Are Solar Panels Worth It? 15 Pros & Cons of Solar Energy

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Stephanie Cole
By 
With her Master of Science in Renewable Energy Engineering (MSREE) from Oregon Tech, Steph is supremely well qualified to write on all aspects of sustainable living. She has already achieved a zero carbon footprint and her goal is to help as many other people as possible do the same. Her other hobbies include music, yoga, swimming and horror movies.
Stephanie Cole
Updated: January 26, 2024

Rising electricity costs and carbon dioxide emissions have given rise to a demand for renewable, clean energy.

Solar power is the most popular way to achieve sustainability and energy independence. In fact, more than 3.2 Million US homes already have domestic solar, and the solar industry is growing 30% year on year.

So a lot of people ask "Are solar panels worth it?" and whether or not they should invest in them.

There are many financial and environmental benefits to installing solar energy systems in your home. But there are also some potential drawbacks that you need to consider before making the investment.

In this article, we will discuss both the pros and cons of residential solar panels in 2024 so you can make an informed choice and decide whether solar is the right choice for you.

Are Solar Panels Worth It? Key Pros and Cons

Solar Panel Pros

  • Long Term Savings - Reduce Your Electricity Bill
  • Generate Clean Energy & Reduce Carbon Emissions
  • Protect Against Energy Price Rises
  • Add Value To Your Home
  • More Energy Efficient than Fossil Fuels
  • Long Lasting & Cheap To Maintain
  • Earn Money Selling Excess Power Back To The Energy Grid
  • Reduce Installation Cost With Solar Tax Credit

Solar Panel Cons

  • Up Front Costs To Pay
  • Not Suitable For All Dwellings
  • Maintenance Considerations
  • Hard To Move
  • Does Not Generate Electricity At Night
  • Storage Technology Limitations
  • Need To Find Competent Solar Installers Near You

Are solar panels worth it?

You've seen the main points at a glance for comparison. Now let's look at them in more detail.

8 Reasons Why Switching to Solar Is Worth It

To start with, let's look at the many advantages of solar energy in the home.

Solar Panels Can Reduce or Eliminate Electricity Bills

One of the benefits of installing solar panels on your home is that they allow you to generate your own power instead of relying on the grid. This can massively reduce your electricity bill, or even eliminate it entirely!

Once you've installed solar panels, you no longer need to worry about paying an expensive monthly electric bill (and the more you currently pay, the more you can expect to save).

Grid Independence

It's even possible to go "off grid" and become entirely self-sufficient, providing your system is large enough and you can store your excess energy.

But even if you can't disconnect or don't want such a major lifestyle change, the long-term cost savings are likely to be very significant for many people.

Solar Energy Will Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Statistics show that most greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the energy sector, and electricity generated by natural gas and coal-fired power stations has a devastating environmental impact.

In contrast, solar power is a clean, renewable energy source that does not release any harmful gases into the atmosphere.

The less energy you use from the grid, and the more renewable energy you produce yourself, the lower your carbon footprint. You'll also get secondary benefits such as reduced air and water pollution.

Solar panels can be a cost-effective step towards living a more sustainable lifestyle.

Protect Against Energy Price Rises

Electricity prices are on the rise and it seems that both gas & electricity bills will continue to increase, and there's very little we can do about it. Fossil fuels are a finite resource after all, so in the long term, they will only get more expensive.

As energy prices go up, so does your power bill. Many families cringe whenever they hear of the latest electricity price rises which continue to squeeze household budgets.

But if you have solar panels, you're protected against all that. Once your solar system is installed, you have what is known as energy autonomy. All of your future electricity is free, and any energy price increase only means you're saving even more.

Solar Panels Add Value To Your Home

The price of solar panels has gone down dramatically in recent years, so it's no longer expensive to install solar on your home.

In fact, many homeowners report that they have seen a significant increase in the value of their property once they've installed solar panels and can now advertise to buyers that their home is already "energy independent".

The benefits of using solar will be as attractive to a buyer as they are to you, and most good realtors would agree that a solar installation will add substantial value to any home.

Solar Panels Are Long Lasting And Cheap To Maintain

A typical solar panel warranty period is 25 years and some manufacturers offer a 30-year warranty (but only for the first owner).

