Solar panels for sheds offer a cheaper and potentially easier way for people to “do their bit” for the environment without going all the way in with a full house setup and the cost that would incur.
Solar panels on sheds come with various levels of sophistication. There are basic, small solar setups that can power interior and exterior lights, with maybe a USB port (ideal for a potting or allotment shed) allowing more time in your happy place during the colder, darker months.
You may want to be able to power a small workshop, with gardening and power tools, an outdoor office, or the ever more fashionable outside bar areas and games rooms without the need to connect to mains power.
Can I put solar panels on my shed roof?
There are many things to consider before you add solar panels to your shed roof. Here, we have highlighted a few thoughts for you to ponder over before you make a decision.
- Are there any other structures or foliage that will get in the way of the sunlight hitting your panel?
If so, have these removed or altered before installation. The UK is not the sunniest of places and you will need to take this into consideration when considering your project and make sure you can get as much exposure as possible in order to maximise your return.
Therefore, consider the direction and angle of your panels. Aspects are crucial. South facing is ideal but anything between east and west can make your project viable.
- Are you building your shed from scratch?
In either case, you can tailor your project to suit your needs and gain maximum sunlight for your panels.
- How much power will you require?
Is your shed roof big and robust enough? The more power that’s needed, the bigger the area of panels will be required. The most basic setups come in easy-to-assemble kits that can be bought online from various outlets.
For example, a single panel comes with cables and a battery to store power, making it ideal for a simple update to an allotment or utility shed where only interior and exterior lighting and a USB is required.
Where there is a need for mains power, such as an outdoor home office or a working shed with power tools, then a larger more sophisticated kit will be required. In this case, the solar panels are cabled to an inverter and sockets to plug into.
This system requires a good battery to store all the power you might require, which comes as part of the kit. Even the more complex kits can be bought online from various retailers, making them easily accessible.
Both options are relatively easy to install as they require no connection to the mains power therefore, most people can install these themselves without the need to employ a specialist electrician to oversee the installation. Some however, may prefer to do this for peace of mind.
Do you need a permit for solar panels on a shed?
There is no permit required to install solar panels on sheds, as it comes under permitted development.
There are, however, many other things to consider before you do so. It really is worth considering every aspect before you decide if this is for you.
Is it worth putting solar panels on my shed?
It is definitely worth putting solar panels on your shed; in many cases, it makes more sense than putting them on your actual roof.
You have more flexibility to get the right aspect for your solar panels, and gardens tend to be set up to gain as much sunlight as possible.
If your shed, garage or home office is a new project, then aspects can be factored into the design project to further maximise this potential advantage. Furthermore, it’s a great way to get into your solar venture without going ‘all in’ with a full house project and the cost it will incur.
Should I get fixed solar panels or a portable solar kit for my shed?
If your shed roof is poorly oriented in relation to the sun, or there are structures or vegetation that will limit your access to sunlight at certain times of the day, then a portable solar setup may be the answer.
Unlike a solar panel you may put on your roof with a rigid frame and a sealed glass cover, a portable panel is contained in a protective mesh sleeve. A typical portable setup would come with a portable lithium-ion battery, so the energy can be used under any conditions – you won’t, however, be able to charge the battery when it is in use.
Whilst some portable solar setups can produce energy similar to a roof top panel, they do have some drawbacks. They lack the voltage regulation and structural strength of a rooftop solar system, but setting one of these systems up could not be easier. It takes literally minutes to set up a portable panel with no need to worry about the more involved process of a rooftop system.
It’s a great option for some people depending on their circumstances.
Is a shed roof suitable for solar panels?
Just about any shed roof will be suitable for solar panels, but some roofs are better than others. Firstly, the larger the better. More roof space will allow you more or bigger panels allowing you to harness more solar energy.
Also crucial is the pitch of your roof. It would be easy to think that a flat roof would be optimal for a solar panel, but this is not the case. Studies and data have concluded that the perfect angle for a solar panel is around 35 -55 degrees.
Regarding the weight of the panels themselves, make sure your existing roof is rigid and sturdy enough. This would be more of a consideration for a larger number of panels needed for an older shed or garage. A 250w panel would weigh around 20kg, so most serviceable roofs should easily take the weight.
