Solar energy technologies aren’t fully understood by a vast majority of Americans. Sure, most of us understand that solar panels allow us to harvest the power of sunlight, but there is a lot of misinformation, rumors, and myths that seem to get spread around.

Instead of falling victim to misinformation, let’s dispel some of these myths about solar energy.

Myth #1: Solar Panels Don’t Work in Cold, Foggy, or Cloudy Environments

Actually, solar panels can actually be a little more efficient in cooler weather. While they do produce more energy during Summer months, actual efficiency is higher when the panels are operating at a lower temperature.  Also, most people think that solar panels don’t harvest any energy when it is cloudy. While it is true that they don’t run at peak efficiency when it is overcast, they do still generate some energy. When it is foggy or cloudy, solar panels can still generate as much as 25% of their maximum potential. And once you’re past the payback period, that’s free energy and free money!

Myth #2: You Should Wait because Solar Will Get More Efficient in the Future

For one reason or another, some people still view solar energy as an emerging technology. With most technologies, people tend to wait until things become more efficient because the price usually drops when the next version is released. Remember when flat panel TVs were all the rage and people wanted to wait a few years before the price came down? The difference here is that solar panels are not some hot new technology. In fact, we actually use the same technology as we did in the 1960’s to harvest the energy from the sun (using silicon wafers). While it has become slightly more efficient over the years, the time to invest is now. The sooner you invest, the more money you make over the long term.  Also, the government currently pays for 30% of the total cost through a tax credit which will diminish over the next few years and eventually expire.

Myth #3: Solar Panels Need a Lot of Maintenance

Nope, not true! Solar panels are actually incredibly easy to maintain. Solar panels don’t have moving parts that create the necessity of maintenance as opposed to other features of your home, such as HVAC equipment. In fact, some people don’t even need to maintain their solar panels at all. However, we would advise that you do clean your solar panels once a year like you would a nice car if they are installed at a low pitch. Many homeowners choose to do this with a hose, and you may need to clean them if any dirt or grime accumulates on the surface as it could negatively impact performance. However, the typical performance decrease of dirty solar panels is usually less than a 10% inefficiency with no cleaning at all.

Myth #4: Excess Energy is Stored in Batteries

Some people think that the excess power must be stored in batteries if your solar panels produce more energy than your home uses. However, this isn’t always true because of an energy grid feature called net metering. The relatively recent advances in inverter technology allow you to send your excess energy back to the power grid. Your utility will credit you for the excess energy that your solar panels created, so you still get the full energy savings. Batteries are an option that are available for off-grid or emergency backup solutions.

Myth #5: Solar Panels Are Bad for Your Roof

For some reason, some people think that solar panels negatively impact the useful life of their roof. In fact they actually help protect the portions of the roof they cover by blocking it from harsh elements such as heat, UV-rays, rain, and other weather conditions. They do not inherently cause leaks or decrease the life expectancy of your roof, either, and there are protective mechanisms such as metal flashing and sealant that add an extra barrier to ensure that your roof doesn’t leak. Make sure your installer offers a warranty that covers any such issues.  On the off chance that your roof does need to be repaired down the road, removal and re-installation services are available to address those needs and should be discussed with your installer at the time of installation.

Myth #6: If Your Power Goes Out, Solar Panels Will Still Power Your Home

Some people also suffer from the misconception that they will still have power from their solar panels in the event of a power failure. However, most inverters will shut down your solar system in the event of a complete power failure. This is a safety feature to protect technicians who may repairing the power lines. There is one inverter on the market now that will allow the system to operate while the sun is shining through a single outlet.  If you are interested in backup power, solar panels may be paired with batteries or generators to provide a complete solution.

Myth #7: You Can’t Make Money with Solar Panels

A lot of people erroneously think that solar panels cost too much and they won’t last long enough to recoup your initial investment – but this is just another myth for two reasons. First off all, Federal incentives make it more attractive than ever before to invest in solar technology and it is fairly common for solar panels to have a positive return on investment (ROI) that yields 2-4 times the initial investment. The payback period – the time it takes for the solar panels to pay for themselves – varies from state to state. Each state has different solar incentives and with many utility companies continually raising their rates every year, you better believe this investment you make in your property will have fantastic benefits.