Tiny House Solar, Part 1

solar panel

You have a Tiny House or one is in your future plans. You are fired up to start taking control of your energy needs by adding in a solar array. But the question is, how do you tackle this new endeavor?

Before we get into the dynamics of a solar array, it is best to understand a few options available to you right now. And in these options, we are going to specifically address off-grid solar arrays. Off-grid solar arrays function without the use of the electrical grid, which makes them ideal for tiny houser’s. A typical off-grid solar array has a lot of different mechanisms that need to work together in perfect harmony. Some of these mechanisms are the charge controller, ground fault protection, circuit breakers/fuses, bypass switches, DC monitoring (if available), the inverter, and more.

This is enough work to intimidate an experienced solar designer let alone someone new to solar. However, before you get discouraged, most off-grid solar manufacturers have already created a solution. The solution is typically termed as a distribution panel, epanel, or FLEXpower system depending on the manufacturer. Essentially, each of these systems is a form of a pre-wired distribution panel. This means that a good portion of the complexity in designing an off-grid solar array has been lifted off your shoulders.

Outback FLEXpower System

Outback FLEXpower System

A great example is Outback Power’s FLEXpower system. This FLEXpower system is as close to plug-and-play as you can get in an off-grid solar array. All of the mechanisms required to create an off-grid solar array have been package and pre-wired for you. The charge controller, circuit breakers, battery disconnects, dc monitoring, inverter, etc. are all wired together for you in one neat ready to ship package. What you are left with is adding your own solar modules, batteries, and AC electrical panel.

Please note that this is not a sales pitch for Outback Power. I am merely using this product as an example based on its seamless integration. This package eliminates a lot of installation error as the protective devices and wire sizing have all been done for you. There are other versions created by manufacturers such as Magnum Energy, Xantrex, and Midnite Solar. This just happens to be the most completely done version on the market today in my opinion.

Stay tuned as in the next articles we will talk about sizing the solar array, sizing the battery bank, discussing the AC Electrical Panel, and much more.

For more information on Tiny House Solar, please visit our website at:
http://www.solarunplugged.com/tiny-house-solar/

Midnite Solar E-Panel

Midnite Solar E-Panel

Magnum Energy MMP panel

Magnum Energy MMP panel

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Becca - November 6, 2014 Reply

Thanks for sharing the info 🙂

mike - November 6, 2014 Reply

Not ridiculous…

It would be cool though if you could an in-depth article on solar, from soup to nuts, step by step of how everything works…

Lisa E. - November 6, 2014 Reply

This is wonderful. Love TH tutorials. Maybe we could have Tutorials be a, from-time-to-time, subset of THBlog?

Please include solar panels on top of THOW, too. We need such information as:
(1) How panels are mounted on the roof?
(2) How big and how many to run a THOW comfortably?
(3) What are the battery storage options? (4) Where are they to be mounted in/on our THOW for lowest impact on space?
(5) Names and addresses of different companies we can buy from;.
(6) How are the batteries wired and installed?
(7) What are the associated costs?
(8) Which are the better products and why?
(9) And anything else you think we should know. 🙂

Sheila - November 6, 2014 Reply

Thanks for sharing this information. I wanted to pin it for future reference. I went to the website, and then to their blog, and did not see a Pinterest button. Just something to think about for your blog as well… there are many times I would like to pin. Love seeing your posts!

Angela B - November 6, 2014 Reply

Another useful article to bookmark! Please keep them coming I could use all the help I can find.

Chuck - November 6, 2014 Reply

I have an Outback system in my Roadtrek, I also have a midnite controller feeding my house, Outback has the best complete system but my midnite with magnum controller might have better output. lots of testing to do , plan on having a livinlite trailer to handle panels to make proper observation s is off grid with batteries

Chuck
San Diego Ca

Margy - November 7, 2014 Reply

Our solar system started small and has been growing since 2002. Too bad we didn’t have the tutorial back then, but all has worked out well. Our only problem at our cabin in BC is winter with very little sun. A wind generator and gas generator help from about November to March. – Margy

    Kate - March 9, 2015 Reply

    Margy, I would like to know about wind generators as well. You have something to share? This was a great article

Doug - November 9, 2014 Reply

Just a heads up…the white wire ties as shown on the post in the first picture should never be used outdoors as the UV breaks down the plastic. That is why they make them in black with UV inhibitors so that won’t happen.

Laurie Smith - November 9, 2014 Reply

Batteries are exorbitantly expensive! I have 24 solar panels on my roof (regular house, about 1500sf), and we could not afford the space or the price of the batteries necessary to live off the grid. I hope the price comes down soon. Until then, I just enjoy my monthly paycheck from the utility company.

Ron C - November 11, 2014 Reply

Good stuff, thank you Kent! Looking forward to the rest of this series.

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