Getting solar panels installed on your home is exciting and a big step towards energy independence. However, getting a high APS or SRP energy bill in the mail after the solar panels are installed can be a surprising disappointment. Unfortunately this problem happens more often than it should and it’s not necessarily a problem with the solar panels. This post will explain common causes of having high energy bills even when our home has solar panels on the roof.
Solar panels are a great way to produce your own energy but it’s sometimes only half of the picture. Your home is like your body, it’s a group of systems that work together and effect one another... putting solar panels on a home with high energy bills can be like having a heart transplant if your having chest pains, it may solve the symptoms but it’s better to find the root cause and first that first. Using our heart example, those chest pains may be from a high cholesterol, stress or from poor circulation. You wouldn’t go right to the most dramatic solution of swapping out your heart before you tried to fix some of the easier, less expensive options first just like it’s a good idea to find out why your energy bills are so high before you go with solar panels, it may be because the APS rate plan or from air leaks or leaky ductwork.
Reason #1 Why Your Energy Bills Haven’t Gone Down With Solar Panels
High energy bills can be caused from leaky ductwork, improperly sized ductwork, airflow issues, high air leakage, insulation, appliances and motors, energy habits or excessive heat gain. Solar panels won’t necessarily address these issues which is why having an energy audit can be useful in identifying and correcting these “low hanging fruit” items first, ideally before solar panels are installed. Even in newer, energy efficient homes we've found rooms with missing insulation or wrong sized ductwork.
Reason #2 Why Your Energy Bills Haven’t Gone Down With Solar Panels
Another reason why your energy bills may still be high with solar panels is your utility rate plan. Both APS and SRP have specific rate plans for their solar customers and if you don’t manage your energy use correctly, you may not save as much energy as predicted. APS and SRP have solar rate plans that charge a demand fee and essentially punish solar users from 2-8 pm with SRP or 3-8 pm with APS when energy usage reaches above a specified amount. The rate plans aren’t friendly for solar customers because from 6-8 pm the sun is setting or already set and zero energy is produced from solar so solar customers are forced to delay turning on their air conditioners during the summer until after 8 pm. If you aren’t managing your energy usage until 8 pm this can be a problem and your probably paying more than you need to be than if you could put a pre-cooling plan in place. Using a load controller is a guaranteed way to keep your energy bills in check according your utility companies rate plan and worth looking into. I’ve written an expensive post about everything you need to know about load controllers for further education.
Reason #3 Why Your Energy Bills Haven’t Gone Down With Solar
It’s worth mentioning that it goes without saying that if you lower your thermostat in the summer, add an electric vehicle or have another family member move in after solar panels were installed on your home, your energy usage will increase and the original savings predictions may not be valid anymore because they are based off of your historical energy usage. By installing a real time energy monitor like Sense you can view your energy usage breakdown and get a feel for where exactly you are using energy in your home before going solar.
With monitoring available to see your solar panel production you can instantly see how much energy your solar panels are producing and if any panels are not producing. Currently Sense and Curb are good energy monitors
Reason #4 Why Your Energy Bills Haven’t Gone Down With Solar
An aging heating and cooling system that isn’t working properly or improperly sized ductwork can sabotage the work solar panels do by using more energy than your panels offset. Over-amping motors, improper refrigerant charge, slow freon leaks and undersized ductwork all drive up the energy usage. Signs that it may be time to replace an older HVAC system are is if your HVAC system is loud, doesn’t cool or heat your home well, has had a long repair history or is more than 30 years old. Our HVAC technicians and energy auditors will be able to tell how well your HVAC system is performing and give you a baseline of performance to measure against.
How To Lower Your Energy Bills They Are Still High Even With Solar Power
The good news is that having solar panels is the big hitter of energy upgrades and that lowering your energy bills even more won’t require the capital investment of having solar. Some changes you’ll need to make won’t even cost anything such as changing your thermostat settings. Other low hanging fruit upgrades may be fixing poorly installed insulation, sealing leaky ductwork, properly sizing the ductwork or using a load controller to avoid high peak demand charges.
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