By Mirela Niculae

These days, it makes sense to switch to solar energy: The equipment is cheaper and more efficient than ever. However, if you live in an apartment, a lack of private roof space and building-wide electrical systems can make the conversion to solar much more complicated

But, despite all the difficulties, the clean energy revolution is in full development. For instance, at the end of 2017, 20 American cities had over 2 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic capacity, with Los Angeles strongly in the lead. Considering this trend and the number of apartment communities larger cities, manufacturers have had to adapt. As a result, there are several great solutions for apartment-dwellers interested in switching to solar.

Below are three options you can try.

1: Solar panels on the roof

In this situation you will have to purchase a specialized solar system from a reliable solar energy professional who can help you calculate the general level of energy consumption in your apartment, recommend the right system and install it for you.

What you need to know is that there are two main types of solar systems: Off Grid and On Grid, and each requires some re-wiring.

The On Grid system provides solar energy as long as sunlight is available and doesn’t require a battery because it is directly connected to the main electricity grid. This way, when you don’t have sunlight or your energy consumption exceeds what the solar panel can provide, the main grid will supply the rest. If you produce more solar energy than you can consume, it will be sent to the main grid, and you’ll see a lower electricity bill. Additionally, if you own the panels, you could be eligible for a tax credit.

This means that the solar panel will have to be connected to the building’s main grid, which is a job for a professional electrician.

The Off Grid system is not connected to the grid and features a battery (or a battery bank) that stores the energy produced during the day. In theory, you could get off the main grid and live only on solar power with such a system, but if you are surrounded by skyscrapers, sunlight can be unpredictable. Not to mention, this type of solar system costs more and requires more maintenance than an On Grid one.

With the Off Grid system, you have to connect the entire apartment to the battery bank in order to get power to the appliances and fixtures. Again, you should hire a professional to do this.

But before moving forward with either system, you should check the with your landlord if you are renting, or your building’s management if you own your unit. Otherwise, you risk getting fined or even evicted.

A smartphone plugged into a solar charger
Installing a solar charger on a window or balcony will allow you to charge your devices and save on your energy bill (Credit: Adam Radosavljevic/Shutterstock)

2: Portable Panels

Also known as solar chargers, portable panels are small- to medium-sized panels that can be easily moved and don’t require advanced installation. Most people use them outdoors (on camping or hiking trips) but if you have a sunny windowsill or balcony, they can be used to provide power to your apartment. Some even have suction cups, making them easy to install directly on the window.

But it’s important to understand that they are called chargers for a reason. Portable panels are specially designed to work with a wide range of devices (phones, tablets, generators and laptops, among others) so you won’t be able to hook up the panel to your electricity network to power up the house. Still, if you have lots of devices, this may be a way to reduce the electricity bill.

3: Solar Communities

If none of the options above are doable, there is an alternative: joining a solar community.

The idea is simple: you pay to install one or more solar panels in a remote location (most likely a solar farm), and for the energy produced by your panels, you receive credit on your electricity bill. Basically, it’s an investment in solar power, and it doesn’t require any permits, approvals or extra equipment.

A Few Final Words

Overall, the trend towards solar energy is growing each year, but there may be a while until we get to have entire solar cities. But, if you want to make an investment in the future, the best way to do so is by either installing your own solar panels on the roof of your building or investing in a solar farm. In both cases you help reduce the use of the grid and create more space for clean energy.