For many years people have been building bigger and bigger homes. In the last 50 years, the average house has more than doubled in size. Some are now embracing tiny houses that enable them to live a more eco-friendly and sustainable life.
Electricity is one of the primary considerations to make when building a house. With tiny houses, generally comes tiny electricity use—but where do you get this electricity?
There are several options when it comes to choosing how to power a tiny house. However, the fact that tiny house owners value sustainability and a reduced carbon footprint make using renewable energy a more practical option. Solar is the most affordable and effective renewable energy you can get today, making it a great power source for your tiny house.
Before you can get started with solar power, however, you have to determine how much electricity you’ll need. So, how do you do that?
How to Determine How Much Electricity You Need for Your Tiny House
You can evaluate your electricity needs in one of the following two ways:
- Evaluate your current utility bills and subtract the energy used by anything you’re planning not to use once you’re in your new home.
- Add up the energy consumption of each of the things you’re planning to use in your house, and work out hours you’ll be using them for.
Here’s a look at some common household items and their estimated energy consumption per day. It can help you figure out your daily energy consumption. You can multiply that by 30 to get your monthly consumption.
|Item||Power (Watts)||Energy in watt-hours (Wh)|
|LED lights||6W||24 Wh|
|Incandescent light||60W||240 Wh|
|Full-size fridge||83W||1000 Wh (1 kWh)|
|Ultra-energy efficient fridge||180W surge||168 Wh|
|Solar booster pump (for water pressure)||100W||50Wh|
|Space heater||Low/ Medium/ High
|Blender – Conventional||500W||41Wh|
|Blender – Powerful||1500W||125Wh|
|Well pump – 1HP||750W||750Wh|
|Window air conditioner||500W to 1500W (depending on size)||8000Wh (averaging)|
Once you get your figures, you can use a solar sizing spreadsheet to figure out the size of the solar system that would be ideal for your electricity needs. If you find this process too complicated, you can work with a professional to help you make the right decision. When it comes to choosing solar power systems, you have two main options:
- Installed solar system
- A portable solar power generator
Generally, portable solar generators, such a Kodiak solar generator or the Point Zero solar generator, are recommended for tiny houses. These types of solar power systems are easily movable, allow for solar tracking, and can fit within the efficient and mobile lifestyle of many tiny house owners.
The beauty of using a portable solar generator is everything is already complete as far as what components are needed to get a solar system working. The Kodiak can link directly to a 30amp RV plug within the tiny home and run everything that uses 110v. The Point Zero takes it another step. It can connect directly to a 30amp RV connector or a 220V plug just like large gas generators.
This allows the generator to power the entire tiny house without having to run extension cords to everything. The Point Zero generator can run heavy duty items and has an expandable battery base to custom fit to your power needs. Easy and an electrician is only necessary if the 220v plug needs to be added to the electrical panel.
It is worth noting that solar generators work by capturing the energy from the sun via solar panels and store the energy in a battery bank before releasing it via an inverter to be utilized in the form of AC power.
It is possible to set this up on your own DIY-style. All that is needed are solar panels, inverter, MPPT charge controller, battery management system, cabling, house wiring, and batteries. Plus, the know-how on how to connect everything together without shorting anything out. This is why so many people choose a pre-made system to avoid all those concerns.
We’ll talk in another article exactly what is recommended if you truly want to go the DIY route.
There are several factors to consider when choosing your tiny house generator to ensure you get the best one for your needs.
What to Look for in a Solar Generator
The main features to consider when shopping for a tiny house generator are:
- Solar PV Input
- Battery storage capacity
- Inverter Rating
- Balance system design
Let take a more in-depth look at each feature:
Solar PV Input
Solar generators are powered by Solar PV (photovoltaic) Input, commonly known as solar panels. It is imperative that you have adequate solar PV input to ensure you can use your solar generator uninterrupted during the day and that it can recharge to full capacity quickly after night usage.
Solar PV panels are rated according to how many watts they can generate. For example, a 100-watt panel would generate 100 watts of inbound power in full sun. Your solar panels can still produce electricity at other times of the day, but usually below the rated wattage. It’s best to account for an average of 5 hours a day of potential maximum power production.
