Despite its numerous benefits, there are still skeptics when it comes to investing in solar power. There are many misconceptions about this renewable energy solution, and we’re here to set the record straight. Read on as we address some of the solar energy myths and correct some of the misinformation regarding this important alternative energy source.
Myth #1. Solar Panels Are Too Expensive to Install
Many people are resistant to having solar panels installed on their homes because they believe the installation costs are too high. Initial installation costs of residential solar panels vary depending on a number of factors. The size of both the home and the system are the main determining factors of the initial installation costs.
Residential solar panel systems cost anywhere between $15,000 and $40,000 for a 3kW to 8kW system. However if you’re willing to put the work in to install the system yourself, a residential solar panel system will cost between $5,500 and $12,250 for 3kW to 8kW system. While these price ranges may be astonishing, there are plenty of local, state and federal tax incentives and rebates available to offset the initial startup costs of solar systems. When combined, these tax incentives and rebates can reduce installation costs by more than 50% in some cases.
They key with reducing solar system costs is to do your research ahead of time – find out what tax credits and incentives are available to you in your city and state, calculate how much power you will need to produce with your system, and take care of any permits or pre-installation requirements. Unbound Solar specializes in DIY solar solutions, empowering you to install solar panels on your own terms, as big or as small a project as you want, and with plenty of options for custom-designed kits and scaleable systems to accommodate your exact needs. Our skilled technicians excel at planning and implementing projects of any size, and can walk you through the process from start to finish.
Myth #2. The Payback Period Is Too Long
A common myth decriers of solar energy like to claim is that it takes 25 years before you will see a return on investment in solar energy, but the truth is far different. Depending on the size of your project and the initial investment, you could start seeing an ROI immediately,
A return on investment in solar power is seen when the initial startup costs are paid for in energy savings created by the solar power generated by the system. This payback period depends on how much your initial costs were and how much energy your system can create. If you take advantage of the available credits, your actual investment can be made back in as little as four to six years in some cases and potentially less time if you install your own system.
Additionally, those concerned about selling their home prior to their solar system being paid off should be aware that solar panels actually increase a home’s value. According to the HUD, for every $1,000 a household saves on energy, the home’s value increases by $20,000. This means your solar installation cost could indeed be covered by an increase in your home’s worth.
Myth #3. Only Some States Offer Solar Incentives
Skeptics of solar power will always perpetuate the solar energy myth that only certain states offer incentives or rebates for solar installation. The reality is that virtually every state offers some form of incentive, and most states offer multiple incentives, whether it be personal tax credits or property tax incentives. In total, there are literally hundreds of available opportunities for Americans to earn credits and rebates for solar installation.
All residential solar systems are available for a 26% Federal tax credit for new installations from now through 2019.
Myth #4. Solar Panels Raise Property Taxes
Another one of the top solar power myths is that the addition of solar panels to the home will raise property taxes due to the increase in property value. The truth is that installing residential solar panels will raise a property’s value in many cases. However, most states have some form of protection in place that exempts solar power from being included in the home’s appraisal for the purposes of calculating property taxes.
For example, the California State Board of Equalization offers a property tax incentive program for Californian homes with solar panels. This program provides a 100% property tax exclusion on certain types of solar systems installed until the end of year 2024.
Additionally, many other states offer property tax credits for solar panel installation should their home’s value increase and causes property taxes to rise.
Myth #5. It’s Better to Wait Until Solar Panels Come Down in Price
Since the late 1970s, the costs of solar has decreased from around $76/watt to today’s rates of approximately $1.50/watt. This significant drop in pricing has to do with a combination of improved technology, increased consumer demand and greater availability of credits and rebates. In many states, a household can have solar installed for less than $10,000. Additionally, doing the installation yourself will save even more money.
Because the costs have dropped so significantly, and because solar panel installation is currently heavily incentivized, it’s not necessarily a better strategy to continue to wait for better economies of scale. The notion of waiting to save money is a fallacy that many people are falling for. The truth is that the cost of solar power may continue to fall, but it won’t do so as dramatically as what we’ve seen in recent years.
