Solar Energy Pros and Cons

Solar power has become increasingly popular in recent years. As more homeowners are looking for ways to adopt eco-friendly habits and go green, the benefits of solar power and other renewable energy sources can help us to reduce our carbon footprints. However, the high up-front costs and space requirements of solar panel installation put off many people from installing them on their homes. Many people in areas without a sufficient amount of sunlight also may not benefit as much as those in sunnier locales.

Read on to learn the pros and cons of solar panels and decide which option is right for you.

Advantages of Solar Power

One of the biggest benefits of solar energy is that it is environmentally friendly. Solar panels do not produce any air pollution or greenhouse gases and are more sustainable than fossil fuels like natural gas. Once solar panels are installed, they have a life span of 25 to 30 years. Every kilowatt hour (kWh) of solar energy that is generated significantly reduces the emission of harmful greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

Another one of the advantages of solar energy is that you may be eligible for government tax credits and rebates. There is a federal residential solar energy credit that homeowners can claim for a percentage of the cost of installation of the system. This can help offset the initial cost of installation, making it more affordable for people interested in renewable energy. Additionally, many states offer incentives and rebates for individuals who chose to use renewable energy sources in their homes.

A further solar advantage is that solar panels can help you save money on your energy bill. Depending on which state you live in and how much sunlight you get each day, solar panels can end up saving you thousands of dollars over the course of their life span. While the costs to install solar panels may seem high, they last for a long time, mitigating the costs over time.

Not only can solar panels help you save money on your monthly energy bill, but they can also increase your home’s value. A recent study showed that having solar installed can increase a home’s value up to 4.1%, which is more than $9,000 for a median-valued home in the United States. This is another one of the added benefits of solar panels for individuals who plan on selling their homes in a few years.

What Are the Disadvantages of Solar Energy?

One of the most commonly cited disadvantages of solar energy use in the home is the high cost of installing the panels. Solar energy currently has the highest initial cost of any form of renewable energy, and depending on where you live, the return on your investment may not be that high. Even though tax credits and rebates exist, many Americans can’t afford the high up-front cost of solar panels.

Additionally, homes that have a limited amount of sunlight annually may not benefit from installing solar panels. Residents in locations with latitudes far from the equator, like Canada, may not get enough sunlight for the installation costs of solar panels to be worth the investment. Similarly, locations that have a high percentage of rainy or cloudy days might not have enough sunlight to generate enough power.

Because solar power relies on the energy of the sun, another one of the disadvantages of solar power is that it can be somewhat unreliable. If homes are off the traditional power grid, they should have a solar battery. Solar batteries are able to store solar energy and discharge energy when the panels are not able to generate enough power.

How Much Do Solar Panels Cost?

When considering solar energy advantages and disadvantages, pricing is a significant factor. The main factors that affect solar panel costs are location, capacity, and efficiency. Depending on the size of your home and your location, after taking tax credits into account, a solar panel system can cost anywhere between $17,000 and $40,000.

According to solar marketplace website EnergySage, this is how much it would cost to install a 10-kilowatt solar energy system by U.S. state:

  • Arkansas: $21,600–$28,200
  • Arizona: $21,000–$25,600
  • California: $23,900–$29,300
  • Colorado: $28,900–$33,500
  • Connecticut: $26,800–$35,400
  • Washington D.C.: $26,500–$42,100
  • Delaware: $24,300–$27,900
  • Florida: $21,600–$27,600
  • Georgia: $27,300–$32,900
  • Iowa: $25,100–$28,900
  • Idaho: $23,200–$30,000
  • Illinois: $25,200–$32,400
  • Indiana: $26,300–$33,300
  • Louisiana: $28,100–$33,900
  • Massachusetts: $27,000–$33,800
  • Maryland: $26,100–$33,700
  • Maine: $24,800–$27,400
  • Michigan: $25,800–$34,400
  • Minnesota: $27,200–$33,600
  • Montana: $24,500–$30,900
  • North Carolina: $24,300–$31,700
  • New Hampshire: $27,600–$33,800
  • New Jersey: $23,000–$30,400
  • New Mexico: $27,000–$36,000
  • Nevada: $21,300–$25,500
  • New York: $27,100–$35,700
  • Ohio: $24,500–$28,900
  • Oregon: $25,400–$30,800
  • Pennsylvania: $26,000–$32,000
  • Rhode Island: $27,500–$35,300
  • South Carolina: $26,800–$31,800
  • Texas: $23,200–$30,800
  • Utah: $24,300–$29,900
  • Virginia: $26,200–$32,200
  • Vermont: $25,700–$32,500
  • Washington: $23,600–$28,000

The state with the lowest cost per watt is Arizona at $2.33, while the area with the highest cost per watt is Washington, D.C., at $3.43 per watt. Typically, states with more sunshine annually will have a better rate of return on their solar panel installations.

The good news is that solar power costs are dropping year after year. In 2016, the gross cost per watt of solar energy was $3.36. In 2021, that cost is $2.26, which is nearly 20% lower. Experts expect costs to continue dropping as innovations advance and solar panels become more efficient.

How Many Kilowatts of Power Do You Need for Your Home?

When choosing how many solar panels to install on your home, you may want to consider how much energy is required to run appliances and tools that you use regularly. This can have an impact on how many solar panels you will need to purchase.

Below is how much energy it takes to run some of the most-used household appliances in kilowatt-hours:

  • Vacuum cleaner: 0.75 kWh per hour
  • Coffee maker: 0.12 kWh per brew cycle
  • Dishwasher (normal cycle, not including hot water): 1 to 2.17 kWh per load
  • Oven: 2.3 kWh per hour
  • Microwave oven: 0.12 kWh per 5 minutes
  • Hair dryer: 1.5 kWh per hour
  • Clothes dryer: 2.5 to 4.0 kWh per load
  • Ceiling fan: 0.025 to 0.075 kWh per hour
  • Laptop computer: 0.02 to 0.05 kWh per hour

The amount of power output that an individual solar panel produces can differ from panel to panel and manufacturer to manufacturer. A typical solar panel can produce between 250 and 400 watts of power depending on shade, sunlight hours, and where they are located. In a state with a lot of sunlight like California, five hours of sunlight would produce about 1.5 kWh of energy. Over the course of a year, that would produce about 500 to 550 kWh per solar panel.

According to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, the amount of light from the sun that reaches Earth in just one and a half hours is enough to power the entire world’s energy consumption for an entire year. Each home and corporation that installs solar panels is helping the planet reduce carbon emissions and become more environmentally friendly.


Written by Joe Robertson