Posted on Apr 18, 2014 in Ecoanswers | 2 comments
How many solar panels do I need to power my 3 bedroom house??
In a small three bedroom house, you would need about eight solar panels. In a larger home, 16 panels would be sufficient to power everything. Rebates are available for most solar panel purchases!
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According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average detached, singly-family, 3-bedroom U.S house uses approximately 101 million BTU of energy per year. This counts all forms of energy (natural gas, electric, etc.) and is an average across the entire U.S. (more extreme U.S. climates can increase this number by around 20%).
101 million BTU is approximately 3376 watts. A 224 Watt module from affordable-solar.com can be purchased for $833. 15 of these would satisfy the 3376 watts. This assumes that maximum sunlight reaches every panel, 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Naturally, this is a terrible assumption; a more reasonable one is 12 hours of sunlight on average per day, with perhaps 50% of days being sunny enough to max out the panels (obviously more in Arizona, less in Washington, but this is the right order of magnitude). These assumptions are still generous, but they indicate that 43 of these 224 Watt modules would be necessary.
This still assumes that adequate battery power is available to cover not only nighttime usage, but days or weeks (or months, depending on location) of overcast skies. At a more reasonable battery level (say, enough to cover 3 days), double the number of panels. To account for times of peak usage (doing dishes, showers, laundry, etc. all at the same time), double the number again. This is now 172 panels, and would still require the user to be constantly vigilant of not only the weather and his own power usage, but also the health of the batteries and solar panels themselves.
172 panels at $833 each is nearly $144,000. This does not include any batteries or maintenance, nor does it include the space required to house the panels (each of which is more than 3 x 5 feet, and weighs over 40 pounds). Note that this is an average – an energy-conscious consumer (such as those willing to undertake such a project) could cut this by perhaps a factor of 2, or even 4, without restricting their lifestyle overmuch; however, a more voracious consumer may need to double, or quadruple, this number, in order to maintain their standard of living.
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