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    Solar panels for apartments renters: your options

    Going solar is one of the best investments you can make – both for your wallet and the environment.

    For those who own their own homes, the process of going solar is easy: they can install a solar panel system on their roof, and enjoy a great return on investment while producing clean energy.

    Unfortunately, going solar is a lot less straightforward for those of us who live in an apartment complex or a rental home. But worry not: even without your own roof, you can still benefit from clean solar power — and possibly even reduce your electricity bills and carbon footprint in the process.

    This blog looks at four solar energy options available for apartment residents and renters.

    Calculate how much solar panels will cost for your home

    Your top questions answered

    Can I install solar panels in my apartment?

    Yes, but only a small portable system that’ll fit on your balcony or another location with good sun exposure. These systems have a small power output, typically between 0.3 and 1.5 kWh per day.

    Can I install solar panels on the roof of a rented home?

    In theory, yes. But because installing solar panels is a significant property upgrade, it would require your landlord’s permission. But we wouldn’t recommend this; it doesn’t make sense to spend so much on a property that’s not yours. You’re better off convincing your landlord to install the system instead.

    Can I lease or rent solar panels for the home I’m renting?

    No, only the homeowner can enter an agreement to lease or rent a solar power system. Furthermore, solar leases and rentals are designed to be long-term arrangements, so there’s a big financial penalty for removing the solar panels before the contract term is up.

    Ask your landlord to install solar panels

    This option is only relevant if you live in a rental home with a suitable roof.

    If so, you can make your rental space green by convincing your landlord that they have a lot to gain from a solar installation.

    To do this, request a meeting with your landlord and discuss the following points:

    • Homeowners can claim local and federal solar tax credits
    • In many states, they can claim solar property and sales tax exemptions
    • They can receive net metering credits for surplus energy generation
    • There are many solar financing options available for those who don’t have the upfront cash

    Adding solar panels will also make their property worth more in the long run; analysis by Zillow shows that homes with solar technology are sold for 4.1% more on average.

    Furthermore, as solar panels will lower energy bills for future occupants, it will be easier for the landlord to find new tenants after you leave.

    We recommend that you do your research on the cost of solar panels in your area before you bring up the topic. This will help you enter the conversation better prepared.

    Get a portable solar panel system

    Portable solar panels have become progressively cheaper and more efficient in recent years. They are now a convenient source of power for those on the go and are widely used for things like RVs and camping.

    Since they can work anywhere with sun exposure, they can also work in an apartment or rental home. It’s easy to find small solar kits that can be set up on window sills, balcony railings, and banisters.

    These systems are typically rated between 100-300 watts and generate between 0.3 kWh and 1.5 kWh of electricity per day. This is enough to charge your smartphones, laptops, and even run some small appliances.

    Pros of portable solar systems

    An advantage to portable solar systems is that they come with, or can easily be connected to, attached battery storage. This means you’ll be able to use the power at any time of day.

    Another advantage is that some of these tiny solar energy systems also qualify for the 30% federal tax credit, which will significantly reduce the cost of your purchase.

    And the best part is that when you move to a new place you can take your solar system with you — which isn’t an easy option for homeowners with rooftop solar arrays!

    Cons of portable solar systems

    There are, however, a few downsides to portable solar systems you should be aware of.

    Any portable system is going to produce less power than a ground-mounted or rooftop solar power system. That means you’ll need to continue using grid power to meet the majority of your power needs.

    Furthermore, portable inverters and storage systems can get expensive; especially if you buy quality. Generally speaking, the smaller the solar system, the higher the cost per watt.

    There are many ways that renters can generate their own solar energy. Here, solar panels have ingeniously been attached to a balustrade. Image credit: Robert Tadlock via Flickr

    Join a community solar project

    Depending on where you live, there may be a community solar project you could join. A community solar project allows people in a specific community or area to come together and purchase a solar system as a group.

    Instead of installing your solar panels on your own roof or backyard, you help fund a utility-grade installation. The power produced by the system is exported to your local electric utility.

