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The Good Fight for Solar in Homeowners’ Associations

install solar panels on your second/vacation homeThere aren’t many reasons not to get a solar PV array installed on your rooftop, and a number of reasons to consider the clean, free, renewable energy solar panels provide. But if you live in a gated community or a development with a homeowners’ association, it may not be as easy as a phone call to a local solar installer. (Who you found right here on EcoOutfitters.net, of course, after you signed up for your free solar savings report.)

While almost half of all U.S. states have made regulations against solar panels illegal by homeowners’ associations, that still leaves residents in 26 states, including sunny Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas, with a potential need to fight for their right to solar energy.

It happened recently in the Covington area of Louisiana, where a family on a fixed income installed a $60,000 solar PV array to lower their monthly electric bills, which often approached $500/month. Thanks to Louisiana’s generous solar incentives, the homeowner will receive 80 percent of that money back in tax credits and refunds, but it will all be a moot point if the homeowners’ association prohibits the panels.

The complaint, in this case, was that the homeowner did not first clear the installation with the homeowners’ association. The homeowners’ association does not specifically prohibit the installation of solar panels, but the homeowner is being sued because he did not submit the plans to change the exterior of his home to the Architectural Control Committee.

Lessons Learned
Key takeaway? If you live in a community with a homeowners’ association, get all plans for a solar PV installation approved prior to installation. In this case, it’s not necessarily better to ask forgiveness instead of permission.

But what if your homeowners’ association says, “No”? It can happen. Make a strong case for solar, and get your neighbors to sign a petition stating that they won’t mind the panels on your roof. (You might let your neighbors know about the benefits of solar, and then work to change policy together! Ask your solar installer about referral bonuses, too, if you get a few of your neighbors signed up.)

Why (Some) Homeowners’ Associations Don’t Like Solar Panels
One of the primary complaints against solar panels is that neighbors claim they are “ugly.” However, in most cases we read about online, it’s the homeowners association executives, not the neighbors, who were against the solar panels — even in cases where the homeowners faced lawsuits because of their solar PV installation.

Another complaint, completely unfounded, is that solar installations can lower property values. In fact, studies show that solar panels increase property values. And if you know anything about real estate, you know that home appraisal values are determined, in part, by the value of surrounding homes. So a few solar PV installations on a block can actually drive home values up in the area.

The truth? Many homeowners associations are steeped in tradition and slow to change. They do things one way because it’s the way they’ve always done it. Like many people, the organization collectively fears the unknown.

The best way to win the battle is with facts and information. Twenty-four U.S. states currently prohibit local regulations interfering with the installation of solar panels. Mention this when you make your case. The U.S. government supports solar energy with incentives and tax credits. The right to clean, free energy is a right worth fighting for.

Post Written by
A full-time freelance writer, Dawn frequently covers energy efficiency, green living, and topics like LED lighting and whole home control systems for a number of blogs and technology trade magazines. Dawn is proud to live in New York as the state vies to beat out New Jersey as the East coast top dog of solar energy and is waiting for the Solar Renewable Energy Certificate legislation to pass before installing solar panels on her Long Island home.

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