We may be compensated if you purchase through links on our website. Our Reviews Team is committed to delivering honest, objective, and independent reviews on home products and services.More

Debunking Common Solar Panel Myths and Scams

Default Author Icon Written by Tamara Jude + 1 other Reviewer Icon Reviewed by Roger Horowitz Updated 04/18/2024

Solar panels on top of a roof
iStock – Royalty Free

Harnessing solar power through residential panels offers a sustainable path to reducing fossil fuel dependence and can lead to significant savings on energy costs. Myths, misconceptions, and scams from dishonest dealers often obscure the path to solar adoption.

We are committed to equipping consumers with the knowledge to navigate these challenges confidently. We’ve compiled tips to sidestep scammers and help you make an educated decision about integrating solar energy into your home.

Common Myths About Solar Panels

As residential solar panels gain popularity throughout the United States, myths about solar panel systems become more ubiquitous. Don’t let these misconceptions prevent you from considering solar—you could miss out on monthly energy bill savings (and playing a role in protecting the planet). Solar panels may not be right for every home, but we recommend learning more before deciding what’s right for you.

Myth: Solar Panels Cause Roof Damage

Solar panels, typically mounted on rooftops to maximize sunlight exposure, are often misconceived as a risk to roof integrity. However, there’s minimal risk of damage with a professional and experienced installer. Qualified solar companies assess your roof’s condition before installation and use expert techniques to prevent leaks and other damage. 

Installation involves drilling holes for lag bolts, which are then sealed and flashed to protect against the elements. Some innovative solar tiles or shingles may not even require drilling. 

Solar installations rarely affect home warranties—most companies offer new warranties for the solar-equipped section of your roof to ensure continued coverage. With the right installation partner, you can add solar panels to your roof without compromising its health or warranty protection.

Myth: Solar Panels Don’t Reduce Energy Costs

Solar energy will replace some or all of the electricity you pay for monthly from your power company. The exact amount varies by system and location, but most homeowners cite utility bill savings as a primary reason for going solar.

Your savings will vary by factors such as system size, the amount of sunlight your home receives, and the local electricity rate.

Myth: Solar Panels Don’t Last Long

Many homeowners worry that a solar panel system won’t have a significant lifespan or that the panels will require replacing every few years. However, most photovoltaic (PV) panels can last at least 25 years with proper solar panel maintenance

The Solar Energy Industries Association has a national PV recycling program for when these panels are no longer usable.

Myth: Solar Panels Only Work on Sunny Days

Many homeowners’ primary concern is that solar panels only work in sunny weather. However, sunlight still reaches the Earth’s surface on cloudy, rainy, and snowy days. 

A solar panel system absorbs this light and turns it into usable electricity in nearly any weather condition. You’ll receive more power on sunny days, but you’ll still get some power no matter what the weather.

Nearly all homes with solar panel systems are still connected to the local power grid. The public grid can supplement your power if your panels aren’t providing enough power.

Myth: Solar Panels Are Too Expensive

Many homeowners feel anxious about the upfront cost of installing solar panels. Solar panel systems are expensive, averaging $15,000–$35,000. The larger and more powerful the system, the bigger the price tag. Many solar companies offer financing options to help mitigate the monetary impact and spread the cost over time.

The federal solar tax credit allows you to claim 30% of your total solar installation cost as a deduction on your federal taxes. Many states also offer additional rebates or solar incentive programs to reduce the total installation cost. Check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) for policies and incentives specific to your state.

Beyond the upfront cost, consider the potential for increased homeowners insurance premiums due to the added value of your home. Despite these considerations, the long-term savings on energy bills make solar panels a financially sound choice for many homeowners.

Myth: Solar Panels Require a Lot of Maintenance

Contrary to popular belief, solar panels don’t require much maintenance. In places without regular precipitation, occasional cleaning for dust or wildfire smoke may be necessary annually. Most solar companies recommend having an on-roof inspection every five years or so. 

Regular inspections to check that wiring and connections are secure will help maintain the system’s integrity. Monitoring your solar panels’ output ensures they’re functioning correctly, which may be included in your installation service or available for a monthly fee. Solar panels offer a low-maintenance solution for sustainable energy.

