What I'm Seeing Now


The Dark Side Of Solar Power, Part 1

A neighbor of mine is interested in putting solar panels on his house, "to have [his] electric meter roll back and take money off [his] electric bill."  Well, it isn't that simple!  Or possible really.  Why?

Old solar panels on a house

Often I drive through neighborhoods and see old solar panels on a house.  This is the view from the street of a house I inspected yesterday.  Of course these panels stopped working many years ago.  They're gorgeous!

Such panels are seldom removed.  Even the roofers roof around them, as in this case!

Why is that?

One reason is disposal costs.  Many jurisdictions have huge environmental fees associated with solar panel disposal.  Why?

Because of the fact that the panels are manufactured with as many as 49 elements that are prohibited from disposal in a land fill.  Why?

According to Treehugger.com, " little attention is currently paid to the environmental and health costs of the rapidly expanding solar industry; that 'most widely used solar PV panels are based on materials and processes from the microelectronics industry' which could cause an avalanche of e-waste at the end of their productive lifetime of 20-25 years; and that many of the newest panels with higher rates of efficiency use 'extremely toxic materials with unknown health and environmental risks.' "  

Well, that's interesting.  I wonder if they tell you that at the sales pitch?

Futurepundit.com agrees.  " Solar panels are not 100% green and pure. Solar cells may generate clean green electricity but manufacturing them involves a witches brew of toxic chemicals that could harm the environment if millions of solar panels end up in landfills, according to a report issued by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. " 

Not just that.  They also say, " The solar industry’s trade group says it embraces the report’s recommendations. 'We completely support take-back and recycling,' says Monique Hanis, a spokeswoman for the Solar Energy Industries Association in Washington. 'We’re in a fortunate position in that we’re still an emerging industry and have an opportunity now to establish standards and proactively set up processes before we end up with solar panels on every rooftop.' Most of the PV manufacturers in business today won't exist 25 years from now. Some of the biggest suppliers a few decades hence will be companies that aren't even selling PV today. The take-back idea only works if the original seller exists to do the taking back. Otherwise original sellers are going to need to set aside cash in some kind of industry fund to pay for retrieval and disposal. But how to estimate the cost of doing that 25 years in advance or the rate of return of money set aside today for this purpose? "

Solar panels in your yardThe spokeswoman calls solar power an "emerging industry."  Well, the first photovoltaic solar cell was invented in the 1880's by a German scientist.  The technology was tweaked and furthered for space use by NASA, using its first cells on the Vanguard Satellite in 1958.  These panels have been put on people's houses since the late 1960's.  That is NOT "emerging."


What "witches brew of toxic chemicals" do solar panels and photovoltaic (PV) cells contain?

According to the Renewable Energy Geek, who also quotes other sites, here are a few:  copper iridium, selenide sulphides, cadmium, cadmium telluride, mercury, nickel-cadmium, silicon tetrachloride, gallium arsenide, germanium, pyrolitic boron, nitrides, brominated biphenyls, ruthenium metalorganic dyes, various crystalline silicons and nitrogen trifloride.  Try licking some of that!  And you're worried about the "dangers" of microwaving something in plastic wrap?!

As to the nitrogen trifloride, the "geek" says:  " After all, what good is using nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) to manufacture thin cell photovoltaics (a type of solar panel) if there’s a chance it could escape into the atmosphere undermining the benefits solar energy is supposed to offer in the fight against global warming? By the way research results from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography indicate NF3 gas has 17,000 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide and is rapidly increasing in the atmosphere (historically from the electronics industry but the young growing solar industry may be the next tyrant involved). "

Again, the "young, growing solar industry."  Well, NOT!  And I'm not sure I want this "young" industry to grow, especially next door to my house!

But why can't we just recycle the panels?  According to Future Pundit above, there is NO RECYCLING PROGRAM.

You might not be able to put them on your roof, in your yard, or even in your city.  Greencounsel.com posits that the biggest problem in California (THE most solar using state) regards,  " design impacts and architectural compatibility.''  Further, " Dozens of other cities across California are making life difficult for people who want to install solar panels on roofs and businesses, even as state leaders are trying to encourage renewable energy with millions in tax credits and rebates. Some cities require that solar panels can't be seen from roads. Others say they must be installed at the same angle as roofs, which can limit the electricity they generate. "

The horror, the horror...  You mean HOAs get involved?

I am not quoting screaming, mouth-foaming, anti-alternative-energy conservatives!  (I said that tongue in cheek...)  These sites quoted are all ADVOCATES of solar power for our homes, and even they recognize these serious problems!  None of them would put such a "toxic mix" on their houses, in their yards and probably wouldn't want to see panels next door because of the poisons and disagreeable view.  So, what to do?  What would they say if a hail storm breaks a few panels and some of the toxins leak into their neighbor's gutter and yard?  This happens a lot!  Hmmm...

I barely scratched the surface of problems associated with solar panels and the solar industry.  Yet we are touting this as a means of weaning our "addiction" to oil and coal?  Well, I don't think so!

