We are moving towards a greener earth and solar energy is leading the charge. Instead of using costly energy from your electric company, many homeowners with ample access to sunlight are going the green route and installing solar panels on their homes.
Like any movement, there are certain advantages and disadvantages of solar energy. All pros and cons will be discussed so you can decide if solar panels make sense for your home.
What Is Solar Energy
The idea of solar energy can be confusing, but in simple terms, solar power is the conversion of the energy from the sun to usable electricity. Instead of using electricity from ComEd or your local electric company, solar panels take energy from the sun and convert it into energy that powers your lights, appliances and more.
Most residential solar systems use photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity. To learn more about the science behind solar, please see how solar works.
Advantages of Solar Energy
In addition to the earth’s benefits, there are plenty of pros to installing solar panels.
Solar Energy is a Renewable Energy Source
Believe it or not, at the current rate, our world will run out of oil. Even more dangerous is the fact that U.S. consumes 25% of the world’s oil and only produces 3%. Fortunately, the sun is a renewable resource that does not depend on anyone or any foreign country. Its energy output should remain consistent for at least 40,000 years, so we don’t have to worry about an energy shortage anytime soon.
After Installation, Solar Energy Can be Free
The installation cost is not cheap, but, more often that not, solar panels bring little if any cost after the initial bill. There are no moving parts to solar panels, so the likelihood of damage is low. Unless your area sees horrid storms, expect your solar panel repair bills to be minimal.
Solar Energy is Good for the Environment
Solar energy causes no pollution. Sadly, according to the EPA, the average household emits approximately 20 metric tons of carbon pollution each year. By installing a solar power system, a two-person household can eliminate between three and four tons of carbon annually. That is equivalent to planting 100 trees each year!
On the micro level, one house does not make a dent in the world’s pollution issues, but the collective effort across the globe can make a difference in the earth’s overall health (and climate change dilemma).
Solar Energy Provides A Return on Investment
Like any home remodeling project, one must look at solar panel installation as an investment. Yes, the initial costs are high, but in the long-term, most homeowners will make a return on their investment (ROI). In fact, studies show that solar energy systems offer a better return on investment than a five-year CD account in nearly 90% of the U.S. Chances are, if you live in an area with a lot of sunlight, you will see a healthy return.
Solar Panels Can Generate Tax Incentives
Fortunately, the U.S. is moving in a greener direction and as such, some states offer tax benefits for having solar power. The write-off varies by state and not all states offer such a bonus. To see if your state offers solar energy tax credits, please see energy.gov.
Solar Panels Produce Extra Energy that You Can Sell
In many cases, homes with solar panels produce more energy than they use. Fortuitously, electric companies will actually pay you for that excess energy. This of course factors into your ROI. Additionally, it also makes energy cheaper for everyone else and reduces our air pollution.
Solar Panels Increase Property Values
Given some of the advantages above (tax incentives or reducing air pollution), it is no surprise that homes with solar panels are more valuable than homes without. Additionally, solar panel homes in areas that are experiencing rising electric costs will see larger increases.
Solar Panels are Quiet
Chances are, at one point or another, you have lived with a noisy window air conditioner or loud HVAC system. They can make sleeping miserable. Luckily, solar panels make no noise whatsoever.
Disadvantages of Solar Energy
Despite all the pros mentioned above, there are a few big cons that come with solar panels.
Solar Panel Installation is Expensive
Since solar is a relatively new phenomenon, it’s no surprise that solar panel installation is not cheap. On average, homeowners pay anywhere from $9,800 to $15,000. Once again, one must look at the overall project as a long-term investment.
Solar Panels Need A Lot of Sun
Solar panels work by converting the sun’s energy into usable electricity. Needless to say, a home needs ample sunlight to utilize solar panels. For those areas that do not see a lot of sun (like us in Chicago), solar panels don’t always make sense.
To ensure panels are exposed to the sun, many homeowners buy adjustable mounts (just like a TV mount) that specifically track the arc of the sun on a daily basis. Bear in mind, these mounts are more expensive than the standard static mounts.
Solar Systems Can Be Bulky
In the dead of winter, our homes need to stay warm at night. With the sun down, solar power uses batteries that have been charged throughout the day. The batteries can be bulky and heat must move throughout the system.
See how the heat is transferred at night with our solar energy project guide.
Solar Panels Can Bring Repairs
Most solar projects will not require repairs, but one should know the possible causes and costs of the most common repairs. The most prominent issue results from weather damage. Hail storms, high winds and other severe weather conditions can result in damaged solar panels.
Depending on the severity of the damage, certain solar panel repairs can run as much as a few thousand dollars.
The green movement is not going away and solar panels continue to play a dominant role in a healthier earth. Now that you have seen all the pros and cons of solar energy, are you going green?