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Solar sheds: what you need to know

Many homeowners use their sheds for storage, greenhouses, or as a workspace, but have you ever considered your shed as a potential spot for a solar panel installation?

Here are some questions to get you started if you’re looking into a solar shed option.

Is the roof of your shed suitable for panels?

One question you need to ask yourself is whether the roof of your shed is suitable for solar panels. Adding solar panels to your roof has a similar weight addition to installing another layer of shingles on a standard asphalt roof. With traditional rooftop systems, installers will typically conduct an engineering review to ensure that your roof is structurally sound enough to withstand the additional weight of solar equipment. Depending on how your shed was built, and what it was built with, its roof may not be strong enough to hold up solar panels.

In addition to structural integrity, space is another aspect to keep in mind when considering solar for your shed. Most sheds are small and don’t have a lot of available roof space. Standard residential solar panels are roughly 15 square feet in size; if you have a small shed, this means you’ll only be able to fit a few panels.

Of course, the amount of sunshine hitting your shed is also an important factor. What direction is your shed’s roof facing? A sunny, southern-facing roof is optimal for solar electricity production, but east or west facing roofs can also work. No matter which direction your shed’s roof faces, you want to make sure it’s clear of shade. If your shed is at the edge of your property and obscured by tree branches or shaded by tall buildings, you may want install your solar panels in another location.

How much electricity do you want to generate?

When installing solar panels, most homeowners aim to cover as close to 100 percent of their home’s electricity usage. Doing so means lower electric bills and more savings over time. This can be difficult if you’re only installing panels on your existing shed, as they tend to be smaller in size. If your shed has a good amount of space, you could look into covering your electricity bill for your property. This will require running wiring from your shed to your main house if your electric meter is located in your home.

Alternatively, another option is to only install solar to provide electricity to the shed itself. This solar solution could be particularly useful if your shed functions as a workshop that utilizes lighting or other appliances. Installing panels to solely cover the electricity usage of your shed will have a lower upfront cost than a typical residential installation because it will require fewer solar panels.

Can you use a solar kit to install on your shed?

If you’re considering installing solar for your shed, you may be looking at purchasing a solar kit (such as those from Grape Solar) to install it yourself. There are some cases where DIY solar makes sense. If you’re only installing a few panels and comfortable with electrical work, then a DIY solar project on your shed will be a cost-competitive option.

It’s worth noting that using a solar kit for a DIY solar project is most feasible if you’re installing a small, off-grid solar panel system. If your shed isn’t tied to the electric grid and you’re only looking to provide power for a few electrical appliances in the shed, then a solar kit can be a practical option. There are DIY solar kits for grid-tied systems as well, but these are more complicated because they require an interconnection process with your utility company.

Even though DIY systems have a lower overall cost, there are clear advantages to using a solar professional to install your system, even if you’re an experienced electrician. Perhaps the largest benefit of using a solar contractor is that it will save you time. You won’t need to spend hours researching DIY solar and the steps necessary to install your system. Hired solar installers will also help file permits and applications required in your state or town in order to get the system up and running. Professional installers will have the benefit of experience when it comes to these processes.

If you don’t own a shed, should you buy one and put solar panels on it?

If you’re looking to go solar and don’t have an existing shed on your property, there are a few circumstances in which you might consider buying one for the purpose of installing solar. For one, if your main roof isn’t a good fit for solar panels and you’re looking at solar alternatives, then a solar shed may be a good solution for your property.

If you’re starting from the ground up for a solar shed option, you’re going to be able to tailor the construction and placement of your shed to make it as suitable for solar as possible. Try to work with a builder to make sure there’s enough available roof space to fit however many panels you need, and that the shed is positioned on your property for optimal solar electricity production.

Keep in mind that a solar shed isn’t your only option if you’re unable to install solar panels on your roof. Take a look at other alternatives to traditional rooftop solar, such as ground mounts, carports, or solar gazebos.

Can you purchase a shed with integrated solar panels?

If you don’t already have a shed on your property, you may be looking into purchasing one with solar panels already built-in.

Many home improvement stores sell whole sheds with solar collectors included. Unfortunately, it’s more common for these types of sheds to have passive solar thermal collectors (similar to skylights), rather than solar electricity panels.

That’s not to say that these types of sheds aren’t a good purchase. Even though they won’t help save you money on your electricity bill, they are attractive and particularly useful if your shed is doubling as a greenhouse.

Is a solar shed the right solution for you?

Installing solar panels on your shed is definitely worth looking into if you only want to provide electricity for your shed, or are constructing a new shed that you can build to be solar ready. If your main goal is to generate the maximum amount of savings with solar, you will want to install a larger system to cover all of your electricity needs. This may not be possible with a small, existing shed because of the available roof space, but you can always look into traditional rooftop installations, ground mounts, or carport options. Even if your shed can’t hold enough panels to power your entire property, it can still be a good choice to decrease your overall electricity usage or supplement an existing solar array on your home’s roof.

You can get competing quotes for solar sheds and other types of installations by joining the EnergySage Solar Marketplace. If you’re particularly interested in installing solar on your shed, simply note in your account so our installer network is aware of your preferences. Keep in mind that because solar panel installations on sheds are typically smaller in size, it may be more difficult to find an installer to work on the project.


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