In Part 2 I will talk a bit about the costs of installing a system.  To quote Robert Baden-Powell (founder of the Boy Scouts), BE PREPARED.




Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Comment balloon 94 commentsJay Markanich • March 25 2011 05:47AM


Hi Jay. As the industry grows and it will. The best way to controll "NF3" is to come up with a eco friendly alternative. Just like the industry did for the "freon" issues in the air conditioning businesses.

As a "new industry grows" the technology will also "grow".

Have a great day,



Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) almost 10 years ago

The solar industry is the result of a corrupt industry making contributions to corrupt politicians to obtain corrupt benefits from a corrupt congress enabling a corrupt regulatory agency.

The American public simply has it's pocket picked in the name of energy conservation. 

The current administration is the most environmentally active in our history and the most corrupt in our history.  Most of the corrupt policies of this corrupt administration have been implemented by regulation and not by Congressional action. 

Sadly, it will take decades to reverse course and recover from these insidious and corrupt policies while the corrupt beneficiaries and their sponsors will be basking in luxury while the American tax payer pays and pays and pays.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 10 years ago

Jay, Had no idea on the disposal of solar panels, although thinking about how they're made would have made that clear that there could be problems.

Posted by Liz and Bill Spear, RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton) (RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 www.LizTour.com) almost 10 years ago

Hard to say Clint.  I guarantee when you see the costs it won't grow on your house.  PV cells have to use those chemicals, that's the point.  They work great in space, but not here.  Alternatives one day?  Perhaps.  The current PV cells only use 2 light waves.  Maybe that will improve too, but any industry (and this is not a "new" industry) that cannot stand on its own without gubment subsidy is not ready for economic use.

Just from what I know now, my neighbor will not be putting these on his roof.  If he does, I will move.

Lenn - so what's your point?

You know I'm kidding.  And those "contributions" come from our tax dollars!  It's a tax dollar money-laundering scheme!  Hey, that sounds like public unions!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Bliz - you should read the stats about what happens to people who actually work on manufacturing these in the factories!  Let's say they have a very short life span. And, gee, guess where most are made?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

You talked me out of it.   Now, I am going to put up a windmill.  The neighbors will love it.  LOL!

Posted by Ron Marshall, Birdhouse Builder Extraordinaire (Marshall Enterprises) almost 10 years ago

Good morning, Jay. I have to agree in part to what Lenn said. Big industry and big bucks, makes for consumers to get the shaft. Funny how TVA used to be the cheapest electricity around. Now they are getting to be almost the highest. Although they said we would not have to pay for the fiasco in Maryville, we are all paying - big time...

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Actually Ron, you won't want to do that either!  That will be the subject of a future post!  You know what, I talked ME out of it!  This post is just a small amount of what my research uncovered.

Michael - nope.  Your grandparents and parents paid for the TVA every month their entire lives.  It is not self sustaining.  "They" always tell you this or that won't cost you - think carefully...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago


Posted by Steve Traylor, ASHI Certified Home Inspector (A+ Home Inspections dba A+ Services, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Solar power in a rural area without commercial power is a good alternative.  Most of these homes are small, under 800 sq. ft. and the systems are small in size. 

The larger systems in established neighborhoods are questionable.

Posted by Dan Edward Phillips, Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, CA (Dan Edward Phillips, Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, CA) almost 10 years ago

Short and succinct Steve.

Dan - I have never seen a system on a house, like in the photo above, that comes anywhere near able to make a dent in a home's energy needs.  And a smaller system for a smaller house has to be the same, nevermind the cost to install and maintain.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Well Jay after reading this post I won't be easily "seduced by the the dark side" of the PV force. :-)

Posted by Larry Estabrooks, 100% representation means NEVER DUAL AGENCY ! (Independent Real Estate Agent) almost 10 years ago

The technology clearly isn't there yet Larry, at least not for private homes.  And even when these things are installed publically (read that with yours and my money), the poisons are still there.  What happens to underground water sources?!

It shouldn't be foisted on us until things are safe.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Hi Jay - Well that was an illuminating blog.  I never gave disposal a thought.  49 materials that are prohibited in landfills.  Wow.

Posted by Conrad Allen, Webster, Ma, Realtor (Re/Max Professional Associates) almost 10 years ago

Ma Conrad - depends on the jurisdiction, if they even know!  But still, that doesn't diminish the problems with leaching into underground water sources.  That is frightful!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Hmmm...the beginnings of any major ....spreading alternative is not likely to be without challenges...and like anything else...will have pros and cons...Now...Billy Jay...just invent that solar-recycling facility franchise and collect your rays bucks !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) almost 10 years ago

Jay - This is the first article I have seen regarding disposal issues relating to solar panels.  In Ontario,  electrical generated must be sold to the grid, even if you are installing solar panels on your house.

Posted by FN LN almost 10 years ago

Yes, I've heard about some of these issues...and I think we'll hear a lot more abt it in years to come (maybe 20-25yrs when all the ones from recent yrs reach their shelf life).

