Will I get an electric bill with solar panels?
The short answer is yes. But it can fluctuate. We uncover it all, so read on.
If you’re thinking of going solar (whoop!) or already have solar panels on your roof (whoop whoop!), it’s important to understand how your electricity ties to the utility grid, and what that means in terms of an electricity bill.
Most people think that if they install solar panels, they’re generating their own power, not touching the grid, and they, therefore, wouldn’t have an electricity bill to worry about.
Long story short, you’re still going to have an electricity bill because the interconnection agreement with your poles and wires company means that when the panels aren’t producing, your home will be powered by the broader grid. And it costs money to get that power to you, even if your home produces more than it’s using over the billing cycle. We’ll outline the reasons AND give you some stellar tips on how to make your electricity bill as small as possible.
Why Do I Still Have an Electricity Bill?
As mentioned above, the main reason is because of charges from your utility company. Most solar-panel systems on homes are tied to the grid for the events when your panels underperform (thanks for that cloudy day, Mother Nature) and don't supply the entire needs of your home. This means at any second, your home could pull from the grid to keep your lights on. You’ll pay things like a distribution charge (getting grid power to your home), transmission charge (getting power from the big generators onto the grid), and charges from your retailer to manage this complex system on your behalf.
Stop us if you’ve heard this, but the weather is unpredictable. And this affects your panels. Your panels will obviously not produce power overnight when the sun is asleep, but when it rains or is cloudy, that’s suboptimal in terms of solar productivity. If the weather impedes solar production on your roof, you won’t produce the maximum solar panel energy output and would likely need to pull energy from the grid. This is a good thing, because having systems with overcapacity generally don't pay back as well as a system that barely meets your home’s needs under normal conditions.
No way to store your power
During super sunny times, your system can also overperform. If you have batteries installed to capture any excess generation to use when the weather sucks or it’s nighttime, great. But if you don't have battery system installed, you can monetize that surplus generation through a solar buyback plan. (PRO TIP: Get a battery system for reliability during extreme weather.)
Cool, So How Do I Lower This Bill?
Conserve, conserve, conserve
This goes for non-solar people too, but conserving is always a smart idea. Using less electricity lowers your bills. And if you’re a solar-panel owner, it means less reliability on the grid and a greater likelihood that your panels can cover all your electricity demands.
Programmable thermostats are your best friend. They can help monitor your home’s temperature from afar, so you’re not blasting artic AC when you’re at work.
LEDs are also your BFF. They’re just flat-out more efficient and last a lot longer than incandescent ones. Win-win.
Don't plug in big appliances when you’re not using them. We’re talking about TVs, kitchenware, computers, and things like that. They use vampire power AKA still sucks power. (I guess sucking power is better than blood, though.)
Maintain your home. Keep up with AC tune-ups, maintenance, and efficiency checkups.
Close those blinds and shut those doors. Whether it’s hot weather or cold weather, doing this helps trap the air in your home to keep it cooler in the summer and toastier in the winter.
If your panels overperform, you can use a battery to harness that energy for a rainy day. This is a wise upfront investment when you install panels, because it often pays dividends down the road and gives you peace of mind if there is a grid outage from your poles and wires company while your panels aren’t meeting your consumption. It’s always good to have a backup plan, and in this case, it’s storage to back up your generation.
And that’s the skinny of it. Yes, you’ll get a bill. But there are ways that you can make that bill as itsy bitsy as possible.