Thinking about putting solar panels on your home? Solar is green! Solar will reduce your energy bills! Solar is good for the environment! Solar reduces reliance on fossil fuels! Solar is cool! Right?!
Well, yes, harvesting energy from the sun can be an ‘earth-friendly’ alternative fuel, but is there more to the story? In this post, we’re going to look at what solar panels really are, and explore the not-so-often discussed downsides of using them on your home.
I’m certainly not writing this with the intent of bashing alternate energy sources. I definitely believe we need to reduce our energy consumption and invest in cleaner, smarter, and more earth-friendly technology. However, it’s important for us to know exactly what we’re getting when investing in such sources. As with most things, there is often more to the story than what’s on the surface.
Table of Contents
What Are Solar Panels?
First, let’s explain exactly what solar energy is, or more specifically, solar panels.
Solar panels are photovoltaic cells that are made primarily of silicon, aluminum and glass. You’ve probably used a calculator with a tiny solar panel at the top, or maybe you’ve seen the large panels on the roof of people’s homes. These cells absorb the sunlight, and the light causes the silicon atoms inside the cells to move. The moving electrons travel along the aluminum and a direct current (DC) of electricity is formed.
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Next, that direct current must be converted to an alternating current (AC) to power the devices inside your home. This is done by a DC to AC inverter.
There are a number of different type of solar power inverters. Some operate at the level of each individual panel (called microinverters), while other systems have inverters for each row of panels (string inverters) or centrally for the entire system. You can also get hybrid battery-inverters that both convert and store energy.
The Advantages of Using Solar Power
There are several benefits of using solar panels.
1. Financial savings. Though solar panels are an expensive investment upfront, you will generally see a reduction in your monthly utility bills. How much you save depends on several factors like how many panels you have, how sunny it is where you live, and how much energy you consume. On average, you should expect to see a complete return on your investment in about 7-12 years, with continued savings for the 25-year expected lifespan of the system.
2. Increased home value. Increased demand for ‘green’ energy makes homes with existing solar panels very attractive. Depending on where you live, you can expect a property value increase of roughly 2-5%.
3. Good for the environment. Solar produces ‘clean’ energy without the use of hazardous emissions from fossil fuels, thus lowering greenhouse gases. This is good for both the health of the planet, and for the health of people.
Sounds pretty great right? Those are all things that most of us could get behind. But are there downsides?
The Disadvantages of Using Solar Power
In fact, there are several disadvantages to having solar panels on your home.
1. Upfront costs. Like I mentioned above, most solar panel owners eventually see a reduction in their utility bills. But, there is an approximate upfront cost of anywhere from $10,000 to $27,000. That high upfront cost will be out of reach for many homeowners.
2. Not efficient in cloudy environments. Solar panels obviously work well in sunny climates like Colorado and Arizona, but what about places like Portland OR, and Seattle WA? While you will generate some energy in these cloudy climates, the financial return on your investment will take years longer, if at all.
3. Environmental impacts. Wait! Didn’t I say they were good for the environment? They do help with reducing greenhouse gases, but they are not without their own environmental issues. In order to make the panels, hazardous chemicals are used to clean the semiconductor surfaces. These chemicals may include acetone, hydrogen fluoride, sulfuric acid, trichloroethane and others. In the case of large-scale solar plants, large parcels of land must be cleared and can threaten wildlife habitat. And finally, the manufacturing process itself utilizes significant resources like water, fuel, transportation and chemicals.
4. Health impacts. It will probably come as a surprise to most people that having solar panels on their homes can cause serious health issues. Because the energy created must be converted from DC to AC, dirty electricity can be created and put on the home’s electrical wires.
Many of the issues can be debated. Yes, there is an environmental impact in creating the panels, but over the lifespan of the system, the amount of greenhouse gases saved may outweigh the initial impact. The financial cost upfront can be prohibitive for some, but if you live in the home for at least 10-12 years, you will eventually come out ahead.
Many will even debate whether or not the impact on your health is real. Critics will say there is no scientific evidence showing there is a biological impact. For me, understanding if there are health implications is the most important consideration. While I’m a big fan of conserving energy and using more ‘earth-friendly’ energy sources, it is simply not worth risking the health of my family. So, let’s take a deeper dive into what the scientific literature actually says.
