20 Solar Myths Debunked
“But you can't make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up around them. It can't last.”Ray Bradbury
If you’re anything like me, you love to discover something new but have learned to take everything you hear with a grain of salt and a healthy dose of skepticism. Today. I’m going to discuss what’s true, the myths and the outright lies we have been force-fed about the solar industry. Often by well-funded energy companies that wish to keep you reliant on them for power. I will also dispel some of the nonsense those crazy green energy hippies talk about that’s often exaggerations pushed by those with a climate agenda! The truth is somewhere in the middle, but all things being equal, I will always side with the freedom to make your own choices AND the ability to control your own destiny. Ask 100 people, and 99 will tell you that they hate their unpredictable energy bills each month that always trend up and contain countless fees and add-ons. The one person who doesn’t feel that way is probably married to a guy on an oil rig!
In college, I studied finance and had a healthy share of dry economics classes. Now one thing you should know is that I hated every minute of school, and if I could go back and do it again, college would not have been on my to-do list. Now, since I was paying my own tuition, I decided to go to the bare minimum of classes and show up only when necessary, on test days. Sure, I would do some homework assignments here and there, but my main goal was to maintain a C average and focus only on the courses I found interesting. Obviously, economics was not one of those. I attended maybe three econ classes that year and managed to get my C and believed it was all behind me.
Now fast forward 12 years, and I am in a sales job that has me driving on the road each week for more hours than I can count. The first few weeks I listened to music but quickly decided to use my time more productively and picked up podcasts and eventually audiobooks. It wasn’t till halfway through one of these audiobooks that I realized I was listening to an economics textbook and that it had been fascinating to me. It wasn’t because the information was new, I honestly don’t know if new information entered that field or not. No, it was because at that moment in my life, I had a new perspective and the desire to hear what I previously had NO interest in learning when I was told I needed to.
I believe that solar power is the same type of thing for most people. Lately, it seems the government has been force-feeding us the benefits of green energy and how we killed the planet. Before that, it was manipulation by domestic oil producers in how we needed to end foreign oil dependency, and it was time to open up our national parks for drilling to stick it to the middle east. We have been desensitized to all the information, and because of that, countless people choose inaction rather than making an actual fact-based choice about whether we are killing the earth or if climate change is all a big lie to slow down the US economy. Well, again, the truth is somewhere in the middle, but as they say, the truth will set you free. Never has that been truer than with solar energy because it is one of the few ways to wrestle control of your life away from someone else.
Perhaps you have noticed that over the last 5-10 years. There has been a dramatic push to monetize everything we do on a monthly recurring basis. A decade ago, the idea of subscription meals, coffee, or really anything other than cable TV was absurd. And now, I have a subscription for everything in my life except cable. Life is really strange, isn’t it?
Well, rooftop solar allows you to cut one of the costliest subscriptions in your life, your monthly energy bill. Now it doesn't allow you to completely eliminate it because it’s important to stay tied to the grid for various reasons. However, it allows you to take your bill from $200, $300, or even $400 a month down to around $10 a month.
The goal of this book is to help you separate fact from fiction and allow you to make an educated choice rather than falling victim to whatever narrative is currently en vogue. Therefore, rather than deal with the environmental benefits of solar, I would rather like to discuss the actual economics of solar and how it can be a windfall to your family's financial situation when installed correctly with the help of an HONEST solar consultant,.
Myth #1: Solar is Expensive
When it comes to solar, one common myth is that it’s too expensive. As they say, the best lies contain a sliver of truth, and this one is no different. Go back a decade, and the price per watt of installing solar would take years and years to pay off because the technology was not at a place where it was financially viable to anyone but the rich and well-intentioned. That is not the case today. In fact, the prices of solar have dropped so much that much of the new commercial power production has transitioned from dirty energy (coal, oil, and gas) to cleaner energy like solar and wind. Trust me when I say that the energy monopolies are not just doing this to be good stewards of the earth; they are making that transition because it makes fiscal sense.