    Virtual net metering is then used to reduce your utility bill, based on how much you contributed to the project.

    This allows you to benefit from solar savings even if you don’t own a property. As long as you stay in the same general area of the community solar project, you benefit from the savings. This gives you greater flexibility and allows you to move into a new rental property as needed.

    Because you’re going in with other households and businesses to get a much larger system, you can benefit from economies of scale. Installation efficiencies and lower equipment costs mean that large-scale solar projects can generate power more cheaply than a household system.

    A major disadvantage of community solar is that it can be hard to find. Only a few states allow them, and even there it can be hard to win project approval.

    Buy green power for your home

    If you can’t directly generate solar power for your living space, you can always purchase green power.

    Green power, according to the EPA, is the subset of renewable energy that confers the greatest environmental benefits.

    In case you’re wondering, yes, the EPA includes solar as a green power source.

    There are two ways to do this:

    A. Buy green power directly from your utility

    Most utilities offer green power options to their homeowners.

    Under these ‘green’ rate plans (also known as ‘green pricing’), consumers are guaranteed that a certain portion, if not all, of their energy usage is sourced from certified renewable energy sources.

    You won’t save any money by purchasing green power; in fact, green power options usually cost a few cents more than standard electricity rates. But this option does offer consumers peace of mind that they have reduced their carbon footprint.

    B. Purchase RECs

    Another option is to buy Renewable Energy Certificates, commonly known as RECs.

    A REC certifies that the power you purchased for your home comes from a green, renewable source. Each REC represents 1 MWh of energy, while the average household uses about 11 MWh of electricity a year.

    Your utility probably uses RECs to offer its green rate plans, but you can also buy RECs directly through certified retailers.

    Here’s a video by the US Environmental Protection Agency that explains how RECs work.

    Going solar in an apartment or rental is very doable

    Many people assume that if you want to go solar, you have to install solar panels on the roof of your house.

    However, as we’ve laid out in the article, it is entirely possible for renters and apartment owners to benefit from solar as well.

    You can opt for a portable solar panel system. which can be used anywhere there is sun. or you could pay for a share of solar electricity produced elsewhere using innovative models like community solar, utility green power, and RECs.

    solar power means less power from fossil fuels. However you choose to go solar, you will be making a difference to the environment. possibly even saving on energy costs in the process.

    How much can you save annually by installing solar?

    Key takeaways

    • If you rent a house, try asking your landlord to install a solar panel system.
    • Consider getting a portable solar panel system. They’re easy to set up on balconies and window sills, and you can take them with you when you move.
    • Community solar allows households and businesses to be part-owners of a large solar farm. This model uses virtual net metering to reduce members’ electricity bills.
    • It’s possible to buy green power, either through your utility or through Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). You won’t save money, but you will help reduce pollution.

    Zeeshan Hyder

    SolarReviews Blog Author

    Zeeshan is passionate about promoting renewable energy and tackling climate change. He developed these interests while studying at beautiful Middlebury College, Vermont, which has a strong FOCUS on sustainability. He has previously worked in the humanitarian sector — for Doctors Without Borders — and in communications and journalism.

    Do Solar Panels Increase Your Home’s Value?

    Samantha covers all topics home-related including home improvement and repair. She previously edited home repair and design content at The Spruce and HomeAdvisor. She also has hosted videos on DIY home tips and solutions and launched multiple home improvement review boards staffed with licensed pros.

    We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Home. Commissions do not affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.

    Table of Contents

    Solar panels are a fantastic source of renewable energy, as well as a great way to save a chunk of change on your monthly electrical bills. Upfront, however, they are an investment, and if you’re thinking about purchasing a solar panel, you may be wondering if they’re worth the thousands—if not tens of thousands—of dollars they often cost.

    compare, reviews, solar, panels

    Solar panels might increase your home’s value in the long run, though. Here’s how.

    THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT EDITORIAL CONTENT. Please note that we do receive compensation for any products you buy or sign up to via this advertisement, and that compensation impacts the ranking and placement of any offers listed herein. We do not present information about every offer available. The information and savings numbers depicted above are for demonstration purposes only, and your results may vary.