Are Solar Panels Bad For Your Health?
In order to answer this question, remember that solar panels create direct current, which must be converted to alternating current in order to power your home’s electricity and appliances. The system’s inverter takes the low-voltage, high-current signals and converts them to 120-volt or 240-volt alternating current. It’s this conversion that creates what we call ‘Microsurge Electrical Pollution’ or ‘Dirty Electricity’ (DE).
Dirty electricity is considered one of the four main fields that a Building Biologist or other EMF consultant would be concerned about in your home. In addition to testing your home for radio frequency, electric fields, and magnetic fields, the consultant will spend a significant amount of time measuring your DE fields as they can be among the most biologically harmful.
DE is also referred to as ‘hash’, ‘noise’, ‘electromagnetic interference’, ‘dirty power’, ‘transients’, and other terms. It’s essentially an altered sine wave on your 50 or 60Hz AC power line (50Hz in Europe and 60Hz in the US.) Harmonics or frequencies outside of the 50-60Hz standard cycle is considered dirty electricity.
If you’re reading this blog, then you’ve likely heard of electromagnetic fields (EMF) causing health issues for some people. Again, when we talk about EMF radiation, we’re talking about electromagnetic fields that come from electric fields, radiofrequency, magnetic fields, and of course, dirty electricity. In my experience, DE has been the most underappreciated and misunderstood of the four main fields. When I’m working with a very sensitive client, it’s very often the DE that is causing the most symptoms.
Solar Energy and EHS
People who experience electrohypersensitivity (EHS) report a variety of different symptoms like headaches, tinnitus, insomnia, muscle weakness, anxiety, depression, cramping, irritability, memory issues, cognitive decline, and many others. While these people are often labeled as being ‘hyper-sensitive’, it does not mean that they are the only ones being affected. The human body is an electric being. It communicates via its own electric signals. When we expose the body to non-native electric signals like EMFs, then that communication can be disrupted.
I don’t want to spend too much time here explaining exactly how EMF radiation affects us on a cellular level, but if you want to dig into this a bit deeper, I suggest checking out the work of Dr. Martin Pall. See his YouTube channel here.
From Dr. Pall’s work and others, we know that EMF radiation affects our biology acutely. Like with many things, some people are more affected by this than others. Those who are ‘hyper’ sensitive, can feel the effects of EMF immediately, and the symptoms can be debilitating.The interesting thing is that some sensitive people will react more strongly to radio frequency, while others react the most severely to magnetic fields, still others react to electric fields, and some people will have the most problems with dirty electricity.
We don’t really know why people react differently to different fields. Anecdotally, however, the most sensitive people I know react the most severely to DE as I mentioned above.And then there are numerous people who are having EHS symptoms, but they haven’t made the connection that their problems are caused by these frequencies!
The Health Effects of Dirty Electricity
While Dr. Pall’s work focuses on how EMFs affect the cells on a general level, what about DE specifically?Thanks to the work of Dave Stetzer and Sam Milham, there has been significant research in this area. They have found that DE can increase behavior and attention issues; there is a correlation between DE and cancer diagnosis’ as well as with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; chronic stress and neurotransmitter issues can be influenced by DE; DE can negatively impact blood sugar response, and a lot more. Even without this research, I have witnessed among my clients how much DE can impact a person’s health.
I wanted to point this out, because it’s an important thing to understand when you’re considering bringing new items into your home. Maybe you already have your Internet hardwired and keep your phone on airplane mode. There is a lot of awareness around these issues already, but not so much with things like energy-saving appliances and solar panels.
So the big question is, how much dirty electricity does solar emit, and is it enough to impact my health?
How Much EMF Radiation Do Solar Panels Emit?
How much EMF radiation – in the form of dirty electricity– solar panels emit will vary. There are many considerations like the size of the panel, how many panels there are, how much sun is present, other sources of DE inside the home, how efficient the inverter is, etc. There is no way for anyone to say, solar panels give off xx amount of dirty electricity. You have to account for all the variables, and measure with a variety of DE meters.
