The following article was created from a presentation I gave as part of the 2017 Tiny House Summit. It's designed to answer some common questions and compare popular options for off-grid solar kits.
Off-Grid Solar Power Options For A Tiny House
For off-grid applications, remember that Amps x Volts = Watts and 1,000 Watts is 1 kW. kWh = Storage Capacity, while kW = Solar Power Capacity.
Storage Example: 100Ah @ 12V = 1,200Wh or 1.2 kWh
Solar Power Example: (5) 250W Panels = 1.25 kW
Be sure to compare the total Wattage (W) and total Storage (Wh or Ah) of various Solar Kits. You can calculate the best deal using $ / Wh or Total Cost / Total Watt-hours. The same applies for solar power capacity $ / W or Total Cost / Total Watts.
Goal Zero Off-Grid Solar Kit Battery Example
$1,600 / 1,200Wh = $1.33 per Watt-hour of storage (Wh)
Goal Zero Solar Panel Example
$500 / 90W = $5.55 per Watt of solar power capacity (W)
SolMan Off-Grid Solar Kit Example
A better deal, but still expensive compared to other options.
Tesla Battery Example
$5,500 / 13,500Wh = $0.41 per Watt-hour of storage (Wh)
This is actually a great deal compared to the above options, even though it may at first seem "expensive." The trouble is finding the Tesla battery, because they're in very high demand right now. And since the $5,500 is just the price of the battery, you'll still have to buy solar panels, an inverter, a charge controller, battery and other electrical cables, all of the needed mounting hardware, and pay for the cost of installation. If you go this route you can expect to pay around $16,000 according to CleanTechnica.com.
TinySolarHouse.com Off-Grid Kits
The Good version of the off-grid solar kit is the one which currently powers the Tiny Solar House. This version of the kit can support a full-size Energy Star rated fridge & freezer, lighting, ceiling fan, DC water pump, electronic device recharging (phone, iPads, etc), TV projector and other small appliances. The Good kit is priced at $10k and includes 6 solar panels, inverter, charge controller, batteries, battery cables and electrical wires, and all necessary mounting hardware for a rooftop installation.
We've gone 10 months and traveled 12,000+ miles across America while relying on this kit 97% of the time, so it's a great option for us. However, each tiny house is unique when it comes to electrical profiles, so if you're thinking of using an electric heater over night or for extended periods during the day, you would likely need more storage capability (to be able to support the added draw from a heater or other heat-intensive load). That will likely be the Better version.
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