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 power and the solar myths that are sometimes communicated in the media.
Key takeaways: comparing the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy
- 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 power
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 energy||Cons of solar energy|
|Lower your electric bill||Doesn't work for every roof type|
|Improve the value of your home||Not ideal if you're about to move|
|Reduce your carbon footprint||Buying panels can be expensive|
|Combat rising electricity costs||Low electricity costs = lower savings|
|Earn money back on your investment||Finding local solar installers can be difficult|
The main advantages of solar energy are that it helps you lower your electric bill, raise your home value, reduce your carbon footprint, combat rising electricity costs, and earn money back on your investment. On the other hand, the key disadvantages of solar energy include 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 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 others in-depth.
Five 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:
- Reduce/eliminate electric bills
- Improve the value of your home
- Reduce your carbon emissions
- Protect yourself against rising energy costs
- Earn money back on your investment
1. Solar can drastically reduce or 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 reduces carbon emissions
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.
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 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 advantages of solar energy 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.
How does solar energy work?
How does solar even work to get you all of these great benefits? At it’s core, it’s a chemical and physical reaction between sunlight and the solar panels. The science behind this “photovoltaic effect” is complicated, but we’ve broken it down for you–check our our article on how solar panels work to learn the step by step process by which panels generate clean electricity for your home.
What are the disadvantages of going solar? The top five cons of solar energy
Solar isn’t perfect – here are five disadvantages of solar energy to keep in mind when considering panels:
- Solar doesn’t work for every roof type
- It’s not ideal if you’re about to move
- Low electricity costs = low savings
- Upfront costs can be high
- Finding the right installer can be a challenging process
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 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 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 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. 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.
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 buyers to learn more:
The top advantages of solar energy are that it reduces electricity bills, increases the value of your home, cuts back on carbon emissions, protects against rising electricity costs, and it helps you earn money back on your investment. On the other hand, disadvantages of solar energy include a high initial cost, an inability to work on every roof type, and it may be difficult to find a local installer depending on where you live.
While there are many pros to going solar, there are a few disadvantages worth considering before making a decision—it’s still worth noting that many argue the pros far outweigh the cons in this instance. However, cons include that solar panels don’t work for every roof type and the initial cost is often very expensive. Additionally, if your current electricity costs are low, your solar savings might not be worth it in the long run.
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 that there is a lack of recycling options for solar panels. Learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of renewable energy on our blog, and see what solar panel recycling options are available to you.