Solar Panels for Apartments? What To Expect (Realistic Options for Renters)

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Solar Panels | April 1, 2024

A visual representation depicting a young female proudly showcasing a solar panel.

Just because you live in an apartment shouldn’t stop you from taking advantage of solar energy to supplement the cost of your utility bills, which is why many people wonder about the suitability of solar panels for apartments.

Since you are renting the structure, many permanent improvements are forbidden. However, that doesn’t have to stop you, especially if the apartment has large windows.

In fact, there are a number of types of solar panels available for renters who want to cut energy bills.

Most of these options involve portable solar systems that can be situated anywhere, and deliver from a few hundred watts to a few thousand, depending on the space you have available.

This complete guide explains how renters can use solar panels for apartments to reduce energy grid dependence and save money.

Solar Panel in Apartment: Apartment Solar Panel Options

Living in an apartment block, whether you’re renting or are the owner, will probably mean that you do not possess a roof.

This doesn’t necessarily disqualify you from benefiting from renewable solar energy by any means.

Graphics of solar panel powering a greenhouse through a solar generator.

Fortunately, there are options for having a solar panel in apartment that are affordable and suitable for apartments of all sizes.

Portable systems are on the market that are designed and adapted specifically for situations where renters have decided to go solar and are actively looking for solar panels for condos.

The power output rating that they produce will be lower than most of the panels on a typical solar panel size chart, but there are some systems that include inverters, charge controllers and storage, capable of providing 1000 watts, that’s not enough to power a entire home.

Larger panels can produce the 30kwh for the average household’s energy needs, using about 20-30 solar panels.

An apartment is not going to have that amount of space available, so a portable solar panel is only going to have the capability of generating between 0.3kWh to 1.5kWh of electricity on a daily basis.

Graphics of light bulb, electronic devices, building tools, and home appliances powered by solar panel through a generator.

That won’t be sufficient to enable you to have an off-grid solar set-up but it will be able to save you money on your utility bill and help to reduce your personal carbon footprint.1

Small Solar Power System for Solar Apartments (Solar Panel in Apartment)

If you’re fortunate enough to be renting a very large apartment that has sufficient space on the terrace to accommodate solar panels, it is possible to get the permission of the landlord to install them.

The downside of that scenario is that when departing the premises, the solar system would most likely be left behind.

Leasing a system would be an alternative, but again only the owner of the property would be able to enter into a leasing agreement, and a landlord may or may not be interested even when the advantages of having a solar panel in apartment are pointed out.

Now, if your landlord is against the idea and your apartment is not on the movie star size level, there are a few options that are budget-friendly.

Option 1: Solar Window Charger

Purchase a solar window charger that hangs in the window. They work just like conventional rooftop solar panels, converting sunlight into usable electricity but does not use any sort of storage system.

Cell phones, laptops, smartwatches, and similar small devices can be charged by directly plugging into the USB ports.

Option 2: Solar Blinds

Solar blinds are a new innovation on the market and are ingenious in their simplicity.

They need to be hung on the outside of the window but are very efficient at energy conversion.

Option 3: Plug and Play Solar Panels

Plug and play solar panels offer the flexibility of being portable so they can be placed in any part of the balcony and just plugged in.

Although they can be pricey, their power output is such that they can slash up to 25% from electricity bills, paying for themselves in no time at all.

Plug In Solar Panels

No one wants to feel like they are being left behind or missing out.

The availability of plug-and-play solar panels is becoming increasingly popular and for renters, they are an easy avenue to becoming a part of the solar generation.

Here is a small list comparison of solar panels that can be plugged into any outlet and how they work.2

Type of Plug-In Panel Wattage
2 Panels 100 watts each (200W)
2 Panels 150 watts each (300W)
2 Panels 200 watts each (400W)
4 Panels 100 watts each (400W)
4 Panels 150 watts each (700W)
4 Panels 180 watts each (7200W)

Graphics of plug and play solar panel output bar graph showing wattage produced on x-axis and plug-in panel type on y-axis.

There is an incredible range of sizes and variations in power outputs so conduct your due diligence and ask yourself, “how many solar panels do I need?”, so you get the right range and quantity for your apartment.

After you have calculated what your monthly electricity output is and selected the appropriate flat solar panels to plug in, inquire with your local energy provider about their policies on portable solar systems.

Also, consult with your landlords so they are aware of your plans, and inform your HOA of your intentions as their approval may be required. Once all those boxes have been checked, and regardless of which you choose, they can be installed quickly and easily, and all generally work on the same principle.

Follow the instructions and within an hour the panels can be ready to face the sun and get to work. So how do they work?

Portable Solar Panels for Apartments (Solar Panel Kits)

Once the plug-in solar panel in apartment is in place it has the capacity to save between 15 – 25% from utility bills depending on the configuration.

Supplied with one of these solar kits is a micro-inverter to convert DC voltage from the panels to AC electricity for your premises, a charge controller, a battery storage system, and a Wi-Fi monitor to track the amount of energy generated.

