Solar panels convert energy from the sun into electric energy you can use to generate power for your home. Each solar panel contains electrons that move freely when exposed to sunlight. The electrons’ movement creates energy that the solar panels harness and channel back into your home, according to NASA. Solar panels have a life span of approximately 25 years, depending on the type of panel. Therefore it is important that consumers carefully evaluate both the advantages and disadvantages of solar panels before installing them.
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Pro: Energy Conservation
The average consumer uses electricity when engaging in daily activities such as heating water, turning on lights and cooking. A local utility company burns fossil fuel to generate electricity, which it then directs to the consumer‘s home. Fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, are nonrenewable natural resources and once exhausted, cannot be replaced.
Solar power, however, is a renewable resource. According to "The Boston Globe," the sun produces enough energy every second to meet all of civilization’s energy needs for 500,000 years. The "Globe" reports that by switching to solar power, consumers can help conserve Earth’s remaining natural resources.
Pro: Pollution Free
When utility companies burn fossil fuels to provide electricity to neighboring homes, toxic chemicals such as carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide are released into the air. The Union of Concerned Scientists notes that not only do these chemicals cause air pollution and contribute to smog, but one of the main byproducts of burning fossil fuels, carbon dioxide, contributes to global warming. The solar energy harnessed by solar panels, however, is not detrimental to the environment.
The average home needs at least a five-kilowatt solar energy system before its solar panels will generate enough energy to completely replace electricity. The more energy a set of solar panels produces, however, the more the homeowner can expect to pay. According to CostHelper.com, as of 2010, a small solar energy system of roughly one kilowatt costs approximately $10,000 to $15,000, and a five-kilowatt system can cost up to $45,000. Even if the system will eventually pay for itself, many individuals cannot afford the expense of purchasing solar panels for their homes.
Solar panels provide undeniable benefits but may detract from a home’s curb appeal. The flat, shiny panels can present such an eyesore that homeowners associations around the country, in the interest of maintaining each home’s aesthetic appeal, have attempted to ban homeowners from installing them. "The New York Times" reports that homeowners association bans are so prevalent that individuals in Minnesota, New Jersey and California have all sued their homeowners associations for the right to harness solar energy. While states such as Florida and Arizona have laws preventing homeowners associations from denying a consumer’s application for solar panels, not all states offer this protection.