Dirty Energy & Fuel home-solar-panels

Published on January 27th, 2012 | by Britt Mauriss

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7 Home Solar Power Myths… Busted!

home-solar-panels

You know it as well as I do—the home solar trend is taking off, as concerns about climate change and rising electricity costs point to clean, renewable solar as a solution. And even though residential solar has never been more efficient or affordable, disturbing myths and misinformation still abound.

Here are seven persistent myths about solar energy—and what you can say to combat them.

1. Solar panels are unreliable because they don’t work at night.

No, solar panels can’t generate power in total darkness. But home solar systems frequently generate more energy during daylight hours than a home even needs, when demand is highest. This excess energy can be sent back to the grid, lessening the demand on the power utility for everyone else’s fossil-fueled electricity. Almost all states allow solar homeowners to either sell or get credit for surplus energy.

2. Solar panels are plain unattractive.

The fact that solar panels raise a home’s resale value, rather than lower it, is an indication that most people view residential PV systems as a positive. Even so, solar manufacturers are addressing such concerns with cool modular styles that blend almost seamlessly with your rooftop. Or, better yet, several brands have introduced solar shingles, a solar technology that actually doubles as your rooftop, protecting your home from the elements and generating green, renewable power at the same time.

3. Residential PV systems are hard to maintain.

Negatory. Home solar systems routinely outlive their 25-year warranties, and it takes an awful lot to overload them. With no moving parts, solar panels are extremely reliable, requiring little more than an occasional cleaning. Snow and ice simply slide off the panels almost as soon as the sun appears.

4. Solar panels add to global warming.

Any manufacturing process, including those for solar panels, requires energy, transportation, and waste disposal, but solar’s carbon footprint comes to a halt there, while other forms of energy continue to produce harmful carbon emissions year after year. Solar panels do not increase atmospheric temperature. Thermal power plants discharge exponentially more waste heat into the environment. Solar panels earn their emissions back by offsetting emissions from fossil-fuel power plants within a few years.

5. Solar panels are ineffective in cloudy areas.

The fact that Germany is the world’s largest solar market is proof that solar power can flourish in cold climates. Anyone who has ever gotten sunburned on a cloudy day can attest to the fact that clouds don’t block the sun’s energy. Additionally, the costs for conventional electricity are usually higher in cold-climate areas, making solar power a good option even under the cloudiest skies.

6. Solar panel installations will get cheaper farther down the road.

Currently, some homeowners can save up to 60 percent off the cost of a home solar system by taking advantage of rebate and incentive programs offered at the federal, state, and local level. Although the cost of installing a residential PV system is likely to decrease further in the coming years, in today’s political climate, the continuation of incentive programs is uncertain. With funding being slashed left and right, it’s well worth getting a solar assessment this year.

7. Electricity from fossil fuels is more cost-effective than solar.

It’s true that electricity from existing fossil-fuel power plants is currently cheaper than solar energy… in most areas (but not all). Many experts, however, predict financial parity for solar within the next few years. They’ve already reached it in Australia. The Energy Information Agency predicts that global energy demands will rise 53 percent from 2008 to 2035. Conventional energy costs will continue to rise as well, putting unprecedented strain on our electrical grid, and making solar a wise decision for anyone wanting to lock in low rates for the next 25+ years. In fact, if you look at the costs of electricity from a new coal or nuclear plant when it would come on-line, compared to projected costs of solar at that time, solar energy is already cheaper.

Did I miss anything?

What are some other solar myths you’ve heard, and how do you think we can we counter them? Let me know in the comments.

Rooftop solar panels via Jonsowman




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About the Author

Brittany Mauriss is a UCLA grad with a passion for all things renewable energy. Her specialties are solar advancements, green gadgets and human-centric journalism. She also manages CalFinder Solar, an awesome free service that connects you with residential solar contractors, eco-focused kitchen remodel pros, and more. Follow her on Twitter @BrittanyMauriss.



  • http://www.facebook.com/eric.sandeen Eric Sandeen

    Also, just a nitpick, your reference to “overloading” solar panels really has nothing to do with maintenance. In that story they simply talk about how many appliances that home would have to turn on to consume more than they are producing. But doing so does not harm the panels in any way, and it’s certainly not “overloading” them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eric.sandeen Eric Sandeen

    Here’s one I get in Minnesota – solar panels don’t work when it’s cold. In fact, solar PV is more efficient in cold weather than in hot. A cold, clear day makes my array happy!

