As governments, businesses, and everyday people push to adopt more sustainable forms of energy, solar energy continues to gain momentum and popularity. Improving technology, lower prices, and federal and state incentives have combined to entice millions of homeowners to install solar panels on their roofs.
However, there is a lot of information flooding this growing market, and most solar companies only focus on the positives, instead of providing a full-spectrum of solar energy benefits and drawbacks to help you understand the technology. At Palmetto, we believe you need to know all sides so you can make the right decision for your needs, especially considering the investment required to install a rooftop solar power system.
Thus, if you’re thinking about powering your home with clean energy, this article will provide the top solar energy pros and cons so you can make an informed decision.
Solar Energy Pros
Based on increased adoption rates, consumers are beginning to see the light when it comes to comparing the pros and cons of solar energy. They recognize the power of utility cost savings, tax deductions, earnings through the sale of surplus power, and a reduced carbon footprint, among other benefits
1. Solar Can Reduce or Eliminate Your Utility Bill
Over the last century, electricity has evolved from a luxury item to a basic commodity needed for everyday life. Instead of merely lighting homes at night, we now use electricity to cook, cool our homes, and power all manner of crucial electronic devices, including our cars. Even with those consumption increases in other areas, lighting still accounts for around 20% of total electricity costs in the US.
Thus, as our overall reliance on electricity increases, so do the monthly costs. For most people, reducing electricity consumption to lower their monthly bills is a fine idea, but it’s also very difficult to change old habits.
Thus, more and more people are choosing to install solar panels on their homes to find those savings without having to drastically change their lifestyle. When looking at the pros and cons of solar panels, the ability to reduce or even eliminate your utility bill is often seen as one of the biggest benefits of home solar.
Since solar energy is a nearly infinite natural resource, you can capitalize on it to reduce your electricity costs. You can use a smaller solar power system to supplement your power needs, or even meet all your electricity requirements with a large enough system. In either case, you’re reducing your monthly electricity costs.
To go solar, it’s important to work with a reliable solar power installation company like Palmetto and invest in the equipment necessary to meet your electricity needs. After that, your usage will be offset by the electricity generated by your solar panels, and you can even earn credits to cover your utility bill by sending excess electricity to the grid. Moreover, installing solar power panels can save you money through tax credits offered by the federal and state government.
2. Solar Power Can Increase the Value of Your Home
Millions of Americans buy houses each year. While the location, the number of rooms, and amenities of the kitchen and bathroom are often the top items on a buyer’s list, many smart buyers also consider the overall costs of utilities and maintenance over time. You can often determine the costs to operate and maintain a home by reviewing its energy efficiency. By examining recent energy bills, homebuyers can get a peek into the long-term health of the home and how it impacts their budget.
With increased awareness of both the environmental and economic benefits of solar energy, recognizing the pros and cons solar panels have become a critical factor in the home-buying process.
By installing a solar power system on your house, it will be more appealing to buyers, often allowing you to sell it at a higher price. Recent research by Zillow suggests that installing solar panels can increase your home's value by up to 4.1%.
Industry research indicates that buyers will pay more for a house that already has solar panels for two key reasons. First, it allows them to take advantage of work that has already been done to enjoy a solar power system that suits the home’s needs. Solar power also helps keep their monthly utility cost low after they move in.
3. Home Solar Combats Rising Energy Costs
Electricity plays a critical role in modern-day life. Because of that increased demand, and factors such as the rising cost of fuel, electricity prices have been rising over the years. According to a US Energy Information Administration (EIA) report, residential electricity prices will continue to rise in coming years. We can see this same trend with many forms of fossil-fuel-based energy sources over the past few decades.
Yes, such increases are gradual, but they add up and can put a strain on your finances over time. Installing a solar power system is one of the best ways to combat this continued rise in the price of electricity.
Other than the initial price of installation, you will typically incur only a few other costs during the lifetime of your panels for things like routine annual maintenance. When your high-quality solar panels are installed professionally by Palmetto, you will enjoy clean energy and lower utility bills for 25 years or more.
