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Pros and cons of solar energy explained

If you’re thinking about installing a solar panel system, it’s important to consider the benefits and drawbacks involved with going solar. Solar is a revolutionary energy solution for property owners of any type, but like any energy decision, choosing to go solar has various advantages and disadvantages you should keep in mind. In this article, we’ll outline some of the most important pros and cons of installing solar.

Key takeaways: comparing the pros and cons of solar energy

  1. Rooftop solar panels aren’t the perfect fit for everyone, but that’s okay – like any other home electrification product, solar panels provide clear benefits to homeowners that are in need of energy upgrades and electricity bill reduction.

  2. The pros of solar outweigh the cons in most situations: for the majority of solar shoppers, the benefit of saving on energy bills is enough to make solar worth it!

  3. Solar panels can add home value and provide protection against rising energy costs.

  4. The best way to compare solar quotes from local installers is to sign up for a free account on the EnergySage Marketplace.

What’s in this article?

Top solar energy pros and cons

The main advantages of solar energy make it an attractive option, whether your primary motivator is raising your home value, reducing your carbon footprint, or combating rising electricity costs. In addition to providing increased energy independence, a solar photovoltaic system will often pay for itself in electricity bill savings – incentives like the federal tax credit also help to reduce your up-front cost and increase your return on investment.

On the other hand, the key disadvantages of solar energy are that it doesn’t work for every roof, it’s not ideal if you’re about to move, the upfront cost can be expensive, savings can be low if your electricity bills are low, and finding a local installer can sometimes be difficult.

Key pros and cons of solar energy Pros of solar energyCons of solar energy Lower your electric billDoesn't work for every roof type Improve the value of your homeNot ideal if you're about to move Reduce your carbon footprintBuying panels can be expensive Protect yourself from inflationLow electricity costs = lower savings Earn money on your investmentFinding local solar installers can be difficult Solar is a versatile energy source Gain independence from the electric grid

The advantages of solar energy

There are many benefits of installing a solar system on your home or business. Here’s our list of the most important advantages of solar energy to keep in mind:

1. Solar can drastically reduce or eliminate your electric bills

The number one benefit of solar panels is pretty straightforward – when you install solar power for your home, you generate your own electricity, become less reliant on your electric utility, and reduce your monthly electricity bill as a result. A solar panel system typically has a 25- to 35-year lifespan, which means that you can cut your electricity costs for decades to come by going solar. Additionally, the cost of solar has decreased by more than 70 percent in the past decade, while the cost of electricity has risen by about five percent. This trend is expected to continue and a solar energy system can help you gain control in the face of these rising costs.

2. Solar improves your home value

Millions of U.S. residents are interested in home solar panels but don’t understand how it will impact their homes. Recent studies indicate that installing a solar system can increase your home’s value by about four percent. So, even if you’re planning on moving in the near future, you could earn back your solar panel investment and then some when you sell your home. Whether you’ve been there for years or just moved into a new home, installing solar is a good investment for most homeowners.

3. Solar reduces carbon emissions

Solar is a renewable source of clean energy that can help reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, lowering your environmental impact. Unlike traditional fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas, solar energy doesn’t directly release pollutants that cause climate change (like carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere and water supply. Even compared to nuclear energy, solar comes out on top in terms of environmental impact.

4. Solar protects against rising energy costs

When you install solar panels on your home, you’re locking in energy costs for the next 25+ years, provided you aren’t leasing your system. Once you’ve paid off the initial cost of the solar panels, if you took out a loan, you’ll be generating your own electricity for free. The federal solar tax credit also provides a 30 percent tax credit for newly installed solar power systems, which can reduce your up-front costs.

5. Solar can pay you money while you’re earning back your investment

Due to a number of solar incentives in certain states, solar panels can actually turn you a profit in addition to generating bill savings that pay off the cost of the system. Solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) compensate you for the electricity that your solar panel system generates. If you live in a state where this incentive applies, you can expect both immediate and long-term returns from your solar investment.

6. Solar is the most versatile form of alternative energy

Unlike other types of alternative energy like wind and hydroelectric power, which need wide open spaces with ample wind changes and large water sources, solar is a source of energy that can be implemented in almost every environment. While output is lower on cloudy days or in climates without as much regular sun exposure, solar panels are almost always a great investment.

7. Solar electricity can be “sold” back to the grid

Depending on where you live, you could be eligible for net metering. Net metering is an electric billing tool that uses the electric grid to “store” excess energy produced by your solar panel system. As you send this energy to the grid, your utility company will provide you with bill credits – essentially, you’ll be able to sell excess solar energy produced by your solar panels to your utility company in exchange for reduced utility bills. This will allow you to have greater energy independence without going completely “off-grid”.

8. Solar is a low maintenance energy source

IIf you choose a qualified installer with EnergySage, the installation process will be handled completely by qualified professionals. Once your panels are installed, they require very little maintenance compared to other forms of energy production. With no moving parts, your panels might only need an occasional cleaning after snow or inclement weather.

