Most renters assume it’s impossible to bring solar power into their homes, but that simply isn’t true. Each passing year has made solar power less expensive and more accessible than the year before, and we’ve reached the point where it’s relatively easy to bring solar power with you wherever you go.
This new level of portability is what makes personal solar possible for today’s apartment dwellers. Even if you have no direct sunlight hitting your home, there’s a solution that allows you to “use” solar energy and reduce your carbon footprint.
Below are the four most popular methods for going solar when mounting panels to your roof or in your yard isn’t an option, plus some surprising information on tax credits.
1. Plug-And-Play Solar Panels
Of all the solar solutions out there, plug-and-play solar panels are the simplest to use. All you need is a balcony railing or some other sturdy structure from which to hang your panels.
Most kits come with a variety of methods for securing your panels, so you should be able to find an ideal spot to place them safely.
Once your panels are set, you just plug them into an outlet in your apartment to send solar-based energy throughout your living space.
While these panels can’t replace all your energy use, they can certainly put a dent in your energy bill.
The best part of this solar system is that it can leave with you when you move, as it is 100% portable.
The only real drawback to these plug-and-play solar systems is that you need the cooperation of your landlord and energy provider. Each must grant permission for the installation of your solar panels.
Your landlord will likely be your biggest roadblock, as they may not want solar panels hanging from the side of their building. Your local utility company just needs to know about the installation so it can monitor excess energy from your panels and credit you accordingly.
2. Portable Solar Power
The portable solar panel is one of the fastest-growing items in the gadget market today. These self-contained solar systems can power small fans or recharge your electronic devices.
While they may not have much of an effect on your monthly bills, these small power generators can take a bite out of your carbon footprint – well, a nibble, anyway.
All you need is a window that gets plenty of sunlight, and you can charge the average phone or laptop in just a few hours.
None of these portable solar units have the power to run household electronics, but every little bit helps the world to become a greener place.
3. Community Solar Systems
Sometimes, there simply isn’t enough light reaching your apartment due to larger buildings or other features creating a permanent shadow across your windows or balcony. Or, your landlord refuses to let you install panels, leaving you wholly dependent on your local utility for your power.
Even in such situations, you have an option – community solar.
Community solar is available in many areas worldwide and is used to help operate local solar farms.
It works like this –
- You buy a stake in the farm by purchasing panels or starting a monthly subscription.
- You are then awarded energy credits based on your percentage of the solar farm’s output.
- You use these credits to offset a portion of your monthly energy bill.
Obviously, you aren’t actually using solar power in your apartment, but you are helping to create a portion of the energy used in your community with shared renewable power.
Watch For Scams
In the early days of community solar, developers made it all but impossible to end subscriptions or otherwise leave the program. There are still some community solar systems that operate this way.
Be certain to read every word of the contract before you sign up. If you can, run it past a lawyer to ensure you aren’t about to be locked into a losing arrangement.
4. DIY Portable Solar
For those who have the space, portable solar systems are a great way to bring solar into your apartment. They require a larger investment than other, simpler systems but can also deliver a great deal more energy.
More importantly, if you keep your portable solar power system separate from your household power, you won’t need to seek permission from anyone to put it to use.
Portable Solar Components
All full solar systems have the same four components –
- Solar Panels – there are all types and sizes available, so your system can easily suit your needs.
- Controller – a digital device that ensures your devices and batteries get the correct amount of energy to avoid damage to the system.
- Batteries – either lead-acid or lithium-ion, your batteries store excess energy for use when there is no usable light.
- Inverter – few household items can run on the DC current produced by your solar power system. Your inverter converts that DC power into AC power that you can use to run your home.
You’ll find that each component comes with detailed instructions on how to install them into your solar power system. While the wiring Link to RV Solar Power Wiring article is fairly simple, there are always quirks to each product that you’ll need to address.
But before you buy, you’ll need to figure out your power needs Link to Calculating Solar System Needs article. You may find that what you want and what you can afford to build are two different things, but that’s OK. In time, you can expand your portable system with better, more-efficient panels.
And as time goes by, solar panel prices will come down even as the panels themselves become more effective.
Claim Tax Credits For Your Solar Setup
Did you know that you don’t need to be a homeowner to claim tax credits for your solar power system?
As long as you own or are leasing the equipment and meet other requirements set by the federal government, you can claim certain costs. You can claim the cost of the panels, all components, the wiring, and even labor fees related to installing your apartment’s solar power system.
It’s a wonderful way to defer a portion of the startup costs, and since your system is easy to relocate, you’ll never have to pay those costs again – no matter how often you move.
The Future Of Solar Power
New solar products come out every year, with each being more interesting than the last. Already there are solar blinds on the market, and there’s a fierce race to come out with the first practical solar windows.
Eventually, solar power generation will be part of all buildings. But for now, you can be proud that you are part of the early days of the solar power revolution. Even the smallest steps matter in the fight to make renewable energy the only energy of the future.