4. Solar Helps Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Global warming is arguably the most significant threat the world faces, and human activity is the primary contributor. When gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and nitrous oxides are released into the environment, they prevent heat from the earth from escaping into space. As a result, the temperature of the earth's atmosphere continues to rise, causing climate change.
While the earth has always had greenhouse gases, the amount entering the atmosphere has increased exponentially over the last century. If left unchecked, these gases pose a significant threat to the survival of human beings.
While we know that most of the emissions come from the commercial activities of a handful of companies, many homeowners still worry about their individual contribution to global warming. At a global level, the average carbon footprint per person is 4 tons. However, in the United States of America, this average rises to 16 tons.
Current data indicates that we must reduce the global annual carbon footprint to under 2 tons per person by 2050 to prevent a planet-wide rise in temperature of 2 degrees Celsius. Per the current climate science, an increase of 2 degrees Celsius could result in severe weather events, water shortages, rising sea levels, and more that would be catastrophic to human, plant, and animal life. This is not an easy feat, but we can achieve it through conscious, deliberate, and concerted efforts.
If you want to reduce your personal carbon footprint and do your part for the planet, consider using solar power for your electricity needs. Since the technology does not rely on fossil fuels, it helps significantly reduce your carbon consumption.
Use Renewable Energy
The idea of living everyday life without electricity and cars seems unfathomable. Nonetheless, it could happen because most of the fossil fuels used to produce electricity and power vehicles are finite. If we continue to use them without moderation, we could exhaust them.
That possibility fuels the international push to identify and utilize renewable sources of energy as a long-term solution for our power needs. Using non-renewable energy sources harms the environment, so choosing sustainable resources reduces our reliance on fossil fuels.
When it comes to renewable sources of energy, solar power is the epitome. As long as the sun continues to shine, solar power is virtually inexhaustible. The bright side is that solar power has the potential to meet the world's energy needs if it's harnessed well.
5. Get Paid for Solar Power Production
Homeowners currently have many incentives to take advantage of the numerous benefits of solar panels. Though most of these financial perks are backed by the federal government, some states also provide their own incentives. They all aim to first reduce the cost of purchasing a solar power system and then earn consumers additional savings and cashback after installation.
One of the biggest incentives is the federal solar tax credit, also known as the investment tax credit (ITC). It applies to both commercial and residential solar power installations, allowing you to deduct up to 26% of the total cost of installing a solar energy system from your federal taxes.
Since there is no cap on how much you can deduct, the ITC can save you tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the type of system you choose. If you are considering a switch to solar power, the ITC will be available in its present form until the end of 2022. If you’re interested in learning more, here’s Everything You Need To Know About The Solar Tax Credit.
In some areas, you can be recognized as an energy producer via net energy metering (NEM). With net metering, the surplus energy your system produces can be channeled to the grid, and you can earn credit toward your electricity bill from it. If your solar panels produce more energy than you consume during the day, you'll earn credits that you can redeem at times when they aren’t producing.
Depending on where you live, you can also capitalize on Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs). This program incentivizes homeowners to install a solar power system so they can sell certificates to utility companies, as these SRECs help the utilities prove their renewable energy is from solar sources. For every 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWhs) of electricity your system produces, you can earn one SREC through a “solar carve-out” program. In some states with such a system, one SREC can be worth as much as $300.
6. Solar Is a Proven Technology
For most consumers, the idea of reducing their utility bills and carbon emissions is appealing. However, some people have concerns about the benefits of solar energy in terms of reliability. Though it may seem like harnessing solar power for domestic use is a new concept, it has been successfully implemented for over three decades. Currently used by millions of homes all across the US, the technology is constantly being refined to ensure it is effective and reliable.
Solar Power Works in Many Climates
If you live in a relatively cold area or one with harsh winters, electricity is essential for heating the home. You may be skeptical of solar panels' efficacy in such environments, as shorter days, increased cloud cover, and snow can reduce sun exposure, and thus, electricity production.
