solar energy pros and cons

The pros and cons of solar energy: what are the advantages and disadvantages of going solar?

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If you’re considering installing a solar panel system, you’ve probably already had your share of exposure to solar marketing, whether through spammy ads promising free solar panels or a knock at the door signaling an eager solar salesman ready to convince you why you should go solar. To make the right decision for your home, you need to be able to distinguish between the real pros and cons of solar energy and the solar myths that are sometimes communicated in the media. 

Pros and cons of solar energy

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. Of all the common benefits and drawbacks that come with going solar, here are a few of the ones that consistently rise to the top:

Top solar energy pros and cons

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
Combat rising electricity costsLow electricity costs = lower savings
Earn money back on your investmentFinding local solar installers can be difficult

These solar energy pros and cons are some of the top-of-mind issues for solar shoppers. Read on to learn about these points and other in-depth and see the full list of solar energy pros and cons.

pros and cons of solar

Benefits of solar energy: top pros to keep in mind

There are many benefits of solar energy. Here are our most important ones to keep in mind:

1. Solar can either drastically reduce or totally eliminate your electric bills

This top 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 electric bill. A solar panel system typically has a 25-35 year lifespan, which means that you can cut your electricity costs for decades to come by going solar. Use this instant estimate tool to get a customized estimate of your long-term electricity bill savings and review personalized projections for up-front cost and 20-year solar savings. 

2. Solar improves the value of your home

Millions of U.S. homeowners are interested in solar panels but haven’t taken the time to figure out what it takes to install them. This consumer reality and the undeniable benefits of having solar panels on a home complements recent studies that found property values increase after solar is installed. Thus, the second “pro” of solar can help to level out one of the cons that we discussed earlier – even if you’re planning on moving in the near future, you’ll earn back your solar panel investment and then some when you sell your home. To learn more about the increased resale value of solar homes and find out just how much solar adds to the market value of your property, check out this article on solar and property values

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

Due to a number of awesome solar incentives in the U.S., 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) and net metering are two key benefits of solar that allow you to earn bill credits (or even extra cash) as your system produces electricity. In these scenarios, you are being compensated for the electricity that your solar panels generate. If you live in a state where either of these incentives apply, you can expect both immediate and long-term returns from your solar investment. 

4. Going solar gives you control over rising energy costs

Many homeowners face anxiety when it comes to their electricity bills because, in most scenarios, there is nothing you can do to control your utility electricity rate. While the cost of solar has decreased by more than 70 percent in the past decade, the cost of electricity has risen by about five percent, and that trend in rising electric cost is expected to continue. Going solar puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to energy generation. Utilities are quickly adapting to the rising adoption of renewable energy and the U.S. government is quickly increasing its goals for greenhouse gas emissions reduction, which means there’s really never been a better time to be energy autonomous.

5. Solar reduces carbon emissions and protects the environment while helping the U.S. move towards energy independence

Solar is a clean, renewable source of energy that can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and lower our impact on the natural environment. Unlike traditional fossil fuels like coal and oil, solar energy does not lead directly to pollutants (like carbon dioxide) being released into the atmosphere and water supply. Even compared to nuclear energy, solar comes out on top in terms of being a more environmentally friendly solution.

Perhaps the most admirable and patriotic advantage of solar power is the fact that it benefits our environment while simultaneously helping our country to make the necessary transition away from fossil fuels. In pursuing energy solutions to help the U.S. reduce overall emissions, our nation is also establishing independence in order to cease being heavily reliant on fossil fuel producers abroad. As the world searches for the most cost-effective ways to reduce our carbon dioxide output in the face of global climate change, solar energy has become a trendy resource for good reason, and perhaps even a bragging right for Earth Day and the Fourth of July.

pros and cons of solar

What are the disadvantages of going solar? The top 5 cons of solar energy

Solar isn’t perfect – here are five things to keep in mind when considering solar:

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, throwing up 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. In the long run, however, this 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: ground-mounted solar panels or buying a share in a community solar garden can get you around this disadvantage of solar energy.

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 so often heralded by industry sales reps. The average solar panel payback period in the U.S. is around seven and a half years. For a young homeowner who may be moving in the coming years, putting solar panels on his or her roof might feel like an unworthy investment. But, as you’ll learn later in this article, solar can actually improve your property value and thus increase your return when you do sell your home. So as long as you plan to buy your system with a cash purchase or loan, this disadvantage of solar power 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 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 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 here is clear: not everyone has the cash on hand to make an investment of this size with an up-front payment. That being said, there are a number of solar financing options to help you get around this solar con such as state-backed loan programs, leases and power purchase agreements.

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

There’s a common association that many homeowners have with solar. It has to do 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 Solar Marketplace is a 100% online comparison-shopping platform that allows you to compare solar quotes from top pre-screened installers in your area.