Disadvantages of solar energy

Solar isn’t perfect – here are some disadvantages of solar energy to keep in mind when considering installing solar panels:

1. Solar panels don’t work for every type of roof

Rooftop solar panels are installed by connecting a mounting system (also known as “racking”) to your roof. Certain roofing materials used in older or historical homes, such as slate or cedar tiles, can be difficult for solar installers to work with, creating a roadblock for solar power. Additionally, many homes and apartment buildings have skylights or other rooftop additions like roof decks that can make the solar installation process difficult or costly. Fortunately, in the long run, this challenge shouldn’t be a barrier to the mass adoption of solar power in the U.S. If your home doesn’t qualify for a rooftop solar installation, you still have options: you can still go solar by installing ground-mounted solar panels or subscribing to a local community solar farm.

2. Solar isn’t ideal if you’re about to move

Solar is a great financial investment, but it can take some time to reach the break-even point: the average solar panel payback period in the U.S. is around eight to nine years. For homeowners who may be moving in the coming years, putting solar panels on their roof might not feel like a worthwhile investment. But, as previously discussed, solar can actually improve your property value and increase your return when you do sell your home. A solar panel system warranty is often transferable depending on the company, so the new homeowners will be able to take advantage of the warranty that came with the panels that you installed. So, as long as you plan to buy your system with a cash purchase or loan, this disadvantage of solar energy can be easily avoided.

3. If your electricity costs are low, so are your solar savings

The ultimate benefit of solar energy is that it will reduce your use of utility-provided electricity, increase your overall energy efficiency and save you money every month as a result. However, that condition assumes a homeowner has sizable electric bills to begin with. For a homeowner in a state like Louisiana, where the cost of electricity is often 25 percent lower than the national average, installing a solar panel system isn’t nearly as attractive as it is to a Hawaii homeowner who pays more than double the average electric rate.

4. If you can’t access solar financing, up-front solar costs can be intimidating

There’s a nationwide debate going on about how much homeowners have to pay out-of-pocket for solar. The total out-of-pocket price tag for a solar panel system depends on tax credits, rebates, and the financing option you choose. Though you can easily get a figure for the average cost of solar in your state or even a personalized estimate for your home, the simple answer is that the up-front cost of solar is sizable if you don’t qualify for a zero-down solar loan. The disadvantage of solar energy here is clear: not everyone has the cash on hand to make an investment of this size with an up-front payment. However, there are a number of solar financing options to help you avoid this solar con such as state-backed loan programs, leases, and power purchase agreements.

5. Solar panels don’t work at night

Solar panels require light in order to absorb energy from the sun. Solar panels require light in order to absorb energy from the sun, meaning they don’t work at night. However, by pairing your solar energy system with energy storage, you can use excess energy generated by your solar panels during the day and stored in your solar batteries even if there’s no sunlight. Your system will also then include inverters that can convert some stored energy into usable energy for your home. If you live in a state with net metering, the excess energy that’s generated will be sold back to the grid for credits on your electric bill.

6. Solar panels are sometimes made with toxic materials

Solar panels are made of monocrystalline, polycrystalline or thin film silicon. However, they can also contain toxic heavy metals like lead and cadmium, depending on the brand and model. This means that most old solar panels are considered hazardous waste by the EPA and need to be disposed of properly. It’s important to note that the use of these materials is declining as solar panel technology continues to evolve and improve.

7. Finding quality, local solar installers and easily comparing quotes can be difficult

Unfortunately, many homeowners associate home solar with pushy door-to-door solar sales reps that pressure consumers to sign a 20-year solar contract before they explain the full scope of the offer or the credibility of the solar company. Solar is one of the fastest growing markets in the world, and there are plenty of companies that are deploying aggressive sales tactics to get their fair share of the market. As a result, for many people, shopping for solar can be a stressful and confusing scenario. Luckily, there are easier ways to shop for solar that puts the homeowner in control: the EnergySage Marketplace is a 100 percent online comparison-shopping platform that allows you to compare solar quotes from top pre-screened installers in your area.

Is solar energy worth the investment?

While there are high upfront costs, going solar is worth it for most homeowners with eligible properties: in most scenarios, the pros of solar energy will far outweigh the cons. Solar is an increasingly more affordable renewable energy source, helping you reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while saving considerable money on your electric bills.

Frequently asked questions about solar energy

As you consider making an investment in solar energy, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons as they relate to your home, geography and climate, and unique needs. Check out a few of the most common questions we get from shoppers about the benefits of solar panels to learn more:

What are the top advantages of solar energy?

The top advantages of solar energy are that it reduces electricity bills, increases the value of your home, cuts carbon emissions, protects against rising electricity costs, and helps you earn money back on your investment. Once installed, solar is fairly low maintenance and doesn’t require much upkeep aside from occasional cleaning.

What are the top disadvantages of solar energy?

Disadvantages of solar energy include a high initial cost, an inability to work on every roof type, and sometimes difficulty in finding a reputable and local installer (depending on where you live).

Is solar energy good for the environment? 

Solar is a form of renewable energy that has numerous environmental benefits and leads to cleaner water and air. The only factor that some consider to be a downside is that there’s a lack of recycling options for solar panels when they reach the end of their lifespan. Learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of renewable energy, and see what solar panel recycling options are available to you. Luckily, solar technology is continuing to improve and further extend the already long lifespan of solar panels, which typically last anywhere from 25 to 35 years.

Start your solar journey today on EnergySage

The best way to take advantage of all that solar has to offer is to compare quotes. On the EnergySage Marketplace, you’ll receive up to seven, free quotes from installers in your area so you can easily compare your options, allowing you to find a system that meets your needs at the right price. Want a quick estimate of what a solar installation will cost? Check out our Solar Calculator.

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