Can Do—Even in a Condo: How to Go Solar

Solar energy can work for people living in condominium buildings. Here’s how we did it.


| January/February 2009


My husband and I never thought we could heat our Chicago condominium unit with solar energy—we don’t even own exclusive roof rights on our building. But we noticed the roof had space for solar panels and good solar exposure, and this potential was completely untapped. Our condominium unit is now equipped with a 1.7-kW solar system that generates more than enough power for our unit. Here’s how we did it.

Getting permission

Approaching the condominium board of directors was easier than I thought it would be. We made some promises to help deter the board’s concerns:

We wouldn't penetrate the roof membrane. We used an adjustable, ballasted pan system, weighed down by cement blocks, to mount the panels. This allows the panels to be moved for roof maintenance and to adjust their angle by 20 degrees depending on the sun’s seasonal angle.

All wiring runs down the back of the building and follows existing conduits whenever possible, so it doesn’t change the building exterior’s aesthetics.

Only the AC disconnect was mounted on the building exterior. This is required by our local utility, to ensure the disconnect is accessible during emergencies or to perform repairs. We found a place for the inverter and the DC disconnect inside our unit.





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