Have you been considering converting your home to solar energy, but are hesitant due to rumors you’ve heard about solar energy? Our article dispels the myths and provides the facts, as you consider your options for going solar.
Energy in the U.S.
According to the National Academies, natural gas is the most common energy source in the United States, followed by electricity. According to the Institute for Energy Research, less than 0.1 percent of all electricity in the United States is generated from solar energy. There are several myths about solar energy that hold many homeowners back from converting to solar.
3 Myths About Converting Your Home to Solar Energy
Learning the facts can help you to make a more informed decision should you choose to convert to solar energy.
Solar Energy Myth No. 1: Solar Energy is Unreliable
A common myth about solar energy is that it’s unreliable, which simply isn’t true. Most solar panels do not have any moving parts, so there literally isn’t anything to “break.”
As part of the myth of its unreliability, many homeowners mistakenly believe that they can’t use solar if they live in areas which are cloudy, or have a lot of snowfall. Others believe the panels won’t work unless they are installed at a certain angle on the roof of their home. While installing the panels so that they get the maximum exposure to sunlight each day isn’t a bad idea, the truth of the matter is that solar panels will still work, even if they are installed flat on your roof. The country of Germany is known for its cloudy days and heavy snowfall, and yet this country gets most of energy from solar sources, which should completely debunk this part of the myth.
Maintaining your solar energy system is also fairly simple each year. Normally all that is required is washing off your solar panels with a water hose once or twice a year, as debris such as fallen leaves can have a minimal impact on the efficiency of your system.
Other folks have a misconception that having a solar system means that you have to deal with lots of bulky batteries, while this is true of systems that are off-grid, homeowners don’t have to worry about storing their energy as long as they use a system that is tied to the grid. Grid tied systems feed the energy created by the panels back into your local power grid. Homeowners then only pay for electricity that is drawn back from the grid during times of lower power generation, such as nightfall.
In general, solar panels do lose a little less than 1% of their efficiency per year. While this would add up to a 30% reduction in power generation over the course of 30 years, this is comparable to most other heating and cooling systems that would require extensive maintenance and overhaul within the same time frame.
Solar Energy Myth No. 2: Solar is All or Nothing
Many believe that going solar is an “all or nothing” proposition. In fact, most systems can be easily expanded, and there are low-cost, DIY systems at hardware chains that allow users to install solar for separate components, such as their outdoor lighting, or hot water heater. Since the hot water heater accounts for 18% of the typical homeowner’s electrical bill, a solar conversion of this one component can still produce considerable savings.
Solar Energy Myth No. 3: Going Solar isn’t Affordable
There is some truth to this myth, buying solar panels and a system to go completely off-grid can be an expensive proposition, as solar systems that are completely off-grid normally do not qualify for any local, state or federal tax subsidies or grants. Thankfully, off-grid solar solutions are only one option when you want to convert your home to solar energy. Other options are fairly affordable.
A complete solar system that is tied to the grid will cost around $30,000 for the average home conversion. The amount most actually pay is much less. Many installers offer programs that will directly apply the amount of your credits and subsidies, and offering financing.
Newer options that lower the cost of converting your home to solar include leasing your solar system. The system is actually owned by someone else, typically the installer, or one’s local power board, and the homeowner leases the solar equipment. The availability of this low cost option is spreading. South Carolina has become the latest state to offer subsidies and tax credits for homeowners that both lease solar power and purchase their grid tied system.
Another option to save on the cost of going solar is a Solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) With a PPA, solar panels are installed on your home with no upfront cost. The homeowner is also not responsible for any maintenance of the panels. With this type of agreement, the homeowner simply pays for the electricity that is generated by the panels. Typically, these agreements are for specified terms, of 10 to 25 years, and at a fixed rate over the term of the agreement. These rates are typically lower than the cost of traditional energy such as natural gas or electricity. At the end of the term, the agreement can be renewed, or the customer can buy the panels outright.
In California alone, 75% of homes that have converted to solar energy have done so through leasing options and PPAs. Some localities also allow homeowners to finance the cost of installing grid tied systems with their property tax increases.
Considering all the credits and subsidies that are available to homeowners, as well as options to buy, finance or lease a solar system, there is an affordable solar option for most homeowners that wish to convert to solar.
Now that you know the facts, are you tempted to go solar? Let us know in the comments section below about your experiences with solar energy. While you are on our site, consider reading our other helpful articles about solar energy, such as how to use solar panels to replace backup generators.
Photo Credit: Michael Coghlan