A solar panel pergola array on a rooftop on a multifamily apartment building in the Bronx.

(Image: Photo by Bright Power, Inc., U.S. Department of Energy11)

All that’s required is for the solar panels to be placed in direct sunlight, and after a few minutes, it will show on the monitor’s display that it is already starting to save you money.

These can be used alone… or with the grid-tied system.

The money saved will be noticeable on your very first utility bill under a program called the Grid-Tied System.3 This is where the amount of electricity produced is deducted from the usual quantity consumed, and the next bill will be calculated based on the reduced supply from the local energy grid.

For example, if the portable kit captures and then feeds 300 watts into the plug outlet and is recorded by the electricity meter and the monitor, then that amount will be deducted from the monthly bill. If the average bill is 1,000 watts, only 700 watts would be paid for by the occupier.

As they create a fair amount of electricity, these portable solar panels are ideal for charging EVs, electric bikes, and electric scooters as well as other devices such as wheelchairs.

Related Reading: Charging Tesla With Solar Panels

In some instances, a net-metering scenario might arise where excess electricity is produced that can be credited to your account.

When you’re ready to move to another apartment they are a cinch to unplug, easy to dismantle, and lightweight enough to simply pack and cart away.

Solar Panel Windows (Solar Windows) Window Solar Panels for Apartments

Solar windows are an interesting concept that could turn the industry on its head.

Imagine if you’re frantically searching for a method of solar panel in apartment to drastically reduce your reliance on the grid and to cut your CO2 emissions but you just don’t have the space.

Innovators are developing transparent plastics that will turn any ordinary window into an energy-producing powerhouse, and once the technology has been perfected solar panels that hang in windows and block the natural lighting, will be consigned to a dark corner in a disused factory somewhere.

The technology, however, is still in its infancy. The good news is that prototypes have been produced that have provided proof of concept.

One such transparent product sticks directly onto the glass, absorbs and converts light into electricity allowing small devices to be directly plugged in for charging.

Another solar glass screen darkens in direct sunlight as it absorbs the rays and then becomes clear again when the sun goes down.

Despite some of the best brains in the industry applying themselves to discover a solution that would revolutionize the solar industry, the big breakthrough and mass commercialization could still be a few years away.

When that breakthrough happens, no matter how small your apartment, as long as you have a window you won’t be missing out on enjoying the benefits of clean solar energy and a future that is looking very bright.4

Solar Rentals (Solar Power Setup)

Integrating solar power into your lifestyle needn’t be a daunting prospect filled with hours, days, or weeks, wasted trawling through the internet to find that perfect panel.

Going solar can be done incrementally.

Solar panels installed on a rooftop of a multifamily apartment building in Brooklyn.

(Image: Photo by Bright Power, Inc., U.S. Department of Energy12)

Rather than adopting one system to power all the appliances when going for a solar panel in apartment, it is possible to get small portable solar devices to power just your cell phone.

Inexpensive, they ensure that you won’t run out of juice when you’re on the go or lost in the jungle somewhere. Solar lights are also solar additions that won’t break the bank but will save a few pennies off the next electricity bill.

Foldable solar kits are available for rent that can be easily transported for camping trips, caravans, and boats, as well as for use in the home.

These are available for rent in all shapes, sizes, and power outputs and become more than just a portable gadget when power is needed and there is nothing to plug into.

DIY Solar Panel Systems: Solar Panel in Apartment

Traditionally, DIY solar panel systems are chosen because the buyer wants to go completely off-grid and be energy independent. This is not possible for a solar panel in apartment situation due to lack of space, and the lack of a rooftop.

The realistic options for a renter in an apartment block are to configure the solar panels to their living space and their lifestyle. For instance, it is possible to rent more than one portable solar kit and have one on the balcony and attach the other panels to a railing as long as there is a solar outlet plug near each one.

An apartment complex with solar panel system installed on the rooftop.

(Image: Community Archives 9)

The accumulated electricity from both modules can then be deducted from your utility bill and contribute towards powering your home.

Solar Panels Near Me To Rent

Not every solar panel company rents out its products and not all states allow solar panels to be rented.

Some companies are concerned about the wear and tear that their products can go through when they are being transported regularly, while many more recognize the opportunity of signing a leasing agreement everywhere possible and with anyone who would otherwise be unable to afford the upfront costs of purchasing a solar system.5

Or, in the case of apartment renters who want a solar panel in apartment, the ability to have one installed. Some companies and states that provide and allow solar panel rentals for homes, as well as portable systems, are

Company State
SolarCity Arizona/ California/ Oregon
CT Solar Lease Connecticut
OYA Renewables Alabama
SolarFlow Energy Minnesota
Mobile Solar California
CitizenRE Delaware
Helio Micro California

These are just a few of the companies that rent or lease portable solar systems.

