The advantages and disadvantages of solar energy

Written by Erin Gobler

Edited by Caitlin Ritchie

Last updated 08/22/2022


Westend61/Westend61/Getty images

Solar energy isn’t a new invention, but it’s become increasingly popular in recent years for individuals to purchase solar panels for their homes. Solar power has become more affordable, making it easier than ever to reduce your energy costs and your carbon footprint. 

Wondering whether solar panels are right for you? Keep reading to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of residential solar panels, as well as a few alternatives you can consider.

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Advantages of solar energy

Solar energy has recently boomed in popularity, and there are some key reasons why. Below are the top three advantages of solar power for your home.

1. You can lower your energy costs

One of the greatest advantages of installing solar panels on your home is that you can reduce your energy costs. The amount you can save depends on your energy usage, your electricity rate, and how much electricity a solar system could generate in your area.

In Texas, for example, the average electricity bill is $137.26 per month. If you completely replaced your electricity use with solar power, you would save nearly $1,650 per year in energy costs. And over the life of your solar panels, your savings could be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

2. You will be less dependent on the power grid

Most of us are completely dependent on the energy grid. First, this means that when there’s a power outage, we no longer have electricity in our homes. It also means that when energy rates spike during times of high demand, we could suddenly have an increase in our bills. But when you power your home with solar energy, you can increase your energy independence from the power grid. Not only could this allow you to live “off the grid” if you wanted, but you would be protected from seasonal energy rate changes or storm-related power outages. 

3. You can lower your carbon footprint

Another major contributing advantage of solar energy is that it reduces your carbon footprint. Solar power is a renewable resource and doesn’t emit the same pollutants into the air as traditional electricity generation. As society becomes increasingly concerned with climate change, more people are turning to green energy sources like solar power. When you invest in solar panels for your home, you will reduce your home’s carbon emissions and create a much smaller environmental impact.

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Disadvantages of solar energy

Despite the serious advantages of solar energy, there are also some downsides to consider. Depending on your situation, one or more of these downsides might make you decide that solar isn’t the right choice for your home or business. Here are the top three disadvantages of solar energy to keep in mind.

1. Solar doesn’t fit every home

Unfortunately, solar panels aren’t always the right fit for every home. According to the Department of Energy, solar panels work best on south-facing roofs with slopes between 15 and 40 degrees. While solar panels can still be installed on homes that don’t match this specification, they may not be as effective. Solar panels likely also aren’t a good purchase for homes with older roofs that need repairs or that will need to be replaced in the coming years. It’s also important to consider whether your roof is in sunlight often, which may not be the case for homes in cloudy regions or those covered by trees. Finally, some homeowners associations may have guidelines that prohibit solar panels, so that should be taken into consideration.

2. Investing in solar is expensive

One of the greatest disadvantages of solar energy is the hefty upfront cost of solar panels. Even though solar panels have become more affordable over the past decade, you can still expect to pay between $11,100 and $18,500 for a residential solar system, even after tax credits. Unfortunately, that price is just too steep for many homeowners.

3. Solar panels may not produce enough electricity

Solar panels can provide huge energy savings, especially if they allow you to completely eliminate your use of the traditional electricity grid. But that’s only the case if they produce enough electricity. Since your solar panels can’t produce as much energy when it’s dark or cloud-covered outside, there will be times when it won’t be enough to power your home. As a result, you may still end up paying for some electricity.

Alternatives to buying solar panels

Solar panels come with plenty of benefits, including reduced energy costs, independence from the grid, and the ability to lower your carbon footprint. Unfortunately, however, they aren’t the right choice for everyone. For those who can’t justify buying solar panels for their home, there are a few alternatives to consider.

Solar leases & PPAs

If you can’t afford the upfront cost of solar panels, you might consider a solar lease or solar power purchase agreement (PPA). In both cases, you’re essentially renting the panels from a company that retains ownership of them. In the case of a solar lease, you’ll pay a fixed monthly payment. But with a solar PPA, your payment is based on how much electricity your panels generate.

While leases and PPAs have their advantages, they don’t provide the long-term energy savings you would experience if you purchase your own panels.

Community solar projects

You may be able to take advantage of some of the benefits of solar without having solar panels on your home at all. Community solar projects are solar plants that produce electricity for multiple households. You can purchase or subscribe to a portion of the plant and then get credits on your electricity bill for the electricity your share produces. When you choose this option, you miss out on many perks of solar panels, such as the tax credits, huge energy savings, and increased value of your home. But these community solar projects make solar energy more accessible to those who rent a home, have a roof that isn’t suited to solar panels, or can’t swing the upfront cost of solar panels.

Lower cost through tax credits

If you feel strongly about buying solar panels but are worried about the cost, there is some good news. First, the federal government offers a Clean Energy Credit (formerly called the Solar Investment Tax Credit) of 30% when consumers purchase solar panels for their home. To give you an idea of how much savings that could mean, you would receive $4,500 back with your tax return on a $15,000 solar system.

In addition to the federal tax credit, there are credits, rebates, and other incentives for state and local governments. For example, some states offer property and sales tax exemptions for solar panels, while others allow net metering, where homeowners can sell their excess solar energy back to the grid.

If you think the advantages of solar energy overpower the disadvantages, explore SaveOnEnergy’s additional solar guides to learn more about how to navigate the solar industry.

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