Solar Self-Reliance: Find out how to Generate Your Personal Solar Energy When Renting

Solar Self-Reliance: How to Generate Your Own Solar Power When Renting

Installing solar panels is a great option for homeowners looking to cut their utility bills, and the payback period can be as little as a handful of years in favorable conditions. However, due to lack of space, tenants and apartment owners cannot use a typical solar power system; tenants in particular also have to negotiate with their landlords. A portable and easy-to-install miniature solar system may be a better option in these cases.

Rooftop solar panels can greatly reduce your utility bills, and you can add solar batteries to store solar energy for the night. However, since most systems are tied to the local power grid, you must meet many technical requirements and obtain a permit for the solar system on your property. The initial investment and paperwork are not a problem when installing solar panels in a home, but they are a limiting factor for tenants.

If you don’t own your home or apartment, you may have little incentive to invest in improving someone else’s property. Even if your landlord gives you permission to install solar panels, the decision only makes financial sense if you plan to rent for a very long period – longer than the solar payback period. Also consider the following factors:

  • If your lease ends, your landlord may not be ready to buy the solar panels you have installed.
  • Moving rooftop solar panels to another home is difficult and you will need professional installation and further approval for the new property.

There are many types of miniature solar systems that can be installed without the complex requirements and approval procedures of more permanent structures. These systems are an excellent option for renters because moving them to another property is as easy as moving your TV.

Solar benefits for non-homeowners

Regardless of their size, solar panel systems offer one common advantage: they generate electricity from sunlight and reduce the amount of electricity you have to pay your utility company each month. Solar energy also lowers your home’s environmental footprint, especially if you live in an area where most of the grid electricity comes from fossil fuels.

Homeowners enjoy a few additional benefits when they install a traditional solar system, including:

  • Your property becomes more valuable, and many states do not impose increased property taxes on the portion of home value that equates to solar panels.
  • Homeowners also qualify for the federal government’s 26 percent solar tax credit as well as additional incentives from state governments or utility companies.
  • Approval and grid connection requirements must be met, but as soon as the PV system starts operating, it will provide electricity for decades with minimal maintenance.

While mini solar panel systems may not qualify for these perks, they do have their advantages when compared to rooftop systems. For example, they are much easier to install without a permit and are much easier to maintain. Small solar systems also have a lower price and are easy to relocate.

The electricity cost savings from a rooftop solar panel are much higher, but that’s because they are much larger. Many homeowners use solar PV systems from 6 kW (6,000 W), while very small systems often only generate up to 100 W. As expected, the corresponding costs for solar panels vary widely: A 6 kW solar system can cost around $ 18,000 (before incentives) to install, while a miniature 100 W system can cost less than $ 300. However, every dollar invested is earned back many times over in both cases.

How to use solar energy when renting

There are several options for tenants who want to use solar power. These include:

  • Pluggable mini solar systems
  • Off-grid solar and battery systems
  • Portable solar panels
  • DIY solar setups
  • Device-specific solar modules

Pluggable mini solar systems work just like rooftop PV systems – they plug into your home’s wiring and synchronize with the voltage and frequency of your utility power – only on a smaller scale. The power generated by a mini pluggable system is usually enough to power multiple electronic devices and LED lights, but not high-powered devices such as air conditioners and washing machines.

When deciding whether a solar plug-in mini-system is right for your rental property, you should consider the following things:

  • Plug-and-play solar modules are not subject to the approval and connection regulations of a conventional roof installation and can simply be connected to a suitable socket.
  • NOTE: When using pluggable solar modules, you must ensure that the socket used has a circuit with sufficient capacity and an adequate circuit breaker. Otherwise, you could cause an electrical fault.
  • Since this type of panel connects to the property’s electrical system, it is recommended that you ask your landlord for permission before investing in one. You should also ask an electrician to check the outlet you are going to plug the panels into to make sure it has adequate capacity.

Off-grid solar modules and solar battery systems are completely off-grid, making them a popular option for remote or rural locations with no electricity. In such systems, one or more solar panels are used to charge a battery or a solar generator with USB charging sockets and sockets for small devices. These off-grid systems are also a viable option for tenants, as they are completely self-sufficient and are not connected to the public power grid.

Portable solar panels are popular for camping, but can also be used by tenants to power small devices. These are some of the smallest solar panels available and they are only a few watts of power. Their main purpose is to charge smartphones, tablets, and other tiny USB devices, and many of them have built-in LED flashlights.

DIY solar panel setups are also an option. You can shop online for compatible solar modules, inverters, batteries and solar charge controllers and then put together an individual system according to your needs. Remember, however, that you must have at least a basic understanding of electricity to safely and successfully install a homemade solar system.

Device-specific solar modules are also a sensible option for tenants. You will find many devices with built-in solar panels that do not depend on an electrical outlet to operate. For example, you can install solar powered outdoor lights for your garden or balcony, or use a solar air conditioner or fan to provide extra ventilation during the hottest hours of the day.

Advantages and disadvantages of small solar systems

Like any device, miniature solar systems have advantages and limitations. They cost less than traditional roof systems and are easier to install and move. Just keep in mind that they cannot power larger devices, which means their electricity cost savings are small.

The following table summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of the most common types of miniature solar systems:

Tenant-friendly solar system



Typical price

Plug-in solar system

– Easy to install
– Can be plugged into a normal socket

– Only works when connected to the mains

– You need a dedicated circuit and breaker with sufficient capacity

$ 1,500 for a 600W solar system

Off-grid solar system

– Can charge batteries or generators that can be used after sunset

– Completely independent of the power grid

– Batteries add significant system cost if you want high energy storage capacity

$ 400 for a 100W solar panel with a 24,000mAh battery


– Easy to carry

– Can be used for camping and other trips

– Restricted use: charging smartphones and other small devices

$ 100 or less for a 30W foldable panel

DIY solar

– You can create a custom system that suits your needs

– Basic knowledge of electrical engineering is required to build a safe system

Variable, depending on the components used.


– Easy to install

– The solar panel is often included in the price of the device

– You can only use the solar panel to power a device or device

Variable, depending on the device

Miniature solar power systems are designed for small, low power consumption devices such as LED lamps and electronic devices. If you are a tenant and want your savings to exceed what is possible with small solar kits, you can consider joining a community solar project near you.

  • These projects usually have two membership options: buying a share or paying for a monthly subscription.
  • In both cases, you are entitled to part of the kilowatt hours produced by the system, which will be deducted from your invoice.

Another benefit of community solar is that you can move freely to another apartment or house. Since the solar modules are not located where you live, you can usually assign the electricity savings to your new address.

Products that help tenants maximize solar energy

There are many brands of miniature solar kits out there, but you should look for a reliable supplier like Sunboxlabs. Since this is electricity, it is highly recommended that you buy high quality products to avoid accidents. Before purchasing a solar panel or related component, make sure it has an electrical certification mark such as:

  • UL (Underwriters Laboratories)
  • ETL (Intertek)
  • CSA (Canadian Standards Association)
  • CE (European conformity)

You can look for a solar kit that has all of the components in it, such as this WindyNation 100 watt solar panel kit. Alternatively, you can purchase compatible parts separately and build your own system. Here are some recommendations:

Remember, you will also need cables to connect all of the components together and read all of the instructions carefully to ensure safety.


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