BTW,  I may be wrong, but the picture of the first one doesn't look like it would be that efficient w/ all those trees around.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) almost 10 years ago

S&D - maybe Billy should get on this.  Apparently it is a huge, and growing, international issue.

Marc - but that is public (meaning your money) and the disposal issues aren't perhaps thought about?

Debbie - I think when they put those on, in the early 70's, things weren't so overgrown.  And these panels were never maintained, so they gave out in just a couple of years.  Overall these two panels provided only 5% of the water heater's needs, so they saved perhaps $12 per year.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Good morning Jay;  can't we use them for roads?  see my blog post http://activerain.com/blogsview/2201230/solar-highway-

Posted by Kenneth Cole, NYS Licensed Real Estate Salesperson (Weichert Realtors Appleseed Group, 2043 Richmond Ave. S.I.N.Y. 10314. office phone 718-698-9797, Appleseedhomes.com -) almost 10 years ago

Well, I commented on your post Ken.  That still doesn't answer the toxic stuff, which apparently they want to increase by 25000 sq miles.  Wait until you see my post on costs!  Oh, wait.  If the gubment puts them in it doesn't cost me anything right?  It's the gubment's money...    ;>)

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Jay - Solar panels are not 100% green and pure.  And when you consider that the majority of solar panels are made in China, can you imagine the toxic soup that's involved?  Can anyone say Chinese drywall?

And as for solar roadways, I love the creative approach to replacing asphalt, but can't imagine that the cost or effectiveness can be solved this century.

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) almost 10 years ago

Jay, as somebody who is interested in reducing my dependence on utilities, I have to say, this is the first that I have heard about this.  I dismissed PV primarily due to cost factors so I didn't get too far into it.  I guess the windmill is the answer, but I don't like wearing those wooden shoes.

Posted by Chris Mayr (D3 Interactive Marketing) almost 10 years ago

PV technology does leave you holding the bag, so to speak, of chemical soup. Prius batterie technology has similar problems for production and disposal both in terms of toxic chemistry and environmental impact.

There are solar technologies that deliver heat to homes and businesses without any negative chemical impacts. They can be bulkier but that can be accommodated by good design and some designs recycle materials without reprocessing (repurposing used containers).

solar heater

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) almost 10 years ago

Wow great information.  Haven't heard about most of this.  Thank you.

Posted by Gary Pike (Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Metro Brokers) almost 10 years ago

How interesting. A manufacturing industry producing toxins in the manufacturing process and the government has some role in allowing it to happen. I think they have a name for that, Super Fund Site. :)

This is nothing new and obviously needs to be addressed. Newer solar energy technolgies are being developed which are more efficient and less obtrusive. I would certainly hope they are also less toxic.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Great post Jay, now you have us all thinking (which is what we are suppose to be doing) but it made me wonder about the highway signs we have now that are also solar fed as well as my landscape lighting.

When and where will these start to become an issue. The plastic,batteries etc.

Thanks for the thoughts

Enjoy the day

Posted by Don MacLean, Realtor-Homes for Sale- Easton, Mass 02356 (New England Real Estate Center Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Jay, the same thing happened in the Nuclear industry---now what do we do with these dang "rods?"  These things are unfortunately more about GR$$N than Green.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 10 years ago

I allude to where they are made in #5 John.  Yes, China!  Oh boy!  You have to wonder how many thousands of cases leukemia and other disastrous medical conditions have sprung up in those factories!

Chris - you won't like the wind mill either.  Biggest problem - lubrication.  I will have a future post on that too...

Robert - I have no idea what that thing in your photo is, but I assure you my HOA wouldn't permit it!

You are welcome Gary.  More to follow, if I can do the math!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Jim - say it ain't so!  The Super Fund!??  To date solar is very inefficient and NOT cost effective.  Maybe they should foist it on us after it's safer than aspirin (which wouldn't be approved today by the FDC!)...

All the same Don!  A PV cell is a PV cell!  If you have them in your yard and step on and break one, don't clean it up with your tongue!

Charlie - those rods became a problem during the Carter administration because he was fed bad info.  I understand they are safe under as little as 4' of water.  A friend of mine is a nuclear scientist and he says that there is more radiation in a shovel full of dirt than a spent 4' nuclear rod.  Is that true?  I don't know!

P.s.  Green always means Gr$$n!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

I had no idea, I haven't even thought about it.  Thank you for the excellent information. 

Posted by Tracy McPeek almost 10 years ago

Jay, I had no idea about the disposal issue. A friend of mine is manufacturing them overseas for sale in the US. All I have heard fro him and other companies is the numerous incentives that the government is giving to install solar panels on homes. No one ever talked about the aging and need for replacement. As a matter of fact my parents had them installed on their house in Turkey many years ago and had to abandon them on the roof at some point.

Posted by Rachel Benjenk, White Plains, Eastchester, Hartsdale, Scarsdale NY 10583 (Coldwell Banker Scarsdale NY 10583) almost 10 years ago

I don't think many people do think of that end Tracy!  Of anything really.

