Alternate Solar Panel Integration – Tiny Solar House

I was up late last night drawing some Tiny Solar House updates that included a way of integrating photovoltaic solar panels into the design. This morning I’m thinking that my previous solution won’t work very well.Based on the early comments to the design I’m thinking I’m not alone either.

So here’s another idea. What if an awning that has a pivoting solar panel array built into it? This would give the panels more support and still allow the homeowner the ability to move the panels toward the sun when the window side of the house was facing toward or away from the sun. What do you think of this idea?

15 thoughts on “Alternate Solar Panel Integration – Tiny Solar House

  1. Michael Janzen says:

    I just realized you’d hit your head all the time going in the front door, unless you broke the pivoting racks into two, three, or four… and that might shade the rear panel(s). Hmmmmm…

    Not sure I want to put it on the roof but I’m thinking more and more there’s nothing for it. What do you think?

  2. Kevin W says:

    Yeah, I have some safety concerns, if something goes awry with the swiveling operation you could smack someone on the head or pinch an extremity. The homeowners would probably be fine, but visitors won’t know to watch out for large moving parts over the main entrance of a house.

    I like the general idea of realigning the panels a lot, but I’m not sure this particular configuration is ready for prime time.

    Has anyone ever tried reflecting light on to solar panels? Maybe you could arrange some bright surfaces or mirrors so that a reasonable amount of light will still hit the solar panel when the sun is on the north side.

  3. Tim R. says:

    In this design the roof frame also partially shades the solar panel. I know it doesn’t seem like much but even the slightest amount of shading on a solar panels greatly reduces its output.

  4. Uncle S says:

    The pivoting pane will be a maintenance nightmare.

    I’d suggest skipping PV altogether:

    – Since it’s such a small area, any PV you add is going to have a relatively huge amount of real estate devoted to converters, transformers, rectifiers, and possibly battery packs.

    – You’ll be adding $25K to a $10K house.

    Go passive solar and use overhangs instead- if you need off grid power, use a windmill.

    • Michael Janzen says:

      I’m with you all. The only thing this idea has going for it is that it looks cool. I’ll keep at it and come up with something simple… and add the wind turbine. I really like the awning idea too.

  5. Todd says:

    What about adding a hinge to the leading edge of the roof and a locking mechanism for the top of the PV (the a reclining pool chair)? Use a pole to lift it up.

    As for cost/complexity, we certainly won’t require a $25k setup right? Its < 130 sq ft! Shouldn’t a marine/cabin setup should get the job done?

    Finally, are you planning on shutters/louvers/? to prevent (or moderate) solar when things heat up?

  6. Michael Janzen says:

    PV systems can certainly run very high so $10K to $25 is common on larger homes. I’m definitely talking about a small RV system that would provide 12VDC lighting and a few small appliances through a small inverter.

    But truthfully the size of a system depends on the requirements of the occupant(s). So it is reasonable to say you’ll spend anywhere from a couple thousand dollars for a small system to $25K or more for a system large enough to power ‘normal’ home appliances like washers, hair dryers, and microwave ovens. Clothes drying and air conditioning are not really possible with PV.

    The suggestions for using wind are really good too. But just like PV you pretty much pay per watt. The more power you need the larger and more expensive the initial cost. If you have land with a steady stream and you have water rights to setup a small hydro system you may have the lowest cost per watt opportunity running across your land. The system will not be portable of course and can be tricky to setup but the power tends to come steadily day and night, unlike wind and solar.

  7. Russell says:

    I’ve thought about this a bit, and it occurs to me that if your house is built on a trailer, then the solution is easy. Put a chain-driven gear on one wheel of the trailer, and drive it with an electric motor. Lock the other wheel (perhaps place it on a rotating plate). Instead of jacks, support the tongue weight on blocks with heavy-duty casters.

    The house will swivel around the fixed wheel. Make sure you do it slowly, and don’t put things in the way.

    Actually, you could probably forget about the fixed wheel, the motor and the chain-driven gear. Attach a pushing pole to the hitch, and swivel the house around its center of mass with muscle power. A heavier house just needs a longer pushing pole and a wider arc of clearance.

    Much simpler. Your $4000 worth of panels sit snug and flat on your roof, and you swivel the house to point toward the sun. What’s the point of having a tiny house if you can’d move it around?

  8. SteveR says:

    I doubt you would need a system costing much more than $5k – tiny house should = tiny energy requirements. I’ve lived in a ‘big’ house for 6 years with no dryer or air conditioner and haven’t missed it yet. We currently use less than 8000 kwh per year and live a ‘normal’ life. If you are looking to live in a tiny house but use the same appliances and energy as a big house, you’re looking at the wrong reasons for being in a small house.

    In any case wind power is not an option for everyone – not for me – no wind where I am but reasonable amount of sun. I do have a stream on my property and I do plan to have a hydro scheme but it’s not portable as Michael points out and I have to run 600m of wire, so it’s not going to be a day 1 thing and I still need something if I need to go somewhere temporarily.

    I suppose the other alternative to keep it simple is simply to have a standalone PV stand on the ground next to the house. If you need to move, just pick it up and put it in the house.

    The thought of where to put a PV panel on this type of roof is something I have thought about a lot! because this is exactly the type of roof and house configuration I live in now (only a little bigger). I currently have a single 80w panel with 4 Trojan T-106 batteries. This is enough to run my amateur woodshop used on an infrequent basis using large machines and power tools. I ended up building an angled frame that can sit on the ground or it could sit on the only very tiny small flat part of the roof that I have, but I think it does better on the ground.

  9. Kieran says:

    My other idea for the aforementioned additional heating unit: keep my idea for the PV unit being on the wall for solar collection, and having the aluminum-can heating-unit built on a separate swivel/pivot that attaches to the wall opposite the door; it would swivel outward so it would face in the same direction as the windows, and its heating hose could be attached to that back end of the house somehow.

    Does this idea make sense? I’ve yet to come up with an idea for the back “blank” wall that could be put to use; the only idea I had wasn’t anything to do with power, but to be used as a rack of sorts to hold garden tools when not in transport.

  10. Rodger says:

    If your going to make a solar panel with a hinge, then you ideally want it to track east to west (with a permanent southern tilt.) This will give you the most bang for the buck. A good part of your design is the air behind the panel; the warmer the panel, the lower the efficiency. If you could cool the system more you will do better. Also to consider, you want an overhang on your roof that blocks the sun from entering your window in the summer to prevent heating. Also a light shelf will help with daylighting and removes hotspots in the house.

  11. Donna says:

    Brilliant idea, good option for those who find this look asthetically appealing. I agree it looks cool. Simply add a locking mechanism & adjust the overall height if necessary to ensure that the lowest point of the solar panel cannot hit those entering the door in the head.

  12. Robert says:

    I built a house based on this basic design. I added a 6×16 screen porch to the front as I built on a lake, As I am in the woods my solar panels will have to go up the hill where the sun can be seen. If you would like to see pics email me a ecotraveler@hotmail,com

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