Myth Busting: Solar in Pennsylvania


MYTH: I don’t get enough sun in Pennsylvania to have solar panels.

False! Solar panels work anywhere there is sun! Germany, for example, has less solar resource than most of the U.S. but has lots of solar installed and producing power. The truth is, solar panels are actually more efficient in cold weather. Homeowners in colder states to the north, like New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts, are going solar in volume every day.

In winter months, solar panels do produce lower amounts of electricity, but the state has resolved this issue with a policy called “net metering.” This policy allows homeowners to bank excess Kilowatt Hours (kWhs) during the spring, summer, and fall months and apply them to winter months. They work just like rollover minutes used to work in the old Nokia cell phone days.

MYTH: Solar panels don’t work here because of the snow.

False! If enough snow covers your solar panels, they’ll stop producing power. But most solar homes stay connected to the electric grid, so they have electricity even when their panels are not producing. And thanks to net metering, you can save up excess production from sunny days and use it when your panels aren’t producing as much as you need.

Also, snow doesn’t tend to stay on panels for very long in our climate. The dark coloring of the panels helps them warm up so the snow can melt right off the smooth surface of the panels.

MYTH: Solar doesn’t make any sense because I won’t have power at night!

False! Unless you’re truly off the grid, you’ll always have power when you have solar panels. Although solar panels don’t produce power at night, homeowners utilize “net metering” at night for electricity. Net metering allows them to receive credit for the excess electricity sent out to the grid during the day, then at night your electric company delivers power for free.

MYTH: Solar is too expensive for me.

Maybe not! For most people, the cost of a solar installation, spread out over 25 years, is less than the cost of utility electricity over that same period. If you haven’t gotten a quote from a solar installer in a few years, you may be surprised how much cheaper it is today.

There’s a wide variety of financing options available. In addition, homeowners can collect the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and income from Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs).

But while a solar system can pay for itself over time, not everyone can access financing, and the up-front cost is still prohibitive for many Americans. This is why Solar United Neighbors volunteers are working hard to pass laws to make it more affordable for everyone.

MYTH: Solar panels will provide backup power when the grid goes down.

False! Solar panels alone do not provide backup power. However, there are great options for you to add a battery to your solar system, which would provide backup power in the event of a power outage. Depending on how many outages you expect and the cost of fuel (sunshine is free!), battery options can be more cost effective than fossil fuel generator backups.

MYTH: Solar panels will damage my roof.

A reputable solar installer following industry best practices will protect your roof from leaks or damage caused by the solar installation. Many solar installers even offer labor warranties that can compensate the homeowner in the event of roof damage.

Be sure to read your installation contract and warranty carefully on how any issues are handled with your contractor. Solar United Neighbors is here to help you avoid sketchy installers and understand warranty legalese.

MYTH: Solar is not environmentally friendly because the panels can’t be recycled.

False! Solar panels are mostly made of silicon, glass, and aluminum and can be recycled or repurposed and there is a market that’s growing worldwide. While the market develops and solar installations increase, government, the industry, and solar homeowners have time to improve and scale responsible solutions to solar waste.

MYTH: Solar hurts my home value.

False! What buyer wouldn’t want a lower utility bill? According to Zillow, “not only can adding solar panels to a home save energy costs and help the environment, it also can potentially increase a home’s value. During the past year, homes with solar-energy systems sold for 4.1% more on average than comparable homes without solar power.” Learn more in our Guide to Selling Your Solar Home.

MYTH: Solar panels might catch my house on fire!

False! When you work with a reputable installer, your risk of fire from solar panels is no worse than your risk of fire from other appliances in your home. Solar panels are subject to rigorous safety tests and very rarely cause fires. They’re wired to your main electric panel just like any other appliance such as an air conditioner or boiler. A reputable company will install and wire your solar panels safely. You wouldn’t forgo getting an air conditioner for risk of fire, right? Same with solar panels.

MYTH: Solar panels are getting better and the price is getting lower. So I should wait to install solar panels.

Solar panels will always be a little bit cheaper and more efficient each year, but they have long passed the point of being cheaper than utility electricity. If you’re ready to go solar now, go for it! You can’t take advantage of an investment you’re always waiting to make. Plus, incentives for going solar, like the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) may not be around forever.

MYTH: Solar panels are hard and expensive to maintain.

False! Solar panels have no moving parts, are very durable, and require little maintenance over their life. Many installers and manufacturers will offer 25- to 30 year warranties to help you manage any issues that do arise. Like any home appliance, it’s a good idea to have your system inspected periodically to make sure it’s in good working order.