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Pros and Cons of Solar Panels (2024 Guide)

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Default Author Icon Written by Tamara Jude Updated 05/02/2024

The sun produces enough energy that one hour of sunlight hitting the Earth’s surface could fulfill the world’s energy demands for an entire year. Solar technology harnesses that power, generating electricity to power your home through solar panels on your roof. In this article, we’ll explain the pros and cons of solar panels and who can benefit from them.

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Intro to Solar Panels

Solar panel systems use photovoltaic (PV) cells to convert sunlight into electricity. Here’s how solar panels work:

  1. The PV cells in the panels absorb the sun’s energy.
  2. The PV cells convert this energy into direct current (DC) electricity.
  3. An inverter transforms the DC electricity into alternating current (AC), which is what your house uses.
  4. The electricity flows into your home’s electrical panel, powering your appliances.

Multiple solar panels connected together to form a solar array, also known as a PV system. Solar installers usually mount the solar array on your roof, but ground-mounted solar panels are also available.

Homeowners need several solar panels to generate enough electricity to power their homes. A series of solar panels is called a solar array. Solar installers usually mount the solar array on a home’s roof, but they can also install it on the ground. They then connect it to your home’s fuse box.

The panels need a few hours of sunlight per day to produce enough electricity to fulfill your energy needs. Your utility company or solar batteries will collect any leftover energy for later use. Your utility company can also credit your account for unused electricity your solar array generates.

Pros of Solar Panel Systems

Solar panel systems come with many financial and environmental benefits. When we polled homeowners on why they wanted to go solar, the three most popular reasons were to save money on electric bills (83.8%), become energy independent (61.3%), and reduce their carbon footprint (51%).

Homeowners do save money and help the environment when they use the sun’s energy to power their homes. These aren’t the only benefits of solar, though. Below is an in-depth look at the advantages of installing solar panels.

Reduced Carbon Footprint

Your carbon footprint measures the amount of greenhouse gases, such as methane and carbon dioxide, that your everyday actions generate. You produce greenhouse gases when you drive a gas-powered car or heat your home with oil, which increases your carbon footprint. You have a greater negative impact on the environment as your carbon footprint grows, affecting climate change.

You can reduce your carbon footprint and help the environment by using solar panels and other renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels. A solar or PV system does not produce greenhouse gases or air pollution as it operates, and it has an energy payback period of one to four years. That means it takes less than five years for your solar panels to make up for the energy consumed and emissions produced during the manufacturing process.

Lower Utility Bills

Lower utility bills are another benefit of using solar panels instead of fossil fuel to power your home. Utilities, such as electricity, water, and heat, use many nonrenewable energy sources. Your monthly utility bills reflect this use, and your bills will continue to increase as the demand for fossil fuels outpaces supply.

Lowering your nonrenewable energy consumption reduces your dependence on utility companies. Solar panels allow you to power your home without using as much gas, which results in lower utility bills. Keep in mind that the solar panel type, your location, the system, and your power needs will affect your savings.

Tax Incentives

The government offers tax reductions, exclusions, and exemptions to encourage individuals and companies to spend or save money to aid the economy. One big incentive for going solar is the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for homeowners, also known as the federal residential solar energy credit. You can also browse state-specific incentives using the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE).

The federal solar tax credit applies to taxpayers who decide to install solar PV systems. Homeowners were entitled to a 26% tax credit for PV system installations in 2021 and 2022, but Congress has since increased the savings to 30% through 2032. The tax credit drops to 26% in 2033 and 22% in 2034. It’s set to expire in 2035 unless Congress extends it.

Increased Home Value

Your home’s value depends on several factors, including age, quality, size, location, and market demand. Home improvements and upgrades—including solar panels—improve living conditions and can increase your home’s appraisal value. 

Are recent study found that houses with functioning solar panels sell faster than those without. Buyers appreciate the reduced utility bills and energy independence when they find a home with solar panels. Zillow has also reported that homes with solar panels sell for 4.1% more than comparable homes without them. That translates to an extra $14,350 for a $350,000 home.

Easy To Maintain

Using a reputable contractor to install solar panels can help ensure they last for about 25 years before they begin to degrade. Solar panels are typically low maintenance and don’t need frequent repairs. They don’t have any moving parts, so they only need cleaning once per year to remove dirt and debris. You may need two cleanings per year if you live in an area with very active weather.

A solar panel inspection typically costs $150–$350.* Adding on a professional cleaning could cost $15–$35 per panel. Other maintenance tasks range from $300–$700, assuming a 10-panel array—but they shouldn’t be necessary unless something goes wrong.

* Unless otherwise noted, cost data in this article was sourced from contractor estimates used by Angi.

Energy Independence

Solar panels reduce your need for gas-powered electricity and dependence on a utility company. A PV system can be grid-tied, hybrid, or off-grid. All three system types offer varying levels of energy independence.