Bearing in mind that the life cycle of a solar panel is around 20-25yrs and that a solar project is generally a long-term venture, make sure your roof is constructed from materials that will last the course. Just because a shed roof is new does not mean it’s going to last. Poorly constructed or poorly felted roofs will inevitably sag or bow as water ingress weakens the integrity of the roof.
How do solar panels work?
Here’s a quick guide to a solar panel set up:
The solar panels in a PV (photovoltaic) system change sunlight into electricity. The energy is stored in the panels and converted into usable electricity by an inverter. The inverter changes DC (direct current) into AC (actual current), which in turn can be used to power devices/appliances or stored into a battery for later use.
The battery itself is usually a deep cycle, 12V DC unit. All batteries have an AH rating which gives you an idea of the power you will have. A 100 AH battery can run most tools for the duration of a working day and is therefore a good benchmark and will be sufficient for most setups – you can always add more batteries at a later date.
An inverter can come in varying sizes and will determine how much power can be drawn at any one time. The inverter is possibly the most important factor in any solar set up. If one or two solar panels stop working, then you can still draw power. If the inverter stops working, the whole system goes down. Inverters are around 95-98% efficient.
Put some thought into making sure that your inverter has been sized correctly in accordance with your solar panels. For example, a 3.5kw south facing solar setup will generate around 350 kWh to 400kWh of electricity per month (A kWh or Kilowatt hour is a unit of energy, so literally one kilowatt of power for one hour).
No solar setup is 100% efficient, so it would make sense to get a 3kw inverter rather than a 3.5kw. Most, if not all, full solar panel setups would come with an inverter with its size already worked out for you.
The charge control regulates the power coming from the solar panel to the battery – this will stop the battery from overcharging or running flat which in turn increases and maximises the lifecycle of the battery.
Cables will feed the direct current from the solar panels to the inverter, so always check you have the correct cable size for your required set up. One thing to bear in mind when installing solar cables is ‘voltage drop’ (how much voltage you will lose through the length of your cable).
The longer the cable, the more significant the drop. As metal has a natural resistance, the voltage running through it will gradually drop over distance by the heat created by this resistance, which in turn will result in energy loss.
In a nutshell, try to minimise your cable length when considering your setup. A typical allowance is a 3-4% drop. There are various methods to work out the voltage drop of your cable thickness and length.
How much electricity can solar panels generate?
A solar panel’s output depends on several factors, including:
- Its size
- Surrounding weather conditions.
This makes it hard to give an exact figure on what your prospective power output would be.
The material your panel is made from can also be a factor. Monocrystalline panels are made from a higher-grade silicone, making them more efficient in terms of output and space, whereas polycrystalline panels are slightly less efficient but cheaper to buy.
There are a few good calculation options available online (the centre for alternative technology provides one) to give you a rough idea as well as the savings you will be able to make over the duration of your project.
Don’t forget that your panels’ suggested wattage will not be the power you receive. This will be the wattage without any efficiency loss, which all panels are subject to, and also the wattage achieved under ideal conditions, which very rarely happens.
A 150w solar panel will, in an ideal world, produce 150 watts per hour or 750w per day based on 5 hours of sunlight. You can possibly get more, but it’s always best to be conservative with your estimates. If you are getting 700W per day, then you can use 700W for one hour down to 140W for 4 hours.
Just work out the wattage of the appliances you will need in your space against the power output from your panel to help you decide the size of the panel you will need. A 150w panel will typically be ok to power a 250w laptop or a TV for up to 3 hours.
What can I power with shed solar panels?
To establish how much power you will require and whether you have a roof that is big enough, we’ll explain the power required for the most commonly used tools and equipment, along with the sizes of the panels, so you can easily work out your panel to power requirements.
The basic option described above, with interior and exterior lights and a USB port, would require around 50W of power and therefore, a single small panel which is around 150 x 78 x 35 mm in size.
To run gardening equipment and power tools, you will require proportionately larger and higher wattage panels. For some context, a power drill will require around 500W and a lawn mower around 1000W per hour.
A home office will require more still, with several devices running simultaneously for hours at a time. For example, a smart phone charger (50W), a desk lamp (50W), a desktop computer (400W), a printer (800W) and an LCD monitor (200W) would make up a standard home office setup.
