Four Solar Power Options for Renters

Renters: don’t assume solar power isn’t for you. While traditionally, solar power systems are often marketed and sold to home owners, it’s possible for renters to enjoy the same money saving and environmental benefits with solar power.

Some renters might consider it virtually impossible to convince their landlord to install an expensive solar power system. But even if you only plan to live in your apartment or house for a few months or a few years, there are options and you can take advantage of solar power. Read on to explore four different ways you can use solar power at home, even if you don’t own it.

Rent a Solar Apartment or Home

For many renters, this is a long shot. However, it is possible to find an apartment complex or home that already has solar power installed. With this option, you’ll be able to take advantage of the savings available with solar power and enjoy clean energy for your home.

Join a Solar Community

Solar farms, gardens, and community solar projects make it possible for renters to enjoy the benefits of solar power without actually installing solar power. In a solar community, renters pay to install solar panels in a remote array. They then receive credit for solar power generated by the project on their electricity bill.

A solar community is a great option for renters because they do not require installation or even permission from a landlord. They simply require an investment in solar power, and renters can then enjoy solar returns and clean solar energy savings.

Portable Solar Panels

Although not as effective as professionally installed solar power systems, portable solar panels can supplement the power needs of any home including apartments and rental houses. Portable solar panels can be installed quickly and easily with no structural changes to the property. They are also often affordable and easy to remove and install if you device to move.

Small portable solar power systems can run small appliances and cut down on some of your home’s energy usage. You can use the sun to charge batteries that will run your appliances or even your cell phone. One popular small portable solar power system is a phone charger you can stick to a window.

Plug and play systems like Plugged Solar offer stand alone systems that can be plugged into a standard 120V outlet. They are powerful and can significantly reduce your energy bill with the solar energy you’re able to generate.

These plug and play solar power systems can be moved easily if you need to get more sunlight. And when you’re ready to move, just unplug the panel and bring it to your next home for continued energy savings.

Plug and play solar power systems are typically modular, so you can put multiple panels together to further supplement your solar energy savings. The best part: these kits are eligible for federal tax credits.

Install a Solar Power System

Installing a solar power system on your rental property is the most difficult, but rewarding, option for solar power renters. While it requires the cooperation of your landlord and is typically a more significant investment, a solar power system on the property adds up to significant energy savings with solar power that can pay off for years down the road not just for renters, but for landlords.

Renter Installation of Solar Power Systems

Renters who want to install a solar power system on the roof can do so with permission from the landlord. You’ll typically agree to remove the panels when you move and restore the roof. In this situation, you would be able to claim solar power system financial incentives including the federal tax credit.

If you’re installing solar power panels on a rented roof, it’s important to keep installation costs in mind, as you’ll need to pay for the initial install, removal, and reinstallation if you move to a new house. You may also have roof repairs to pay for if there is any damage as a result of the solar power system.

Typically, renter installation of a solar power system is a good solution for those who plan to stay in the same home for several years. This makes the investment in installation a better financial decision, and makes it possible for renters to take full advantage of any financial incentives. Note: some financial incentives require solar panel owners to keep the system running on the same home for a certain period of time, so if you move before that period has been fulfilled, you may be required to repay rebates and other incentives.

In some situations, renters may come to an agreement with landlords that the solar panels will stay even if they decide to move out of the home. If this is the case, the landlord would pay the renter for the value of the solar power system.

Can’t get your landlord to agree to a roof install? Solar panels can be installed on a ground mounted system in the backyard or common areas. This is a good option for renters, as it means you can simply pull up and go when it’s time to move. However, it’s important to keep in mind that ground mounted systems may not get as much power as those that are mounted on the roof with better access to the sun.

Landlord Installation of Solar Power Systems

Another option: landlord installation of a solar power system to be used by the renter. If the landlord installs the solar power system, they can charge higher rent, allowing the renter to subsidize and eventually, pay for the system while the landlord enjoys being able to claim rebates and other financial incentives. A solar power system will also add value to the property and make it more attractive to other potential renters when the current tenants move out.

Need help convincing your landlord to go solar? If you’re in an apartment building or condo, talk to your neighbors and ask if they’re interested in exploring the use of solar power with you. You can approach the landlord together, which lets them know they’d have the support of multiple tenants should they decide to adopt solar power for the property.

In apartments and similar properties, landlords can use virtual net metering to make solar power systems easy to manage among tenants. With virtual net metering in apartments, a property owner can allocate a solar power system’s energy credits to their tenants. Tenants can then purchase solar power from the landlord rather than the utility company, offering a financial break for both landlord and tenant.

Written Agreements for Solar Power Renters

Whatever option renters and landlords pursue, it’s important to work out a clear written agreement that spells out all of the details, including who owns the solar power system, who is able to claim financial incentives, where the solar panels will be installed, their size and appearance, structural modifications, and whether there will be a change in rental rates.

Most rental agreements will at the very least require written permission before making any changes to the property, and that of course includes the installation of solar power systems. In some leases, any changes you make to the property become part of the property, and that means if you install solar panels without modifying the agreement, you could be required to leave those panels behind and give them to the landlord for free when you move out, even if that was not your plan. A written agreement that asserts ownership of the panels will make it clear and protect all parties involved.

While residential solar power systems for renters don’t have as many clear cut options as there are for home owners, residents who live in apartments and rented homes can still enjoy the benefits of solar power. Whether you’re joining a solar community project, using small scale solar panels with easy installation, or working with your landlord to go solar, it’s well within the reach of many renters to enjoy solar power savings and environmental benefits.