I would argue that at the current prices, it’s too expensive NOT to go solar because of the current government incentives and the low cost of financing. When you first sit down with a solar rep, they will want to look at a recent energy bill for a couple of reasons. First, they want to ensure that any system built is designed to offset over 100% of your current energy usage. So you will no longer need to monitor how often you use the AC on hot days or otherwise make sacrifices to lower your energy bill to save a buck. In fact, if you decide to get an electric car, you can let your rep know, and they can make adjustments to factor that in as well. Typically, if you find yourself paying above $200 a month to the utility company, you can get a solar system that could be financed for under $200 a month and reduce your bill to the cost of staying tied to the grid for emergencies or cloudy days, which can be as low as $10 a month. The benefit is that once the panels are fully paid for, your total monthly cost might just be $10 a month.
Moreover, even though financing is more affordable than ever, if you can pay cash for your system, you will easily save at least 15% of the total cost. As with everything in life, cash is king, and if you can swing a cash payment, I would recommend it. It’s a better investment than you could get in the stock market, as it's guaranteed savings each month while increasing the value of your home.
Think of it in simple terms. You need energy each month and will either throw money in the trash by paying to rent your energy from a utility company or throw the money on your roof, which gives you a return on your investment in monthly savings and increased value to your home. Solar is not so much a decision as it is an IQ test. The biggest hurdle most people face is that we have been conditioned that someone wins, and someone loses when we buy something. In the case of solar, you win by lowering your monthly expenses, helping the planet and making your most valuable asset (your home) more valuable.
Myth #2: I don’t get enough sun where I live
Some people assume they don’t get enough sun where they live. My question for you is, how do you know? When a solar proposal is designed by the right company, they will look at the last 30+ years of weather data for your latitude and longitude and use science to determine the efficiency for your panels. In most cases, unless you live in Northern Alaska and suffer from months of no sunshine at all, you can benefit from the sun you get, no matter how great or small you think that might be. But remember, just because someone presents you a proposal doesn’t mean you need to commit. It’s just scientific information from which to draw a more accurate conclusion about whether solar panels are right for your situation. Many of the fastest-growing solar states are in the northeast and pacific northwest, where there is certainly not as much sun as southern California, Arizona, or Texas. Let the professionals tell you it won’t work rather than limit yourself with assumptions that may or may not be accurate.
Myth #3: The Technology is improving too fast, I will just wait
This is another myth rooted in fact. Go back a decade, and the technology that was used then can’t hold a candle to the technology used today. However, solar has benefited from so much private, corporate, and government investment that the technology today will no longer have the drastic improvements of years past. Now, technology will have incremental improvements every few years but not enough to make it financially worthwhile to continue to delay. For instance, many people are interested in waiting for the Tesla solar shingles to become a bit more efficient and lower in cost. Well, the truth is that most people choose solar to save money rather than spend 100k+ for a new rooftop.
Right now is a chance to enjoy the best technology this industry has to offer, and if you wait another 10 or 20 years, how much more are you going to continue to pay into a system that you are renting energy from? I will give you the same advice I give my family and friends, the best time to go solar was yesterday, the second-best time is today! Start saving money each month and get that system paid off as soon as you can and enjoy removing a major expense from your life.
Personally, I am excited for further advancements with electric cars so that I can remove sky-high prices at the pump, along with the unpredictable housing energy costs. This will save my family thousands and thousands of dollars each year, which can be spent on paying down a mortgage and further increase our net worth by transferring money we paid others to money we pay the bank that becomes equity.
Myth #4: I’m moving in X number of years
This is a simple one and not really a myth at all. If you plan on moving in two years or less, hold off on solar because the ROI will not make sense in most cases. If you plan to live in your home for two years or more, it’s a no brainer. Right now, both the US government and state governments are offering massive tax credits to help make the switch to clean energy more affordable. In addition, houses that have solar sell faster and for more money, which can make a huge difference in today's competitive real estate market.