    Power Your Home With Solar

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    Do Solar Panels Increase Home Value?

    In most cases, yes. If a home has solar panels, it means its owners will be saving money in the long run, increasing the home’s appeal and value.

    How Does Solar Increase Home Value?

    According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, every dollar that a solar panel saves you on your electrical bills increases the value of your home by 20. And according to Zillow, homes with solar panels sell for four percent higher than those without them.

    Currently, the demand for solar panels is higher than it ever has been, with home-buyers becoming increasingly environmentally conscious while wanting to save money. It is this demand that often increases the value of homes featuring solar panels. Whether and by how much your home’s value will increase, though, will depend on where you live and the quality of your solar panel.

    Can Adding Solar Ever Decrease Home Value?

    No, but it could have no effect, depending on where you live.

    Factors Influencing Solar’s Added Value

    Solar panels are increasingly seen as a valuable addition to any home. There are many reasons why solar panels can be an excellent financial investment, including the fact that they can help you save money while increasing your property’s value in the long run.

    Location

    It is no secret that the location of your home can significantly impact your property’s value. Therefore, the value of homes with solar panels certainly increases depending on their location – especially in areas with abundant sunlight and high electricity rates. Plus, if your home is in a region or neighborhood that emphasizes environmental sustainability, homes with solar panels can enhance a home’s perceived value. Not to mention, depending on your location, government incentives and supportive policies also play crucial roles in increasing the desirability of solar-equipped homes.

    The states where solar panels are most in demand are California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico and Oregon. The cities where solar panels are most in demand are Los Angeles, San Diego, Honolulu, Phoenix, San Jose, San Antonio and New York. If you live in one of these areas, there is a good chance that solar panels will increase your home’s value.

    Solar Panel Ownership

    When purchased outright, solar panels can be easily transferred from the home’s seller to the buyer. However, if you’re leasing your solar panels, you’ll need to work with the solar company to establish who will take ownership of the panels. Typically, the buyer can take over the solar system by buying the lease out or transferring it. However, when selling or buying a home, it’s essential to keep track of who has ownership rights over them to avoid confusion and potential legal issues later on.

    Solar System Condition

    While they may not be top of mind when you think about the value of a house, solar panels can significantly impact property value. Therefore, ensuring they are in a well-working condition is essential. The solar system’s condition is important since it directly affects its efficiency, functionality and lifespan.

    Well-maintained and properly functioning solar panels are more likely to attract potential buyers and contribute positively to the property’s overall worth. Regular maintenance, including cleaning and inspection, helps to ensure the panel’s performance and longevity. Damaged or outdated panels can decrease efficiency, reducing energy production and increasing potential repair costs. Therefore, keeping solar panels in good condition maximizes their energy-generating potential, ultimately increasing the property’s value.

    Do Bigger Installations Increase Home Value?

    There’s no proven correlation between the size of a solar panel and its increase of a property’s value. wattage won’t result in more money, so when choosing a solar panel or solar system for your home, just choose one that will generate the right amount of energy for your household.

    Best Solar Companies By States And Cities

    Bill would block homeowners associations from banning installation of solar installations

    By: Paul Hammel. February 23, 2023 6:52 pm

    Solar panels, installed on the roof of her south Lincoln condominium, got Rosalind Carr in hot water with her homeowners association. (Paul Hammel/Nebraska Examiner)

    LINCOLN — Concerned about the environment, in part after studying Pope Francis’ encyclical that climate change is real and that we must care for our “common home,” Rosalind Carr took action.

    In October, Carr had 14 solar panels installed on the roof of her townhouse in the Cape Charles Square neighborhood of south Lincoln.

    It wasn’t to save money, the retiree said, but “to do something good.”

    The reaction, however, wasn’t that good from some neighbors and the homeowners’ association that governs the neighborhood.

    The Cape Charles Square Homeowners Association ordered Carr to remove the solar panels, or the association would do it for her, because she hadn’t gained permission from the HOA board, as required in the local covenants, to install them.

