So you decided to go green and install solar panels to lower your electricity bills. But instead of seeing your costs go down, you’re shocked when your monthly bill barely changes or even increases! What gives?
Before you start cursing the sun and tearing your panels off the roof, take a deep breath. There are some common reasons why your electric bill might stay high after adding solar, but there are also solutions to get your savings back on track. Let’s break it down.
Reasons for High Electric Bills with Solar
Faulty Solar Equipment
Solar panels and related equipment are built to last, but problems can develop over time. Here are some common solar system issues that could be spiking your electric bill:
The inverter is the heart of your solar system. It takes the DC power from your panels and converts it to usable AC electricity for your home. If the inverter fails, your panels may still look fine but won’t be sending any energy to offset your usage. Time for an inverter replacement!
Cracked panels? Birds nesting on top? Extreme weather can damage solar panels and degrade their output over time. Have your installer inspect for issues and replace any underperforming panels.
Loose connections or exposed wires can prevent your system from functioning properly. Rodents chewing through wires is another annoying but common culprit.
Undersized Solar System
When solar systems are designed, installers estimate annual energy usage to determine the right system size. But things change!
Didn’t Calculate Usage Correctly
If your actual power needs are higher than estimated, your panels may not cover your full electricity usage. Time for an upgrade.
Added New Appliances/Equipment
Got a hot tub? Electric vehicle? Any major new energy loads can throw off original calculations and leave you needing more solar production.
Changed Usage Habits
Using more electricity than you did pre-solar? Working from home or cranking the AC can increase energy use beyond your system’s capabilities.
Loss of Solar Production
Even if your system size is right, its actual output can decrease over time.
Dust, dirt, bird droppings, pollen – debris buildup on solar panels blocks sunlight and severely reduces power generation. Keep them squeaky clean!
New trees or vegetation that shade your panels can slash production. Keep an eye out for any new obstructions and trim back branches as needed.
Solar output varies through the year with the sun’s path across the sky. Production dips in winter can leave you underpowered.
Before blaming your solar system, be sure your high bill isn’t simply a utility mistake.
Utility meters can be misread, resulting in incorrect kilowatt measurements. Verify the reading is right.
If your meter can’t be accessed, bills may rely on estimates which can be way off. Ask for an actual read.
Utility Billing Errors
Good old fashioned utility mixups can lead to improper billing. Review your bill closely each month to catch mistakes.
Some utilities use complex time-of-use rates that impact your solar savings.
Peak vs Off-Peak Rates
Higher peak rates for daytime solar usage vs lower rates at night can limit bill reductions.
Net Metering Policies
Changes to net metering can lower the value of the excess power your system exports to the grid.
Excess annual solar production may not always roll over month-to-month or fully offset nighttime use.
Solutions to Reduce Electric Bills with Solar
Don’t abandon your solar dreams yet! Here are some ways to optimize your system and knock down that electric bill.
Inspect and Maintain Your Solar System
If your inverter fails, your panels aren’t doing anything. Replace it if needed.
Dirt and debris can seriously cut solar output. Clean them regularly!
Keep vegetation from shading your system so those rays keep shining down.
Upgrade Your Solar System Size
Calculate Energy Needs
Re-evaluate your actual power usage and size your system accordingly.
Expansion is cheaper than a new system! Add panels to meet your needs.
Consider Portable Panels
Extra mobile panels let you increase output down the road.
Improve Energy Efficiency
Swap out old energy hogs for efficient ENERGY STAR models.
Switch to LED Lights
LED bulbs use a fraction of the power of traditional lighting.
Keep temps moderate to avoid AC overload in summer and heater overuse in winter.
Shift Usage Habits
Run Appliances Midday
operate high usage devices when your panels are churning out power.
Limit Evening Usage
Be mindful of heavy usage at night when solar production is low.
Add Solar Battery Storage
Store Excess Solar
Send surplus daytime power to batteries instead of the grid.
Use Stored Energy at Night
Tap your solar battery reserve when the sun goes down instead of the grid.
Is Solar Still Worth It?
Okay, you’ve identified some issues with your solar system and taken steps to maximize its performance and savings. But with the high upfront investment solar requires, is it still ultimately worth going solar?
The answer is yes – as long as your expectations are set properly. Solar panels are not a silver bullet to eliminate your electric bill entirely. But they are a valuable, long-term investment that will provide major savings over many years.
Let’s run some numbers:
- The average payback period for residential solar is 6-8 years – after that you see pure savings.
- Utility electricity rates have risen by 5% per year for the past decade – solar locks in lower rates.
- Over a 20 year period, typical home solar systems produce $15,000-$30,000 in energy bill savings.
So while solar panels may not completely wipe out your electric bill from day one, they are one of the soundest investments you can make to hedge against rising energy costs and take control of your utility expenses over the long haul.
The key is having realistic expectations, properly maintaining your system, and tracking your solar performance over time. With some diligence, those annoyingly high electric bills will drop. Promise!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is my bill high in summer?
A/C overload! Max A/C usage combined with solar production dips in hot peak months can mean high summer bills.
Why don’t panels offset my whole bill?
Solar provides supplemental power but usually won’t eliminate bills completely year-round.
How do I know if my system is working right?
Monitor performance data and compare to past months. Any major drops in production warrant a call to your installer.
Will adding panels help lower my bill?
If correctly sized to your needs, additional panels can provide more bill savings!
- Several issues like equipment failures, undersizing, and lack of maintenance can limit solar savings.
- Solutions like system repairs, upgrades, efficiency and solar batteries can optimize performance.
- Solar panels still provide long-term energy bill savings despite limitations.