The pros and cons of setting up solar energy to power your home

As residential electricity tariffs continue to increase and place financial pressure on South African households, many are looking at alternate power sources, such as solar panels, in an attempt to reduce their household electricity consumption according to Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

Citing a recent National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) study, Goslett noted that apart from a safe neighbourhood, the factor that influenced home-buying decisions the most was a home’s energy efficiency.

However, Goslett warned that there are a number of pros and cons that homeowners should consider before they go ahead with adding solar panels to their home.

Pro – Reduce utility bill

“It goes without saying that using power generated from the sun will reduce the amount of electricity used from the main power grid, which will reduce the household’s utility bill,” said Goslett.

“In most cases, solar panel systems save between 50% and 75% of an electricity bill. The money saved can go towards paying the solar panels off or other household expenses.”

Con – The upfront cost

Goslett noted despite becoming increasingly affordable over the past few years, the intial upfront cost of installation was still prohibitively expensive for some. It could also take some time or the system to pay itself off he noted – typically around seven years.

Pro – Increases value of the home

Energy-efficient elements add value to a home, and a large percentage of the initial outlay of such elements is recouped when the property is sold.

“According to the NAHB, approximately 61% of homebuyers would be prepared to pay an additional R50 000 to R100 000 on a home that had features which would reduce utility costs,” said Goslett.

Con – Won’t work on every roof

According to Goslett there are some roofing materials, particularly in older homes, that make it difficult to install solar panels – such as slate tiles. There is also the matter of available space on the roof, many homes have limited clear space to fit the solar panels.

Pro – Reduced carbon footprint

“Although going green will save money on utility costs and add value to the home – the financial aspect it is not the only reason. It is also about sustainability and reducing the household’s effect on the environment and its surroundings.”

“Generating energy from fossil fuels emits harmful carbon dioxide and methane which contributes to global warming – using solar panels for power does not. Solar power also doesn’t require water to process, while other energy sources do.”

Con – Maintenance

As with all household elements, solar panels require upkeep and maintenance, which come at an additional cost. The solar panels will need to be cleaned, repaired when necessary and insured.

“For the right home, installing solar panels could provide a sustainable method of reducing both their energy cost and impact on the environment,” Goslett concludes.


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