Pros and cons of solar energy: It's usually worth it

The pros generally outweigh the cons when it comes to solar energy, but that doesn't mean it's perfect.

Edited by: Emily Walker
13 min read
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For most homeowners, going solar is a no-brainer. It lowers your electric bills and reduces your carbon footprint. It will often boost your home value and can protect you from blackouts when you pair solar panels with an energy storage system. If you finance your solar panel installation with a zero-down loan, you can even start saving right away. 

But like most things in life, solar energy isn't perfect. If your roof faces north or it's angled too steeply, you probably shouldn't get solar panels. If you're about to move, you likely won't save enough to fully recover the upfront costs. And because solar panels require sunlight, they don't work at night.

Before you take the plunge, we'll help you decide if solar is worth it for your home.

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Key Takeaways

  • Rooftop solar panels aren't the perfect fit for everyone, but that's okay. Like any other home electrification product, solar panels provide clear benefits to homeowners needing energy upgrades and electricity bill reduction.

  • The pros of solar outweigh the cons in most situations. For most solar shoppers, savings on energy bills make solar worth it.

  • Solar panels can add home value and protect against rising energy costs.

Whether you want to raise your home value, reduce your carbon footprint, or combat rising electricity costs, going solar is a great choice. A solar panel system provides energy independence and will often pay for itself in electricity bill savings. Incentives like the federal tax credit also help reduce your up-front cost and increase your return on investment.

On the other hand, solar energy doesn't work for every roof, it's not ideal if you're about to move, the upfront cost can be expensive, and finding a local installer can sometimes be difficult.

Here are the primary pros and cons of solar energy you should weigh before deciding if it's right for you:

Top pros and cons of solar energy

Reasons To Go Solar
Reasons Not To Go Solar
1. It lowers your electric bills1. It doesn't work for every roof
2. It can improve your home value2. It might not be worth it if you're moving soon
3. It reduces your carbon emissions3. Low electric bills mean low savings
4. It protects against rising electricity costs4. It can cost a lot upfront
5. You can sometimes earn money5. It won't work at night
6. It works in most environments6. Solar panels can contain toxic metals
7. You might be able to "sell" excess energy to your utility company7. It can seem challenging to find the right installer
8. It usually doesn't require much maintenance

You can reap many benefits by installing a solar panel system at your home or business:

1. Solar drastically reduces, or even eliminates your electric bills

The top benefit of solar panels is pretty straightforward. When you install solar panels at your home, you generate your own electricity, become less reliant on your electric utility, and reduce your monthly electricity bill. A solar panel system typically has a 25- to 35-year lifespan, meaning you can cut your electricity costs for decades by going solar.

Most homeowners will save $20,000 to $80,000 over 25 years with solar.

2. Solar often increases your home value

Many homeowners are interested in solar panels but don't understand how they will impact their homes. Recent studies indicate that installing a solar system can increase your home's value by about 4%. Even if you're not in your forever home, you could earn back your solar panel investment and then some when you sell your house. Whether you've been there for years or just moved into a new home, installing solar is a good investment for most homeowners.

3. Solar reduces carbon emissions

When you go solar, you lower your contribution to climate change. Solar is a renewable source of clean energy that helps reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. Unlike traditional fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas, solar energy doesn't directly release pollutants into the atmosphere and water supply. Even compared to nuclear energy, solar comes out on top in terms of environmental impact.


4. Solar protects against rising energy costs

As long as you buy, rather than lease, your solar panel system, you'll lock in electricity costs for the next 25+ years. Once you recover the initial cost of your system in bill savings, you'll generate your own electricity for free. With the federal solar tax credit, you'll also get back 30% of your equipment and installation costs as a credit toward your federal tax bill.

5. You can sometimes earn money with solar

In some states, solar panels can turn a profit in addition to generating bill savings that pay off the cost of the system. Solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) compensate you for the electricity that your solar panel system generates. If you live in a state where this incentive applies, you can expect both immediate and long-term returns from your solar investment.

6. Solar works well in most environments

Some alternative energy, like wind and hydroelectric power, need wide open spaces with ample wind changes and large water sources. Solar is a source of energy that can work in almost every environment. While output is lower on cloudy days or in climates without as much regular sun exposure, solar panels still make sense in most climates.