If you’re in the market to rent, search the internet to find a provider near you or inquire at your local utility company who are always happy to help, and may even have a community solution for your solar problem.

What Are Community Solar Projects?

One of the options that renters can have is the possibility to invest together in a community solar system as a group.6

With inadequate individual spaces or limited finances to install a full photovoltaic system, an enterprise such as this allows residents to either buy or lease a portion of the electricity generated from an array of community solar panels either installed off-site and controlled by an exterior utility providing organization or installed collectively by the tenants or by apartment owners on the rooftop.

The on-site model is run under a subscription model so all interested parties can sign up to be able to take advantage of the solar array. It is not obligatory to join, but it is advantageous to do so.

Every month they receive an invoice from the community or the project developer, and the credits that they have accrued from their participation in the program are then deducted from the utility bill that they receive from their electricity provider.

Solar panels mounted on rooftops of two apartment buildings.

(Image: Biatch10)

This system has worked very well for many apartment blocks, even with renters moving in and out, but still, a few states are attempting to simplify the process so participants only receive one utility bill as sometimes it can become a little confusing for some tenants.

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) is at the forefront of expanding this program to make solar power more affordable and accessible to millions of Americans by 2025.

They have partnered with the National Community Solar Partnership and are funding the National Community Solar Partnership to expand the program to assist low-income households to be able to participate in similar solar incentives in their area.7

A community solar system helps everyone in the apartment block who enrolls in it. Compared to individually renting a solar panel in apartment that will have a nominal power output, a community solar array has the capability to run more appliances and further reduce energy bills.

Solar Panel in Apartment for Renters

Just because you have a roof over your head but not a roof to install a photovoltaic solar system, shouldn’t preclude you from the opportunity like millions of other homeowners in the United States of going solar.

There are many options available now and many more initiatives on the horizon that will not have any space constraints, but will have loads of environmental and solar benefits.

Can Solar Panel Run AC?

Solar panel for ac unit is more environmentally friendly than running an ac unit from the grid.

And also running a high energy consumption appliance like an air conditioner from solar panels is a lot cheaper. Thus, answering the question, can solar panel run ac?

Yes, if the panel energy systems is adequate for the energy consumption.

Solar panel installed on a rooftop on a multifamily apartment building.

(Image: Photo by Bright Power, Inc., U.S. Department of Energy13)

When technology innovations eventually break through, what limits will there be for solar panels for apartments?

What to expect, realistic options for renters for having a solar panel in apartment will essentially be unlimited solar opportunities.

Frequently Asked Questions About Solar Panel in Apartment

Can I Install Solar Panels Myself? Should I Do a Solar Panel Self Install?

Rooftop solar panels can be self-installed, but there is a risk of not qualifying for federal subsidies and state incentives if this DIY route is followed.

Is It Possible To Put a Solar Panel on Flat Roof?

Absolutely it’s possible to install solar panel on flat roof. Racking frames need to be fixed to the roof to create the optimal angle to capture the sunlight, and maybe ballast would need to be used in case of heavy winds.

How Many Solar Panels To Power a House?

To those wondering how many solar panels to power a house is required. It has been calculated that approximately 17 – 21 solar panels are required to fully energize a home but that could vary depending on geographical location, total daily peak sun hours, and, of course, the specifications of the solar panels.

How Much Does a Portable Solar Kit Cost?

The cost of buying a solar panel in apartment can start as low as $50 for a small solar power pack to charge your cell phone, to one with a higher power output for over $1,000.

What Is the Best Way To Clean Solar Panels?

A damp cloth with soapy water is the best way to clean solar panels. But to save water in certain areas, a company is developing a fresh way to remove dust particles by using magnets.8

How Good or Bad Are Solar Panels for the Environment?

Solar power is a clean energy source that is beneficial for the environment and only has a carbon footprint at the start of production and at the end of its useful life when it has to be recycled.


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4Kerr, E. (2019, March 21). The Future of Solar is Bright. SITN. Retrieved April 8, 2023, from <>

5Alrawas, M. (2020, October 16). Why Aren’t Solar Panels Everywhere? University of Minnesota. Retrieved April 8, 2023, from <>

6Office of ENERGY EFFICIENCY & RENEWABLE ENERGY. (n.d.). Community Solar Basics. Solar Energy Technologies Office. Retrieved April 8, 2023, from <,%2C%20nonprofits%2C%20and%20other%20groups>

7U.S. Department of Energy. (n.d.). National Community Solar Partnership. Energy Gov. Retrieved April 8, 2023, from <>

8Chandler, D. L. (2022, March 11). How to clean solar panels without water. MIT. Retrieved April 08, 2023, from <>

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11Photo by Bright Power, Inc., U.S. Department of Energy. Resized. Flickr. Retrieved from <>

12Photo by Bright Power, Inc., U.S. Department of Energy. Resized. Flickr. Retrieved from <>

13Photo by Bright Power, Inc., U.S. Department of Energy. Resized. Flickr. Retrieved from <>