If you’re thinking of switching to solar energy, you might be wondering if solar panels can power an entire house. The good news is, yes, they can.
In order to get completely off-gride, you would need to understand your household consumption. You would then use this to calculate how many solar panels you would need.
We’ll break down all of the things you would need to get solar panels to power an entire house.
The average annual household consumption in the U.S is around 10,715 kWh (kilowatt-hours). If we divide this by 12 months, we see that the average monthly consumption is around 893kWh.
Let’s round that up to 900 kWh, just to make the calculations easier. If we then divide this by the 30 days in a month, we get 30 kWh per day.
This means that your solar system would need to provide that much energy every day in order for your entire house to run on solar energy.
While this is the average, consumption varies across states, so it’s a good idea to look at averages for your specific state.
Your consumption also won’t be stable throughout the year. It might be higher in summer because of air-conditioning, or in winter because of heating.
This means you need to have a detailed understanding of your energy consumption before investing in a solar panel system.
You can also look at your monthly electricity bill to get an idea of your household's actual consumption.
Luckily, you can install some solar panels while still also using grid power to supplement your energy uses. You can then install more solar panels until your house is entirely off-grid.
Installing solar panels to power your entire house is definitely an investment, but can save you money in the long run, as well as being the most environmentally-friendly choice.
Another important part of this investment is that solar panels increase your home value.
Solar panels for apartments will also be cheaper than a full-size house.
How Solar Panels Work
Solar panels capture the sun’s light and convert the energy into DC power.
However, your home does not run on DC power. This means that you need a solar inverter that converts the DC power into the AC power that we use in our homes.
This inverter allows you to directly use the sun’s energy to power your lights and appliances.
A really important factor in setting up a solar system that can power your entire house is knowing how many sunlight hours you get per day.
To work out how much energy your panel can produce, you multiply the wattage of the panel by the number of sunlight hours it will receive.
The power of a solar panel is measured in watts, but the energy it produces is measured in watt-hours.
In theory, a 200-watt solar panel getting 6 sunlight hours per day could generate around 1,200 Wh (watt-hours) per day.
When trying to determine the size of your solar system, you need to consider what the sunlight hours are in your state.
It’s harder to power a house with solar power in a state like Washington than in a sunnier state like Hawaii or Florida. You can research the best states for solar panels.
In a state with fewer sunshine hours or more inconsistent weather patterns, you need more solar panels to compensate for the lower amount of sunshine your panels receive.
Efficiency of Solar Panels
Solar panels aren’t perfectly efficient. Most solar panels have an efficiency rate of around 1.3-1.6. But these 200-watt solar panels have a production ratio of 1.9.
This means that they could produce about 160-180wH of power in one hour of peak sunlight.
This means that you need to take your efficiency into consideration when developing your solar system.
Your efficiency is also connected to the amount of sunlight your solar panels get in a day. You need to plan for the weather in your state and area to make sure you calculate your needs correctly.
Something that’s often overlooked when it comes to installing solar panels is the angle of the roof and the direction it faces.
This affects how easily you can get solar panels onto the roof, as well as how your sunshine hours will be optimized.
You also need to take into consideration the size of your roof, and how many panels you can fit on there.
How Many Solar Panels Would You Need
In order to get your house entirely powered by solar power, it requires a significant investment. A 200-watt solar panel can sell for around $250.
To calculate the number of panels you need, take the total amount of power that you need, divide it by the efficiency rate, and divide that by the wattage of your solar panels.
Using the national average of around 11,000kWh, and 200-watt solar panels with 1.9 production ratio, your formula would look like this:
11,000/1.9/200 = 26 solar panels.
While this may seem like a lot of panels, it’s important to remember all of the things that need to be powered.
In your house, you have all of your lights, appliances, and heating that all take a fair amount of energy to run. You also need electricity to charge any smaller devices and things like TVs and PCs that draw power sporadically throughout the day to work.
You also need to factor in air-conditioning in summer and heating in winter. Additionally, you must know how much of your appliances run on gas versus electricity. You can even heat a greenhouse with solar panels, but that will push the number of solar panels you need to completely power your house up significantly.
A Hybrid Approach
While in the process of switching to solar power, your house can still be connected to the electric grid.
This means that your electricity consumption is supplemented with grid power. This can also be useful if you’re struggling to figure out exactly how much power your household consumes.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you produce more energy than you consume, you can benefit from something called net metering. This means that your excess energy gets put back into the grid.
The extra power earns you a credit from your electricity company. This can also be useful to help balance out your electricity needs during periods when you get less sunlight house.
If this seems like a daunting investment, you don’t have to switch your entire home over to solar energy all at once. You can start small with a few solar panels and increase them over time as you save up money.
This allows for a gradual transition to solar energy for your home, by adding additional panels as needed. A nice thing about installing a solar system is that it is easy to expand, especially with DIY solar panel kits.
This means that you can customize your solar system to meet your needs.
Lower Energy Consumption
While we have been looking at the average household energy consumption, you may find that you have lower energy needs.
Particularly if you are thinking of moving to solar energy for environmental reasons, it’s likely that you’re already conscious of your carbon footprint and taking care to reduce your energy consumption.
It’s much easier to use solar panels to power a mobile home. Because of its smaller size, you generally require less energy to run it totally off solar panels. Also, because it’s mobile, you can reposition it to get maximum sunlight hours.
Another good option for mobile homes is flexible solar panels that can more easily attach to the roof.
Using a Battery
Another important part of your solar system is a deep cycle solar battery. While solar panels can capture the sun’s energy, they can’t store it.
This means that your solar system will work while there is sunlight, but won’t store any additional power for you to use at night or when there’s no sunlight.
You need a battery that can store enough energy to get you through the nights and on cloudy days.
Sunlight hours are an important factor in this as well. You need a solar system that will generate enough electricity to power your home using the available sunlight hours.
When selecting a battery, the voltage must match up with that of your inverter.
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