Request Your FREE Solar Estimate!

Top Ten Residential Solar Misconceptions

Renewable energy gains more and more momentum every year, and residential solar plays a massive part in our country’s transition to renewable sources. 

In 2022, residential solar accounted for 18% of the solar power generated in the U.S. The residential solar market grew by 13% in 2023. Though the market slowed down due to rising interest rates in Q4 of 2023, residential solar is projected to grow at an average of 10% annually through 2028, according to data gathered by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).  

Every year, solar technology becomes more affordable, reputable installers get better at building effective home systems, and solar panels become more efficient at generating clean electricity from the sun. 

However, just like any emerging technology, misconceptions about residential solar abound. Many people still believe that residential solar is expensive and unreliable. 

Today, we aim to demystify residential solar power by addressing the top ten misconceptions we hear from homeowners. 

Before we dive in, however, you should know that the best possible source of information for your home will be consulting with a reputable local installer. 

Now, let’s get into the misconceptions! 

MYTH #1: Solar Energy is Too Expensive

The belief that solar energy is prohibitively expensive is one of the most persistent misconceptions, and it’s deterred many homeowners from considering solar a viable option. 

This view stems from the early days of solar technology when solar systems were much more costly. However, this is no longer the case. 

Significant strides in technology and manufacturing have led to a substantial decrease in the cost of solar panels and related components. This reduction makes solar energy not only more accessible but also a cost-effective alternative to traditional energy sources.

In 1975, the first year that the International Energy Agency started measuring the cost of Solar PV, solar modules cost $105.70/watt. In 2005, when our founder Mark Bortman started Exact Solar, PV systems sometimes cost $12-$15 per watt. Residential solar was a luxury item that cost a lot to install and was relatively inefficient compared to the amount of clean electricity that solar systems generate today. 

Since 2010, the average price to install a solar system has fallen from almost $7/watt to just over $3.50/watt. Not only that, but today’s panels are almost twice as efficient at generating electricity than the panels from twenty years ago. 

Today, homeowners pay one-seventh of the price for twice the power. 

This cost-effectiveness is further enhanced by various government incentives, rebates, and tax credits designed to encourage the adoption of solar energy. These financial incentives significantly reduce the net installation costs, making solar an economically feasible choice for a growing number of households.

Incentives vary from state to state, but if you’re looking for a comprehensive guide to residential solar in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, we’ve got you covered. 

Your Guide to Pennsylvania Home Solar in 2024

Your Guide to New Jersey Home Solar in 2024

We’ve now seen that the components of a solar system are getting cheaper for homeowners, but we haven’t even touched on the long-term savings on electricity bills that solar systems offer! Once installed, solar panels generate electricity for their entire lifespan, often 25 years or more. 

Every residential solar system has a “payback period,” a.k.a. the time it takes to generate enough electricity to offset its initial cost. 

If you want to know more about the payback period, we’ve written an in-depth guide to the ROI of residential solar. 

What is the ROI on Residential Solar? 

Solar panels can significantly reduce electricity bills, sometimes eliminating them after the payback period is up. Additionally, solar panels require minimal maintenance, which means low ongoing costs. 

Adopting solar energy can protect homeowners from the volatility of traditional energy markets. As fossil fuel prices fluctuate, those relying on conventional energy sources may experience varying utility costs. Solar panel users, on the other hand, enjoy a more predictable and stable cost, insulated from market swings.

With falling costs, increased efficiency, and favorable financial incentives, solar energy has become an attractive option for residential use, offering long-term economic benefits and protection against energy market fluctuations.

MYTH #2: Solar Panels Don’t Work on Cloudy Days or in Colder Climates

Many believe solar panels are ineffective on cloudy days or in cold climates, questioning their viability for regions with less sun. 

This belief overlooks the technological advancements in solar energy. Modern solar panels are designed to capture various parts of the solar spectrum and generate electricity even under overcast conditions. 

While it’s true that solar panel efficiency decreases in cloudy weather, they still produce a significant amount of energy

But what about when it’s cold? 