However, modern solar panel companies go the extra mile to ensure that solar panels can meet your energy needs, regardless of the conditions. The panels can endure bad weather, and the technology is designed to produce the maximum amount of electricity with a minimal amount of sun exposure.
Solar power professionals use complex modeling strategies to determine the amount of solar energy your roof receives based on local climate conditions. The goal is to deliver a custom solar power solution that addresses your specific needs.
While solar panels cannot produce electricity when covered with snow, it’s less of a hindrance than you’d imagine. Since panels absorb heat from the sun, the snow melts faster than it does on the ground and considering the panels are mounted in a slanting position, it slides off easily.
Despite those supposed obstacles to producing electricity in winter, solar panels are actually more effective when it's cold. When temperatures are low, the photovoltaic (PV) components in the solar panel convert sunlight to electricity more efficiently. In addition, they also catch the sunlight reflecting from snow, offsetting some of the reduced sun exposure.
7. Solar Power Is Surprisingly Affordable
When looking at solar panels, pros and cons discussions often revolve around one metric: Is the cost of going solar worth the benefits of switching to clean energy?
With solar power, you incur the bulk of your costs during installation. The price of solar panels can be a big obstacle for consumers, as the costs involved with installing rooftop solar remain a significant investment for most families. However, data indicates that costs have come down significantly over the past decade, thanks to factors such as improved solar technology, new financing options, and various incentives. Thus, many homeowners are surprised to learn exactly how affordable it can be to go solar.
Thanks to new financing options, it’s possible to reduce or even eliminate the upfront costs associated with solar power installation. You can spread those payments out over time, and match the cost of your solar payment with the savings from the energy those solar panels generate.
Once the solar power system has been paid off, you’ll enjoy many more years of clean energy generation without any additional payments, increasing your overall savings even more.
Get Financial Support from the Government
In addition to the reducing costs of installing solar panels, you can take advantage of government incentives to make it even cheaper. The federal tax credit we mentioned earlier allows you to earn back up to 26% of the installation cost via a federal tax credit.
Solar Equipment Has Low Maintenance Cost
Compared to other home-related equipment such as furnaces, generators, or HVAC systems, solar panels are primarily non-mechanized. Once put in position, they absorb solar energy and transmit it to your house in the form of electricity without any moving parts. Thus, your panels experience little risk of wear and tear, so maintenance requirements are low.
In the right environment, a solar power system can function for 25 years or more without requiring significant maintenance. For example, if you live in a dry and dusty area, you may only need to wash your solar panels from time to time to keep them in top condition.
To ensure your panels remain in the best possible shape, your system should get an annual checkup from a solar maintenance professional, such as the one offered with Palmetto Protect. For everything you need to know about solar power upkeep, check out our Solar Power Maintenance And Service Guide.
8. Solar Benefits the Whole Electricity Grid
As electricity demand increases, it puts a strain on the electricity grid because of the fixed capacity of the transmission and distribution components. To address this rising demand, utility companies must invest in new infrastructure, but it also takes time for that new construction to go online and help the grid.
If more people install solar power systems, stress and reliance on the grid will reduce. Because homeowners can produce their own electricity with solar panels, utilities don’t need to run as much electricity through the grid. This decrease in stress is enhanced further through net metering, as solar customers can add electricity to the grid and provide power to their neighbors.
9. Solar Power Systems Have a Long Lifespan
Because installing a solar power system is a considerable investment, consumers do worry about life expectancy. Luckily, one of the primary benefits of solar panels is the long-term health of their physical components. With regular maintenance, you can expect reliable service and financial savings from your system for 25 years and more.
Even better, your solar panels won't be totally ineffective after that point. Even with a gradual reduction in efficiency, your solar panels can still produce electricity beyond 30 years. They might not provide 100% of your electricity needs, but your solar power system can continue to offset some of your electricity demands and keep saving over time.
Solar Warranty Terms are Getting Better
As the technology creating the benefits of solar power improves and their lifespan increases, manufacturers can offer improved warranties and better guarantees in relation to product and power output. In fact, many major companies now guarantee a minimum level of solar panel output for 25+ years, and their warranties have fewer exclusions than ever.
