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Neighbor experiencing glare, wants me to remove panels or he will take legal action

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  • Neighbor experiencing glare, wants me to remove panels or he will take legal action

    I just had a reputable solar company in my area (California) install a system with 48 LG315 panels with enphase 280 microinverters about 2 weeks ago. My neighbor just mentioned to me that he sees high glare from about 5-8 panels for about 45 minutes per day. He expects me to have the panels relocated somewhere else on my roof so the glare goes away. The thing is that before the installation was done, the HOA approved the solar panel install plan and after the install the city approved the installation as well. I feel like we followed the rules and this byproduct of glare was kind of out of my control or forethought. I am not a solar expert. My neighbor doesn't want any other solution than me either removing the panels that cause the glare or relocating them somewhere else on my roof. He threatened legal action if I don't comply. My question is that am I really liable in this case for fixing this issue and the expense of it? If so what is the best way to proceed? Will it be very costly to relocate the panels on the roof if they are already in an array, would I have to submit the plan again to the HOA and get permission again and is the relocation procedure usually complicated? I paid a lot for the system I got and am scared it will be super expensive to modify the way it is set up. Just want some opinions on the best way to proceed with this. Thanks a lot for any help it is much appreciated!

  • #2
    Without thinking of anything. Ask yourself if you see the same glare from your neighbor's house, how would you feel? What ever go around comes around.

    You are in a HOA community so am I. That is why none of my neighbors putting solar panels on front facing roof regardless. The glare can also coming from your side roofs.

    Since you ask, it is all about courtesy and try to accommodating to your neighbor.
    Last edited by silversaver; 08-29-2016, 02:24 PM.

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    • #3
      That is quite the pickle. Keeping the neighbors happy is important. But, you did everything the right way. Maybe tell the neighbor you will plant some trees to block the glare.

      One major thing to consider. If some of your panels cause glare this time of year, other panels will probably cause glare other times of the year. If you move panels based on the current situation you will be constantly moving panels for your neighbor. If you move the panels will the glare move to another neighbor? The glare from the windshield of my neighbor's truck shines in one of my windows sometimes during the year. I never considered asking them to not park their truck in their driveway.

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      • #4
        This sort of glare issue probably comes up a lot in cities when builders put up new glass covered skyscrapers. I bet you could find some examples by just googling. I doubt the high rise builders have any liability (just a guess). BTW 48 LG315 panels sounds excellent, congratulations!

        I like the idea of trying to defuse the situation. However, if you really want to understand your legal position, it would probably take a visit to a local attorney experienced in such matters. (Also, ask your installer if they ever had to deal with a reflection / glare problem/complaint.)

        I was curious about the same possible issue when I was thinking about an adjustable ground pole mount. My installation ended up being planned as covering the 20 degree roof with panels, so probably with the shallow slope, I will not have a reflection issue with neighbors (hopefully).

        Are there any glare reducing treatments that do not adversely reduce output?

        update ... hmm, WAY TOO much to find by googling, for example, google "legal problem glare solar panel", lots and lots to read, just on page 1!, such as:

        RESIDENTIAL SOLAR PANEL USE IN CALIFORNIA AND IMPACTS UPON NEIGHBORS by Mark F. Miller

        excerpt - Nuisance (Civ. Code, § 3479) is the “unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of the property of another.” One potential nuisance impact from PV panels is extreme glare. In certain alignments, mirror-surface solar panels may direct and concentrate reflected sunlight (and intense heat and glare) toward neighboring properties. In one well-publicized example, the mirrored convex surface of a London skyscraper concentrated sunlight into a “death ray” that melted the interior of a nearby parked Jaguar. A dearth of case law exists in California as to allowable levels of heat, light, glare and inconvenience that may be directed by PV panels to a neighbor’s property.

        or, "Can we force our neighbor to move 4 solar panels" (from 2013).

        Probably installers / owners here will have had some experience too with this glare/reflection problem.
        Last edited by idnominal; 08-28-2016, 07:01 PM.

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        • #5
          Have you actually experienced the glare he's talking about? If not, I'd insist on having him actually demonstrate to you the effect. 45 minutes a day of reflection from a few panels doesn't sound like much of a nuisance to me. I agree with FFE: the problem may occur with other panels at other times of the year. As you describe it, he seems unwilling to explore any other possible solutions and just wants to take legal action right off the bat - his way or the highway. Sounds like a bit of a cranky old jerk to me.

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          • #6
            1. Find out if he has a case under private nuisance law. Less than an hour a day and a few panels sounds pretty minor. Of course this may vary with the sun's path in the sky throughout the year, so better figure out if he's going to complain about other panels in january. It may require quantitative measurements.

