Solar Panels for Mobile Homes: Everything You Want to Know

By Kami Turky

Last Updated:

With state and federal incentives at their peak, it’s the perfect moment for mobile homeowners to think about adding solar panels. 

It’s a chance not just to cut down on your energy bills but also to do something good for our planet. 

In this article, I’ll walk you through the essentials of setting up solar panels on your mobile home, figuring out how many panels you need, the right battery size, and lots more. 

So, let’s dive in and start this exciting journey toward solar power!

Key Takeaways

  • You can use solar panels to power your mobile home as long as the roof is structurally sound.
  • You should make sure that your state doesn’t have any special laws prohibiting solar panel installations on mobile homes.
  • Three solar panels with 300 watts capacity are typically enough to power a mobile home.
  • To ensure the solar panels perform at high efficiency, you should direct them to the south and remove any obstructions from their path.

Can You Use Solar Panels for a Mobile Home?

You can use solar panels for a mobile home.

But there are some things you should consider before taking the plunge.

Mobile homes are smaller and lighter than traditional houses, so they require different considerations when installing solar panels.

You’ll need to ensure your roof can support the weight of a solar panel system and that the roof area is large enough to accommodate the number of panels you plan to install.

To be more clear, let’s work with this example.

Assume you need to install 3 solar panels with 300 Watts of power each on your mobile home.

Each panel has dimensions of around 65 inches by 39 inches and weighs around 42 lbs.

To calculate the total weight and area required for the installation:

Weight: 3 x 42 lbs = 126 lbs

Area: 3 x (65 inches x 39 inches) = 7,605 square inches or 52.8 square feet

Of course, this is not an exact calculation, you’ll still need to add some extra weight/area for the mounting hardware, wiring, and inverters.

So, you need to make sure that the structure and the roof joists of your mobile home can support this additional weight and have enough surface area available for the installation.

You also need to be aware of any local regulations or building codes that may affect solar panel installation in mobile homes.

Some states require extra steps when installing solar panels on a mobile home, such as obtaining permission from the owner of the park where your mobile home is located.

How to Calculate the Number of Solar Panels You Need for a Mobile Home?

1. Calculate Your Energy Consumption

Before we get into the details of how many solar panels you need, it’s important to first understand your energy needs.

This depends on the number of devices you’re using in your mobile home and how much energy each of them needs.

To better understand your energy needs, you should start by making a list of all the appliances in your mobile home and their respective wattages.

The table below is a sample of the common appliances found in a mobile home and their energy consumption per day:

ApplianceNumberWattage/ApplianceHours of UsageTotal
TV180W4320Wh
Small Refrigerator 175W8 hours (30% duty cycle)600Wh
Washing Machine1850W32,550Wh
LED Lights65W8 hours24Wh
Laptop145W4 hours180Wh
Fan 250W4 hours400Wh
Phone Charger25W4 hours40Wh
Wifi Router110W7 hours70Wh
Total =4,184Wh

The result of this calculation shows that the mobile home in our example consumes 4,184 Wh every day.

We’ll be using this figure in the next steps to determine the size of your solar system.

2. Find out Your Peak Sun Hours

The amount of energy your solar system can produce depends on how many hours of sunlight it’s exposed to each day.

However, the panels don’t receive the same amount of sunlight throughout the day.

Sometimes, the solar irradiance can be 300W/m², 400W/m², or even as high as 1000W/m² per hour.

To get an accurate estimate of how much energy your solar system will produce, you’ll need to figure out the peak sun hours in your area.

Peak sun hours refer to the number of hours that your location receives direct sunlight with an irradiance of 1000W/m² per hour.

For example, if your region has 5 peak sun hours per day, your system can produce up to 5 kWh of energy per day.

You can use this calculator from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to find out the peak sun hours in your area.

I live in California, so I’ll use 5.83 peak sun hours in this example.

3. Calculate Your Theoretical Solar System Size

We now have two main factors to determine the theoretical size of your solar system – energy consumption and peak sun hours.

To calculate the size of your solar system, you can use this equation:

The Solar System Size (W) = Electricity Usage (Wh) / Peak Sun Hours Per Day (hrs)

In our example, we’ll use 4,184 Wh of energy consumption and 5.83 peak sun hours per day.

Therefore, the theoretical size of our solar system would be:

The Solar System Size (W) = 4,184 Wh / 5.83 hrs/day

Which equals around 718 W or 0.718 kW.

But this is just the theoretical size under perfect conditions.

In reality, you’ll still need to factor in some real-world losses due to shading, dust, and other factors.

4. Factor in Solar System Losses

Any solar system experiences losses due to a variety of factors, such as dust accumulation, shading, thermal losses, and inverter losses.

These losses will directly affect the amount of energy your solar system can produce.

So, you’ll need to factor in these losses when calculating the size of your system.

The solar industry generally recommends adding a 14% safety margin on top of your theoretical requirements to account for these losses.

Using our example, we can calculate the size of our solar system using this equation:

The Real Life Solar System Size (W) = Theoretical Solar System Size (W) x 1.14

Plugging in our example, we get:

The Real Life Solar System Size (W) = 718 W x 1.14

So, the real-life solar system size for our example would be around 818 W.

Solar panels are rated by their wattage, which is measured in watts.

Most solar panels available today are rated between 250 and 400 W.

This rated wattage refers to the amount of energy a single panel can produce under every peak sun hour (1000W/m² per hour).

For instance, a 100 W panel can generate 100 Wh of energy for every 1,000W/m² of solar irradiation it receives AKA peak sun hour.

To calculate the number of panels you’ll need for your system, you can use this equation:

Number of Solar Panels = Real Life Solar System Size (W) / Solar Panel Wattage (W)

For our example, we’ll be using a 200 W panel.