  • http://none John Morgan

    Do you have any information on how solar panels stand up to a hail storm? A hail storm here in Alabama caused $8,000 damaged to my car and destroyed many roofs in my area. Would solar panels also require replacement after such a hail storm? What is the impact to home owners insurance cost for several thousand dollars of solar panels on your roof in an area with a history of severe thunderstorms with large hail? What size hail can a typical solar panel withstand? And since we have remnants of hurricanes and full blown tornados in this area, what wind speeds can typical solar panels withstand?

  • jethromayham

    US should allow the low cost solar panels to enter the US if they truly want the solar energy option to take off faster.

  • Duane

    “Snow and ice simply slide off the panels almost as soon as the sun appears.” Ummm, not true in Vermont. I have three solar panels that run pumps, lights, and electronics in a greenhouse, and I routinely have to clear two feet of snow and ice off the three panels. Perhaps in warmer climates where winter temperatures are moderate this might be true, but when snow falls in Vermont, it generally sticks around until spring. I’d love to go solar up here, but the idea of having to clear the snow and ice off the roof every third day in the winter doesn’t thrill me. I suppose I could design an electric wiper system.

    • JasonP

      No need for mechanical additions, if you are a DIY person or can talk with a designer, you can get a heating element put on the cell that can easily run off the power it generates. But I think that you would want to test that on your greenhouse first. The whole melting and refreezing of snow causing ice damns and the like.
      Definitely something to ask a contractor about.

  • http://essexsolarsolutions.co.uk Chris

    Items no 1 and no 5 is a common misconception about solar panels. Even when there’s no sunlight, solar panels can produce electricity even on cloudy days. essexsolarsolutions.co.uk/how-solar-panels-work

    • http://zacharyshahan.com Zachary Shahan

      Yes, very common…

  • http://diy-solar-panels.allecofriendly.info/ Preity

    This is simply a *fantastic* read!! Don’t know how I missed it earlier !!!
    Already shared on my DIY Solar Fb page, with a note saying: “This is a Must Read people” :)

    • http://zacharyshahan.com Zachary Shahan

      Thanks :D

  • Drashya

    No, student. I am graduating with Solar energy as my major subject

  • BC

    Balazs Csakany However: we all have to be aware of the proper design and installation of such systems, in order to really save the planet and to maintain proper efficiency. We have to avoid installations were the proposed solar array will cause a dust bowl or the complete destruction of the existing ecosystem. That in sight, it is imperative to have the system properly designed and installed by a professional or at least a person who has credentials.

  • http://www.exactsolar.com Mark Bortman

    Another myth we need to dispel is that the solar panels that generate electricity are the best and only way to harness the power of the sun. Solar water heating is also a great way to capture the sun’s energy — it is more efficient than PV, has a lower upfront cost and a faster payback.

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/zshahan/ Zachary Shahan

      yeah, solar water heating certainly doesn’t get enough attention!

      • BC

        I agree: the best method of using solar as a direct energy is water heating, the only thing trumps solar water heating is the photosynthesis which is even more direct use of sun-rays, but we are not there yet…
        Solar water heating is a very powerful technology, if it would be more widespread, it would make a great difference.

  • Ray Brooks

    Our Solar installation through “Eco-fly” was outstanding with the very best and latest technology. Works to make money even when I am “out Fishin”….BEST INVESTMENT you can make these days…..

  • Drashya Goel

    A myth I myself have started to believe in is that its hard to get into solar industry as a fresher. I dont know if its a myth but I surely need a negative answer!

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/zshahan/ Zachary Shahan

      hmm, which part of the industry? installing?

  • Dragontide

    Instead of solar generated power going back & forth to a grid, would it not be better to have a battery pac (that’s charged by solar power) for electricity use at night?

    My idea of our energy future is everyone going to the local hardware store once every 15-25 years and buying a solar kit. (batteries included) I’m thinking that even with a finance plan, (and paying interest) the price of electricity would still be much cheaper this. Am I on the right track? Or is the grid the better plan?

    In any event, I am very grateful for people like you Britt that understand the need for alt energy. I live in Alabama and am getting quite weary from the rise in super-cell tornadoes here. Climate change (as a direct result of anthropological global warming) is the only possible culprit. People like you are my only hope.

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/zshahan/ Zachary Shahan

      In some cases, yes. But not all. We need both :D

      • Dragontide

        Yeah. I think your right Zachary. I should have known that. More & more I’m hearing the phrase: “All of the above”. (solar here, wind there, hydro over there, etc…) And there are think tanks trying to develop a smarter grid.

