9 Myths about Solar Panels

Many homeowners don’t think solar power is for them. The technology isn’t ready, or their location isn’t right, or maybe they plan on moving soon. The folks at Solar Authority, a website that helps users choose solar array systems, look into these myths and handily debunk them.

Myth 1: Solar panels do not work well in cold climates.

Fact: Most solar panels actually work best in cold conditions, as long as it’s sunny. Cold temperatures increase their conductivity, letting electricity flow more efficiently. Higher temperatures, on the other hand, reduce the panels’ efficiency. As solar panels heat up, they generate less electricity from the same amount of light.

Myth 2: Solar power should get more efficient as technology improves, so I should wait before I invest in it, right?

Fact: Many companies strive to improve solar-panel efficiency. But we’ve generally been using the same solar technology since the 1960s. The potential efficiency gains of future panels are almost always small, a few percentage points, compared to the panels available ready for installation. Waiting for any large improvement is a risk while expected efficiency gains when measured in dollars saved on energy bills is miniscule. So there’s little reason to wait.

Myth 3: I won’t live in my home long enough to earn an ROI on any money I put into solar panels.

Fact: Depending on your system and location, solar panels pay for themselves within six to 15 years. If you add in the most lucrative state and federal tax credits and incentives, you could start seeing an ROI within two to four years. Solar panels also increase the resale value of a home by about $15,000. So even if you won’t be in your home for the next 15 years, you can still see a significant ROI when you sell.

Myth 4: Solar panels require a tracking system to follow the angle of the sun.

Fact: If solar panels are properly installed, they are positioned to get the most exposure to the sun, so tracking systems are not required. Some newer panels do use tracking subsystems to adjust the panel’s position throughout the day, but the additional expense may not be worth the limited efficiency gains.

Myth 5: Solar panels don’t operate well in snowy or cloudy conditions.

Fact: Snowy and cloudy weather can reduce the amount of energy a solar panel generates, but they can still work efficiently in these conditions. In snowy climates, most panels are installed at an angle so snow slides off once it accumulates, and rain can clear debris from panels, helping them to be more efficient. In fact, Germany, a country which receives half as much sun as the sunniest city in the U.S., has one of the most successful solar initiatives in the world.

Myth 6: Solar panels are unattractive.

Fact: Professional installers can place solar panels on any roof pitch, angle, and condition. They will not damage a homeowner’s roof, and, in some cases, solar panels extend the roof’s life by protecting it from the elements. Ultimately, the aesthetics of solar panels on a home are subjective. However, with the growing popularity of solar power, professionals can install solar panels in positions and locations to minimize their visual impact. Depending on your yard, panels can even be mounted on the ground. Solar shingles can also help with curb appeal by better blending in with your existing roof.

Myth 7: Solar panels require constant maintenance.

Fact: Solar arrays are designed to be durable and require minimal maintenance. Many installers recommend annual inspections to check the panels and system performance, and some offer lifetime warranties for the system. Plus, if you lease the panels and system, maintenance is typically provided by the leasing company. Keep in mind, panels with tracking subsystems may require additional maintenance and care.

Myth 8: Only a few states offer financial incentives for installing solar panels.

Fact: Almost every state in the U.S. has some type of tax incentive for solar power. Research the solar energy incentives and policies in your state. In addition to any state incentives, the federal government currently offers a 30% tax credit for solar array systems installed before 2020.

Myth 9: Solar panel systems store excess energy in batteries.

Fact: The vast majority of home solar power systems don’t store energy in batteries. They’re connected to the power grid via net metering, and homeowners are credited with the energy their solar panels add to the electrical grid. Though it is possible to add a battery to your solar installation, doing so increases the cost of materials, installation, and maintenance.

Discuss this Blog Entry 5

on Jan 12, 2017

See below translations of certain aspects of the article:

Myth 3: The author states that this is actually true...if you move to a different house every 2-5 years. So...solar panels would have been a bad investment for my family. Most of my siblings move to a new home every 5 years or less still...so they won't see any financial benefit to installing solar panels.

