Can you put solar panels on a mobile home?

Can you put solar panels on a mobile home

If you've just started thinking about installing solar panels for your mobile home and wondering if the installation of the solar system is financially and practically worth it. Are there considerations that must be known before the decision to shift to sustainable energy is made?

Mobile homes, also known as manufactured homes, are designed to live in and also to be able to move around from time to time. So they are somewhat lighter than homes that are fixed on the ground with a concrete foundation. What really matters to us is the structure of these mobile homes and their roof—whether it is strong enough to support the installation of a solar system on top of it?

In order to give you a comprehensive answer to “Can you put solar panels on a mobile home?”

In this article, we will discuss this question from two perspectives:

An aspect related to the production of solar energy and its utilization in a mobile home, and the other aspect concerns the capabilities of the mobile home roof to bear the weight of the solar panels.

Is Installing a solar panels for mobile home a great investment option

Let's say you live in a a 54 x 14 mobile home in California ,consuming approximately 15 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per day. Considering the solar potential in California is around 5 peak sun hours, and the electricity cost from the local utility provider is approximately $0.28 per kWh (as of 2023), with the average cost of solar panels in California being about $2.51 per watt.

In this case, to cover the largest percentage of your electricity needs using solar panels, you will need to install a 3 kW of solar panels (15kWh ÷ 5h = 3kWh).
With an average cost of $2.51 per watt for a solar panel system, you would require an investment of around $7,530 for a 3-kW system. Through incentives such as the federal tax credit for solar energy, you can reduce the upfront price to about 30%.

Well, after presenting all these numbers, it is time to see whether installing solar panels for a mobile home is a successful investment option

By purchasing electricity from your local utility providers over the next 25 years, which is also the estimated lifespan of a solar system, you will spend about $38,000 (without taking into account the rise in the price of electricity each year).

Comparing this amount to the cost of purchasing and installing solar panels for your mobile home, you will see a huge difference between $38,000 and $7,000.

Therefore, investing in solar panel is a successful investment that helps to save money on your electric bill.

Can you put solar panels on a mobile home roof

Average size solar panel

Most mobile home roofs' 600 to 1,300 square feet are more than enough to support a solar panel installation, since the average solar panel area is only 17 square feet.

A 3kW solar system is equivalent to about 10 residential solar panels. So, in most cases, surface area is not a problem, and you don't have to worry about it. Even if the available space on the roof of your mobile home or the south-facing side is not enough to install a sufficient number of solar panels to cover your electricity needs entirely, you can still cover a certain percentage of your electricity needs with solar power.

Average solar panel weight

When it comes to the weight of solar panel, it will vary from model to model. For residential solar panels, their weight can range from 35 to 45 pounds. This weight is spread over the entire surface area of the panel, which is on average 17 square feet, at rates of about 2-4 pounds per square foot.

In general, the honest answer to this question depends on the age of the mobile home, the strength of its roof, and your local building codes, these building codes may restrict certain modifications to the structure of mobile homes, including the installation of solar panels on the roof.

Why it’s forbidden to install solar panels on a mobile home roof?

First and foremost, the design and construction of mobile homes may not always meet the weight and structural requirements of solar panel installations, which could be a safety concern.

Although a solar panel is not very heavy, it's important to consider the additional weight of solar panel mounts and the loads of all other types of stress such as environmental pressures like snow and wind loads, as well as the weight of workers and equipment while setting up the system. It may end up being 10 pounds per square foot.

For a mobile home, its supports cannot be considered as strong as those of a traditional home fixed to the ground. Therefore, the weight of the roof and the static and dynamic loads resulting from the installation of solar panels may exceed the capabilities. Hence, it is likely that the roof of your mobile home may not be compatible with the installation of solar panels.

Ensuring the sustainability of the mobile home roof

The rafters of mobile home roofs are small, even if they bear the full weight of your solar system. It may have negative effects on the durability of the roof. The estimated lifespan of solar panels can exceed two decades, so it is essential to ensure that your mobile home roof is strong enough to bear the load of the solar system for all these years without any cracks or leaks appearing.

Integrating the structure with the solar system and environmental load requirements:

For a traditional home, as long as the structural engineer approves the installation of the solar system, you can rest assured that it will take into account all the environmental loads in your area.

With mobile homes that can be moved between different environmental zones, the challenge is greater because the surrounding conditions may change significantly.

Alternative Places to Install Solar Panels on a Mobile Home

Away from the roof of your mobile home, you can install solar panels on any external surface close to your home on your property. A ground-mounted solar systems is one of the geat option for your mobile homes if you have open surface exposed directly to sunlight.

Installing solar panels on the ground is often more efficient than placing them on the roof of your mobile home.

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