Should I install solar panels for my cabin or cottage?

SolarPanelCabinSummer is here! Those who are lucky enough to get away to their cabins or cottages are enjoying the long days and sunshine far from the city. Sounds idyllic! Until an all too frequent summer storm knocks out the power. Far from the city, you’re not likely to be a high priority when it comes to restoring power. Hence the reason that so many cabin or cottage owners invest in a generator. Yes, those loud, stinky machines that kick in when the lack of electricity leaves you in the dark. But what if there was another option, an option that could see you through the power outages AND save you money even when the the days and nights are clear and storm-free? Perhaps it’s time to think about solar panels for your cabin or cottage.

Many cottage owners don’t have to worry about power outages because they’re not on the grid in the first place. And many of them have already invested in solar power because they don’t want to live with a generator working night and day (talk about a great way to spoil your tranquil get-away in the great outdoors!). Whether you’re only looking for a back-up solution or you’re about to build your cabin in the woods far from civilization, solar panels are an option that more and more cottagers are considering. It doesn’t take a big system to power your basic summer needs – think lighting, small refrigerator, water pump and light cooking (after all it is BBQ season!). We’re not talking about heating a three-story house, or running four major appliances at the same time. Although, if that’s what you want, it’s only a question of crunching the numbers to find out just what kind of a system you need. But most cottagers take advantage of the long summer evenings, spend their days outdoors and, if the nights get chilly, simply light a fire. Solar panels may be just what you need to enjoy a quiet, tranquil summer off the grid.

There are off the grid systems that are made expressly for this purpose. They come with the panels, the charge controller, the inverter and the batteries (so that you can rest easy knowing you’ll have power on a rainy day or at night). A small system, on the order of 500 Watts will cost about $3500 USD. You need to make sure that not only are your solar panels sufficient, but also your batteries. Imagine that your batteries are fully charged – as you use them, the power drains, but at the same time, if the sun is shining, the panels produce more energy and re-charge the batteries. However, if you consume power more quickly than you produce (using many appliances for example, or consuming power at night), then your batteries will drain and you will run out of power.

Sunmetrix’s Discover tool can help you determine the potential of your location so that, knowing your off-grid requirements, you can choose the system that will meet your needs (and don’t forget that there are other ways to minimize your power requirements, such as using LED lights). Happy cottaging!

Image credit: Minnesota Department of Commerce

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