Solar power is not just for homeowners — apartment dwellers can save money using sunlight as well! What would be your choice: a small DIY solution? Or a community-owned solar garden? Or maybe mysteriously futuristic solar glass? Learn more about the options in our article on solar panels for apartments.
Ingenious DIY solar solutions for apartments
Going solar is more difficult for apartment dwellers than it is for house owners. You don’t have the whole roof or a backyard at your disposal, so a standard solar system is not an option. Luckily, there are many others.
Window chargers are small solar panels for apartment windows. They charge small electronic devices such as phones, tablets, and even laptops. Their power output is at around 5 watts so they can generate 25-30 watt-hours per day. They are cheap with prices ranging from $20 to $50 and pay for themselves by reducing your bill little by little.
Solar blinds cost more but offer better efficiency than window chargers. They can be installed on any window and generate up to 10 W/ft², which is about 60 watts per window. Assuming three windows and 6 peak sun hours per day, the setup could be saving you up to $120 per year based on California rates. Additionally, solar blinds reduce the amount of heat entering the room, reducing the need for air conditioning.
You can also install a solar panel outside the window, just like you would do with an AC unit. Typically, there is enough space for 1-2 modules. Those with a balcony have the advantage of replacing the balustrade with solar panels.
You may require permission from the building owner or manager, as well as an assessment of the structural integrity of the building. Remember that a standard solar panel produces DC by itself so you’ll need an inverter to use its energy for your appliances.
Another option would be to chip in for a solar garden for your house. A solar garden is a shared solar panel system in the backyard or on the roof of the building.
The cost of the system is shared among the participants. Residents own a portion of the system and receive a share of the energy generated proportional to their investments. A large system for the whole building leads to lower costs and greater efficiency through economies of scale. Solar gardens can also foster a sense of community, as participants work together to produce clean energy and reduce their carbon footprint.
Solar glass: A peek into the future
Solar panels always had a hard time in urban areas because of the shading problem. But it’s likely that we'll be using solar glass in cities a lot. This glass has transparent solar cells and it can be integrated into the structure of a building, without taking up space on the roof or ground.
Engineers are still working on improving the efficiency and durability of solar glass, but it is already commercially available. A window made of solar glass can generate up to 5 watts per ft², compared to about 15 watts of a stand-alone panel.
Solar Installation Expert
I expect the solar glass to fully replace plain glass in the near future. Solar windows for our homes and offices will be a standard, and the dream of solar-powered apartments will become one step closer to reality.
Brands and panels: Efficiency, size and looks
When choosing solar panels for apartments, it's important to consider efficiency, size, and appearance. High efficiency is essential for making maximum use of limited space. Small size is important for ensuring that the panels don't take up too much room on a windowsill or balcony. The panels could be visible from the inside and outside of the apartment so aesthetics also play a big role.
Shading is a big problem in cities. That’s why we recommend panels with high shading tolerance. Panels with half-cut cells fight shading better than the others.
Some popular brands that offer high-efficiency, compact, and aesthetically pleasing panels include Panasonic, REC, and Solaria. These brands offer a wide range of models, lengthy warranties and elegant panels that won’t become an eyesore.
Three best solar panels for apartments
Solar Installation Expert
Take advantage of community solar programs or consider pooling resources with neighbors to install a shared solar system. If impossible, look for panels with high wattage output per ft² to maximize energy production in limited space.
Panasonic 325 W — Tested by time
This Panasonic 325 W panel is an excellent option for apartment installations. With its high efficiency of 19.4%, 96 cells and compact design, it can generate a significant amount of power in limited space. With a maximum power output of 325 watts, this panel is capable of producing over 700 kWh of energy per year, depending on the location and installation conditions. The panel is also built to withstand harsh weather, making it a reliable and durable choice for outdoor installation.
REC 365 W — Solar with style
REC TwinPeak 365 W features a high-efficiency monocrystalline design, making it a great option for apartment installations. With a total of 120 cells, this panel provides an output of up to 365 W. Its compact size makes it ideal for use in small spaces, such as balconies or windowsills, and its black frame gives it a sleek and modern look.
Solaria 365 W — More than looks
This Solaria 365 W module is a premium solar panel that boasts high efficiency and a sleek, compact design, making it ideal for apartment installation. With an efficiency of 20.2%, this panel is capable of producing up to 365 watts of power, while its compact dimensions of 63.8" x 43.9" x 1.57" allow it to fit into tight spaces. The model also features a durable, weather-resistant design and an all-black appearance that is both stylish and low-profile, making it a great option for apartment dwellers looking to go solar.
Illustrations – Natalya Absalyamova