Are there solar power options for renters and what can tenants do to take advantage of solar powered energy?
As a renter you are limited in what you can do, but rest assured there are steps you can take to use solar power and overall use more green energy.
While owners can do major renovations to add solar to their property (and take advantage of the savings) tenants rarely have the power to do such a thing. No tenant wants to spend thousands of dollars on a solar installation on someone else’s house.
So what can you do as a tenant to take advantage of solar energy?
While you can’t do a full solar installation there are some things you can do. I’m going to rank these in order from least likely to work to most likely to work for renters.
6. Get Owner To Install Solar
This is almost impossible to get across the line because there is no financial benefit to the owner installing solar.
As the tenant pays the electricity bills the tenant gets the savings that come when solar panels are installed.
As the owner won’t see any of those savings and is unlikely to get more rent or a higher valuation for the property they aren’t financially motivated to do this.
I mean you can ask, but your chances are slim to none
5. Join A Solar Community
A solar community is a location where members of the community pay money to install solar power which is then sold to the grid or to local houses.
There are just 91 solar community projects (according to SEIA) in the USA in just 25 states. So finding one in your local community is highly unlikely.
There are 0 projects like this available in Australia and I am not sure about other countries.
The problem with these projects for renters is that you won’t see any of the power yourself and the money you earn from your solar energy is likely to be much less than the money you would save if you used the solar in your own home.
4. “Digital Solar”
Digital Solar is a concept where the owner installs the solar panels on the property and then sells the electricity generated back to the tenants.
The tenants receive cheaper electricity than they would pay the utilities and the owner makes some money from their solar installation, helping them pay back the costs.
This concept is still extremely new and is being pioneered by an Australian company called Matter.
Matter claims a payback period of 5 years for the owner, and allows the owner to generate more income that what they would get from rent only.
Due to the fact that the owner still needs to pay the upfront cost to install the solar this is still hard to get across the line.
3. Install Removable Solar
Ok now we are starting to get more viable. Removable solar is solar panels that you the tenant own.
You install them in a way that they can be removed when you move on.
Ideally if you have a safe place in the backyard or somewhere on the property is easiest or alternatively there are removable roof structures (but this will require permission from the owner).
Obstacles in achieving this are still large and expensive though.
- Meter needs to be changed – A regular meter needs to be changed to one that can detect incoming vs outgoing electricity. You’ll need to contact your electricity provider for this
- Installation needs to be done professionally – You need to pay a professional to do the installation of your panels into the grid. This costs money
- Safety check may be required – Again this costs money
- Owner’s permission is likely needed to do all this – We all know owners aren’t the qucikest to say yes to something that doesn’t directly benefit them
So this is a more plausible solution, but its still difficult for the average tenant to get across the line.
There are some companies (like PluggedSolar) starting to come out with plug and play solar power for tenants, but these are still in their early stages and aren’t common yet.
2. Go Green On Your Electricity Bill
Most electricity companies now have an option to go anywhere from 10-100% green.
This doesn’t mean you’ll receive green energy (a part about it I don’t like), but they promise to deliver your equivalent energy usage in green energy to someone else.
There are 2 major problems with this strategy.
The first is that it’s expensive. Generally 30-40% more expensive than regular electricity (it would add $700/year to my electricity bill).
The second is that you’re spending the money on a “promise” from the electricity companies to do the right thing for the planet. There is no way to track whether or not they actually do it, and I personally wouldn’t trust an energy company’s promise.
1. Portable Solar + Batteries (disconnected from grid)
This option is the easiest to do as it likely requires zero approval from the owner of the property.
The idea is that you have your own removable solar panels running into your own removable battery storage. You then draw power directly from the battery storage to power your devices.
For us we have a Yeti 1250 battery which can be used to run our household appliances and charge devices like our laptops and phones (see photo).
There are 2 major problems with this:
The first is that as it is disconnected from the house it is generally limited in it’s location.
You can’t run your household lights off this and to run power over the whole house you would need power cables running everywhere which isn’t practical.
The second problem is that these portable batteries are expensive and limited in their capacity.
Our Yeti stores about 1 kWh of electricity, which we can use and recharge daily. But our bill shows we use around 25 kWh’s daily.
This means we are only offsetting about 5% of our total energy usage using this setup. The battery alone was $1,500 plus the panels we are looking at about $2,o00 in setup costs.
Saving 1 kWh/day at $0.23/kWh (Australia) this system will take over 23 years to pay off if we used the full kWh everyday and if it even lasts that long (it won’t).
So while we have this anyway due to our campervan setup and we love using green energy, it isn’t really commercially viable.
So in summary there are some solar power options for renters, but they are all imperfect solutions. They are either too hard to get across the line (due to needing owners permission) or they are difficult and expensive.
For us we use our solar battery as much as possible and are continuing to try and use less and less electricity from the grid.
We still haven’t made the move to green energy with our electricity provider but this is something we are looking at in the future if we can get our usage down enough so we can afford it.
What will you do to go solar while you are renting?
Have any ideas that I didn’t mention in this article? If so please leave a comment below.
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