There is a lot of talk these days about helping the planet and becoming more sustainable by installing solar panels. Over the years, you have likely heard stories about how installing solar can lower your utility bills and get you a rebate from the government. However, is the time, effort, and installation worth it?
How Solar Panels Work
Before getting into the pros and cons of solar panels, it is important to understand what it means to go solar and if making the change is necessary in the first place.
Start by realizing that, no matter what, when you go solar, you are helping the planet. The electricity provided by utility companies is produced via the burning of fossil fuels. When these fossil fuels and coal are burned, they emit greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. The problem is that so many people use standard electricity that the greenhouse gasses are out of control, and they are contributing to acid rain and other dangerous weather. Also, when the pollutants rise, they blanket our atmosphere and trap the sun’s heat, which contributes to global warming.
When you use solar panels, you are lighting your home and powering your electronics with the sun. Although you will still need to be connected to the utility company for emergency situations, the reduction in the fossil fuels that are required to run your home is palpable, and it makes your home more sustainable.
So, if your main objective is to become more sustainable regardless of the cost, then going solar is worth it.
Are Solar Panels Worth the Cost?
If you love the planet but you are primarily thinking about solar panels to lower your utility bills, then you need to look at your current energy consumption to determine if solar is worth it.
Before you get the benefits of solar panels, you first need to spend time and money having them installed and powered up. It is a process that can take months. Also, while you will start saving money once your panels are at full power, you will need to pay for the cost of buying the solar panels, which on average is about $13,000 – $17,000, depending on where you live. So, if your goal is to save money, then you need to decide if this investment will really lower your energy costs.
The first step is to look at your monthly electric bill. Is it already manageable? If your monthly cost is already low, then there is a chance that solar panels won’t do you any good. Keep in mind that in addition to paying off the solar panels on a monthly basis, you will always need to be connected to the local electricity company for emergencies. Typically, that will be approximately a $10 charge added to your monthly bill. If your current electric bill is not that much more than that amount, then solar is definitely not worth your time.
When you install solar, a representative from a solar company will look at your current energy usage and compare it to the benefits of the solar panels. If your energy rates or energy consumption is already too low, then they likely will not recommend a solar panel system.
Your Location Matters, Too
Keep in mind that solar panels cannot be used on every house. Your home will need to be situated in such a way that your roof is always covered in sunlight. Yes, solar panels will continue to power your home even on cloudy or overcast days. However, they need to be powered up by the sun on a regular basis in order to have the excess power necessary to keep your house energized during nights, storms, and inclement weather.
While you could still install solar panels if your home isn’t constantly bathed in sunlight, it will drastically reduce the productivity of your panels and the money you would save on electricity. If there are many overcast days in a row, then you would need to switch over to the electrical grid, and your energy bill would be higher, which cancels the benefits of the panels.
Although the sun moves throughout the day, even if your panels are only blocked out for a few hours each day, it will greatly reduce their power. Plus, even if it is sunny all year long, you will have the same issue if you have any large trees or nearby buildings that overshadow your home and block out the sun. Again, the representative from the solar company will help you here. They will analyze your roof, determine how much sun you get, and tell you if solar is worth the time and money.
Roof Design is Also a Factor
To supply the energy you need for your home, you will need to have a certain number of solar panels installed. In addition to ensuring that your roof gets enough light, the solar company representative will also need to look at your roof to determine if it is designed in such a way that solar panels can be installed. Solar might not be an option if you have a small roof that doesn’t have space for panels or a roof design that won’t let the panels sit at the right angle.
Pros and Cons of Solar Panels
The points we have discussed so far are only a few considerations you will need to make before going forward with solar. Below are some other pros and cons to consider.
Pros of Solar
Here are the great perks that solar can offer:
You Will Eventually Own Your Own Power
Solar is a great long-term solution if your electric bill is through the roof and you are looking to save money. When you sign up for solar, you essentially pay for the solar system, including the panels. Once you pay off the system, you will get your power from the sun, which is free. All you would have to pay monthly is the $10 (give or take) to stay on the power grid. Remember that it typically takes an average of six to 10 years for the panels to pay for themselves, so keep that in mind if you ever plan to move out of the home before that time comes.
There Are Government Incentives
The rumors you have heard over the years are true: If you sign up for solar, then you will get a financial incentive. Currently, there is the Federal Solar Tax Credit that will give you a tax reduction of 30% of your solar installation costs, which can save you a lot of money upfront. You may be eligible for more savings depending on your state. There are also net-metering programs in certain states that allow you to sell your extra energy back to the grid for financial payouts.
Increase Your Home Value
If you ever decide to sell your home, you may find that solar panels can help you to get a better price for your house. This is especially true if you have paid off the panels and the new owners learn that they will pay $10 monthly for electricity. If they are already in love with your home, there will be fewer reasons for them to decline your offer.
Cons of Solar
In addition to some of the caveats described earlier, there are some other cons associated with solar panels:
High Initial Costs
As mentioned, solar panels can cost close to $17,000 to install. While you will be able to finance that cost over time and get a tax incentive, some people may not have that money available.
Solar Panel Manufacturing Hurts the Planet
If you are mostly interested in solar because you want to help the planet, then you should know that while you will use less electricity over time; initially, the manufacturing of the panels is not so great for the Earth. The power necessary to mine the materials and construct the panels creates the same greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming, so keep that in mind.
You May Need to Replace the Solar Battery
To store the excess energy created by your solar panels, a battery will be installed. If this battery ever breaks or you need to upgrade, then you will need to pay the cost. A lead-acid battery will cost between $200 and $800, while a lithium-ion solar system can cost anywhere from $7,000 to $14,000.
Use A Solar Calculator
As you can see, there is a lot to consider before you can even move forward with the first step of installing solar panels. It can be a lot to wrap your mind around.
The good news is that online resources can help you determine if pursuing solar is worth your time. A calculator like the one available from Solar-Estimate will take all of the considerations we have discussed and give you a solid answer of if solar is best for you.
The calculator will look at specific information, including your zip code, current energy company, monthly energy consumption, the type of roof you have, and your physical address and tell you right now if solar is an option at all. Consider doing some of your own research online and get estimates first before signing the dotted line with an installation company.
Are Solar Panels Worth It?
Needless to say, the answer to this question depends on your specific situation.
If your energy bills are currently out of control, your house is constantly shrouded in sunlight, and you want to live a more sustainable life, then panels are absolutely worth it.
If your energy usage is modest, you live in a state known for inclement weather, and you have a small roof, then the panels may not be ideal for your situation.
Whatever you decide, make it a point to do your research beforehand, so you get the best deal and system for your needs. It is important to make the best decision for your home so you can do what is best for the planet.