Should I be installing solar panels on my property?
It’s a question that many homeowners are considering today. Even some businesses are looking at the advantages and disadvantages of solar panels to see if there are cost benefits available with this technology.
The answer is one that’s quite straightforward. If you want a way to save on your energy expenses over a long period, then the installation of solar panels makes sense. Although the initial costs are high, the benefits of environmental responsibility and monthly utility savings make this technology a viable solution.
Solar panels can also be a beneficial investment because of available tax incentives. Most communities make this technology exempt from property taxes, which adds more value to your home if you reach a point where it is time to sell.
List of the Advantages of Solar Panels
1. Solar panels are an environmentally friendly power resource to use.
The use of solar panels to create electricity has a substantially lower negative influence on the environment when compared to other resources. That includes energy options that settle into the renewable spectrum. Because this technology doesn’t require the use of fossil fuels after the manufacturing process is complete, fewer particulates enter the atmosphere with its ongoing use.
It only takes 12 months of lower coal emissions and more solar energy from photovoltaic panels to create fewer carbon dioxide releases. Although we might not ever get away from fossil fuels because solar panels require replacement after 25 to 40 years, the amount of oil and gas we use in the future could be significantly less with this technology.
2. This technology produces sustainable power almost anywhere.
When we begin to use solar panels consistently, then we are causing a reduction in the use of oil and natural gas. Even though we need fossil fuels and some potentially toxic items to create the photovoltaic panels that collect energy from the sun, a net greenhouse gas emission savings can occur within 60 months because of modern manufacturing practices.
We have an estimated 50 years of energy production available with our current fossil fuel resources. Transitioning to photovoltaic panels today can help us to secure a future where we have all forms of energy available for use.
3. It can reduce the electricity bills of homeowners around the world.
Using photovoltaic panels instead of a traditional energy resource can provide significant financial savings to some families. When looking at this technology over a 20-year installation, it is possible for some property owners to save upwards of $30,000 on their utility expenses with solar. The total amount that’s achievable will ultimately depend on the size of a home, how much electricity gets used, and where someone lives.
Paying utility bills won’t give you a return on your investment, but you’ll receive that advantage when you pay off your solar panels. You can even sell solar energy back to the grid so that there is some potential to earn while you are also saving.
4. Some homeowners may receive financial support from the government.
State and federal tax benefits for the purchase and installation of photovoltaic panels may exist for some homeowners in the United States. Depending on your circumstances and current income levels, it is possible to potentially claim up to 30% of your initial expense as a credit or income reduction during the first year of purchase.
You’re also helping the economy when you make a purchase because it creates local jobs for installers and manufacturers. Every $1 that Americans spend on photovoltaic panels through local providers generates almost $2 of economic activity.
5. Solar panels provide a higher level of energy independence.
When we collect energy from the sun, then we are receiving an infinite source of energy. It provides us with a higher level of independence because we aren’t reliant on others to give us access to the fossil fuels that we need. The homeowners and businesses that use photovoltaic panels to supplement their electrical needs have a predictable energy bill and more stability with their utility costs each month. This advantage is particularly profound during times when energy demands are at their highest levels.
6. You can have power when the utility goes out.
Storms in 2019 knocked out power to some communities for over a week. Without any utility access, homeowners found themselves losing the food they’d purchased. There wasn’t an Internet connection to use. Generators can provide temporary relief in these circumstances when you have gasoline available, but photovoltaic panels keep producing power whenever they have access to the sun. That means you can keep having access to power even when the utility connection is unavailable.
Even homeowners who live in cloudy areas can take advantage of this benefit. Thermal panels allow you to convert the heat from the sun into usable energy for a variety of needs.
7. Using solar panels will reduce your carbon footprint.
Photovoltaic panels might require fossil fuels as part of the manufacturing process, but this technology doesn’t require combustion afterward to generate power. That means you can get the electricity needed without giving off any dangerous emissions. You aren’t 100% carbon- or pollutant-free with this option, but you can reduce what your household produces by a significant margin.
Without photovoltaic panels providing electrical support, the average American home produces over 14,900 pounds of carbon dioxide each year. Switching to solar can reduce that figure by at least 20%.
8. Solar panels are an excellent long-term investment that requires little maintenance.
Most photovoltaic panels today come in systems that have a 20-year guarantee upon installation. You can find options in the 30, 40, or 50-year region if you’re willing to spend a little more on your system. During their operational time, solar products require very little maintenance. You’ll need to inspect them monthly to ensure there isn’t debris blocking the panel or shade interference, but most issues can be handled directly by the homeowner.