            2. Find out the financial impact moving the panels would have on you both in cost to move and reduced efficiency.

            Depending on what you learn, propose to move them if you are compensated fully or partially, or do nothing.

            Lots of people are willing to casually threaten legal action, few are willing to go through with the formal process. If I thought he was a particularly aggressive litigious person I would get a lawyer involved right away and have all communication go through him.

            Also you may consider whether a few degrees change in tilt would have any positive effect.
            Last edited by sunnyguy; 08-28-2016, 09:09 PM.

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            • #7
              In spite of CA being in the forefront of residential solar utilization, there seems to be not much guidance or case law as it applies specifically to glare from a neighbor's solar array as it may/may not constitute a nuisance. Your situation viv-a-vis your neighbor may indeed wind up in court. This situation has not come up in my HOA (yet), but the contingencies I've sort of planned for is to first, be proactive and try to head a problem off by suggesting solutions before approval. Second, remind solar users ( about 20% of the HOA at this time), that their neighbors will one day, probably soon, be in a reciprocal situation. Third, I'm expecting that because of the rather high solar penetration in my HOA, that we might be first to test the waters on the glare issue. I've got what I believe are decent documentation as to what happened and who said what, and some of my suggestions as to placement have been considered and a couple implemented.

              I and not an attorney, and I don't play one on TV, but the way the current CA solar Rights Act is written, HOA's can require changes in resident's Solar energy systems that reduce performance up 10% (NOT 20% as originally posted) or increase cost by $1,000. The law seems not to speak as to whether those requirements are to be applied before or after array installation/startup, or if one requirement takes priority.

              In my legal ignorance I'd suspect, because of the paucity of legal history with respect to the glare issue, that some legal minds might consider your neighbor's request to remove 8/48 = 17% of the panels as perhaps somewhat within the framework and the intent of the CA Solar rights act (but obviously more than 10%), even though that act does not speak directly or specifically to the glare issue as a nuisance.

              You might be wise to prepare to lawyer up. I'd also consider a call to CALSEIA. I'd think they have some skin in this game and a call to them certainly would not hurt. The worst they can do is hang up on you.

              In a somewhat detached way, I've occasionally wondered what's going to happen when, say for example, every home in a neighborhood or HOA has solar PV. Aesthetics? Glare? What will all the reflected light do to all the A/C bills ? Arrays may perhaps decrease A/C loads a bit on residences via roof shading. Will the net effect of glare be to add back some/all of the load that the arrays' shading reduces in the host residence ? Safety issues w/ vehicles/glare from multiple sources in a somewhat confined space ? Or, unlikely but perhaps theoretically possible (think maybe maybe in cul-de-sacs, or circular road layouts), something like a power tower effect where passing UPS vehicles would be zapped if parked in an inadvertent focal spot from a bunch of arrays.

              All a bit tongue in cheek, but still having a bit of a serious side.

              I saw a presentation once from some fenestration engineer (yes, there are such animals, at least maybe in their own mind) who was describing an initially humorous, but ultimately serious situation where the new (in the '80's) Playboy casino on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City had a rather (OK - a lot) gaudy façade of plexiglass, some of it mirrored. The plex reflected the solar radiation, and at various times due to wind or other forces, not being completely planar, also tended to be concentrate portions of the reflected and now concentrated light from some of the slightly concave (to sunlight) portions of the reflecting surface and casting that concentrated radiation onto the wooden boardwalk, leaving burn patterns not unlike those found on the recording paper used in the old Campbell-Stokes sunshine recorders, but worse yet, causing portions of the boardwalk to catch fire.
              Last edited by J.P.M.; 08-29-2016, 03:53 PM. Reason: Corrected my error in 2d paragraph - should have been 10%, not 20%, and added text to 3d para.

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              • huge
                huge commented
                Editing a comment
                How many homes do you have in your HOA?

              • tracksyde
                tracksyde commented
                Editing a comment
                I am not a lawyer and I dont play on on TV either, but I believe with the passage of Ab2188, effective 1/1/2015, the 20% decrease in efficiency you speak of was decreased to 10%. as in, an HOA's "suggestions" cannot decrease the efficiency of your system by more than 10%.

                http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/fa...arch_keywords=

            • #8
              Thank you everyone for the great responses, this really helps! I am going to do some more homework before deciding how to proceed, but the mentioned information is certainly valuable. Hopefully as time and solar progresses, this topic won't be so much of a grey area. If anyone has any more suggestions/input it is again greatly appreciated.