With a portable solar generator, however, you can track solar. Solar tracking is basically the practice of moving your PV panels with the sun’s arc to maximize the solar input you can capture. That is unless you simply have the panels fixed to the roof or stand.
PV input goes hand-in-hand with the solar generator’s storage capacity. The generator has to preserve energy for later use. You should consider the solar generator’s recharging time once its allotted usable watt-hours have been depleted.
Also worthy of note is that using the generator while it’s recharging increases the time it takes to recharge fully. Moreover, leaving your batteries without full charge can reduce their lifespan. To avoid these issues with your tiny house generator, you should choose solar PV input that delivers not only enough power for daily use while recharging but also fully recharged batteries for night usage.
Battery Storage Capacity
One of the best ways to determine the reliability of a solar generator is by looking at its battery storage capacity. You want battery storage that allows you to use your generator kit at night, during periods of limited sun, and when you have more energy needs than the amount of inbound solar input.
The best way to determine the storage capacity of your solar generator’s battery is by figuring out the number of usable watt-hours it can deliver. How do you that?
Just multiply your battery’s total amp hours by voltage, and then factor in the battery’s manufacturer recommended depth of discharge. A standard lead-acid battery, for example, should only be discharged of two-thirds of its capacity at the very lowest to ensure it lasts longer; it’s preferable not drain it below 50%.
That means a 120-amp hour 12-volt lead-acid battery would deliver 960 usable watt-hours (120 x 12 x 2/3). Once you get your battery storage capacity in usable watt-hours, you can figure out how long your preferred solar generator will run the various items you’re planning to use in your tiny house.
While solar panels generate power in DC (Direct Current) form, most household appliances and electronics utilize AC (Alternating Current) power. So, you will have to convert the low volt DC generated by your solar panels to standard 120-volt AC power, which is where an inverter comes in.
Inverters are rated according to the maximum watts they allow you to draw from your solar power generator at any time. If you have a 1,000-watt inverter, for instance, you can draw up to 1,000 watts in AC power.
However, drawing the highest possible watts from your inverter can drain your lead-acid battery much faster. Typically, a solar generator’s overall rating is also its inverter rating. This helps you to know the amount of power you can draw from your system. It is recommended to use Lithium based batteries because in the long run they are more affordable than Lead-Acid. They also last many years with heavy use and Lead-Acid do not.
You can’t use only the inverter size to determine the capability of your tiny house generator. You should consider other factors, such as your battery storage capacity, to ensure you don’t deplete your battery faster than expected when you try to draw the maximum watts your inverter allows.
Balanced System Design
By taking into account all elements that define a reliable solar generator, you can have a clear understanding of what it takes to create a balanced solar system design. An efficient solar generator should have high-quality components. These components should be compatible with each other, and their ratings should meet your specific needs effectively.
The balanced system design also ensures that your generator can not only serve various needs but can also work in different environments and for different applications. If you don’t like portable solar power generators, you can go for installed solar systems. Let’s take a quick look at what these kinds of solar systems entail.
What are Installed Solar Power Systems?
An installed solar system works in the same way as a solar power generator. It encompasses a group of solar panels installed on the roof of your tiny house or an array detached from your house. The panels supply energy to a battery bank located in the house, a shed, or a water-resistant area.
An installed system is fixed in one location, which means it doesn’t allow solar tracking. You’ll also have a hard time relocating your tiny house. Moreover, solar panels installed on the roof will add unnecessary weight to your tiny house.
Being affordable and sustainable, tiny houses are an excellent way to solve some of many problems homeowners face today. These houses are environment-friendly and can help you save a lot of money in the long run, especially when it comes to utility bills. Tiny houses work well with renewable energy sources, and solar power is the most cost-effective of these energy sources.
When it comes to choosing solar power systems for a tiny house, portable solar generators are recommended as they are easily movable and allow for solar tracking to ensure continuous capturing of the best solar input. With this article, you can determine how much electricity you need as well as how to choose the best solar generator kit to deliver that energy.