Obtaining Support and Approval
Compared to houses, condominiums typically offer more energy-efficient, eco-friendly living. Centralized water heating in our building reduces the standby losses experienced with numerous water
heaters used less frequently. Shared walls lessen the heating load of
the building. Exterior lights benefit all inhabitants, reducing individual electricity consumption. And the smaller footprint of high-den-sity buildings frees up open spaces for all to enjoy.
Despite these benefits, condo owners can find it difficult to implement
narrowly supported green efforts, like a compost pile or rain barrels in the
yard. I expected a solar system would be one of those cases. To my surprise, however, the other owners in the building welcomed our plans.
Approaching the condominium board of directors also was much
easier than I thought it would be. We learned that there were no plans
Tips for Installing Solar
at Your Condo
■ Don’t assume unused roof space is off limits.
■ Communicate with neighbors and the condo owners’
association to alleviate concerns about safety and aes-
■ Be willing to use non-roof-penetrating mounting and
out-of-view wiring and components.
■ Conserve aggressively to minimize system size and cost
■ Learn about applicable financial incentives at
to use the roof other than for mounting satellite dishes. To help
deter concerns about the solar system, we made several promises:
No penetrations of the roof membrane. Instead, to mount the
panels we used an adjustable ballasted pan system, which is weighed
down by cement blocks. That allows the panels to be moved easily
if roof work needs to be performed. The angle of the panels can be
adjusted by approximately 20 degrees depending on the seasonal
angle of the sun.
Keep wiring out of sight. All the wiring was run down the back of
the building and follows existing conduit when possible, so as to not
change the aesthetics of the building exterior.
Contain system components in our unit. Again, for aesthetics,
only the AC disconnect was mounted on the building exterior. The
outside disconnect is required by our local utility, for access in case
Kitchen cabinets conceal the couple’s inverter and electric
panel. Sarah and Kiril installed the system components in
their unit to address neighbors’ concerns about aesthetics.
A ballasted pan mount obviated the need for roof
penetrations and allows the PV panels to be moved
easily to accommodate roof maintenance.