Going solar easily comes to mind if you’re moved by Greta Thunberg’s recent emotionally charged speech at the United Nations climate action summit. Aside from helping the environment curb carbon emission, solar energy use could significantly reduce your electricity bills. However, Home Owners Associations or HOAs in some states may not allow you to install solar panels either because they have a limited understanding of its benefits or they simply just don’t like the idea. As a homeowner who wants to reduce your carbon footprint and reap the benefits of going solar, there are workable things you can amicably do to possibly encourage your HOA to consider the use of solar energy.
- Determine solar access laws in your state – States have varying laws on solar rights and easements. Use the Community Associations Institute’s interactive map to find out if your state has laws that protect your rights as an HOA resident to install and use solar energy systems. Keep in mind that even if there’s a state law that protects your rights to go solar, you still need to get approval from your HOA.
- Find out why your HOA doesn’t want to go solar – Safety, property values, and aesthetics are some of the common reasons why an HOA might restrict or prevent their residents to go solar. Learning and understanding the specific reasons behind your HOA’s solar policy restrictions may help you come up with other solar energy options. Although an HOA is a private organization that makes its own rules, you can take action to influence a rule change as a resident.
- Encourage policy change through writing – If you think your HOA solar policies are unreasonable, you may want to collect relevant information about state laws and the factual benefits of going solar and put them into writing. The Solar United Neighbors organization suggests using this Sample HOA solar guidelines and the solar energy devices guidelines used by the Lakewood Cove HOA to support your claims.
- Educate and encourage neighbors to go solar – Find out who among your neighbors want to go solar to reduce electricity costs. In a small gathering, you may want to share with your neighbors the possible ways they can install, and eventually benefit, from using solar energy systems. You may also want to do a signature campaign if the majority of the residents want to loosen the HOA solar policy restrictions.
- Negotiate with the HOA Board – After learning and putting “solar facts” into writing and encouraging your neighbors to go solar, it’s time to bring the matter to your HOA Board. Clearly explain to the Board the facts and benefits of going solar and ask the Board to study some model policies and adopt some changes. As you negotiate, you may encounter frictions with the Board and that’s normal. At this point, it’s critical that you maintain your negotiations as amicably as possible. If you believe that your HOA policy restrictions do not comply with the state’s solar access laws or the HOA’s Architectural Review Committee is strict with its policies, you may want to become an HOA board member and advocate solar energy use to your community.
The notable benefits of using solar energy
Depending on the state where you live, installing a solar panel system can significantly reduce your electricity bills. Based on the national average electricity rate as of April this year, a typical family spends just over $1,856 every year on electricity bills on average. Solar energy provider EnergySage has a solar calculator to give you a rough estimate of how much you can save if you decide to go solar. Simply find your home on the map and enter the estimated amount of your monthly bill.
A solar panel system is an investment that requires minimal maintenance, it protects you from the changing price of electricity cost. A home that has a solar panel system tends to get good appraisal ratings.
Most importantly, going solar protects the environment as it reduces carbon emissions from power plants. A two-person household that uses a solar power system can cut their annual carbon emissions by 3 to 4 tons.
Thunberg criticized world leaders for not taking enough actions to curb carbon emissions
In September, the 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist Thunberg lambasted world leaders in her emotionally-charged speech for not doing enough actions to curb carbon emissions by 67 percent. Thunberg believed that reducing carbon emissions in half in 10 years is not enough. “So, a 50 percent risk is simply not acceptable to us – we who have to live with the consequences.”
Final thoughts on going solar
Saving money and the environment in general are some of the notable benefits of going solar. If you live in a community governed by an HOA, you might face some restrictions if you want to set up a solar energy system in your home. However, there are amicable things you can do to possibly encourage your HOA Board to amend existing policies to pave the way for solar energy use.