How Many Solar Panels Does It Take to Power a Tiny Home?

How Many Solar Panels Does It Take to Power a Tiny Home?

solar panels tiny house

There are a lot of ways to power up your tiny house, but most tiny housers choose solar panels. Not only are solar panels more conservative but they are also perfect for off-grid tiny houses. But how many solar panels does it take to power up a tiny home? Many are asking, and now’s the perfect time to finally lay the answers straight. 

The number of solar panels you need to power your tiny home depends on a few key factors, including your location, size of your roof, orientation and shading of your roof, number of appliances, and you (or your household’s) electric usage. 

Clearly, there’s no definite answer to tell you how many solar panels you need. It depends on the variables presented above. So now, let’s dig deeper into these variables to help you out. 

But first, let us talk about how beneficial solar panels are for tiny houses. 

The Benefits of Solar Panels for Tiny Houses

Many people move into tiny houses in an effort to minimize energy usage. The tiny house movement has moved many, per se, to live a more sustainable and conservationist living, putting the environment first before anything else. 

Compared to traditional houses, tiny houses are much smaller. Yet, that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t need energy. In fact, tiny houses need energy as much as conventional homes. They need power for heating, cooling, lighting, and other appliances. 

Tiny house dwellers choose solar panels because they generate clean and free electricity. This way, they cut their energy bills further and save money. 

There’s a lot of benefits you will reap from having solar panels on your tiny house. As mentioned already, you can save money on electricity bills. Plus, you can also help protect the environment and take control of your own electricity generation. 

If you have a solar panel system, it will help increase the value of your home if you decide to put it on sale in the future. You see, prospective buyers admire free and renewable energy. 

Moreover, tiny houses are mobile, meaning you’ll likely move from various places over time. So if you have (or are thinking about building) a tiny house on wheels, then a solar panel system is the way to go!

And because you have your very own electricity, you will not have to rely on power sources wherever you end up placing your tiny home for a bit of time. Instead, you can have a continuous source of energy no matter where you are. 

Plus, if the city experiences a blackout, you’ll be on your tiny house relaxing while your neighbors envy the solar power that’s powering your home. 

How Many Solar Panels You Need – Location and Orientation

Now let’s go straight on the factors that will determine how many solar panels it will take to power your tiny home. First on the list is your location and orientation of the solar panels.

Where you are and how your solar panels will be oriented can help you determine the number of solar panels you need. A solar panel will get the most power when the rays of the sun hit its surface perpendicularly. So it’s important that your solar panels face the correct direction and have the right amount of tilt to ensure they will be able to produce as much energy as it can. 

If you install your solar panels correctly, then you may need fewer solar panels than if they face the wrong direction.

solar panels sun

The solar production also varies by location. Is your tiny house in a place with lots of sun? Or is it inside the arctic circle that only gets 6 months of light time? Or are you in a place with lots of clouds? 

If your tiny house is in Yuma, Arizona, then you’re in a good place to use solar panels. Arizona, apparently, is among the places in the United States with the most sun. Interesting fact: Arizona gets 4300 sunny hours a year. 

States like Nevada, California, Colorado, Florida, and New Mexico also get a healthy dose of sunlight every day. While states like Alaska, Connecticut, West Virginia, and Michigan are among the cloudiest states in the US. 

But regardless of where you are, either in Nevada or New England, you’ll still be able to get enough power to cover your energy needs. Take note, however, that if you live in a place that gets less sun, you will need to have a larger system. 

The good news is that many solar panel companies have been able to create solar panels that are capable of producing energy no matter the weather — be it cloudy, sunny, or even rainy. 

Solar panels with this feature are usually pricier than the standard panels. So unless you have the $$$ to purchase topnotch solar panels, you won’t have to worry about your location or the weather. 

How Many Solar Panels You Need – Size of Your Roof and Solar Panels

You can install your solar panels virtually anywhere that the sun hits. The most common place to set them, though, is in the roof since it is substantially exposed to the sun. 