    The ruckus over the rooftop installation is just the latest nationwide over solar panels and HOA rules and helped prompt a state senator from Lincoln to introduce a bill this year that would block HOAs from banning solar installations.

    compare, reviews, solar, panels

    ‘Solar rights’ laws

    Several states, including Colorado and Iowa, have passed “solar rights” laws. Iowa’s law allows for “solar access easements” for sunlight to such installations and permits local municipalities to enact ordinances that prohibit HOAs from blocking rooftop solar panels.

    Sen. George Dungan said that the need for renewable, green energy continues to grow and that local covenants should not block the installation of solar panels, as long as they comply with local zoning ordinances and laws.

    He said his Legislative Bill 49 isn’t patterned after another state’s law but is designed to encourage solar installations in Nebraska.

    “It’s a small change for a big gain,” he said.

    Several supporters of LB 49 testified Thursday before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee. They told senators that solar energy is not only good for the environment but also would reduce the need for additional electric transmission lines as well as the use of fossil fuels to generate power.

    Personal property rights

    It’s also an issue of personal property rights, they said.

    But opponents of the measure said LB 49 goes too far.

    Justin Brady, a lobbyist for the Nebraska Realtors Association and homebuilders groups in Omaha and Lincoln, said that people buy homes based on the “private” covenants imposed in a neighborhood and that the state should not interfere.

    Rick McDonald of the Metropolitan Omaha Property Owners Association said that the bill, as originally written, would give tenants the right to install solar panels on rental properties — installations that can damage the property.

    But Dungan, in his opening statement, said the intent of LB 49 was not to affect landlords and rental properties but to block HOAs from passing rules banning solar panels in neighborhoods.

    Concerns were also expressed about a clause in LB 49 that would allow cites or counties to pass rules to provide a “solar access permit” to a landowner so that trees or buildings don’t block “direct sunlight” to the panels.

    Opponents said creating such a “right to direct sunlight” was unconstitutional and could cause removal of trees that reduce air conditioning costs and provide other benefits. Even one supporter of LB 49 questioned the wisdom of removing trees.

    Dungan said his intent is not to cause trees to be cut down but to allow local municipalities, if they wish, to issue solar access permits.

    The Judiciary Committee took no action on LB 49 after the hearing. The bill received 20 letters of support and 49 in opposition.

    ‘Vitriol’ from some neighbors

    Meanwhile, down in south Lincoln, Carr said she has agreed to remove the solar panels from her roof rather than force the HOA to spend money in court defending its covenants.

    She said it was her fault that she didn’t get permission first. Carr said she had her application to install the solar panels ready for an HOA board meeting but then her contractors asked to move up the job by a month, giving her one day’s notice.

    “I totally spun it off,” Carr said. “My fault.”

    But, she said, she’s been disappointed by some neighbors’ negative reaction to the solar panels, which hug her condo’s roof and are only visible from the south side of the building.

    “It’s like I put up a sign that I was selling sex,” Carr said of the “vitriol” from a small group of neighbors.

    Ironically, the local HOA had passed some “guidelines” a month before she installed her solar panels that allowed them as long as the panels were not visible from the street. Carr said she was unaware of the guidelines until after she installed her solar panels and that an offer to move her installation was rejected by the HOA’s attorney.

    She said it will cost about 3,500 to remove the panels, when weather permits. Carr plans to donate them to Habitat for Humanity.

    LB 49 is designed to help resolve future conflicts between HOAs and homeowners wishing to install solar panels, and Carr said she hope it passes. If that happens, she may rejoin the movement to solar energy.

    “I will tell you, I may just put them up again,” Carr said.

    Solar power can boost your home’s value — especially in these 10 states

    California will be the first state in the U.S. to require solar panels on all new homes starting 2020, but the legislation’s passage did not end the debate over a key question: Does the cost of installing solar pay off for homeowners?

