Solar Panels for Apartments June 2023
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Solar Panels for Apartments June 2023

Jan 30, 2024

Most apartment buildings have shared roof areas where you cannot install a solar panel system, but there are alternative ways to go solar without owning the panels directly. Find out how to take advantage of solar panels for apartments in this detailed guide.

We at the Guides Home Team have researched the top solar companies nationwide, analyzed solar cost data and compared solar panel brands to help you find the right solution for your home solar project. Read on to see how you can take advantage of solar energy as an apartment owner or renter.

Apartment owners or renters who want to use solar energy have fewer options due to a lack of roof space. Even if you live on the top floor of a building, the roof is likely considered a common area where you cannot install solar panels.

Some apartment complexes have solar power systems on the rooftop, but the panels likely belong to the property manager or are shared property. Generally, property owners may use the electricity output from rooftop solar panels to reduce power bills in common areas, not individual units.

If you’re an apartment owner or renter, there are three main ways to use renewable energy without installing solar panels:

For residential customers, solar installation companies permanently anchor photovoltaic (PV) panels to your home's roof structure. As an alternative for apartments, you can find portable panels to set up on balconies and windows. You can also take panels on camping or remote trips as an off-grid power source.

Portable solar panels are available to all renters. You don't need permission from your landlord to set up portable panels since they don't represent a property modification. However, the small size of portable panels limits their potential savings. Portable panels can only cover a small fraction of your home energy usage, whereas a residential system is large enough to power a home.

For example, a 200 W solar panel can generate more than 20 kWh of energy per month when placed on a sunny balcony, which represents around $3 to $5 in monthly savings. You could use these panels to power small appliances and smartphone chargers, but not to cover a significant portion of your energy needs. However, energy production may vary depending on where you live and your exposure to sunlight.

While portable solar panels generate less electricity than rooftop PV systems they are more affordable. The typical cost of a home solar system ranges from $15,000 to $20,000 before incentives, but you can find portable solar kits capable of powering multiple devices for less than $2,000.

The table below includes top-rated portable solar panel brands, based on our market research.

Portable Solar Panel Brand

Market Price

Panel Wattage (W)

Renogy 200 W Solar Panel Kit


200 W

Bluetti 200 W Solar Panel


200 W

Jackery 200 W Solar Panel


200 W

Portable solar panels are not designed for permanent rooftop installations. You can check out our guide to the best solar panels for homes for residential solar projects.

Community solar power is a promising concept that allows several people to invest in a shared solar farm and split the savings. For example, if you join a community solar project with a 5% ownership share, you can subtract 5% of the electricity the system generates from your monthly energy bill. Generally, community solar systems are open to all residential users and small businesses in an established service area as long as the local power company approves the project.

Here's a quick rundown of how solar community projects can benefit renters:

The main disadvantage of community solar projects is their limited availability. According to a Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) market report, the U.S. installed over 20,200 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity in 2022, but community solar only accounts for 1,014 MW.

New York is the leading community solar state, representing 52% of the capacity installed in 2022. Other states currently working on community solar development include Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia, New Mexico, Delaware and California.

If you live in a state with a deregulated power sector, you can choose your electricity provider. While the local utility company charges a transmission and distribution fee for using its power lines, you can pick your energy plan. Rather than traditional electricity generation with fossil fuels, green energy plans generate electricity with renewable energy sources.

Green Mountain Energy and NRG Energy are two of the largest providers of clean energy plans in the U.S. Green Mountain Energy focuses exclusively on renewable electricity plans, while NRG Energy offers traditional plans that combine fossil fuel and renewable generation. However, each company's service area is limited to the following states:

Keep in mind that the availability of renewable energy plans can vary based on ZIP code. You should also check each company's electricity tariff conditions carefully — you will only achieve savings if you pick a clean energy plan with a lower tariff than your current electricity agreement.

Most renters don't have the option to install solar panels, but can still benefit from renewable energy indirectly. The following are some potential benefits of solar energy for renters:

However, several factors can limit the benefits of solar energy for those living in rental properties.

For most apartment renters, the following solar power options are financially viable:

Portable solar panels offer an alternative to rooftop solar systems and don't require permission from your landlord to set up. You can place portable panels on an apartment balcony or window. However, portable panels are much smaller than residential solar systems, which limits potential energy savings. Portable panels will only produce enough energy to cover a fraction of your home, like powering your phone or laptop charger. But since these panels are not grid-tied, you can use them for other applications like camping.

Joining a community solar project is a zero-hassle option, since there is no system installation involved. Switching to a green electricity plan is also an option in states with deregulated electricity, but make sure the new electricity tariff is not higher than your current rate. In both cases, you can reduce your utility bills and carbon footprint without owning solar panels directly.

For most renters, rooftop solar panels are not a viable option because:

However, using alternatives such as portable solar panels or joining a community solar garden can help lower your monthly electric bill.

Portable solar panels are ideal for apartments, since you can set them up temporarily on a balcony or windowsill. You don't need a landlord's permission to use portable panels and you can easily take them to another apartment.

You can also join a community solar project or switch to a green electricity plan, but these options are not available everywhere.

In addition to the PV panels, a portable solar system includes five basic components:

The AC and DC outlets are required to power your appliances using a solar energy system.

Building a portable solar generator as a DIY project is not advised unless you are a professionally trained electrician.

We recommend purchasing a portable power station from a trusted manufacturer like Renogy or Bluetti, in which these components are built-in and factory-wired. In these cases, you connect your solar panels to the portable power station and the battery will start charging.

Leonardo David is an electromechanical engineer, MBA, energy consultant and technical writer. His energy-efficiency and solar consulting experience covers sectors including banking, textile manufacturing, plastics processing, pharmaceutics, education, food processing, real estate and retail. He has also been writing articles about energy and engineering topics since 2015.

Tori Addison is an editor who has worked in the digital marketing industry for over five years. Her experience includes communications and marketing work in the nonprofit, governmental and academic sectors. A journalist by trade, she started her career covering politics and news in New York's Hudson Valley. Her work included coverage of local and state budgets, federal financial regulations and health care legislation.

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