It’s really common sense when you think about it logically. If you were buying a home tomorrow, would you be more or less interested in purchasing a home with solar panels? Would you want to pay an electric bill of $10 a month or one that’s $200 a month? Would you be willing to add an extra $50 a month on your mortgage to save $150 a month in energy? Those are the questions prospective homeowners are asking themselves. According to Fannie Mae, they are choosing to spend extra on homes that come with rooftop power plants rather than settling for homes with expensive monthly utility bills.
Myth #5: Should I lease or own my solar panels
This is a question of personal choice, but for me, I like to own something and have control over it. So, why would I enjoy only a little bit of savings and trade an energy bill to a traditional provider for a slightly lower energy bill from a solar provider? If saving the environment is your only concern, I guess it makes more sense, but again, I want to own my savings and receive the full benefits myself rather than a solar company receiving the benefits from my roof. It might be worth investigating an apples-to-apples comparison, but as a consultant, I wouldn’t recommend this course of action for someone who wants to save the maximum amount each month.
Myth #6: Solar only works when the sun is shining, and I need power when it’s raining too
It’s true that solar is more efficient when the sun is out; however, even when it’s raining, you receive some benefits from the panels. The biggest reason I only work with homeowners who want to stay on the grid is that I believe it's better safe than sorry. I encourage all potential solar homeowners to stay connected to the grid in case of inclement weather. Why even take a chance? Solar panels are designed to produce more energy than you need when it’s sunny, and that energy is sent to the grid for others to use with net metering. Then, during bad weather or in the evening, the power you send into the grid is given back to you so that you can get the full benefit from your panels around the clock. Another reason that solar consultants look at your energy bills is because a system is designed with a year in mind, not just a day, week or month. So, while you may have a few days or even weeks that have less sun, your system is designed to take that into account and ensure that when you look at the year as a whole, you come out ahead because of solar panels.
Myth #7: Solar Panels aren’t efficient enough
Solar has certainly come a long way, and I have no doubt that incremental improvements will continue to be made along the way as more and more people realize the benefits of what it offers. As of 2022, most solar panels available to homeowners offer an efficiency of around 22%. Many people wonder why that isn’t 100%, and the reason is that much of the energy from sunlight is composed of different types of light, such as infrared light, which the current technology can’t absorb. The record for solar panel efficiency is around 40%; however, those are panels that exist in a lab somewhere and are not available for consumer purchase. I believe efficiency will become commonplace in the next decade or two and available for consumer purchase. The tradeoff is that if you wait, many of the tax incentives that make this more affordable will be eliminated, and if you had purchased them today, they would have already paid for themselves multiple times over, even at current efficiency. The best advice I can give is to research the panels yourself and draw your own conclusions.
I believe you are better off installing what’s available today, as the current panels are the lowest price I believe they will ever be, even without factoring in government tax credits. Another factor is that current panels are often warrantied for about 30 years and are expected to last even longer. So, in 30+ years, when you are ready for new panels, you can take advantage of the technology available then, having already benefited from the massive financial savings of having solar for decades. If the choice is to keep sending money to the utility companies each month or pay yourself, I would rather take action and save money. Then, one day, I could make the choice to upgrade to a more efficient product or simply continue to enjoy the savings. Either way, I can make that choice from a position of strength and financial security.
Myth #8: Solar Doesn’t Have a Warranty
Like a car, warranties are available for an extra cost. I personally automatically wrap the price of a warranty into the cost of panels because when I do business with someone, I want them to have the peace of mind to know that if something goes wrong, it will be fixed promptly and without cost to the homeowner. I let my customers know that they, of course, have the option to buy the panels with no warranty attached, but I wouldn’t recommend it no matter how great the panels and reliable the brand. The warranty typically does not add much cost and provides a great peace of mind which is worth its weight in gold to me. In fact, the warranty I offer even includes the roof underneath the panels, which is quite rare in the solar industry.
I encourage you to ask many questions about the warranty, what's covered and how long service takes in the event of a claim. Then make sure everything is backed up with writing so you have a record and can hold everyone accountable for what's promised. I would also focus on trying to work with a company that will warranty the underlying roof components as well.
