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Is it worth using a balcony or terrace for a solar installation? – Tips on PV modules in small format

With the drop in price of solar cells, nowadays you can use balcony or facade to generate your own electricity with a portable solar system. The solar panels are already affordable and available for customers online or in hardware stores. In addition, many terraces or balconies offer enough space through their railings to install such a mini system. But is this strategy for saving money as well as reducing CO₂ emissions worth it? Here is some useful information that could help you as a tenant or landlord in this matter.

Why you should equip with a mobile solar system balcony and apartment

affordable photovoltaic on balcony cost and electricity bill

If you live in the city and your landlord is not willing to install solar panels on the roof, you can either consider a community solar farm or put portable solar panels on your balcony. This way you can generate your own electricity, and when you move out, take your solar panels eventual with you. If you get your electricity from a grid that is not 100% powered by clean, renewable electricity, you can reduce your CO₂ footprint by using your solar panels to power some things in your home that require electricity. You can lower your electric bill and make sure you are using carbon-free energy.

advantages of solar energy for households compared to electricity suppliers

A watt is a unit of power. It measures how much energy a device uses or produces at a given time. You need a solar panel (or battery) that can produce 100 watts to light two 50-watt light bulbs. A watt-hour is a measure of how much energy is used over the course of an hour. If you want to keep your two 50-watt light bulbs burning for 10 hours, you need a solar panel that can generate 1,000 watt-hours, or 1 kilowatt-hour (kWh). There is not necessarily a one-to-one correspondence between watts and the number of watt-hours a device can output.

Costs and advantages of mini solar systems

contemporary and minimalist architecture of building with pv modules on the balcony railings

Small photovoltaic systems and their advantages have been in vogue not only since the rise in electricity prices. With such a solar collector in small format, tenants or owners can build their own small power plant on a balcony or terrace and use it for their household. In this case, important questions arise, such as what regulations must be observed. The plant can be connected to the power grid of the apartment or house with a plug. Various names circulate in the trade for this, such as mini-PV or plug-in power plants. Strictly speaking, these are not systems, but electrical household appliances. They are designed in such a way that laymen can install them without any problems, at least up to a power of 600 watts. However, more powerful devices must be installed by professionals.

small solar panels attached to balcony railings

The electricity produced can then be used, for example, to make coffee, for the television or for the washing machine . You can use the electricity from a small photovoltaic system mainly in the household, but the generated electricity is not fed into the grid. Also for this you do not have to dig too deep into your pocket, because you can use balconies and railings for the installation of a solar system. Prices for such a solar panel vary between 400 and 800 euros. When buying, however, it is advisable to look for the seal of the German Solar Energy Society. (DGS), since this enables a high safety standard.

Is a registration as well as permission of the landlord necessary?

residential building with terraces and two installed solar panels against co2 footprint

It is advisable to obtain the landlord’s permission for the installation of such a system. In addition, if you are a tenant, you should ask for your landlord’s consent before switching to environmentally friendly solar energy and installing a solar panel. If you are an owner, you usually also have to inform the owners’ association ahead of time in order to be able to attach the modules to the balcony or house facade. After installation, the grid operators and the Federal Network Agency will also be informed. To prevent the electricity meter from running backwards, you should have an electricity meter with a backstop or a bidirectional meter installed. The changeover is usually carried out by the network operator.

Factors to consider during installation

after installation maintenance and care of solar panel by professional installers

You can also install solar panels on the balcony on your own. This does not necessarily require the help of solar installers. If possible, the balcony should face south, if you live in the northern hemisphere. Another advantage of such an installation is that you can take the PV system with you when you move out of the apartment. This system is simple, as it is not tied to the power grid behind the meter of the apartment. This means that the system is clean and easy to install.

solar panels for solar system balcony with southern exposure useful

As a safety measure, it would be ideal to have a custom support structure in the balcony to securely fix the panels. The size of the balcony determines the size and number of panels. The larger the panel, the lower the price per watt. Larger solar panels of 320 or 360 W are available, but they are quite bulky and heavy, where 160 watts would be optimal. The size of such a panel is usually 150 x 70 cm, and it weighs about 12.5 kg. An inverter with 22-60 V input voltage would be ideal to connect two panels in series. You can also use microinverters instead of normal inverters.

