The Pros and Cons of Solar Energy

The Pros and Cons of Solar Energy

Solar is one of the fastest growing forms of energy. It’s little wonder that it’s growing so quickly, as the amount of energy that hits the earth from the sun is more than enough to power every circuit on earth.

With improving technology, lower prices, and federal and state incentives, millions of homeowners are installing solar panels on their roofs.

However, there is a lot of information out there and most solar companies only focus on the positives. At Big Dog Solar, our goal isn’t to get everyone to go solar, but rather to help people make a smart decision about going solar.

If you’re thinking about powering your home with clean energy, this article will provide you with the top solar energy pros and cons so you can make an informed decision.

Table of Contents

The Pros of Going Solar

Are you tired of endlessly increasing energy bills? Did you know that incorporating solar power into your home could be the solution you’ve been looking for? Not only can it help reduce or eliminate your utility bill, but there are numerous other benefits to solar energy as well.

This is a table depicting the pros and cons of going solar.

Solar Can Reduce or Eliminate Your Utility Bill

Millions of homeowners have gone solar, and it’s not just to save the turtles and reduce their carbon footprints.

They’re going solar to reduce or eliminate their power bills. They rely on net metering and solar financing to make that possible.

Net Metering

Net metering allows homeowners to overproduce power, and receive credits with the utility company for when the sun ain’t shining.

To eliminate your power bill your system needs to be designed with your yearly electricity usage in mind.

A good installer will take that all into account for you.

Solar Financing

There are three methods to acquire solar. Cash, PPA/leasing, and financing. The most popular method is financing.

Cash is what it sounds like – you pay for it all upfront. You don’t have to pay interest, but you have to have a big chunk of cash that you’re able to sink into solar. Around 10% of our customers use this option.

PPA stands for Power Purchase Agreement. It’s similar to leasing. A company puts panels on your roof, and they own them, then they’ll sell the power back to you. We don’t recommend this option. It just hasn’t worked out well for customers in our experience.

Financing allows you to put $0 down, or some money down and then get a flat payment. That payment is usually around or below the price of your previous electrical bill. Unlike your electrical bill, no one can raise it on you!

A Perfect Match

Net metering wipes out solar’s weak spot. Darkness. Financing allows you to pay for solar in monthly installments. When all is said and done, most homeowners are able to get their solar payments around or even lower than the monthly cost of solar power.

That’s how you eliminate power bills. If you want to learn more about this, we’ve got a whole article on the financial benefits of solar energy.

Solar Power Can Increase the Value of Your Home

According to research done by Zillow, having a solar energy system can boost a home’s value by 4.1%. A home that would normally sell for $300,000 would be valued at $312,300. That’s a $12,300 increase in value for something that’s already saving you money!

The Zillow study notes that the change in home value depends on areas of the country you’re in, but 4.1% is a national average.

Another study done by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that a home’s resale value can increase by $5,911 for every kW of solar capacity installed on the home.

For reference, in 2022 our average system size was 8.5 kW, reference 80% of our installations fall between 6 & 12 kWs in size.

 

The increase in home value varies by region, and by the age of a system. The figures we shared represent national averages, and we encourage looking deeper into the sources we listed to get a clearer picture.

The Solar Industry is Contributing to Massive Job Growth

The growth in the solar power industry has created a boom of employment opportunities. In fact, the solar industry has seen job growth surpassing any other industry in recent years. By supporting this industry, you’re supporting the creation of new jobs and the betterment of the economy.

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the solar industry employs over 250,000 people in the United States alone. This number is expected to continue to grow as the industry expands and becomes more mainstream.

 

Not only does the solar industry provide jobs, but more solar manufacturing is being done in the United States than ever before.

Solar is a Proven Technology

While solar power may seem like a new thing, it has actually been around for centuries. Even longer in fact, photosynthesis is a solar power process that allows all plants to survive. We need the sun’s energy to produce Vitamin D.

Humans learned how to harness it for electricity in the mid-1800s, when French physicist Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect. This is the process by which sunlight is converted into electricity.

However, it wasn’t until the 1950s that the first silicon solar cell was invented by Bell Labs. This was a major breakthrough, as it allowed for the mass production of solar cells and made solar power a viable option for generating electricity.

Since then, the efficiency of solar cells has continued to improve. In the 1970s, solar cells were only able to convert around 10% of the sunlight they received into electricity. Today, some solar cells are able to convert over 20% of the sunlight they receive into electricity, making them much more efficient.

