Despite the stunning growth of solar in California there still remains a ton of misconceptions floating around and they’re not just spread by your friends and neighbors. Surprisingly there’s still misinformed and unscrupulous solar advisors that contribute to spreading those same myths. Drives me crazy. Let’s debunk those rumors right here, right now.
Makes sense, right? A blazing summer day with the sun shining brightly. Let’s go back to high school though for a minute. Remember, the law of thermodynamics tells us that the hotter an electrical device gets the lower its power output will be. Once the temperature outside reaches 86 degrees a solar panel’s efficiency actually begins to drop.
2. I WON’T LIVE IN MY HOUSE LONG ENOUGH TO RECOUP MY INVESTMENT
This may be true in some states but definitely not California. A decade ago, many people thought having solar on your home made it less marketable when you go to sell. That’s not the case anymore considering the majority of homes in your neighborhood will likely have solar within the next 5-10 years. Probably not a good idea to be one of the few homes that don’t have solar. Multiple studies by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and The Appraisal Institute have demonstrated CA solar homes sell at a premium over non-solar homes. Anticipate fetching between 3-5% more for your home when it comes time to sell.
3. SOLAR PANELS REQUIRE MAINTENANCE
Solar panels require almost zero maintenance. The myth here is that over time the panels become so dirty that the grime inhibits the solar panel’s efficiency, thus annual cleanings may be required. True there will be some accumulated dust and grime but most of it washes away after a few rains. Therefore, annual cleanings don’t normally pay for themselves knowing that a solar company will charge $300 or more to wash off your panels. Now if you have a ground mount solar system in a field or live near farmland, that’s a different story.
4. SOLAR MAKES SENSE ON SOUTH-FACING ROOFS ONLY
It is true that panels oriented south will generate the highest annual power yield, but to suggest an east or west facing roof is unacceptable is simply false. Panels facing east or west experience just a 10-14% drop in power output compared to a panel pointed due south. When you consider PG&E’s Time of Use (TOU) rates which are significantly higher during mid to late afternoon hours, panels pointed west actually become quite valuable. In some cases, it may even make sense to place panels on a north facing roof. Although a 38-43% drop in power output seems unreasonable, for some homes it may still pencil out financially.
5. HOA’s RULE SUPREME OVER YOUR SOLAR
The California Solar Rights Act, specifically civil code 714 and 714.1 prevents Homeowners’ Associations from interfering with your solar project. They can’t ban solar for aesthetics or require relocation of your solar panels to a less conspicuous place on you roof. I do though suggest playing nice with them. Submit your HOA’s architectural committee solar application as a courtesy.
6. SOLAR WILL INCREASE YOUR PROPERTY TAXES
Not in California. Governor Jerry Brown in 2014 extended the state’s solar property tax exemption through 2024. It’s widely believed the exemption will be extended an additional 10 years come 2025. Most home projects, like an inground pool will increase the value of your home which then prompts the county to re-assess its value and subsequently jack up your property taxes. Lucky for us, solar home improvements in our beloved Golden State are exempt.
7. TECHNOLOGICAL IMPROVEMENTS MAY RENDER MY SOLAR PANELS OBSOLETE
The first practical solar panel reached an all-time high of 6% module efficiency in 1954. By 2007 when I first entered the solar industry it had reached 14%. A decade later a max of 19% efficiency. The science behind boosting silicon cell efficiencies does in fact have a ceiling so there’s never going to be an explosive breakthrough that say doubles the efficiency of the latest solar panel. When you consider that a solar system is likely to pay for itself in just 6 - 7 years and its useful life is 30+ years it doesn’t make sense to wait for the latest, greatest, most expensive solar panel to hit the market.
8. SOLAR WILL POWER MY HOME IN THE EVENT OF A BLACKOUT
This is true ONLY if you have a backup battery storage system in conjunction with your solar panels. So, if the grid goes down so does your solar. The reason being if during a power outage your solar was to send surplus electricity back to the grid it could fatally shock a worker repairing the lines. A grid-tied solar system includes a secure power supply feature that automatically turns off solar production during a blackout. When the grid goes back up, your solar panels will follow suit turning back on in a few minutes.
9. BATTERY BACKUP STORAGE WILL FULLY POWER MY HOME DURING A BLACKOUT
Unfortunately, this is one myth that’s far too often peddled by shady solar advisors. Adding a battery backup solution will not power 100% of your home during a blackout. Think more along the lines of 50%. Popular battery storage systems from brands like LG and Tesla only store between 9 – 14 kWh of backup power before needing to be recharged. Batteries are also limited by their ability to generate a maximum 5,000 watts of continuous power so during a power outage you’ll be able to keep some of the lights on, feed backup power to your refrigerator and few other appliances but not your entire home.