solar power pros and cons

The pros and cons of solar power: 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 power and the solar myths that are sometimes communicated in the media. 

Key takeaways: comparing the disadvantages and advantages of solar power

  • 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 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

On the advantages side, solar 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 disadvantages side, solar 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.

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 electricity 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 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. 

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 5 cons of solar energy

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

  • 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 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.

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About Jacob Marsh

Jacob is a researcher and content writer at EnergySage, where he focuses primarily on current issues–and new technology!–in the solar industry. With a background in environmental and geological science, Jacob brings an analytical perspective and passion for conservation to help solar shoppers make the right energy choices for their wallet and the environment. Outside of EnergySage, you can find him playing Ultimate Frisbee or learning a new, obscure board game.

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

  1. Charlotte Fleet

    My husband and I are considering installing solar roofing for our home soon. I appreciate you mentioning how solar systems can last up to 35 years and can help to completely eliminate your electricity bills. We will be sure to look into finding a reputable solar installation service that will help us to save money and energy.

  2. Charlotte Fleet

    My husband and I are hoping to sell our home in the near future but are wanting to get a solar energy system installed. I appreciate how you mentioned that installing solar panels can actually increase the resale value of your home and you can earn back your solar investment when you do sell it. We will have to find a reputable solar energy service to help us preserve energy and improve the value of our home.

  3. Lori Brown

    I purchased a home from my in-laws and got “stuck” with Solar Panels. I pay the Solar company $214 per month and my electric bills are still around $170. The solar company is horrible. They have refused to come out and reassess production or even re-evaluate the lease.
    So I am essentially paying the Solar company for nothing every month because if they were not on the roof my total bill would likely be around $220….
    I feel like a prisoner to the Solar Company as their contract is basically rock solid to protect only the business. There is no way to get out of it that I can see. Even for non-existant customer support and systems that do not make any sense.
    This particular company will put a lein on the house for non-payment also.
    I had to agree to the panel contract due to the family situation surrounding the purchase of the home.
    My suggestion is to be VERY cautious when choosing a company and get comprehensive, clear, written proof of how the money will be saved. Also, if circumstances change in the home, the contract should be re-evaluated to allow for changes in cost and production.

    1. Jacob van Velzen

      You can blame the solar company, but there is more to it than that. Your in-laws contracted
      a lease. Big mistake. Never lease. Check the contract carefully and see if you can buy them out. The solar company will probably charge you twice what the system is worth. Any buyout of more than $3500 per kilowatt is a ripoff. It might be worth a few hundred to talk to a contract lawyer.

  4. Valerie H Galloway

    My mother heard that after solar panels are placed, the heat from the home gets sucked into the attic after some time which mold etc grows in the attic if a fan isn’t employed to rid the attic of the extra trapped heat.

    I’ve never heard of this nor could I research and find confirmation of this info.

    Is this true?

    1. Peter

      Hi! Pretty sure this isn’t true. If you have had other methods of heating your home before, wouldn’t the same extra heat go into your attic as well? Also, a lot of non-solar homes have fans in their attics as well, so I’m sure that it isn’t just solar power that would cause mold. Could be wrong though!

  5. Ginocrededio

    Will the panels hurt your roof overtime. Knowing that they are screwed in to your roof will leaks occur over time. If you live in a area that has large oak trees with the leaves get caught between the panels or underneath them and hold moisture. If the company goes out of business will someone honor the warranty. Will my insurance on my house raise to cover the panels if they are damaged by a storm. How long are the panels warrantee for. Are there any more charges or hidden fees with the solar panels

  6. Terry Burch

    I just recently got solar installed for my modest home here in Texas and so far I am VERY disappointed my electrical supplier does not offer net metering so there is that benefit gone and as promised by the sales people at southern solar the system is not delivering as so stated I really don’t know where to turn so if you are thinking of going solar make SURE you check ALL avenues before signing on the dotted line

  7. 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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