Pros and Cons of Home Solar Panels: Everything You Need to Know

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Solar panels are becoming more popular every year for residential and commercial consumers. In fact, over the past 10 years, the average annual growth of the solar market has been 33 percent. The Solar Energy Industries Association estimates that 13 percent of homes in the United States will have solar panels by 2030. 

As a homeowner, you have most likely heard about the various pros and cons of solar panels. Installing solar panels on your home can be a great way to make your home more energy efficient and save on utility bills. The idea of generating your own energy from the sun and reducing reliance on power companies can be appealing to budget-conscious and eco-friendly homeowners. However, is creating your own power from the sun worth it, or is the process more trouble than it’s worth?

While solar panels might make sense for some homeowners, they might not be right for everyone. Here are some solar energy pros and cons that you may want to consider before installing solar panels on your home.

Pros of Installing Solar Panels 

Let’s review the many advantages of solar panel installation. 

1. Solar panels can save on energy costs.

One of the main benefits of solar panels is that they help homeowners save on energy costs. Savings vary depending on utility rates in your area, how much your panels offset electricity use, and how much sunlight they receive. However, installing solar panels will help you avoid volatile electricity costs nationwide. See estimates for how much you could save on energy bills with solar panels over a 20-year period.

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2. Solar panels can qualify for grants and tax credits.

The federal government offers a solar tax credit to incentivize homeowners to install solar systems at home. The tax credit is set to expire at the end of 2023. Learn more about how much you can deduct from your taxes

States and local regions might offer additional financial incentives, too. Some states may have self-generation incentive programs, solar energy system property tax exclusion, single-family affordable solar housing programs, and local utility company rebate options. Find out what incentives are available in your neck of the woods by visiting the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency®.

3. You can sell energy back to the grid.

Solar panels often produce more energy than can be consumed by single residential homes. In fact, according to the Solar Energy Institutes Association, 20 to 40 percent of solar energy collected by panels goes back to the regional electrical grid. However, net metering lets consumers sell unused electricity to utility companies. Depending on your state’s legislation and state and local policies, you may be compensated for any electricity added back to the grid. If you net meter your home, you’ll be billed only for your net energy use—not for total energy use. 

4. Solar panels may increase your home value.

When weighing the pros and cons of solar panels, keep in mind that one of the top benefits is the potential increase in your home’s value. If you decide to sell your house, potential buyers will be attracted to the possibility of saving money on their electric bills with solar energy, or they may enjoy living in an environmentally friendly home.

A 2019 Zillow study indicates that homes with solar panels sold for an average of 4.1 percent more than homes without. Further, homes with solar panels installed sell, on average, 20 percent faster than homes that lack the technology. Just remember that the increase in value of your property depends on your local real estate market.

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5. Solar panels can help homeowners develop energy independence. 

Solar panels can help people reduce dependence on power companies and foreign energy sources. Reliance on foreign energy means that sudden changes in energy availability or political turmoil can cause unforeseen spikes in energy prices.

With solar energy, however, you’re less dependent on foreign resources. Having solar panels means that you can become more energy independent.

On a federal level, the U.S. Department of Energy hopes to cut energy costs by 60 percent by 2035 by investing in solar energy and technologies. Part of this initiative involves making solar energy available to as many households as possible. The Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office is supporting the development of perovskites and cadmium telluride thin films, which will be used to advance solar thermal power projects.

6. Solar energy production can help the environment.

Another reason many people invest in solar energy is to help protect the environment and future generations from the impacts of climate change. Traditional energy usually comes from burning coal. When coal burns, it releases gases that pollute the air and contribute to global warming. Byproducts from conventional energy production can also pollute local water sources and harm wildlife.

Alternatively, solar energy is a renewable, abundant source of energy. Solar panels reduce dependence on fossil fuels. They do not produce greenhouse gases or air pollution when operating, meaning they likely help create a safer, cleaner, greener environment for all. 

People who want to keep the planet and environment healthy for years to come may want to consider switching to solar energy.

7. Solar panels are often covered under a solar panel company warranty.

Most solar panel companies provide warranties that encompass both product and performance, meaning that you can feel confident that the panels themselves and the job they’re meant to do will stack up. Typical warranties last 25 years and cover repairs or replacements of defective parts. With a warranty, you can have peace of mind that your investment will be protected.

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Cons of Installing Solar Panels

Despite their many brilliant perks, there are some downsides to installing solar panels that are worth exploring before you decide to invest.

1. Solar panel installation costs can be daunting.

The upfront solar panel cost is high. Prices vary due to the type of roof you have, your location, local installation rates, and the type of solar panels you purchase. According to Consumer Affairs, the average cost to install solar panels is around $12,000 after savings from federal tax initiatives. If you install the panels yourself or purchase a smaller system, that price can be halved. A Tier 1 solar panel system can cost more than $40,000; Tier 1 systems are those manufactured by companies with more than five years’ experience performing installations, that are publicly listed on the stock exchange, and that have a good reputation, among other attributes.

Many solar companies offer pay-as-you-go services so that people can start saving money right away. Financing options allow people to start using solar energy without as large of an upfront investment. Although, paying in full at the time of installation results in better savings over the long term.

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2. Your roof might not be suitable for solar panels.

Solar panels are almost always installed on a home’s roof due to its proper surface area and easy access to full sun exposure. However, not every roof is suitable for solar panel installation. While considering the pros and cons of solar panels, take the following scenarios into account to see why your roof might not be ideal for solar installation:

  • You’re renting. It can be more difficult to have solar panels installed if you’re renting a home. You’ll need to get your landlord’s permission before making any structural changes—and determining who pays for what can be difficult.

