9 Common Myths About Solar
Last Updated February 14, 2024
By Michael Jones
Michael literally wrote the book on solar (it’s called The Homeowners’ Guide to Going Solar) and has been a solar consultant for over four years.
We at the Cape Cod Solar Guys spend a lot of our time in the field dispelling common myths about solar. A lot of these misconceptions come from well-meaning friends and family members, neighborhood Facebook groups or even other solar consultants.
And what makes some of these myths about solar so stubborn is that there is often a small kernel of truth to them – just enough to make them believable.
In this article we’re going to take seven of the most common solar myths we’ve come across and explain the real story behind them so you don’t get fooled into a decision that’s not right for you.
Solar Myth #1 – Solar is Too Expensive
While purchasing solar panels outright can come with a hefty price tag, there are many ways to go solar, and some of the most popular ones involve no upfront cost at all.
Solar loans and PPAs not only cost you zero dollars up front, but they usually save you money each month from the moment the panels are switched on. Swapping a $200/month bill for a $150/month bill with no upfront cost is entirely possible.
Even if you do decide to purchase a system outright, the cost has come down dramatically over the past 15 years or so. In 2008, the average cost to install solar panels in the US was almost $9 per watt. It’s now closer to $3 per watt. And the incentives on offer from both the federal and state governments bring that price down even lower.
Solar Myth #2 – It’s Always Better to Buy Than to Lease
This one usually comes on the heels of Solar Myth #1. “It might be possible to go solar with no money down, but those ‘solar lease’ programs are a terrible deal.”
No they’re not. While it’s true that you will usually save more money if you buy than if you sign up for a lease or PPA, that’s not always the case. And savings are not the only criteria you should be using to decide whether a purchase or a PPA is the best option for you.
Spending tens of thousands of dollars on a system when you’re likely to be moving home in a few years might not be the best idea, for example. And if you’re retired you might not be eligible for the tax credits that make purchasing so attractive.
In both of these situations, and plenty of others, leasing your system, rather than buying it, might be the best way to go.
Solar Myth #3 – The Government Will Give You Free Solar Panels
We’ve all heard that there’s no such thing as a free lunch so, no, the government is not going to give you free solar panels. This one usually comes from online ads from less-than-reputable solar companies trying to get your attention so that you’ll listen to their sales pitch.
Just why they feel the need to lie about this is puzzling, because the truth is just as compelling, and much more believable.
Here’s the truth: The government does have lots of incentives designed to persuade people to go solar. If you’re willing to go solar and let the solar company take these incentives, rather than keep them for yourself, the solar company (not the government) might be willing to install a system without charging you for either the panels or the installation costs.
You then agree to pay the solar company each month instead of the utility company for the power that system generates. (That’s how the solar company makes its money back).
If that system can provide 100% of your power needs, it’s possible that you won’t have to pay the utility company at all and you’ll just pay the solar company a lesser amount.
If you use more power than the system can generate, you may still have to buy some of your power from the utility company. Even so, it will still probably be a better deal overall than buying all of your power from the utility company.
Solar Myth #4 – You Need a South-Facing Roof
Last time I checked, Cape Cod was in the Northern Hemisphere so, yes, south facing panels should theoretically get the most direct sun exposure. (Solar installations in Australia or parts of South America favor a north-facing exposure).
That said, with more efficient panels that are available today, it’s quite possible to install a perfectly good system that faces east or west. These roofs get plenty of sun exposure in the morning and the afternoon, and may even outperform a south-facing roof that gets a little shade during the day.
Even a north facing section of roof can catch some sun depending on the tilt of the roof.
Bottom line: Have a solar professional run a design for you and you might be surprised which sections of your roof yield the best performance.
Solar Myth #5 – Panels Will Damage Your Roof
One of the first things a solar company will do before installing any solar panels is check the integrity of the roof. I’ve had many projects disqualified over the years because the company I worked for did not think the roof was suitable.
And that’s just the first step in making sure that installing solar panels will not do any damage to your roof. Securing the racking systems to the rafters and adding sealants to any holes will also prevent roof leaks.
Solar installers will also provide a lengthy workmanship warranty (typically at least 10 years) to protect homeowners in the extremely rare occasions that a leak does occur after installation.
