Pros and Cons of Solar Energy
More and more solar panels are covering rooftops. Not just on homes, but on commercial buildings, larger areas used by utility companies, and even recreational vehicles. According to data released from Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the United States has more than 2 million solar installations. We don’t predict installations will slow down any time soon. Installing solar panels on your home is a substantial investment. It’s essential to get as much information as possible during the decision-making process so that you understand the pros and cons of solar energy.
So, you’re likely wondering if solar is right for your property. You may have even dodged an enthusiastic solar salesperson once or twice in recent months. The media circulates a lot of solar myths. This guide will help you wade through all the information and get a clear picture of what solar energy is and what it isn’t.
Pros and Cons of Solar Energy: Weighing Both Sides
We only collect a tiny fraction of the power emitted by the sun. However, that small amount can have a significant impact on the private economy and global environment.
Some critics say solar energy is inefficient and expensive, but the advantages offered by solar panels can be incredibly rewarding. Thanks to emerging technologies, competitive pricing, and solar panel grants, solar power has become a primary source of energy for many homes.
Regardless of the promising outlook for solar energy, it’s important to consider its downsides. Let’s first dive into the pros of solar energy, then take a look at some disadvantages.
The Big Benefits of Switching to Solar Energy
Solar energy is an inexpensive, clean renewable power source available anywhere the sun hits the earth’s surface. Unlike non-renewable energy, the sun offers an unlimited source of power.
Here are the top benefits of going solar:
Decrease or Eliminate Your Electric Bill
This is a massive win for your home and one of the biggest reasons customers switch to solar energy. When you install residential solar panels, you generate your own electricity, which makes you less reliant on your local electric utility company.
This change can mean substantial monthly savings for you and your family. Many solar panel systems have 25-year warranties, which means long-term savings.
There’s a significant cost upfront for switching to solar, but this price is dropping due to reduced production costs and new technologies. Additionally, you make back what you invest reasonably fast.
Solar Energy Doesn’t Face the Same Rising Energy Costs
Utility companies control energy rates and, when you rely on one, there’s nothing you can do about it. Unlike phone plans, you can’t shop around. You can decrease the cost of your energy bill and avoid rising energy costs by going solar.
In the past decade, solar costs have decreased by more than 70%, while electricity costs have increased by more than 5%. This increase isn’t expected to end any time soon. Switching to solar puts you—not the utility company—in control of your energy costs.
It’s safe to assume electricity prices will continue to rise each year. The average home in the US spends around $1340 on electricity annually. Imagine those savings going right in your pocket, with additional savings for each year’s energy prices go up. Over the lifetime of solar panels, this adds up to tens of thousands of dollars in savings.
Installing Solar Is Good for Your Home’s Value
More home buyers are looking for homes with upgrades. Though millions of homeowners are interested in solar energy, they don’t necessarily want to learn about installation.
Having solar panels on your home increases its appeal to buyers. According to research from the Electricity Market and Policy Group, and a recent study from Zillow homes with solar panels sell for up to 4.1% more than homes without them.
When you live in a home, it is more an investment than a lifetime residence. Installing solar can help earn back upfront costs and then some when you sell your home.
Solar Reduces Your Carbon Footprint and Protects the Environment
Your carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to support your activities and lifestyle, directly and indirectly. This footprint is usually expressed in tons of carbon dioxide or CO₂.
Solar is a renewable, clean source of energy that can reduce carbon dioxide emissions and lower our impact on the natural environment. Traditional fossil fuels like coal and oil lead to pollutants (e.g. carbon dioxide) being released into the atmosphere and water supply. Solar energy is also more environmentally-friendly than other energy sources, like nuclear power.
Additionally, solar energy is helping the US transition away from fossil fuels, allowing us to become less energy-dependent on foreign resources. Solar energy is one of the best ways to reduce carbon emissions globally as we reconcile with the impacts of climate change.
