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Homeowner finds clever way to sidestep his HOA’s strict solar panel rules: ‘[HOAs] can be brutal’

“If you put in the wrong color mailbox, they practically want to put you in jail.”

Solar shingles

Photo Credit: iStock

For Virginia resident Jonathan Lockwood, the easiest way to get solar power for his home, despite a restrictive homeowners’ association (HOA), was to install Timberline solar shingles from GAF Energy, Energy News Network reports.

A popular Reddit post about the incident noted that a Virginia law called the Property Owners’ Association Act protects homeowners’ right to install solar panels

The law is meant to forbid any requirements that will make a home solar system significantly more expensive or less efficient.

However, the Property Owners’ Association Act includes a glaring exception: an HOA can restrict solar panel use if “the recorded declaration for the association establishes such a prohibition.”

Lockwood and his remodeling company’s account executive, Jim Hester, opted to avoid a legal battle with the HOA. Hester told Energy News Network, “The HOAs can be brutal in Reston. If you put in the wrong color mailbox, they practically want to put you in jail.”

That’s why Lockwood and Hester chose the Timberline Solar Energy Shingle roof system, Energy News Network says. It blends in with a traditional asphalt shingle roof, with dark, layered panels that follow the slope of the structure instead of sticking up on a raised rack. 

According to Lockwood, “It doesn’t look like a contraption from a Mars colony,” unlike the bulkier, traditional solar panels.

Despite the system’s stealth appearance, it produces 3.86 kilowatts, Energy News Network reports. That’s enough to cut the home’s monthly energy bill in half, from around $150 to $74.

The efficient, attractive system has been compared to Tesla’s solar shingles. GAF Energy’s vice president of product, Rey Holmes, is a former employee of Tesla and SolarCity, the company that originally developed Tesla’s system.

Holmes told Energy News Network that Tesla’s solar shingles took a specially trained team two weeks to install. By contrast, Timberline solar shingles are easy to install in a single day, which makes it possible to roll them out on a wider scale. 

“It has taken roof-integrated solar 12 to 13 years to eliminate those bottlenecks because, up until now, it has always been solar companies trying to make roofing,” Holmes said. “Here, it’s a roofing company making solar.”

Commenters on Reddit were skeptical about Timberline but enthusiastic about Lockwood’s success in getting around his HOA. As one user said, “HOAs are a crime.”

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