Photovoltaic technologies are constantly improving, which means solar panels of the same size today are better than the ones that got installed last year.
9. Photovoltaic panels are a proven technology.
The first cells that became capable of converting energy from the sun into power reached the market in 1954, creating the foundation for the world’s first solar panels. Residential installations began to appear in the late 1970s so that homeowners could start to benefit from this technology. Electricity production exceeded 20 MW for the first time in 1983, and now the photovoltaic panel industry generates over 47 GW in the United States annually.
Solar panels provide us with a safe and proven technology to generate electricity from the sun. It isn’t something that was just recently developed that hasn’t provided measurable results.
10. The cost profile of solar panels continues to decrease.
The cost of solar panels in the United States was $8.50 per installed watt in 2009. The price would reach an all-time low of $2.99 per installed watt in 2019. As this technology continues to develop, this advantage will continue to reduce costs over the next decade. A 65% reduction in price could be available in 2030 compared to today’s pricing, which means this resource could become more economical than any other method of electricity production.
The price of a standard 6-kilowatt solar power system suitable for home installation dropped from $51,000 in 2009 to less than $18,000 in 2019. When you subtract the potential tax benefits that are available to some homeowners in the United States, then the final cost is less than $13,000 for a complete system.
11. Solar panels provide us with a shareable energy option.
Many utilities accept the electricity created from photovoltaic panels to distribute the power through the rest of the utility grid. We can also use communal solar panel installations to develop energy for an entire neighborhood to consume. Shared solar allows property owners to subscribe to a community panel garden that generates electricity, eliminating the need to have panels installed on a roof.
Because solar panels have no moving parts, noise pollution isn’t an issue with this technology. This advantage is why solar is a highly favored option when contrasted with other renewable energy options. Even though other technologies might offer more availability, the lack of bothersome odors or sounds makes it an attractive investment option.
List of the Disadvantages of Solar Panels
1. The initial installation costs for solar panels is still out of reach for some people.
Although homeowners and businesses can experience a reduced electricity bill when using photovoltaic panels, the initial installation cost is still a significant barrier for many. When the equipment and labor get factored together, it can be more than $30,000 for large systems. A 1,500-square-foot home might pay $18,000 to have enough capacity to meet their daytime needs
If you have devices that run on a DC current, then those are going to be more expensive to power directly when using this technology. Homeowners that want overnight options will also pay more to get the storage capacity they require.
2. Solar panels have a high level of weather dependence.
Photovoltaic panels need to have access to the sun to produce energy that we can consume. Although thermal technologies help us to get around this disadvantage to some extent, there are some communities that are more prone to cloudy days than others. If you don’t receive more than 250 days of sunshine per year, then a different renewable energy production method might be a better choice.
Even when you do receive a lot of sunshine throughout the year, an extended period of storms or darker days can impact the amount of electricity your system can generate. Your system is also going to be less productive during the winter months than in the summer season.
3. It is almost impossible to take a solar installation to a new home.
This disadvantage comes from a practical viewpoint. Once you have photovoltaic panels installed at a home or business, this technology is almost impossible to transport to a new location. Most systems get specifically designed to work with your current structure, so dismantling the panels to go to a new property might not even be beneficial. You’d then need to retrofit the entire investment to the new roof.
The work it would take to accomplish a successful result without damaging the panels or either roof in question is massive. Most homeowners would find it to be cheaper to install a new system at their new property.
4. Some installations have limitations from their surroundings.
Most solar energy companies provide services to specific regions or individual states. If you live outside of the coverage area of a contractor, then you might find it a challenge to find any services provided near your property. When you live in a rural area, this disadvantage might even impact your ability to speak with representatives about the possibilities of solar in the first place. Before you make a final decision about embracing this technology, you’ll want to see if there is any local availability present so that you can work with an experienced contractor in your area.
5. Urban areas sometimes struggle to manage the scope of solar panels.
Photovoltaic panels require a specific amount of space for the equipment installation to be beneficial. Most systems need at least 100 square feet of space on the roof to generate 1 kilowatt using the conventional approach. If you have limited space or share a building with others in a large city, then you might not have enough room to have panels installed that can power the entire house.
