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Solar Energy Pros And Cons – Forbes Advisor


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Using solar energy to power your home is an undeniably eco-friendly option—and the list of benefits to solar power doesn’t end there. But while there are plenty of reasons to switch to solar energy, it is not a decision that should be rushed. Take the time to evaluate the pros and cons of solar energy to determine if making the conversion is right for you.

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Perhaps the biggest selling point to using solar energy is that it is a sustainable energy source. That means you aren’t consuming resources that future generations will need. And, at the same time, you are lessening the impact of your energy use on the environment. That’s a clear win-win situation. However, installing solar panels remains relatively expensive, and not every home is a good candidate for relying on solar power.

Whether you are building a new home or considering adding solar panels to your home, there are some important solar energy pros and cons to weigh.

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How Can Homes Use Solar Power?

If you are considering going solar, the most popular and efficient option is to install solar panels. Generally placed on the roof of the home because of exposure to sunlight, solar panels use Photovoltaic (PV) cells that absorb photons from sunlight. This then creates an electric field and that electricity can be used or harvested for later use.

Although solar panels are the best way to use solar energy to power your home, there are other ways to use solar energy that have a lower barrier to entry. For example, solar water heaters work in much the same way as solar panels—but are less expensive to install than full solar panel systems. For the purposes of this article, however, the pros and cons of solar power will be based on solar panels.

What Are the Pros of Solar Energy?

Solar Energy is Environmentally Friendly

According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, using solar energy minimizes the amount of carbon and pollutants generated. That translates to cleaner air, fresher water and more environmental stability for future generations. Better yet, unlike the widespread energy grid that is reliant on non-renewable resources like oil and gas, solar energy is renewable—meaning we’ll never run out of it.

Solar Energy Saves Money Long-Term

After overcoming the initial installment costs for solar panels, they quickly work toward paying for themselves: Solar panels can last 25 years or longer. On average, homeowners who install solar panels will break even between six and 10 years due to utility bill savings. From there on out, those savings can go straight to the bank.

Consider this scenario:

Upfront Cost After Rebates: $10,000
Annual Savings: $1,200
System Pay Off: 8 Years, 4 Months
Total Savings (Minus Initial Investment) After 25 Years: $20,000

Solar Panels Are Low-Maintenance

After installing solar panels, you shouldn’t have to give them much thought other than appreciating them when your lower utility bill arrives. Depending on their location and whether there are a lot of branches and leaves that could accumulate on top of the panels, the biggest job may be occasionally brushing them off—although rain and snow can do the trick, too.

Solar Power Allows for Energy Independence

If you’re thinking of going completely off the grid, solar power is a natural option. Because you don’t have to rely on traditional energy sources, it is possible to power your home entirely off of your own solar energy.

Your Solar Power Can Helps the Community

If you use less energy than your solar panels accumulate, you may be able to sell it back to the communal grid through the utility company—something known as net metering. One of the clearest benefits to this is that you can further reduce your utility bills. Looking beyond that, this is a way to contribute to the grid, reduce the strain of electricity demands, and further help the environment by reducing the need to import non-renewable energy sources to the community.

What Are the Cons of Solar Energy?

Upfront Installation Costs Are High

Installing solar panels is becoming more affordable. However, it remains a significant expense: It costs an average of $18,000 to install a 6kW grid-tied solar system. The cost may be lower or greater depending on energy demands, local reimbursements and the amount of sunlight. Still, there’s no way around it: That’s pricey. If you don’t plan to stay in the home long-term, it may not make sense to invest in solar panels.

Production of Solar Panels Has a Carbon Footprint

Although environmental concerns tied to the production of solar panels are currently being addressed—with signs of progress in the coming years—the amount of harmful greenhouse gases released while manufacturing solar panels is notable. Similarly, there are not widespread methods for recycling solar panels.

According to a report from the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, the average “energy payback” time for solar panels is between one and four years, depending on the type of system. That means that the energy expended while making solar panels will be made up for within four years of use. Considering solar panels can last between 30 and 40 years, that still leaves a long lifespan that does much more good than harm.

Solar Panels Don’t Work For Every Home

To put it simply, solar power relies on sunlight. If your home doesn’t receive adequate sunlight, either because of the climate or shade, the solar panels may not be a viable option. The caveat here is that solar panels do not have to be installed on the roof. If there is another part of the property that receives more sunlight, solar panels can be installed there.

Batteries that store solar power can also help offset the risk of limited sunlight, especially if climate is a concern. For example, if you are considering adding solar panels and you live in a place that has stretches of cloudy days, you may be able to “bank” enough solar power in a battery to use even when the forecast is gloomy.

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