So you've done the research and are convinced that solar power is the way to go. After all, it's a no-brainer. Lowering your electricity bill while saving the planet at the same time makes you a real-life superhero! You just have one problem holding you back.
Your home isn’t a stand-alone with it’s own roof… it’s an apartment or condominium with a strict condo association.
Is it even possible to install solar panels when the condo association can't even agree on how to manage the trash?
Yes, of course, it's possible! It just takes a little legwork and a friendly neighborly chats or two. You have four options to choose from when going solar, each varying in effort and reward. Choose which one suits you best, and you are ready to harness the everlasting power of the sun!
Option 1: Convince your neighbors and condo association
Talk to a few of your neighbors and see if they would be willing to invest in a solar project. If the response is positive, others in your building will probably feel the same way. The next step is to talk to the condo association about installing a shared solar array on the roof. If the association and all home-owners agree, you're in business!
The most cost-effective way to distribute the electricity is to send it to the common areas first. Any excess power can be divided equally amongst all apartments in the building. Savings from the shared electricity can be worked in to lower rates or reallocated to other areas in need of upkeep.
This is the most comprehensive and straightforward option on the whole list. It works best for smaller condominiums as there are fewer people to convince. If the apartment block is still in the development process, advocating the benefits of solar before the complex is finished will increase your chances of a smooth, painless installation.
Option 2: Install solar for you and a few others
Not everyone is open to the investment of solar panels. Luckily they don't have to be. If you own your apartment, you can start a single or joint owner solar project. Gather those who want solar and are willing to invest and take a proposal to your condo association. In most cases, they'll let you use the roof for solar panels - sometimes asking a small fee for the space.
You and your partners will bear all costs for the installation and upkeep. You will also reap all rewards and share the electricity produced only among yourselves.
This option is simple to implement, and all you need to do is convince the association. A good incentive is to offer any excess electricity to the common areas of the building.
Option 3: Join a community solar project
A community solar project is a large solar array located on otherwise unusable land near your area. The solar array is maintained and managed by a company and the electricity produced is sold to the surrounding community.
There are two types of projects. One is a subscription service and requires a monthly premium, where others are complete buy-in projects where you own individual solar panels in the array. When you receive your electricity bill at the end of the month, you'll see the electricity your community solar panels produced credited to your account.
Community solar projects have been steadily increasing in popularity as the cost of solar power declines. This is an excellent way to opt-in to solar power without having to physically install solar panels on a roof. If you move somewhere else within the area, you can update your address and not worry about losing your solar investment.
Find companies offering solar community projects in the USA here.
Option 4: Power your small appliances only with portable solar panels
If none of the other options provide a solution for you, it's still possible to invest in smaller panels that charge your devices. The benefit of these small panels is their portability. You can move them around to follow the sun and take them with you if you move house.
If you'd like to learn about the types of everyday products you can use to offset your electricity bill, take a look at this resource.
Although this option won't make a massive dent in your electricity bill, the benefits will slowly stack up. Solar technology is getting cheaper and cheaper with each passing day, while the panels become even better at harnessing the power of the sun.
Things to remember
- Know your roof rights - Before you go to the condo association with your solar power proposal, know your rights. Some condominiums state that common spaces are owned collectively while others own square meterage. Make sure you go into the meeting knowing your rights as an owner.
- Show them the facts - Online resources can be a great help when you need to convince others of the viability of your project. Use this solar calculator to find out how much electricity your unit can save and multiply it by all the other units in the building.
- Gather support from your neighbors - When trying to get a project approved by your condo association, it helps if you can show existing support. Gather signatures from a few of your neighbors that support your solar proposal.
- Contact a professional that specializes in condominiums - Condominiums are a complicated set-up to the inexperienced eye. Contact a specialist early on in the negotiations to be sure your information is 100% correct.
Spread the word
The success of solar power and environmental sustainability relies on word-of-mouth and mass-exposure. The more people are educated about the benefits of solar power, the more they will be open to installing it. As a rapidly expanding industry, solar power will become more financially viable with every passing year. Even if your apartment block decides against solar power this time round, it's essential to have the conversation and keep bringing it up every year or two.