Then there is the need for heat – it soon mounts up! A typical home office or power tool shed would require around 4000w. Three 200w panels can produce 3000w with 5 hours of sunlight, but that is under ideal conditions, so 3x250W panels may be better. These panels are typically 1.5m squared.
So, considering your requirements thoroughly, along with the roof space you have available, will give you an idea of your project’s viability.
It’s considered good practice to make sure your solar set-up gives you more power than you will require, so always overestimate rather than under, with many recommending up to 50% more.
Can you power a shed with solar panels?
Absolutely, you can power a shed with solar panels. Depending on your power requirements. there will be a solar setup for you.
Why put solar panels on a shed instead of your house?
A shed can be built or configured with its orientation to the sun as a primary design consideration. A permanent house roof is more constrained by its very nature and, in many cases, would not be able to maximise the solar output required to make such a venture cost-effective.
It’s also much easier to install solar panels on sheds than on a house roof, with the whole system contained under one roof with no need to connect to the mains power. This makes such a venture far more achievable and viable for anyone wanting to get involved with solar panels in a meaningful way.
Another factor that may make a shed project more attractive is aesthetics. Some people see solar panels on roofs as a bit of an eyesore. Panels on a shed roof are far less visually intrusive. As well as generally being lower-level structures, sheds and garages tend to be hidden away a little more.
Can you heat a shed with solar panels?
The question of using solar power to heat your shed can be a tricky one. Heat becomes more of a factor during the colder and darker months during which there is less solar power available. So, you need to factor in heating your space in some way.
The easiest way to heat your shed would be with a portable electric heater which would typically require around 2,200w of energy to start up, and then around 1500w to run.
If you need more heat, then you can consider more heaters with your energy needs rising proportionately. Most single-panel 150W setups are up to this task. However, if you are thinking of something more luxurious, such as underfloor heating for a home office or games room, then you are likely to need around three 150W panels just for this alone.
What is crucial in considering your heat requirements as your needs increase is reducing the amount of heat you will require by other means; and this can be minimised with good insulation. Good insulation is at the forefront of every well-planned solar project that is for a more permanent base.
What kind of sheds can be powered by solar?
So, depending on your needs and requirements, there will be a solar setup to suit your needs and hopefully, your wallet. It’s a lifestyle choice but also an economic one too. From the basic setup that only requires shed lighting, you can gradually progress up to an allotment shed that may require a small charging port.
The most popular setups are the utility sheds/tool sheds that will have a big enough panel to be able to run electrical gardening equipment or power tools. These would require a 150W up to 250W panel and the associated kit (Battery, inverter, etc).
There is no real limit on the type of material that a shed needs to be constructed from to be suitable for solar panels. Most people tend to think of a shed as a wooden structure, but this is not always the case. Metal sheds, whilst not always being as aesthetically pleasing, do have the advantage of longevity on their side. Metal will not be subject to as much moisture impact as the wooden structures and would therefore, not be as susceptible to degrading over time.
When it comes to a purpose-built structure, such as an office shed, studio shed, or games room, then you can have your solar requirements as a factor from the design to completion of your project by factoring in considerations such as aspect, roof space, insulation and so on, to make the project work for you.
How to choose solar panels for your shed
Getting the right amount of solar power to make your project work for you is probably the biggest and most important decision you can make in all your considerations.
If you choose to use a professional to install your set-up, they will usually sit down with you to talk through your requirements and assist you with this.
However, there is plenty of data available online to allow you to research this and work it out for yourself.
What size solar panel do you need for a shed?
To establish how much power you will require and whether you have a roof that is big enough, we’ve created a simple guide that explains the power required for the most commonly used tools and equipment, along with the sizes of the panels, so you can easily work out your panel-to-power requirements.
The basic option described above with interior and exterior lights and a USB port would require around 50W of power and therefore, a single small panel which is around 150 x 78 x 35 mm in size.
To run gardening equipment and power tools you will require proportionately larger and higher wattage panels. For some context, a power drill will require around 500W and a lawn mower around 1000W per hour. A home office will require more still, with several devices running simultaneously for hours at a time, for example, a smartphone charger (50W), a desk lamp (50W), a desktop computer (400W), a printer (800W), an LCD monitor (200W) would make up a standard home office set up. Then there is the need for heat – it soon mounts up! A typical home office or power tool shed would require around 4000w. Three 200w panels can produce 3000w with 5 hours of sunlight. But that is under ideal conditions so 3x250W panels may be better. These panels are typically 1.5msquare.