7. You can sometimes "sell" extra solar energy back to your utility company

Depending on where you live, you could be eligible for a solar incentive called net metering. With net metering, you can use the electric grid to "store" excess energy that your solar panel system produces. As you send this energy to the grid, your utility company will net it against any electricity you pull from the grid at night or when the sun isn't shining. Essentially, you get to "sell" this excess energy to your utility company in exchange for reduced utility bills. You get more energy independence without going completely off-grid.


8. Solar typically requires very little maintenance

As long as you choose a quality solar company to properly install your solar panels, they should require very little maintenance compared to other forms of energy production. With no moving parts, your panels might only need an occasional cleaning after snow or inclement weather.

Solar isn't perfect. You'll want to understand solar's disadvantages before deciding if it's right for you:

1. Solar panels don't work for every roof

If you have a south-facing roof sloped between 15 to 40 degrees, you're in great shape for solar. Even with an east- or west-facing roof, or one that's flat, solar's likely still worth it. If you can only install solar panels on the north side of your roof, we don't recommend it.

Similarly, solar works well with asphalt shingle or metal roofs. But certain roofing materials used in older or historical homes, such as slate or cedar tiles, can be challenging for solar installers to work with. Some homes have skylights or rooftop additions like roof decks, which can also make installing solar too expensive or difficult.

If your home doesn't qualify for a rooftop solar installation, you still have options. If you have enough open space, you can install ground-mounted solar panels, or if your state has open projects, you can subscribe to a local community solar farm.

2. Solar isn't ideal if you're about to move

It takes time to break even on a solar panel system: The average solar panel payback period in the U.S. is around eight to nine years. Even though going solar will likely increase your home's value, if you plan to move in the next three years or so, it's probably not worth it.

3. If your electricity costs are low, your solar savings will be too

The ultimate benefit of solar energy is that it saves you money every month. If you live in a state like Louisiana, though, where the cost of electricity is often 30% lower than the national average, it will take a long time to save with solar. On the other hand, installing a solar panel system in Hawaii makes a lot of sense: Electricity costs more than double the national average!

4. If you can't access financing, up-front solar costs can be intimidating

Your upfront cost of solar depends on tax credits, rebates, and the terms of your financing. If you don't qualify for a zero-down solar loan, the disadvantage of solar energy here is clear: Not everyone has the cash to purchase solar upfront.

Several solar financing options can help, such as state-backed loan programs, leases, and power purchase agreements. To understand what solar will cost you, get a quick estimate of the average cost of solar in your state or even a personalized estimate for your home.

5. Solar panels don't work at night

Solar panels require sunlight to produce energy. At night or during inclement weather, you'll need to pull electricity from the grid. If you live in a state with net metering, this isn't a big deal. But if your utility won't compensate you for the excess electricity you send to the grid, you'll need a battery for solar to be worth it.

By pairing your solar energy system with energy storage, you can store excess electricity in your battery. At night, you can pull electricity directly from your battery instead of the grid. While batteries increase the cost of your system quite a bit, they're well worth it in states like California that don't have net metering.

6. Solar panels are sometimes made with toxic materials

Solar panels are made up of silicon solar cells, a metal frame, and a glass sheet. But depending on the brand and model, they can also contain toxic heavy metals like lead and cadmium. While some solar panel manufacturers are starting to phase out these heavy metals, the EPA considers most old solar panels hazardous, so you need to dispose of them properly.

If sustainable solar panels are important to you, make sure to let your installer know so they only include models without heavy metals in your quotes. These panels may cost a bit more, but they are better for the environment.

7. Finding quality solar installers can seem difficult

Many homeowners associate solar panels with pushy door-to-door solar sales reps. Solar is one of the fastest-growing markets in the world, and plenty of companies use aggressive sales tactics. As a result, shopping for solar can feel stressful and confusing.

Today, there are easier ways to shop for solar that put you in control. The EnergySage Marketplace is a free online comparison-shopping platform that allows you to compare solar quotes from vetted installers in your area.

Going solar is worth it for most homeowners with eligible properties. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions and saves you considerable money on your electric bills.

As you consider investing in solar energy, though, make sure to weigh the pros and cons as they relate to your home, geography and climate, and unique needs. If your roof isn't a good fit, you plan to move soon, or your electricity costs are already low, you may want to hold off on installing solar panels.

Get the best deal on solar panels by comparing quotes. On the EnergySage Marketplace, you'll receive up to seven free quotes from installers in your area. You can easily compare your options, allowing you to find a system that meets your needs at the right price. Want a quick estimate of what a solar installation will cost? Check out our Solar Calculator.

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