Can’t install solar on your roof? But you’re worried about your energy bills and climate change? I have 5 DIY solar panel hacks you can use around your home.
If you own your home, the roof may not be suitable for a solar installation, or the cost may be prohibitive. Let’s be honest; if you rent your home, it would be a rare landlord that would install solar panels for you.
At the time of writing, according to I Property Management;
36% or 44.1 million American households rent their homes (Source; ipropertymanagement.com)
Unless you live in a rooftop apartment and own it, fitting solar panels isn’t feasible. But there are other ways you can use solar power around your home.
Solar Panel Hacks
Becoming more eco-friendly and using renewable solar energy doesn’t require a big home roof installation. Solar panels can be mounted on a garage, or ancillary building roof, or pergola/patio cover, or in the garden or yard.
Panels don’t have to be fixed in one spot. Portable solar panels and chargers can be used on apartment balconies. If you want to reduce your carbon footprint and thought you couldn’t, you can, with a DIY solar panel hack.
Using A Solar Charger On An Apartment Balcony
Balconies can be a great suntrap providing loads of energy potential to power devices around your apartment.
If you are short on space and have a limited budget, consider using a solar charger and power bank. Solar chargers are great space-saving panels because they are lightweight and fold down to the size of a hardback book.
You can lay or stand the charger on your balcony floor to collect sunlight and directly charge a device like a smartphone. However, if you go out and leave it unattended while charging, it might overcharge your device.
A much better way is to charge a power bank with the solar charger. There are several advantages to doing this.
- You can’t overcharge a power because it will automatically stop charging once it’s fully charged.
- As well as laying or standing the charger on your balcony, you can hang it from it. Suspending the charger will allow better, more efficient sunlight collection.
- Leaving a device in the sun for long periods will cause it to overheat and fail. Using a power bank with an extension cable means you can find a shady spot to keep it while it’s charging.
- You can charge the power bank during the day and charge your devices at night. Very convenient if you are out working all day.
- A fully charged power bank will charge more than one device at once. It can also provide illumination from a USB light or run a small USB fan if it is hot during a power outage.
Using Solar Panels And Solar Power Stations On An Apartment Balcony
While solar chargers are great for charging small electronic devices, you might want to be able to run AC appliances. You can power AC appliances using portable solar panels and a power station, also known as a solar generator.
Generators have built-in solar charge controllers and AC inverters, making them easy to set up and use. No fiddling around with wires and components. Just hook it up to a solar panel or two to start harvesting sunlight and plug in a device to charge or power.
Depending on its size, a solar generator can power most AC appliances. A small generator like the AcoPower 220Wh Solar Generator With 70w Portable Solar Suitcase will charge electronic devices, including laptops. It will run AC appliances under 250-watts such as a;
- Mini Fridge
- Electric Razor
- Light Bulbs
- Electric Blanket
This type of generator is small, lightweight, compact, and perfect for use where space is premium. The accompanying solar panel can be laid flat, stood up, or hung from the balcony and folds to the size of a briefcase.
More extensive balconies can accommodate larger solar generators requiring more than one solar panel to charge them. But as well as charging electronic devices, they can power larger AC appliances such as;
- Electric Grills
- Hair Dryers
- Coffee Makers
- Power Tools
Again it depends on the size of the solar generator, but the more powerful they are, the larger and heavier they are. This is Illustrated in the Allpowers Solar Generator range.
Even if it is rented, living in an apartment won’t stop you from becoming a little more energy self-sufficient. But if your apartment. doesn’t face the sun or is shaded during the day, solar power won’t work for you.
I know a solar charger or generator won’t deliver the energy-saving and CO2 reducing benefits as a total solar installation. But it will help, be practical, and might save you a few dollars in the process.
Mounting Solar Panels On Your Garage Or Ancillary Building Roof
While a solar charger or generator is much easier to set up and use. DIY installing solar panels on your garage or ancillary buildings is an excellent way to harness renewable energy.
