Solar panels are a great investment, but there are a few common misconceptions about getting a solar system versus what you can realistically expect. Here we go over 3 common exaggerated expectations.
Expectation #1: If You Get a 5kw System, It Will Produce 5kw
Have you taken into account things like shade, be it from a tree, dust or clouds?
The reality is that when you see a panel that is sold as 300W, that wattage is known as the STC rating (Standard Testing Conditions rating) calculated under specific/ideal conditions. The reality is that your panels will probably not produce that much in the real world and the PTC (PVUSA Test Condition) rating is a better measure of how much energy your panels will produce.
For example, comparing all current 300W panels with PTC ratings, a 300W panel may actually produce 252.8W to 284.6W, depending on the panel. This is why doing your research and choosing high-quality solar panels is important.
Also, over time solar panels do degrade and produce less energy, so it's a good idea to oversize a system when getting one.
Expectation #2: My Solar System Will Cover My Energy Consumption 100%
Possible? Yes. Is it always realistic? Not so much.
If you have few appliances running and are energy-efficient, a solar system could offset your entire energy consumption. However, if you are like many Americans that enjoy having the AC/heater on, have many light fixtures and appliances running (washer, dryer, fridge, television etc.), your energy consumption might be too high for a roof-mount solar system (that’s limited to the number of viable roof space). Also, if your energy consumption is particularly high, you might need a solar system far larger than you'd want to spend.
To start, it's a good idea to first evaluate why your energy bill is so high. Simple things like switching to LED light bulbs can do a lot of good for your pocketbook.
To add on to this, a common occurrence when someone gets solar is that they begin to use more energy than they would normally did, because they have a solar system and feel comfortable in doing so. Avoid this trap by monitoring how much energy you use.
What typically makes the most sense for most people looking to get a solar system for their home is to offset their energy bill, sell any extra energy produced during the day to the utility company and get energy from the utility in the evening when they need it. This is called “net metering.” Net metering policies vary by region, so check the laws in your area first.
Expectation #3: My Solar System Will Allow Me To Go Fully Off-Grid
Related to the above, even if you have enough space in your backyard for a large ground mount system that will produce enough energy to cover the entire energy consumption of your home, the reality is that in the evening the only way your home will be powered by solar power is if you have a battery/energy-storage system set up, and typically the cost of going full off-grid is costly and doesn’t make financial sense in most cases.
If you are interested in going off-grid however, we do have a guide on the simplest way to get started with an off-grid project, however.
As stated in #3 before, typically net metering makes the most sense rather than trying to go fully off-grid. However, on the bright side, energy-storage systems have been becoming more popular and advanced, and it won’t be too far in the future that going off-grid will be affordable for most people.
The great part about solar is that it’s cheaper than ever to get a solar system to offset your energy consumption. How affordable? Go through the Solar Kit Guide and find out just how much a full system will cost for you.