Solar power systems are becoming increasingly popular and also much less expensive than they were even a decade ago. Upgrading your home with solar power still requires a fairly substantial investment, but it is one that can definitely pay off by helping you to lower your monthly electricity bills. With this in mind, here is an overview of how much you can expect to save with a solar power system and also what factors can impact the performance of your solar system and your estimated savings.
Average Energy Savings for a Residential Solar Power System
Exactly how much money you can save with a solar power system depends in large part on the size of the system, how much energy your home uses in a typical month, and how much your electricity provider charges per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Studies have shown that on average, the typical 5kW residential solar system will usually save somewhere between $100 and $150 a month in electricity. Depending on the total cost of your solar power system, the total energy savings will usually lead to you breaking even and the system paying for itself in around six to 10 years on average.
Looking at how much you can save with a solar system each month or year can be helpful, but calculating your estimated energy savings over the average life of the system can be even more useful in showing why solar can be such a fantastic investment. Most solar panels will last for approximately 25 to 30 years as long as they’re properly maintained. Even if your solar system only saves you $100 a month, you’re still looking at potentially saving upwards of $30,000 over the life of the system.
Factors That Can Affect How Much Energy Your Solar Panels Generate
A solar system is an especially great choice in San Diego for several different reasons. One is that the area has some of the highest electricity rates in the entire country at around $0.45 per kWh, which is nearly three times higher than the national average. This means solar will save you much more than it would in other parts of the country simply because electricity costs so much more.
The beautiful, sunny weather is obviously another reason that solar power can be such a good investment. The more sunny days there are per year, the more energy the solar panels will generate and the more you’ll save. On average, San Diego has around 146 fully sunny days each year and around 120 partly cloudy days where a solar system will still generate some power. This means that a solar system will typically work well on more than two-thirds of the days of the year, which is far more than in most other places in the country.
The direction that the solar panels face will also directly impact their performance and how much power they can generate on an average day. Panels that face due north will always work best since they’ll receive the most hours of direct sunlight each day. East-facing panels will generate quite a bit of power in the morning but will receive very little sunlight from noon onward. West-facing panels are the opposite and will produce almost no power in the morning but work very effectively in the afternoon and early evening.
Another factor that can directly impact your energy savings with solar is whether your electricity provider offers a net metering program. Unless your solar system has a battery bank that stores any excess energy, you would need to be constantly using the power as your solar panels generate it to make the system most effective. This is because any power that you don’t use will then flow back out into the local electric grid.
Net metering programs are great as they ensure that this excess power isn’t simply wasted. With net metering, you will get a credit for all the power that flows back into the grid and this credit will then be applied against any power you purchase from your electricity provider. Some providers will credit you for all the electricity generated by your solar system at their current off-peak kWh rate while others only offer a lower wholesale rate.
While net metering programs can definitely be useful and help you to save more, your energy savings will generally always be greater if your solar system has a battery storage bank. Without solar battery storage, even with a net metering program you’ll still typically end up paying for at least some of the electricity you use at night, on overcast days, and any other time your solar system isn’t generating energy. The only time this isn’t the case is if your solar system is powerful enough that it sends enough electricity back into the grid to completely offset all of the energy you use when your solar panels aren’t generating power.
Solar batteries can be a great investment since they will store up any excess energy the solar panels produce during the day and then use this to power your home whenever the panels aren’t producing any power. Another thing to consider is that most electricity providers charge much higher rates per kWh during the peak demand times, which is typically from around 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. when your solar panels will generate little to no electricity. Even if your solar batteries only stored enough energy to power your home during these peak hours, you will still save far more on your electricity bills.
How to Use Your Solar Power System Most Effectively
If you have a solar system that doesn’t have batteries, you should always try to use as much of the energy that your panels are currently generating as you can. This means trying to always run your higher-powered appliances like your dishwasher, clothes dryer, and washing machine during those hours when your panels are producing the most power.
There are a variety of apps that can be especially helpful with this by enabling you to constantly monitor how much electricity you’re currently using and how much energy your solar system is currently producing. If your electricity usage is often higher than what your solar system is generating, you may want to consider only running one large appliance at a time. For instance, you may want to run your dishwasher first and then only do your laundry once it has finished or only ever have your washing machine or clothes dryer running at one time.
You also need to make sure that you have your solar panels professionally cleaned once or twice a year to keep them functioning effectively. Any dirt, dust, bird droppings, and debris coating the solar panels will reduce their performance so that they don’t generate as much electricity. It is also important that you keep any trees in your yard trimmed back so that they don’t shade your solar panels and block out some of the sun.
Upgrading to ENERGY STAR-rated appliances will also help you to save lots more money and potentially allow your solar panel and batteries to fully power your home simply because these appliances will be much more efficient and use less energy. If your home currently uses either a gas or electric furnace for heating, switching to an electric heat pump can also help you get more out of your solar system and lower your overall carbon footprint.
Friar's Heating and Air is your top choice for solar services in San Diego. We install residential solar power systems and solar battery storage, and we can also help if you’re looking to install an EV charging station for your home. If you’re considering upgrading your home with solar power, contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our solar experts.