For the past few years, we’ve talked with countless homeowners across the country about their interests, and concerns, about solar energy. We’ve heard some common themes during these conversations, many of which aren’t even true.
Here are six common myths we found in our talks and research about solar energy.
Solar panels are high maintenance.
This myth probably comes from the old forms of solar panels, where big mirrors were used for concentrating and collecting heat. Those panels needed to be cleaned regularly because they were less efficient when they were dirty, and like any mirror, they became dirty often.
Photovoltaic (PV) panels (used in rooftop solar) on the other hand, convert light directly to electricity. The system does not have any moving parts and does not require any cleaning. Some manufacturers recommend rinsing them with a garden hose annually, but other than that PV panels require little to no maintenance over their 20–30-year life.
Solar panels are extremely expensive.
In reality solar panels and rooftop solar installations are actually becoming quite affordable. According to a Cleantechnica article (see Lawrence Berkeley National Lab report), the price for solar installations have dropped approximately 50 percent in the past five years. Now there are a lot of different elements to this report and different sizes of systems analyzed (like grid scale versus residential scale), but it is clear the prices have dropped significantly to go solar. More recent data shows this trend continues, with costs declining another 5 to 12 percent in 2015.
The savings, after installing rooftop solar, can be seen immediately on your electricity bill, and over time, these savings can add up to thousands of dollars. In addition, a number of local and federal tax credits make rooftop solar a very economical option.
The investment in solar panels also increases the value to your home. Another study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory shows that the rise in home value is on average about as $4,000 for every kilowatt (kW) installed. This means, an average-sized system could increase your home’s value by as about $15,000. Again, this is different in different regions of the country for a variety of factors. But it shows that on average that you get a significant increase in your home value if you go solar. And it shows that even if you do not plan to live in your home for several years, you will still reap the benefits of your investment.
Many financing options are also available to homeowners that want solar panels, but do not want to deal with up-front costs. Solar panel leasing is one such option where the installer would own and install the panels on your roof and charge you a fixed fee over time. These payments typically replace your fluctuating energy bill with a consistent monthly payment. Other options include low interest loans that are paid off over time.
You have to live in a desert.
Many people think that cloudy days or precipitation means that solar energy is not an option. PV panels produce energy even on cloudy and rainy days. North Carolina sees more than 110 days of rain a year on average which is higher than the national average, and yet they have the third most solar panels installed. Why do they have enough panels for 260,000 homes? And plan on installing enough for another 390,000 homes in the next 5 years? One reason is that solar panels produce energy even on a cloudy day. Another reason, though, is that the states policy (as with many states) is favorable to solar energy. The state of Oregon is another great example. Even though the region sees many cloudy and rainy days, it still has a high solar adoption rate due to the great tax credits and government incentives.
Solar energy means unreliable power and large batteries.
Unless you want to be totally energy independent, I believe this to be untrue. Solar energy is generated from the sun, and after it sets, your solar panels are not generating anymore energy. So it is true that if you want to be independent from your utility, you would need a battery storage system (or other form of storage and/or energy production) for nighttime. But it is not required for a rooftop solar panel installation.
Also, you have the grid as a reliable backup. Your house will use the power from your solar panels first, but if it is nighttime, or you are using more energy than they are producing, your house will pull from your utility grid just like it does now. The only difference you will notice after the solar panels are installed will be on your energy bill.
It is better to wait for prices to fall more.
Solar panel prices have fallen significantly in recent years and as manufacturing increases they will continue to fall. But waiting to install would simply mean you missing out on the savings that solar panels provide today. Bottom line, installing solar energy today can make you eligible for thousands of dollars in tax credits and rebates, but you could miss out on these savings if solar policies change in the future.
Solar installations don’t last.
Solar panels can be expected to have a lifetime of around 25 to 30 years. The solar panels themselves generally come with a warranty of 25 to 30 years. This doesn’t mean the panels will stop working beyond this window, though. Research shows that panels roughly lose 0.5 to 1.0 percent of their rated capacity per year; therefore, you can expect the panels to work 80 to 90 percent of their rated capacity after 25 years, or sometimes even more.
You can check out our YouTube channel for a short video summary of the 6 myths debunked and other updates.