Residential solar is growing in popularity for American homeowners, but not everyone is on board.
According to the SEIA, nearly 6GWdc of solar power was installed on top of homes in the U.S. in 2022, a 40% increase over the previous year. Today, about 6% of all single-family homes have a solar energy system installed on their roof or property.
For all intents and purposes, the future looks encouraging for the solar industry and residential solar. But for every technological improvement, some people are still skeptical. Like any other emerging product or industry, it’s fair for people to question the rise of residential solar, especially since there has been so much change and improvement in a short time.
As with any product, what might have been true a decade ago may not hold true today. In some cases, what homeowners may have heard was never true, but based entirely on myths.
Solar panels were expensive when they first came out, but you could say that about any new technology.
Data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows a steady decline in prices for residential PV modules since 2006, and installation costs have dropped alongside them. There are plenty of federally funded tax credits and incentives to make solar installation more affordable, and solar companies have started offering all-in-one services to simplify the process. The service typically includes permits, planning, sourcing, and installation, to limit homeowner headaches.
If low-cost renewable energy for the life of the panels isn’t enough to excite you, PV systems carry other benefits. Once the panels are installed on your roof, they can protect the shingles underneath from wind, snow, and rain damage while blocking out sunlight that could weaken or damage roofs over time.
When you think about it, it seems logical that solar panels are only good when it’s sunny, making them pretty inefficient.
The truth is solar panels are more efficient now than they’ve ever been, consistently performing between 16-20%. Some high-efficiency models can reach as high as 22%, and experimental panels currently in testing perform even better.
Depending on the type of solar panel used, you can generate plenty of electricity to power your home and charge your gadgets or electric vehicle. More productive battery systems are also on the market, allowing homeowners to store electricity for future use. This lets homeowners take advantage of sunny days and have reserved power available when the sun isn’t shining.
From the cars we drive and the computer you’re reading this on to your own body, EVERYTHING needs some maintenance.
You wouldn’t go 60,000 miles without changing your vehicle’s oil or getting an inspection, so why wouldn’t you do the same for your solar panels? Although the systems are often designed to be as hands-off as possible, they need routine inspections and cleaning to maximize energy production. Cleaning costs a couple hundred dollars on an as-needed basis, and with proper maintenance, the panels should be fully capable of outlasting their 25-year warranty.
It’s also worth noting that there are no moving parts if the solar PV system is attached to your roof, making maintenance simpler. In cases where solar panels are installed onto a racking system, there could be added costs to protect and maintain any sun tracking mechanisms.
Residential PV systems will perform better in areas with plenty of sunlight, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do well in other situations.
Solar cells collect direct and indirect sunlight, which both carry photons, AKA light particles. The photon energy is converted into electrical energy through a process called the photovoltaic effect to produce direct current (DC) energy. That’s the electrical current used to power your home.
So, sunny or not, your panels will continue creating plenty of clean energy!
If anything, the exact opposite is true: your home could potentially become MORE valuable if you installed solar panels.
No one likes shelling out hundreds of dollars to their utility company for power. Solar energy lowers electricity bills and allows homeowners to make money if they add their energy to the grid, but that’s not all.
A study from several years ago suggested that home values could increase as much as $20 for each $1 saved annually on energy. Home-selling site Zillow compiled different data more recently but came to a similar conclusion. The company estimates solar panels add about 4% to a home’s total value, though it depends on system size.
So, why are people willing to pay more for a home with a residential system installed? Besides the obvious energy savings, more people are investing in green living and sustainability. Solar panels supply renewable energy to homes, putting less strain on power plants using traditional fossil fuels to create electricity. As of 2021, fossil fuels were responsible for nearly 80% of total energy produced in the U.S.
Where solar panels may run into some detractors is whether they’re aesthetically pleasing. Are the panels ugly? That’s debatable, but there are panel styles that can blend in with roofing, making them less noticeable. If that isn’t possible, panels could be installed on garage roofs or racking away from the house.
What do solar panels and computers have in common? Both perform better when the temperatures drop.
Photovoltaic cells collect light through solar radiation, not heat, so light doesn’t even need to be direct to generate electricity. When the temperatures are too warm, it can limit energy output and efficiency – just like when your laptop’s fan kicks on when it’s working extra hard.
As for snow, there are times when it can limit light absorption, but that’s if the panels haven’t been cleared. Once they’re clear, snow can be helpful for energy collection! The fluffy white flakes can reflect light back onto the installation, boosting efficiency and generating more electricity than usual. Even better, if the panels are bifacial (have cells on both sides), they can collect even more light.
No snow? No problem! Snow isn’t the only thing that can reflect the sun’s rays onto a solar panel. The same reflection method could work with light-colored roofs or on top of stones or a concrete pad.
It’s a fact: solar panels today are more affordable, more efficient, and easier to install than ever before.
From solar panels and racking solutions to solar inverter cables connecting everything together, every piece is designed to get the most energy possible from the solar BOS. The best part is the technology will only become more efficient, affordable, and mainstream over time.
And just like how we went from asking ourselves, “What is the Internet, anyway?” while carrying around clunky cell phones, our energy technology is prepared to take the leap to do more than ever before. We’re investing more in green initiatives and energy efforts and may see the fruits of all that labor soon.
So, next time you see solar modules on top of a home or business, remember how far we’ve come and where we’re heading. The future of energy isn’t as far off as we think.
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