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5 Solar Panel Myths Debunked

Home Efficiency
February 22, 2017

Are solar panels worth it? That might be the main question you’re asking yourself while researching the cost and energy savings of residential solar panels. As you weigh the pros and cons, here’s some more info on five well-debunked yet persistent myths. Some of them might surprise you.

Myth #1: Solar Panel Technology Is Improving, So I Should Wait

This Missouri home’s solar panel upgrade will bring benefits that last for decades.

Yes, like all technology, solar panel technology is continually improving, but a system you install today will still be effective 20 years from now. Warranties offered by solar panel companies vary, but many extend up to 25 years.

And even after a quarter of a century, the energy output of your solar panel system could still be at 80 to 85 percent. How many products last that long and still work? Certainly not your average refrigerator or automobile.

Myth #2: Solar Panels Are Too Expensive

Wildomar, CA homeowner James H. used the HERO Program to finance solar.

This myth might have originated when solar panels were expensive, but that’s not the case anymore.

The price of solar has decreased 80 percent since 2008, according to the Department of Energy (DOE). This is because solar cells are now much more energy efficient, and the cost to manufacture them has gone down, too. Soft costs, which may account for half the cost of a solar panel system, have also fallen. These include things such as system design, labor installation, permitting, and inspection.

Plus, a federal tax incentive called the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) brings down the price further. Extended in 2015 for another five years, this credit allows homeowners to deduct 30 percent of the cost of solar system installation. State incentives and rebates may also be available to make the purchase of solar even more attractive.

Myth #3: Solar Panels are a Poor Investment

Since April and Preston T. of Winchester, CA went solar, their electricity bill is in the negative!

Given the plunging costs of solar and the number of incentives, is it still a myth that solar panels aren’t worth it in the long run?

Depending on the size of your system, the cost of electricity where you live, and your energy consumption, it could take anywhere from six to 15 years to recoup what you spent on solar, according to Solar Power Authority.

But let’s look at it another way. Solar owners aren’t at the mercy of climbing electricity rates, which will be much higher by that time. And if you finance your system, the monthly cost can be less than your utility bill, the DOE states. Also, if you use a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program such as the HERO Program, the cost is repaid through your property taxes.

Solar may add value to the home as well. Home buyers are willing to pay an average of $15,000 more for a house in California with a 3.6 kW solar, according to a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the DOE. Outside of California, the average was just under $13,000.

Myth #4: Solar Panels Damage Your Roof and Require Too Much Maintenance

Home solar systems should be installed by skilled professionals.

Wrong and wrong! First, the folks who design and install solar panels are skilled professionals who take into account the life of your roof, the load it can carry, its pitch, and its orientation to the sun. Also, a solar system installation requires a permit, which means a third-party professional will inspect that the work is done correctly and up to code.

As for maintenance, there’s not much required. Depending on where you live, your solar panels may get dirty over time, but the rain may wash that away. Of course, you may not be able to depend on precipitation. If that’s the case, you can hire a professional or you can easily wash your solar panels yourself by using this pro tip from a solar contractor. All you’ll need is a hose and squeegee to keep them squeaky clean. (Be sure to use safety precautions!)

Myth #5: Solar Panels Will Ruin the Beauty of My Home

Jill and Ed P. of Temecula, CA opted for a ground mount on the back of their property.

Now this one may be subjective, but consider these options when contemplating the curb appeal of solar panels.

  • The best orientation for solar panels is a west- or south-facing roof. If the front of your house faces north or east, it’s unlikely that your solar panels will be seen from the street.
  • If you have a large yard, you could have the solar installed on the ground instead.
  • Ultimately, what’s more beautiful than an electric bill that’s virtually non-existent, even while running your air conditioner all summer?

If you’re still unsure whether to go with solar, ask your friends, family, or neighbors who have solar panels about their experience. Check out solar installation companies on Yelp to see what customers have said about them. Or verify that the company has a good track record on the Better Business Bureau website.

For more information on our unique financing solutions for solar panels and other home upgrades, including our Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, go to the HERO Program products page.