Solar Incentives Pay You Back
Solar panel installation in the US has several incentives. Therefore, beyond generating big savings on your monthly electric bill, you can also earn money back.
Two substantial benefits for homeowners who use solar panels are solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) and net metering. These incentives allow you to earn bill credits (or even extra cash) as your system produces electricity.
You can get compensated for the electricity your solar panels generate. Check with your state to see if incentives apply. If they do, expect immediate—and long-term—returns from investing in solar power.
The Disadvantages of Solar Energy
Solar is improving each year and—though it’s getting better—it isn’t perfect. These are some cons of solar energy:
Your Roof Type Matters
Certain roofing materials, especially those used on older historic homes, can make it difficult to install solar panels. Solar panels are installed on rooftops using a mounting system that connects to the roof.
Roofs made of materials like slate or cedar tiles don’t work well with mounting systems.
Other things that can make solar installation challenging include skylights and roof decks. Solar installation companies can make some situations work, but it comes at a cost to homeowners.
If you encounter these issues with your home, you can look for alternatives, such as a ground-mounted system or even community solar. Community solar refers to a local solar facility shared by multiple community subscribers, all of whom receive credit on their utility bills for shared power production. This energy model is becoming popular in the US market and may be offered where you live.
Solar Isn’t Great If You’re Looking to Sell Soon
Solar adds value to your home but—if you plan to sell shortly after installation and don’t have the proper consultation to consider the options—it might not pay off in the short term.
If you plan to move in the next two years, you will want to think differently about investing in solar panel installation. Many solar energy companies offer creative financial solutions for homeowners, so you may be able to avoid losing money while benefiting from the installation. It’s important to discuss the future of your home with a solar energy representative during the decision process.
You Already Have Low Electricity Costs
As mentioned earlier, one significant advantage of solar energy is reducing or eliminating the cost of utilities. However, certain regions in the US have far lower costs than other areas.
If your home generates sizable utility bills each month, solar might be a no-brainer. On the other hand, if you live in an area where energy costs are reasonably low, you may want to weigh the options a bit more.
One thing to consider if you currently have low utility costs is that things are always changing. You can’t predict what your energy company will do in the future, but you can control your future energy costs with solar panels.
Solar Financing Isn’t Available to Everyone Yet
Solar energy’s out-of-pocket expense for homeowners varies greatly depending upon several factors, including tax credits, rebates, and what financing option you choose. Though you can quickly get a figure for the average cost of solar in your area, upfront costs can be substantial if there isn’t a zero-money-down incentive in your area.
Not everyone has the cash to pay for solar upfront. Fortunately, now there are many creative ways to finance solar, though, so talk with your solar representative about these options. These solutions include state-backed loan programs, leasing options, and power purchase agreements.
Weather Is a Big Factor
Sun year-round is ideal for solar, but that isn’t attainable for everyone. Though solar energy can be collected during cloudy days, efficiency drops. Additionally, solar energy can’t be collected at night.
If you live in an area that experiences long periods of cloudy days, you may not be able to become fully independent of a utility company. However, solar power can still reduce energy costs during other times of the year and you may want to consider discussing backup energy storage options with your consultant.
Solar Panels Need Space
Certain types of solar panels take up more space than others. If you need to produce energy for a large home or building, you need more solar panels. This is because you want to collect as much sunlight as possible to produce the most electricity.
Solar energy panels require a lot of space, and your roof might not fit enough panels. Some homeowners install panels in the yard, but whether this is a viable option depends on how much sunlight that area gets during the day.
Even if you don’t have the space for all the panels that you want, installing fewer can still satisfy some of your energy needs. If you want to read more about the best solar batteries, check out our blog.
Making the Switch to Solar Energy
Now that you understand the pros and cons of solar energy, hopefully, you feel better equipped to decide if solar is right for your home. We’re happy to answer any further questions you may have about the pros and cons of solar energy! Book a solar consultation to help decide if solar is right for your home.
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