Installing solar panels, whether on your roof or as a ground array, is exciting, but sometimes, it can become a battle with your neighbors, especially if they weren’t aware that you were going to it.
Complaints about glare and aesthetics, especially if you live in a residential estate or complex, are more common. Conversely, you may complain if your neighbor interferes with sunlight access to your system by adding a fence or a second story to their home.
The more common neighbor complaints revolve around the following :
- How solar panels could create a glaring problem & solutions
- How a solar panel array that is unsightly could cause complaints & solutions
- Solutions to neighbor complaints
Knowing what potential issues could arise and how to resolve them would be advantageous, so let’s look at those in more detail.
How Can Solar Panels Create Glare?
Solar panels have a glass surface that can create glare and reflect light toward your neighbor’s home at certain times, depending on the angle of the panels and the sun.
Even though most panels have an anti-glare coating, which helps them be more efficient, they can create severe glare at the wrong angle.
Imagine having a 40-square-foot rectangular mirror reflecting sunlight into your home at 2 pm; it will create an issue. While the simple solution may be to close curtains or blinds until the sun moves, some neighbors won’t stop there.
Glaring sunlight can heat a room and make it uncomfortable to be in without shielding your eyes, and here, the best way to resolve this issue is not to create it in the first place.
Do A Glare Assessment
When doing the initial assessment of the system installation, it would be wise to discuss the plan to install a PV system with your neighbors that could be affected and then determine if there could be a glaring issue.
Suppose the sun’s path over your home and the angle of the panels on the roof or the ground coincide to produce a glare that reflects your neighbor’s property.
That is an element that your installer could advise on and should be considered, especially if you have had your neighbor for some time.
Install A Dual Axis Solar Tracking System
Some systems position your panels perpendicularly to the sun and follow the sun’s path, which will avoid glare, but the cost could be prohibitive. Most solar tracking systems work for ground-based arrays, but recent ones that can be installed on the roof have become available.
While the upfront cost of such a system will be high, costing as much as $500 to $1000 per panel to install, this will significantly increase the cost of your PV system.
But, solar is a long-term investment. A solar tracker will add greater generating efficiency as it always has the optimum position to receive the most sunlight possible in a day.
Another bonus is that you are unlikely to have any complaints from your neighbor if you do opt for this route, and peace of mind, it may be worth the investment -plus, the PV system with tracking adds excellent value to your property, so a sale down the line will yield a higher selling price.
Use Anti-Glare Panels
When solar panels need to be installed near strategic points like airports, non-glare or low-glare panels can be used.
These have a different surface configuration and use pyramid-shaped surface structures to break up and diffuse the incoming light preventing it from being reflected. There is a risk of reflection; this may be a cheaper solution than a tracking system.
Can A Solar Panel Array Be Unsightly?
Solar panels are sleek, and whether in black or blue, they are not ugly or unsightly, but in some cases, adding steel and glass to natural surroundings may cause a problem and result in complaints.
Solar panel arrays are aesthetically pleasing as they are slim and sleek, and although they don’t have the colors of surrounding nature, they are not generally an eyesore. The steel and blue or black glass contrast gracefully, unlike wind turbines and solar geysers on the roof.
If there is an ocean or woodland view and your array will interfere with that, you will get complaints as one of the reasons that people have moved to that area is for the views.
While you may argue that your array is not ugly and quite sexy even, it will detract from the natural views, so if you are going to install a PV system, best do it where it is not interfering with your neighbor’s views.
This seems common sense, but we wouldn’t be discussing it here if that was the case. Some folks may not consider their neighbors when putting up a PV array, and that is where problems may arise and even lead to a legal battle.
How To Avoid Complaints About Unsightly Solar Panels
As with the scenario above, communication and consultation with neighbors and installers is the best way to avoid these types of entanglements. If you do live in a pristine area, you will undoubtedly have to consider the impact your PV system could have.
Moreover, suppose you are part of a Homeowners Association (HOA). In that case, you need their permission to install your system based on the submitted design plans, as their responsibility is to ensure the residential environment is maintained.
Where an HOA is involved, it is usually a question of communication and consultation before approval. If you are in a free-standing home, you wouldn’t usually consult your neighbors, but you may consider it a courtesy if you have a relationship with them.
Sometimes, your neighbor blocks the amount of sun reaching your solar panels, and here, you can opt for a solar easement agreement.
What Is A Solar Easement?
As a last option, you can create an agreement with your neighbor where terms and conditions dictate any elements that could interfere with your solar array. These could include the height of trees, building of walls, and even alterations to their house that could interfere, like adding a 2nd story.
This can be done amicably or legally, but usually, some compensation is involved, whether financial or otherwise.
For example, by default, let’s say your neighbor’s yard gets more sun than yours. Maybe it has fewer trees or better space that faces the optimum solar azimuth.
You could create an agreement whereby you get permission to place your solar array on their land to connect them to your system, reducing their electricity costs.
These agreements and the applicable term form a legal agreement between you and are part of the and, when correctly done, can eliminate any risk of complaints from your neighbor about your solar panels.
Some states have created solar access laws that guarantee the rights of homeowners when installing a solar array on their property, so check whether your state has these in place if you are considering putting a PV system on your property.