Myth #9: Solar Panels take lots of maintenance
To be honest, solar panels and the underlying components are mostly maintenance-free. They get dusty in the summer and can be covered with snow in the winter, but beyond that, they are designed to work easily and without much homeowner intervention. The occasional rain does a great job of clearing dust and debris from the panels, much the way your car looks great after a rainstorm before you drive it in the mud! As for snow, there are different ways to eliminate that from the roof in a way that’s safe for both you and the panels. I discuss that at length in my book “Solar Powered Energy Theft,” which is available for FREE when you request a Solar Savings Analysis
Myth #10: Solar will have power during a grid outage
This is a lie often told by unscrupulous solar reps and those green energy gurus. The fact is that unless you have a battery backup system in place, when your neighbors lose power, so do you. The system is purposely designed that way for the safety utility workers who would be called out to fix the grid in times of crisis. Battery backup systems allow your solar panels to capture and store energy and are a great add-on to a system; however, they are costly and not required, so many homeowners do not have them.
If you can afford it, I always recommend a battery backup system because nothing is better than protecting you and your family from unexpected power outages. But it's not truthful to let prospective solar homeowners think they will have power when others do not, just because they have solar panels. Even though the technology could, in fact, provide that, in many cases, they are designed with safety in mind for those utility workers.
Myth #11: Solar systems will store excess energy on sunny days
This goes back to the previous myth, and unless you have a battery backup system in place, you will not store energy for future use. That is one of the main benefits of a grid tied system because the electric grid itself acts as a giant battery storing your energy. When it’s sunny, your panels provide excess power sent to the grid from which you will draw when you need it later. For that convenience, you will typically pay a nominal fee each month to the utility company, and I believe it’s a very good tradeoff.
Myth #12: Solar will damage your roof
This is certainly possible, though unlikely. For this reason, I recommend working with a company that not only warranties the panels, but also the roof itself. When your solar provider has a vested interest in ensuring quality problem-free installation, I find they can select the local installers who can make that happen. If selecting the installer is left up to you, the homeowner, it's important to view their track record and work to ensure they are considered a North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners-certified installers and licensed electricians. Again, I think it’s just easier to work with a company that guarantees all the components, as they will make sure that you are working with the best possible installer, if only to limit their own risks and costs.
Myth #13: I can eliminate my electric bill
Nope, this is a lie. Perhaps a white lie because, for all intents and purposes, you do eliminate your electric bill, but to remain grid tied, you still pay $10-$20 a month for that convenience. Sometimes, reps say it eliminates the electric bill, but the truth is that you will still have a small convenience charge for net metering, which is why you can send power to the grid when you have extra and draw on it when you need to. This also allows you to never worry about not having enough power when it’s raining for several days or during bad weather.
Myth #14: Reselling my home is harder with solar
This is a myth that is pretty easy to sniff out. Homes with solar sell both faster and for more money in all markets. And obviously, this makes sense when you think about it critically. If you're in the market for a new home, one with almost no energy bill because of solar is going to be more attractive than one with a typical sky-high electric bill. The data is backed up by Fannie Mae, as well as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and any realtor worth their salt will say the same.
Myth #15: Solar is bad for the environment
This one makes about as much sense as hearing someone say, “brushing your teeth makes your breath smell unnaturally minty.” The primary component of solar panels is a material called silica, which naturally occurs in sand, among other places. Most of the other parts within the panels themselves are naturally occurring as well. Obviously, it takes energy to create anything from pencils to computers, and solar panels are no different. It takes a nominal amount of energy to create a panel, but after a few months of use, the energy used to create it has been recaptured in the form of renewable sunlight.
The main knock that solar detractors and those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo use are the toxic chemicals found inside the solar panels themselves. This is true. Inside the panels are chemicals like lead and cadmium, which can be harmful to soil if they break or are disposed of incorrectly. Most solar panel components are recyclable and can be used to create new panels from old. A simple online search can yield many results for companies that will recycle your old panels and ensure that any toxic materials don’t find their way into the soil.