A lesser-known fact about solar panels is their enhanced performance in cooler temperatures

Contrary to the assumption that solar panels need hot climates to be effective, they become less efficient in excessive heat. 

Solar panels do produce more energy in the summer months. But this is because the summer months offer much longer daylight hours than the winter months, not because the solar panels themselves become less efficient. 

The silicon used in solar panels has a lower resistance at cooler temperatures, which can lead to a higher voltage generation and, consequently, more power output. 

Solar panels are surprisingly well-suited for regions with colder climates, where sunny winter days can still yield significant energy production.

MYTH #3: Solar Panels Require Constant Maintenance

According to data from NREL, 18% of homeowners considering solar energy think they’re a pain to maintain. 

The truth is that solar panels are remarkably low-maintenance, primarily due to their simple design. 

Solar systems have no moving parts. 

Accumulated dirt or leaves can slightly reduce the efficiency of solar panels by blocking light, but this is generally a minor issue and easily rectified. 

Many people clean their solar panels once a year, but at Exact Solar, we don’t even recommend that! Natural rain and snowfall are usually sufficient to keep the panels clean enough to produce at peak efficiency. 

However, occasional manual cleaning may be necessary in drier, dustier climates or areas with high pollen levels. Cleaning is relatively simple and can often be done by the homeowner (though we do not recommend this) or through professional cleaning services. 

It’s important to note that solar panels are designed to withstand various environmental conditions, including heavy rain, strong winds, and snow. 

Panels are tested rigorously to endure these elements, ensuring they remain operational and efficient in diverse weather conditions. 

In the rare event of a malfunction, most solar panels come with long-term warranties, typically 20 to 25 years, offering additional peace of mind.

Most modern solar systems are equipped with monitoring systems that provide real-time data on their performance. These systems can alert homeowners to any efficiency issues or potential problems, allowing for prompt resolution. 

MYTH #4: Solar Panels Will Damage The Roof

Solar panels do not damage your roof when installed correctly. In fact, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), solar panels can even help protect your roof from inclement weather, sunlight, and other natural damage.

It is, however, sadly possible that a solar installer may damage your roof. At Exact Solar, we’ve fixed hundreds of poorly installed systems in our 19 years in business. This is why, when choosing a solar installer, it is critically important that you choose a reputable installer with years of experience and verified positive reviews

When properly installed, solar panels prevent roof leaks and sun damage to your roof. They block the sun’s rays on the tiles directly below them. 

The installers will drill holes in your roof during installation to secure the racking that will hold your panels. These holes are for lag bolts, which secure your panels to your roof and can withstand extreme weather. 

Once the panels and racking system are attached with bolts, the installers will seal all bolt holes with waterproof glue. 

Installing solar panels will not result in roof damage as long as your solar installer is a licensed, qualified professional and your roof is in good condition. 

It’s your home, and you’re making a significant investment. 

Make sure you question your chosen installer about their installation process and the measures they take to prevent roof damage.

MYTH #5: Solar Panels Decrease Property Values

Multiple studies and real estate market analyses have shown that residential solar installations often increase property values

The primary value increase is the economic benefit of reduced electricity bills. Solar panels significantly lower or even eliminate energy costs, an attractive feature for potential homebuyers. 

Solar panels are often viewed by potential buyers as a modern, desirable home upgrade akin to renovated kitchens or landscaped gardens. They appeal to environmentally conscious buyers and those who appreciate the long-term cost savings. In residential markets with high environmental awareness, homes with solar installations have a competitive edge.

Solar panels contribute to the perception of a given home as a modern, energy-efficient, and environmentally responsible choice. 

Also, the idea that solar panels are “ugly” no longer holds sway. While early polycrystalline solar panels were certainly not pretty, modern solar panels have sleek (often all-black) designs and can be integrated into various types of roofing without compromising aesthetics. Some newer models even mimic traditional roofing materials, blending seamlessly with the home’s exterior (though they are not yet as efficient as the traditional panels). 

