Installing Solar Panels On A Townhouse

Townhouses present some added complications to overcome before solar panels can be installed and equitably shared. If the Body Corporate for the townhouse complex agrees to install solar on units in the complex, installation can proceed.

Townhouses present the perfect opportunity for owners to form cooperation under the body corporate for the installation and deployment of solar power in the complex. Bulk buying from a single managing contractor will generate significant savings and ensure that the power is equitably distributed.

The Body Corporate for the townhouse complex must consider mutual concerns such as:

  • Solar panels design selection
  • Installation orientation of the solar panels
  • Aesthetic acceptance of the solar panels
  • Power distribution via consumption meters
  • Cost allocation for the project
  • Monthly usage monitoring and accounting
  • Ongoing maintenance

The body corporate may also decide that each townhouse unit can have solar installed independently from other units but must comply with the visual standards laid down. Let’s look at some of the aspects of deploying solar panels in townhouse complexes.

Solar Panels On Town Houses
Solar Panels On Town Houses

Solar Power – What Is Defined As A Townhouse In The USA?

Townhouses are multi-level homes with a common roof and walls, but each has separate entrances, garage parking, and utility rooms. Suburban townhouse complexes can also be free-standing houses of a similar style and managed by a homeowner’s association.

The homeowner’s association or body corporate must define how common areas are to be shared and used and the rules for installing features that will differentiate or adversely affect the aesthetic appeal of the properties in the complex.

The aesthetic appeal of solar panels differs amongst individuals. It is essential that the homeowner’s association reviews and approves the type and style of solar panels installed on free-standing units in the complex.

For townhouses with a common roof, the owners must agree on assigning equal roof space to each unit under that roof. The amount of solar exposure must also be equitably allocated. It may be easier and more cost-effective to agree on a single system under one roof with separate consumption meters.

The individual units can remain grid-tied and reduce their combined grid power usage by the number of solar power credits generated by their roof-mounted solar array. Solar power can also be used to power areas of common use.

If you live in a townhouse complex or consider buying into such a complex, make sure that you know what the homeowner’s association agreed rules are for installing solar systems.

Benefits Of A Common Solar Power System For Townhouses

Whether in multi-level townhouses with a common roof or a community of free-standing townhouses, there are numerous advantages of a community-based solution to generating solar power and limiting the dependency on the grid-power.

Acting as a collective will present the following opportunities for savings:

  1. The economy of scale – more significant solar projects generate the lowest cost per kWh;
  2. Common ground-mounted solar array incorporated into the aesthetics of the townhouse complex;
  3. Roof-mounted solar panels that provide a shared power source;
  4. Converting shaded parking to solar panel arrays;
  5. Giving power to the common property from a central power source;
  6. Intelligent metering devices that can help each unit to monitor its power consumption;
  7. Centralized maintenance of the system.

Under the centralized oversight of the homeowner’s association, the townhouse community can enjoy the benefits of solar renewable energy while maintaining a backup supply from the power grid.

How Much Do Solar Panels Cost For A Townhouse?

The typical US household has a monthly power consumption of 900 kWh per month or 30 kWh per day. During 4 hours of solar power production per day, the solar panels will need to generate 8,000 Watts of solar power. At the national average of $3.00 per Watt, the solar panels will cost $24,000.

You can use this cost guideline to scale the cost of the solar panels for your energy consumption up or down. In addition to the solar panels, you will need to factor in the price of roof mounting, solar cabling, a combiner panel, a solar inverter, and a grid-tied net metering device, plus installation labor.

Don’t forget to factor in the solar tax credits and any other state or city incentives that may apply in your area. Getting a quotation done on a fully installed solar power system by a professional installer will cost you nothing and give you the best view of the costs involved and the payback period.

When Should You Not Put Solar Panels On Your Home?

If your home has an old roof that will require replacement or a roof that is too small or has a complex geometry or is often shaded, you should not consider roof solar. If you are not planning to stay for longer than eight years in your house, you will not be able to recoup your upfront investment.

The initial investment in solar power is high; even when choosing the lowest cost grid-tied system, you will need five to eight years to recover your investment. If you live in an area where the productive solar hours per day are below four hours, you should reconsider.

The Watt ratings on solar panels are generated at optimum solar radiation at a temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius). They should not give you the impression of what to expect in your location.

If your area is prone to extreme storms such as hurricanes or tornados, you should also reconsider whether a solar panel array will be a safe investment.

Are New Homes In The US Built With Solar Panels?

California has mandated that all new homes built in the state have solar power installed. Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas can be expected to follow the example set by California by 2026.

The incentive to move to renewable energy is no longer a financial consideration but an existential imperative if we are to counter the effects of climate change. The cost of solar power systems reduces quickly as the competition and supply grow.

The investment in solar will last for at least twenty-five to thirty years and will pay for itself within only eight years. The benefits are tax-free and heavily incentivized, so do not delay getting a detailed estimate done for your home.

Resources

Solar Panel Setup FAQ

How long do solar panels last?

How long solar panels last depends on their quality and how well looked after. In general, though, most solar panels will last between 25 and 30 years, with the most expensive models having a life expectancy of 40–50 years. That being said, solar panels will still produce energy after this time, although their capability will have declined significantly. 

How do you set up a solar panel system?

The first step in setting up a solar system is determining how much power you need, and planning your solar system accordingly. After this, the setup is fairly straightforward;
1. Gather all the required components together; panels, inverter, batteries, cables, etc. 
2. Find a safe space in your home to house the inverter and batteries
3. Fix the panels to your roof or a stand
4. Connect the panels to your inverter or charge controller
5. Connect your inverter to your batteries

What is required for solar panel installation?

Again, the first crucial step for any solar installation is calculating your power needs. Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to purchase the appropriate components. These include;
1. Solar panels
2. Batteries
3. Inverter
4. Charge controller
5. Suitable cables
These components are typically purchased separately according to your needs, but you can purchase ready-made solar kits that have all the components you need too.

Can I set up solar panels myself?

With a bit of basic DIY and electrical knowledge, you can certainly set up solar panels yourself, especially smaller systems. The setup can become somewhat complicated for large, high-power systems that are grid-tied, though, and you may want to get assistance from a qualified electrician. 

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