Myth: Solar Panels Aren’t Eco-Friendly

While harnessing solar energy is a green initiative, some people worry about the eco-friendliness of solar panel production. However, solar panels often offset the energy used in their manufacture within one to four years of operation. Although they contain potentially harmful heavy metals, these materials are securely encapsulated within the panels.

After solar panels reach the end of their lifespan, most of their components can be recovered or recycled. Glass, which constitutes a significant portion of a solar panel’s weight, and aluminum frames and copper wiring are recyclable. Though the recycling of other components isn’t yet widespread in the United States, recycling efforts are expected to grow as the solar industry expands.

Myth: Solar Panels Aren’t Efficient

You may see a standard efficiency rating of 15% to 22% and wonder why it’s so low. The most efficient solar panels in the world, which are too expensive for residential use, have an efficiency of 39%. The sun produces enough energy that 22% is more than enough to power a home.

Based on the laws of physics, no solar panel can absorb all wavelengths of sunlight. Infrared or heat radiation, for example, can’t be converted into electricity. Also, some light is inevitably reflected off the panels instead of absorbed. 

Theoretically, unconcentrated solar panels have a maximum efficiency of around 55%, but the practical maximum is likely a bit below that. Common commercially available solar panels are efficient for residential use.

Myth: Solar Panels Decrease Your Property Value

The relationship between solar panels and property value is complex, but in most cases, installing a solar panel system will increase your home’s resale value. One study showed that every $1 of savings on your annual utility bill adds an average of $20 to your home’s value. 

The extent of this value boost can vary based on factors such as location, market conditions, and climate. As solar technology becomes more prevalent, its influence on property values is expected to stabilize.

Note that this value increase generally applies to homeowners with fully-owned solar systems. A lien may be attached to the property for homes with leased solar panels, potentially affecting its market appeal. The attractiveness of such homes to buyers will largely depend on their valuation of renewable energy.

Common Solar Scams To Avoid

While there are many reputable solar panel vendors, some unscrupulous companies take advantage of homeowners looking to invest in eco-friendly technology. Even if they aren’t outright scammers, they may over-promise on rebates and savings to make a sale. 

Here are some common tactics deceitful companies use to profit from well-intentioned but uninformed consumers.

Free Panel Deals

No one gives out free solar panels. Some companies offer leasing agreements with little to no upfront investment, which may be misleading. Always read the terms before signing. 

If you lease solar panels, you can’t claim the tax incentives that come with them. A sales representative who offers free or low-cost installation “for a limited time” and pressures you to make a decision quickly is likely a scammer. 

This is especially true if they request your banking details and promise government reimbursement for upfront costs. That’s not how federal or state tax incentives work. 

Installing solar panels is a big decision that requires a large financial investment. Take the time you need to make up your mind and talk to multiple providers before choosing one.

Dishonest Lease Agreements

Beware of leases and other agreements that seem too good to be true. If you agree to a lease, the company should pay the installation cost. You’ll pay the company a monthly fee to use 100% of the panels’ power. Other companies offer power purchase agreements (PPAs)—you lease the panels and pay the company based on your power usage rather than a flat monthly cost. 

Both of these are legitimate options for homeowners who can’t afford the upfront solar panel system costs. However, under a lease or PPA, the solar panel company owns the system and the homeowner can’t claim any tax incentives on it. All of this is legitimate as long as you, the homeowner, understand this when signing the contract.

Don’t be taken in by scammers who claim you can have free installation and a tax rebate. Consider a solar loan if you want the financial incentives that come with solar panel ownership. You’ll still make monthly payments, but you’ll own both the system and the power it produces.

Fake Utility Representatives

Homeowners may encounter door-to-door salespeople offering solar panels. While some of these salespeople are legitimate, beware of scammers who pretend to represent state or utility companies and make exaggerated claims about tax rebates and energy bill savings. They often use high-pressure tactics and urge immediate sign-ups to capitalize on supposedly ending rebate programs.

