Like most Canadians, we have no room for our solar setup in our house. With so few sunlight hours during the winter, we needed a giant setup to get us through the overcast days. 8 batteries alone are way too bulky to fit into our home so we resorted to building an outdoor structure for them.
Sheds are pricey and they aren’t normally insulated. The insulated sheds that we found were over 3 grand! We needed a cheap solution so we created this design from recycled materials and a few trips to home depot.
Our shed is exactly what we need. It has a platform on the front to mount the panels above the snow. It also has enough room to store extra tools and lumber.
So far the temperature of that batteries has not dipped below zero. The last freezing day we had kept our batteries at 3 °C. We chose to build our shed long and narrow so that there was room to access all the equipment while retaining heat. With limited air, lots of insulation, and blockage front the wind; it takes very little to warm things up. The inverter kicking in is enough to raise the temperature. We’ve also purchased a propane heater buddy (see below) which warms up any little space quickly. Seriously, I love this thing!
Disclaimer: We have been told that batteries should perform smoothly as long as they are above zero. That being said, we have been having solar issues that are being worked out this the company who sold them to us. We are not solar experts, please do your own research to see what conditions will keep your setup performing optimally.
This shed was built on an extremely tight budget. The total cost of the shed was around 240$ Canadian.
Straw bales (20) @ $3 each = $60
Pallets = Free (yay)
Roofing panels (4) @ 20.32 each = $81.28 We used these
Roofing fasteners = $4.43 Seen here
12 foot 2X4’s (approx 20) @ $4.52 each = approx $77 (some of them were salvaged)
Scrap boards to line the inside = Free (double yay!)
Door and hinges = salvaged material (no cost)
Grand total – $240.46
Extra costs to adapt solar if the materials weren’t supplied with your purchase.
The unistrut was $30. We used it to mount the solar panels. You can purchase the strut for less if you buy from the right place and even cheaper if you purchase slotted strut (which we could not find at the time).
We used two additional 16 foot 2X4’s which cost $14.
If you didn’t get these with your solar purchase you will also need 1-2 copper rods (8 feet) for grounding as well as copper wire. Have fun hammering the copper rods all the way down!
How we did it.
First, we laid down several rows of 2X4’s to level out the ground. Then, we set two rows of pallets on top leaving a gap to slide the “walls” into place. Next, we screwed everything together.
After that, we used salvaged lumber to extend the horizontal posts inside the pallets.
I pulled apart another pallet that had these random pieces of wood nailed into place. They were all different sizes but that wasn’t a concern. We screwed them down and used the flat edge to fasten the angled 2X4’s into place.
We pulled apart some bulky storage shelves and salvaged the coated press board. Press board can break down pretty easily if it gets wet, but that was not a concern because we took some extra precautions. To insulate the floor, we packed the pallets with straw and hung a vapour barrier on the walls to protect the wood.
We went crazy collecting boards and fitting them wherever we could to line the interior. It was like a game of tetris. We didn’t need it to look pretty, we just needed to seal things off. We also packed the roof with straw and pressed it into place with scrap wood.
Finally, we screwed the roofing panels on top and improvised a door. We then stacked straw bales around the shed and tied them into place with string.
The solar panels were mounted onto the unistrut. My partner drilled a series of holes through the strut and fastened it with nuts and bolts. He measured the angles relevant to the sun placement throughout the year so that we can adjust the angle as the seasons change.
How you can do it.
Trust yourself and have fun! We improvised this whole project and it was surprisingly easy to make a sturdy structure. It’s strong enough to mount our heavy inverter and charge controllers on the wall. Pallets are solid and simple to work with. Straw is dirt cheap. We freehanded the design as we went along, sliding pieces into place. It’s a no brainer!