You’re ready to get solar panels for your home, and you’re super excited about it. However, you have a “Debbie Downer” in your life. This is the one friend or family member who seems to secretly delight in raining on your parade.
“Debbie” wants to be excited for you (really, she does!), but she read somewhere that solar panels create more pollution than they save. Oh, and there was a friend of a friend of a friend whose entire roof caved in after he got solar panels. Yikes!
However, don’t let Debbie get you down; there are a lot of unfounded solar panels myths floating around. Let’s take these solar panel myths head on so that you can arm yourself with some powerful truth bombs the next time Debbie stops by.
Myth 1: Making Solar Panels Creates More Pollution Than They Will Save
Many homeowners appreciate the fact that solar panels help them lower their carbon footprint, while also saving them money on their energy bills. Here in Southern California, we want to be part of the solution in fighting climate change.
Any time you manufacture a product, it costs energy and creates pollution. Solar panels are no exception. However, over their lifetime, solar panels do prevent more pollution than they cause. A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that solar panels pay back the energy required to manufacture them in four years. And most industry experts estimate that solar panels can last from 25 to 40 years. Even on the lowest end of this prediction, your solar panels will provide 21 years of net positive renewable energy creation.
This same report also tackles the pollution that solar panels prevent. When Debbie Downer swings by for a visit, you can tell her that a solar installation that produces 1,000 kWh (kilowatt hours) of electricity prevents emissions of:
- 8 pounds of sulfur dioxide
- 5 pounds of nitrogen oxides
- 1,400 pounds of carbon dioxide
To get a sense of what that means, the average household uses 830 kWh per month, so these savings represent just a little over a month of work for your solar panels if your system provides for your full energy needs.
Myth 2: Solar Panels Don’t Work in Cloudy, Overcast Skies
Here in Southern California, we get a lot of sunshine year-round. But what happens during “May Gray” and “June Gloom”? Is solar such a good investment if you live near the beach and wake up to a heavy marine layer each morning?
Solar panels work best when they receive direct sunlight, but just because a few clouds are in the sky doesn’t mean solar panels stop working. According to Eco Watch, cloudy days reduce solar panel efficiency down to an estimated 10 – 25% of normal power output.
Does this mean you shouldn’t invest in solar panels if you live near the shore? Not at all! The marine layer burns off by the afternoon, providing your panels with plenty of sunshine. If you live in a cloudier destination, you’ll simply need to purchase a larger solar system to make up for the cloudy days.
As for “May Gray” and “June Gloom,” your solar system will be designed to produce the amount of energy your household typically uses each year. That may mean your panels produce more energy than you need in sunnier months, like July and August, to help balance out cloudier months and months with shorter days, like June and January. Because your panels are tied into the grid, it should all even out at the end of the year, assuming your system was designed correctly!
Myth 3: You’ll Need to Purchase a Special Battery to Store Your Solar Energy
Your solar panels only produce energy during the day, so what are you supposed to do during the night or during a stretch of cloudy days when the efficiency of your panels drops? Debbie Downer might point out that you’ll have to invest in batteries to store the excess energy your solar panels create during the day. These batteries typically only last five to ten years, so you’ll need to replace them regularly. What happens if you use too much energy, and the batteries run out of juice? Should you stock up on candles and lanterns?
Not so fast. While battery backup technology, like the Tesla Powerwall, is improving by leaps and bounds and might be worth considering for those who wish to live off the grid, the majority of Southern Californians don’t bother with them. That’s because homeowners with solar panels have access to net metering.
In a nutshell, this means that the solar panels for your home are actually connected directly into the energy grid. When your panels are producing energy, the excess energy goes into the grid and your meter will actually run backwards. At night or during cloudy days when you need more energy than your panels are producing, your system will automatically switch over and pull energy from the grid. Your meter will then tick forward. If your solar system is set up correctly, it should mostly even out by the end of the year.
All of this happens automatically, and you never have to worry about your lights not turning on at night or the heat suddenly shutting off. Net metering is a great system and one of the reasons why California has had so much success in increasing its production of renewable solar energy.
Myth 4 – Solar Panels are Too Expensive
The cost of solar panels continues to drop precipitously as the technology improves, manufacturers increase efficiency, and heavy competition forces prices down. If you talk to a family member or friend who purchased solar panels a decade ago, you might be shocked at the price tag. Don’t go by their numbers.
According to Energy Sage, the average cost of solar panels is between $2.71 and $3.57 per watt depending on where you live and the brand of solar panel you choose. These numbers reflect the cost before tax credits, rebates and other local incentives, which are still available for many California homeowners.
If you pay out of pocket for your solar panels in California, you can expect to pay between $11,928 – $15,204 for a moderately sized 6kw system. This cost is far lower than what it was even just five or six years ago, but it’s not pocket change either!
One thing to consider is that solar panels are an investment that will pay for themselves over time. Because California supports a net metering system, your solar panels will feed excess energy into the grid, which may be able to zero out your energy bill by the end of the year. Since energy prices are almost certainly going to keep rising, your panels will become more valuable over time.
Solar panels can also add value to your home. An analysis performed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab found that a 5 kWh solar system could increase a home’s value by $20,000 in California – more than the cost of the entire system! Additionally, California’s Proposition 7, which passed in 1980, prevents the state from increasing your property taxes when you add solar.
Adding solar panels for your home is a good deal! However, not everyone has $12,000 sitting around. Most solar companies offer solar lease options and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) that can save you money on your energy bills while requiring no money down on your solar system.
Myth 5 – Solar Installation Will Destroy My Roof
Roofs are expensive, and whenever you (or anybody else) installs something on your roof, there is always a risk of damage. However, as long as you hire a professional and experienced solar panel installation company with roofing experience, you won’t have to worry about damage.
Most solar panels are connected to the roof using a mounted railing system and are not directly attached to the roof. These mounts are typically surrounded by special metal coverings called “flashing” that provide extra protection from the elements, and roofers can also fill in gaps with special sealants.
If Debbie Downer knows a friend of friend whose roof was destroyed after installing solar panels, it is likely because the homeowner tried to install solar panels on their own. Roof work is difficult and highly technical and not every roof is ideal for hosting solar panels.
When you work with a professional solar company, a technician will assess your roof to ensure that it is strong enough to support the panels. If your roof has underlying issues or will need to be replaced in a few years, it’s probably a good idea to focus your attention on the roof first, and then get solar panels after your roof has been replaced or repaired. (Guess who provides roof repairs and replacements? We do!)
Let the Truth Shine Through
Don’t let the Debbie Downer in your life make you question your commitment to getting solar panels for your home. The truth is that solar panels will lower your carbon footprint and energy usage over their lifetime, which can help you fight climate change for future generations. Solar panels aren’t cheap, but their prices are dropping, and they will only increase in value as energy prices continue to rise. While solar panels may not work as well on cloudy days, California’s net metering system means you’ll never run out of electricity. Finally, when installed correctly by a licensed and experienced solar installation company, solar panels will not destroy your roof!
Have more questions about solar panels? If you live in California, we’d love to confirm your facts or dispel any other solar myths you have. Give us a call today to set up a free energy analysis. We can also assess your roof if you think you might need repairs before going solar.