MYTH #6: Solar Energy Isn’t Reliable

31% of people considering residential solar still believe the technology is “risky” and “unreliable.”

This is simply not true. Solar energy has been seamlessly integrated into power grids all over the U.S. 

Solar panels are very simple. They capture energy from the sun and turn it into electricity. They’re very good at it and do it for 25-30 years each. 

There is no limit on the amount of sunshine. The sun will continue to shine, day in and day out, for billions more years. The more solar panels we have, the more we can capture. 

Studies and real-world implementations have consistently supported the feasibility of integrating high levels of solar energy into the power grid without compromising its reliability. Implementing large amounts of solar into the power grid does not cause rolling blackouts, as many pundits would have you believe. 

Various countries, like Germany and The Netherlands, have successfully managed to maintain grid stability and reliability with massive solar energy contributions to their power grids. 

It’s understandable to worry about the reliability of new technology when you’re attaching it to your home. 

Most people who install solar systems are getting what are called “grid-tied” systems. They’re not going off-grid. So, most people aren’t even leaving the power system that they’re currently plugged into. When the sun isn’t shining, they still receive electricity from their regular power provider. 

Most grid-tied systems don’t even include batteries! Battery backup is only needed if you live in a remote area or an area with a lot of power outages. 

However, if you install a grid-tied system, your power will still go out when there’s a power outage. This is a safety measure for local electricity personnel and not a reflection of the reliability of solar technology. 

Modern battery systems can store excess solar power generated during peak sunlight hours, which can be used to keep your power on during an outage. 

MYTH #7: Mining the Materials for Solar Panel Materials and Manufacturing Them is Unsustainable

The manufacturing of solar panels does raise environmental concerns, notably regarding the use of hazardous materials and the significant amount of energy required in the production process. 

Producing photovoltaic (PV) cells involves chemicals like hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, and hydrogen fluoride, which need careful handling and disposal. The production of solar panels also relies on the extraction of materials like silicon, silver, and aluminum and the production of high-grade silicon.

These are valid questions, and we must face them. It’s important to note that even though solar panels aren’t perfect when it comes to their carbon footprint, they are vastly better than fossil fuel resources, which can only be used once, and do not “pay back” the resources used to extract them, as solar panels do. 

However, when considering the entire lifecycle of solar panels, from manufacturing to disposal, their ecological footprint is substantially lower than that of fossil fuels. Solar panels do not emit greenhouse gases during their operation, and their ability to generate clean, renewable energy for decades significantly offsets the initial environmental costs of production.

Every solar panel has an “energy payback” period, i.e., the amount of time it takes the panel to produce more energy than was used to make it. 

The energy payback period of the average solar panel is 1-4 years. The average lifespan of a solar panel is 30-35 years. Solar panels produce energy for 30+ years after they’ve paid back their energy debt. 

There is no energy payback on fossil fuel resources. Energy is used to extract them from the earth, they are used once, polluting the atmosphere, and then we have to go and use more resources to extract more of them. 

Every day, the solar industry is making concerted efforts to reduce its environmental impact. Innovations in manufacturing technology are continually reducing the amount of energy and hazardous materials required to produce solar panels. 

Advances in recycling technology are addressing end-of-life disposal, recovering valuable materials, and reducing waste.

The solar industry is actively working to overcome the sustainability challenges associated with material extraction, leading the way in the transition to a greener energy future.

Can the same be said for the fossil fuel industry? 

MYTH #8: Solar Power Can’t Compete with Traditional Energy Sources

In recent years, solar energy has been one of the fastest-growing sectors in the global energy market. 

Due to improvements in manufacturing processes and technological innovations, the price of solar energy has dropped significantly, making it comparable to or even cheaper than traditional energy sources in many regions. 

The Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE), a measure that compares the total costs of different energy sources over their lifetimes, shows that solar power is now one of the most cost-effective forms of energy available.

Solar power’s efficiency (the rate at which it converts sunlight into electricity) has also seen considerable improvements. Modern solar panels are much more efficient than their predecessors, enabling homeowners and businesses to generate more electricity from smaller installations. 