  • Your roof doesn’t get enough sun. If there is a nearby building or tall trees casting shadows on your roof, or if you live in a typically overcast or rainy region, you may not get enough sun to make solar panels a viable option. 

  • Your roof isn’t big enough. If you have a small home with a small roof, you may not have the space available to generate enough kilowatt-hours to make solar panels worth the investment.

  • Your roof is old. If your roof is damaged, weak, or needs to be replaced, it can be wasteful to install solar panels. While you can always remove solar panels to fix or replace part of your roof, doing so will incur more costs.

3. Solar energy production can be impacted by inclement weather. 

Homeowners should take their local climate conditions into account before investing in solar panels. Inclement weather—like hailstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and heavy rain—can impact solar energy production and damage or destroy the panels. 

Heavy snow covering solar panels can prevent the sun from reaching them, meaning there is no opportunity for energy to be created. Solar panels can still generate energy when covered with light snow, but heavy snow can block them completely. They are typically designed to be able to withstand the weight of heavy snow, but snow can still weaken the foundations where the solar panels are attached, causing them to crack. 

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4. Solar panels need sunshine. 

Solar panels only generate energy in response to the sun, meaning they might not be as efficient in less sunny regions. However, solar panels can still collect sunlight even when it is reflected or partially blocked by clouds. In fact, the occasional rainy day can help solar panels run more efficiently since rainwater washes away dirt, dust, and debris that might block panels from the sun. Regardless, it is still important to reap the benefits of solar panels by ensuring that your local climate patterns will allow them to work optimally.

5. Solar panels require annual maintenance.

Another consideration when weighing solar energy pros and cons is maintenance. You should have your solar panels cleaned and inspected annually to ensure they continue to perform well. These upkeep costs can reduce the amount of money you would save on solar; however, they are important for prolonging the life of the panels and your energy production.

6. Solar panels can have a negative impact on the environment.

Although solar panels are often touted for their positive impact on the environment, they do have a secondary environmental impact: toxic products left in landfills

Most solar panels have a 25-year life span, at which point it’s time to replace them. Many old solar panels end up in landfills, where they spread toxic chemicals, including cadmium and selenium. These chemicals can contaminate groundwater.

While it is possible to recycle solar panels, there are few large-scale recycling programs due to the more recent popularity of residential and commercial solar panels. A large portion of an average solar panel is composed of recyclable materials; however, taking it apart to recover these materials is an arduous process requiring specialized equipment and long hours of labor. Until a more sustainable resolution is discovered, it is prudent to weigh the potential costs of landfill waste with the benefits of green energy. 

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Are Solar Panels Right for Your Home?

Understanding the pros and cons of solar panels is important to determine if installing them is right for your home, budget, and energy needs. Learn more about everyday uses for solar energy as well as how to measure your home’s energy efficiency. Solar panels can cut your utilities budget and energy usage over their life span.

To further protect your budget, consider signing up for a home warranty plan. While American Home Shield® home warranty coverage does not include solar panels, it does include major home systems, like electrical, plumbing, heating, and air conditioning, and appliances you use every day. We offer flexible pricing and plans because every budget and home is unique. See the plan contract for coverage details, including service fees, limitations and exclusions. Charges for non-covered items may apply.   

FAQs About Solar Panels

Do solar panels mess up your roof?

Although homeowners may worry that solar panels will mess up their roofs, the installation will not lead to roof damage unless done improperly. If your installation professional is licensed, qualified, and familiar with your roof type and condition, they’ll know how to take the proper steps to prevent any damage. 

Do solar panels cause leaks?

Solar panels should not cause leaks to your roof. Installation often involves drilling holes into the roof to attach and secure solar panels with lag bolts. Although the idea of holes in the roof can sound alarming, a solar installation professional will ensure that each bolt fixture is encompassed by flashing or shields that slide under your home’s current roof tiles or shingles. Tar or a similar substance is then used to prevent water from leaking through your roof and into your home. 

Some homeowners use solar roof tiles or solar shingles instead of installing traditional solar panels. These substitutes allow installation without the need to drill holes in the roof. 

How long does it take solar panels to pay for themselves?

Depending on your location, solar system size, and other variables, it can take between 10 and 20 years for solar panels to pay for themselves. If you’re planning to stay in your home for that length of time, the solar panel installation cost may be worth your while. Even if you’re planning on selling your house before then, solar panels might pay for themselves in home resale value.

How long do solar panels last?

Solar panels typically last from 25 to 30 years. However, a solar panel doesn’t immediately stop working after its productive lifetime. Instead, its output decreases by enough that it no longer meets industry standards. 

Do solar panels affect your house insurance? 

Solar panels should be covered by house insurance. They can increase the cost of your homeowners insurance policy, particularly because solar panels add value to your home. Depending on your specific home and solar installation, you may need to buy additional insurance. However, be sure to weigh the pros and cons of solar panel insurance to see if it’s necessary to obtain along with your homeowners insurance.

How big of a solar system do I need to go off-grid?

The number of solar panels you need to go off-grid depends on the amount of power you usually use, the amount of sunlight the solar panels can access, and the size of the solar panels. Smaller homes, trailers, and RVs require fewer panels, while larger homes require more. 

Does American Home Shield cover solar panels?

No, American Home Shield does not cover solar panels under a home warranty plan. However, we do offer Roof Leak Repair coverage to help cover the cost of repairing your roof’s shingles, tiles, shakes, and underlayment when they experience leaks due to normal freezing and thawing cycles, dry rot, and normal wear and tear. Roof Leak Repair coverage is included in our ShieldPlatinum™ plan, or you can select it as add-on coverage if you are a ShieldSilver™ or ShieldGold™ plan member. See the plan contract for coverage details, including service fees, limitations and exclusions. Charges for non-covered items may apply. 

AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.

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