When the storm of a solar system can supply balcony and apartment.

environmentally friendly construction of buildings with solar panels

Since photovoltaic generates energy, there should be a way to store it as direct current. The inverter converts direct current into alternating current. A battery that stores energy should also be connected to the system. A charge controller for the solar panel is required for any such system rated at 12 watts or higher. However, when clouds are present, electricity production will decrease by 20-30%. Since the sun moves continuously across the sky, the optimum tilt angle does not last more than 1-2 hours per day. Therefore, true 100 W of power is rarely generated from a 100 watt panel. So how much you can power from your balcony depends greatly on the location and the amount of sunlight your outdoor area receives. By comparison, a portable solar panel can charge your smartphone after a day in the sun.

Economic Payback

worth mini balcony solar system test with battery and socket with inverter

The financial payback period for a solar system on a balcony is typically 25 years. The average system cost would be about 1000 euros. The system would generate an average of 543 kWh of energy per year. If the modules had been on the roof, the entire calculation would have been different. The energy production on the roof is much higher than on the balcony. Therefore, a solar system on a terrace or balcony definitely has its own limitations. The financial payback of the system is quite long due to the relatively small solar installation. However, considering the light conditions of a balcony, the investment might be worth it.

How long can appliances be powered by solar energy?

common household appliances and cell phones with power from solar system balcony charging by converted energy

A solar panel on the balcony can power appliances with about 400 W for about 6-7 hours, or power in a medium-sized house with LED lights. Two small 160-watt PV panels placed on a balcony can provide 10-190 watts of power depending on the weather and time of day. You can use them accordingly to consume various home appliances. If there is no power consumption, the surplus goes to the municipal grid. In addition, with solar panels and a battery on the balcony, you can use a solar-powered charging station for electronic devices such as laptops, phones, wireless earphones, a few 12 V emergency lights, etc.

modern solar system balcony with glass roofing

According to experts, a small solar system on the balcony can produce about 10 to 20 percent of one’s own electricity needs. In an example calculation by, the annual savings for a south-facing standard module with an output of 300 watts is an approximate saving of 60 euros per year. This applies to 200 generated kilowatt hours and an average electricity price of 30 cents. So you can’t be completely self-sufficient with a solar system on your balcony, but it will at least help you save money in the long run. However, it can take five to nine years to pay off the initial cost.

Tips on batteries if you are using balcony or facade for a solar installation.

mini balcony solar system with storage buy cheap and produce electricity

Batteries are expensive, whereas a solar panel also needs one, but this also explains the long payback period. The power generated by the panels on the balcony is limited because their number is smaller and they have limited exposure to the sun. There are certain tips to optimize power generation. Adjusting the tilt of solar panels according to the seasons helps to generate more electricity. It is easy to adjust the tilt of panels mounted in a balcony. Small adjustments can be made hourly, daily or monthly. Sometimes the maximum is to adjust the angle two or four times a year. Since solar panels are very close to each other, they can also be cleaned regularly. Dust and dirt on the panels cause a loss of 1% of the generated energy. Without proper washing, the loss is about 4-6% in dry, dusty, high traffic areas.

small scale solar panel installed on facade of old house made of wood

By choosing a low voltage DC system, you can also save on energy and money. Solar panels generate direct current, and inverters convert this direct current into alternating current. It is converted back to DC for certain devices that run on DC internally. However, inverters perform DC-AC-DC conversion, which could result in significant energy loss. Therefore, connecting the DC generated by solar panels to either DC devices or DC batteries for storage can prevent further energy loss. A DC system multiplies electricity generation by 1.4 times. Fewer solar panels are needed and there is no need to purchase a DC/AC inverter, which can also save money.