When I measure DE inside a home I use a Graham Stetzer meter, a Greenwave Meter, an Owon Oscilloscope, and Picoscope. This combination of meters will give me measurements in different frequencies and the oscilloscope and Picoscope will show a visual representation of the amount of DE. Measuring is the only way to know how much DE you have in your home.
So then, how can we know if solar panels will cause a problem for us before we ever install them?
Let me offer you a bit of reference here.I almost always see elevated levels of DE in people’s homes. Often the source is an LED or CFL lightbulb. Using my oscilloscope, I first like to measure inside the home with everything turned off. Here is a picture of my scope in a recent survey I completed. Note the form of the yellow sine wave. That’s more or less how we like it to look. A nice, smooth, thin wave going up and down.
Next I began to turn things on in the house to see if that sine wave changed at all. This is what happened when I turned on one fluorescent lightbulb.
This is quite a significant increase in the dirty electricity. You can definitely expect that to cause health issues. And remember, this was just ONE lightbulb! I see the same thing with computer chargers, LED lights, TVs, and pretty much all energy-saving appliances. If very small devices can contribute so significantly, then I guarantee you that solar panels will have a much more significant impact given the amount of DC to AC conversion they must complete.
In fact, this is exactly what we see when we test solar. A colleague of mine named William Holland (an excellent EMF-aware electrician in Southern California – check out his informative website here) took these pictures of his Picoscope while testing a home with a Tesla Powerwall (a type of battery storage for solar power) that utilizes solar panels. This is what the home’s sine wave looked like with the Powerwall off:
And here is what it looks like with the Powerwall turned on:
Note that on top of the Powerwall, Tesla recently announced the release of their own Tesla brand inverter. A unique feature of the Tesla inverter is over-the-air updates – meaning the device’s software can be updated on the fly via Wi-Fi, Ethernet or cellular connectivity – as well as app connectivity for power management. So there’s a whole spectrum of EMF being emitted by devices like Tesla’s on top of the dirty electricity.
While I don’t have any read-outs from the Tesla inverter at this stage, it would be interesting to test.
Another colleague of mine, Dave Green, who lives in Michigan captured this image on his Oscilloscope from his own home’s solar panels that use microinverters.
And finally, if you want to see this in action, I suggest you watch these videos taken by Building Biologist Eric Windheim in Sacramento.
Solar Panels & EMF: What Should You Do?
I believe these pictures and videos speak for themselves. There is no doubt that solar panels add an extreme level of DE to your home’s wiring. And knowing what we know about the biological impacts of DE, this is simply not a risk I’m willing to take.I have clients that insisted on installing solar even after I explained the concerns to them. For various reasons they thought they could handle the DE, largely because they didn’t feel as though they were sensitive. Sadly, they became sensitive after living with the elevated levels after just a few weeks.
Now, I should say that this hasn’t happened with everyone. Certainly there are people that have solar panels on their homes and they are seemingly quite healthy and don’t exhibit any EHS symptoms. That’s obviously a very good thing. I just hope they don’t develop symptoms or health problems at some point in the future.
I should also note that there are some companies out there that claim to do solar the ‘right way’ to minimize this DE issue. So far I haven’t seen this to be true. I personally have not tested homes with these filters, but I have colleagues that have. They have reported the same levels of DE and associated health symptoms as other solar systems.
In conclusion, it’s an unfortunate fact that solar panel systems do create extreme levels of EMF in the form of dirty electricity. While you may not feel the health effects from it directly, it doesn’t mean that it’s not impacting you. While I personally try to practice energy-saving behaviors as much as possible, I do so by reducing my consumption of electricity, rather than using energy-saving devices. The risks simply are not worth it.
With the increasing awareness of EMFs and the health implications involved, it is my hope that manufacturers of ‘green’ technology will begin to account for this issue in the near future. Meanwhile, I will continue to turn off breakers at night, use electricity sparingly, and enjoy the ambience of reading by candlelight.
If you’d like to learn more about the potential health impact of your solar power system, schedule a time with a certified EMF consultant right here.