Rachel - they don't last very long, are very inefficient, extremely expensive and require very regular maintenance.  I will have another post on the costs, which is frightening.  And the gubment gives "incentives" with our money!  Anything that can't stand on its own without subsidies is not ready economically for the market.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Thanks for the great information. 

Posted by Mike Cooper, Broker VA,WV, MD, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) almost 10 years ago

Hi Jay -- Wow, I wonder what would result if say two kids were playing baseball and the baseball was thrown or hit into the middle of one of the panels and shattered it?  Or are the panes of glass tempered to withstand falling tree branches, baseballs, etc.?  I would hope so.

I wonder what the net cost is, using the initial costs, ongoing maintenance costs, disposal costs (averaging out the total impact to the environment as no one tends to really focus on these costs).

I had no idea, thanks for the education Jay, I always learn a TON from you.

Posted by Chris Olsen, Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate (Olsen Ziegler Realty) almost 10 years ago

Gee Jay, I've got the solution.  Just run an electric extension cord to the Sun, and plug it in.  HA HA HA  On the serious, I didn't realize about the recylcling issues.  We don't see solar panels much around here, cause it rains a lot. 

Posted by Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED (RETIRED / State License is Inactive) almost 10 years ago

One of our most popular morning shows on the radio constantly plugs solar here in San Diego. The main guy claims that on his 3,400-SF mansion his electricity bill dropped to a mere $40 after he had solar panels installed. There are other stories here, all hearsay to me, about people whose electricity bills dropped substantially, some to $0.

There are all sorts of things that we are pushing off to the next generation — car batteries, CFLs, electronics, etc. Sure, we're supposed to recycle it, but when the recycling station charges you to recycle it, most people just throw it out the back of the car as they are driving down the freeway at 2:00 in the morning.

Posted by Jim Frimmer, Realtor & CDPE, Mission Valley specialist (HomeSmart Realty West) almost 10 years ago


Very well researched post. Congratulations of the gold star feature. :)


Posted by Steve Hoffacker, Certified Aging In Place Specialist-Instructor (Steve Hoffacker LLC) almost 10 years ago

Thanks for the information today. I enjoyed the read.  First I've heard of this however,. 

Patricia/Seacoast NH& ME

Posted by Patricia Aulson, Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes (BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOME SERVICES Verani Realty NH Real Estate ) almost 10 years ago

Thanks for the information today. I enjoyed the read.  First I've heard of this however,. 

Patricia/Seacoast NH& ME

Posted by Patricia Aulson, Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes (BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOME SERVICES Verani Realty NH Real Estate ) almost 10 years ago

Jay, good post. I was always a bit troubled with the panels installed over the roof. What if the roof started to leak somewhere; how easy would it be to remove the panels and fix or replace the roof? I heard first hand and very recently that Certaintee shingles is getting on the solar panel bandwagon. They avoided the roof leak problem, previously mentioned above, with a membrane that entirely covers the roof and with flashings. Yes.  Lifespann was still questionable, 25 to 30? permeability quotient from hale or other like projections- not good. It would need patching. Hmm? And of course payback time...the speaker from Certainteed wasn't quite clear on that. That would be the most important factor to me.

Anyway, with just a little sidestepping from this topic. did you ever hear about a company, I believe called called Halloway, who manufactures air compressors/and blower units that are about twice as efficient as an average residential air compressor? The compressor operates without back-up heat even in very cold temperatures. I almost bought one two years ago. They've been around for 5 years at that time. Perhaps that's the way to go. If I remember correctly, the savings was about 40 percent. I plan to look into them in the near future; by that time their product should be better field tested.

Posted by Stephen Robert Sliwka, Realtor, Somerset County New Jersey (Goden Key Realty) almost 10 years ago

Wow! You are bringing up some very valid points that I hadn't thought about.

Posted by Kim Dove, Realtor - Jacksonville FL (Watson Realty Corp) almost 10 years ago

Hi Jay,   WOW!  Very interesting points.  Great blog! Can't wait for part 2.

Posted by Ricki Eichler McCallum, Broker,GRI,ABR, e-Pro, TAHS (CastNet Realty) almost 10 years ago

Wowie that is nice to know. I am all for alternative energy but if it is just as toxic as what it was developed to replace that is definately not such a good thing! I am looking forward to installment two. Thanks for the information.

Posted by Rosalie Evans, The Evans Group, Sioux Falls, SD Homes For Sale (Meritus Group Real Estate) almost 10 years ago

Jay,  I had no idea either.  I come across them once in a while in Florida for heating pools.  Very interesting post!

Posted by Elyse Berman, PA, Boca Raton FL (561) 716-7824 CRS, ABR, GRI,ePR (Best Connections Realty, Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Jay, your post came 4 months late for us.  We had installed 31 panels because DC offered one of the best incentives around.  In two years our system would have paid for itself.  We were planning to install them on a rental property, too. However,DC took the Pepco set aside funds to pay their bills and stopped refunding home owners who signed up to the solar installation program. 