You could still share the energy created by a neighborhood installation, but that adds the dimension of getting everyone around you on board with the idea of using photovoltaic panels to generate energy.
6. Photovoltaic panels require rare materials during the manufacturing process.
Some solar panels require rare materials to complete the manufacturing process. This problem is primarily a disadvantage for photovoltaic technologies, but it also applies to the concentrated panels market. Most of the items that this industry requires are byproducts from other processes, which means there is no way to increase mining efforts to secure raw materials directly.
The list of items that apply to this disadvantage includes terbium, silver, magnetic neodymium, dysprosium, electronic indium, and praseodymium.
7. Some solar panels may create hazards for the environment.
The photovoltaic panels that we use to obtain power from the sun contain many of the same hazardous materials that are in modern electronic devices. As this renewable resource becomes a more accessible way to generate electricity, we will encounter the problem of disposing of hazardous waste correctly.
We can bypass some of the problems of this disadvantage by encouraging recycling programs for solar panels in our local communities. The benefit of reduced greenhouse gas emissions still makes this technology an attractive alternative when compared to fossil fuels, even with the potential for HAZMAT cleanup needs during the manufacturing process.
8. Toxicity could be an issue with some solar panels.
Some solar cells require materials that are expensive to obtain because of their rarity in nature. This disadvantage primarily applies to thin-film cells that have manufacturing processes based on cadmium telluride or copper indium gallium selenide. The issue with scarcity also applies throughout the entire manufacturing chain for photovoltaics. Some of the materials, such as lead, are even known toxins that adversely impact personal health with prolonged exposures.
This disadvantage is the reason why we must begin creating recycling programs in each community that can manage our older solar panels.
9. Solar panels are not an attractive option for every homeowner.
One of the advantages that homeowners experience with solar panels is an increase in property value. The price of the installation can boost the sales potential of a home by an equal amount. Some buyers will look specifically for photovoltaic energy opportunities, but there will be others who find that this technology is disruptive and challenging to manage. If someone believes that solar is not beneficial to them, then a direct reduction of curb appeal occurs.
That means homeowners could limit their sales opportunities by installing this technology on your roof. This disadvantage doesn’t mean someone shouldn’t seek out this technology if they want to help the environment. If you understand that some resistance to your decision may occur with future buyers, then you can be proactive about this situation.
If you don’t plan to sell your home, then this disadvantage is something that can be ignored.
10. Photovoltaic panels require professional installation assistance.
Part of the cost profile that homeowners and businesses must pay involves the labor necessary to get the work completed. The installation of solar panels is not something that the average DIY homeowner can perform.
Professional installers must design a system that works for each specific home or business. This process is the only way to ensure that the operation can capture the maximum amount of available sunshine every day. Local permits and coding rules are also part of this process, so hiring an experienced installer can help the job to go as smoothly as possible.
11. Large-scale installations require a lot of space.
Solar panels might provide clean and renewable energy, but a large-scale installation requires a lot of dedicated space. The largest photovoltaic farms in the world today cover over 20 square kilometers of space. This real estate investment then generates enough electricity to power about 100,000 homes.
Because the solar panels cover the land, this approach to electricity generation can lead to habit loss and soil degradation. Even concentrated facilities require at least 16 acres of space to generate one megawatt of electricity. We work to avoid this disadvantage by using unusable land for our power, but it isn’t a problem that will disappear entirely.
12. Solar panels only work for about half of the day.
Intermittency is a significant issue that the solar panel industry faces today. Photovoltaics aren’t going to produce electricity at night when no sunlight is available. That means someone who wants to go off-the-grid completely must invest in storage capacity through batteries to maintain a clean energy approach. The price tag on a 4-hour battery that works with a solar charger can be as much as the rest of the installation, effectively doubling the price that homeowners and businesses face.
Solar energy provides a cost-competitive renewable alternative to our traditional fossil fuels. Although some geographic regions can benefit from this technology more than others, it is a sustainable resource that reduces the impact that our energy lifestyles have on the environment.
The energy independence that solar panels provide allows us to promote energy independence at the individual level. With prices dropping by more than 50% since this technology first reached the marketplace, it is becoming a viable solution for more households today than ever before.
Cost may still be a primary obstacle, but the advantages and disadvantages of solar panels are changing rapidly. If you expect to be in your home for the next decade, then this investment makes a lot of sense. You can save on your utility costs, maybe make a little money, and help the planet all at the same time.
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.