How much roof space do you need on a shed for solar panels?
Working off a 250W panel needing 1.5m squared of roof space, you should get a good idea of the size of the roof you will need in relation to your energy requirements.
How many solar panels will you need for a shed?
A basic set up that will just provide lights can be run off a single 50W panel, which can be bought in a simple kit from various outlets.
The most popular solar setup involves 1 x 150W panel which can power various devices, but will struggle with larger appliances such as power tools and gardening equipment for any length of time.
How many watts do you need for a solar-powered shed?
A typical home office or power tool shed would require around 4000w.
Three 200w panels can produce 3000w with 5 hours of sunlight, but that is under ideal conditions. 3x250W panels may be better – these panels are typically 1.5m square.
How much do solar panels for sheds cost?
There are a multitude of different kits available from various online retailers and companies that can offer consultancy, advice and installation, albeit at a price. You can usually get a free online quote with no obligation quite easily and quickly.
The smallest 50W kits that run lights and maybe a charge point with a small solar panel would normally retail at £200-£250. A 480W 24V solar panel system, which would generate around 2kWh per day (again under ideal conditions), would normally retail at £1100-£1200.
A 4kWh per day system would cost around £2500-£3000.
These setups would come with the panels, batteries, inverter, and cabling included.
As with everything in life, it is possible to spend significantly more depending on how many specialist companies and tradesmen you want to include in your project. It makes sense to work out your overall outlay against your long-term return.
The pros and cons of solar panels on sheds
Pros of solar panels on a shed
- You are going green: Always a good thing in this day and age to be helping the environment. By harnessing the power of the sun, you will be significantly reducing your carbon footprint.
- Installation is relatively simple: No need to connect to mains power which would require a qualified electrician. Not to mention the need to dig out channels to run cables to and from the shed. Everything you need is contained under one roof. As electricity continues to become more expensive your potential long-term return gets better and better.
- Low maintenance: Once you are set up, solar panels require very little maintenance. They are generally set up at an angle that allows rainwater to run off freely, washing the dirt and dust away. A solar panel will typically last around 25 years and can be recycled when finished – another positive for the environment.
- Independence and less reliance on the national grid.
- Efficiency: You are contributing to a more efficient way of generating energy. Electricity from power plants travelling across extensive networks will inevitably result in significant energy loss.
Cons of solar panels on a shed
- Initial setup can be expensive: Whilst you will recoup your money over time, you will need to pay out initially. However, they are cheaper than ever with prices around 70% lower since 2010.
- Cloudy Britain: Solar power is limited by access to the sun. Whilst the panels don’t require actual direct sunlight and will still work through clouds, it stands to sense that the more direct sunlight they receive, the better they will work.
- They require the right roof: Ideally south facing with a pitch of 30-45degrees and unobstructed by shade.
Is your existing shed roof robust enough to take the added weight of the panels you need? A 250W 60-cell solar panel will weigh around 20kg with a surface area of around 39inch x 66 inches.
Best types of solar panels for sheds
The best type of solar panel would be a fixed, glass-sealed, monocrystalline panel which is made from a higher grade of silicone, making it more efficient in terms of output and space.
Good, reputable solar panel producers in the UK are plentiful. Big names have been producing solar panels for a while now allowing them to innovate and refine their products.
Panasonic has been making solar panels since 1975 and typically come with a product warranty of 25 years, which gives confidence in their products that are reliable and efficient. They are also aesthetically pleasing having diversified into smaller, thinner panels with more colour choice to complement most roofs.
Sharp has been involved with solar panel production for 60 years and is renowned for durability, meaning they can withstand harsh conditions without their performance suffering. However, a 15-year product warranty may not give the same confidence as you get with the Panasonic 25-year warranty.
Sunpower focuses mainly on manufacturing solar panels and has done for at least 30 years. They are a well-known and reputable brand in solar energy and claim to have a higher efficiency than their rivals, whilst also offering a 25-year product warranty.
There are many other examples of solar panel manufacturers, but these three consistently rate well when it comes to customer satisfaction reviews. With constant refinement and innovation in this market however, the choice is endless. It really pays to do your research.