Keeping a battery bank and a charge controller in the garage with several solar panels mounted on its roof. Coupled with a 3000w pure sine wave inverter would be quite a powerful system.
It could power lights, tools, the lawnmower, a refrigerator, a TV, boil a kettle, etc. The panels could be screwed-down solar suitcases or rigid panels like Rich Solar’s but mounted in frames.
Sounds like a natural eco-friendly man cave, doesn’t it?
The Options If You Rent Your Property
You might be reluctant to do this in a rented property, but you could use a solar generator with portable solar panels. You would not mount them on the garage roof because you would have to fix them down.
But you could place them at ground level in a convenient space facing the sun and use a solar generator. The big drawback would be having to store them in the garage. Then take them out and reposition them every time the generator needs recharging.
Mounting Solar Panels In Your Garden Or Yard
When considering this DIY solar option, think about the amount of space it might take up in your garden or yard. Will it impact your family’s outdoor life because the area was already limited?
Because the solar panels will be ground-mounted in frames, will there be a problem with shade from overhanging trees? Will the sun fall on the panels between 11am and 4pm? This is the best time of day for solar collection.
If your garden or yard is large enough and the shade and time of day for sun collection fit, then you’re in business.
Your next challenge will be where to position the batteries and inverter? If you keep them outdoors, they will need to be kept waterproof. A large plastic bin would work or fashion a wooden container, but both methods require ventilation.
If there is frequent flooding in your area, it would be better to locate them indoors. You could utilize a garage, basement, shed, or outhouse, preferably positioning higher than floor level.
A Garden Or Yard Installation In A Rented Property
Mounting solar panels in this way if you are renting will depend on how long you intend to live at the property. A more transient rental would dampen the appeal, but it could prove to be an excellent option for a longer-term rental.
You would probably have to contact your landlord and get their permission. Failing that, you could always use the portable solar panel and generator option.
Installing Solar Panels On A Pergola Or Patio Cover
This is an excellent DIY solar installation option, but your immediate challenge will be orientation and weight. Does your existing or intended pergola or patio cover site face the sun? Will an existing installation take the weight of the panels?
A new pergola or patio cover will probably require a permit;
J & W Lumber pretty much covers it in this article; Do I Need a Permit to Install a Pergola?
If your existing pergola or patio cover faces the sun, it is worth installing solar panels on it. The roof can be made from plastic, metal, or wood, depending on the construction. But installing glass and metal solar panels could pose a problem regarding weight.
A typical 100-watt solar panel can typically weigh around 16lbs and a 200-watt around 26lbs. But you don’t want to be put off by that if your current pergola roof is made from a lightweight material. Because you can use flexible solar panels.
For instance, Renogy flexible solar panels weigh;
- 50-watt: 2.87 lbs/1.3 kg
- 100-Watt: 4.2 lbs/1.9 kg
- 175-Watt: 6.2 lbs/2.8 kg
But before you go right ahead and fit the panels. I would check with your local building department that you don’t require a permit. I know it sounds crazy, but I would make sure.
My Closing Thoughts
Solar power can be difficult to install without the required roof space, even if you own your home. So I hope my hacks have helped with practical ideas for you to become more energy self-sufficient.
With the cost of fossil-fuel technologies rising very quickly, having a DIY energy generation backup may prove crucial. I am not a survivalist, but I recognize the world of electricity production is changing.
Any way of reducing the long-term cost of home energy will keep dollars in your pocket. And smaller solar power solutions will help reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and improve air quality.
It is challenging to utilize solar power when renting your home or living in an apartment because you can’t have a complete solar installation. Still, it is possible with a solar charger and generator like the Allpowers at affordable prices.
I hope you enjoyed this article and have found it helpful. If you have any questions about applying solar solutions around your home. Or want to leave your own personal review, please feel free to leave a comment below.