This increased efficiency makes solar power more practical and maximizes the energy yield from available space, making it an attractive option for residential and commercial use.

Solar energy contributes to energy independence and security. Solar power provides a more resilient and sustainable energy solution by reducing reliance on imported fuels. 

Investing in solar energy in the U.S. is particularly appealing amidst fluctuating fuel prices and growing concerns about fossil fuels’ long-term availability.

We’re going to run out of coal, oil, and natural gas eventually. We’re not going to run out of sunlight. 

MYTH #9: Solar Energy Systems Are Complicated to Install

The perception that installing solar energy systems is a complex and daunting process is outdated. With the rapid advancements in solar technology and the growing expertise of professional installers, it’s never been easier to install a grid-tied solar system. 

There are even DIYers who manage to install solar systems on their homes and get them through the permitting process (though we DO NOT recommend this approach unless you are experienced in construction and working with high voltages). 

Modern solar panel systems are designed for ease of integration with existing structures. The hardware used for mounting panels has become more standardized and adaptable to various roof types and building styles. The technology is becoming standardized, so most solar systems are plug-and-play rather than custom-made. 

There’s a lot of misinformation out there that takes homeowners in circles. 

Fitting a home with solar panels may seem overwhelming due to concerns about system design, site evaluation, and potential structural modifications. 

However, the solar industry has evolved to address these challenges. Most reputable solar companies offer comprehensive services, including initial consultations, site assessments, system design, obtaining the necessary permits, and installation. Exact Solar, for example, offers a turnkey process all under one roof, from design to installation. 

We recommend that homeowners always go with a turnkey company. Even if you’re outside Exact Solar’s installation area, it’s best to make sure that the company you’re trusting with your home keeps its entire process under one roof. There are a lot of companies out there that only sell solar systems, but do not design or install them. 

They subcontract the design to firms overseas that use satellite mapping to plan the solar system’s layout on your roof. Then they subcontract the installation to a local company that wasn’t part of the initial consultation. 

It’s critical that you choose a reputable installer to trust with your home. 

Installers with years of experience are trained to handle the unique aspects of each installation. They will ensure that systems are installed safely, efficiently, and in compliance with local regulations and industry standards. 

MYTH #10: Solar Energy Only Benefits Individual Homes

This misconception is only true of off-grid homes. If someone lives in a cabin in the woods with a big solar array and battery bank, then yes, they are only benefitting themselves. 

However, most people with solar systems are creating an impact far beyond their own homes. They’re tied into the grid, meaning that any excess power their solar system generates is benefitting their community. 

By going solar, homeowners turn their house into a subsidiary power station on the local grid. This decentralization of energy production can lead to increased energy security and resilience for communities. By generating power locally, homeowners reduce strain on the electrical grid, especially during peak power demand times.

In rural or remote areas, solar energy provides reliable electricity where traditional grid infrastructure may be lacking or cost-prohibitive to install. This access to energy has led to improved educational opportunities, healthcare facilities, and overall quality of life for people in these regions.

In addition, solar energy significantly contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and lessening the dependency on fossil fuels, playing a critical role in environmental sustainability and promoting community well-being. A choice to “go solar” ripples far beyond one household. 

Solar panels help mitigate the environmental impact of traditional energy production by generating clean, renewable energy. This reduction in carbon footprint is a communal benefit, contributing to cleaner air and a healthier environment for all.

Solar energy also plays a role in stimulating local economies. The solar industry’s growth has created jobs in manufacturing, installation, maintenance, and sales. 

Additionally, solar energy is a tool for social equity and energy justice. By providing more accessible energy options and reducing energy costs, solar power helps alleviate energy poverty in underserved communities. 

Programs and initiatives that install solar panels in low-income neighborhoods have led to long-term economic savings and improved quality of life for residents.

As we embrace solar energy, we contribute to a future where clean power is accessible and beneficial to all, fostering a healthier, more sustainable, and equitable world.

Share this article