Needles to say, we did not go ahead with the second purchase. 

We did not think about disposal problems, but I do not feel guilty as I think the new mercury bulbs will be a much bigger problem than the solar panels.  I am optimistic that we will find a solution.

Thanks for the information!


Posted by Simone Bercu, Not state specific Real Estate - GRI, e-PRO, AB (Metro Referral) almost 10 years ago

Wow, I had no idea. Thanks for bringing the issue to my attention.


Posted by Mel Ahrens, MBA, Kelly Right Real Estate, Customized Choices for your Real Estate Needs (Kelly Right Real Estate) almost 10 years ago

Another GREAT post Jay. There are a few friends I can't wait to share this with.

Posted by Bob "RealMan" Timm, Owner of Ward Co. Notary Services, retired Realtor (Ward County Notary Services) almost 10 years ago

Hi Jay,

I had no idea about all.  I'm so glad you let us know about this.  Thanks!

Cheers from Lake Tahoe,


Posted by Brandon & Grace Yee, Lake Tahoe Real Estate (Chase International) almost 10 years ago

Jay, I had NO idea that something touted as 'green' had such serious toxic issues. I guess I will table any thoughts of going solar. The solar I am most familiar with involves swimming pools to heat the water. They are fairly popular here in Florida.


Posted by Sharon Alters, Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL (Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308) almost 10 years ago

One other quote comes to mind: "There's no such thing as a free lunch."

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 10 years ago
Hi Jay- I had no idea about the toxicity of solar panels either! I just assumed they were "green". Just goes to show you that most things are not as the seem! I am dissappointed to learn this!
Posted by Vickie McCartney, Broker, Real Estate Agent Owensboro KY (Maverick Realty) almost 10 years ago

I see very few of them here, other than messed up glass panels that homeowners think help warm the house while allowing leaks below.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Solar is an important technology and it will need to used.  I didn't know HOW toxic some of the panels are - but that's what R&D is for and we need to get on it ASAP.  We can't drill our way out of this mess.

Posted by Ruthmarie Hicks (Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605) almost 10 years ago


 Solar panels are no different to dispose of then the same computer you posted this on, or the cell phone used every day. It's E-waste with the same exact material.  Large companies are set up now to recycle 90% of the material in the coming years.  Please get a little more accurate on this post..... You seem to have minimal knowledge on this topic if any. I am not bashing you but I am in the field full-time, your entire post is way off including the roofing comment and the power out-put for a home.  The panels you show on that home are from the 60's.



Posted by Brian Neveil almost 10 years ago

Had absolutely no idea...think I need to start doing alot more research.  Sounds like you are doing a great service to get this message out.  I will be looking for part II.

Posted by Jim Ed Brown (Brown Land & Timber Company) almost 10 years ago

Great article.  Solar is very big here in Southern California,  Lot's of sun and many homes with pools that require some heating....Gives us a lot to think of.....tks..

Posted by Ronald DiLalla, No. Orange Cty Real Estate (Century 21 Discovery DRE 01813824) almost 10 years ago

You're welcome Mike.  I am glad you enjoyed it.

Chris - that was another thing I discovered during my research.  How vulnerable the panels are - the things you mention, hail storms, heat/cold cycles, etc.  Then that stuff, some of which is really toxic, drains into your yard!   Costs are next.  All I will say now is,  wow...

Carla - your plug in comment made me laugh!  You get a big smooch.  You live in the WORST area for solar, not surprisingly.  That will also be the subject of my next post.

Jim - you are right about everything you say.  We are pushing too much off.  Our current debt is the most frightful thing of all.  But as to solar, just installing a basic system on my house, I would break even in 384 years!  Woohoo!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Thanks Steve.  I did not realize that until this morning, and I have a huge day today.

You're welcome Patricia!  Twice!

Stephen - the life span of the system is about 20, IF you do regular maintenance.  The break even is NOT 20!  I have never heard of those compressors, sorry.

Kim - there are many more bad things to break up, all of which I learned on ADVOCATE websites!

Ricki - thanks.  It won't be out today.  I have a huge day.  Hopefully I can get it out tomorrow morning.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Rosalie - I am afraid we are no where near economical, efficienct, useful "alternative" energy!

Elyse - don't dip the stuff in the pool water!  Yikes!

Simone - we are creating all kinds of problems for ourselves, all in the name of "saving" the planet, like we have the ability to do that...  In discussing the costs, and given our geographic area, installing panels on my house (if I could) would not pay for itself for 384 years.

Thank you Gretchen.  I had no idea either!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Thanks Bob.  And you are NOT in an area that can benefit from solar.

Thank you Grace and I'm glad you stopped by!

Sharon - your disposal issues are the same!  And "green" is defined as "gr$$n."

