Solar energy pros and cons in 2024

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Updated

Solar energy pros and cons in 2024

 

Figuring out if solar panels are right for your home can be daunting. If you’re looking to install solar panels, you’ll come across a wide range of information listing out all the good (and bad) that solar has to offer.

In most cases, the benefits of solar panels outweigh the drawbacks. But solar energy isn’t for everyone! We compiled a comprehensive list to help you understand the pros and cons of solar energy in 2024.

Key takeaways

  • The five biggest advantages of solar energy is that it can reduce electricity bills, it’s more affordable than ever, it is free of carbon emissions, it’s a renewable resource, and it has many diverse uses.
  • The downsides to solar are that it is a substantial investment, it is an intermittent energy source, and it requires specific conditions to work its best.
  • Solar panels can pay for themselves in as little as 10 years, and payback can be even shorter with the federal tax credit and other incentives.

Solar energy pros and cons

Advantages of solar energy 

We’ve decided to give you the good news first – the advantages of solar energy are listed below. 

1. Reduces your electricity bills

The biggest benefit for solar buyers is that solar panels can reduce your electric bills. As of 2024, the average household can save about $1,500 per year on electric bills when they install solar panels! 

Solar power systems save money by reducing how much energy you need to buy from the grid. In areas with net metering policies, you can earn credits by sending excess energy back to the grid, saving you even more money. 

2. Insurance against rising power prices

Electricity prices are high and only keep getting more expensive. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average cost of electricity is about $0.16 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) - a 4.1% increase from the previous year.

Solar panels protect you from these rising electricity costs. Because you are producing your own energy, you don’t have to buy as much power from your utility and avoid paying those high energy rates. In fact, you’ll actually be saving more money with solar panels as electric rates get higher!

3. Solar is cheaper than ever

While electricity prices have continued to climb, solar panel installation costs have steadily fallen. The image below is a graph from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of the cost per watt of solar installed on a residential scale.

Solar technology costs less than half of what it did back in 2010. Now in 2024, the cost of solar sits at an average of $3.00 per watt. And when paired with good solar rebates or incentives like the 30% federal solar tax credit, you can bring down the cost even more. 

Read more: Top solar rebate and incentive programs

4. Solar is a renewable energy source

Solar is a renewable source of energy, meaning that the sun’s power won’t deplete as we use it to make solar electricity. The sun’s energy will never “run out” – so you can always take advantage of it, without hurting the earth!

Plus, solar panels do not emit any harmful carbon dioxide emissions when they generate electricity, making them a source of clean energy and an integral part in fighting against climate change and reducing our carbon footprint.

5. Diverse uses

Photovoltaic energy can be used in many small and large-scale projects. From powering a home to running space satellites, solar panels are a great way to access energy in even the most remote places.

The most common uses for solar panels are on residential rooftops and large solar farms. But, some smaller-scale uses include solar phone chargers, solar-powered outdoor lights, and portable solar panels for camping and RVs.

6. Great financial investment

Solar panels can pay for themselves in just a few years with the savings accumulated on your electricity bill. In some cases, solar panels can provide better return on investment than in something like an index fund.

The average payback time for a home solar installation is about ten years, but it’s different for everyone. How long it takes to see a return on your solar investment depends on how much you paid for your system, your state, and the incentives available in your area.

Find out the solar payback period for your home

7. Low maintenance costs

Solar panels don’t require much maintenance after installation. Solar panel maintenance is generally minimal and usually consists of cleaning the panels once or twice a year to avoid dirt and buildup.

Solar panels and other solar system equipment have very low failure rates because they don’t have moving parts, especially when you choose reliable brands and a trusted installer. An installer or manufacturer's solar warranty may cover some issues with solar panels, but it’s unlikely the equipment will fail.

8. Energy independence

Solar panels allow homeowners to create their own energy instead of relying on the electrical grid, helping you achieve energy independence.

Energy independence allows homeowners to take power into their own hands and control where your home is getting energy from. 

On a larger scale, solar energy systems in the United States would help the entire country achieve energy independence, thus not having to rely so heavily on other countries to get energy resources. 

Disadvantages of solar energy

Despite all the benefits solar has to offer, there are also some downsides. After all, nothing’s perfect! Check out the disadvantages of solar power below:

1. High upfront cost

Even though solar panel system costs have dropped over the past decade, it’s still an expensive initial investment. Buying solar is more than just the panels – it’s also the inverter, the wiring, and other necessary components. Not to mention, the installation costs.  

In 2024, the average solar installation costs between $18,000 and $20,000 total before any incentives are applied. That’s a lot of money for many homeowners, but there are financing options to help with the burden of the high initial cost of solar panels.

