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Why HOAs Should Encourage Solar

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Jane Marsh's picture
Editor Environment.co

Jane Marsh is the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co. She covers topics related to climate policy, sustainability, renewable energy and more.

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  • Sep 6, 2022
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Owning a home arguably affords people more stability and options but doesn’t always give them the anticipated freedom. That’s particularly true if a homeowners association (HOA) governs where they choose to live.

HOA-associated rules can dictate whether a person can add a deck, place security cameras and more. Solar panels have been a recent issue with HOAs.  However, if the associations were more open to solar panels, the outcomes would likely be better all around. Here’s why.

It Would Improve People’s Perceptions of HOAs

Many people don’t have the most favorable views of HOAs. Understandably, individuals often see no point in having rules that influence what color they can paint their residences or something similarly picky. People’s feelings against HOAs are not off-base, either.

Many HOAs had language preventing Black Americans from residing in their communities. Such covenants became unenforceable in 1948 due to a Supreme Court ruling. However, homeowners in cities including San Diego and St. Louis said their HOAs still have such language in their legal documents. Even if the organizations no longer enforce those restrictions, they’re bleak reminders of the country’s history of shutting out minorities.

It’s not just the racist past of HOAs that’s problematic. People frequently use social media to call attention to some of the most ridiculous rules they’ve encountered as homeowners. They often take issue with the enormous amount of power HOAs can and do wield.

Residents Want Solar Power

Allowing residents to have solar panels would be a step in the right direction in proving HOA members can be sensible and are willing to update what they permit. It won’t smooth over all the gripes, but it can help.

That’s especially true with more Americans installing solar panels. A 2022 study showed a 30% increase in residential solar installations for the first three months of the year compared to the same period in 2021. Research elsewhere showed 36% of respondents are thinking about installing solar power. Additionally, 27% of the people in that group plan to do it within the next five years.

 If HOAs remain staunchly against solar power, they risk a continued perception of irrelevancy. Consider the people homebuyers who think of solar panels as must-haves. In such cases, individuals may decide against living in places governed by HOAs.

It Would Help HOAs Become More Sustainable

HOAs are not historically organizations that support sustainability. For example, many prevent residents from drying clothes on outdoor lines, make them put vegetable gardens in areas not viewable from the street or stop them from planting trees in their yards. However, these rules are improving in some respects.

Some states now protect people’s rights to install solar panels, even if they live in places with HOAs. Numerous cases also exist of individuals deciding to sue HOAs to get the ability to install solar panels.

Many residents already do lots of interior upgrades to live more sustainably. Since radiant heating systems can combine long-lasting flooring with continuous heat, homeowners often use those to keep their homes comfortable and eco-friendly. People can then continue their green efforts outdoors and experience ongoing savings after installation with a 5-kilowatt solar array.

Now is an excellent time for HOA decision-makers to show they’re future-focused and ready to let people install solar panels. Doing so allows them to participate in the all-important fight against climate change.

It’s also worth noting that people don’t need to go with the conventional, somewhat bulky arrays to get solar panels. Providers increasingly offer solar shingles. They work like panels but attach to the roof like traditional shingles. They’re particularly convenient to install simultaneously when a homeowner opts for a new or replacement roof project.

It’s Time for HOAs to Get on Board With Solar

Many people take issue with HOAs while being increasingly excited about the prospects of utilizing solar power. If homeowners associations welcomed solar panels rather than barring them, that shift would go a long way in benefitting everyone involved now and into the future.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 6, 2022

Not only should HOAs be on board with solar, I think they could be a powerful tool towards educating and motivating people to do so by providing legitimacy in terms of what installers they might work with, what the expected savings are, and more. I remain frustrated that the HOA doesn't allow me because I'm in a townhouse and share a roof, but wouldn't it be cool if the HOA could be the bridge to try to lessen the inertia towards townhouses to engage in that type of collective decision to embrace clean energy? 

PJ Davis's picture
PJ Davis on Sep 6, 2022

Excellent post, Jane. Thank you for sharing. 

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