You think that way too Reubs?!  Good to hear...  Uncle Miltie was/is one of my favorites.  I quote him a lot on Tuesday.  Here's another one - there's no such way humans can possibly "save" the earth.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Vickie - why would "green" not be toxic?  Do you use CFLs?  There are more reasons NOT to use those than TO use them...

Steve - you will find on my next post that Bellingham is considered the WORST city in America for solar panels.

Glad you stopped by Brian.  Did you join AR simply to comment on my post?  I'm honored!

My quotes are from websites ADVOCATING solar power, so if they are way off contact those sites.  I gave you the links.  And I was unaware until now that my computer and phone contain PV cells.  And if everything has so much "e waste" we need to stop producing "e products!" 

Yes the panels in that photo are old, in this "young" industry.  That is my point.  I see them all the time!  And my roofing comment is based on personal experience witnessed during home inspections, so I have been seeing what I said for nearly 30 years.  Even a roofer friend of mine works around those panels.  Again, his experience.  My next post will put up power output for a home - mine!  I didn't on this one!

BL&T - anyone can do the research.  It is out there.  I never check the anti sites.  The advocate sites are far more honest about the disabilities of the products they tout.

Ronald - you are in one of the best "zones" in the country for solar collection.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago
That is interesting. Now I am anxious to read part two of your series.
Posted by Cheryl Ritchie, Southern Maryland 301-980-7566 (RE/MAX Leading Edge www.GoldenResults.com) almost 10 years ago

Thanks for this information.  We're starting to plan the building of our home and were toying with the idea of solar or wind energy, but hadn't started doing any research yet.   Reading about disposal issues (which I wouldn't have thought of) was very enlightening.  I'm interested in the future windmill post!

Thanks for posting.

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, Blackstone Realty Group - brokered by eXp Realty) almost 10 years ago

Sooner or later Cheryl!  I am real busy today, until late.

Kathleen - you won't be able to do wind.  Too close to housing - yours and others.  As to solar you will have to investigate carefully!  You are not in a very productive solar area.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Hey Jay

Great, information and with the coat of purchasing and installing them, I wonder if it's really worth it. Plus I did not realize the cost and trouble of disposing them. May be something to warn home buyers of if their thinking of purchasing a house with the panels.

Posted by Eric Middleton, Professional Property Inspector (Closer Look Property Inspections Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Jay, I wasn't aware of the toxic issues associated with solar panels. A few years back every other house seemed to have them in my area. Now most are all gone. I wonder how they disposed of them?

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA almost 10 years ago

Jay, I didn't see much engagement in the comments from the treehuggers.

Posted by Mike Frazier, Northwest Tennessee Realtor (Carousel Realty of Dyer County) almost 10 years ago

wow! I had NO IDEA and have a funny feeling most people consider putting up solar panels a good thing without any idea of the environmental consequences of getting rid of them later OR about how they are produced! Thanks for a wonderfully informative post!!!

Posted by Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi, MA, PSA, TRC - Greater Clearwater Florida Residential Real Estate Professional, Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Safety Harbor (Charles Rutenberg Realty) almost 10 years ago

Great post Jay. I was thinking about making our home greener like the waterless tank and solar panels. Glad I read you post. I would have to think twice in terms of cost and now all the other crud you mentioned.

Posted by Mike Yeo (3:16 team REALTY) almost 10 years ago
Great post, Jay. I've been saying this for 30 years. The best way to protect the planet?...live modestly. ... and hope for the best. We humans have, virtually, no control.
Posted by Kent Anderson, from Schweitzer to the Lake (Coldwell Banker Resort Realty, Sandpoint, Idaho) almost 10 years ago

Hi Jay, I had no idea of the toxicity in manufacturing the panels, let alone the hideous fact there no is recycling program. Will be anxiously awaiting your part 2 post!

I have been interested in the pro & cons of turbine power maybe you will enlighten us with this subject in the future Wise Man Jay???

Posted by Cynthia Bartch almost 10 years ago

Jay, I agree that there are many concerns with photovoltaic solar panels, and that the solar industry glosses over those problems.

However, I take issue with your statement at#33: ..."And the gubment gives "incentives" with our money! Anything that can't stand on its own without subsidies is not ready economically for the market."

"The U.S. coal industry enjoyed subsidies of around $17 billion between 2002 and 2008, including tax credits for production of "nonconventional" fuels ($14.1 billion), tax breaks on coal royalties ($986 million), exploration, and development breaks ($342 million), according to a study by the Environmental Law Institute."

According to the same study, U.S. fossil fuels industries enjoyed government subsidies of about $72.5 billion from 2002-2008.

Here's a thought-provoking question posed in a post at Cleantech.com: "... what would oil cost if the industry had to pay to protect its shipments, and clean up its spills? If the environmental impact of burning petroleum were considered a cost? Or if it were held responsible for the particulate matter in people's lungs, in liability similar to that being asserted in the tobacco industry?"

All technologies have a downside and government subsidies are a factor in many industries.