Therefore, the number of panels required for our system would be:

The Number of Solar Panels = 818 W / 200 W = ~ 4 panels

This means you’ll need four solar panels with a rating of 200W to generate the amount of energy needed for your system.

5. Calculate the Number of Solar Panels

Solar panels are rated by their wattage, which is measured in watts.

Most solar panels available today are rated between 250 and 400 W.

This rated wattage refers to the amount of energy a single panel can produce under every peak sun hour (1000W/m² per hour).

For instance, a 300 W panel can generate 300 W of energy in every hour of peak sun.

To calculate the number of panels you’ll need for your system, you can use this equation:

Number of Solar Panels = Real Life Solar System Size (W) / Solar Panel Wattage (W)

For our example, we’ll be using a 300 W panel.

Therefore, the number of panels required for our system would be:

The Number of Solar Panels = 818 W / 300 W = 2.7 ~ 3 panels

This means you’ll need 3 solar panels with a rating of 300W to generate the amount of energy needed for your system.

Do the Solar Panels Need to Be on a Specific Side of the Mobile Home?

The solar panels need to be installed on the side of the home that receives the most direct sunlight.

This will help ensure maximum efficiency and performance from your system.

But what is the best orientation for solar panels?

The ideal orientation for solar panels is to face true south if you live in the Northern Hemisphere and north if you live in the Southern Hemisphere.

The United States is located in the Northern Hemisphere, and since I live in California, the ideal orientation for my panels is true south.

In this part of Earth, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

So, it spends most of the day in the southern sky, making it the best option for optimal solar panel performance.

Are There Alternative Places to Install Solar Panels on a Mobile Home?

There are a few alternative places to install solar panels on a mobile home.

If you can’t install the panels on the roof, you can also install them in an outbuilding, garage, or enclosed patio.

But, you need to make sure the area is free of shading and receives direct sunlight throughout the day.

You should also have permits and permissions from the relevant authorities to install solar panels in these locations.

Another option is to make use of a ground mount system.

Ground mount systems are ideal for mobile homes that don’t have enough roof space or where the roof is unsuitable for installing solar panels.

These systems can be mounted directly on the ground, and they offer adjustable tilt angles so you can maximize your solar panel efficiency.

What Size Inverter Do I Buy for My Mobile Home Solar System?

Solar panels generate DC electricity, but most appliances in your home use AC electricity.

So, you need to buy an inverter to convert the DC power from your solar panels into AC power for your home.

The size of the inverter will depend on how much energy your solar system produces and how much energy it needs to supply.

If we talk about a grid-tied system, you will need to multiply the solar DC system size by 1.15 and that will give you the AC inverter rating.

For our example, we can use this equation:

AC Inverter Rating = Solar DC System Size (W) x 1.15

Plugging in our example, we get:

The AC Inverter Rating = 818 W x 1.15 = 940.7 ~ 941 W

But we’re just talking about a small off-grid system running a few lights and appliances.

To calculate the inverter size for a larger off-grid system, you need to add up the wattage of all the appliances you’re planning to use:

Solar Inverter Size (W) = Sum of All Appliance Wattages Running at the Same Time

Solar Inverter Size (W) = 80W + 75W + 850W + 5W + 45W + 50W + 5W + 10W = 1,120 W

Therefore, the size of the solar inverter for our larger off-grid system should be 1,120 W.

Does a Solar Powered Mobile Home Need Batteries?

A solar-powered mobile home needs batteries to store the energy produced by the solar panels.

Batteries are necessary for both grid-tied and off-grid solar systems.

For a grid-tied system, the batteries provide backup power in case of a blackout or power outage.

For an off-grid system, the batteries store the excess energy generated by the solar panels for later use.

And in our case, we’re dealing with a small off-grid system, so batteries are needed.

But what battery size do you need?

The size of the battery bank depends on your energy needs.

In our example, to calculate the solar panel’s daily output, we can use the following formula:

Solar Panel Daily Output (Wh) = Number of Panels x Rated Power Output per Panel (W) x Peak Sun Hours x (1-0.14)

So, plugging in our example, we get: 

Solar Panel Daily Output (Wh) = 3 x 300 W x 5.83 hours x (1-0.14) = 4,512 Wh

Now, we can assume that the battery voltage will be 12V and the Depth of Discharge (DoD) will be 0.5

Plugging all these values into our equation, we get: 

Battery Size (Ah) = 4,512Wh / 12V / 0.5 = 752 Ah

So, the size of the battery bank for our small off-grid system should be 752 Ah.

FAQs

How Many Watts Does a Mobile Home Use?

A mobile home uses between 4,100 to 4,500 watts per day, depending on size and lifestyle.

What Should I Be Looking for in Solar Panels?

You should be looking for high efficiency, durability, and a solid warranty on solar panels.

How to Power Mobile Home?

To power a mobile home with solar energy, install solar panels, connect them to a battery system and inverter, and integrate them with your home’s electrical system.

How Do I Choose Solar Panels for My Home?

Choose solar panels for your home by assessing your energy consumption, roof space, the panels’ efficiency, cost, and potential energy production.

Conclusion

As promised, we’ve covered the essentials of installing a solar system for your mobile home. 

We delved into the necessary components, sizing your inverter and battery bank, and determining the number of solar panels required. 

And if you ask me, I’d always recommend starting with a thorough energy audit of your home. 

This step ensures you invest in a system that’s just the right size for your needs, avoiding overspending or underutilizing potential savings. 

Kami Turky

Kami is a solar engineer with nearly a decade of experience in researching, testing, and reviewing various solar products. He has also provided technical consultation to several organizations on the best ways to incorporate solar energy into their operations. When he’s not busy helping others find the best solar solutions, Kami enjoys spending time outdoors, hiking, camping, and exploring the natural wonders of his home state.

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