Solar panels aren't entirely maintenance-free, but they require very little upkeep. They run very efficiently with minimal maintenance, and there are very few moving parts that need to be replaced.

After installing your solar panels, you simply need to clean them regularly to maintain optimum performance.

Earn Money By Selling Back To The Grid

Grid-linked solar systems can power your home, but they can also make you some extra income on the side.

If your solar panels generate more electricity than you use, then depending on what state you live in, you can sell it back to the grid (known in the US as Net Metering). There are similar schemes available in Canada, the UK, and other countries around the world.

If you don't have the facility to store your excess electricity then this is a great way to make sure it doesn't go to waste and also to further reduce your bills.

Take Advantage of Government Incentive Schemes (The ITC)

The Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is a US government subsidy that is one of the main reasons for the recent rise in the solar industry.

The ITC currently stands as a 30% credit on domestic solar power installations.

To qualify you need to purchase a solar system and have it installed in your home. You can apply the credit as a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your personal income tax payment.

According to current legislation, it is due to be reduced in 2033 and phased out by 2035. So you do still have a few years if you want to take advantage.

Depending on where you live, you might also find further incentives available at a state or local level which can drive down the cost of your home solar system even further.

7 Reasons Why Solar Panel Installation May Not Be Right for You

We've spoken about the benefits. However, there are also some potential disadvantages of solar energy that you need to consider.

Up Front Costs

When you install solar panels, there is a large initial cost involved. Although the cost of installation is much cheaper than it used to be, and the government incentives and tax breaks help, the cost may still be beyond some people.

It is possible to buy solar panels on finance. So-called solar loans will cover the cost of purchase and installation. However, you would have to consider the interest payable and perform a full cost-benefit analysis when deciding whether it is worth the investment.

Irrespective of how you finance the purchase, you should look at solar energy as a long-term investment. Although costs and electric bills vary, typically it takes around 8 years for your home solar power system to pay for itself. After that, you can enjoy free electricity for the remainder of the life of your system.

Not Everyone Can Install Solar Panels

Rooftop solar systems take up a lot of space, and property constraints mean they won't be suitable for everyone. If you live in a condo or another shared building, for example, you may not have access to the roof, unless you can persuade the management company and other residents to install communal solar panels.

Even if you have a single family dwelling, you will find that certain types of roofing material, such as slate, can make it difficult to install solar cells.

However, putting panels on your roof is not the only way to go solar at home. There are other solar technology alternatives you can look at, such as ground solar cells in your garden.

Solar Panels Are Difficult To Move

Once your home solar system is installed, it generally stays where it is. Solar systems are extremely difficult to move, so if you are planning to move house in the near future, you probably won't be able to take it with you.

You'll probably recoup most of the cost through the increased value of your property when you sell it, but you would need to install solar power again at your new home if it doesn't already have its own solar system in place.

Solar Power Doesn't Work At Night

It may seem obvious, but many people overlook the simple fact that solar panels are weather dependent. They only produce electricity when there is sunlight, so they don't work at night.

If you remain connected to the grid, that's not a problem. You can simply use the grid's power at night, and generate electricity from your own solar panels during the day (selling back any excess to keep your electric bill low or zero).

However, if you intend to go off-grid, you need a way of storing your electricity so you don't lose power at night.

Solar Storage Can Be Expensive

If you want to go off-grid entirely, you need to invest in solar batteries to store your excess energy so that you still have power when your solar panels aren't generating electricity.

A solar battery such as the Tesla Powerwall can cost up to $7,000 and you may need more than one depending on how much energy you produce and how much power your home consumes.

The cost of storage is currently one of the main issues facing homeowners with solar.

However, with future solar technology improvements, storage prices will reduce over time. In the meantime, you can always opt for a net metering solution and still benefit from all the advantages.

Installing Solar Panels Requires A Competent Tradesman

Although it is possible to install a solar panel system yourself, it is a job that's probably beyond the scope of most DIYers. Therefore, most of us will need to find a competent local tradesman to do our solar panel installation.

Some of the best solar companies are booked up months in advance. However, don't be tempted to choose an unqualified installer just because they can get the job done quicker.

