Tag: solar panels

How Do Tiny Houses Get Utilities?

How Do Tiny Houses Get Utilities?

how-do-tiny-houses-get-utilities

If you’re thinking about renting or building your own tiny houses, you may need to set your home utilities before you move in. 

Setting up home utilities in a traditional home may be straightforward and isn’t too demanding since there are service providers who can help you throughout the process. But things may not be as easy if you’re going to set your home utilities yourself. 

Tiny houses, in general, get utilities the same way as conventional homes and RVs. There are services provided by power and utility companies. Every so often, however, some people wish to place their tiny homes off-the-grid, which means they have to set everything up on their own, especially if there are no utility and power companies anywhere near the location. 

Sometimes, a tiny house may use both grid and off-the-grid services. For instance, a tiny home can hook to an electricity grid but not to water service. 

The Importance of Utilities

Utilities refer to home appliances like water, electricity, gas, sewage, and internet among others. These utilities play a vital role in both economic and social development. And with these services, you get to have a clean and comfortable living environment. 

Imagine a home without water? Without power? Or without a proper sewage system? What a terrible life would that be! 

How Tiny Houses Get Water

Water should be your top priority. You can live in a tiny house without power, but never without water. So, when constructing your tiny home, you must think about how you’re going to get water. Some people think having some spigots, pipes, and a water tank is enough, but we beg to differ. 

how-do-tiny-houses-get-utilities-water

Your tiny home is technically low on space. As a tiny house owner, you must look for creative space solutions not only for storage but for water access as well. 

If your tiny house is “on the grid,” it means it’s near or within a city and you’re able to hook to the city’s water system. On the other hand, if your tiny home is far or nowhere near a city and connecting to a public water supply isn’t viable, then your house is considered “off the grid.”

The first thing to consider is getting water into your home mainly for bathroom and kitchen use.

Many tiny house owners get a water tank that can easily fit inside kitchen cabinets. This is where you will store your water. You fill the water tanks by connecting to a water supply using an RV hose (on the grid) or by carrying jugs of water to your tanks (off-grid).

The point of living in a tiny house is to promote a conservationist lifestyle. That means cutting back on excess. That means using jugs and bottles of water may be counterintuitive. 

But the good news is that there are still several ways you can store water without ever having to sacrifice your goal to go greener. And probably one of the most underrated — yet, effective — way to get water is by using what nature has already provided. 

Most tiny house owners like to use water collection and filtration systems. If, for instance, you live in a place with plenty of rainfall, water collection, and filtration systems may be the way to go. 

A water collection system works by gathering rainfall. It then processes the water through the filtration system, so it’s safe to use. 

And when you’re off-grid, you can heat your water by using a tankless propane water heater. You will also be needing a pump for water pressure in your shower and sink. The pump, however, needs a power supply. If you’re off-grid, then you may need a solar power system to power it up (more of this later). 

Drainage Solutions

Now let’s talk about where all the water goes. But first, understand these terms:

Greywater – water from your shower and sink

Blackwater – water from your toilet

Greywater is much easier to dispose of than blackwater. That explains why many tiny house dwellers prefer composting toilets over a conventional toilet system — there’s simply no need for blackwater disposal with composting toilets. 

[Must read: The 3 Best Toilets For Tiny Houses]

When you’re on the grid, you can connect to a septic system or a public sewer with a sewer hose to dispose of blackwater and greywater. 

Now, how about disposing of greywater when you’re off-grid? In an off-grid setting, greywater is sent to a portable storage tank (through pipes). Then, you will need to empty the storage tank as needed or if you’re at a designated dumping station. 

Or, you can also drain the portable storage tank into the ground that irrigates a garden. If you choose this option, make sure to use biodegradable shampoos and soaps so the greywater will not harm the plants. 

dumping-station-tiny-house

Using Blackwater Tanks

If the idea of having a composting toilet isn’t much of your liking, then you can use blackwater tanks. Take note, though, that disposing of blackwater is more complicated than greywater, especially if you’re in an off-grid setting. There are gazillion harmful bacteria in blackwater from toilet waste. 

So, if you don’t have a composting toilet, you can use blackwater collection tanks instead. Once the tank is full, you need to go to a dumping station and dump it. If this task is way too unpleasant for you, you can hire a professional service to do the work for you. 

how-do-tiny-houses-get-utilities-electricity

How Tiny Houses Get Electricity

Tiny houses need electricity. That’s for sure. Electricity is an essential service that makes life so much easier. It’s what powers on the air conditioner when we’re feeling hot, the portable heater when we’re feeling extra cold, the electric kettle when we feel like drinking tea, and the computer when there’s a job to do. 