Additionally, many tax credits and incentives have expiration dates on them, so waiting could eventually mean a loss of funding for your solar installation.
Myth #6. You Need to Live in a Warm Climate
One of the most damaging solar energy myths is that your home needs to be located in a warm and sunny climate for solar panels to work properly. In reality, solar panels harness the sun’s energy — not its temperature. Therefore, solar panels work just as well, if not better, in colder climates as opposed to areas with high year-round temperatures.
Cold climates are also typically affected by high energy costs for lighting and heating, particularly during winter months. Solar energy can help offset these energy costs in regions where conventional electricity rates are higher. Many cold-climate dwellers are also concerned about their solar panels being covered in snow and not working properly. Solar panels in cold climates can be installed at an angle so as not to collect snow.
In terms of the amount of sunlight, cloudy climates can still see tremendous success with solar energy. Germany experiences cloudy weather regularly, but is the world leader in solar power. That’s because excess energy produced during the summer months is available in the form of credits to be used during times when not as much solar energy is produced.
Myth #7. You Won’t Have Energy at Night
Solar panels can only produce energy when there is sunlight. So, while solar energy cannot be produced at night, most systems produce enough energy during the day that it creates a surplus. This surplus is due to the system producing more energy than what the household actually uses.
In grid-tied systems, this surplus energy is sent back to the grid for homes to draw on as a credit when needed, like at night. The energy surplus also eases the demand that other households have for conventional energy.
Myth #8. You Need a Tracking System to Follow the Sun’s Pattern
A common misconception about the technology behind solar power systems is that they need to have a tracking system installed. Instead, the truth is that solar panels are properly positioned to maximize the sun’s energy when they are first installed. Therefore, they don’t require an additional tracking system to follow the sun’s pattern.
Some systems can have additional components added that allow the panels to change position throughout the day as the sun moves. However, these rarely improve energy efficiency enough to justify the added expense.
Today, a more cost-effective solution is to add one or two additional solar panels instead, as an alternative to a tracking system. This will allow for increased energy production and benefit from financial rebates as well.
Myth #9. Solar Energy Keeps Working When the Power Goes Out
Unless a home’s solar energy system is fully independent of the grid, a solar-powered home will still lose power in an outage. When a home’s solar production is tied to the grid, it is impacted by everything that happens to the grid. This includes power outages.
When the power goes out, the grid shuts down as a safety precaution to protect the workers who are fixing the lines from being harmed by any electrical pushback.
For households or buildings requiring 100% uptime, backup batteries are an option on a grid-tied system. By installing backup batteries, you can be certain that you will still have power, even during an outage.
Myth #10. Excess Energy Is Stored in Batteries
Another one of the myths about solar power technology is that people think the excess energy produced by the system gets stored in batteries — but most home solar power systems don’t use batteries to store energy.
Instead, what happens is that the energy production is tied to the power grid using a net metering system. The net metering system determines how much energy the home is producing and adding back to the electrical grid. The homeowner is then provided with electricity credits based on how much additional energy the home supplies to the grid.
The grid effectively acts as the battery system for the home. Extra energy that’s produced, but not used, during sunlight hours is sent to the grid. Then, the system is able to draw from the grid as needed at night or during darker months.
Even though batteries can be added to a residential solar energy system, you do not have to have batteries. However, it is nice to have batteries in place if the grid goes down.
Myth #11. Solar Panels Are Maintenance-Heavy
Contrary to common belief, solar panels require very limited maintenance. Solar panels have no moving parts and are very reliable. In fact, most of them far outlive their average 25-year warranties. Nothing more than regular cleanings is required. This can be done by hosing off the panels every year. Many owners, however, don’t bother with regular cleaning and instead rely on the rain to wash debris away. If any large amount of debris falls onto the panels, it is recommended that you remove it to protect the panels.
Typically, solar panels experience an average drop of 5% in efficiency over the product’s lifetime. Most of today’s systems include monitoring software that will indicate decreases in power.
While the solar panels themselves are unlikely to fail, the inverters will need to be replaced eventually. However, the life expectancy of inverters is quite long. Today’s inverters typically come with an optional 25-year warranty.
