9 Solar Panel Myths Debunked For Your Clients
The solar energy industry is dynamic and quickly advancing. As a result, what might have been accurate just a decade ago could be common misconceptions with your potential clients today. Let’s examine some of these solar myths and explore the actual truth.
Myth 1: Solar Power Is Not Affordable
Although solar energy was quite expensive just 10 or 15 years ago, this is no longer true. The cost of installing solar panels has fallen dramatically in the last couple of decades, making it affordable to many homeowners. Although it varies by location, most residential solar energy systems have a payback of 5 – 10 years from electricity bill savings. Yet, the design life of a solar system is around 30 years. This means that solar system owners enjoy many years of “free” electricity.
In locations with higher electricity rates, solar power systems pay for themselves more quickly through savings. Conversely, in areas with lower electricity rates, savings are generally smaller. Hawaii, California and Massachusetts have some of the highest electricity rates, while Idaho, Washington and Louisiana have some of the lowest.
There is currently a 26% tax credit in the United States for wind, solar PV and solar thermal systems. A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in taxes owed to the federal government. Therefore, a $15,000 solar system would have a tax credit of $3,900. Homeowners should speak with a tax specialist to determine if they can take advantage of this incentive. Also, there are rebates available in some areas, but the details vary by location.
If homeowners can finance a solar system, it can be cashflow positive right away, depending on the interest rate and loan term. This means that the cost savings on the electric bill are greater than the loan payments in many instances. Some financing options specifically cater to financing renewable energy systems, and many homeowners can also take advantage of home equity loans.
Myth 2: Solar Panels Don't Generate Much Power In Cold Climates
There’s a seasonality to solar energy production in the United States because it’s in a middle latitude and not right on the equator. Due to the tilt of the Earth, winter days are shorter than summer days, and the exact difference varies by latitude. Typically, solar energy production is higher in July and August than in December and January. However, unless a home is in the North or South Pole or somewhere relatively close, solar energy systems can really crank out a lot of clean energy in the winter months.
Although output is somewhat lower in the winter, solar energy systems still produce significant power. Solar PV panel efficiency is actually higher when they are cooler. This is because PV systems generate electricity from sunlight, not heat. In fact, when panels get too hot, they produce less power.
Solar arrays also generate more energy when they are at a steeper angle in the winter because the sun is lower in the sky. Most solar photovoltaic panels are mounted flush on house or garage roofs, so the exact angle depends on the roof's pitch. Thus, homes with steeper roofs will usually generate more electricity in the winter than houses with gently sloped roofs.
Myth 3: Solar Energy Installations Do Not Have Warranties
The majority of solar panels, inverters and batteries come with equipment warranties, but they vary by the manufacturer. It is important for your clients to understand warranties when selecting solar equipment because they help protect the solar energy investment. Most solar installers also offer a warranty that covers labor. There are two types of solar panel warranties: power performance guarantees and product warranties.
Solar Panel Power Performance Guarantees
Solar panels become less efficient as they age. Power performance guarantees ensure that they produce a certain percentage of their original capacity after a designated period. The exact rate varies by the solar panel manufacturer. Many manufacturers offer a guarantee that panels will produce at least 80% of their original output after 25 years.
Solar Panel Equipment Warranties
Product warranties cover the integrity of the panel themselves and protect against material or workmanship defects. Most major manufacturers offer solar panel equipment warranties for 10 – 12 years. Some higher-end manufacturers have longer warranties.
The length of inverter warranties varies a lot by the product manufacturer and the type of inverter. A string inverter (or a central inverter) is a standalone unit. Residential systems typically only have one or two because multiple panels are connected to a single inverter. If a string inverter fails, the entire system could stop producing power. Their warranties usually last 5 – 15 years, but some manufacturers offer extended warranties for an additional cost.
By contrast, microinverters are mounted on the backside of each solar panel, and systems have multiple units. If one fails, only the associated panel will be affected. Microinverters often have warranties of up to 25 years.
Although solar panel and inverter warranties protect the equipment itself, they don't always include labor. But many solar panel installation companies offer their own warranties on labor. The length of these warranties varies by the contractor but typically ranges between 3 – 10 years.
Myth 4: Solar Panel Systems Require A Lot Of Maintenance
Although this is mostly untrue, it does vary by the solar system equipment. Solar panels, most racking systems and inverters are durable components. Solar power systems without lead-acid batteries and moving parts require very little maintenance from homeowners.
Although they boost renewable energy production, tracking devices tend to be less reliable than stationary solar systems. Arrays with no moving parts tend to last longer. Likewise, lead-acid batteries require ongoing maintenance. By contrast, next-generation lithium-ion batteries have a much longer lifespan and require no major maintenance. Unfortunately, the upfront cost of lithium-ion batteries is much higher.
Myth 5: Solar Homes Will Have Power During A Grid Outage
Unfortunately, most solar homes do not have power during grid outages unless they have a battery storage system. By design, solar systems automatically shut down production during an outage to protect utility company workers. If the system has batteries, the home will still have power.
Most grid-tied solar systems with batteries have a critical load panel. This allows homeowners to choose which circuits have power during an outage. Often, homeowners prioritize loads that prevent incurring loss first.
Myth 6: Solar Systems Will Store Excess Energy On Sunny Days
Solar systems without batteries do not have energy storage capabilities. The good news is that in most areas, utility customers can take advantage of net metering. This means that the utility company will credit an account for excess power that they feed the grid.
For example, on sunny days, solar energy systems will often produce surplus renewable energy. First, the solar panels will power the home, and then any excess will go to the utility grid. At night, if the house needs to draw power from the grid, homeowners can use the solar credits to offset the cost of this power.
Myth 7: Solar Panels Will Damage The Roof
In many cases, solar panels can actually protect the roof because they can shield shingles against hail and UV damage from the sun. However, it is crucial to select a qualified solar installation company to ensure that they install the solar panels correctly. Whenever possible, solar shoppers should use a solar contractor that has North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners-certified installers and licensed electricians. Also, it’s helpful to choose a solar company with a good reputation for workmanship and customer service.
Myth 8: Solar Homeowners Need A Special Insurance Policy To Cover Their System
Thankfully, most homeowners’ insurance policies cover solar systems. This is because it is typically considered a permanent improvement on the home, similar to a porch. However, it is crucial to ensure that the coverage on the policy is high enough to cover the cost of the solar system. If the coverage limits are too low, it won't sufficiently cover the installation. Also, it is important to confirm that a solar system is protected in your specific policy by examining the terms of the insurance policy or by speaking with an agent.
Myth 9: Homeowners Who Go Solar Have No Electricity Bills
Unfortunately, most solar homeowners will still have an electric bill, even if the solar system produces as much power as the home consumes. Going solar, however, can dramatically lower the electric bill.
Utility bills consist of two components: a supply charge and a transmission and distribution charge. This is similar to ordering a pizza by home delivery. The supply charge depends on how many pizzas are in the order. The transmission and distribution charge depends on how much the pizzeria charges for delivery.
For electricity bills, the supply charge varies by how much power the house pulls from the grid, and it is measured in kilowatt-hours. If the solar system produces the amount of energy that the home consumes, it is possible to eliminate the supply charge of an electric bill.
The utility company issues transmission and distribution charges for any property that has active electrical service. It is typically a flat rate charged to every residential customer each month, regardless of how much power is consumed. Thus, homes with active electric service will at least incur the monthly transmission and distribution charge. However, the solar system can eliminate the supply charge, which is often the lion’s share of the bill.
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