Using solar panels for powering your summer house or log cabin
17 December 2018| News| Jelle Tienken
If you want to use your summer house or log cabin for anything more than just storage, you will probably require electricity to feel comfortable there – especially if you plan to use it throughout the whole year. However, installing electricity off the main grid can be both difficult and expensive if you take into account the cost of installation as well as the monthly electrical fees. If that worries you, solar panels can provide a great alternative for powering your garden building, as they are easy to install and easy to maintain as well as a very good investment in the long term. And we haven’t even mentioned their environmental benefits yet! If that has made you interested in solar panels, keep reading this article to find out our top tips for using them to power your summer house or log cabin.
Advantages of solar panels
Let’s start with the advantages of solar panels in order to give you an idea of why you should choose them for your garden building in the first place. First of all, they are a smart investment – even though installing them might not be the cheapest option, it will pay off over time, as they last 20 to 30 years and can substantially reduce your electricity bills or even free you from paying any electricity bills whatsoever. They will also allow you to protect yourself from the rising electricity prices as well as any possible power outages. In addition to that, they require nearly no maintenance, apart from occasional cleaning.
Of course, the environmental advantages of solar panels are perhaps even more important than the technical ones, as they are a simple and great way of switching to renewable energy. Even if you still use electricity from the main power grid together with solar panels, it can still considerably reduce your carbon footprint and, if you install a battery, you can completely switch to solar power, making your garden building self-sustainable.
Is off-grid power a suitable option for your summer house or log cabin?
Quite a few people, who live in countries or regions with a colder climate, are reluctant to install solar panels at their gardens because they think that solar panels won’t be able to produce enough power for their needs. However, that shouldn’t really be a concern, as the power is produced from sunlight, not from heat. In fact, the power production of solar panels actually decreases if they heat up too much, so countries with a moderate climate are perfect for installing solar panels.
Another concern that people might have when considering solar panels for powering their garden buildings are cloudy days, as people are worried that, if the weather remains cloudy for a whole week, it will lead to a power shortage. That also shouldn’t be that big of a concern, as solar panels will still generate about 10–25% of their normal output on a cloudy day, and normally the solar panel systems are used together with a battery that stores the excess energy produced during sunny days, which you can then use when the solar panels don’t provide as much electricity as you need. That’s why some locations that are not at all known as the sunniest places have actually been the most successful adopters of solar energy, as the total amount of sunshine you get over a year is a lot more important than the possibility of having extended periods of cloudy weather.
If you don’t want to attach a battery to your solar panel system, you can just use the regular power grid as a backup when you don’t get enough power due to inappropriate weather (or at night, when the solar panels aren’t working), as it will still reduce your carbon footprint. The only problem is that the excess energy your solar panels produce will be left unused, and you might still have to pay considerably high electric bills. There’s a great solution for this available in some countries, called net metering, which means that the excess energy your solar panels produce is fed into the main grid, making your meter run backwards when that is happening, allowing you to substantially decrease your electrical bills. However, if this option isn’t available in your location, using a battery is highly recommended in order to even out your power consumption and avoid wasting any of the energy you produce.
However, the most important aspect to consider when deciding if solar panels are suitable for your garden building is not related to the climate that you live in, as the layout of your garden is a lot more important. The reason for that is quite obvious – if your summer house or log cabin is always in the shade of your house and/or other objects, like trees, solar panels probably won’t be very useful. In order to maximise their production, solar panels should be placed somewhere where the sun can reach them, preferably at all times of the day – whether it’s on the roof or anywhere else in the garden. The layout of your garden can also be important if you want to use the power from the main grid – if your summer house or log cabin is too far from the outlets in your house and it isn’t possible to lay a cable from your house to your garden building, you won’t be able to use it, in which case solar panels can provide the perfect solution.
Installation of solar panels
If you have decided that solar panels are the right option for you, the next step is to choose which solar panel system to install. When doing that, think about what you want to use the energy for, as it will help you determine how much of it you require and decide which type of solar system is the right one for you. As a garden building doesn’t require as much electricity as a house would, there is no need to install a very powerful solar panel system. A 12-volt system (75 W) is enough to power appliances such as a pond pump, a television and a refrigerator as well as garden lights or a fountain. It can also provide power to operate your alarm systems as well.
After that, you have to decide where to place the solar panels, and there are several things that need to be considered when you do that. First of all, you have to pick the right direction in order to ensure that it will receive the maximum amount of sunlight at all times. In addition to that, you should also avoid shaded areas, created by trees or other obstructions and make sure that the panels can be accessed, as they require occasional cleaning. Because of that, the obvious choice for it is usually the roof, as it can receive more direct sunlight than any other area. However, if your roof isn’t suitable for some reason, you can, of course, place the solar panels anywhere in your garden, as long as they receive lots of direct sunlight.
If you have decided to place the solar panels on the roof, you should find out if you require a building permit for that. In most cases, it won’t be required, but different municipalities have different rules, and it can’t be ruled out. Therefore, you should definitely check whether it’s necessary with the relevant local authorities before you install them on the roof of your summer house or log cabin.
Another thing to keep in mind is that, while the solar panels themselves should be placed outdoors, and they don’t need any protection from the weather, the charge controller and battery should be protected from moisture at all times. For that reason, they should always be located either in a separate box that doesn’t let any moisture in or locate it inside of your garden building itself.
If you already own a log cabin or a summer house, hopefully this article has given you some insight into using solar panels for powering it. Meanwhile, if you are still looking for your perfect garden building, take a look at our range of summer houses and log cabins.