The Pros & Cons of Solar Panels

As part of our Going Green series, we recently published a video on the Silicon Valley and Beyond YouTube channel about the pros and cons of solar panels. With energy conservation being top of mind for many, solar panels are one option homeowners are considering to reduce their energy use.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, over 600,000 residences in the United States have solar panels. The residential solar market is expected to continue its impressive growth, becoming the single largest sector in the nation. But before making the decision to go solar, there are some very important considerations to help determine if solar is an energy efficiency option for your home.

The Pros of Going Solar:

  1. Free energy
    All the energy generated by solar panels is free. As such, your electric bill will reflect little to no electricity usage. In some areas, you can ‘sell’ your excess energy via Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to participating utility companies.
  1. Clean energy
    Solar energy is clean, meaning it produces no harmful emissions.
  1. Reduced dependency
    Generating your own energy means your home has a reduced dependency upon your local utility company. During warm days when there may be rolling brown outs due to consumer energy overload, your home will not be affected.
  1. Installation incentives
    Many federal, state and local government agencies offer a variety of incentives for installing solar panels including discounts, rebates, and tax breaks.

The Cons of Going Solar

  1. Inconsistent energy source
    Your available energy can fluctuate depending upon the amount and intensity of the sun. The colder months when clouds are more prevalent and when the sun may not shine as directly on your home, the efficiency and quantity of generated solar power can decrease.
  1. High initial cost
    Homeowners have two options when it comes to solar: buying their panels outright or lease them. If you choose to purchase, you will incur a substantial preliminary cost outlay upwards of tens of thousands of dollars, even if you’re able to obtain a rebate or discount. Leasing tends to be more financially feasible for many, but it also has its downfalls, which we will address shortly.
  1. Site preparation
    Most residents in Los Atos, Menlo Park and elsewhere in the Bay Area will install panels onto existing homes, which entails the reconfiguration of the electrical system and possible upgrades to the home’s infrastructure. These costs are in excess of the panels themselves.
  1. Maintenance and repair
    For those who purchase their panels outright, on-going maintenance and repair are yet another incurred cost. Panels need to be cleaned to remove dirt and debris that reduce efficiency and any required repairs are your responsibility.

Potential issues with leasing

If you have leased solar panels and decide to sell your home, some companies require the buyer’s to qualify to take over the solar contract. Others may require the homeowner to pay off the lease in full prior to the sale, which can amount to tens of thousands of dollars. There have been a number of California real estate transactions that have fallen through because of these exact issues.

Do your Homework

Solar energy is a great option for reducing your dependency upon your local utility company as well as increasing your home’s efficiency. But before you decide to go the solar route, it is imperative that you do your homework.

Understand the difference between owning and leasing, including any and all financial repercussions, especially should you decide to sell your home.

Know the long term obligations of both options, including maintenance requirements, lease commitments and the like. Contact your utility company to get a through understanding of your potential energy savings VS your financial investment. This should enable you better determine the time frame for your return on investment. Lastly, shop around. It is always best to get quotes from at least three vendors. Be sure to check their references and reviews online, including with the Better Business Bureau and the Contractors Licence Board.

Armed with all the information, you are now well educated and can make the decision on whether it pays to go green with solar panels.