Electricity from solar panels and transmission to the power grid emits extremely weak electromagnetic fields. Exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields has been studied extensively, and there is no evidence that it is harmful to human health, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).Does solar panels affect human health? ›
While safely packed into a photovoltaic (PV) solar panel, solar cells are completely non-toxic to humans in every way. With that being said, some solar cells contain chemicals that can harm human health if handled improperly during the panel's manufacturing or end-of-life cycle.Is there a risk of radiation from solar panels? ›
Some people have a myth about solar panels that they release dangerous radiation, which is harmful for human beings and leads to cancer. But the fact is that all these myths about solar panels are false. Up till now, there has been no evidence found that proves that the solar panel or radiation causes cancer.How does solar radiation affect me? ›
Sunburn, immunodepression, photoaging, and photocarcinogenesis, are some of the most significant adverse effects of solar radiation in humans.What is the safe distance from a solar inverter? ›
Safe distance from solar inverter:
However, as a general rule of thumb, it is recommended that you keep at least 3 feet (1 meter) between you and the inverter. If you are pregnant or have young children, it is advisable to keep a greater distance.
- High Cost of Solar Panels. ...
- Sunlight Dependent. ...
- Installation Can Be Difficult. ...
- Space Constraints. ...
- Solar Energy Storage Is Expensive. ...
- Environmental Impact of Manufacturing. ...
- Difficulty With Relocation. ...
- Scarcity of Materials.
- Human Health Risks. While solar power remains a more environmentally friendly form of energy production than fossil fuel sources, it is not completely free of hazards. ...
- Land Use Consequences. ...
- Water Wasted. ...
- Energy Consumption.
Electromagnetic fields produced by solar panels and transmitted to the electricity grid are incredibly weak. The World Health Organization states that despite significant research, there is no proof that low-level electromagnetic field exposure is harmful to human health (WHO).What is a safe distance to live from a solar farm? ›
Because of that, experts recommend living at least 2 kilometers (about 1.2 miles) away from a solar farm.What is solar radiation poisoning? ›
Radiation sickness is damage to your body caused by a large dose of radiation often received over a short period of time (acute). The amount of radiation absorbed by the body — the absorbed dose — determines how sick you'll be. Radiation sickness is also called acute radiation syndrome or radiation poisoning.
What is the danger of a solar storm in space? Very high-energy particles, such as those carried by CMEs, can cause radiation poisoning to humans and other mammals. They would be dangerous to unshielded astronauts, say, astronauts traveling to the moon. Large doses could be fatal.What diseases are caused by large doses of solar radiation? ›
Premature Aging and Other Skin Damage
Other UV-related skin disorders include actinic keratoses and premature aging of the skin. Actinic keratoses are skin growths that occur on body areas exposed to the sun. The face, hands, forearms, and the “V” of the neck are especially susceptible to this type of lesion.
Electricity from solar panels and transmission to the power grid emits extremely weak electromagnetic fields. Exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields has been studied extensively, and there is no evidence that it is harmful to human health, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).What precautions should be taken for solar inverter? ›
Do not place the inverter in direct sunlight. Ideal air temperature is between 50F and 80F. -In order to properly disperse heat generated while the inverter is in operation, keep it well ventilated. While in use, maintain several inches of clearance around the top and sides of the inverter.How close to house do solar panels need to be? ›
Your solar array can be placed anywhere on the property as long as it receives full sun and the solar panels are faced due south. If your well is next to the house but an open patch of sun for the panels is a few hundred feet away, not a problem.What is the dark side of renewable energy? ›
The biggest dark side of renewable energy is likely the amount of space it requires. Each solar farm can produce about 357,000 kWh per acre, but the United States' electricity uses around 4,000 billion kWh each year.Is solar energy the safest? ›
The key insight is that they are all much, much safer than fossil fuels. Nuclear energy, for example, results in 99.9% fewer deaths than brown coal; 99.8% fewer than coal; 99.7% fewer than oil; and 97.6% fewer than gas. Wind and solar are just as safe.Is it worth putting solar panels on my roof? ›
Yes, getting a solar panel system is worth it for the excellent financial benefits and cost savings. However, solar panels aren't suitable for everyone. Residents with low energy needs, low electricity rates, or year-round inclement weather may not save money from a solar system.What are the risks of solar projects? ›
The risks affecting solar projects appear throughout the entire project lifetime. Some examples are the risk of environmental damage, hand injury, fatigue and ergonomics, the collapse of scaffold or ladder, falls, electrocution, and fire.Are too many solar panels bad? ›
What is the disadvantage of having too many solar panels? The disadvantage of having a large solar energy system is that you cannot use all your excess electricity and you get a cheaper price for the excess electricity that you send back to the power company.
