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There are a lot of misconceptions about residential solar. | Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Editor’s Note: This blog post is part of the SunShot Initiative’s series on solar and real estate. Read all the posts here.
A simple web search finds about 49 million results on solar energy. It’s a hot topic, and rightfully so. The amount of solar connected to the grid has grown exponentially in the past several years, and as of May 2016, there are more than 1 million solar installations generating electricity in the United States.
This clean energy source is making our air easier to breathe while helping solar homeowners improve the value of their homes. With all of this interest and so much information available, let’s take a moment to separate fact from fiction. The SunShot Initiative has debunked the top five myths about residential solar:
1. Solar panels are too expensive
In 42 of America’s 50 largest cities, financing a residential solar energy system actually costs less than purchasing electricity from a customer’s local utility. Studies show the cost of going solar has dropped every year since 2009. If you’d like to purchase your solar energy system, you don’t have to buy it in cash -- there are a number of different financing options. Fannie Mae’s new HomeStyle® Energy mortgage is a mortgage option that gives borrowers the ability to complete clean energy upgrades up to 15 percent of the current appraised property value of the home. If you don’t want to take out a loan, third-party owned systems allow you to host solar energy systems that are owned by solar companies, then purchase back the electricity generated on your rooftop, while allowing you to lock in your electricity rate for years.
2. You can’t save money going solar
Solar brings great potential to save money on your monthly utility bill. The amount you save depends upon how much electricity you consume, the size of your solar energy system, and how much power it is able to generate. The monthly amount owed on a solar loan is typically less than an average utility bill, and leased systems allow you to purchase the electricity back from a solar company at a discounted rate, which is often less than utilities charge customers. With utility bills trending upward, solar is likely to remain a good money-saving option for years to come.
3. You need to own a house to go solar
Do you rent your house? Or do you live in a high-rise condo building? Not a problem. Community solar programs allow multiple people to benefit from a single, shared solar array. These arrays can be installed on your building or offsite in a different location. Purchasing costs and the installation of the solar energy system are then divided among all of the participants. All are then able to buy into the shared system at a level that best fits their budget. The portion you share can even be negotiated into the sale of your home should you move!
4. Solar will lower the value of your home
Quite the contrary – buying a solar energy system will likely increase your home’s value. A recent study found that solar panels are viewed as upgrades, just like a renovated kitchen or a finished basement, and home buyers across the country have been willing to pay a premium of about $15,000 for a home with an average-sized solar array. As for third-party owned systems, it appears that the impact is largely neutral but can occasionally add value, especially for prepaid leases. SunShot is currently funding a project to learn more about third-party owned systems and their effects on home valuation.
5. Solar doesn’t work in certain climates
Solar panels only need one thing to generate electricity -- sunshine! Even in the winter when there are fewer hours of daylight, there is still a sufficient amount to power the average American home. That makes solar viable even in Alaska with longer, colder winters. SunShot is dedicated to ensuring solar panels can withstand the elements no matter your location: we fund five Regional Test Centers across the country -- each in a different climate -- to make sure panels perform as best they can, regardless of climate or weather.
If you still have questions about the “going solar” process, find answers in our Homeowner’s Guide to Going Solar.