10. Solar Supports the Local Economy
According to the Solar Foundation, the solar energy sector has created over a quarter of a million jobs in the US. Even if you purchase your system from a national provider, it’s typically installed by a local crew, and most of the maintenance services for your panels can be done by local solar professionals. By investing in solar panels for your home, you support your local economy.
Solar Energy Is A Non-Partisan Energy Source
Unlike issues that can feel contaminated by politics, the promotion of solar power as a renewable energy source is increasingly non-partisan. Thanks to rising support from both parties, solar power adoption continues to grow, and the thriving industry creates both well-paying jobs and savings on electricity costs.
Solar Energy Cons
While the numerous benefits of solar power are exciting, it’s important to acknowledge the primary concerns with the technology. By reviewing all the solar energy pros and cons to recognize the potential advantages and disadvantages of solar energy, we can better explain why it’s actually not as bad as you might think.
1. Initial Solar Investment Can Be High
In the long run, solar power is much cheaper than electricity from the grid. However, it can require a substantial initial investment, depending on your needs.
On average, the cost of installing a solar power system is around $14,550. The total costs can be even higher if you add battery backup for energy storage to your solar power system. At that price, installing solar power can feel like it’s limited to people with high incomes and/or substantial savings.
Different factors determine the cost of installation. They include:
- The solar potential of your roof
- Your average energy consumption
- Cost of equipment
- Labor costs in your area
- Incentives offered by your state government
Fortunately, the cost of installing solar panel systems has decreased over the years and continues to do so. Yes, it can seem like the initial investment is high, but if you’re comparing the pros and cons of solar panels, know that you have options that can reduce those costs. Specifically, you can seek financing to spread out the payments over time, making it more affordable over the long run.
2. Solar Doesn’t Generate Power at Night
Obviously, solar power relies on the sun to generate power. As such, one of the chief problems with solar energy is that the panels don’t work at night. Fortunately, there are different solutions to this challenge.
To begin with, many companies offer batteries capable of storing surplus electricity created during the day. Therefore, even though your panels don’t generate electricity at night, you can store enough power to meet your needs.
Alternatively, in some areas, you can capitalize on net metering, which allows you to get credit for surplus power generated during the day. You can then use that credit to offset your electricity costs in the evening.
3. Can't Install Solar on all Roof Types
Unfortunately, not everyone can install solar panels on their house, as not all roofing materials are ideal for the task. For example, your roof must be able to hold the panels firmly in place and support the weight of technicians during installation. Slate and wood roofs are especially problematic, as they limit the installers' ability to walk around.
Depending upon the physical design of your roof, you may also incur a higher-than-normal cost to install solar panels. If your roof has a complex design, solar panel installation is typically more expensive. Steep or dramatic angles, lots of small sections, and/or skylights can all combine to create a situation where panels have to be installed in multiple complex arrays, instead of one or two large arrays, which increases the overall cost.
4. Solar Panels Take Up a Lot of Roof Space
Compared to power sources like fossil fuels, solar panels have a low power density. This refers to the amount of power an energy source can produce within a certain area, measured in watts per square meter (W/m2). As a result, space is a critical issue, especially when it comes to large-scale solar installations. In other words, the more electricity you need for your home, the more roof space you’ll have to dedicate to solar panels
Solar Aesthetics Aren't for Everyone
Fortunately, for residential use, the average roof offers ample space to install enough solar panels to meet your electricity needs. However, your solar power system may affect the aesthetics of your house. Because most solar panels are black rectangles, you don’t have many options to match the appearance of your roof, so if you don't like that look, solar might not be for you.
Solar Installation Options are Limited by Your Surroundings
One of the key factors limiting people's ability to enjoy the advantages of solar energy is the decreased space for the panels in dense, urban environments. Because real estate for traditional homes can be limited in big cities, purchasing a townhouse has become a popular housing solution. However, this leaves less space for solar panels, as the roof of a townhome typically isn’t large enough to meet all of the home’s electricity needs.
