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Solar myths explained: Separating FACT from fiction.

Solar MYTHS and misconceptions: A few quick facts.

Solar doesn’t work in darker climates and atmospheres.

Fact: Ambient light is perfectly sufficient for solar panels, and they can produce significant amounts of energy on days with poor weather. Solar panels are more effective in these temperatures than in hotter temperatures. This may seem contradictory, take for instance, solar panels in Sacramento, which is mostly sunny, are only one percent more effective than those in San Francisco, which is often foggy. Also take into consideration that Germany is the leader in home solar, a region of the world known for cloudy and overcast weather.

Excess solar energy can be stored in batteries.

Fact: A solar panel connected to utility grid electricity is not applicable to battery storage, unless you are living off the utility grid where public electricity is not available. Any excess energy that your system generates is returned to the grid through a process called “net metering”. When this occurs the meter goes in reverse and your energy company gives you credit for this excess power. On overcast days or during the night you use supplied grid power, but it’s often not charged to you because of all the credit you’ve accumulated via net-metering. This method of grid tying is the most efficient for homeowners, whereas batteries would be costly and unnecessary.

Work is required to maintain solar panels.

Fact: There are no parts on the solar panel that move or will need maintenance with any frequency. It is recommended that you wash off panels about every year with a hose, but it’s common for owners to never clean panels and simply let the rain do the washing. The efficiency lost in by doing this is very little over the lifetime of a solar panel. It is recommended you remove sizable debris which falls onto the panel. Modern solar systems come with technology which allows you to monitor the efficiency and output of your panels. Your system is often monitored by the installer via remote metrics, so they’ll know about any drops in power long before you realize any loss.

Solar panels may damage my roof.

Fact: Solar panels are actually effective in protecting the part of the roof that they cover because less sunlight and harsh weather are able to reach and damage your roof.  If you do have an unrelated problem with the roof the panels can be easily removed. Most types of panels aren’t even connected to the roof directly but to a system of railings. When railing mounts are penetrated into your roof, sealants are added to fill any holes or crevasses.  In addition, the mounts often have a metal flashing surrounding or covering them which protects from water leaks.  The best practice here is to have a licensed roofer work with your solar installer, so that BOTH contractors are professionally addressing your roofing concerns and the condition and age of your roof before solar panel rails and mounts are attached.

Solar is too expensive for it to outweigh the cost of equipment and installation.

Fact: It’s a misconception that solar is a luxury item, only for those households with disposable income.  Solar panels are actually a cost effective and financially advantageous concept [if] you discern the pros and cons of energy return; return on investment or if your money may be more wisely spent elsewhere. The upfront costs that used to be associated with solar are mostly gone with the help of financing or lease options.  These days, it’s feasible to step into solar with little to no down payment. On average solar panels will deliver two to four times the return in money you save in electricity. Generally it will have paid for itself within seven to fifteen years.  Overall, I would go for a residential return ratio of no more than ten years, and fifteen years if you’re a business owner who has no other option for producing energy at a reduced rate.

I’ll still receive electricity to my house when the power goes out.

Fact: Solar is tied to a grid system which INDEED goes down for the count along with the rest of the power around you.  And rightly so, because when the power fails it wouldn’t be safe to force electricity back into the transmission lines.  Therefore, your inverter will recognize this and shut down your solar power system. The only solution for uninterrupted power supply is to purchase your own generator.

Solar panels will increase my property tax.

Fact: In many states, including California, solar panels are exempt from property tax. From a financial point of view this means that solar panels actually make the value of your house go up without increasing your tax base because it’s an added amenity. This isn’t true of other things like pools or decks.  The misconception you may have to negotiate and watch for is when it comes time to sell your home and asking the new buyer to take over the terms of your solar lease contract.  This is usually not a problem, as the system is an amenity to your home’s value and still has many years of productivity.  Don’t fall for the contradiction that the buyer must be credit worthy to take over your lease.  Of course he must be credit worthy, that goes for the assumption of the solar lease AND for being able to purchase a home in the first place.  The two go hand in hand.  A buyer that is not credit worthy to take over your solar lease would certainly have no business being credit worthy to purchase a home.

Advanced tracking systems are required for solar panels.

Fact: Although there is value in having tracking systems which will help increase the efficiency of your panel, they often aren’t worth the increased cost and maintenance. Furthermore, they require additional space, which most homeowners cannot afford by forsaking a loss of real estate (space) on the roof, that is, unless they are ground or pole mount versions.

Article written by Jennifer Coleman of Sun Source Solar Energy Brokers, providing solar brokering, brokerage, and solar energy consulting services in Santa Rosa, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Solano and San Francisco Counties.  For more information, please visit www.SunSourceSolarBroker.com.

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Sun Source Solar Brokers
525 East Cotati Avenue, #220
Cotati, California 94931
707-888-7046

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