Solar Energy Disadvantages: Main Drawbacks to Consider

August 2, 2020
By John Cole

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With the cost of solar panels drastically decreasing over the past few years, you might be considering installing a solar system as a way to power your home. As prices decrease and technology improves, we wouldn’t blame you—more and more families are turning to a renewable energy source like solar energy.

Looking at both the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy is a very important step in the research and buying process that can’t be skipped to ensure you’re making the right long term investment for your home.

As with any decision, the drawbacks must be considered before you commit to investing in solar panels to power your home. You need to look at some major disadvantages that might impact your decision, which we’ve compiled for you below.

Keep reading for answers to your questions about solar panel disadvantages. Green Energy Geeks is your resource for everything you need to know about using solar energy.

High Upfront Costs

Even though the costs of purchasing a solar system have drastically decreased over the past decade (by 89%!), the initial upfront cost can still seem extremely overwhelming. When investing in a solar system, you’re not only paying for solar panels, but the inverter, batteries, wiring, and labor costs as well.

For example, most homeowners looking to purchase solar panels to power their 2,000 sq ft home will pay somewhere between $16,473 and $30,723 out of their pocket. You can slightly reduce these costs by choosing to work with a solar installer that provides the lowest estimate or install a lower-quality solar panel system, but both of these choices could lead to an even worse outcome down the line.

Most state governments have introduced rebates and tax credits for homeowners to take advantage of, but even then, the initial cost is sometimes more than the average homeowner has set aside.

Another cost factor to consider is the payback period. Many homeowners jump at investing in solar panels because they’re wooed with the idea of paying off their solar system with the cost savings. It’s important to remember that for a system that costs $20,000, it can take almost 20 years to make back the savings to cover your initial investment. If you’re expecting to quickly make back your investment, purchasing solar panels might not be the most reasonable option for homeowners.

Weather Dependent

A major drawback to solar panels is that depending on where you’re located, they might not always be able to generate enough electricity to power your home. As you’re likely aware, solar panels harvest sunlight to generate power.

While solar panels are still able to collect energy during cloudy, rainy, and snowy days, the system’s efficiency levels will be much lower. Because the system relies heavily on sunlight, poor weather can have a noticeable impact on the renewable energy system.

This means that the weather in your area can negatively (or positively) impact the efficiency of your solar system. If you’re located in a city like Seattle where it rains often, solar panels might not be a cost-efficient option. But if you’re living in a city like Scottsdale where rainy weather is limited and the sun is prominent, solar panels might be made for your home.

Another element to consider is that solar panels aren’t able to harvest energy at night when the sunlight isn’t visible. Solar panels are a great investment if you live in an area that has sunlight for a large portion of the day. However, if your home is in an area where the days are short and the nights are long, solar panels might not be a worthwhile investment.

Similarly, solar panels can have a difficult time absorbing and harvesting electricity in winter months because of the extended periods of darkness. You also need to consider the fact that snow landing on your roof will cover your solar panels and make it much more difficult for sunlight to be absorbed—even during the day when the sun is shining.

Installation Area

For most homes, there will be enough surface area on the roof for the installation of solar panels. However, depending on the size and shape of your home, there might not be enough space to install the correct number of solar panels needed to harvest energy and power your home. 

If your home is large or has limited roof space, solar panels might not work for you unless you have additional land to install them on—keep in mind that the solar panels will be more visible when not hidden up on the roof. If you don’t have the space for all the panels that you need to power your home, you can choose to install fewer panels to at least cover some of your energy needs.

Low Energy Costs, Low Savings

One of the biggest selling points for renewable solar energy is that solar panels will help homeowners reduce their use of utility-provided electricity and save money each month. But just because you install solar panels doesn’t mean you will automatically enjoy cost savings.

If you own a large home that is regularly generating high monthly electricity bills, then solar panels are an easy way to reduce your costs. However, if your electricity bills aren’t very sizable, installing a solar panel system isn’t nearly as attractive as it would be if you have a higher than average electric rate.

Roof Type

In the majority of situations, solar panels are installed on the roof. This can pose a problem for homeowners that live in older or historical homes that have roofs made of slate or cedar tiles. These types of roofing materials can be much more difficult for solar panel installers to work with.