But that doesn’t mean owning a home in the suburbs is the answer. You also may not be able to capitalize on solar power if you live in an area with a lot of trees. As you’d imagine, trees can block sunlight from hitting solar panels, which reduces the ability to maximize the amount of electricity your panels can generate. If you cannot trim back those branches or cut down the trees entirely, your home might not be the best candidate for solar panels.
5. Solar Power is a Long-Term Commitment
Even if you have the finances ready and your house is suitable for a solar power system, it's important to evaluate your future plans, because a solar power system is a long-term commitment. If you are planning to move in the near future, you may want to reconsider the decision as you will not have time to enjoy the savings the solar panels offer.
Additionally, unlike a refrigerator or car, you can’t simply return your solar panels to the store if you decide you don’t like them. This is especially true if you’re locked into a financing agreement for the cost of the panels.
Solar Panels Are Hard to Move
One of the most significant drawbacks of solar power systems is that they aren’t portable like other household appliances. Though technically possible, removing, transporting, and re-installing your solar panel system onto a new home is difficult and expensive. Additionally, any net metering agreement you signed with your utility company is fixed to that property, so you’d have to reapply or lose that benefit altogether.
6. Solar Installation Isn't Immediate
A lot of people think that when you decide to go solar, you’ll have panels on your roof and be generating your own power in just a couple days. Unfortunately the process of designing, permitting, installing, and getting a solar power system approved by local jurisdictions can take some time, so it’s important to understand that your solar power installation won’t happen overnight.
The advantage of working with an established solar company like Palmetto is that our experts can streamline the process to ensure you can tap into solar energy as soon as possible. We also work hard to communicate what’s happening during your installation, so there are no surprises or unexpected hiccups.
Barring the time it can take to get the necessary permits, which varies by city and state, you could be enjoying solar benefits in as little as a month.
7. Solar Power is Difficult to DIY
The Do-It-Yourself approach to home improvement has become a popular option among people who want to cut costs and work with their hands. Since buying and installing solar panels has become easier in recent years, it’s become one of the new DIY trends. However, many home improvement experts counsel people not to perform DIY solar panel installations:
- Wiring your system requires specialized training and electrical know-how
- A tricky roofline requires special panel layouts and equipment, which increases the difficulty of a DIY project
- Aligning your panels to maximize your energy generation can require advanced modeling and design work
- Installation requires permitting and approvals from your Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) that can be complex to request and schedule
- Most homeowners don’t own the necessary safety equipment to work on a roof without risk of injury
Though the internet has lots of information about how to DIY a solar power installation, you may want to reconsider such a project, even if you think you have the skills. You and your buddies probably don’t have the experience to match the quality work produced by well-trained and experienced professionals, especially if you want your solar power system to work reliably for 25 years or longer. Should you make any mistake during the installation process, it may be more costly than the money you would have saved.
8. Solar Panel Production is Not 100% Environmentally Friendly
When examining the pros and cons of solar energy, one of the biggest selling points is that it’s environmentally friendly. Though that sentiment is true, it doesn’t tell the whole story when you consider the process of manufacturing solar panels results in pollution. Solar panels contain harmful elements such as sulfur hexafluoride and cadmium telluride. Then again, these elements do not have as much of an effect on climate as the excess carbon dioxide you eliminate with solar panels.
Solar Manufacturing Faces A Scarcity of Materials
Solar energy is a vast resource with the potential to meet the world's energy needs. As such, pursuing it as the long-term energy solution seems like an obvious step. However, for this to be achieved, the industry must address its biggest challenge: the shortage of raw materials.
Pure metallurgical silicon is one of the key elements used in making solar power systems. To be clear: The issue is the mismatch of current production to future demand, not a lack of known reserves. In fact, many of the more uncommon materials used in solar panel technology aren’t even found in nature - they are created as the byproducts of other manufacturing processes.
