Trust me when I say this- selecting and installing the right solar panel for your home is a challenging task. And one reason that makes most of us make that shift is to reduce the power bills.
So when you find that the electricity bills have not come down after solar installation, it can be frustrating – to put it politely!
Actually, this is an issue that many solar users face. The good news is, there are some basic steps that you can take to change the scenario.
Let’s examine the main causes behind this problem and find out the remedies.
Why Are Solar Panels Not Reducing Electricity Bills?
Before we go into the details, here’s one point. In most cases, a solar panel system will reduce your electricity bill but the exact amount will vary depending on your conditions.
Back in 2022, the average monthly electricity bill in the US was $137, up by 13% from the year before. Using solar panels of the right capacity can bring down this bill by around 80%.
If that’s not happening, there can be multiple reasons.
1. The system is not working properly
If you have purchased a high-quality system from a reputed installer, the chances of a malfunctioning system will go down. However, it’s best to check your system if you have any doubts about its performance.
When you are using a grid-tied system, it will allow you to shift seamlessly between the power from the panels and the supply from the National Grid. So, it might start drawing energy from the grid when the panels stop working. You may not have any indication of this happening until you receive the next electric bill.
In some scenarios, the installation may not be suitable for optimized power generation. So, it’s important that you understand how the panels work and learn about identifying the tell-tale signs that indicate issues.
In case of any doubts, call the company to check the performance of the system. Since most panels are covered by a comprehensive warranty, this should not be a problem.
This is one reason that you should consider installing a top end solar monitoring system along with the panels. A good system will alert you if there is anything wrong with the system or in case of performance drops. In addition, it will also measure your electricity production and consumption.
It may happen that the solar system was not sized accurately to meet your power demands. Rectifying the issue may require the installation of additional panels to generate more power. So, to ensure the best results, always pick a trusted supplier and installer.
If you have some money on the side, you can always install a monitoring system to keep you in the loop in real time.
2. You are consuming more power during the night
Are you using all the appliances after coming home from work in the evening or during the night?
In that case, you will have to pay higher bills.
This means your power requirements are highest when the sun is down and the panels are not generating electricity. As a result, you are drawing power from the grid.
Quite simply, when the electricity consumption outpaces the energy generated by the solar panels, you will be drawing from the grid.
Moreover, the period between 3 pm to 9 pm is generally considered peak hours. That means you will have to pay even higher prices.
One of the easiest ways of solving the problem is to install a solar battery. The battery will store the generated power. So, you will be able to use the power during the night or in cloudy conditions, without having to draw from the grid.
However, most battery systems are designed to power essential appliances only. They will not be able to power your entire home for prolonged periods. A more powerful battery that will provide support for full load conditions will simply be too expensive for most users.
If you have a grid-tied system without a battery, you need to re-adjust your electricity consumption and use most appliances during the day.
To be honest, changing your consumption habits is not an easy task. One effective way is to use the delay timers on washing machines and dishwashers to make them run during the daytime. You can also use timers with your heating and air conditioning systems to adjust the interior temperatures during the daytime.
3. Increased electricity consumption
In case your electricity bill has not come down, check if your monthly power consumption has gone up. If you are consuming more power, solar panels will not be able to offset it.
There might be more people in your home or you might have added a few power-hungry appliances. Devices like a central air conditioner or a heat pump can draw significant amounts of energy. Or else, you might be using an appliance more frequently than before.
Perhaps you are using older appliances that are consuming more energy. Replace them with modern devices that have a higher Energy Star rating. Or even with appliances that can run on solar!
Again, changing your electricity consumption habits is the key. For example, running a water heater more than necessary can be avoided. Take a closer look at your energy usage pattern and identify the opportunities to save electricity. This is another scenario where a solar monitoring system can help you out.
Keep in mind, every solar system will produce a limited amount of energy. Besides, the design will be based on the past usage data supplied to the solar company. If you double your energy consumption after the installation, there is hardly any chance to save money on power bills.
4. External Factors
The most important external factors that will impact the rate of electricity generation are the amount of sunlight and shade incident on the panels. When the panels are receiving less light, they will not be generating the desired electricity output. This is one aspect that should be taken care of during the installation stage.
Obviously, the weather is one factor that you can not control. Cloudy and overcast days will lead to less power generation. Weather conditions like a heatwave can increase panel temperature and reduce performance. The roof angle and the orientation of your house can also play an important role in the performance of the panels
Other than that, the accumulation of dust, dirt or organic matter like pollen or bird poop can reduce solar panel performance. The solar cells will not function at full capacity when they are obstructed. Make sure to check for any cracks or dents on the panels.
In addition, there are unavoidable losses in the wiring and in the inverter. The higher the losses, the more the drop in power output.
5. Incorrect meter reading
Surprisingly, some electric meters can deliver the wrong readings. In reality, power meters do not malfunction too often. Still, getting them checked once in a while is not a bad idea.
In most cases, an error in meter reading is due to human error. It may happen that the meter was not rolled back accurately or was not reset properly. Any error in the data being communicated to the service provider can result in an error in the bill. Whatever be the cause, it’s important to identify the problem and rectify it at the earliest.
Honestly, electricity bills look extremely complicated to me. But you can use real-time data analytics to keep track of the bills. This will also help you to match your energy consumption with the billed amount. It can also help you to pinpoint any spikes in the consumption pattern.
If you are generating excess power, the system will divert it back to the grid. This is based on the concept of net metering. However, don’t expect to receive credits from your energy supplier immediately. They might be applied in the next annual billing cycle.
How Can I Reduce My Solar Electricity Bills?
The answer to the question of why my electric bill is so high with solar panels is not always related to a faulty solar system. At the initial stage, it’s necessary to ensure that the panels are installed in line with the best standards to deliver the highest output. But as you can see, there are various other factors involved too.
Above all, if you want to get lower bills, you need to spend some time considering the best options before installing a solar system. Some salespeople may overstate the ability of solar panels to reduce your electricity bills. Sales projections without a proper analysis can be misleading.
Savings projections are not dependent on the size of the system alone. Other factors like shades, the shape of your roof, and system orientation play an important role in determining the total power generated. Without considering all the factors before installation, you may end up feeling disappointed.
In short, always beware of false advertising claims. And don’t expect instantaneous results. Much as anything else, solar is more complex in real life than on paper.
I would suggest that you should not invest in a solar panel if your area does not receive adequate sunlight throughout the year. It will not deliver the best results in terms of savings. In such cases, you can look for other sources of renewable energy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do solar panels really lower your electric bill?
A well-designed solar panel system should help in lowering your electricity bills by a significant amount. In fact, the total savings on electricity during the lifetime of the panels can be anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000. The higher the local electricity prices, the more you can save.
Why is my electric bill so high if I have solar panels?
There are multiple reasons why an electric bill is so high with solar panels. This can be due to incorrect installation or wrong panel sizing. Other main reasons can be the overconsumption of electricity and using the appliances during the night when the panels are not generating power.
Do you still need electricity if you have solar panels?
Yes, you still need electricity if you have solar panels only, with no power storage options. Definitely, your home will need a supply when the panels are not generating power. However, if you plan to go off-grid and decide to become totally dependent on solar panels, there are power storage solutions. After that, you can look into disconnecting your home from the grid.