Logically, you can’t fit too many solar panels if the size of your roof doesn’t allow it. A typical residential solar panel has a size of 65” x 39”. That’s 5.4 feet by 3.25 feet. A standard tiny home that’s 8 by 20 feet can only have up to 6 solar panels of that said size in the roof. 

Solar panels are usually able to produce 250 to 400 watts of power. Say your tiny house is exposed to 5 hours of sunlight a day and your solar panel is able to produce 250 watts, you’ll compute it this way =  5 x 250 watts. In this case, you’ll produce 1,250 watt-hours per day or 1.2 kWh. That’s roughly 430-450 kWh of energy per year. 

A 1.5kW solar panel system will need about 6 solar panels, assuming each panel produces 250 watts. In this example, a 1.5kW solar system will perfectly fit a standard tiny house (5.4 ft. x 3.25 ft.). 

Assuming a 1.5kW solar panel system isn’t enough to 100% power your home. You would need a solar system with higher kW production. A 3.5kW solar panel requires up to 14 solar panels, which wouldn’t fit in a standard-sized tiny house. 

[Check out: A Guide to Tiny Home Sizes (What Makes A Tiny Home Tiny)]

The amount of power your solar energy system can produce depends on your location. Again, your location is a key factor in regards to solar production. 

If you’re in an area with less sunlight, then you might need high-efficiency solar panels. With high-efficiency solar panels, you’ll need fewer solar panels (which is good if you have limited roof space). 

Refer to the table below.

System SizeNumber of Solar Panels (Estimated) *250-watt panels
1.5 kW6
3.5 kW14
5 kW20
7 kW28
10 kW40
12 kW48
15 kW69
appliances in a tiny house

How Many Solar Panels You Need – Appliances

A tiny house isn’t always a guarantee that you will be less energy. A tiny house could be small in size but is full of appliances. Or maybe you have a few appliances, but most of them are high-powered, like blender, heaters, or aircon. 

[Must read: The Best 10 Portable Heaters for Tiny Homes]

So, the number of solar panels you need depends on how much power your appliances consume. 

How many solar panels do you need for your household items? The best way to determine this is by listing down all your appliances and see how much energy each of them consumes. 

ProductWattsUsage (hours)Energy in watt-hours
Space heater1,00088,000
Refrigerator180244,320
Air conditioning unit1,00088,000
Blender1,5005 minutes125
Internet router624144
Laptop charging42284
Laptop running148112
Led lights (5)64120
Incandescent light604240
Cellphone5420

In this example, you’ll be using 21,165 watt-hours per day. That’s 21kW a day x 30 days = 630 kW per month, which is 7.6kW per year. 

A 250-watt panel that’s exposed to the sun for 7 hours can produce 1,750 watts per day. So assuming you use 21kW a day, you will need 12 solar panels. 

The fewer the appliances, the less energy you need. And the less energy you use, the fewer solar panels you need. But then again, you also need to consider how much power a panel can produce. 

[Must Read: How Much Electricity Do Tiny Homes Use?]

If you choose a 100-watt solar panel, then you’ll likely need about 30 solar panels to cover your 21kW usage. Or if you choose 300-watt solar panel, you will only need 10 solar panels. 

You probably cannot use 10 solar panels in a 120 sq. ft. tiny house. So the best solution would be to use a high-efficiency solar panel system that can cover your energy usage with fewer solar panels. 

Several factors come into play when it comes to energy usage. You see, the size of your household needs to be considered. The more people living in your house, the higher your power usage will be. 

And also, the quality of your appliances can also affect your power usage. For example, an incinerating toilet requires energy, unlike a composting toilet system. Old appliances also tend to use more energy than newer models. 

To reduce your power usage, we recommend using energy-efficient household items. They’re pretty easy to identify. Energy-saving items usually have an Energy Star sticker. 

[Check This Out: The 3 Best Toilet for Tiny Houses]

Here are some other tips on how you can reduce your power usage:

  • Open your windows

Opening your windows to let cold air in is one of the best ways to save energy. Instead of turning on your air conditioner, why not let the cold breeze fill your room? Of course, this may not be very ideal if the heat outside is too intense. 

