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Pros and cons of solar panels for home: A positive equation

Over 500 MW of solar power capacity is manufactured per day all over the world, according to Statista. That’s about 1.5 million PV modules made daily! So if you thought that solar panels are already everywhere — you have seen nothing yet. Is it for better or for worse? Let’s list down the pros and cons of solar panels.

5 pros of solar panels

Let’s start with the positives, shall we? Here are the five reasons why solar energy is growing rapidly and about half of Americans consider getting a system in the near future, according to the Pew Research Center.

Panels pay off

Panels pay off

Energy bills went up across all states in 2022 by at least 15%. In times of energy crisis, your own energy system is a smart long-term investment. A 6 kW solar system brings you $100-120 a month on average and pays for itself in 6-8 years. The higher the electricity bills in your area, the better return on investments you get.
$100-120 — monthly income from a 6 kW home PV system
A home solar panel system also generates Portfolio Energy Credits (PECs) for a certain amount of clean energy produced. You can sell PECs to companies and utilities that need to meet clean energy goals set by the government. The demand and their price are going to depend on your area.

Solar grants you energy independence

Solar grants you energy independence

With solar panels coupled with batteries, you become less reliant on your utility. When the grid goes down or there isn’t one, a solar system can act as a silent generator that doesn’t smell and needs no fuel.

Note that a standard grid-tie inverter shuts your home solar system down when there is a power outage. It’s a safety protocol: the grid must be free of current for workers to repair it. You need a hybrid inverter with batteries or a smart battery like Tesla Powerwall 2 to retain power during blackouts.

Solar panels protect your roof

Solar panels protect your roof

Solar panels barely need any maintenance and last for over 25 years. Occasional cleaning and electrical checkups are all they need. Panels don’t fear harsh weather and even hurricanes aren’t a threat to them. In fact, they prolong the lifespan of your roof by acting as a shield against winds and hail. An average solar panel is made to withstand at least 2400 Pa pressure equivalent to 140 mph wind.

Try not to cut expenses on installation though. Inexperienced installers may break the panels, not fix them well enough or damage your roof and cause leaks. Sometimes solar panel systems can use a mounting system that does not penetrate the roof. This depends on the type of roof that you have.

Government supports your choice

Since the US has clean energy goals to fulfill, the state encourages people to switch to green energy. The biggest incentive out there is Federal Solar Tax Credit or ITC. You can deduct 30% of the solar installation cost from your taxes by applying for it.

States also have their own smaller incentives, such as property tax exemptions for solar owners or smaller tax credits. Utilities also offer small rebates for going solar. Ask your installer about programs that you can apply for and check out our State Solar Power Rankings.

Solar is a green choice

Solar is a green choice

When planning the fight against climate change, scientists put their hopes in green energy and solar power in particular. Solar panels produce no carbon emissions and don’t hurt the environment nearly as badly as, for example, hydroelectric power plants.

The US has the highest carbon footprint per person in the world — 15 tons per year. A home solar system decreases the carbon footprint of a household by 25% — and every small step matters from a global perspective.

5 сons of solar panels

Solar power is not an all-perfect solution to the world’s energy problems. It has its own drawbacks which will slow down its rise until we’ll find a way to negate them.

Upfront costs can be high

Upfront costs can be high

A new home solar system can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000, including shipping and labor expenses. Off-grid systems are especially expensive because of how costly energy storage can be.

It may be tempting to take a loan for a system or lease it to make the switch to solar easier on your wallet. While it lowers the upfront costs, your savings over the years also go down. If the interest rate of a loan is higher than 6-7%, you’re likely to just break even. If the money is tight, you can apply for low-interest loans for clean energy upgrades that some banks offer. Read more in our guide on how to save money with solar energy.

You need some free space

You need some free space

A rooftop 6 kW system may require 250-350 ft², depending on the panels. We rarely use the roof for anything else though. You can use the A1SolarStore calculator to get an estimate of how much space your system will require.

A roof is not always an option though. Sometimes it’s not strong enough, or it’s shaded, or you can’t get good positioning for panels. In this case, you can opt for a ground-mounted system. You won’t be constrained by the configuration of your roof, but the installation is going to be more expensive and the system may take up important space.

Variability means inconsistent production

Variability means inconsistent production

The output of a solar panel changes with the weather, season, and time of day. This variability is one of the biggest cons about solar panels and the main reason why solar power is not more popular.

Cloudy days can lower the production of your array by 20-80%, depending on your panels and the thickness of the clouds. PV modules produce 50% more energy in June than in December. Panels perform at their full capacity only for 3-6 hours per day and don’t work at night at all. If you have a grid-tie system, you can always buy some electricity from the utility. If you rely solely on solar power, you have to get batteries to stay powered at night and on gloomy days.

The need for proper irradiance sometimes makes it hard to use solar panels in big towns. The production decreases in areas with high levels of air pollution. The shading from buildings or trees can bring more problems; even partial shade can kill half of your system’s production.

Solar panels may affect home insurance

Solar panels may affect home insurance

Some insurance providers may require additional coverage for solar panel systems, while others may not change the policy at all. Some companies may require a professional inspection of the system before approving coverage, to ensure that it is properly installed and does not pose any safety hazards. Check with your provider before installing solar panels to see if any changes to your policy will be necessary.

If you plan on leasing your solar panel system, you should review the terms of your lease agreement to ensure that it includes liability coverage for any damage that the system may cause to your property.

Disposing of old modules is hard

Disposing of old modules is hard

A solar system makes your home self-sustainable but also makes it harder for you to move. Removing a PV system from the roof and taking it with you to a new place is not worth it: it's expensive and you risk damaging the panels. A solar system increases the cost of your property though: real estate company Zillow has shown that a home with a PV system costs 4.1% more on the market. This brings about $10,000 more for the medium-valued home.

Recycling old PV modules is also problematic. Panels are made of glass, plastic, and aluminum. You only get around $3 per cullet from one panel so there aren’t lots of volunteers to take on the mission of disposing of old modules. Things change though: for example, Northwest Electric & West is already streamlining the process of recycling panels in Washington.

Expect decades full of sunlight

When we look at the pros and cons of solar panels for home, it’s clear why solar power is getting so popular and why we don’t expect it to stop growing. IRENA experts predict that by 2030 our installed solar capacity is going to reach 2,800 GW. That’s 6 times more compared to what we had in 2018 (470 GW). By 2050 we might reach over 8,500 GW which is 18 times bigger than the 2018 figures. The future of solar panels is brighter than ever — and panels excel when it gets bright.
Illustrations – Natalya Absalyamova


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