Tiny House Solar System for High Power Use

April 16, 2020

Hey guys, we’re here at the tiny tack house near Seattle, Washington. Right now we’re going to talk about the tiny house solar system. All right, we figured it would make sense to start out with our solar panels. So we’ve got four solar panels here. They’re each capable and full sun of collecting 255 Watts of power. We’ve got a breaker box. And so the panels all connect into it. And we’ve got a grounding rod right over here. So in case we have any lightning issues, which we don’t get too much out here. And then right here is our big beefy cable that runs up to the front of the house, to the breaker box. So we have a pretty beefy inverter. This is an Outback power and this guy is capable of collecting up to 3,600 Watts of power.

Right now we only have to have 1,020 Watts of collecting ability, but we could add more panels if we wanted to. So this thing is an all in one system. A lot of companies that do solar systems, they make just part of it. So they might make the battery controller or they might make the inverter. Um, but Outback makes all the different components. So we’ve got our charge controller, we’ve got our, so this is the charge controller. This manages the power coming in, it manages the batteries charging, and then our inverter is inside this part and then all the AC hookups are here. All of our DC hookups are over on this side. And this has builtin breakers. So again, we have the breaker box on the panels, but if there were any issues with lightning, we would this would automatically hopefully get tripped if the, if there was an issue. And then the AC breakers are up here to disconnect power going into the house.

So up in the top here we’ve got all the cables that run over to our standard breaker box. So we have eight different breakers. We decided to break it out probably a little more than you needed to for a tiny house. But we just wanted the ability to turn off different sections of the house. And then this part here actually is a built in web server and it can be used for programming. So I can actually hop on the internet and I can see the stats for my inverter to see how much power I’m currently collecting. I can see what the batteries are at. Uh, and speaking of the batteries, we’ve got these two cables right over here that run into our battery box. So we have four pretty massive batteries. They’re 12 volt batteries that are wired as if they’re one big battery. So it basically makes up a big 48 volt battery and it’s 260 amp hours. These things are sealed lead acid. They each weigh 172 pounds. So they are quite heavy and a pain to move. But the thing was sealed lead acid batteries as you generally don’t want the power to go down below about 50% on a regular basis because it’ll shorten their life. Um, generally I’ve heard that sealed led lead acid batteries should last 15 years if you properly maintain them. Um, in terms of maintain, I just mean not charging them too low on a regular basis. You can do it once in awhile. But the other nice thing about the inverter that we have is it automatically takes care of automatically reconnecting to the grid if we do get too low.

So it’s all programmed ahead of time through this unit here. And basically I have it set up so that if the voltage of the batteries gets too low, then it’ll just automatically reconnect. So when I mentioned being connected to the grid, we have just a standard extension cord over on the side. And so when the sun isn’t out and we’re not getting enough power this will automatically reconnect and it’ll grab power from the grid to either charge the batteries or run into the house depending on where the need is or both at the same time, we actually worked with a third party would be sun and wind to set up our system and do all the planning. And they had us fill out a solar calculator that basically you had to list all the different items we planned on using how much power they consume and how long each day we planned on using them.

So inside our house we kept our lighting all pretty much led, so that doesn’t take barely any power. But we do have a hot water heater, a four gallon hot water heater that draws about 1200 Watts of power. So that’s a pretty good amount. And then we’ve got an iMac, a wall mounted iMac that draws around 300 Watts of power. Occasionally we’ll use our blender, we’ll use, what else? We have the hairdryer. Uh, and then I have a laptop as well. But really we, yeah, we want it to be fairly minimal with our power consumption. So the hot water heater is the biggest one. And we also did wire that into a switch so that we turn it off when we don’t need it. Yeah. And it only takes about 15 to 20 minutes to heat up if the water’s cold. We do have an electric refrigerator standard 120, very, very low power consumption cause it’s just a four cubic foot. So it’s about this tall and this wide. Does it have a freezer component? It does, yeah. It has a separate freezer on top. And you use that for heating. Do you use an electric heater? We do, yeah. We have an oil filled electric space heater that has three settings, a low, medium or high setting. And I think it draws 700 Watts, 900 Watts or 1200 Watts depending on which setting it’s on. But during the winter here in Washington, it’s not sunny enough for us to get our power. All of our power from solar with what we have set up right now during the summer months. Last year we were off-grid from about April through November. Is this system something you would suggest for a tiny house or do you think it’s overkill for most tiny houses or especially ones that might have more sunshine than you get here in Seattle? Sure. Um, I mean the, the inverter is definitely overkill for most tiny houses.

How much are solar panels for a tiny house?

We decided on something this big because we wanted a lot of room to grow. Um, longer term we’ll probably add more panels, maybe add more batteries, but right now this is definitely a way more than we need. And a lot of people that are going with solar, will get a gas on demand hot water heater. They’ll get a maybe a gas fridge. And yeah, there are a lot of different options for appliances nowadays that’ll help consume power. So you wouldn’t have to go with a system, this bag, if you were looking at solar for a tiny house, definitely not. And this one system was pretty pricey. We ended up spending about $12,000 for solar panels even for our tiny house.

There were some federal rebates going on the after researching, we figured out we actually were eligible for us. So ended up being about $8,000 after all the rebates. So that was for the consulting with the sun and wind company. Um, and then all of the components, the panels, the batteries, the whole thing. Okay. Anything else you’d like to add? Advice for solar? Is that pretty much wrap it up? Um, yeah, I think really the biggest thing is just planning ahead. You ha you really have to consider how much power you’re going to be using to figure out how big of a system you need for the geographic location that you’re in. Because we’re in the summer. Solar in Washington is fantastic, but again, during the winter months, the days are fairly short and we just don’t get a ton of sun.


 

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