Powering up your tiny dwelling is important whether you’re on or off the grid. So, what are the best power options for your tiny house?

You have several options. The best option depends on a number of variables. True, the idea of being completely self-sufficient is adorable, especially if you want to go greener. However, there are some drawbacks you need to consider as well. 

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

Below are the common power options along with their upsides and downsides:

Solar Panels

Most tiny house owners choose solar panels as a primary source of power, especially those in an off-grid setting. 

Having a solar panel system is also a great way of generating clean and free electricity. And since the electricity comes directly from Mr. Sun, you can cut your electricity bills and save a lot of money. 

Consider this: if you’re living in Iowa or Kansas, the electricity rate is $0.10 per kWh. If your tiny house uses around 700 kWh per month, that’s $70 per month. But with a solar panel system, you don’t have to shell out money — not even a dime. 

But then again, there are downsides, some of which may hold you back from choosing solar panels. 

solar-panel-for-tiny-house

The Disadvantages of Solar Panel

First, a solar panel system often has an astronomical price. The upfront payment is just too big for many tiny house dwellers. According to Energy Sage, the cost of solar in 2019 is $2.99 per watt. In the U.S, the average solar panel system size is 6 kW. Therefore, the average solar panel system costs about $12,600 after tax credits. 

If you think that’s way too expensive, then you’d be surprised to know that the solar panel price has actually fallen 23% over the past five years! 

And let’s not forget that the number of solar panels (and the system size) depends on the size of your home and power consumption, which by the way is also determined by the size of your household and the number (and quality) of your appliances.

That means if you have many appliances, a large number of dependents, and a *technically* large tiny home, then you may need a bigger solar panel system. This could be an issue for those who are on a tight budget. 

Here’s a list of the average cost of solar panels based on system size

System SizeAverage Solar Panel Cost(before tax credits)Average Solar Panel Cost(after tax credits)
2 kW$5,990$4,200
3 kW$9,000$6,300
4 kW$12,000$8,400
5 kW$15,000$10,500
6 kW$18,000$12,600
7 kW$21,000$14,700
8 kW$24,000$16,800
10 kW$30,000$21,000
12 kW$36,000$25,200
15 kW$44,900$31,400
20 kW$59,800$41,900
25 kW$74,800$52,400

Another thing to remember about having a solar panel system is that your petite home must be in a place with abundant sunlight, as it is the main source of your energy. This can be a drawback for people who live in a place that doesn’t have much sunlight, like Alaska, West Virginia, and Michigan, which are among the cloudiest states. 

There are companies that were able to develop solar panels that can generate power even when it’s cloudy or rainy, but such panels usually cost triple the price of the regular versions. 

Learn more: How Many Solar Panels Does It Take To Power a Tiny Home?

Fuel Power

A tiny house uses need smaller power sources compared to traditional residential homes. You can power up your tiny home with a gas generator, especially if you’re off-grid and hooking to a power source is not an option. 

Although this is also doable in bigger homes, traditional houses can better save money if they connect to an electricity grid. 

With a gas generator, you can power up your dwelling as long as you have access to gas. That sounds promising until you realize that you’ll only have power if gas is accessible. Otherwise, there’s just no powering up your dwelling. 

Disadvantages of Fuel Power

Noise

Other tiny house owners who have used gas generators already also complain about the noise and fuel expense. They are usually loud, which is a major setback for families with infants. A gas generator may not also be a good option if you’re in need of a quiet space (i.e., if you work remotely at home).

Fuel expense

How much you spend on fuel for your generator depends on how many kW it is, the size loads you are carrying, and how often you will be running it. These details should be in the spec sheet of your generator. It must also tell you how much fuel it uses at half load and full load. 

For example, a 20kW generator uses 205 cubic feet of natural as per hour at half load, and 302 cubic feet at full load. If natural gas costs around $12.75 for 1,000 cubic feet, that means your fuel expense is at $2.60 per hour at half-load and $3.83 per hour at full load. 

So, a six-hour use of generator will cost you around $15 to $19, which is anywhere between $450 to $570 a month! 

This is to say that your fuel expense will depend majorly on (1) the national fuel price, (2) your tiny home’s power consumption, and (3) the specifications of the generator you will use. 

Price

The price of fuel generator varies by type. A small generator can cost as little as $300, while larger versions can cost as much as $15,000!