  • Grid-tied: Having grid-tied solar panels means your home is still on your region’s electrical grid. The solar panels collect the sun’s energy, convert it to electricity, and send any excess energy back to the grid. The electric company can credit your account when you add solar energy to the grid through net metering.
  • Hybrid: Hybrid solar systems follow the same energy savings process as grid-tied PV systems, but they have solar batteries to store electricity in the event of power outages.
  • Off-grid: Homes that don’t have access to the grid can opt for an off-grid solar system. With this type of system, you will be completely energy-independent and rely on solar technology for all of your power. However, you will need solar batteries to store excess energy to use at night and when it’s overcast.

Cons of Solar Panel Systems

You’ll find many benefits of solar panels, but PV systems have some limitations. What follows are the disadvantages of solar panel systems.

High Installation Cost

Solar technology is a long-term investment with high upfront expenses. In our survey, 52% of respondents said they didn’t install solar panels because it was too expensive. The average cost of solar panels is $26,932, but anything from $18,400 to $36,000 falls within the normal range.* The actual cost depends on panel type, system size, and several other factors.

The PV system’s payback period is the length of time it takes you to make back the money the panels cost you. You’ll experience a small reduction in your electricity bills as you use solar energy to power your house, but it will take years before those savings cover the amount you paid for the solar panels and their installation.

Not Compatible With All Roofs

Solar panels work best on a shingle, tile, tar, or metal roof that’s inclined toward the sun, facing south, east, or west. Flat roofs are also compatible with solar panels. 

Rooftops facing north or that have a steep or shallow incline don’t usually get enough sun to generate electricity. Skylights and other roof attachments may also create a problem during installation.

You can install solar panels on the ground, but ground-mounted solar panels are more expensive to install and require additional space. Consult a reputable solar panel installer to confirm whether your roof is compatible with solar panels.

Savings Vary Regionally

Your savings may not be what you expected, depending on where you live. The 30% federal tax credit is available nationwide, but additional savings depend on where you live.

State and local governments offer a wide range of incentives for going solar, including rebates, tax breaks, and performance payments. Nearly all states have net metering policies, but the benefits and rates you receive for excess solar energy sent back to the grid can vary significantly. Check with your state and local government for rebate programs so that you can calculate whether the savings are worth the installation costs.

Productivity Is Dependent on Weather

Solar may not be the right option for handling your power needs if you live in a rainy area with limited sun exposure. Solar panels require four to five hours of sunlight per day to operate at peak performance. They still generate power on cloudy days—but not as much. Rain helps to clean your panels, but it also limits how much electricity the panels can generate. 

Energy Storage Is Expensive

Solar energy ebbs and surges at certain times of the day. Since you won’t use all the energy your PV panels collect at peak hours, you can install solar batteries store it for later use. Battery storage also provides peace of mind for homeowners when the power goes out.

Batteries are a necessary part of hybrid and off-grid solar power systems, but they can be expensive. The average homeowner pays $10,000 for this solar backup, but it could cost anywhere from $300–$30,000 depending on capacity and type.

They’re Hard To Move

Although you can move your solar panels to your new home when you sell your house, it’s a time-consuming and difficult process. It also costs thousands of dollars to remove and reinstall them. You may only want to consider investing in solar once you’ve found your forever home.

When Should You Consider Installing Solar Panels?

It takes a few years before you’ll experience the full financial benefits of solar panels because the initial cost to install solar panels is high. The payback period varies, but the sooner you install solar panels, the sooner you start saving on your energy bills. Installing them them now will also give you access to the federal solar tax credit, which is set to expire at the end of 2034.

You’ll see the best return on investment if you install solar panels on a home you plan to stay in for a while. The age and condition of your roof also matter. If your roof needs repairs or replacement soon, it’s best to address that before installing solar panels.

Solar panels are an attractive feature to buyers and typically increase a home’s value. That means you may be able to recoup some of your installation costs if you need to sell in the future. However, the extra home value may not be worth the initial investment—especially if you move soon after the installation.

Still not sure if solar panels are worth it? Check out the video below, where home technology expert Ross Trethewey breaks down the five most important things to consider before installing solar panels on your house:

Our Conclusion

It’s worth investing in a solar panel system if you have a suitable roof or the space for ground-mounted panels. Solar panels can lower your energy costs, increase your home’s value, and cut carbon emissions despite their limitations. If you’ve decided to go solar, we recommend acting quickly to take advantage of the federal solar tax credit and reap the long-term benefits sooner.

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FAQ About the Pros and Cons of Solar Panels

How many years does it take to pay off solar panels?

It takes 6–12 years to pay off solar panels, but the average is nine years. How long it takes to pay off solar panels depends on location, budget, materials, and the roof’s size.

Do solar panels require maintenance?

Solar panels require maintenance one to two times per year. You need to keep your solar panels clean so that dirt and debris don’t obstruct the sun’s rays. Your solar panel’s manufacturer will have specific instructions, and your warranty may include cleanings.

How long do solar panels last?

Solar panels typically last 2530 years, but high-quality solar panels may last up to 50 years.

What should I watch out for with solar companies?

You should watch out for solar companies that offer free solar panels and make exaggerated promises. Make sure you research a company to confirm that it’s legitimate and reputable before signing a contract.

How do I know if solar is worth it for me?

You’ll know if solar is worth it if you live in an area with higher energy bills and require a lot of energy to light, heat, or cool your home. Talking with a reputable solar installer with experience installing in your area can also help you decide.

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