    • JasonP

      The problem with batteries are the amount of storage, maintenance, and disposal. You can get systems that are battery only, but you can only hold so much energy at a time, and you have to replace the batteries about every 5 years. This means paying for disposal and buying new batteries. Very expensive.
      When our battery technology meets the standards of our other energy tech, then maybe that would change.
      But, there are hybrid systems that use both the grid and battery backups. You can pull and push to the grid like normal, and then have charged batteries in case of a power outage during the evening or low power days.

  • http://www.omnik-solar.com omnik solar

    high efficiency, high stability and high reliability small power solar inverter manufacturer, from omnik new energy!

  • http://www.auses.org.au Tess

    Hi I work on behalf of the Australian Solar Energy Society,

    Great concise facts on solar! Trying to put together a myth busters section of their website. If you were keen to send through some more information.

    Cheers!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=810082144 Krystal Hosmer

    Another big myth out there is that solar is for “rich, tree hugging environmentalists” and has this “impossibly long” payback time. Wrong and wrong. As mentioned in the article, the costs of panels and B.O.S. components have dropped so much that a complete “starter size” 1-2 kw solar panel system costs about $10-$15k here in Las Vegas. Same price as starter cars BUT instead of wearing out and costing money to own – solar PV ALWAYS pays for itself. How quickly? Using microinverters for maximum power output even in the shade and tapping into every available incentive in Nevada, our home systems pay for themselves in 6-8 years with a 15 to 18% return on investment. Did your stock portfolio or car pay that out last year?

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/zshahan/ Zachary Shahan

      Good points. Thanks! :D

      It is crazy how we expect a 1-year payback on solar and no payback, ever, on other goods.

      btw, I’ve heard of 3-year paybacks in some regions of the U.S.

    • JasonP

      Add that fact to a 10 year warranty on most inverters and 25 years on most solar cells, it can easily pay for itself 2 to 3 times over before having to have a large maintenance.

  • Mark

    Interesting question about whether it’s better to wait until prices drop vs the question of tax incentives. I suspect if you wait you get both, but given Solyndra and other publically-funded failed ventures, personal tax incentives for green fuel-efficiencies may become attractive cost-cutting targets.

    No offense, but you don’t exactly bust the myth of fossil fuel costs being cheaper than solar. You actually confirm that it’s not a myth, but rather that it’s the current reality.

  • Shyam

    It is human to resist change. Solar has in fact made tremendous progress since its initial phase and today it is within the reach of common man. Moreover, there is always scope for further improvement which I am sure will happen despite resistance to it from some groups.
    Younger generation know better and I am sure they will deal with it much more sensibly than our generation.

  • Marc Rhodes

    My homeowner’s association will not allow me to install solar panels because they are afraid that the glare from the panels will kill the neighbor’s grass and heat their homes to point that they are unlivable in the summertime.

    They are afraid that one of the panels will blow off into a neighbor’s yard and a hazmat team will have to come and remove all the toxic chemicals that are spilling into the soil from the broken panel.

    These are the reasons I was given and in a quite real sense the reasons why I do not have solar panels on my house today.

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/zshahan/ Zachary Shahan

      Jeez,… haven’t heard those, to be honest. But imagine others have such wild concerns.

  • http://www.solarenergyworx.com Rachel Parker

    One comment that we get all the time is “How do I know that the technology won’t improve and get cheaper in the next X years.” A lot of consumers equate solar technology with consumer electronics and the “faster, cheaper, better” model of the latter industry. What people need to remind themselves is Apple et al have release windows 2-3 years out while solar panels have been steadily improving over the past 20 years. We’ve been buying laptops during that period and so people have SEEN them get better and cheaper. The reality is in the same window, solar has gotten to a very high efficiency level, and we don’t think that it will get so measurably better in the years to come that someone should wait to buy. It’s not like an electric car (which I’d wait at least 2 or 3 generations to get personally) or the next iPhone. We are where we are NOW as the result of DECADE’S worth of research and development.

    Thanks for the great post!!!

    • http://www.calfinder.com Brittany Mauriss

      That is SUCH a good point. It’s not like the iPhone has been around for two decades, and yet people buy each new generation as it comes out. Same with video game consoles. Less of a monetary investment, of course, but no, solar technology isn’t going to experience a 1000% increase in cell efficiency overnight. It’ll happen in small increments spread out over many years. There’s no point in waiting, especially with incentives drying up left and right. Great comment. Thanks for writing!

  • http://www.solarsystemsusa.net Jake Wahome

    I am in charge of marketing at Solar Systems USA. Thank you for very informative content.

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