We live in a country that guarantees us certain “inalienable” rights, and all of us appreciate the legal struggles that have helped to secure these for us. Were you aware, though, that the state of Florida has fought and won for you the right to enjoy the sun? That’s right! You have “Solar Rights!”, and Florida says that these rights cannot be trampled on willy-nilly by any HOA or Architectural Review Committee that comes along. For those of us that live in communities with extensive exterior modification restrictions, or even Condominium communities where we traditionally had no say as to what goes on the roof, this is GREAT NEWS! Even the strictest Community Board cannot supersede your State authorized right to take advantage of solar products, such as solar tubes, solar attic fans, and solar-rejecting window films that are environmentally friendly, extremely cost effective, and completely free to use once installed!
To make this easier to digest, here is a breakdown of three of your primary solar rights:
1. You have the right to have LIGHT!
Tubular solar skylights have the ability to bring in tremendous quantities of light with a minimal roof penetration, all without significant heat gain, harmful UV intrusion, or leaks. Without a doubt one of the best of these types of products is made by Solatube International, mainly due to the fact that this technology is their invention and they continue to hold the patents on it. While communities certainly have the right (and knowing some people’s taste, the need!) to control the aesthetics of the exterior of homes in their vicinity, this cannot be leveraged to deny a homeowner the right to install efficient and safe solar lighting. An HOA can legally require it’s residents to apply for approval first or go through some other type of approval process, but the end result has to be that the homeowner is authorized to have what they want. That is their State-given right.
2. You have the right to NOT have heat and moisture trapped in your home!
Most homes in Florida don’t have adequate passive attic venting, and because of this condition our attics trap a lot of heat and moisture. This aggressive condition can raise the temperature of your air-conditioned space, while at the same time reduce the R-value of your insulation over time. As you can guess, this is NOT a winning combination. Now the State says that you can do something about it! Solar attic fans can be implemented to fight back on both the heat and moisture fronts, and the beauty of it is that you are using the SUN against ITSELF because these fans are “run by the sun.” Talk about having your cake and eating it too! Use free energy to put money back in your pocket! Again, since the state is promoting “green industries” your solar rights guarantee that this type of product is available for you, no matter where you live.
A word of caution here though. Don’t get just any fan. Look for one with Florida product approval (meaning state engineers have already approved the fan for high wind areas, like ours) and it wouldn’t hurt to have brushless motor technology as well. This will guarantee whisper-quiet performance with a much longer lifespan than traditional motors.
And while we’re talking about heat, don’t forget to take a second look at your windows. Window heat intrusion is the primary source of A/C operating cost, so make sure that you consider the best option to upgrade the energy efficiency of your existing windows. One option is window replacement, but usually this can be cost and labor prohibitive because of the need for costly demolition, clean-up, expensive replacement materials, permitting, and the list goes on and on. Honestly, there is a much less expensive and labor intensive option that can give you comparable results, and that is to upgrade the performance of your existing windows using high performance window films. Window film technology has come a long way, and is now able to act as a “smart film” that filters out unwanted heat, glare, and UV, while letting in the natural light that you want to keep. In this case too, however, there is a need to do your homework since not all window film products are created equal. Even many recognizable name brands carry films that have inherent aesthetic and composition liabilities due to the materials used. In this case, having to go through your HOA or Architectural Review Board for approval may actually be to your benefit, since most communities have (or at least should have) limitations on the type of window film allowed in order to steer you away from window tints that contain dyes or metals (nobody wants purple windows or shiny “foil” windows in their neighborhood.) In this case it helps to look for buzzwords like “dye or metal free,” or “100% nano-ceramic” to make sure that you are getting the best of what the state says you deserve.
3. You have the right to a clothesline!
Ok, I admit this is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but believe it or not by state definition a clothesline is a “solar collector,” and as such you cannot be denied the right to have one. Even though you’re probably thinking that calling a clothesline a “solar collector” is like calling a dish drying rack a “pneumatic food display dehumidifier”, it’s good to know that it’s there when you need it. Personally, I’m a bit swayed by the fact that the sun and wind can’t make my clothes Downy soft, but that’s just my opinion!
We are used to lots of sun here in Florida. After all, that’s what brought most of us down here in the first place. Isn’t it great that now Florida legislation is helping you to put all that sunshine to good use? Whether it’s keeping you hot with solar hot water or pool heating, keeping you cool using solar fans and window film, or just shedding a little light on the matter using solar tubes, the sun is now your new best friend. So go ahead! Introduce him to your neighborhood community review board. They may not like your new choice of companions, but after a bit of education and a lot of arm twisting, they won’t be able to help but admit that in the end, you were RIGHT!
For further documentation explaining your personal solar rights, see the following web resource: