Don't buy solar panels: 7 reasons solar isn’t right for you
There are many reasons to get solar panels for your home: they provide clean, carbon free electricity, they can save you money on your energy bills, and they can prepare your home for a blackout when paired with a battery.
Of course a website dedicated to solar power is going to tell you how great solar panels are. What might surprise you is that we’ll also say there are some people who should not get solar panels for their homes.
Are you one of those people? Here are 7 reasons to hold off on getting solar panels:
- An unsuitable roof
- Nowhere to put the panels
- You plan to move soon
- Your energy costs are already low
- You don't qualify for rebates and incentives
- The offer is too good to be true
- The economics aren’t right for you
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More about the reasons to not get solar panels
#1. Your roof isn’t suitable for solar panels
Home solar panel systems are nearly always placed on the roof. Most roofs possess the two necessary ingredients for solar panels: lots of sunlight and a surface to mount them on.
But not all roofs are good for solar. Here are all the roof-related factors that could prevent a successful solar:
- You don’t own a house: You could be renting your home, living in an apartment, or staying with your parents. Whichever it is, you can’t install rooftop solar panels unless you have your own roof.
- Your roof is too old: If you have asphalt shingles and your roof is older than about 15 years, you might be better off waiting until it’s time for a roof replacement before installing solar. If you need to re-roof after installing solar, you’ll be forced to have the solar company remove the panels in the middle of their life, adding unnecessary cost and complication.
- You get too much shade: Consistent shade on your roof, whether from nearby trees or neighboring buildings, is bad news for solar panels, which don’t perform well without direct sunlight.
- Your roof isn’t ideally oriented: In North America, south-facing roofs are best, although east- or west-facing roofs can be just fine, as long as they don’t have too steep of a slope.
- Your roof is too small: The average home requires between 15 and 20 solar panels, which can take up 250 to 350 square feet of roof space. If the sunny portion of your roof is too small to fit enough panels, your solar savings will be much lower than you want them to be.
#2. There’s nowhere else to put solar panels
The roof of your home is the most common site for solar panels — but it’s not the only place they can go. Homeowners who can’t get rooftop solar panels can get creative and find another site.
Solar panels can be installed on a carport, gazebo, or pergola. If you have a significant amount of space, you can do a ground-mount solar installation, but beware of the added costs of concrete footings and trenching to bury wires between the installation and your home.
However, if you neither have a suitable roof nor an alternative location, you’re left with nowhere to put the solar panels.
#3. You plan to move or sell your home
If you’re planning on leaving your current residence within the next few years, pause and reconsider whether solar panels make sense for you right now.
First, moving a solar panel system from one house to another is extremely difficult and expensive, so you should not consider that a viable option. Once solar panels have been installed on a roof, they should stay there for the entire usable lifespan (25 years or more).
Second, while it’s true that solar panels add value to your home, that’s only true if the solar is fully paid-for. Signing up for a solar lease or PPA can make it more difficult to sell your home, and a solar loan will likely need to be paid off in escrow as a condition of the home sale.
People love the idea of a solar home that keeps their energy bills low, but nobody is out there looking to buy a house with an additional solar payment tacked on. Unless you plan to pay cash and are absolutely certain that the solar system will become a positive selling point to buyers when you sell your home, it’s probably best to wait until you move into your next home and get solar there.
#4. Your electricity costs are already low
Solar panels produce energy that homes can use instead of the electricity from the grid, reducing electricity bills. If you pay less than $50 to $75 per month for electricity, installing solar panels probably isn’t right for you because the savings won't be as substantial.
- You have a small house.
- You have a small household size.
- Your home and appliances are energy efficient.
- You enjoy low electric rates from your local utility.
Instead, consider alternate ways of supporting solar power, like subscribing to a community solar program, which offsets your usage with energy produced by a large solar farm and can still save you a small amount on your bills.
#5. You’re not eligible for incentives and rebates
Let’s say at this point you’ve determined that you have a good roof for solar, you’re not moving any time soon, and you have moderate to high electricity bills; what’s stopping you from going solar?
You might not qualify for solar incentives, and that might make solar less economically attractive.
The federal government offers a tax credit to people who install solar panels on their property. Through the end of 2032, that credit is equal to 30% of all the costs to install the panels.
A homeowner who installs an average-sized, 6 kW solar panel system at the average cost of $18,000 could get 30% of that money (or $5,400) back from the government the year after installation is complete. That’s huge!
BUT (yes, there’s a big BUT), you can only get money back that you would have owed in taxes. That’s how the tax credit works. If you are a working adult with a good deal of income, the tax credit can probably save you thousands. However, if you are a senior citizen or otherwise living on a fixed income, you might not get much back, if anything at all.
Some states have their own tax credit programs with varying requirements. Your eligibility for these tax incentives is a question you should ask your trusted tax professional. If you’re at the point where you’re thinking about getting quotes from solar companies, it pays to be armed with the knowledge of your tax liability.
If it turns out that you wouldn’t be eligible for these incentives, buying solar panels might not be right for you. You could consider third-party ownership, but tread carefully because these deals can seem better than they are.
#6. Your quote appears too good to be true
You’ve heard the old saying: if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. These words definitely ring true when it comes to solar offers.
Have you ever seen ads that promise “free solar panels?” They sound great until you realize that the only thing that’s free is the space on your roof that you give over to the solar company, which then sells you the energy produced by their solar panels on your roof.
While you’re gathering solar quotes, you might spot these ne’er-do-wells by the fact that they have the lowest prices or they promise that you’ll “get a huge check from the government.” They might send a salesperson to your home dressed in a utility worker’s reflective vest who promises access to “special programs that end soon.” These are all red flags to watch out for in the solar sales process.
In truth, there are hundreds of reputable companies willing to sell you a perfectly good solar panel installation, and they’ll stand behind their workmanship and support their customers for decades to come. They probably won’t be the cheapest, but they should tell you the truth about incentives, provide a detailed estimate of the system they’re proposing for your home, and be able to answer all your questions.
If they can’t do that, it’s time to put your solar dreams on hold and find a better option.
#7. The economics aren’t right for you
You might come to the final step in your solar journey and find that solar panels just don’t make financial sense for you right now. It might be hard to hear (and it’s hard for us to say), but solar panels aren’t the right solution for every home every time.
Again, reputable installers who plan to be around supporting their customers for decades to come don’t sell solar panels for the cheapest price. But that’s how it’s supposed to be, right? You wouldn’t hire someone to remodel your kitchen or build a giant beautiful deck on your home based solely on the fact they gave you the cheapest price, right?
In good solar states, lawmakers have done their job to provide an environment in which any homeowner who wants solar can save money doing so. There are incentives and good net metering policies in place, and electricity isn’t super cheap because it’s made by burning gas all day long.
In other places, solar just isn't a good investment. Here, utility companies have chipped away at protections for people who want to go solar, and incentives are non-existent. If you live in one of these places, you might find that going solar doesn’t pencil out for you compared to the next best alternative, like investing in the stock market.
Thankfully, this reason to not go solar is less true than ever due to improved solar efficiency, decreases in the cost of solar panels, and increases in energy prices due to inflation. Investing in home solar panels beats the stock market across most of the United States now.
All you have to do is find a great installer.
- Without adequate space – be it on your roof, backyard, or even something like a carport – it’s impossible to install solar panels.
- If you plan to move, it would likely be wise to wait and install solar on your next home.
- If you already pay very little for electricity, home solar panels probably aren’t right for you, but community solar could be.
- Calculate your solar panel payback period before making a decision to purchase.