Similarly, if there are features of your roof that make it more difficult to accommodate solar panels, it can cause a roadblock when trying to install your solar system. For instance, if your roof is at a steep 45-degree angle, has a skylight, or is multiple stories high, it might not be possible to install solar panels—or might cost you more because of the obstacles the solar installers face.

As mentioned above, if your home doesn’t qualify for a rooftop solar installation, there are additional options at your disposal like installing solar panels in your yard (space permitting).

Environmental Impact

While pollution related to solar energy is minimal compared to other sources of energy, solar energy is still associated with pollution. It might not directly pollute the environment, but your local solar installer will use vehicles to transport and install your solar equipment. Through the transportation and installation of your solar system, you will be associated with the emission of greenhouse gases. Even though solar energy can have a slightly negative impact on the environment, it still pollutes far less than other energy sources. There are also current limitations in how solar panels are disposed of, with the majority being disposed of in landfills.

Expensive Energy Storage

A huge advantage of solar energy is that it can be used right then and there or it can be stored in batteries for future use.

You can install these batteries when you install your solar system. During the day, the batteries will charge and store the energy so it can be used in storms, on a cloudy day, or at night when the system has no sunlight to absorb.

This is a great solution when you want to invest in solar panels but don’t live in an area with dependable weather to power your solar panels. However, they are a very expensive investment, which can add up when you’re already making a large purchase on a solar system.

Impacts on Moving

If you opted to purchase your solar panels for your home outright, but you’re moving, you might be considering packing up your solar panels and taking them with you to continue reaping the benefits. But moving solar panels isn’t always so simple and there are some factors to consider:

  • Where is your new home located? If you’re moving locally, the solar installer you used initially can likely perform removal and reinstallation at your new home. However, if you’re moving out of state, bringing your solar panels with you likely isn’t worth it.
  • Will it void your warranty? Depending on the solar panel system you installed, you’ll need to read through the details and find out if removing or relocating your solar panels can void or negatively impact your warranty. You want to make sure you keep the warranty in place to avoid any issues.
  • Is the new property a good fit for solar panels? Although solar panels will work in the majority of environments, some locations and homes make a better fit for solar panels than others. If you’re moving for a property that is extremely open and has minimal trees to a very shaded property, your best bet might be to leave your solar panels on the home you’re selling.

Selling a home with solar panels can be a great selling point that can raise the property value of your home. If the buyer agrees to buy the solar panels on your existing home, you will also minimize any damage that could happen during solar panel removal.

If you lease your solar panels instead of purchasing them outright, you have a different scenario to consider. Leased solar panels need to be handled differently than purchased solar panels because you don’t own them. When putting your house on the market, you’ll want to reach out to your solar installer and inquire about the removal and reinstallation of the solar panels at your new home. But if you don’t want to move them to your new home, you can discuss your options with your solar provider—this usually involves buying out what is left on your solar panel lease.

Lack of Reliability

Solar panels are not able to reliably generate electricity to power your home in inclement weather, in the winter, or at night time—and when you’re looking for a reliable source of energy, you don’t want to be stuck with an energy source that doesn’t provide the power you need.

You can also see a drop in energy harvesting if you’re in an area that has clouds and storms restricting the amount of light rays that need to be absorbed.

As a way to counteract this, most homeowners who install solar panels also invest in a battery backup system. While this can help you store power to use when the sun isn’t shining, it’s an additional cost to factor into your installation should you choose to invest in it.

Determine If Solar Panels Are Right for You Before Buying

Solar energy is a highly sought after renewable energy solution for many homeowners, but it’s always important to consider the drawbacks before making the final decision. Solar systems have their benefits, but have cons from their upfront costs to their reliability.

While solar technology is constantly improving, that also means it’s still not perfect with innovations happening all the time. You’ll likely receive a return on your investment over time, but it can take more than 20 years for your savings to outweigh the upfront cost. Solar panels are a clean and renewable energy source, but they can also be unreliable in their energy production.

There will always be pros and cons with any decision, and with an investment as large as solar panel installation, you need to make sure you consider every aspect.

Have Questions About Solar Panels? Green Energy Geeks Can Help!

If you’re in the market for solar panels or have questions about the pros and cons of solar energy to power your home, Green Energy Geeks is your one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about using solar energy to make the community and planet a better place to live.

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