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              • #9
                Originally posted by sandaboy View Post
                Thank you everyone for the great responses, this really helps! I am going to do some more homework before deciding how to proceed, but the mentioned information is certainly valuable. Hopefully as time and solar progresses, this topic won't be so much of a grey area. If anyone has any more suggestions/input it is again greatly appreciated.
                Be deliberate and friendly but professional, and above all, patient when dealing w/the HOA. They can be real butt holes or real assets. Parapharsing LBJ when he was once talking about an ally building situation, better to have them in the tent with you pissing out than the other way around. Communication is the key. Just sayin'.

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                • #10
                  Can you get some photos documenting the glare?

                  A shot of the building being illuminated by glare, and a reverse shot of the panels from the point of view of the illuminated building, might be... illuminating.

                  Could the glare be reduced by an awning or screen of some sort -- or trees?
                  Last edited by DanKegel; 08-29-2016, 12:28 PM.

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                  • #11
                    Originally posted by huge View Post
                    How many homes do you have in your HOA?
                    Approximately 554 plus a few vacant lots. There are about 105-108 arrays, two of which are ground mounts. At this time, No one has mentioned array glare that I'm aware of, but given more solar penetration and probably more to do with the human propensity for pissing matches, it'll happen.

                    As a somewhat technical issue, since most or probably all decent PV panels have some type of ARC coating that will, in effect, reduce glare, even more so at low angles of incidence ("AOI") which seems to me to be the type of situation that might be most common for producing glare, Some future areas to explore might be ARC coating mods. to reduce reflectivity even more at such angles.

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                    • #12
                      Originally posted by J.P.M. View Post

                      Approximately 554 plus a few vacant lots. There are about 105-108 arrays, two of which are ground mounts. At this time, No one has mentioned array glare that I'm aware of, but given more solar penetration and probably more to do with the human propensity for pissing matches, it'll happen.

                      As a somewhat technical issue, since most or probably all decent PV panels have some type of ARC coating that will, in effect, reduce glare, even more so at low angles of incidence ("AOI") which seems to me to be the type of situation that might be most common for producing glare, Some future areas to explore might be ARC coating mods. to reduce reflectivity even more at such angles.
                      I can see maybe some type of window treatment be applied to reduce glare but if the person is getting "blinded" while walking the dog or watering the plants the PV owner may have a bigger (or smaller) fight on their hands.

                      IMO if the "glare" does not cause a traffic problem by blinding someone in a vehicle then it shouldn't be the PV owners issue because glare can come from anywhere and now can easily be mitigated with shades, polarizing tint or sunglasses.

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                      • #13
                        I'm thinking maybe the neighbor should close the curtains for 45 minutes a day. Seems a bit picky to me, but maybe I'm a better neighbor.

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                        • #14
                          Originally posted by DanKegel View Post
                          Can you get some photos documenting the glare?

                          A shot of the building being illuminated by glare, and a reverse shot of the panels from the point of view of the illuminated building, might be... illuminating.

                          Are all of your panels contributing to the glare, or only some of them?

                          Could the glare be reduced by an awning or screen of some sort -- or trees?
                          Thanks for the laugh. Humor me some more. I'd like to read about the thought process you used (as in, what were you thinking ?) that led to the idea of how to get the concerned (offended ?) neighbor's compliance and cooperation to get on his property and do anything to possibly hurt his position such as taking photos to defend against his possible litigation.

                          Read the post. The neighbor seems to have concerns about 5-8 panels out of 48. The rest are of no concern at this time.

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                          • DanKegel
                            DanKegel commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Right, I missed the 5-8 panels comment. Fixed my post, thanks.

                        • #15
                          Up at high latitudes sun angle and potential glare are quite variable over the course of the year, our sun angle varies significantly summer to winter there may only be glare for a couple of weeks a year. Since it a new system the glare could pop up at other locations at other times of the year. It may be worth spending some time with the solar tables http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/AltAz.php, you panel elevation, roof angle and the neighbors elevation. Next thing to remember is angle of incidence equal angle of refraction and then its time to do some vector geometry. to figure out when glare may be an issue. For some folks I expect the easy way is to see how often its an issue over the course of a year. A civil action usually takes a long time to get to court so you plenty of time to sse how much of an issue it is.

                          The other issue is that glare may just be a false claim from someone hwo has too much time on their hands. They look out the window and see something they haven't seen before and it bothers them, therefore they come up with reason why they don't like it.

                          Other places it can be more of an issue http://www.unionleader.com/apps/pbcs...0/newhampshire

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