Solar panels have been around for quite a while. The technology, solar photovoltaic, was discovered in 1839 by a French scientist, and in 1954, the first silicon photovoltaic cell, the precursor of today’s silicon cells, was developed. You would think that with such a long history behind it, everyone would by now fully understand solar technology, and its myths would have long been debunked.
However, today you can still hear a lot of rumors about solar panels. Proponents of solar energy accuse the fossil-fuel energy market of starting and perpetuating these myths in a self-serving effort to undermine solar and promote their fossil fuel agenda.
As a result of this misinformation, many homeowners don’t think solar power is right for them. They believe the technology isn’t ready, they’re in the wrong location, or they simply can’t afford it. Since the myths about solar panels are too numerous to tackle in one article, let’s hone in on three of the most popular rumors and see how they stand up under the light of an objective investigation.
Myth #1: Solar panels won’t work in cold, snowy, or cloudy weather
According to this myth, low temperatures have a negative effect on solar panel power production and clouds and the snow that accumulates in the panels will render them ineffective.
Fact: The panels actually perform better in cold weather, and the effects from snow and clouds are minimal.
Solar panels produce power based on the amount of sunlight they receive. They are not affected by temperature. Surprisingly, solar PV panels work better in colder weather as opposed to extremely hot temperatures. Sunny, cold days in winter can generate as much solar energy as a hot, summer day. In fact, solar works very well throughout North America.
While snowy and cloudy weather reduces the amount of energy that solar panels can generate, they still work efficiently under these conditions. Tilting solar tracker units at a steeper angle can allow snow to slide off faster, and you can use a roof rake to remove snow from panels if it does accumulate.
Myth #2: The return on investment (ROI) is too long
Part of this myth says that solar panels require more energy to manufacture than they produce in their lifetime, meaning there is no benefit to energy conservation. The other part states that the huge initial outlay for the panels makes it impossible for a homeowner to see a reasonably fast ROI.
Fact: The Return on Investment is guaranteed at 5%-15%. You can expect free energy for many years.
A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory conclusively demonstrates that energy payback for photovoltaic (PV) is less than four years. It states:
“Reaping the environmental benefits of solar energy requires spending energy to make the PV system. But…the investment is small. Assuming 30-year system life, PV-systems will provide a net gain of 26 to 29 years of pollution-free and greenhouse-gas-free electrical generation … So, for an investment of from 1 to 4 years’ worth of their energy output, PV systems can provide as much as 30 years or more of clean energy.”
Most solar panels have a 20 to 25-year warranty. They are guaranteed to produce at least 80% of their initial power. Grid-tie inverters, which typically have a 10- to 20-year warranty, will likely need to be replaced only once in the life of the system. The energy payback time of fewer than four years for a system–solar panels, inverter, racking, and cables– translates into many years of clean energy.
As for your personal ROI, it depends on your system and its location, but solar panels should pay for themselves within six to 15 years. If you include the most lucrative state and federal tax credits and incentives, you could see a payback of two to four years. Keep in mind that solar panels also increase the resale value of a home by about $15,000. You could see a significant ROI when you sell, even if you won’t be in your home for the next 15 years.
Myth #3: The panels need regular maintenance and can cause leaks
This myth has persisted for many years because many homeowners believe that the panels must constantly be cleaned to be effective and that attaching anything to your roof will cause leak points.
Fact: The panels require almost no maintenance and tend to protect your roof
There are no moving parts on solar panels, so there is no regular maintenance involved. Some owners opt to hose off the panels occasionally, but most don’t bother to wash them and count on the rain to keep them clean. Of course, it is recommended that any large debris is quickly removed from the panels.
Rather than weakening your roof, solar panels preserve the part of the roof they cover. If you ever must repair your roof, the panels can easily be removed. Most solar panels are not attached directly to the roof. Instead, they are fastened to a mounted railing system. Sealants are used to fill the gaps and flashing acts as a moisture barrier around the mounts.
One last word of advice: If your roof already needs to be repaired or replaced, take care of the repairs before the installation.
Other myths that can also be handily debunked
Here are a few more myths about solar panels that consumers would be wise to take with a grain of salt:
- You should wait until technology improves before investing in solar
- Only a few states offer financial incentives for installing solar panels
- Solar panels are unattractive
- Solar panels require a tracking system to follow the angle of the sun
- Solar is too expensive for widespread use
- A solar system will raise my property taxes
- If you don’t have a south-facing roof, you can’t do solar
Remember, installing solar panels might not be the best move for you right now. Consult with a professional roofing company to help you decide, and ignore all those myths.