Not only has the efficiency of solar cells improved, but the cost has also decreased. In the early days of solar power, it was very expensive to install a solar panel system. However, as the technology has improved and become more widespread, the cost has come down significantly.

 

Pew Research found that 8% of American homeowners have gone solar, and another 39% are seriously considering it. It’s fair to say that solar is an established technology!

Solar Power is Surprisingly Affordable

Solar is affordable because of financing, tax credits, and economies of scale.

We already covered how financing allows you to pay for solar over time. There’s an amazing tax credit available for solar. It the Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit. You get 30% of the entire cost of your system as a tax credit!

One of our customers used it and didn’t have to pay taxes for three years!

Economies of scale refers to the principle that products get cheaper when more of them are produced. This effect has been making solar cheaper for decades.

 

Many people think that solar power is out of their budget, but the reality is that costs have come down significantly in recent years. There are also numerous financing options available to help make solar power systems more accessible to homeowners. Plus, the long-term savings and benefits of solar power far outstrip any initial costs.

Solar Benefits the Whole Electrical Grid

Using solar power doesn’t just benefit you, it also benefits the whole electrical grid. By reducing demand on the grid during peak electricity usage times, solar power can help prevent blackouts and other issues. Plus, it helps to diversify our energy sources, which is better for the environment and the economy.

 

  • Solar reduces electricity demand: When you install solar panels on your roof, you use less electricity from the grid. This lowers the overall demand for electricity, especially during peak hours when the grid is most stressed and electricity is most expensive. Solar panels produce the most power when the sun is shining brightly, which is also when air conditioners and other appliances are working hard. By reducing your electricity use during these times, you help ease the pressure on the grid and lower the prices for everyone.
  • Solar eases stress on the transmission system: The electricity grid consists of two parts: generation and transmission. Generation is where the electricity is produced, such as in power plants or solar farms. Transmission is where the electricity is delivered to your home through wires and poles. Both parts require maintenance and upgrades, which can be costly. Solar panels help reduce the need for both generation and transmission upgrades, because they produce electricity close to where it is used. This means less electricity has to travel long distances through wires, which can reduce losses and congestion. By installing solar panels, you can save money for yourself and for the grid.

“Solar power could deliver $400 billion in environmental and public health benefits throughout the United States by 2050.”

Solar Power Systems Have a Long Life Span

A solar power system is built to last. With proper maintenance, your system can last for 30 years or more. This means that not only will you be saving money on your energy bills, you’ll also be making a long-term investment in your home and its energy efficiency.

A solar panel’s life expectancy can be anywhere from 25-40 years. Their warranties start at 25 years! There are few products on the market that are built to last that long.

 

Not only will they survive a long time, but panels are built to take a beating from hail, high winds, and other severe weather conditions.

Solar Allows You To Take Advantage of Otherwise Unused Space

The average roof in the United States is 2,273 square feet. During the best sunlight producing hours of the day (called Peak Sun Hours) 1000 watts of energy are coming down on every square meter of space.

2,273 square feet is equivalent to 211 square meters. That means that 211,000 watts of energy are coming down on the average American roof. In terms of Kilowatts this is 211 kW hours of energy.

Most homes consume around 1,000 kW hours per month. There’s enough energy hitting most American roofs in one day to power their homes for an entire month!

Now, solar panels are not 100% efficient, they only capture 18%-20% of the energy that hits them. There’s so much power hitting most rooftops that you can still only cover part of the roof, and overproduce more power than you need!

 

If you don’t have solar, then all that energy is just hitting your roof, heating up your house, and giving you sunburns when you go outside. It’s time to put it to good use!

The Cons of Solar Energy

Now, solar isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. When you’re thinking of going solar, you’ve got to have a good understanding of all the aspects of solar. The good and the bad.

We’ll dive into the less sunny side of solar, examining the potential drawbacks you might encounter on your journey towards sustainable energy.

Navigating the Paper Trail: Permitting and Permissions

First up is the paperwork. You’ll need permits and permissions before you can start. It can take a bit of time and can be a little tricky. But it’s an important step to make sure everything is done right and you get all the incentives you deserve.

The permitting and permissions phase can be a time-consuming and, sometimes, complex process. However, it’s a necessary step to ensure that your installation meets all local regulations and qualifies for available incentives.

 

Luckily when you go solar with a full-service installation company, you get a whole team of experts at your service to make sure your whole system is up to code, and passes every inspection.

Homeownership & Solar: A Hard Requirement

With current laws and incentives, solar installations make more sense for homeowners than renters. While progress is being made to extend the benefits of solar power to a broader audience, you just won’t benefit from solar as a renter.

