Solar for Townhomes and Other Alternative Living Situations

Jenna Vasquez

Last Updated: January 25th, 2023

The last decade has seen a substantial increase in the number of homeowners making the switch to solar. If you have an alternative living situation such as a townhome, mobile home, or RV, you may have wondered if a solar panel system could save you money too, or if installing one on your dwelling is even possible.

Fourtunately, we’ve got you covered. We’ll go over the logistics of going solar with the following alternative living situations:

  • Solar on a mobile home
  • Solar on a townhome
  • Solar with a condo
  • Solar on your rental property
  • Solar with RVs or vans

Hopefully, by the end you’ll have your questions answered on if solar is possible with these situations, and feel confident making the switch to solar if it’s right for you.

Solar on a mobile home

Mobile homes offer some unique perks to homeowners on the move needing an affordable living space, but when it comes to installing a solar system, mobile homes also offer unique challenges.

One factor to keep in mind is that mobile home roofs often aren’t strong enough to support the weight of a roof-mounted solar system. In addition, mobile homes typically don’t have a concrete foundation to add to the integrity of the home.

For these reasons, the best way to go solar with a mobile home is to do a ground-mounted system somewhere on your property. One great advantage of a ground-mounted system is you can place it wherever is most convenient and receives the most sunlight, allowing you to maximize energy production for your mobile home.

Keep in mind, a ground-system isn’t easily moved if you end up moving your mobile home to a new location, but it can be done if you’re willing to pay for it.

An additional option for a solar system with a mobile home is to mount the system on a firm structure such as a shed or detached garage that is strong enough to support the system. If you have a structure like this that may be an option, talk to your solar company of choice about your options.

Solar on a townhome

Townhomes offer the unique benefits of owning your own home while not necessarily being in charge of yard or exterior maintenance, depending on your HOA agreement. Taking this into account, you may be wondering if you can install solar panels on the roof of your townhome, and if the benefits of solar can apply to you.

The short answer is it depends. If your HOA has a strict contract outlining that any exterior modifications are not allowed, you may have a much harder time getting past these limitations and getting solar on your home. 

However, if your HOA agreement isn’t clearly against it, and you have the right arguments and connections in place, you may be able to install solar on your townhome, or even convince your HOA to have it installed for the whole community.

You’ll want to consider a few factors. First, keep in mind that most townhomes have a smaller roof than freestanding homes. This means that even if you convince your HOA and all necessary parties and are able to install a solar system on your roof, you might not have room for enough panels to significantly offset your electricity bill.

This is why a better and more viable option with installing solar on townhomes is to get the HOA and your neighbors actively involved in installing solar panels for the whole community. This means the solar company will have access to the entire roof of the adjoining townhomes, and all of your neighbors will be able to take advantage of the utility cost offset that often accompanies solar.

Solar and condos

Condominiums are another form of housing where there can be some gray area when it comes to roof ownership and the ability to install a solar system to offset energy costs. If you are a single-condo owner in a multi-story building, chances are low that you alone could take advantage of the benefits of solar.

However, if you own a building of condominiums (and therefore own the roof), or if you band together with other condo owners in your building, you may be able to have solar installed on the roof, which could benefit all of the condo owners in the building.

If this scenario applies to you, consider putting together a proposal for the owner of the building outlining the benefits of solar, the cost savings available, and the logistics of how solar would work in your building. If most condo owners are on board, your chances are much higher that you’ll actually be able to get solar installed, and then split the utilities savings benefit among participating condo owners.

Solar on your rental property

Owning a rental property is definitely a nice way to bring in some extra income if you don’t mind managing additional property and tenants. The same benefits of solar that apply to your primary residence can apply to your rental property, but there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding whether to add a solar system to your rental.

The first factor to consider is the cost. Solar is typically either a large, upfront investment or a loan you pay off over time. In many cases, you will be able to pass the latter down to your tenants in the form of higher rent or having tenants pay for utilities. There may also be a connection fee to the local electric company, which you will need to decide who is responsible to pay: you or your tenant.

Another factor to consider is maintenance. Keep in mind that any costs associated with maintenance or replacement of solar panels will fall to you since you own the property and solar system attached to it. Solar panels also have to be removed if the roof needs to be replaced, which can be costly. Plus, solar panels need semi-regular cleaning and care to make sure they function most efficiently, and if you don’t have trustworthy tenants, this general care may not happen.

Basically, you can most certainly add a solar system to a rental property that you own, since the process is the same as doing it for your primary residence. However, you’ll want to think about the cost and maintenance associated with solar, especially if it’s for a property in another state that may have different regulations than you are used to, or be more difficult to maintain from afar.

Solar and RVs and vans

If you’re looking for the completely off-grid lifestyle of an RV or camper, then solar might be the easiest and best option for you to still have heat and electricity on your van. Solar systems for vehicles like RVs definitely do exist, and you can build these systems yourself if you have the time and proper equipment.

Unlike rooftop or ground-mounted solar systems, smaller solar systems for your RV or van don’t require the intense permitting, licensing, or installation process. Once you acquire the necessary parts and know-how, you can mount one of these mobile systems yourself and be on your way.

The bottom line

Going solar is an appealing option for anyone looking to reduce their carbon footprint and offset the cost of electricity, especially as these costs rise. If you’re looking to take advantage of these solar benefits but don’t live in a standalone home, hopefully you now have some questions answered on if that’s a possibility for you.

And, if you’re ready to make the switch to solar for your alternative living situation, make sure you research top solar companies in your area to find one that will be right for your budget and needs.

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