So I keep getting emails from random people around the States saying that they can’t go solar because of this or that, including expense and physical limitations. Some of these concerns are valid, but others not. So, here’s my Top 10 Myths about going solar.
Myth#1: Solar is too expensive.
This really depends on your State and utility. There are more and more solar friendly states that are cutting the price of solar in half if not more, plus the Federal 30% tax rate. Check out out the right hand side of this page and the DSIRE website for a summary of all the State programs now available. If you finance through your home equity or second mortgage, you also get the benefit of a tax write off on the interest. I also just recently wrote about how solar raises the value of your home.
Myth#2: Even if it’s less expensive, I don’t have the upfront money.
One of my most read group of posts is Cash Poor financing series. These talk about solar leasing, solar PPAs, 0 Down financing, and the growing number of cities financing solar through tax assessments. All of these require very little money down. Similarly, a second home mortgage or government energy efficiency mortgage also has little upfront costs.
Myth#3: Solar will get cheaper, so I might as well wait.
While it’s true that improvements in technology and competition is making solar panels cheaper, the current number of State and Federal incentives are also getting less generous as these prices come down. So if you’re already in a solar friendly State or municipality (see #1 above), then yes, wait until local incentives improve. On the other hand, if you are in a solar friendly State, the price is going to remain about the same for the next 10 years, so might as well start saving on your electric bills now. For more on why it might not make sense to wait, check out Dan’s recent post: The cost of the “let’s wait and see” solar buying reaction.
Myth#4: Making solar panels causes more pollution than the clean energy they produce.
Nope. A study by the US Department of Energy shows that, depending on your solar panels, the energy payback is 1 to 4 years. Solar panels usually last 25 years, so solar manufacturing is very green. That said, if you buy American made panels, it saves more carbon from the transport costs. Something to consider in choosing your panels.
Myth#5: Solar panels will cause more harm to the environment when they’re thrown away in 25 years.
Actually, most panel manufacturers will recycle the panels after you’re through in 25 years. If they don’t, don’t buy those panels. However, it’s hard to say whether people will actually recycle them because most panels are still being used today. So it’s up to you find out about the manufacturer’s panel recycling program. From what I understand, they will come to you and take them away at no charge.
Myth#6: Solar will look ugly on my roof.
Check out my post about Thin Film vs. Silicon based solar panels. They’re making solar panels these days to look just like regular roofs or shingles. Yeah, they’re a little more expensive, but they should still pay for themselves during their lifetime. Plus, remember that any solar panel, no matter what they look like, can raise the value of your home. In California, this improvement is exempt from a tax reassessment. Plus, many home buyers see solar as an attractive green statement, so your home might sell faster than another in your neighborhood.
Myth#7: Solar is hard to maintain.
If you buy a system that is connected to your utility, as most electric systems are, your solar panels are easy to maintain. They just need to be cleaned off with water to get off dust or debris or snow. And by the way, panels are pretty hardy, designed to withstand hail, sleet, and snow. On the other hand, if you buy a battery based system, then yes, this will require more attention–and expense. But grid connected systems without batteries are the most inexpensive and common for most home owners.
Myth#8: I live in a cloudy, cold, climate, so Solar doesn’t work.
Solar works just fine in cloudy or cold climates. See the above photo and also this video about a Seattle installation. The payback will be slower, that’s true, because you’ll be using more utility power than if you lived in a more sunny state. But remember that solar panels are guaranteed for 25 years, typically, but often keep going for 30 years and more. And by the way, solar panels like sun, but not heat, so cold climates can actually make the panels more efficient.
Myth#9: The utility grid can’t handle my solar panels.
First of all, residential solar systems carry relatively little energy, so it’s not going to affect most existing wires unless they already needed repairs. What is true and has been in the news lately is that these large solar and wind farms need some serious infrastructure to carry their green energy from the rural open spaces where they’re being built to the grid. Also, the U.S. grid remains one of the most reliable electric systems in the world. Overall, the grid is working fine 99% of the time. That’s why for most urban and suburban people, battery back up systems aren’t that cost effective. That being said, the grid is behind in terms of being “smart,” so we do need new technology to more efficiently allocate all of our energy, whether solar or coal.
Myth#10: I don’t know if my house i
s right for solar.
Fair enough. First, check out this post about doing a little self evaluating for solar. Then check out this post to find an installer in your area to give you a free quote. An on the ground solar installer is usually your best source of real info. If you fill out our form, we’ll send it to a local installer in your area who will set up a time to give you that free evaluation. Free is good, so what you can you lose?
If solar is not right for you, no worries. At least you know and you learned a lot about solar. Pass that knowledge on to someone on Face Book who may be right.