One of the big questions that come up during a consultation for our she sheds is this: How can I have electricity? There are many answers but here we are going to follow the sun.
Installing solar power can be a really effective solution. We just proved this recently when we installed a small solar panel system on one of our client’s sheds.
Marnie’s system cost about $1,400 and took about 4 hours to install. We tested it first before bringing it to her shed. Keep reading for more details.
There are numerous advantages to a solar-powered she shed over conventional electric:
- You are “off the grid” and your shed is independent, should any power outages occur.
- Solar is relatively clean and completely renewable. You are harnessing the sun’s energy to power batteries, which in turn invert the thermal energy into electrical energy.
- You don’t need any electrical permits to install a solar kit in your shed.
- No additional expense will appear on your electric bills. (Equipment costs will set you back anywhere from $1,200 – $3,000 so it will take a few years to get the investment to pay off.)
In most cities and counties, permits are absolutely required if you want to hardwire your she shed. Getting a permit is often not a big deal but it does take time and money. You need to hire an electrician to do the work and often they will help navigate the permit application and securing an inspection. The permits are pulled before any work is done and then an inspection occurs during the final phase.
Marnie, a stage and TV actress who lives in Orange, wanted something a bit more “off the grid.” She liked the idea of gathering renewable energy and avoiding the process of professional electrical wiring from her home.
We started by approaching some professional solar installers and immediately came up against a challenge. These companies are set up to equip entire homes and businesses with solar energy systems that are very large and cost many thousands of dollars. Most were not interested in a small project like a she shed.
So we went it alone! Since a she shed is on the small side we figured a solar kit designed for small spaces could work. This one from Renogy is considered a starter kit but it looked to have the power and energy storage we were looking for.
How Solar Works: A Quick Primer
A home solar kit has four major components:
Panels. Rectangular panels absorb sunlight via photovoltaic cells, which are sandwiched between material that generates positive and negative charges. The number of panels required depends on the amount of power you need for your lights, heating/cooling system, computer, etc.
Batteries. These are serious, and very heavy, batteries. If you’re picturing a couple of D batteries that go in a flashlight, think again. We ordered a single 12V battery and then realized we needed a second one. Remember the energy is being used and replenished constantly. Plus, you’ll need a reservoir for those days when the sun don’t shine.
Charge controller. Think of this handy device as a buffer between energy collected (from the solar panels) and energy used (inside your she shed). It fiercely protects your batteries from overuse or taxing variations, ensuring everything runs smoothly.
Inverter. All that energy collected from the sun is direct current (DC) and needs to be converted into alternating current (AC). (And that’s how heavy metal band AC/DC got its name! But we digress.) An inverter is a modest little box that does the job quite efficiently.
Choosing the Right System
You need to figure out your basic needs before choosing a kit. Here’s how:
What are you using and how many hours a day will you use it?
How many watts does this appliance require?
How many hours of sun per day can you count on?
Plug all this in to Renogy’s calculator and it will give you suggested battery size, number of batteries and solar panels you need to have.
Because Marnie is in her shed mostly during the day (and she does NOT want to spend time on her computer there), her needs were pretty simple.
1 fan (summer) or small space heater (winter)
1 overhead light
Putting the Solar System Together
Renogy’s starter kit came with the basics: two solar panels, a charge controller, necessary wires and cables and mounting brackets. But wait, there’s more. You will also need batteries (we got two so Marnie could reserve and store energy) and an inverter. We built a waterproof wooden box to house the batteries as well.
Want to download our step-by-step guide to installing a starter kit solar system? Contact us and we will share it with you. It may not be exactly the same experience for you but it will get you launched and informed about what is involved.
You could be on your way to harnessing the sun for your she shed or other backyard space! Let us know about your experience.