  • Use LED light bulbs

LED light bulbs are energy-efficient and longer-lasting. They look like normal bulbs, except they use minimal energy and more affordable. 

  • Perform your tasks during the day

It’s best to finish all your tasks while the sun is still up, so you’ll only use your light bulbs at night for a short period. 

  • Spend more time outdoors

Instead of staying in your room with the aircon on, why not go outside and enjoy the cold wind? Besides, the tiny house movement inspires people to spend more time outdoors. Are you living with a dog? Why not give your pooch a walk in the park?

Solar Panels – Tiny Houses VS Traditional Homes

Solar panels aren’t just for off-grid tiny homes. Traditional houses also use them because they’re convenient and can help save a homeowner from spending more on electricity bills. And as mentioned, solar panels allow you to get clean and free electricity. 

And you know what else is great about solar panels? Even if your city or town experiences a blackout, you’ll still have power (mind you, this is a great advantage if the town experiences power outage on SuperBowl). 

A typical house that’s 1,500 square feet usually needs about 16 panels to cover the entire electrical power needs. Of course, to fully determine a home’s average energy requirements, it’s best to check past utility bills. 

You can calculate how many solar panels a traditional house needs by multiplying the household’s hourly energy usage by the peak of sunlight hours in the area. Then divide the product by a panel’s wattage. 

The lower the wattage, the more panels you need. For example, to generate 11,000kWh in a year, you will need 17 370-wattage panels or 42 150-wattage panels. 

Take note that solar production, your location, roof size, and battery storage are factors to consider. 

A small home in a pleasant climate might use about 200 kWh per month. A larger home, on the other hand, might use about 2,000 kWh per month or more (considering air conditioners, especially if the home is located in the south).

Meanwhile, an average house uses about 900 kWh per month. That’s 30 kWh per day or 1.25 kWh. 

A traditional house that uses 30kWh per day will need about 10 to 15 solar panels, assuming the panels are 350-wattages and are exposed to sunlight for 6 to 7 hours a day. 

Tiny houses may use 20 to 25kWh per day. Such a tiny house may need 7 to 10 solar panels. 

Which of the two uses more solar panels?

It’s easy to assume that the bigger the house, the more solar panels it will use. While that may be quite true, we should not forget the variables that determine how many panels a house must use.

Just because a traditional house is bigger than a tiny house doesn’t necessarily mean it will require more solar panels. 

For example, a small house with one or two occupants may use less energy than a tiny house with 4 to 6 occupants. Or, a small house may have fewer appliances than a tiny house. 

Again, we need to consider the key factors, including the size of the household, the number and quality of appliances, the location, and where the solar panels face. 

Are Solar Panels Worth It?

Many people have started to install solar panels, and now you might be wondering if they are worth it. 

The price of solar panels has exponentially lowered over the years. Almost a decade ago, a 50-watt panel cost around $215 (or $4.50/watt). But now, you can purchase a 50-watt panel for only $1.50/watt or $75. 

However, the panels aren’t the most inexpensive part. What really costs an arm and a leg are the components, including the inverters, mounts, and wirings, which, in an average house, can cost up to $6,500 on average. 

An average homeowner will pay anywhere between $2,000 and $5,000 to pay for the installation, permits, and also inspections. 

In tiny homes, it’s best to ask your local government about the rules or codes it has regarding the installation of solar panels, especially if your tiny house is on a foundation. 

The upfront payment for solar panels can be overwhelming. So you’re probably thinking if it’s worth the pay. Well, yes. With electricity prices continuing to skyrocket across the United States, many have opted for solar power to reduce their utility bills, especially now that solar panels have become more affordable. 

solar panels electricity grid

Is Your Tiny House Connected to the Grid?

On the grid tiny houses (or those that are situated near or within the city) are able to connect to utility power lines. 

The electrical setup works similar to standard residential rooftop systems. As you produce solar energy during the day, it will cover your home’s electricity needs first before sending excess energy out the grid. 

