Homeowner associations (HOAs) help protect homeowners’ investments in a neighborhood. They create covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) that shape how residents can use and alter their properties. Historically, some HOAs have tried to prevent residents from installing solar panels. Typically, this is because they want to maintain a uniform appearance throughout the neighborhood. However, today there are solar access laws in Oregon protecting homeowners’ rights to install PV panels on their homes.
Thus, Oregon HOAs cannot prevent members from installing solar energy systems on their homes if they meet all required health, safety, and performance standards. But, they can establish “reasonable” rules related to the placement and size of solar equipment and aesthetic preferences.
For example, homeowners may need to conceal the wiring running down from the rooftop solar array, so it isn’t visible from the street. If the solar panels are visible from the front of the home, it might be necessary for them to be flush-mounted on the roof, not pitched at a steeper angle. Also, it might be prohibited to have the panels placed above the roofline of the house.
All of these items are typically easy for our solar installation technicians to achieve. However, despite solar access laws in Oregon and Washington, it might still be necessary to receive written permission from an HOA before going solar.
How can I comply with my Homeowner Association CC&Rs for solar panels?
In some cases, HOAs might not be aware of solar access laws in Oregon. If this is the case, providing them with this link to that statute can be helpful. Solar Oregon and Northwest Solar Communities also created a useful resource called HOAs & Solar: Policy and Template Resolution. It has information on HOAs, solar energy, and CC&R recommendations. Unfortunately, opinions sometimes vary on what are considered reasonable rules, causing conflict within the association or between HOAs and residents.
If your HOA has rules regarding the installation of solar panels, please let us know. At Smart Solar Energy, we are happy to take the HOAs input into account when designing the solar system. For example, we can install sleek, all-black panels that blend in nicely with roofs and install the panels symmetrically. Also, we can have the conduit run out of sight from the front of the home.
Are most HOAs opposed to solar energy installation?
According to the Oregon Department of Energy, most HOAs support solar panel projects, and few have tried to stop them. In fact, installing solar panels raises property values, which is positive for the neighborhood in general. Often, solar homes also sell more quickly than non-solar homes, which is a positive thing for the community.
Many of your neighbors may be concerned about climate change and support actions to minimize greenhouse gas emissions. If your solar energy system has batteries, it also avoids the need to run a noisy and polluting generator during a power outage, which neighbors will likely appreciate. In addition, solar energy systems make it cheaper to operate because they can have virtually no electricity bills!
Can I install solar panels if my home is a historical building?
In some towns with historic homes, there are requirements to preserve the historical feel of the neighborhood. Begin by determining if your home has a historical designation. If you live in Portland, Oregon, this information is available on the city website.
If your neighborhood does have special zoning, there might be limitations on where you can install solar PV modules. For example, you might be prohibited from installing solar panels that are visible from the street. However, it might be possible to mount your solar energy panels so they are only visible from the back of the house.
If this is the case, please let us know during your free solar audit, so we can plan accordingly. The Smart Solar Energy design team will take this information into account.
How can HOAs encourage solar installations?
Because solar makes homeownership more affordable, increases property values, and protects the environment, many HOAs want to encourage solar deployment. If you want to promote solar installations in your neighborhood, here are some suggestions from A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: Encouraging Deployment Through Community Policies and Practices by the Solar Foundation.
- Improving processes and rules through understanding the technical aspects of solar energy and how restrictions can negatively affect a system’s performance
- Improving the clarity and specificity of association solar guidelines and making them easily accessible to homeowners
- Convening stakeholder meetings to produce practical guidelines that accurately reflect the needs and values of the community
Solar Oregon also recommends “that HOAs expressly address solar PV in their CC&Rs so that future requests for approval of PV installations may be addressed quickly and fairly.”
How do I obtain a permit for my solar system?
Before installing a solar PV system, it is essential to obtain permission from the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), which is different from an HOA. In Oregon, solar permit requirements, building codes, and applicable fees may vary by location. Also, some towns may have local ordinances in addition to following electrical codes, so the exact requirements vary.
In many areas, including Portland and Eugene, an inspection is required after the solar panel system is installed. Also, there is a solar permitting fee that varies by town and size of the project. In Salem, Oregon, the minimum permitting fee is $67 for a small solar PV system. Hillsboro, Oregon exempts renewable energy systems from city permit fees.
However, Smart Solar Energy handles solar permitting, inspections, and fees, and we will make sure it is done right. Our goal is the make the solar installation process as simple and easy as possible, from start to finish.
Want to learn more about installing solar panels on your home? Sign up for a home PV audit with Smart Solar Energy!