PM Images / Stone / Getty Images
Providing pets with basic needs like climate control is not only for their comfort, but also for their safety. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service advises never to expose a pet to temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit or above 85 F for more than a few hours — and you should never keep a pet outdoors long-term.
According to PETA there were nearly 100 extreme cold or heat-related pet deaths reported in 2020 — and the vast majority go unreported. To help prevent these safety risks, some creative, eco-friendly pet owners have developed their own solar-powered kennels to keep their pets safe and temperate.
As Stephanie Bell, PETA’s senior director of cruelty casework, says, “there is one foolproof way to protect dogs from the elements that’s both sustainable and free: keeping them inside a home.”
However, even many indoor pets, especially as they age, can experience a heightened vulnerability during extreme weather or a prolonged power outage. As the country experiences increasing occurrences of extreme weather, having a solar-powered kennel is a safe, reliable and eco-friendly method for ensuring your pet’s health and safety during an emergency.
How to Make Your Own Solar Kennel
Adapting your dog house or other outdoor pet enclosure with solar panels is a fun and relatively easy DIY solar project. Here are the basic parts you’ll need to get the job done:
- Solar panel
- Charge controller
- Small battery for use at night
Most of these items are available in kits, like the Renogy 100-Watt 12-Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit, but be mindful that you may need to purchase a separate battery if you want the device to maintain power overnight. There are plenty of options for climate control once the solar equipment is installed, including fans, heating pads and small air conditioning and heating units.
Depending on the solar panel used, the homemade system will likely generate enough energy to power other electric appliances with small loads, including:
- Motion detectors
- Water pumps
With the simplicity of homemade solar systems, they have a number of applications. Some ideas include a solar-powered chicken coop, assisting with proper ventilation and light. Larger systems are even capable of powering barns for horses or cattle. Anywhere where there’s sun, there’s an opportunity for power.
Benefits of Solar Energy for Local Pet Care Operations
It isn’t just individual pet owners who are exploring the benefits of solar energy. Some local boards and shelters are making their operations more sustainable, cost-effective and safe with solar energy. The San Francisco SPCA, for example, installed a 585 kW solar system on its rooftop citing social responsibility, energy savings and concerns over service interruptions as their reasoning for the investment.
“The San Francisco SPCA installed solar panels in 2015, which has reduced our overall spend on utilities,” says SF SPCA Communications Manager Krista Maloney. “Although the price per kilowatt per hour has increased, we have still managed to save tens of thousands of dollars on our energy bills. Our solar also has a reporting function that helps us to monitor our usage and better plan for utility expenses.”
Local boards have also adopted solar-powered air conditioning and heating to ensure the safety of the animals in their care, as well as to care for the environment and save on utility costs.
Dogwood Farm Kennels, a boarding and grooming facility in Green Creek, North Carolina, is complete with large indoor spaces and fenced-in yards spanning over an acre for dogs to play in during the day.
When Josh Goldstein and his wife Astrid Schmid started the operation over 12 years ago, the kennel buildings didn’t have air conditioning — the owners would haul in box fans to keep pets cool in the summer and parabolic heaters to warm the space in the winter. But after a few years, they needed a new, cost-effective solution.
“We recognized that there was going to be a benefit to making our building climatized,” Goldstein says.
Working with Scott Hunt of Practical Preppers, the farm installed solar-powered mini-split air conditioning units in its buildings. There are no solar batteries used to power the units when the sun isn’t shining — Goldstein and Schmid didn’t want to contribute to battery waste — so instead, they tie into the utility grid to pull power when needed.
“If the sun disappeared, the units could continue to operate,” Goldstein says. With the units, he says, “our kennels are cooler than our house.”
While not all businesses will have the resources to install a system the size of the SPCA’s, Dogwood Farm Kennels shows that even an average-sized solar panel system or a few solar-powered appliances can provide a great deal of value.
“Hybrid units allow you to get into the solar game at a really affordable price, and it doesn’t take 20 years to recoup your initial investment,” Goldstein says. “You immediately see your results.”
Coupled with tax incentives, these energy savings can offset a huge chunk of energy costs for boards, shelters and businesses alike to free up money to support their animals’ needs. Battery backup options are also available for solar panel systems, providing emergency power for animals (or even humans) that may experience heightened health risks in extreme weather.
Whether you’re creating a DIY solar kennel to provide climate control for your pet or you’re looking to upgrade the sustainable operations of a large board or rescue, solar provides a number of benefits for the safety and wellbeing of your pets, your wallet and our environment.
As Maloney explains: “We’re not only saving on our expenses, which allows us to help more animals in need, we’re also helping the planet by lowering our carbon footprint. It’s a win-win.”
Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.