    Some developers are not even waiting for 2020 and are pressing ahead with solar-powered homes for what they say is the best reason: it is simply what best serves the homebuyer market matching energy demands to efficiency and cost. The state estimates the new solar power rule will help homeowners save about 19,000 in a 30-year period. Others say the mandate will push up housing costs too much for many homebuyers.

    There’s another way to look at the question: Does adding solar power increase a home’s value at time of sale? According to real estate information company Zillow, in some states the answer already is yes. Zillow’s research indicates that in the same way homeowners are willing to pay thousands of dollars for renovations like a new kitchen or finished basement, they need to evaluate the return on investment from investing in solar energy.

    Installing solar panels in a home not only helps to reduce current monthly utility bills; it can potentially increase the home’s value by up to 4.1% more than comparable homes with no solar panels, according to recent solar research done by Zillow — or an additional 9,274 for the median-valued home in the U.S.

    Green houses

    Recent natural disasters like the California wildfires, heat waves throughout Europe and extreme melt events have inspired many to seek more eco-friendly lives, including home buyers.

    There is increased demand for green living. than 80% of buyers now say energy-efficient features are important in selecting their home, said Sarah Mikhitarian, Zillow senior economist. We are increasingly finding that these attributes are important to prospective homebuyers. This is part of the reason that there is a premium associated with it. The other piece is that there is true value provided by solar panels — namely, future energy savings.

    The energy savings depends in part on how a specific home consumes energy. For example, a home that features heated floors might see a greater premium from the addition of solar (though this was not a correlation Zillow specifically researched).

    For homeowners who know they consume a lot of power, those future savings are worth spending a bit more money up front, Mikhitarian said.

    To identify the solar premium in each state, Zillow compared the sale of homes with and without solar-energy systems listed for sale and sold within the research period — March 2018 and February 2019. The company examined all transactions that occurred and identified which homes featured solar panels in their listing descriptions, controlling for observable attributes including size, age, location, and market value at the time it was listed for-sale. Zillow also controlled for local market dynamics and the time of the year that the home sold.

    In New Jersey, homes with solar panels can sell for 9.9% more than homes without solar-energy systems. That is a profit of 32,281 for the median-valued home in that state.

    Here’s the top 10 states with the highest solar premiums, according to Zillow’s findings:

    • New Jersey: 9.9% or 32,281 for the median-valued home.
    • Pennsylvania: 4.9% or 8,589 for the median-valued home.
    • North Carolina: 4.8% or 8,996 for the median-valued home.
    • Louisiana: 4.9% or 7,037 for the median-valued home.
    • Washington: 4.1% or 15,916 for the median-valued home.
    • Florida: 4% 9,454 for the median-valued home.
    • Hawaii: 4% or 24,526 for the median-valued home.
    • Maryland: 3.8% or 10,976 for the median-valued home.
    • New York: 3.6% or 10,981 for the median-valued home.
    • South Carolina: 3.5% or 5,866 for the median-valued home.

    However, solar premiums can vary within state lines.

    While the solar premium for the state of Florida is 4%, it increases to 4.6% in Orlando, Florida.

    In New York City the solar premium is 1.8% more than it is statewide, which translates to 23,989 more in value for the typical home in New York.

    And in California there are major fluctuations within metro areas: while the solar premium statewide is 3%, in San Francisco, it increases to 4.4%, in Los Angeles to 3.6%. but in Riverside, the solar premium declines to 2.7%.

    Other states like Utah, did not have enough homes with solar-energy systems installed to identify the solar premium.

    There’s been a widening of reasons why people are going solar, said Evelyn Huang, chief customer experience officer at Sunrun, the biggest solar installation company in the U.S. — it competes directly with Tesla, which acquired its main competitor SolarCity. One of the reasons is savings, I think that’s the obvious one. The second one is control, Huang said, referring to monthly expenses.

    Our utility companies are needing more and more money to maintain, and they pass on that cost to the homeowner. But that is pretty unpredictable for a homeowner. You just don’t know how much your are going to increase, Huang said. I think that is another reason why customers are considering solar. They want to know how much they are going to pay every month. If you’re on a fixed income, you need a budget. You need to know what to expect.