Many things are harmful to the environment, and it’s our responsibility to be good stewards of the earth. Thankfully, it’s tough to make a case that going solar is harmful to the planet, though many people around the world have a vested interest in perpetuating an obvious lie. The most important thing is to make sure you treat solar panels as you would a car battery, recycle, recycle, recycle.
Myth #16: The government will give you free panels
If they did, I would be slinging solar for the feds and not for a private company. Trust me, no one wishes that more than I do, as those federal benefits are pretty nice to hear. The truth is that federal and state governments do not give free panels, but they do offer incentives to help people make the switch to renewable energy. Currently, there is a 26% federal tax credit for solar, and each state has its own list of tax credits and subsidies to help make the switch more affordable. However, solar is not free in the traditional sense. It might feel free because you are trading a utility bill for a bill that pays for solar panels, but you are still paying something.
If you want to see exactly what is available where you live, type in your zip code at dsireusa.org, which will pull up a comprehensive list of all possible incentives, tax credits, and grants available. As always, consult a tax professional with how this can affect your situation.
Myth #17: Solar is only for the rich
This used to be true in years past. A decade ago, solar panels were today's equivalent of virtue signaling. They were expensive, not very efficient and an eyesore. But they were an eyesore that let everyone know you are a good person and cared more about the environment than they did. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case, with current panels making both financial and environmental sense. Today's panels are low profile, sleek, black and modern looking, transforming any roof into an attractive, efficient source of power.
I would argue that today's panels probably benefit poor homeowners more than rich ones, helping the average Joe reduce monthly expenses and increase the value of their home. Luckily, rich guys can still benefit from increased savings as well. And, of course, whether you want to virtue signal or not, people will notice and commend the positive impact your panels will make to the environment. And you don’t even mention that you’re only doing it to save money!
Myth #18: The energy company will cut you a check
This one is a bit more complicated than other myths. No, most energy companies will not cut you a check for your solar energy, but the utility companies offering net metering will provide monetary credits towards future energy bills. The caveat is SRECs or Solar Renewable Energy Certificates that many states in the Northeastern US have in place. In the states where SRECs are offered, the electricity suppliers are required to secure a portion of their electricity from solar power. To make this happen, they buy these certificates from individuals like you. These are sold separately from the actual electricity and merely give them credit for the “solar” aspect of what you create. These certificates are traded on an open market based on supply and demand, paying homeowners anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars a year to allow the electric providers to reach their quota of offering solar energy. This will not negatively affect you in any way; it is simply a way to further benefit monetarily from what you produce on your roof.
For a list of states that have SRECs in place, visit: https://www.srectrade.com/markets/rps/srec/introduction to see if you qualify. Once again, be sure to consult a financial professional or tax advisor to ensure you understand how it works in your situation.
Myth #19: I need special insurance for my panels
Because solar panels are considered a permanent improvement to the home, thankfully, most homeowners policies cover them. As always, check with your insurance professional and also ensure that current coverages are high enough to fully cover the system. It’s a good idea to speak with your agent at least once a year anyway, and if you recently installed a new roof or solar panels, you may want to ensure you’re adequately covered. Often, in the case of a new roof, you may actually be able to lower your insurance by a small amount.
Myth #20: Solar Panels need to be on my roof
While the roof is often a convenient place for panels, some homeowners have tree coverage preventing good solar placement on the roof or perhaps just simply prefer them elsewhere. Luckily, solar panels can go pretty much anywhere, so if you prefer them in an unused portion of your yard, installation is no problem. Wherever you decide to install, just make sure it’s a place you can live with because with the long life of panels these days, they will more than likely be there for decades to come.
And there you have it, folks; most of the common lies, myths and misconceptions spread both against solar panels and in favor of solar panels. Solar can be a great tool to help increase your net worth by lowering your monthly expenses while simultaneously increasing the value of your home. It allows you to build equity and take control of your future. However, all that glitters is not gold, and it’s important to do careful research and not just believe what you hear from others. If you have any questions or want to see if your home qualifies for no money down solar panels, visit my website jonnelsen.com, and I will be happy to help you find more answers.
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Jon Nelsen | Solar Consultant