Solar technology is now a viable consumer option for powering your home. Whether you are a homeowner who wants to install solar panels on your home, or you are looking to purchase a home with existing solar technology, you should familiarize yourself with the facts. There are many solar power myths surrounding its technology. Many of these misconceptions stem from older solar technology systems, but the solar industry has changed since solar became available to homeowners in the 1960s.
#1 – SOLAR IS TOO EXPENSIVE
This was true until recent years. With advancements in technology and consumer demand, the price of solar has substantially decreased. Solar used to cost $76 per watt in the late 1970s. The current cost of solar in Florida is $3.39 per watt (before incentives).
Additionally, the federal government offers a 30% tax credit on solar systems installed before the end of 2019. But don’t fret. If you don’t make that deadline, there are still available tax credits, but they decrease by year: 26% tax credit for systems installed in 2020 and 22% for systems installed in 2021.
Along with the federal tax incentive, solar panel systems in Florida are exempt from sales tax. That saves an additional 6% on the cost. Also, most power companies in Florida offer net metering, allowing you to sell your excess solar power back to the utility company.
#2 – I WON’T LIVE IN MY HOME LONG ENOUGH TO RECOUP MY INVESTMENT
This depends on how long you live in your home, but let’s look at the facts. On average, the typical “payback period” (recoupment on upfront cost) on your solar system is about 5-10 years. The current price range for a 5kW system is $8,500-$11,300. The national average is $12,500, so panels in Florida are less expensive to begin with.
Math warning! The average home consumes 11,000 kWh annually. A 5kW system produces 7,161 kWh per year. Let’s say you stick with the 5kW system and it costs $11,300. Your 30% tax rebate brings your cost down to $7,910. The average monthly electric bill in Florida is $130. That’s $1560 annually. Your 5kW system covers 65% of your usage or $1014 annually. With $1014 annual savings, you would pay back your system in 7.8 years. Try this calculator from Energy Sage for results specific to your circumstances.
An energy-efficient home will significantly cut your monthly energy consumption. If you are hooked up to the grid for net metering and live in a solar-powered, energy-efficient home, you could very well produce more power than you need. The power company pays you for your excess energy, so you could feasibly pay for the system much sooner.
#3 – SOLAR WON’T WORK IN CLOUDY OR COLD CONDITIONS
It’s true that solar panels are less efficient in cloudy weather, but that doesn’t mean they won’t produce enough energy. Germany is a prime example. Germany gets about as much sunshine as the state of Alaska, but they have installed 25 gigawatts of solar power. Here in Florida, we don’t need to worry too much about cloudy weather. After all, this is the Sunshine State.
As for cold weather/climates, solar panels actually work more efficiently in the cold. The panels don’t produce energy from heat, they produce energy from light. Also, cold temperatures increase conductivity, making electricity flow more efficiently. So those few cold days a year down here in Florida is actually when your solar systems will be the most efficient.
#4– SOLAR PANELS WILL RAISE MY PROPERTY TAXES
I understand where this myth comes from. When you add value to your house through an upgrade or addition, you raise the value of your property; therefore, raising your property taxes. I can’t speak for other states, but here in Florida, voters approved a pro-solar tax abatement measure in 2013. This measure exempts renewable energy equipment (this includes solar panels) from state tangible property taxes. Property appraisers can’t consider renewable energy equipment when calculating a property’s assessed value.
#5 – SOLAR NEEDS A TRACKING SYSTEM TO TRACK THE SUN
Although tracking systems may be installed with your solar panels to maximize their efficiency, they are not necessary. Tracking systems add to the cost of your solar technology. If you have your panels professionally installed, they are placed at an angle to maximize sun exposure. Of course, the size of your system and your energy consumption factors into how much exposure you will need, but typically your solar panels should produce enough energy to power your home without needing to track the sun.
#6 – SOLAR PANELS WILL DAMAGE MY ROOF
Surprisingly, solar panels only weigh as much as a second layer of shingles. The panels are also installed a few inches above your roof using mounts, and the mounts are protected with coverings. Rather than damage your roof, the panels actually protect your roof from the elements. And the panels themselves are built to withstand the elements, even hail and sleet.
You should check your roof for damage before you install your panels, but I would recommend hiring a professional. If you really don’t want panels on your roof, there are solar panel systems that can be mounted on the ground, but that will, of course, take up yard space.
#7 – SOLAR PANELS WILL LOOK UNATTRACTIVE ON MY ROOF
If you think solar panels will look too unattractive on your roof, there are options. Again, you could have the panels installed on the ground. It’s also possible your solar panels could be installed so they aren’t visible from the front of your home. This depends on the position of your home in relation to the sun and the size and shape of your roof.
If you don’t want panels on your roof or ground-installed for aesthetic reasons, solar shingles are now available. From a distance, solar shingles look like regular roof shingles. Solar shingles are a newer technology, which means they are more expensive than panels. Keep in mind, if you go the shingle route, it may be difficult to find an installer and you can’t take them with you if you move.
#8 – SOLAR PANELS REQUIRE A GREAT DEAL OF MAINTENANCE
Again, solar panels are constructed to withstand harsh weather. They actually require very little maintenance. The only maintenance you will be responsible for is spraying them off with water to remove debris. Most solar panels systems are annually inspected and come with warranty programs, as well. If you have battery packs installed with your system, more maintenance will be required, but most homeowners don’t need battery packs if their home is hooked up to the power grid.
#9 – SOLAR CAN’T POWER MY HOME 24/7
Solar only produces electricity when the sun is out; however, the panels can produce enough energy to power your home 24/7. This means you obviously need some form of storage for the excess energy that is produced during daylight hours. There are two options:
Battery Packs – batteries can store excess energy to be used at night, but they are more expensive and require more maintenance.
Net Energy Metering – in most cases your system is hooked up to the power grid through a program called net metering. As your home produces excess electricity during the day, that excess is sent into the power grid. The power is measured using a special meter installed on your home by your power company. For every excess kilowatt hour you produce, you get the same amount sent back to you from the grid at night. Public utility companies in Florida are required to give you back your excess power at a one-to-one ratio.
#10 – THE MANUFACTURING PROCESS IS ENVIRONMENTALLY UNFRIENDLY
According to a study performed by the U.S. Department of Energy, the energy payback from your solar panels is typically one to four years. Solar panels are built to last 20-25 years, and in most cases can be recycled. You’ll need to check with the company you get your panels from to make sure they recycle.
Most solar panels are constructed overseas and shipped here. If you buy American-made panels (these will unfortunately be more expensive), you can reduce the carbon emissions produced from shipping. Ultimately, the amount of clean energy your panels produce over their lifespan greatly offsets the carbon produced during manufacturing and from other forms of energy production.
If you are interested in purchasing a new home that comes equipped with clean energy technology, check out Brite Homes Florida’s newly-constructed solar homes.