Solar is exciting. Helping to save the environment and save money on your utility bills is also exciting! Who wouldn’t want to do that? But now that you have your solar system and you are experiencing your first winter, is it what you expected? Do you have buyer’s remorse because the first winter electric bill wasn’t what you expected? Have no fear, this is very common and what should be expected in the first winter. Solar works year round with net metering through your utility company. Net metering stores your overproduction during the spring, summer, and fall. Your utility company automatically applies credits stored during these months toward the winter bills to offset lower production months. So if you haven’t yet had the time to build up the overproduction credits from the spring summer and fall, your winter bill will be less than it was but not covered completely, at least not yet.
So what should you do? Stay patient. Your first bills may not entirely cover your first winter months because you have not yet overproduced during the past spring, summer, and fall to build up the necessary credits that offset winter usage. As long as your solar consultant designed your system to meet 100% of your annual kWh (kilowatt hour) requirements, then be patient, the credits will catch up to the usage, and eventually result in a net zero kWh bill.
Once the sun starts shining on those beautiful solar modules, your solar production will be higher than your electric usage, and the credits that start accumulating beginning in March will create a credit to alleviate these winter bills next year.
What can you do to ensure that your credits last through next winter? Conserve. If your habits don’t change and your power consumption remains the same as before solar, the credits you build up should help offset your electrical usage through winter. The key is to avoid using more power than used in the previous year. However, even if you do consume more power than expected, you’re still paying less with solar power than the ever-increasing utility rates.
So how do you know if your system is producing what it should in that first year?
1. Check your bill.
2. Compare how many kWh you used in a month before solar to how many kWh you used now that you have solar.
3. If you add up what you produced from solar, plus what the utility is charging you in kWh, it should equal to approximately the same amount of kWh that you used in the same time period last year. If it’s more, then your usage has increased. If it is the same, then be patient, your system is performing as it should, and credits will eventually catch up.
4. Even in winter, your solar system will still reduce the amount of your bill despite your first year’s lack of net metering credits.
The end result is that you are still saving money. Remember, it takes a full year of seasons to build up your net metering credits to offset your lower production months. Stay patient, you did the right thing by going solar. You’re helping the environment as well as reducing your bills. The longer you have solar the more you save. All this is very exciting, and when you refer your neighbor and they ask this question next year, you will be able to show them from experience, how credits build up over time and offset or eliminate winter usage.
Jeff Pipeling is the General Sales Manager at C-TEC Solar. Working one-on-one with thousands of homeowners in the solar industry, for more than 6 years, has given Jeff broad knowledge and technical understanding of the industry.