Price of generator:

TypePrice
Solar$300 to $5,000
Liquid Propane$500 to $6,000
Gasoline$500 to $3,000
Diesel$3,000 to $15,000
Natural Gas$1,900 to $5,000

Here are the average costs of generators with their typical coverage:

Power CapabilityCoverageAverage Price
7 kW1 appliance / up to 8 circuits$1,900
11 kW2 appliances / up to 16 circuits$3,000
16 kW1,000 – 3,000 sq. ft. home$3,700
17 kW2,500 – 3,000 sq. ft. home$4,500
20 kW3,000 – 5,000 sq. ft. home$4,900
22 kW5,000 ++ sq. ft. home$5,800
30 kWCommercial spaces$12,000

Technically, you won’t be using as much as 30 kW powered generators, so that should give you relief. But then again, you have to consider how much power you actually need for your dwelling. 

Installation

While it’s not such a bad idea if you install your generator, it would be wiser if you hire a professional service to do the work for you. One incorrect wiring can backfeed power into the grid and cause major fire damage. 

Fuel cost and generator price are expensive already. To make things worse, it requires big fat cash to pay professional crews that will handle the installation. 

On the brighter side, the cost may not be as much with traditional homes, yet it is still something to be concerned about. 

Maintenance

Poorly functioning generators can put you to a lot of risks. That’s why you need to perform certain preventative maintenance needs on a monthly or quarterly basis. If you know you can perform this all by yourself, then you can save money from paying a professional. Otherwise, you want to consider saving up to pay someone to do the job.

Tasks to perform includes:

  1. Checking battery, exerciser circuits, and alternator voltage
  2. Repairing leaks in coolant
  3. Inspecting belts, clamps, bolts, and connections, as well as replacing them when needed
  4. Changing the oil and filter

The Best Generators to Consider

If you search for “best generators” on Google, you will be presented with hundreds of generators — all of which claim to be the “best.” 

There’s just too many generators out there that selecting becomes rather difficult. So we’ve filtered the best options out there to make things much easier on your end:

WEN 56380i Super Quiet 3800W Portable Generator

Features:

  • Provides consistent power of 3,400 watts for 8.5 hours (at half-load). 
  • Offers DC-port, AC port, and USB port
  • Electric start mechanism
  • Economy mode available
  • Digital load display
  • Creates less noise compared to other generators; only 57 dB noise output
  • Shut-off switch makes shutting off easy

Pulsar 4,000W Gas-Powered Quiet Generator

Features:

  • Compact
  • Highlights power rating of 3,500W
  • Can run for 15 hours at 50% load
  • 3.4-gallon capacity
  • Noise output is at 63 dB
  • Offers AC outlet of 20 amps, 30 amps, and DC outlet of 12V
  • USB outlet available
  • Remote start mechanism

An excellent alternative would be this Pulsar G2319N 2,300W.

Champion 100233 3,400W Generator

Features:

  • Has inverter capability
  • Features a power rating of 3,400 W
  • 120 V AC outlet and 12 V DC outlet available
  • Can run smoothly for 7.5 hours at 25% load
  • The wheels make it easy to move around
  • Noise output is only 58 dB

DuroStar DS4000S Gas-Powered Generator

Features: 

  • Offers a power rating of 3,300 W
  • Reduced vibration
  • Noise output is 69 dB
  • Can run for 12.5 hours at 50% load
  • 4-gallon tank
  • Steel frame
  • Air-cooled for prolonged use
  • Gas-powered

Westinghouse iGen4500DF Inverter Generator

Features:

  • Features 3,700W power
  • Dual powered
  • USB outlets, AC port, and DC ports available
  • 3.4-gallon tank capacity
  • Can run smoothly for 18 hours on a full tank
internet-connection-for-tiny-house

How Tiny Houses Get Internet Connection

Getting an internet connection for your tiny dwelling is not as difficult as you think. You have several options to choose from. 

Wired Connection

One way to get connected is to use wired cable internet. This option is best for tiny houses that are near or within a city. Not only is an easy option but also the most affordable. 

While many people today choose WiFi over cabled internet, there’s no denying that a wired connection has some advantages over wireless. In terms of speed, wifi wins the game, but a DSL connection lets you transfer files between devices on your network way faster than WiFi. 

This is because transferring files to your other devices don’t use an internet connection, but only the speeds your local network hardware provides. 

Local speed is important when:

  • You have devices streaming from a media server. A DSL connection boosts the quality of the stream. 
  • You need to perform a backup. Backing up using a wired connection is faster. 

Pros:

  • More secure than a wireless connection
  • Transferring data/files is faster 
  • Great for a home office

Cons:

  • Difficult to set up; involves a number of cables
  • You won’t have much freedom to move around with your device
  • A less convenient option for public use

Wireless Internet

Not having a wireless connection is so not 2019…. You know what I mean. WiFi offers fast and convenient internet connection, making daily internet tasks smooth — be it for work or entertainment. 

With a wireless connection, you can get your devices connected to the internet without the need for cables and ports. You are free to move around in your tiny house with your device yet still connected to the web. 