Posted by John Cahill (Century 21 Leading Edge Realty Inc) almost 10 years ago

Hi Jay, I found your post very interesting, and since you don't seem to have too many comments from the "dark side" I'll venture in. First, regarding the value of the systems: I have a 5kW PV system, has been in place for several years. It is not on my roof, but mounted on a frame in my side yard. It has substantially reduced our electric bill, zero in some months, actual credit carried forward in others. Of course it doesn't help my heating bill, which is natural gas. Have to drill a well for that I guess, lol.  I am not sure what "regular maintenance" you are talking about. Apart from sweeping off the snow so that they actually function, there has been no maintenance required as of yet. The panels themselves are barely visible to anyone in the neighborhood, and are ground-mounted to ensure optimal positioning toward the south. We have tons of sunny days here, and not too hot (the panels are less efficient at higher temperatures).

Your comments about the eventual disposal are enlightening. I think you make very valid points, to the extent that your sources are accurate. It will be interesting to see where this goes; no question it will have to be addressed in the next 20-30 years, and I certainly hope someone is working on recycling and recapturing some of the components. It sounds like such recycling will be critical, not just for solar panels, but for other electronic devices as well, that contain many of the same heavy metals. In my personal opinion, throwing up our hands and saying "oh darn, there are problems here, let's just scrap the whole thing and go back to depending on oil" is not the answer.

Posted by Linda Humphrey, CRS, Broker/Owner HHC Realty (Humphrey Home Connections Realty, Reno, Nevada) almost 10 years ago

Thanks Jay,


I've always wondered about the costs of installing them and if there was any maintenance but never thought much about the disposal of them.  Certainly food for thought.

Posted by Kieno Simeon Your South Riding Real Estate Consultant (Keller Williams Realty) almost 10 years ago

   Wow! What an eye-opener. I've been interested in both active and passive solar systems since the late '60's, and I consider myself 'environmentally conscious', but the disposal issue never even crossed my mind. This has been one of those classic 'duh!' moments for me.  Thanks for all the (obvious) work on the research for this post. Now it's got me thinking as to just how much gallium arsenide I have in my computers and cell phones...


Posted by John J. Woods, Going where no man has gone before - wouldn't you? (Big Dog Press, LLC) almost 10 years ago

This is an extremely interesting post.  I have been considering adding more solar panels to my roof (solar panels for water heaters in Hawaii are pretty much standard equipment on every home here).  Gives me pause.  I'll be looking forward to Part 2. 

Posted by Janet Jones, Home Staging, Interior Redesign Kihei, Maui, Hawaii (Just Your Style Interiors, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Eric - I see houses virtually every day with decades-old panels on the roof!  And then the associated damage inside from leaking through the bolts!

Michael - maybe in a way that makes us all healthier?  Or improves our underground water supplies?

Mike - all my info came from advocate sites.  When they say to have the panels is more damaging than not, then what are we to think?

You're welcome Barbara-Jo - you are in a good solar zone!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Mike - I looked into the waterless tanks for my house.  Using the formula on THEIR website, and my gas costs, I would break even in 32 years.  That means the real break even is out a bit further.  But, they say I can expect the tank to last 15-18 years!  What...?

Kent - I agree - we are stewards of the great gift created FOR us and given TO us for free.  We should take care of it!

Cynthia - I have been looking into wind for some time, if that is what you mean.  The biggest problem?  Lubrication!

John - incentives to individuals and subsidies to industries are apples and oranges.  But both come from you and me!


Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

I'm not sure you're the dark side Linda!  You are in a good solar zone, but you are right, heat is a factor.

Kieno - installation costs vary greatly!  Depends on what you are doing and who does it.

John - there sure is a lot of chemical crap in our lives, huh?

Janet - the panels originally installed here were tied directly to water heaters, but only provided a portion of the electricity.  People tell me about 5% of the heater's electrical use.  Not a lot!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Jay  I knew I didn't want these, but I just didn't know why - thank you

Posted by Karen Kruschka, - "My Experience Isn't Expensive - It's PRICELESS" (RE/MAX Executives) almost 10 years ago

Karen - I'm still working on the research for the next post!  Lots of fuzziness.  I have some people in the business helping me to understand.  But I'm still fuzzy!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago


I have been wanting to convert to Solar for some  time. Now I have more to think about.  :)

Posted by 1~Judi Barrett, BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK (Integrity Real Estate Services 118 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745) almost 10 years ago

Judi - I am still researching, but I will have more information in Part 2.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Jay, like most things, we don't hink through the whole process thoroughly.  Recycling of these components must be addressed by the manufacturers as part of the development, even if we have to legislate it.

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) almost 10 years ago

Chris - legislation of nuclear stuff killed that industry!  What would it do to solar!?  But you're right, we don't go to the end sometimes when we begin.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

I see them once in a while here. Usually the panels have significant moisture between the panels and they look terrible.

