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  • Melissa Deaver

Solar Panels on Tiny Houses



Tiny houses are a trend that began in the early 2000s. Many people were looking for an alternative to the traditional options of owning or renting a large home for their family. In addition to saving money on their mortgage, these families were looking to slash their cost of living in other areas, too, including utility cost. Many who have embraced this lifestyle are also concerned with the environment and have sought this tiny house way in order to lessen their impact on our climate. These values marry perfectly with the goal of solar - to save money and lower environmental impact.


While it seems like a match made in heaven, there are both pros and cons to putting solar on your tiny home.


Pros
  • Solar panels on your tiny home will reduce or eliminate your electricity bill. Tiny houses will naturally have lower energy bills, as the square footage dictates need for lights, heating, etc. Adding solar panels to the mix could eliminate your bill entirely.

  • Panels on your tiny house will increase your self-sufficiency. This is a trait that many tiny home dwellers value, and solar panels can provide you energy independence from the grid.

    • Combining your solar array with a battery back up system has the potential to sever your ties with the utility company! Off-grid systems will be more expensive, but if you value independence from the grid, then this may be the way to go.

    • If you remain grid-tied, it's possible to generate enough electricity to power your home during the day and have enough surplus to transfer back to the grid. Net metering allows surplus to be sold back to the utility company and the homeowner is reimbursed for it.

  • Solar panels can be customized to whatever your needs are. Many components of building a tiny home can be frustrating, as finding the right size is a challenge. Luckily, solar panels come in many capacities and are modular, so you can puzzle together the best system for your needs. If you start small and build onto your property later, panels can always be added, too.

  • Panels on your tiny home offer clean, renewable energy! Solar is really the only way to go when considering renewable energy options for your tiny home, as hydroelectricity and wind power are likely not efficient in this scenario. Reduce your environmental pollution with green energy!

  • Panels have a great return on investment. Since your home is smaller, so will be your array. A 3kW system, for example, will cost you roughly $6,000. This figure is dependent upon your current electrical set up, your energy usage and location. For such a small amount, you are likely to have those panels paid off in 4-9 years, making this an investment that pays for itself!


Cons
  • Upfront costs can range from $3,000-$9,000 for a professional installation. There are loans you can get to cover these costs should you not have the cash available, and there are incentives available, too. There is also the option to DIY, but that can come with risks.

  • Space requirements can prove tricky. As with everything that will be considered if you have at tiny home, space is of utmost importance. There are three solutions to this issue.

    • Use high-efficiency energy panels so that fewer panels can offset more energy usage.

    • Make your home as energy-efficient as possible.

    • Consider a ground-mounted system so that you can accommodate more panels than your tiny roof could.

  • Battery back up can be pricey. Back up battery offers increased independence and back up power, but they do remain an expensive addition to any array. The batteries can be included in the 30% federal tax credit, but they won't have the same return on investment as the panels do.


Overall, if you are a tiny home owner, or considering this route, it's a great idea to also take a look at your solar power options. While there may be an upfront cost, panels will offer you clean, renewable energy that has the potential to eliminate your electricity bill completely.


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