Pros and Cons of Solar Panels: Worth It or Not?

Solar can cut utility bills and carbon footprints, but be sure you can afford the installation and have the right roof.
Erin Oppenheim
By Erin Oppenheim 
Edited by Tina Orem

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A solar panel is a device that helps convert sunlight into electricity. The pros of using solar panels include a lower carbon footprint, lower electric bills, potentially higher home value and tax credits. The cons include high initial costs, specific roof requirements, possible higher property taxes and storage costs.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 2020 Residential Energy Consumption Survey, the majority of energy use in American homes goes toward seasonal heating and cooling

U.S. Energy Information Administration. Residential Energy Consumption Survey. Accessed Mar 25, 2024.
. However, only about 5% of residential sector energy end use in 2020 came from renewable sources like solar.

Solar power has become more affordable over time, and it offers communities and homeowners the opportunity to switch to a more sustainable, renewable and abundant energy source. Every home and every community is different, however. There are plenty of pros and cons to consider.

Pros of going solar

Cons of going solar

Lower your carbon footprint.

Upfront costs.

Save on your electric bill.

Not every roof will work.

Increase your home value.

Potential property tax increase.

Federal tax credits.

Solar storage expense.

Advantages of solar panels

Nearly 4 million American households have switched to solar power

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. 5 Benefits of Residential Solar. Accessed Mar 25, 2024.
. Here are a few of the benefits of residential solar panels.

Lower your carbon footprint

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, electric power generation was the second-largest emitter of CO2 in 2022

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990–2022. Accessed Mar 25, 2024.
. Solar energy systems do not contribute to air pollution or emit CO2.

The environmental impact of creating and installing solar panels is typically offset in one to four years, depending on the system. With a 30-year lifespan for most residential systems, this long-term environmental benefit could outweigh the short-term environmental cost

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. What is the energy payback for PV?. Accessed Mar 25, 2024.

Save on your electric bill

Switching to solar can reduce your monthly electric bill. How much you might save depends on how much power you use, the size of your system, if you buy or rent the solar panels, how much sun your roof gets and your local electricity rates.

With net metering, for example, the extra electricity your solar panels generate goes back to the power grid. The utility company then credits your account for that extra power, which is another way to help lower your electricity bill.

Increase your home value

Just like that nice chef’s kitchen with stainless steel appliances, solar panels can be a desirable upgrade for a lot of buyers. According to a 2019 survey by Zillow, homes with solar-energy systems sold for 4.1% more than homes without solar-energy systems. For median-value homes, that meant an extra $9,274


Federal tax credits

The federal government offers a 30% tax credit on the total cost of installing solar panels on your home between 2022 and 2032

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Homeowner’s Guide to the Federal Tax Credit for Solar Photovoltaics. Accessed Mar 26, 2024.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Check for state tax credits and rebates from your utility provider or solar installer for additional savings.

Drawbacks of solar panels

It’s not always sunny switching to solar energy. Here are a few of the limitations of solar panels.

Upfront costs

The panels, inverter (which converts the sun's power into usable electricity), batteries for storing power, wiring and labor for a five-kilowatt (kW) residential system may cost anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 or more.

Not every roof will work

The best roofs for solar panels face south, slope between 15 to 40 degrees and get direct sunlight for most of the day.

Potential property tax increase

  • Because property taxes are based on property value, an increase in your property’s value could raise in your property taxes. 

  • Whether this will happen and how much the tax will increase depends on your state and local tax code. 

🤓Nerdy Tip

Some state governments want to incentivize the solar switch by offering property tax exemptions for solar installations.

Solar storage expense

Who solar panels are best for

Solar isn’t the best option for everyone. A switch to solar energy might be a good fit for you if:

  • You own your home.

  • Your energy usage and monthly electric bill is high. 

  • Your roof is unobstructed by trees or other structures and south-facing with a slope between 15 to 40 degrees. 

  • You live in a state with net metering. 

  • You qualify for state and federal tax incentives or rebates. 

🤓Nerdy Tip

If you’re a renter or your roof isn’t suitable for a solar panel setup, you can still benefit from solar energy with community solar programs.

Frequently asked questions

All solar panels are required to meet strict international safety standards, and professional installers should ensure everything is installed according to local building and electrical codes. A certified electrician should give your whole solar system a final inspection to ensure safety.

Solar panel systems are complex and you’re likely better off hiring a qualified professional solar installer who is certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

Yes, in addition to tax incentives and rebates, there are options available. Although many solar installers offer financing, you may also be able to finance your solar investment through a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC). These options may have lower interest rates, future opportunities for refinancing and possible tax benefits.

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