Solar Power — Things You Might be Getting Wrong

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Solar power technology has advanced by leaps and bounds and the way you conceptualize solar power might be way off the mark. Common misconceptions about solar power abound — and the truth might surprise you.

1. You Can Go Off the Grid

Solar power may get its power from the sun — however most residential systems still need to be connected to the grid. Connecting to the grid allows solar power systems to have a continuous supply of electricity as well as contribute excess power. Most power companies will deduct what your system contributes to what you take from the grid — potentially cutting your electric bill to zero. Of course, independent solar power systems are still available, but they’re more likely to power a few electrical items and not a whole house.

2. Solar is Expensive

Advancement in technology has made solar power systems quite affordable. You can buy an 8-kW system for as little as $8,000 — even less if you source from China. However, non-US brands will have little to no after-sales support — so it’s better to rely on SunPower or other panel installers for your solar needs. Even at double the costs (which is enough for a 12-kW system), your monthly premium on a 10-year plan shouldn’t exceed $180. You can use the savings on your electric bills to cover the payments — and you’ll have free electricity after 10 years.

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3. Your Panels Will Last 5-10 Years Tops

Once installed, panels from US companies are guaranteed for optimum output for up to 25 years. This guarantees that your panels will continue to work at above 80 percent efficiency for the years covered. However, most solar panels can last up to 40 years or more without having significant drops in performance.

4. More Output is Good

Buying a 12-kW system when you only need 8-kW is not a good idea. Most power companies will credit you for your excess production — but only a handful will send you a check. Opt for a system that fits your household or all the excess power will just go to the grid. Another way to make use of a higher output system is to use the power produced more efficiently — say charging an electric vehicle. The average driver spends $1,700 on gas per year — write that off if you go electric.

5. All Kinds of Solar Power is Good

While the use of solar power is essentially good — it can also be expensive if you’re getting it from a power company. Residential solar power is practically free, but power companies that switch to solar power will charge a lot for the new technology. Once the US switches to more green energy sources, expect a spike in your electricity bill — that is, unless you’re already producing your own. Solar power also requires an existing reliable power source (fossil-fuel, hydropower, or nuclear plant) — because the sun isn’t always shining and battery technology isn’t at a level to store massive amounts of electricity efficiently.

Solar power technology has come a long way from what you may have envisioned. It is more efficient, more durable, and a lot less expensive than you might think.

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