These claims aren’t entirely accurate. While installing solar panels can lead to savings on your utility bill, eliminating your power bill altogether is unlikely. Government tax incentives exist and can fluctuate, but the federal incentive is secure through 2033. 

Representatives from state agencies or utility companies don’t conduct door-to-door visits. Conduct thorough research before committing, especially if an offer seems too promising.

High-Pressure Sales Tactics

As solar panel systems grow in popularity and price, even reputable companies may employ aggressive or manipulative sales strategies to secure your business. 

Some salespeople are outright fraudsters who will take advance payments and vanish. Others, while employed by legitimate firms, may lack a deep understanding of the products they sell and merely echo scripted sales pitches. They might represent intermediaries reselling panels from more established brands, rushing to close deals before you have a chance to explore alternatives or fully understand the technology and installation process.

Always take the time to speak to knowledgeable representatives from multiple companies before signing a contract.

False Promises on Available Tax Credits

The state and federal programs that support solar power are complex and subject to change with evolving laws and policies. Most homeowners don’t know the intricacies of these programs, which can allow disreputable companies to take advantage of them by promising huge rebates or programs for which homeowners may not be eligible. These companies’ salespeople might even assert that the government will cover all or most of the installation costs.

If you’re considering going solar, familiarize yourself with the incentive programs the government offers. Ensure you understand the federal tax credit and any state credits. Verify your eligibility for these programs before making any commitments to solar.

Government Reimbursement for Solar Panel Installation

Contrary to misleading claims, the government doesn’t directly reimburse homeowners for installing solar panels. Financial incentives such as tax credits, rebates, and various programs aim to reduce the initial costs and enhance the investment returns of solar energy systems. 

Thoroughly investigate the incentives available in your area and consult a tax professional to check whether you are eligible.

Educate yourself on solar technology basics and the tax incentives available in your state. Here are some ways to get this important information.
Ask relevant questions: Ask about panel efficiency and output. If the installation is free, find out who owns the panels and gets the tax rebates. Inquire about hidden fees and additional charges. Don’t just speak to a single salesperson—talk to multiple people at the company to ensure you’re getting consistent answers.
Avoid high-pressure salespeople: Anyone trying to get you to sign a contract immediately is in it for the money. Even if it’s a legitimate company, don’t sign too quickly—you may get a better deal elsewhere. If a salesperson tries to force your hand with huge, limited-time discounts, turn them down. You can always contact them later if you change your mind.
Research each solar company: Don’t take any salesperson’s word for it—find out for yourself. Look up companies on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website and review sites such as Trustpilot, Yelp, and Google Reviews. Find out if other customers are satisfied with the products and services.
Research local solar incentives: Know which incentives are and aren’t available to homeowners in your state, county, and city. Learn what’s needed to qualify for particular programs.
Research local solar panel costs: If you know your area’s average prices, it’s easier to be skeptical about quotes that are too high or deals that are too good to be true.
Request multiple quotes: Don’t sign a contract without shopping around. The first company to approach you might end up being the best, but you won’t know until you look into others. We recommend getting quotes from at least three providers.

Our Conclusion

The journey to harnessing solar energy for your home is paved with promises and pitfalls. After examining common myths and misconceptions surrounding solar panels, it’s clear they offer a viable and eco-friendly option for energy savings and environmental stewardship. Solar panels are durable and efficient and can increase the value of your property—all while contributing to a greener future. 

However, vigilance is key when navigating the market, as scams and misinformation abound. Arm yourself with knowledge, ask the right questions, and research potential solar providers and incentives to make an informed decision that aligns with both your financial and ecological goals. Embrace the sun’s power responsibly and enjoy the clean, renewable energy it provides for years to come.

Our Methodology

We are committed to providing comprehensive and unbiased content to our readers. This means earning your trust through transparent data and research-backed findings. 

We included research from the following government offices and solar institutions:

  • South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff–Energy Office
  • Solar Energy Industries Association
  • The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
  • The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
  • U.S. Energy Information Administration
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews team at reviews@thisoldhousereviews.com.