Photo by Jon Styer/Eastern Mennonite University
Homeowners across the United States are reducing their electricity costs and their carbon footprints by installing solar. For many solar shoppers, rooftop systems are the best home solar option. However, not every home has a roof that’s suitable for solar. Certain roof types, like slate and cedar tiles, are too fragile for solar panels. If trees shade your roof, you’ll have less-than-ideal solar electricity production, and some homeowners' associations and historical associations have rules that restrict solar panel installations.
Luckily, there are a variety of alternative solar options for every situation. Whatever the reason is that you can’t install rooftop solar, there’s a solution available that can suit your needs.
The roof is the most common place for a home solar installation, and for good reason. Your roof is elevated, so it’s typically exposed to the sun for most of the day. It’s also an existing structure, which can reduce your installation costs. Many homeowners who can’t install panels on the roof of their home will build a solar energy system on another building on their property. Sheds, garages, greenhouses and barns can all offer suitable locations for solar installations.
Solar carports and patio covers are another increasingly popular rooftop solar alternative. If you construct a carport or patio cover, you have an installation that both generates zero-emissions electricity and provides shade. As an added bonus, both options can be installed so that they capture sunlight at the perfect angle to maximize your solar energy production.
Even if you don’t have any roof space that can host a solar energy system, you still have options for home solar. Ground mount solar panels offer all of the benefits of a rooftop system, plus a few additional advantages. In many cases, a ground mount system will actually produce more electricity than rooftop solar, because it can be adjusted to capture more sunlight throughout the year as the sun’s position changes in the sky. Additionally, while a rooftop solar system will be restricted by the size of your roof, a ground-mounted system can be sized to meet your exact needs.
If your homeowner’s association has rules against solar panels for aesthetic reasons, or if you live in a historic neighborhood, ground mount solar panels can offer a good solution. In most cases they don’t violate aesthetic regulations as long as you install them so that they can’t be seen from the street.
If you can’t install solar panels anywhere on your property — or if you don’t own your home — there’s an option for you, too. Community solar, often referred to as “shared solar” or “solar gardens,” is a way for you to use solar energy even if you can’t build a system at your property.
Your community solar options will depend on where you live. In many cases, you can either “subscribe” to a solar garden or own a share. If you subscribe, you pay a monthly fee in exchange for a portion of the solar electricity from the array. If you own a share, you pay up front (similar to buying a rooftop system) and receive the solar electricity from your share for the lifetime of the system.
Community solar is a good option for everyone, but it’s a particularly helpful solution if you’re a renter, you plan on moving in the near future, or if your property isn’t suitable for a solar installation.
Each rooftop solar alternative offers distinct advantages, and some rooftop solar alternatives cost more than others. Regardless of which type of installation you choose, we always recommend comparing all of your options before you make your final decision.
If you’re interested in shared solar, use a database of community solar projects to find all of the options available near you. For carports, ground mount solar, and other rooftop solar alternatives at your property, you can receive quotes from qualified solar installers in your area by joining the EnergySage Solar Marketplace — just specify what type of installation you’re looking for when you sign up.
Vikram Aggarwal is the founder and chief executive of EnergySage, the online solar marketplace. EnergySage simplifies the process of researching and shopping for solar. By offering shoppers more choices and unprecedented levels of transparency, EnergySage allows consumers to select the solar installation quote that provides the best value for them, quickly and easily. Read all of Vikram's posts here.
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