Top solar myths you shouldn't fall for

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Top solar myths

At EnergySage, we hear a lot of solar myths. Here are some of the top ones most in need of busting.

Key takeaways

  • While you should never expect solar panels to be free, they certainly aren't only for wealthy people.

  • In most cases, you'll remain connected to the grid if you go solar – but this doesn't mean you'll get a check from your utility company.

  • Solar panels still work in the winter, and roof damage from solar panels is extremely rare.

  • If you're shopping for solar, visit the EnergySage Marketplace to compare quotes.

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You may come across scammy solar advertisements about "free solar panels from the government." This isn't true; you can go solar for $0 down with a solar loan or lease, but federal and state governments do not provide free solar panel installations.

While the government won't cover the cost of a solar panel installation, they do subsidize the upfront cost of purchasing a solar panel system through various solar incentives. The federal investment tax credit (ITC) allows you to claim 30 percent of the cost of your solar installation as a credit toward what you owe in federal taxes. Depending on where you live, your state or local government may also provide additional solar incentives such as tax credits, rebates, or performance-based incentives (PBIs).

Many people are under the assumption that solar panels are a luxury purchase and strictly an option for affluent people. This isn't true - thanks to the falling costs of solar and the accessibility of financing options, solar is a feasible option for many property owners.

The cost of solar has dropped substantially in the last decade - in 2008, the average cost of a solar panel installation was $8.82 per watt. For comparison, the average cost for solar quoted on EnergySage now is $2.95 per watt.

As far as financing options go, solar loans and leases are available for no money down. If your solar installation covers 100 percent of your electricity needs and your monthly solar finance payment is lower than your typical electricity bill, you'll see savings right off the bat.

It is possible to install an off-grid solar panel system using solar batteries, but most solar panel installations are grid-tied. This allows you to use solar energy your system produces during the day and draw electricity from the grid after the sun is down.

That doesn't mean you can't cover all your electricity needs with a solar panel system. Through a policy called net metering, your utility will provide credits on your electricity bill for excess energy produced during the day. With net metering, you'll only be charged for the net amount of energy you're using from the grid. If you generate more electricity than you use in a given month, you can use those net metering credits on a future bill. Even if your solar energy system produces more energy than you use in your electricity billing cycle, you will still receive an electric bill from your utility, but it will show a negative amount owed.

Net metering policies can vary by state and utility, so it's a good idea to check with your utility company about the specifics of their net metering prior to going solar.

Solar panels need sunshine to generate electricity. If you live in a particularly cold state that experiences a lot of snowstorms, you will likely generate less solar power in winter than in summer because of fewer sunlight hours. However, the amount of electricity you'll generate in the winter will still be enough to enjoy savings on your electricity bill. When the sun is shining during the winter months, solar panels actually perform more efficiently due to the colder temperatures.

When your solar panels are covered in snow, they will not generate power. Fortunately, solar panels are designed to bear a certain amount of weight, and the snow shouldn't cause any issues. Additionally, most panels are tilted at an angle so next time the sun comes out, the snow will slide off on its own.

This isn't true, except in rare circumstances. Most utility companies will have restrictions to prevent you from interconnecting a solar panel system that produces far more energy than your meter history indicates you need. Even if you are generating more solar energy than you're using, utilities that offer net metering will provide monetary credits towards your future electricity bill, but rarely will they pay these out as a check - more likely, it will remain an ongoing credit on your electricity bill.

In the rare circumstance that your utility company will send you a check for excess electricity, it's likely for a wholesale electricity rate with a much lower value than a net metering credit. Another circumstance in which you'd receive a check from your utility for solar energy is if they offer a PBI for solar generation separately from net metering (for example, National Grid's Renewable Energy Growth incentive).

Some property owners hesitate to install solar on rooftops because they worry about possible damage. Luckily, roof damage from a solar panel installation is extremely rare.

For one, solar installation companies will inspect roofs before installing. An engineering and structural review of your roof will confirm whether or not it can withstand the added weight of a solar installation. Most solar installations will require holes in the roof to affix the racking, but sealants at these holes will prevent roof leaks. Solar installers will also provide a workmanship warranty (typically 5 to 25 years) to protect you on the off chance that damage occurs due to their installation work.

As long as you work with a qualified, licensed solar professional, you won't have to worry about roof damage. Stories of roof damage after solar installations are usually a result of a poor installation or a company installing solar on a roof that wasn't in good condition to begin with.

If you’re interested in exploring your solar options, sign up on the EnergySage Marketplace. You’ll receive quotes from pre-screened, vetted installers in your area that will include information about costs, savings, equipment, incentives, and more. If you’d prefer to start your research with a ballpark estimate, try our Solar Calculator.

Find out what solar panels cost in your area in 2024
Please enter a five-digit zip code.
  • 100% free to use, 100% online
  • Access the lowest prices from installers near you
  • Unbiased Energy Advisors ready to help
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