The Risk Category 2 designation is a recognition that while solar has become a more critical energy resource and serves some of the same baseload capacity functions as conventional power plants, it still doesn't pose the same level of risk.Do solar panels get worse over time? ›
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that on average, solar panels deteriorate by about 0.5% per year. This means that at the end of 20 years, a solar panel is likely to generate energy at 90% of its maximum when it was new.Do solar panels cause glare for neighbors? ›
Glare will only appear when the sun is at the right height and your neighbor is within the angle of reflection from the solar panels. With a rooftop PV array, glare is most likely going to be above the sightline of any neighboring homes, even those that are taller than yours.What is the damage from solar farms? ›
A solar system releases very little aluminum into the soil, and studies have proven that it has no harmful effects on the planet and it is safe to place solar panels near crops.Do solar farms affect cell service? ›
It is possible for solar equipment to cause interference, but it's very rare. The most plausible case is when you have a poorly shielded coaxial TV cable that runs parallel and near to an AC power cable that carries electricity from the panels on your rooftop.Why do we say no to solar farms? ›
Many people are against them because they think they take up too much space, they can be an eyesore, and they can impact property values. In addition, solar farms can interfere with farming and other land uses, be a danger to wildlife, and create a lot of heat – both in the daytime and at night.Do solar farms devalue property? ›
A new study finds that houses within a half-mile of a utility-scale solar farm have resale prices that are, on average, 1.5 percent less than houses that are just a little farther away.How hot is it above a solar farm? ›
Findings demonstrated that temperatures around a solar power plant were 5.4-7.2 °F (3-4 °C) warmer than nearby wildlands. The result demonstrates that there are potential heat costs to generating green power although the added heat dissipates quickly and can't be measured 100 feet away from the power plants.What are the symptoms of EMF poisoning? ›
The symptoms most commonly experienced include dermatological symptoms (redness, tingling, and burning sensations) as well as neurasthenic and vegetative symptoms (fatigue, tiredness, concentration difficulties, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitation, and digestive disturbances).Can solar flares affect human body? ›
Although solar flares have been known to cause some effect on the environment, there has been no case where humans have been harmed as a result of solar flares hitting Earth.
- Air molecules.
- Water vapor.
- Forest fires.
We have shown on a much larger scale than any of the previous studies carried on this topic so far (63 million instances vs. fewer than 50 individuals) that there is no correlation between geomagnetic storms and headaches and migraines, demonstrating the power of social networking data as a health study platform.What do solar flares release that are harmful to humans? ›
The ionizing radiation released during solar flares includes x-rays and gamma rays. These rays of ionizing radiation can damage satellites because they are in space and are not protected by the Earth's atmosphere.Can solar flares make you tired? ›
Solar storms are known to desynchronize our circadian rhythm, which is the internal biological clock that controls our sleep and wake times. Our pineal glands are affected by this electromagnetic activity and produce an increase in melatonin—thus disturbing our sleep and impacting our intuition.Can solar flares cause illness? ›
These powerful bursts of radiation are nothing to worry about from a health perspective, according to NASA.Does radiation build up in the body? ›
Ionising radiation does not build up in your body any more than light which falls on you builds up in your body. The radiation that reaches you is gone a fraction of a second later.What are the side effects of electromagnetic radiation on humans? ›
Low-frequency magnetic fields induce circulating currents within the human body. The strength of these currents depends on the intensity of the outside magnetic field. If sufficiently large, these currents could cause stimulation of nerves and muscles or affect other biological processes.Why can't solar panels be used at night? ›
Solar panels do not produce energy at night. The photovoltaic cells in solar panels must have sunlight to create electricity.Do solar panels absorb energy at night? ›
The short answer is: no, solar energy systems only operate during the day. This is because the power from the sun is key to how a solar panel turns light into electricity.Where is it safe to keep inverter at home? ›
Hence, it should be installed at a safe location where it may not harm the people passing by it, including a narrow passageway. A safe location can either be a garage or a basement, where you can easily connect your inverter to the local grid.
