There are innumerate myths and mistruths out there about the solar industry.
From the carbon footprint of producing a solar panel to the cost vs benefit ratio of purchasing a solar system, it can be really hard to know what to believe.
With so much misinformation disseminated on the web – and often being communicated in our personal social circles – we thought it was high time to start confronting some of these myths, head-on.
Here are the top 10 biggest solar panel myths, debunked.
Myth 1: Solar panels take more energy to make than they can produce
Verdict: False – solar panels produce far more electricity in their lifetime than they consume when being built.
This myth is a big one; it’s been doing the rounds for years. The irony is, every year that it keeps circulating, the more and more false it becomes. This is because, with advances in technology and manufacturing techniques, solar panels are becoming even more efficient to produce.
A solar panel life cycle assessment completed by ReNew magazine in 2009 found that it took between 1.7 and 2.3 years for a solar system to pay itself back in terms of carbon cost. This took into account a range of things like the mining of raw materials, production of the panels, transport of parts, and product use.
A good quality solar system should last between 20-30 years before your solar panels need any replacing; often your solar panel performance warranty is for 25 years. This means – if we use the higher end of the pay-back scale of 2.3 years – your solar system should pay back it’s manufacturing energy costs almost 11 times over in its lifetime.
Myth 2: Solar panels don’t work on cloudy days
Verdict: False – wherever there is sunlight, solar panels will generate solar energy, albeit less efficiently.
Even in colder weather, or on overcast days, solar panels will still produce energy. Clouds don’t completely block out all sunlight – if they did, we’d be shrouded in darkness every time the sun was covered. The degree to which the sunlight is blocked out also depends on the type of clouds covering the sky.
Your solar panels will still produce electricity on cloudy days, but they might not be as efficient as a clear day. This is because the clouds filter the sunlight available to reach your solar panels. High, thin, wispy clouds don’t stop much sunlight at all, but low, thick storm clouds will create a stronger barrier. They won’t stop working completely, but solar production could be reduced.
Myth 3: Solar panels are expensive and don’t pay themselves back very quickly
Verdict: False – with so many incentives and solar schemes available, solar has never been more cost-effective.
There are a number of incentives, schemes and programs that reduce the upfront cost of a solar system, from state-run programs to nation-wide incentives or schemes. These programs also often extend to battery storage, meaning you can save even more. Find out about a few of the incentives and schemes available.
With a grid-connected solar power system, depending on your electricity usage and your system size, full payback can be achieved in as little as 3-5 years. Find out what you could expect when it comes to the cost of solar panels.
Myth 4: Solar panels will provide me with blackout power
Verdict: False – solar panels alone won’t provide power in a blackout.
If you want back-up power in a blackout or grid interruption, you will need to look into battery storage. Sometimes blackout power is available as a standard feature of a battery – but sometimes it requires a bit of extra setup work. When you’re discussing your needs with your installer, make sure to ask them if blackout power is available for your system.
Myth 5: Installing solar panels makes my electricity cheaper
Verdict: True – but this is dependent on how you use the power generated by your solar panels, not just the act of installing solar panels alone.
The effect of solar on your electricity bills is completely down to how you use the energy produced by your solar panels. If you’re making the most of your solar power during the day, for example running washing machines or dishwashers during the day rather than in the evening, your electricity needs at night should be reduced, and your grid-connected electricity bills should also be reduced.
Furthermore, if you generate any excess solar energy that you don’t use during the day, you’ll receive a credit on your bill called a ‘feed-in tariff’, which can also help to reduce your electricity bills.
To save even more on your bills, and become less dependent on the energy grid, you could consider adding battery storage to your system.
Myth 6: I don’t use power during the day so solar panels aren’t worth it for me
Verdict: False – you could still benefit from solar power via either a solar feed-in tariff, using your appliances on timers or even through battery storage.
Like myth 5 (above), this all comes down to how you’re optimising self-consumption: that is, using your own, free solar electricity during the day. There are a range of ways to reduce your energy usage at night, including:
- Using your washing machine, dryer or dishwasher on timers during the day
- Charging battery-powered devices or appliances, like laptops, tablets, phones or rechargeable vacuum cleaners during the day
- Running your air conditioner on a timer during the day to heat or cool your home, so it runs more efficiently – or minimally – in the evening
If you really want to reduce the amount of electricity you pull from the grid, we recommend looking into battery storage, paired with a solar power system that generates enough electricity to offset both your day- and night-time energy usage. Find out more about how many Australians are switching to battery storage for this very reason.
Myth 7: Solar panels need lots of maintenance and care
Verdict: False – other than a simple dusting every few months, your solar panels are pretty much maintenance-free.
Regular maintenance is important – but we wouldn’t consider it particularly pain-staking or frequent. The simplest way to maintain your solar panels is to ensure they remain clear of any debris or dirt and remove any sources of shading. Find out how to clean your solar panels.
If you are concerned about any system faults or efficiency issues, it’s best to refer to your system’s user manual and contact your installer directly for advice.
Myth 8: There’s no real difference between a Tier 1 and a Tier 2 or 3 solar panel
Verdict: False – Tier 1 is a mark of the most trustworthy manufacturers with a good reputation for performance and reliability.
In the solar industry, solar panel manufacturers are ranked into three tiers. Tier 1 manufacturers are big brands with solid reputations for quality and performance. These companies invest a substantial amount of money into research and development and have often been in the solar industry for a number of years. If you’re trying to choose between a few solar panel options, looking at the manufacturer’s tier rating is a good way to decide which ones are worth trusting.
Further, a solar installer that is approved and accredited by the Clean Energy Council gives you the confidence that they are committed to responsive sales and industry best practice.
Myth 9: Installing solar panels might damage my roof
Verdict: False – solar installations shouldn’t damage your roof at all.
When solar panels are installed, they are placed onto mounting brackets, which hold them secure and steady. When installed correctly, this should cause no damage to your roof, and a high-quality installer shouldn’t cause any damage to your roof. In fact, they should also be able to flag if any existing damage to your roof, like loose tiles, might hinder the installation process in the first place.
Checking if an installer is accredited by the Clean Energy Council is a great way to assess their installation standards are safe, reliable and high quality.
Myth 10: Adding solar panels to my home will affect its resale or rental value
Verdict: True – it’ll probably improve.
RealEstate.com.au’s research conducted in 2015 found that 85% of Australians view solar panels as a value-add when it comes to property. Further, three out of four renters would be willing to pay more in rent if a property had solar panels installed. That’s hard to argue with!
Want to learn even more about solar panels and battery storage?
Download a copy of our Solar and Battery Storage Buying Guide and get hints, tips and checklists to help you make an informed, educated choice about your solar investment.