There are many reasons individuals across the globe are choosing to ‘go solar’ by installing panels. The most popular include decreasing your energy usage, which helps the planet, and decreasing energy costs, which helps your wallet. While the era of covering roofs in panels for a huge tax incentive has slowed—evident by rampant bankruptcies across the industry in recent years—there are new options making solar panels for renters more possible.
Finding Solar Panels for Renters (it IS possible!)
Selecting a Complex or Home Already Offering Solar
This tip is pretty obvious, but if you want to go solar, it can be good to have some financial flexibility. Research housing rental options in your area that are already offering solar energy to their tenants. Ask the leasing office or real estate agent if the owner would be willing to install them and let them know it could be a deal-breaker.
Join a Solar Community
You may have heard the term ‘solar farm’ before. A solar community is essentially the same thing on a smaller scale. It enables more than one household to share energy for utilities. Individuals can purchase a share of panels or lease energy from the community. They then agree to pay for a monthly output in kilowatt-hours. The amount you spend on electricity will then go down by the cost of energy your panels produce.
‘Digital Solar’ is a relatively new concept and involves a property owner installing solar panels and then selling the generated electricity to tenants, who in turn will pay less on utilities. An Australian company called Matter is working to make this more mainstream. The barrier to this option still exists in the form of the owner investing in the initial install.
The removable solar avenue requires tenant-owned panels and property owner permission. The panels must be connected to a power grid, and the process requires cost and an electrician. A tenant will need to change their meters to detect incoming and outgoing energy. The installation must be done professionally, and safety checks are required. The beautifully-designed Smartflower is an efficient, albeit pricey removable solar solution. You would also need to have a landlord who is on board for you making these changes to the property, even if they are removable.
Similar to removable solar, portable solar panels for renters involves tenant-owned panels. In this case, they are not connected to a power grid. but are battery-powered. This process can be easy and requires no owner permission. Panels like these are often used for camping, off-grid cabins, for military installations or emergency aid. One article estimates that it would take 23 years of using the solar panel to get a full return on your investment, which is likely longer than the equipment will last. However, in the case of a power outage, blackout or other emergency, portable solar could provide much-needed power.
The company GoalZero carries many different durable options that can charge a cell phone or laptop to powering a refrigerator, lights and TV. These portable solar options require a battery or inverter to provide power when the sun isn’t shining.
To make things less expensive, you may be able to build your own panels, like this Hackernon author did using Amazon products.
Ask the Owner to Install Solar
You can try the old fashioned ‘ask nicely’ route. There might be local incentives or even solar company promotions that make it financially viable. It’s recommended that you come armed with a nice bottle of wine/whiskey/whatever strikes their fancy. Good luck!
Bringing Solar to the Mass Market
While options for individuals wanting to utilize solar panels for their energy needs are increasing, the cost is often prohibitive for most renters. Much of this depends upon the enthusiasm of both the renter and the owner. The good news is that industry trends are seeing more interest in portable solar options, so costs will likely go down. Next month, we’ll dive a little deeper into some of the portable solar options out there.