Disadvantages of Solar Inverter
This kind of inverters is expensive to afford. Sunlight is necessary to generate sufficient electricity. It requires a huge space for installation. It requires a battery to work at night time to provide proper electricity to the home, commercial, etc.
- Remain at least 10 feet away from a solar installation.
- Never walk on solar panels.
- Never cut conduit or the solar system's electrical wiring.
- Never break a panel or contact a damaged system.
Thus, a solar panel installation on a small home might only need around 200 square feet of roof space, while a larger home can require more than 1,000 square feet of roof space to properly offset electricity usage.Where should solar inverters be placed? ›
The best place for the installation of a solar inverter is a place away from direct sunlight with proper air ventilation. The place should be easily accessible for maintenance purposes, preferably moisture resistant and facing north.Is it safe to sit on solar panels? ›
It's not always unsafe to walk on solar panels, but there are many reasons we don't recommend doing so. The risk of electrocution is one of the primary reasons you should avoid walking on solar panels.What effects do solar panels have on a roof? ›
Solar panels can cause roofing materials to deteriorate faster due to the extra weight, and they can also create an extra load on your home's cooling system. However, if installed and maintained properly, solar panels should not damage your roof.Does living next to a solar farm decrease property value? ›
A new study finds that houses within a half-mile of a utility-scale solar farm have resale prices that are, on average, 1.5 percent less than houses that are just a little farther away.What wears out in a solar panel? ›
By nature of their exposure to the elements, solar panels degrade over time. Heavy rainfall, snowfall, ice, as well as high temperatures cause hardening of the crystalline silicon, frame corrosion, and cell contamination.Is it safe to work on solar panels at night? ›
While solar panels can still function on cloudy days, they cannot work at night. The reason for this is simple: Solar panels work because of a scientific principle called the photovoltaic effect, wherein solar cells are activated by sunlight, generating electrical current.What energy is in solar panels? ›
Solar technologies convert sunlight into electrical energy either through photovoltaic (PV) panels or through mirrors that concentrate solar radiation. This energy can be used to generate electricity or be stored in batteries or thermal storage.
Contrary to common solar myths about harmful chemicals, the materials used to make solar panels are sealed and contained so they do not negatively affect the surrounding area.What are the side effects of living by a solar farm? ›
Impacts on Soil, Water, and Air
Large-scale solar facility construction necessitates clearing and grading, can result in changing drainage channels, and cause soil compaction, increased runoff, and erosion. These negative effects can be lessened through the use of engineering techniques.
Solar panels are similar to your home's roof. They can slowly develop organic growth like moss, mold, mildew, algae, and lichen.What happens when you remove solar panels from your roof? ›
The solar panel removal process can be dangerous and cause roof damage when not done properly by licensed professionals. Damage to the panels and improper repair of holes left by the mounting can void roof warranties. Roof-top solar panels offer numerous benefits to homeowners.Do solar panels affect shingles? ›
For most homeowners, as long as your solar panels are properly installed, they shouldn't do damage to the exterior or the infrastructure of your roof. If you are working with a qualified licensed professional and your roof is in good condition, your solar panels won't affect the integrity of your roof.Does solar panels decrease home insurance? ›
Most rooftop solar energy systems are covered by standard homeowners policies, which doesn't change your insurance plan. However, you may need to increase the amount of coverage on your home to account for the cost of the system which can then raise your premium.Do solar panels help or hurt home value? ›
Yes, solar panels will raise your home's property value. Although the added value can vary by location, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that home value increases by $20 for every $1 saved on your utility bills. This translates to a higher market value when selling your home.Are solar panels noisy? ›
Solar panels are designed to be noise-free, especially at night. They're designed to be quiet. Even solar panels that are equipped with any moving parts are intended to be incredibly quiet when operating. So, in a nutshell, you shouldn't hear any noise coming from your solar panel's day or night.