There are other options for renters like the products from Inergy Tek. These are portable solar solutions with batteries that can be used for RVing, or backing up smaller loads in your home like the fridge and some lights.

 

They’re relatively affordable for the value they provide.

Weather Dependency: The Cloudy Days and Dark Nights

We know it doesn’t shine all the time, and here lies another drawback – the dependency on weather. Yes, solar panels don’t generate power at night, and their efficiency decreases on cloudy or rainy days. But thanks to a nifty concept called net metering, we can use the grid as a “virtual battery”.

 

Net metering is used by all of our customers to allow them to store up credits for excess power they produce. Then they get to redeem those credits later on. Check out our explainer on the ins and outs of net metering.

Roof Compatibility: Not a 'One Size Fits All'

There are several factors that might make a roof less suitable for solar panels.

Orientation: South-facing roofs receive the most sunlight and are ideal for solar panels in the Northern Hemisphere. East or west-facing roofs can work but are less efficient, while north-facing roofs are generally least suitable.

Shading: Direct sunlight is crucial for optimal panel performance. Any obstructions like trees, tall buildings, or shadows cast on your roof can limit efficiency.

Roof Condition: Solar panels last 25-30 years, so it’s best to install them on roofs that won’t need replacing soon. If your roof is nearing the end of its life, it’s recommended to replace it before installing panels.

Roof Size and Shape: Sufficient flat space is necessary for panel installation. Complex roof layouts with numerous hips and valleys can make installation more challenging but not impossible.

Building Regulations: Local regulations may restrict or limit solar panel installations.

So, what can you do if your roof isn’t ideal for solar panels? Luckily, there are several alternatives:

Ground-mounted solar panels: If you have available open, sunny space on your property, ground-mounted panels can be a great option. They can be positioned optimally and are easy to maintain.

Solar carports or pergolas: If ground space is limited, solar carports or pergolas can provide shade, shelter, and power generation on your driveway or patio.

 

Every home is unique, and every area has different regulations. It’s always best to consult with a professional to understand your options. If you have further questions on this, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on social, or through our contact page!

The Financial Implication: High Up-front Costs

The initial investment for solar installation is significant. Despite the long-term savings, the upfront costs can be daunting. Thankfully, the development of various solar financing options, including leases, loans, and power purchase agreements, makes solar more affordable for a broader demographic.

While there are many options to spread out the costs of solar, we recommend using solar loans rather than leasing and power purchase agreements. When you finance a system through loans you get to keep the tax benefits for yourself. That isn’t the case with the other options.

 

We created an in-depth guide to help you understand the dollars and cents of solar.

Solar and Mobility: Not a Perfect Match

Solar installations don’t travel well. For those with a highly mobile lifestyle, like military personnel or those who relocate frequently for work, solar energy might not be the best fit. It’s essential to consider your stability in a residence before investing in solar.

If you plan to move in the near future, you may not reside in your home long enough to reach the “break-even point” where the cost of the system is offset by these savings. While solar panels can potentially increase home value, it’s not guaranteed you’ll recover the entire cost of the system when selling.

 

We recommend looking at solar if you’re planning to be in your home for at least a few years, if not more.

Solar’s Return Isn’t Immediate: Patience Pays Off

Like any good investment, solar energy has a payback period. The financial benefits accrue over time through savings on your energy bills, and not instantly.

When you go solar with financing, you get a monthly payment for solar instead of having to pay for it all upfront. This payment is usually around the same price, or a bit lower than your usual utility bill. When your solar payment goes below the cost of your utility bill, the savings start to rack up.

Installation Challenges: A Note to DIY Enthusiasts

While we applaud the DIY spirit, installing solar panels is a complex process requiring a range of knowledge from different disciplines.

This includes contractors, electricians, designers, and a whole host of other professionals.

Most homeowners would benefit from professional installation to ensure safety, efficiency, and code compliance.

So, is solar worth it after all?

Now that you’ve seen some of the benefits and challenges to going solar, you might be wondering if solar is worth. While we can’t say if it would be worth it for you, we did prepare a video outlining the instances when solar might not be worth it.

If you have more questions, feel free to reach out to us. Obviously we help people go solar all the time, but we also tell people when not to go solar. If you want us to take a look at your situation, and ask you a few questions to see if solar makes sense for you, feel free to give us a call!

If calls aren’t your thing, you can start with our free Solar Score quiz which gives you a score to tell you if solar is a good fit.

Find your solar score in 5 minutes.

You may be more well suited than you think. Get your solar readiness score.

Continue Reading