One problem you might often find yourself dealing with is that WiFi connection tends to get slower the more devices are connected to it. 

Pros:

  • You can move around your home without getting disconnected. 
  • Transferring files don’t require the use of cables. 
  • Most establishments (restaurants, coffee shops, etc.) offer free WiFi. You could be a freeloader. 
  • Several devices can connect to a WiFi connection. 

Cons:

  • Transferring of files may not require for cables, but it’s slower compared to DSL. 
  • The internet connection tends to drop in WiFi. 
  • The strength of the internet depends on your location, especially if you’re using a mobile hotspot. 
  • Interference from other electrical devices may slow down your internet speed. 
  • Household items can block the signal and weaken the connection.

Satellite Internet

Satellite internet may be the best internet option for off-grid tiny houses. With it, you can get a reliable internet connection in places that WiFi and DSL connection are not viable. 

Those who want to place their tiny houses in a secluded area or a place way too far from the grid, then satellite internet is the way to go. 

Pros:

  • A satellite internet connection allows you to browse the web in places that WiFi and DSL connection cannot reach. 
  • More affordable
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • The weather can affect your internet speed.
  • The strength of your internet depends on how the receiver is placed. 
  • Rain can cause interference and slow down your download and upload speeds

Read more: Get Your Tiny Home Connected: How To Get Internet

Related Questions

How do tiny houses handle sewage?

Hook up your tiny house to city sewage or a septic tank. If you have a holding tank, you can empty blackwater by dumping it in a dumping station. 

Can you use the bathroom when power is out?

It depends on what toilet system you use. Composting toilets don’t need electricity, but incinerators do. 

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 of the 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 in your tiny house relaxing while your neighbors envy the solar power that’s powering your home. 

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Jackery SolarSaga 100W Portable Solar Panel for Explorer 240/300/500/1000/1500 Power Station,...
SUNGOLDPOWER 200 Watt 12V Polycrystalline Solar Panel Solar Module:2pcs 100W Polycrystalline Solar...
SUNGOLDPOWER 200 Watt 12V Polycrystalline Solar Panel Solar Module:2pcs 100W Polycrystalline Solar...
Renogy 200 Watt Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Suitcase, 200W Panel-20A Controller
Renogy 200 Watt Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Suitcase, 200W Panel-20A Controller

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 top-notch solar panels, you won’t have to worry about your location or the weather. 

Renogy 200 Watt Off Grid Portable Foldable Solar Panel Suitcase Built-in Kickstand with Waterproof...
Renogy 100 Watt Eclipse Monocrystalline Charge 20A Voyager Waterproof Controller Solar Suitcase,...
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Renogy 200 Watt Off Grid Portable Foldable Solar Panel Suitcase Built-in Kickstand with Waterproof...
Renogy 200 Watt Off Grid Portable Foldable Solar Panel Suitcase Built-in Kickstand with Waterproof...
Renogy 100 Watt Eclipse Monocrystalline Charge 20A Voyager Waterproof Controller Solar Suitcase,...
Renogy 100 Watt Eclipse Monocrystalline Charge 20A Voyager Waterproof Controller Solar Suitcase,...
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MEGSUN 200W 12V Foldable Solar Panel Kit Monocrystalline Solar Panel Charger with USB Device Solar...

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 system requires up to 14 solar panels, which wouldn’t fit in a standard-sized tiny house. 

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ROCKPALS SP003 100W Foldable Solar Panel for Jackery Explorer/Flashfish/BALDR/Goal Zero Portable...
Go Power! GP-PSK-130 130W Portable Folding Solar Kit with 10 Amp Solar Controller
ROCKPALS SP003 100W Foldable Solar Panel for Jackery Explorer/Flashfish/BALDR/Goal Zero Portable...
ROCKPALS SP003 100W Foldable Solar Panel for Jackery Explorer/Flashfish/BALDR/Goal Zero Portable...
Go Power! GP-PSK-130 130W Portable Folding Solar Kit with 10 Amp Solar Controller
Go Power! GP-PSK-130 130W Portable Folding Solar Kit with 10 Amp Solar Controller

[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. 

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Jackery SolarSaga 100W Portable Solar Panel for Explorer 240/300/500/1000/1500 Power Station,...
Jackery SolarSaga 100W Portable Solar Panel for Explorer 240/300/500/1000/1500 Power Station,...
ROCKPALS 250-Watt Portable Generator Rechargeable Lithium Battery Pack Solar Generator with 110V AC...
ROCKPALS 250-Watt Portable Generator Rechargeable Lithium Battery Pack Solar Generator with 110V AC...

[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. 

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  • 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. 

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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 of 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. 

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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. 

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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.