Key takeaways: comparing the disadvantages and advantages of solar panels

After reviewing our pros and cons comparison of solar energy, there are some clear takeaways to be aware of:

  • Rooftop solar panels aren’t the perfect fit for everyone, but that’s okay. Like any other home efficiency product, solar panels provide clear benefits to homeowners that are in need of energy upgrades and electricity bill reduction. Not everyone fits that description.
  • Solar energy should be thought of as an investment: a low-risk investment with major returns, but a hefty investment nonetheless.
  • The U.S. is moving towards clean energy, and solar is our cheapest option. There’s nothing unclear about America’s energy future: the U.S. is transitioning towards renewables and away from fossil fuels such as coal and oil. Solar is one of the most scalable, consumer-friendly solutions available in the clean energy landscape.

pros and cons of solar

15 thoughts on “The pros and cons of solar energy: what are the advantages and disadvantages of going solar?

  1. Robin Hammerton

    It never fails to amaze me how Solar energy is misrepresented as the saviour of the world mostly through half truth statements. For example it is not Carbon free as in the manufacture of the panels emissions are still created. Factories require huge amounts of energy, have you ever seen an Ad for Solar stating it is running X,Y,Z, factories? Of Course if you live in a sunny State you are Ok, if you live in a Non sunny State or a Tenement / Condo not so good. How many home installations have you heard about where the original connection to the grid is removed rather than staying connected so that during the nigh,dull days or winter your homeowner can just flick a switch as normal ?. Now where does this electricity come from. Quite simply from Large generators attached to the grid which run 24 hours a day just to cover the intermittency of Solar/Wind generation and because they are not running efficiently ramping up and down as the shadows reduce solar output so they create more CO2 pollution than would occur if there were no solar panels at all. Because in many cases Govt policy dictates that green energy generated electricity must be accepted onto the Grid first,,and again it is not possible to turn huge generators on and off at the touch of a button but can take days from a cold start, so they continue to run as if Solar/wind generation do not exist. This means that when the “Green” source is generating the excess electricity from the main generators (inc Hydro) must be dumped. This reduces the profitability of the Generation companies who are then compensated for the loss by the Govt. Who pays the Govt? Ultimately you and me. Some of this can be offset by selling the surplus but this is usually at a loss as the generation time rarely matches peak periods. So maybe the lucky few benefit from solar. Until such time as the Govt demands that users of non constant generated electricity must leave the Grid thus allowing main Generators to run their equipment economically which would be better for everyone. America is becoming a split nation,the haves and the have nots. The suggestion that looking after the environment,as mentioned in the rather shallow article above fails to mention the reduction in controls of the use of coal (“A nice CLEAN source of Energy” to quote the President) , the reduction in the quality standards for drinking water and the Downgrading of the EPA are just examples to the contrary. If you have money you don’t care, if you have grandkids its not your problem they will have to figure it out in 20 years time when it is too late.

  2. Robin Hammerton

    I forgot to mention 1 important factor regarding on grid off grid installations. A recent video by a homeowner who monitored his consumption of grid versus solar usage came up with a rather interesting result. His annual cost was around break even, ie his credits from solar generation matched the charges levied by the grid supplied electricity for the whole year. So that sounds pretty good for the home owner but what about the Grid operator. He has just lost half his former income from the home owner but his overheads remain the same. It does not take much thought to realise that if sufficient homeowners adopt the same system then it will become unprofitable for the Grid operator unless he raises his charges,or he will go out of business. This has already happened in the States but it would seem that Govt must have negotiated some subsidy system to keep him in business. So is the homeowner a winner. Ultimately NO. His costs will rise to a cost greater than it would have been had he not spent a great deal of money on a solar system. Solar is most certainly not cleaner than Nuclear. Coal despite the Presidents view is the dirtiest fuell killing thousands of Americans a year and incapacitating thousands more

  3. Phil

    While I do largely agree with Robin’s statements, I think there are a few unnecessary ultimatums in there.

    In a 5-year picture – yes, nuclear is great. It’s clean, efficient, and the waste is minimal. Do it on a mass scale for an extended period and you need a better solution for radioactive material that, for all intensive purposes*, will never break down. Solar isn’t cheap, it’s not without faults (currently worse greenhouse emissions than coal if we produce on a mass scale), and you’re putting others out by transferring.

    In an extended picture (10+ years) I think there are more idealistic scenarios. Power companies are transformed into battery houses. Homes in sunny areas all convert to solar and feed into batteries. Surrounding areas pull from batteries. Generators are only used in emergencies. Surplus power from the South is shipped north and everyone gets what they need. It’s really not as far fetched as it seems.

    As for faults (mentioned above), I see those primarily as growing pains. How we used coal (and it’s byproducts) for energy in the 1800’s is much different compared to today. The more people focused on an idea; the more it evolves and becomes efficient. I guarantee the materials we use to produce panels now are not what we will be using a few years from now – there are greener ways and we’ll find them. It’ll get cheaper the more people invest in it, and power companies will either adapt or be replaced.

    So, I guess take it all with a grain of salt. I may be a hopeless optimist, but I think there’s a bigger picture at stake than a ROI on a 5-year plan. If that’s all you’re worried about then solar probably isn’t a good fit. If you care about who/whatever may be left on this planet 30-50 years from now and you’re in the market for solar then maybe these zero-scientific-evidence-based ideas will help. It’s a gamble at the moment, but I would encourage those who can afford to be a part of a solution to do so!

    *all intensive purposes = human civilization won’t last long enough to see it break down.

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