Several utility companies have net metering incentive or NEM. It is a solar incentive that lets you store energy in the electricity grid. So if your solar panels produce more power than you need, the excess energy will be sent to the grid in exchange for credits. 

And if your solar panels are underproducing, you pull energy from the grid. Then you can use these credits to offset the costs of that energy. 

Solar Options for Your Tiny House

No doubt, tiny houses can really benefit from solar power, especially those that need low electricity needs. If your tiny house uses only a minimal amount of energy and you only need a few panels to cover your energy usage, it’s best if you do a DIY solar panel installation.

There are a lot of companies out there that sell out solar kits. If you don’t know that much about setting up your solar panel system, then we recommend hiring a professional electrician to do the work. 

It’s also best to consider working with a solar installer that can help you go through the nuts and bolts. Most solar panel companies offer packages that include the entire solar panel system, labor, permitting, and more. 

How to Shop for Solar Panel System

Here are a few tips that can help you when shopping for a solar panel system. We understand how the market is already bombarded with solar panel companies that choosing one has become rather overwhelming.

So when picking your solar panel system, consider these tips:

research quotations
  1. Research, research, research

Shopping for a solar panel system requires a lot of research and consideration, just as how it is when you’re making big-ticket purchases. 

There’s a lot of companies out there, and each company has offers that, at first glance, are hard to resist. It helps if you conduct thorough research and review of the companies in your area. 

Don’t just take it from the company. Instead, look for reviews from real customers. Sometimes it’s best to choose the products that your friends or neighbor recommended. Chances are they are using the product already and are satisfied with it. 

It’s best to compare as many solar options as possible so you can avoid paying inflated prices offered by large companies in the solar industry. 

A lot of solar companies offer free quotations via their website. 

2. Large companies don’t usually offer the best prices

It’s time that you believe that the bigger isn’t always better. When choosing a solar panel installation company, don’t just stick on brands that are large enough to pay for advertising. According to a report, large solar companies are $2,000 to $5,000 more expensive than small solar companies. 

If you receive offers from big installers, ensure that you compare the bids with quotes from local installers. This way, you can avoid overpaying for solar. Again, do your research. 

3. Compare your equipment options

Big solar companies do not just offer higher prices. Sadly, they also tend to provide fewer solar equipment options. This can have a major impact on your system’s solar energy production. 

So, collect as many solar bids as you can, compare the cost, and calculate the savings you’ll get on the different packages available to you. 

Remember, investing in a top-dollar solar panel system doesn’t always guarantee higher savings. The best way to save money and get the best solar option is by evaluating quotes and doing a thorough review. 

The Effect of Solar Panel Size

If your roof has limited space for solar panels or if it has an unusual shape, the size and the number of panels are a primary consideration. Clearly, if you have a large usable roof area, you can buy low-cost larger panels. 

However, if you have a limited roof area, you can opt for a few yet high-efficiency panels so you can get the most possible power over the long term. 

Yes, the size of your solar panel matters, but what’s more important is the efficiency and output. 

Now, if you’re having a hard time determining how many solar panels you need and how you must install them, we suggest calling a professional installer to help you throughout the process. They can help you from assessing the right number of panels to your roof to installing the solar panels in the right direction and orientation. 

You must also consider net metering if you want to get ROI (return on investment) for your solar system. With net metering, you’ll get credits for producing excess solar energy (especially if your solar panel system is overproducing). 

With the credits, you can use a conventional power grid at night. This is essential if you do not have a solar battery storage system. 

Related Questions

How long do solar panels last?

The durability of solar panels differs depending on its make. Film panels can last for only 2 to 5 years. Photovoltaic and crystalline solar panels can last up to 25 years. 

How much electricity does a tiny house use?

The amount of energy a tiny house use depends on several variables, including the energy usage, number of appliances, size of household, location, and weather. Guaranteed, tiny homes use only 7% of energy compared to traditional houses.

Do solar panels work at night?

Solar panels need sunlight to generate power for your home. If you need electricity at night, you can use your net metering credits or pull electricity from your solar battery storage.

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