Myth #12. Solar Panels Cause Roof Damage
The solar energy myth that solar panels cause roof damage is far from true. The roof is actually protected and preserved by solar panels in some cases, which helps to prevent against deterioration and leaking. Solar panels can also be easily removed for cleaning, or if any repairs need to be made. Modular solar panels are installed on railings rather than directly to the roof itself. When installed, sealants and metal flashings are added to fill in gaps and create barriers to protect against the elements.
Roof repairs should always be made prior to having solar panels installed.
Homeowners who prefer the DIY approach can follow instructions to create leak-free seals. If you’re uncertain about the best installation methods, professional roofing contractors can help install flashings. From here, homeowners can finish the work themselves.
Myth #13. Solar Panels Are Unsightly
Many people feel that installing solar panels on their roof will detract from their home’s curb appeal. However, with the growing ubiquity of solar panels, they are becoming much more widely accepted and don’t stand out as much anymore. Consumers can also choose different color schemes, such as black or silver frames and black or blue cells.
Additionally, homeowners can choose how they want their panels to be installed, whether it’s on top of the roof or in the yard.
Myth #14. Solar Panels Are Loud
Many people assume that solar panels will emit sound because they produce electricity. However, because solar panels have no moving parts, they produce almost no sound.
The only sound that may be apparent is the low humming sound produced occasionally by the inverter. However, unless you’re in the same room, you likely won’t hear the inverter. And if the inverter is installed outdoors, the chance of “noise pollution” within your home drops to almost zero. At night, the inverter sounds will stop completely, because the system can’t produce energy in the dark.
Myth #15. The Manufacturing Process Is Environmentally Unfriendly
Opposition to solar energy is sometimes due to the falsehood that manufacturing solar panels is an environmentally unfriendly process. In fact, some have unjustly stated that the solar panel manufacturing process uses more energy than the solar panel itself will generate in its lifetime.
A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory debunked this myth when it found that the payback period in terms of energy consumption versus production for solar panels is less than four years. This means that in four years, a solar panel will have generated enough energy to cover the amount of energy it took to produce it.
In terms of the pollution generated by the manufacturing process, a solar panel reduces a significant amount of carbon dioxide that would otherwise be produced by homes using conventional energy. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory concluded that the average U.S. household with a solar energy system could eliminate 100 tons worth of carbon dioxide that’s typically produced by conventional plants during a 28-year span of clean energy production.
In other words, this far outweighs any emissions produced during the solar panel manufacturing process.
Myth #16. Fossil Fuel Energy Is More Cost-Effective
Because demand is presently higher for fossil fuel energy, the costs are also lower. However, as increased demand for solar power takes hold, its costs will decline accordingly. This is the opposite of what’s predicted for fossil fuels, which are expected to continue to rise in price as further strain is placed on the conventional energy grid.
With the number of installation grants and credits available, installing a solar energy system is an investment that can provide an approximate annual rate of return of between 12% and 15%, and its investment value will only improve as fossil fuel prices increase. This investment is something conventional energy simply cannot provide to the average household.
Myth #17. Solar Energy Won’t Work on a Mass Scale
A major objection to solar energy’s viability as a primary power source is its perceived inability to efficiently provide energy to serve the masses. The truth is, the sun produces enough energy every hour to meet the entire world’s annual energy demands. And because solar can operate in virtually any climate, it has the potential to service the entire planet. From tiny, hand-held solar appliances to massive solar farms, solar is almost infinitely scalable.
In terms of reaching a mass scale, both photovoltaic technology and solar thermal are being installed at an impressive rate all around the world. Whether it’s at the level of a single-family home or the level of a utility-sized solar farm, both photovoltaic and solar thermal technologies are cost-effective and beneficial for homeowners and utility companies alike.
It’s no wonder why governments at all levels support the switch to solar and encourage consumers to do so as well. The Department of Energy estimates that from now until 2030, 78% of energy produced by buildings will be from photovoltaic systems. Deutsche Bank also estimates that by 2030, the solar energy market will be worth an estimated $5 trillion. With this type of growth, it’s certainly becoming apparent that increased investment in solar energy will only improve its efficiency and cost-effectiveness on a large scale.