There are so many reasons that people decide to go solar, from environmental to financial, but one thing everyone looks forward to is a lower utility bill. Every so often, though, we’ll hear from someone who hasn’t seen their bill reduced and wonders what’s wrong.
The main reason for this is a phenomenon called the Rebound Effect. The Rebound Effect can sometimes happen to people who adopt new technologies in renewable energy and subconsciously are not as energy efficient as they were before. Without even thinking, you might not turn the lights out when you leave the room or you might be less vigilant about hot water use from your electric water heater because you know your power is renewable now. Before you know it, your house is lit up like a Christmas tree, your fingers are pruney, and your utility bill is just as high or higher than it was before.
As long as your panels are producing as they should, and you’re using the same amount of power as before you went solar, your bill will be lower. But you need a way to monitor your electricity use and production so that you can avoid this dreaded Rebound Effect and reap the benefits of lower bills. First, it’s good to know exactly why our bills are lower in the first place.
How Does Solar Energy Help Save Money on Your Utility Bill?
It’s important to understand how net metering works to understand why solar saves you money. Net metering is a solar incentive that allows you to “store” energy in the electric grid in the form of credits to your utility bill. On a sunny day, when your solar panels produce more electricity than you need, that extra energy is sent to the grid in exchange for credits. Then, at night or on rainy days you pull energy from the grid and use these credits to offset the cost of that energy.
Image courtesy: mittechnews.com
As long as you’re using energy in your home in the same way as you did before you installed solar, your utility bill will be lower. That’s because when your panels are producing electricity, you aren’t pulling costly power from the grid that will end up reflected on your bill. You can also plan ahead and do energy-intensive activities, like using the clothes dryer or charging your electric car, when you know you’re producing solar energy rather than pulling from the grid. But how, exactly, do you know when that’s happening? It’s easy if you use the monitoring system we provide, and install a consumption monitor.
How to keep track of your energy use and your system’s production
Your solar always comes with a monitoring system that gives you a picture of your net metering. The basic system lets you know what the panels produce, but doesn’t give you the data on what your house is using. It’s a good idea to add a consumption monitor to the system to show how you are using the energy in your house throughout the day. This requires a bit of additional hardware, but is easily added while the rest of your system is being installed.
With the addition of a consumption monitor, your system clearly shows you how much your panels are producing, how much energy you’re using in your home, and whether or not you’re pulling energy from the grid at a given time. This allows you to better understand and control your energy use.
Below is a photo of the Enphase Enlighten app, which we will provide you with when your solar system is turned on. With the addition of a consumption monitor, your app will reflect all the data you need. In the graph on the right, the light blue lines show energy production from your solar panels in fifteen minute increments. The orange lines show your home’s energy consumption. The grey lines represent energy either exported or imported from the grid; exported is below the mid-line and imported is above. On the left, you’ll see a real time representation of your energy production and use.
The Enphase Enlighten app allows you to monitor your energy use.
When you have this information at your fingertips you’re better able to assess how much energy you’re using throughout the day compared to what you’re producing. It’ll also give you a picture of how your habits may have changed since installing your solar system, and whether you’ve got the dreaded Rebound Effect! Thankfully, the visual overview gives you a quick reminder to get back on track with energy efficiency and start saving money on your utility bill.