If you rent an apartment or a house, you might think solar is out of the question. After all, you can’t just decide to put panels on your roof one day. So how do renters get solar for apartments?
I chose to join the solar industry because clean energy is essential to our future. It’s critical to people’s health, wealth, and happiness at both a global level and a community scale, as well as everywhere in between. I believe in the mission to spread solar to as many people as possible, and recognize that getting new people involved is key to both growth and equity in the renewable energy field. But as someone who lives in a city apartment, I’ve never actually had access to the benefits of solar energy myself.
The irony there isn’t lost on me. I find some solidarity, though, in the fact that I’m far from alone. More than a third of Americans rent their homes. If they’re interested in pursuing solar, that decision falls on their landlords, who might not hold the same appreciation for clean energy, understand how much money it can save them in the long run, or be willing to deal with the hassle. Meanwhile, if a landlord does choose to get solar, it’s up to him or her to pass those profits onto the renter.
So what can an apartment dweller do? Fortunately, developers have created a new way to bring solar to renters without installing anything on their property.
More Americans Are Renting Apartments
Buying a home is a huge undertaking, both financially and logistically. You need the capital to put down on a place, furnish it, and handle recurring mortgage payments, you need a pretty clear idea of where you want to stay and for how long, and you need to be ready to put in the time to complete all the standard legal processes and paperwork. That’s a lot. For many people right now, it’s too much.
The reality is that millions of Americans–about 43 million households, or 36.6% of the country–choose to rent their homes instead, and that proportion has only been growing. Renters outnumber homeowners in 42 of America’s 100 biggest cities today, compared to just 20 in 2006. Even as the country has added over 7 million new households over the last decade, the number of homeowners has actually been stagnant.
Why? For starters, the housing crisis can claim most of the credit. Most apartment renters want to buy a home eventually; they just aren’t in a place to do so right now. Others like the flexibility or lifestyle that renting an apartment affords. There are plenty of reasons to rent, but they all tend to come with a price: a loss of autonomy in important decisions about your home.
Landlords Make All the Energy Decisions–Or Do They?
Regardless of the circumstance, as long as you’re a renter, you’re probably used to deferring to your landlord for important home decisions. If the light blows out, you call the landlord. If the windows are drafty, if the thermostat breaks, or if the sink starts flooding the kitchen, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to get these things fixed (provided you didn’t kick the windows out or smash the pipes in). That’s all great news for you, but it comes with some restrictions, too.
What if you who want cut down on your energy bill or carbon footprint? Can you just install efficiency upgrades in your apartment, like smart heating or cooling devices? Can you choose to source from clean energy?
If a project involves installation on your rental property, that’s a tough sell. You’re going to have to get your landlord on board, and depending on their preferences and whether or not they’ve read our guide on solar for landlords, you might be in for a bit of a negotiation. It might not seem worthwhile to pick that bone. We’re here to tell you you don’t have to, because today, new products are bringing cheap, clean energy to apartments.
Community Solar Gardens Bring Solar To Apartments
Going solar isn’t limited to homeowners. Some of the most avid solar supporters, like America’s millennial clean energy enthusiasts, live in apartments. A lot of the people who could most use energy bill savings live in apartments. These people need a viable option.
Community solar gardens are the best way to get solar for an apartment. The community solar model allows customers to subscribe to a solar garden off the site of their property. Subscribers don’t need to switch utilities or put anything on their property, so they won’t face any challenges getting permission to join. Even better: they can expect to save 10% on their electricity bill, month after month, while contributing to clean energy for their community. That’s both ethical and practical.
Historically, solar companies have kept renters at bay with 20-year contracts and high cancellation fees. Apartment dwellers aren’t interested in those kinds of deals. Like we noted earlier, most people who rent their homes aren’t planning to keep it that way for too long. Many are renting precisely because they’re not ready to commit to a certain area, job, or lifestyle yet, so locking into long-term local energy contracts doesn’t make much sense.
That’s why community solar contracts are becoming more and more flexible. More and more, developers are offering one-year contracts and scrapping the cancellation fees, allowing people to reap the benefits of solar energy even while they live in an apartment.
Solar For Renters Is Simple
Clean energy makes for cleaner air, reduced effects from climate change, bill savings, and local energy independence. Those are benefits that extend to every American, renter or otherwise.
If you’re even a little bit curious about solar, don’t let income or homeownership status hold you back. Not only is community solar bringing clean energy to apartments–it’s also simplifying what most renters think is a complex, expensive process. Apartment dwellers shouldn’t have to jump through extra hoops to see savings, and with community solar, they don’t.