwellers choose to fulfill some or all of their energy needs with a photovoltaic (PV) solar system, since it decreases dependence on utility companies and meshes with the environmental philosophy behind going tiny.
The type and size of solar system you will need depends on the answer to the following questions:
- What’s your current energy load?
- Do you have a permanent setup, or is your tiny home mobile?
- Are you willing to stay connected to the grid and merely use a PV array to lessen your energy load?
- Or do you want the PV array to handle your whole energy load?
- If you are permanently dwelling on a host’s property, do you have access to a sunlit area?
Going off the Grid
Living off-grid has clear advantages. You completely avoid fluctuating utility prices, and your storage battery will save any extra energy you produce for times when the system is not generating enough to power your tiny house. When grid-tied houses nearby are losing power, you’ll have the luxury of electricity.
On the other hand, storage batteries are currently very pricey. If this is a concern, grid-tied solar may be the best option for your tiny home. This means that your PV solar system generates enough energy to cover some of your energy load, while the grid supplies the rest. You also have the option to sell back any excess power you generate to utility companies. Consider the Go GPower! Complete Solar Kit, a grid-tied kit that’s just the right size for a tiny house.
Amazon.com is a great place to look for affordable solar kits, but make sure to read reviews and order from a reputable company.
Solar panels and inverters are somewhat clunky, which could pose a challenge to tiny house residents who like to take their home on the road. Thankfully, there are all-in-one systems like the Yeti Solar Generator, which contains four PV panels, a battery, and a charge controller. It covers much of a tiny home’s energy demands (especially if it’s energy-optimized with efficient appliances and bulbs), but you may not have the luxury of using many appliances at once. Mounting solar panels on the roof isn’t a good idea for a traveling tiny house, so you’ll need to find another way to transport it—thankfully, it’s only about 100 pounds.
Goal Zero offers other Yeti packages as well, ranging from a 30Wh personal charger to the 1200Wh kit listed above.
Obstacles to Going Solar in a Tiny Home
Since tiny houses are not permanent structures, they may not qualify for solar tax rebates or incentives. Be sure to check out the Database of State Incentives and learn about the advantages and challenges of going solar in California before pursuing this option for your tiny home.
If you’re living on a host property, you may not have the freedom to move your tiny home to a spot with ample sunlight or remove any trees. Even just a little bit of shade can affect the performance of your PV panels, so you’ll want to make sure you have a fitting spot.
Part of choosing a solar system is knowing how many hours of sunlight you have per day, which is hard to calculate if you’re on the road. However, many small solar kits come with equipment that is properly sized to work well for tiny homes.
Tiny home dwellers face plenty of challenges, but are also rewarded for their willingness to live a minimal and self-sufficient lifestyle. The solar situation can be complicated if this is the lifestyle you choose, but a solar PV system is within reach for any tiny home—all it takes is a little tailoring.
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