    Homeowners who made the solar switch

    Lisa and Jerry Chretien, a couple from Cape May County, New Jersey, decided to lease solar rooftop panels from Sunrun a year ago. High utility bills and the desire to live cleaner and greener lives inspired them to make the decision. Since going solar in June 2018, the Chretien’s electric bills have decreased, especially in the summertime.

    As soon as we would open the pool and turn on the air conditioners in May … our electric bills would run close to 800, sometimes more, said Lisa Chretien. Saving money, especially with kids in college, has been a big help and a big saving. And there are a lot of incentives, tax wise you get a break. It has just been a plus all the way around.

    For Kerrie Lane, owner and operator of a cleaning service and resident of South Jersey, the experience was similar. After moving into her new home, she received her first electric bill: a staggering 1,100. Kerrie knew she needed to do something to make her electric bills affordable.

    I’m 60 years old, so I’m getting up there. I do a physical job for a living but I can’t do it forever So having my bills being manageable was very important to me, Lane said. My first electric bill in this house was 1,100. I knew I needed to correct this situation and make it manageable and Sunrun gave me the consistency that I was looking for.

    A Sunrun spokesman said that assuming annual utility rate increases —the current national average utility rate increase per year is around 3% — solar customers see an average utility bill savings of anywhere from 10% to 40%. Solar contracts include a fixed price of energy per kilowatt/hour that is typically lower than utility rates in most regions across the U.S.

    The Sunrun spokesman noted that customers still must pay basic utility infrastructure charges separate from the power generation cost, for wire maintenance, for example, and may also still use some power generation from the utility’s sources, depending on the size of their home and level of energy use, as well as the season. Seasonality is an issue for utilities too. In the summer, for example, tend to be higher to meet the demand, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

    Depending on their deal with Sunrun — which offers service plans, loans, prepayments and cash purchases — customers may also pay monthly charges to the company. Sunrun says that more than 85% of customers do not buy the system outright but pre-pay a set amount and then make monthly service plan payments.

    We saw that there was an opportunity here to try and give the best of both worlds to our home buyers.

    Residential home construction company De Young Properties in California built its first net-zero energy building in 2013 — that means it has the potential to produce as much clean energy as it would consumer on a yearly basis.

    De Young began redesigning its traditional home prototype in 2008 in order to find a way to build comfortable, energy-efficient homes, at an affordable price. We wanted to build better homes. We didn’t want to stagnate and just build the same home that my grandfather used to build because we felt that it was important to continue to progress, said Brandon De Young, executive v.p. of the company, which has three decades of history.

    Basically, you either have to sacrifice your comfort for your energy bill or your energy bill for your comfort. And we saw that there was an opportunity here to try and give the best of both worlds to our home buyers, said De Young.

    Caveats

    Many homeowners lease solar panels from companies including Sunrun and Tesla, meaning at time of a home sale the seller needs to buy out the lease or the seller needs to find a buyer who is willing to take over that lease. Solar leasing companies do provide services for transferring the lease. If the previous owner was entitled to state or federal tax credits related to the solar project, that financial incentive would not transfer to the new owner.

    Like any home improvement, solar energy systems have a limited useful life. After 20 years or more, solar panels do generally start producing less energy and that would take away some of the value associated with the solar panels, which would likely be reflected in its premium for a specific home. But Zillow noted that this is similar to many other attributes of a home. For example, HVAC systems often need to be replaced after about 10 to 15 years, but people still highly value having air conditioning and are willing to pay a premium for it.

    Investment tax credits offered by the federal government to invest in renewable energy projects including solar are scheduled to be phased out for residential homeowners in 2022, but the lobbying fight over this tax credit — currently as high as 30% — is ongoing. If phased out, it would take away one incentive for a homebuyer to purchase a solar system, though costs are coming down at the same time. Bill Gates recently remarked that solar and wind no longer need the support that other sources of renewable energy do and government incentives should be phased out, and he added that solar and wind companies should now be large enough to drive down costs through economies of scale.

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