The other issue homeowners are often concerned about is whether the installation of solar panels will void the warranty on the shingles themselves. Shingles typically have 30-to-50-year warranties and the companies that manufacture them – such as Owens-Corning or GAF – are well aware that there’s a good chance solar panels will be installed on top of them.
So the manufacturers issue technical bulletins periodically that give full instructions to solar companies as to how they need to install racking systems on their shingles. As long as the solar installer follows these instructions, the shingle warranties remain in place.
If you work with a reputable solar company, roof damage will not be a concern. Tales of roofs being damaged by a solar installation typically stem from a shoddy installation or the decision to mount panels on a roof that was not suitable in the first place.
Solar Myth #6 – The Solar Company Will Give You a Free Roof
While we’re on the subject of roofs, let’s tackle the issue of “free’ roofs”. Much like the idea that the government is going to give you free panels, the idea that you can get a free roof from going solar stems from shady advertising tactics from less-than-reputable solar companies.
Let’s be real. Does it really make sense that a for-profit solar company is going to just give you a free roof? What they can do is give you a creative way to finance the roof, which can often work out to be a really good deal for the homeowner.
Check out this article for a full explanation of how solar roof deals work.
On Cape Cod, where the housing stock tends to skew on the old side, the need for a new roof can sometimes be the only thing standing in the way of going solar. I’ve had many customers over the years who weren’t particularly interested in going solar, but they needed a new roof and didn’t have the cash to pay for it.
The solar company is highly motivated to try and resolve that issue, but it’s ultimately the homeowner who pays for the roof, not the solar company.
Solar Myth #7 – Solar Will Make it Difficult to Sell Your House
This might’ve been true decades ago but now that solar has become so ubiquitous on Cape Cod and Eversource rates have gone up so much, panels are seen more as an asset to a home, rather than a liability.
One study by Zillow.com a few years ago suggested that solar can add as much as 4.1% to the value of a house at sale.
Sure, there are some home buyers who don’t like the look of the panels, and some historic districts on the Cape even prohibit placing them on roof sections that face the street.
But as more and more homes go all-electric, to say nothing of the cars we drive (and charge mostly at home), any home that has access to a cheap source of electricity will soon be in high demand.
It won’t be long before we’re far less concerned about solar panels making it harder to sell your house than we are about what the lack of solar panels does to diminish your home’s value.
Solar Myth #8 – You Need to Install Panels in Order to Go Solar
Some people just can’t install rooftop solar panels. They either don’t get enough sun, have a roof that isn’t suitable, don’t own their home or have restrictions imposed by a historic district or a homeowners association.
And let’s face it, some people just don’t like to look of solar panels on their roof – or their spouse doesn’t.
What too few people realize is that you do not need to install solar panels on your own property to benefit from going solar. Community solar programs offer anyone with an electric bill an opportunity to subscribe and save money on that bill, while also doing their part for the environment.
And Massachusetts leads the way when it comes to community solar.
Solar Myth #9 – You’ll Never See Another Utility Bill
Every solar installation is different and every home’s electrical needs varies so it’s impossible to say whether installing solar panels will entirely eliminate your electricity bill.
More to the point, we are all going to use more electricity over time as we start to charge our electric vehicles at home and bring in all-electric appliances like heat pumps and induction stoves.
So it’s more likely than not that, even if we’re able to eliminate our electric bills at first, over time, those bills will come back as we continue to use more and more power.
But that’s not a bad thing, it’s a good thing. A bigger electric bill isn’t so bad if you no longer have to pay a twice-weekly visit to a gas station.
Solar will save you money on your electric bill, but it’s unlikely that, over time, it will eliminate it completely.
Final Thoughts on Myths About Solar
While it’s likely that these myths about solar are being spread by people with good intentions – friends, family members, realtors, etc. – they actually can be quite harmful, both to you and to the planet.
Solar is not only the cheapest form of energy ever invented, it’s also a critical tool in the battle to fight climate change. And coastal communities like Cape Cod are on the front lines of that battle.
Misinformation that leads to slower implementation of solar means that Cape homeowners are not only paying more for their electricity than they need to but also more for home insurance as providers find it harder and harder to underwrite policies in the era of climate change.
And we all may end up paying a far higher price if large parts of this beautiful peninsula we call home get washed away by rising sea levels.
If you’d like an informative, no-pressure chat with either of the Cape Cod Solar Guys, you can contact us here.
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