Be sure to do your research and don't be swayed by pushy salesmen. Contact more than one solar company in your area and compare prices and reviews before deciding which one to buy from.

Technology Limitations and Long-Term Performance

Solar technology is rapidly improving, but it's not yet perfect.

Solar panel efficiency is basically a calculation of how much electricity they can produce as a proportion of how much space they take up.

Currently, the best solar panels are around 23% efficient. Most are between 15% and 20%, and their performance does degrade slowly over time until the point they need to be replaced. NREL states that a typical performance degradation is around 0.5% per year.

However, as technology improves, researchers have now found a way to improve solar cell efficiency to 25%, so we could well see far more effective domestic installations available in the near future.

What is Solar Payback Time?

Solar payback is a calculation of how long it takes before a domestic solar installation will have paid for itself.

You need to work out the setup cost and divide that by how much money you'll save with solar per annum, based on your current energy bills.

In the US, the average solar system takes 8-12 years to break even, but this varies depending on your household electricity consumption, and where you live.

Residents of Massachusetts and New York, for example, can achieve payback in around 3.5 years according to current data.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I Get Solar Energy At Home?

There are pros and cons of solar energy, and it might not be right for everybody. A home solar system is a source of renewable energy that can save you a lot of money on your electricity bills, while reducing carbon emissions.

However, despite being a good long-term investment, the upfront costs and other installation considerations do mean it's not suitable for everybody.

I personally have solar panels on my home, and I don't regret that decision for one second. But you need to examine the facts as I've explained them above and decide whether it's the right move for you.

Are Solar Homeowners Satisfied?

Yes, according to a Forbes survey, 89.6% of homeowners with solar panels say they are satisfied with their choice.

Can I Sell Solar Energy?

Yes, you can sell solar energy, depending on where you live. If your solar panels produce more energy than you use, then you have the option of selling the excess energy back to the grid.

Can I Store Solar Energy?

You can store solar energy using technology that is currently available, and many families have chosen to do this and go "off-grid."

However, storage is expensive and might not be within everyone's price range at the moment.

What are the lifestyle implications of going off-grid with solar energy?

Choosing to go off-grid with solar energy means embracing a self-sufficient lifestyle where you're responsible for generating and managing your own electricity. This shift requires a mindful approach to energy usage, as your supply depends on the solar power you produce.

You'll need to be prepared for the initial cost of buying and installing solar panels and batteries. Regular maintenance of your system is crucial. However, this lifestyle offers independence from utility companies, protection from energy price increases, and a reduced environmental impact, aligning with sustainable living practices.

Will Rooftop Solar Panels Get Cheaper?

Yes, it's highly likely. As with any evolving technology, we would expect the cost of a home solar system and solar batteries to reduce over time.

However, you should consider the effect of policy changes - government tax incentives will start to wind down at some point. Also if you decide to wait for prices to reduce, you'll still be paying full price, be vulnerable to increasing electricity costs, AND contributing to ongoing pollution from fossil fuels.

So waiting for solar panel costs to come down may not actually be a financially or environmentally sound decision.

Will Solar Energy Last Forever?

NASA scientists say that the sun will continue to shine for about another 5 billion years, making it the most reliable renewable energy source at our disposal.

Your home solar systems won't last as long as that, but they are guaranteed for at least 25-30 years and could conceivably last a lot longer than that before they need to be replaced or upgraded.

The Final Word

Adding solar panels to your home is the perfect way to cut your electric bill, and reduce dependency on fossil fuels that harm the environment.

A residential solar system can generate power from the sun's energy for many years to come. It pays for itself after around 8 years, giving you free power for the remainder of its lifespan.

We've examined all the solar energy pros and cons, and yes there are a few potential drawbacks that mean solar isn't right for everyone in 2024. But if you do have a suitable home and the money to invest, solar systems are a fantastic way to reduce both your environmental impact and your electric bill.

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Stephanie Cole
Stephanie Cole
With her Master of Science in Renewable Energy Engineering (MSREE) from Oregon Tech, Steph is supremely well qualified to write on all aspects of sustainable living. She has already achieved a zero carbon footprint and her goal is to help as many other people as possible do the same. Her other hobbies include music, yoga, swimming and horror movies.
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