2. Solar panel manufacturing has some environmental impact

While generating solar power is emission-free, manufacturing solar panels does have an environmental impact. Manufacturing plants release greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, and mining for materials used in solar panels can cause damage to the surrounding area. The environmental impact of solar panels is generally less severe than that of mining and burning fossil fuels

3. Solar is an intermittent energy source

Solar energy is considered an intermittent energy source because how much energy solar panels produce is generally weather dependent. Also, the sun's intensity varies with location, the time of year, and the time of day, so solar energy production is different all over. However, solar battery storage makes solar energy available anytime, even at night! 

4. Solar panels require specific conditions to work best

Solar panels require a decent amount of space to meet energy needs. Most homes have roofs big enough to accommodate the number of solar panels needed, but the direction and condition of the roof may not be suitable for solar.

If you have a shaded roof, or a roof that does not face south, you might not get the best results. 

5. Difficulty selling your home

Although solar panels can potentially raise your home’s value, it could make the selling process difficult, especially if you financed the system through a solar lease or power purchase agreement (PPA). Potential home buyers may hesitate to take on a long-term contract they didn’t initiate. 

6. Value depends on local policy

The initial cost of solar is the biggest reason customers turn away from it, which is why some states have created solar-friendly policies to make installing solar panels more accessible.

Unfortunately, the policies and incentives you get can depend on where you live, who your utility provider is, and your eligibility. If you live in a state that doesn’t prioritize expanding solar, you might pay more for solar and earn lower savings. 

7. Finding the right installer can be difficult

Solar is a 25-year investment, so you must find a reliable installer. A few bad apples in the solar industry have made it hard for homeowners to figure out who to trust, and deceptive, spammy sales tactics leave a bad impression.

Luckily for you, SolarReviews makes it easy for homeowners to connect with trustworthy local solar installation professionals, taking the stress out of going solar.

Find reliable pre-screened solar installation companies near you

Is solar energy right for you?

Solar panels are worth it for most homeowners, but it all depends on your unique situation. If you live somewhere with strong incentives that will help bring the initial price of solar down, and your home’s energy costs are high, solar is an excellent solution. 

Enter your home’s information into our solar calculator to find out what the average cost of a solar installation will be for your specific home, what incentives are available in your area, and more. The benefits of solar energy are right around the corner!

Find out if solar panels a good investment for your home

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Still unsure about solar? Here are some frequently asked questions pertaining to the pros and cons of solar panels.

Q: How do solar panels work?

Solar panels produce electricity through a process called the photovoltaic effect. In this process, sunlight hits the silicon in solar panels, causing their electrons to produce a reaction. This reaction generates an electric current that can power appliances and devices.

Read more: The ultimate guide to solar power 

Q: How do solar panels save money?

Solar panels save you money by generating electricity you home can use, which reduces how much power you buy from your utility.

Some utilities also offer net metering programs that allow you to earn credits for any excess solar energy produced that can cover the cost of any electricity you do take from the grid, bringing in additional savings. 

Just be aware, net metering won’t be around forever. Some states, like California, have been changing their net metering policies and homeowner’s are saving as much money as they used to. Go solar sooner rather than later to make sure you get the best net metering rates possible!

Q: Can I run my whole house on solar panels?

Technically, yes – but not 24/7.

For most home installations, solar panels can run your house during the day, when the panels are producing the most energy. Then, when the sun goes down at night, your home is likely using energy from the grid. If you want to run your home entirely on solar energy alone, consider installing a solar battery. 

Q: Do I need to add battery storage with my solar panels?

It’s not mandatory to install a solar battery unless you plan to use solar to power an off-grid home.  Installing a solar battery does come with other benefits though, such as providing backup power during a grid outage and saving extra money if you don’t have access to net metering. Energy storage installations are expensive and don’t always pan out financially.

Read more: Top solar energy storage solutions 

Q: How long do solar panels last?

Most solar panels are built to have a lifespan of 25 years, so consider this a long-term investment. Some panels are even warrantied to last 30 years! After you reach the 25-year mark, your panels will still work, but they won’t operate as efficiently as they once did. 

Q: Do solar panels work in bad weather?

Yes – solar panels still work during cloudy days or rainy weather. However, solar panels will generate less electricity in overcast conditions than in full sun. 

Check out our video below to get a further explanation:

Q: Can I install solar panels myself?

Yes – it is possible to install solar panels yourself by purchasing a DIY solar panel kit. Taking the DIY route can help cut down on installation costs, but we don’t recommend it. Installing solar panels is a dangerous job, and you run the risk of injury by doing it yourself. 

DIY installations may also void certain warranties and could even be illegal to connect to the grid. Take our advice and contact a local professional installer if you want the safest and best results.

 - Author of Solar Reviews

Jamie Smith

Content Writer

Jamie is a Content Writer and researcher at SolarReviews. A recent graduate of La Salle University in Philadelphia, Jamie earned her B.S. in communications with a concentration in journalism, mass media, and public relations.

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