Posted by Vince Santos, Southeast Michigan Home Inspector (StepByStep Home Services LC) almost 10 years ago

You aren't in the best solar zone Vince, so you can't see too many!  But that is one of the big problems.  And what to do with them when you want to sell your house!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Jay, it is such a paradox to be marketing and pushing green energy, while forgetting about the disposal of the toxic soup it's made of when it's time to trash it. Wow.


Posted by Sharon Alters, Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL (Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308) over 9 years ago


All very good points. I think as the technologies emerge they will be alternatives that are less toxic but that is obviously not now.

There are environmental problems with almost all energy source. Nuclear, petroleum and coal have just as many concerns. Hydro is not without it issues also.  

But what is needed to be done is an unbiased evaluation of the various energy sources and decide what make sense to pursue for us as a nation.

Solar energy on an industrial scale with the use mirrors and towers still may be the best solution. The SW has enough solar energy to power the entire continent. This would entail completely redoing the grid system as it is today which should be done anyway. And almost completely domestic when up and running.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

Sharon - and, pretty much, it does not do what advertised.

Don - the problem with industrial use is the enormous space required to have enough panels.  The SW can NOT provide enough electricity to supply the country.  If it could, it would!  There is no profit.  That's why it has not and cannot take over. 

Only 1/3 of my electrical needs would be satisfied if I completely filled my south-facing roof with panels.  And that would cost between $50 - $80K to install.  And as my electric usage increases 7% every year, that 1/3 gets less and less.  AND, if I have a roof problem, or need to replace my shingles, well, the expense to remove and reinstall the panels is enormous.

If we were smart, we would have 150-200 more nuclear power plants.  We aren't smart.  We don't have them for two reasons - a movie in the 70s and Mr. Carter, who made it so difficult to get rid of nuclear waste water and to get permits to build power plants that it shut down the industry.  But then again, that was his goal.

We are still paying for Mr. Carter, probably the worst president in history.  He is desperately hoping for the change to be made #2 by the Grand Imam.  That would bump Buchanan to #3.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago


Nuclear power has so many issues also. Let alone the issue of disposing the highly toxic waste it produces, then you have the issues of getting the ore out of the ground and refining it.

I have spent some time at Hanford site here in Washington (a nuclear quagmire). I was responsible for the disposal of hazardous waste (radioactive and chemical) at the company I worked for and if you see what issues they had dealing with small nuclear reactors I could only imagine what the issue of the large reactors are.

Many of the steps are complex in the process of creating nuclear energy.

First the mining of uranium, as well as its refining and enrichment, and the production of plutonium produce radioactive isotopes that can contaminate the surrounding area, including the groundwater, air, land, plants, and equipment. As a result, humans and the entire ecosystem are adversely and profoundly affected.

Some of these radioactive isotopes are extraordinarily long-lived, remaining toxic for hundreds of thousands of years. Presently, we are only beginning to observe and experience the consequences of producing nuclear energy.

The movie may be a public issue but there are some very real issues with the nuclear industry at large.

I spent many years handling and working with radioactive substances. In most part, smaller quantities (10 mc or less) of the higher toxic materials. But it does not take much to be very dangerous and long lasting.

So like many solutions there are some background issues.

Solar energy is the most abundant source of energy available on the earth and we should be working toward improving those technologies to take advantage of it.

Like I said earlier we need to evaluate all that is involved in creating an energy source and what the impacts are.

We may have to agree to disagree here. But it is always good to debate and bring out different points of view.



Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

I don't think we disagree so much here Don.  But this industry is said to be in its "infancy," and it is 40 years old.  It still needs to be subsidized because WE ARE NOT THERE YET.  And to foist it onto the public as some solution is odd at best - obviously politically motivated. 

For me, I cannot afford to put that on my house, and certainly to only provide about 1/3 my needs.  And my needs will overtake the system's ability to provide that 1/3 quickly. 

I have not heard of any, but have there been any deaths in the US because of nuclear energy in power plants, Navy ships and the like?  Having to take great care and consideration for the future is not so much a draw back to me.  My power is provided by nuclear (the Lake Anna plant) and it has been shut down since the earthquake for "inspections."  In that time my bills have gone up!  That plant virtually sat on top of ground zero! 

Personally I think it was aliens...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

Jay, LOL I love them aliens, now they need to give us their energy source and we can move on ; ) 

I also think we may need to take a multi-faceted approach to addressing these issues. I just seems to me that it makes senses to go after an energy source that is readily available and I agree we have not come nearly as far as we should of by now but just because it is harder than we thought it should be is no reason to stop. 

Out here we are so spoiled because our energy is so cheap. People here just do not realize how lucky we have it.

As for deaths I am sure there has been some attributed to nuclear exposures and contamination from the process. I can not imagine how it could not. Everything has a risk. But the problem with this is could show many years later in a form of cancer or other ailment.

I am pretty sure that I may have a higher probability to some issues that may come later in my life due to the work I have done. I have been exposed, though they say to be acceptable levels, but we really do not know for sure as this is still a fairly young history when dealing with these substances.

But I could get in my car and get hit tomorrow and never see the effects ; ) Like I said there are always risks.



Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

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