There’s a lot of buzz surrounding solar power these days. Whether you’re an experienced solar owner or you’ve only begun to learn about it, the information out there probably seems contradictory and confusing. There are a lot of solar myths floating around – whether it be online or at your dinner table. Let’s explore solar power myth vs fact.
MYTH: Solar is High Maintenance
In Western Washington, systems are generally low-maintenance. Here’s why:
We don’t have a lot of dust. Dust is a leading factor in decreased system efficiency, requiring more frequent cleanings and a shorter system lifespan.
We do have a lot of rain. This makes systems in the Puget Sound virtually self-cleaning.
Extreme heat isn’t an issue here.Extreme heat can actually cause solar panels to lower 10-25% in efficiency due to extra resistance formed by PV semiconductors. The Puget Sound has a fairly steady climate that never gets too hot to lower panel efficiency.
An annual cleaning is generally all your system will need. Moss build-up can be an issue, so we recommend cleaning your system once per year. This can be done with a garden hose, a sponge with a handle, or a soft cloth if your system is easily accessible.
You can leave the maintenance up to us. Artisan’s solar warranty offers free system inspections, maintenance, cleaning, and performance verification for the first year, as well as maintenance agreements for continued support after year one. Our five-year IBEW-backed workmanship warranty ensures that if an issue arises with any aspect of the installation, we’ll fix the problem at no cost to you, usually within 24 hours.
MYTH: My Homeowners Association will Never Allow Solar
Washington State Legislature does not allow HOAs to prohibit solar installations – providing the installations meet certain requirements. Read the entire Revised Code of Washington 64.38.060. The HOA cannot prohibit a solar installation if:
- it meets health and safety standards,
- is certified to heat water (if applicable), and
- is built to code if producing electricity.
The HOA can limit a roof-mounted solar installation if:
- it exceeds the roofline and
- does not conform to the slope of the roof (no ugly installs).
The HOA can also require that:
- mounting frames and brackets be painted to match the roof,
- ground mounts be shielded if it doesn’t interfere with efficiency,
- owners of the system to reimburse neighbors and/or HOA if their installation somehow causes harm or damage to others.
Every Artisan Electric installation is built to code, passes all necessary certifications, and is designed with the highest standards of safety and aesthetics. We are happy to meet with your HOA board and offer a presentation of the benefits of solar and its positive impact on home value, community, and more. We will also keep communication with your HOA at every step if necessary. We often see that once the first system is installed in a neighborhood, others follow.
MYTH: Solar is Too Expensive
We’re not here to tell you what is and is not expensive. But solar is obtainable for a variety of budgets, as there are a lot of resources out there to help you achieve solar.
Solar is an investment
You’re not expected to buy your house all in one lump sum, and you’re not expected to purchase your solar that way, either. Like most investments, you typically won’t pay for this out of pocket or all at once. And because of the incentives available, you’ll be paying far less than the sticker price.
There are lots of incentives available:
- Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC)
The federal government will redeem 30% of your entire system (all costs included) that can be redeemed within the first year of your system’s installation. Every tax-paying household qualifies for it.
- Washington State Production Incentive
The state of Washington will send solar owners an annual check for their production for 8 years, which will total to roughly 40% of the entire system cost.
- IBEW Rebate
If you install with Artisan Electric, a union shop, you will also receive a one-time rebate from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union for $500.
- Net Metering
Net metering is an agreement with the utility that for any excess energy being produced in the summer, solar owners receive a 1:1 credit, which can then be used during the winter, at night, or on darker days.
It’s about shifting your expenses, not adding to them
Our goal is to help customers replace their electricity bill with a solar bill. This means that instead of paying $100 to the utility each month, that $100 is going toward paying off your solar system. You are essentially paying rent for your electricity each month. And if you own your home, shouldn’t you own your electricity too? Going solar means that you now own the factory and have something tangible to show for the money that would otherwise be going to your utility.
You can finance your solar with zero down payment
As with any large investment, there are ways to finance solar. About 75% of our customers finance through Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union, who offers a competitive, $0 down payment solar loan program. If you think solar is expensive, try adding up what you will be paying for electricity for the next 40 years (the average lifespan of a solar system). It’s most likely far more than you’d spend buying solar panels and producing your own power. Not only that, but the power you’ll produce from the sun is clean, renewable, and helps fight climate change, which helps roll back the environmental costs of using dirty electricity from your utility.
MYTH: Solar Doesn’t Work in the Pacific Northwest
Cold and cloudy places are actual ideal for solar. Here’s why:
- Solar panels are less efficient in hot climates
High temperatures cause technological malfunctions and panel swelling, leading to decreased energy output (up to 25%) and greater need for maintenance and replacements.
- Dust is an issue in hot climates
Dust buildup can also contribute to up to a 25% decrease in panel efficiency, requiring more frequent cleanings and maintenance. Frequent rainfall, however, keeps panels clean throughout the year and most systems in Western Washington only require annual cleanings.
- Consider Germany
Germany is a world leader in solar, and they receive an average of 17% less sunlight than the gloomiest region of the US: Western Washington. If they can do it so can we.
- Net Metering is Key
Local utilities award solar owners a 1:1 credit for every excess watt they produce during the summer. They can then redeem those credits in the dark winter months when sunlight is low and usage is high.
- Look at the trees
Trees convert sunlight into energy through photosynthesis. While converting sunlight to electricity via photovoltaics may be a different process, the source is the same. Gloomy Western Washington is abundant with trees and greenery – a constant reminder of all the potential sunlight has in even the darkest corner of the United States.
MYTH: Solar will Become More Efficient, So I Should Wait to Install
Solar energy is efficient right now. It is efficient enough that it can provide you with all or most of the electricity you need if you have the space for it. In fact, waiting may actually cost you more. Here’s why:
- While solar is improving, it is only projected to increase efficiency by around 2% per year, as it is already reaching peak efficiency.
- Although solar prices have dramatically decreased since their commercial debut, in late January 2018, the White House announced a 30% tariff on all imported solar parts.
- Statewide incentives are on a tiered, first-come first-served basis. The longer you wait, the less incentives may be available to you. Federal incentives also will not last forever.
- If you are living in Washington State and are waiting for the release of the Tesla solar roof tiles, it is likely that you are going to be waiting for a long time – and it is not clear what kind of return you will yield.
We cannot foresee how political decisions will affect the technological and financial aspects of solar power systems going forward. All we can guarantee is that as long as you install your system before the incentives run out, you are locked into those rates for as long as it takes to pay off your system. And this will save you the most money in the long-run.
MYTH: Solar Uses More Energy than it Produces
Like all energy sources, manufacturing solar PV systems does require energy use. But is it worth what the PV systems will be producing?
The real myth here is that solar PV systems cannot make up for the initial energy investment. This is incorrect for two reasons:
Once manufactured, solar produces no emissions. And as solar has become more widespread, manufacturing processes are also becoming cheaper, cleaner, and more energy-efficient.
Solar has a prolific energy payback (how long a solar system will have to operate/recover the energy used to manufacture the system). The estimated payback ranges from 1-4 years or less, and a system’s lifespan is around 40 years.
The biggest hurdle to solar isn’t solar itself. It’s these myths and misconceptions that are frequently circulated. Spread the word to help friends and family distinguish between myth and fact!