Myth 5: The author does some quick mental gymnastics and redefines what working well means in the first three sentences. If the solar panels are not making as much electricity as compared to a sunnier location, then wouldn't that by definition mean that the overall system won't work as well? Yes, the efficiency stays the same, but if you can't eliminate your power bill without making your ROI take much longer, then doesn't that mean the system doesn't work as well?

Myth 6: The author beats around the bush for two sentences and then finally states the obvious: unattractiveness is a matter of opinion. He should have gone on to point out that opinion is not fact, nor should it be treated as such.

Myth 8: 30%!!! HOLY COW!!! THAT IS SOOOO MUCH!!!(/sarcasm off) So if it costs me $10,000 to install a solar system, only 30% of the cost is tax deductible, as long as it's installed before 2020. Then the percentage goes down. At least the DOE has decided that if you spend your money on PV or Solar Thermal systems they'll count it as paying taxes.

Myth 9: The author forgets to mention...You only install batteries if you are going to be off the grid.

on Jan 12, 2017

A friend in Austin TX has 25 panels that cost $22K. Utility pays him $0.10 per KWh, but only charges $0.018 winter/ $0.033 summer for first 500 KWh drawn from grid. He gets all the energy he requires and still nets a few hundred $ income per year. Probably energy worth $3000 per year. Effectively, there's a considerable subsidy. It appears that economically the structure can't be expanded to all customers. He says there's resentment locally from low income customers who can't afford the capital investment.

on Jan 12, 2017

Hand calculators use photons for power, thin-film panels do the same and produce above 60% of max on cloudy days why they are used in the soggy Pacific NW for years, I'm surprised this large difference wasn't stated.

The big myth to me is not installing storage to take the home-farm-ranch off-grid, it's a stupid waste of money to hook up to paying by-the-watt versus owning the equipment so it's a capital investment added to the mortgage and a fixed monthly payment for the capacity.

People off-grid are living on their battery-inverter array, not the panels or windmills, if you go off-grid you have a monthly bill year-round once capacity is balanced to needs.

Ask any accountant, this is the difference between an expense account electricity bill versus a capital investment amortized and depreciated for taxes with a salvage value as an asset on the books if a small biz, not an expense.

Rather starkly obvious to choose to own the generation and storage system and never use the grid tie is the goal, about 80% of grid-demand is for thermal end-use and electricity only 20%.

Moving to solar-HVAC is how to remove that demand from the grid.

on Jan 12, 2017

We need to change our frame of reference! The efficiency of Wind and Solar energy border on infinite! Because of the source of solar and wind energy we need to change our frame of reference from a plot of land or ocean, to that of our sun. When the sun is used as the source of energy: 1) Our business, economic, mathematical, and scientific models fail because the cost of that energy is infinitely close to zero - a ZERO in the denominator! 2) Why isn't the denominator zero? Conservation of Energy; not perpetual motion: a) Windmills slow the rotation of the earth. b) Solar cells consume energy produced by the sun. Our models and simulations use the finite frame of reference of a solar panel or a windmill. This is wrong.

on Jan 14, 2017

Great article on the myths of solar. Solar will become more economical as technology advances. If you can not afford the large tickect price upfront after the 30% rebate, there is the leasing option.

If you do get started with solar you might what to read my article on --Top 8 Mistakes Solar Newbies Make at boldsolarsolutions dot com

Have a great day!
Bold Solar Solutions

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What's A Skeptical Engineer?

A questioning, sometimes humorous look at technologies, engineering, and the world.


Stephen Mraz

Steve serves as Senior Editor of Machine Design.  He has 23 years of service and has a B.S. Biomedical Engineering from CWRU. Steve was a E-2C Hawkeye Naval Flight Officer in the U.S. Navy. He...
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