Unfortunately, manufacturers have to navigate shortages from time to time, translating to price increases. The combination of such shortages and price increases is expected to significantly impact the industry, at least for the foreseeable future. Consumers could face rising prices, and producers might have to contend with lower margins. Thus, solar researchers are investigating the potential of recycled photovoltaic material and advances in nanotechnology that could increase the efficiency of solar cells to improve solar panel production and lower costs further.
9. Tough to Find Quality Solar Companies
Unfortunately, many local solar companies haven’t been in business for very long, and they might not stick with solar in the future if they decide there’s money to be made selling another product. Because solar is a quickly growing industry, many solar companies are out there with pushy sales reps and aggressive sales tactics as they try to capture a slice of the market.
It can also be hard to compare solar companies by looking at reviews, because most people only work with a single solar company, so they can’t offer a review that compares different options and helps find the best one.
Before deciding on a solar company, you should perform some due diligence to find out if its products and services are reliable, by considering factors such as:
- Number of years in the industry
- Customer reviews and ratings
- Ease of speaking with customer service
- Quality of solar panels and other equipment
- Length of product and workmanship warranties
Don’t base your choice on pricing alone, as you’re often better off paying a little more to work with a reliable company.
If you’re looking for a trusted solar company with 10+ years of experience and thousands of satisfied customers, you’ve found one with Palmetto. We’re working hard to simplify and democratize access to clean energy, so it’s easy and affordable to make the switch to solar energy.
10. Calculating the Financial Benefits of Solar Can be Challenging
Reducing or eliminating utility costs is one of the key elements of evaluating solar power pros and cons. However, translating those promises into actual savings is not easy. The high initial cost of installation can feel steep, even as you hope the long-term savings will offset them and lower your electricity bills. You need to locate a solar company that wants to explain the math and details in everyday language so you understand the full extent of your benefits - and how to ensure you enjoy them.
That’s the benefit of using the Palmetto Savings Estimate tool. It automatically takes into account the most important variables to help you get a better idea of the financial benefits solar power can bring to your home.
Key Takeaways of Solar Energy’s Pros and Cons
Without a doubt, there are compelling reasons for people to use solar energy, and most of the cons can be overcome by working with a trusted, professional solar company like Palmetto. We’ve reviewed a lot of different solar energy pros and cons that you should consider, so let’s conclude our discussion by summarizing as follows:
Solar Isn't for Everyone
Just because you want to reduce your carbon footprint and lower your utility bills doesn’t mean solar power is right for you and your home. Your house might not be ideal for solar panels, and that’s okay. There are many other ways that you can be eco-friendly, improve your energy efficiency, and lower your utility bills.
Think of Solar Like an Investment
If you focus too much on the upfront costs of installing a solar power system, you may not be able to see the true, long-term value. After installation, your utility bills will be lower, and you can avoid rising electricity costs, so the benefits increase over time. You may even be able to earn credits or cashback from your utility company because of the surplus power your system produces.
Solar Is the Future of Clean Energy
As the impact of global warming becomes more apparent by the day, we are increasingly aware of the need to use more environmentally friendly energy sources. Fossil fuels are detrimental to the environment, both during production and after use, so we need to move away from them as quickly as possible.
Though there are several options in the renewable energy space, solar power remains an ideal solution because it’s more scalable and homeowner-friendly, compared to solutions like wind or geothermal. (It's hard to put a giant wind turbine in your backyard!)
More Pros and Less Cons with Palmetto
If you’re comparing solar energy pros and cons, you’re probably looking for a company you can trust to help you navigate this sometimes intimidating environment. Thankfully, you’ve found Palmetto!
At Palmetto, our goal is to help people take part in a clean energy future. We accomplish this by accentuating the pros and reducing the cons of going solar. We are committed to helping consumers find the best solar power system for their needs, as well as achieve the greatest cost savings when going solar.
With our free Solar Savings Calculator, you can find out how much you would save with a solar power system. If you like what you see, we’ll connect you with one of our local solar power experts who can guide you through the process and answer any questions you might have.