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I've got solar; why is my bill so high?


  08:46:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 2153 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, Residential Solar

I've got solar; why is my bill so high?

Shocking electric billsEvery now and then we get a call from someone who has solar installed at their home but they’re not happy.  Typically this occurs when they get their “true-up” bill at the end of the year, and are shocked to see that the amount that they owe is way more than they expected!  In many cases this leads them to believe that the system simply isn’t working, and now they want a third-party (like Run on Sun) to come out and evaluate the performance of their system. 

Here are the three leading reasons why that bill is so high…

Your system just isn’t working!

Although this tends to be the number one suspected reason for why the bill is so high, generally it isn’t the actual cause.  Most systems are installed properly and are in operation.  But every now and then we come across a system that simply isn’t working at all.  That was the case with one man who was convinced that his system had never worked and that the company that installed it was simply out to cheat him.  We didn’t see signs of that—the system had been installed and the overall workmanship was acceptable on the surface, so it wasn’t like someone just slapped the panels on the roof and ran away.  But here’s the thing—this was an Enphase system so there should have been monitoring in place to answer the question of how well the system was working.  Except that the installer had never bothered to complete the setup of the monitoring system!

When we came out we were able to access the Envoy directly, and while it could see the microinverters, it was clear that they had never produced any power—in over a year!

So how can a solar system owner prevent this?  Simple—when your system goes live, make sure that the installer walks you through the operation of the system so that you can see with your own two eyes that the system is actually producing power.  (This could be a readout on the inverter/monitoring system, or a spinning performance meter, or an indication that utility meter is going backwards.)  Better yet, ask them up-front how will you be able to know that your system is working, and then when it goes live, make them prove it to you!

If you believe that your system isn’t working, and you live in the greater Pasadena area, give us a call at 626-793-6025, or email us to set up a service call!

Your system is working, but…

This second case is actually far more likely: the system is performing, but it is not meeting your savings expectations.  In our experience there are two main reasons for this: hype and over use.

Beware the hype

One reason for this disconnect is that a dishonest sales person over-hyped the savings to be had from the system installed.  For example, we have seen “savings” projections based just on the size of the system, without regard for how shaded the system was, or its orientation - to say nothing of the actual rate structure that is being used by the utility. 

Shaded systems produce less energy.  Systems aligned away from South will produce less energy.  A utility customer on a time-of-use rate structure may well save less than one on a tiered rate structure (depending on how those rates are designed).

The point is to beware of overly simplistic savings projections.  A proper analysis will factor in all of these issues to provide the best possible estimate of savings.

Solar is not a silver bullet

Even the best savings projection is predicated on future energy usage being consistent with the historical data that the solar company was given (unless increases are specifically discussed and included).  While many people with solar power systems become vigilant about reducing their overall energy consumption, others go in exactly the opposite direction.  Indeed, it is not uncommon to hear people say that part of why they want to “go solar” is so they can afford to run their air conditioning “more” during the summer. 

Solar power systems are finite resources—they can only produce so much energy consistent with the size of the system, and most utilities limit system size to the historical energy usage average at the site.  If you install solar, but then triple how much energy you use during the year, you shouldn’t be surprised if you are not saving any money!

What we have here is a failure to communicate!

Which leads us to the most likely culprit—there has been a failure to communicate between installer and consumer.  At the root of this is Net Metering and the complexities of most energy bills.  (A big part of the blame here goes to the utilities who seem determined to make their bills as complicated as possible!)  Let’s provide an overview of this issue and then illustrate with a specific example.

How Net Metering Works

Solar system owners - at least here in SoCal - operate under utility rules known as Net Energy Metering, or just Net Metering for short.  Here is how this works: on the day when your solar power system is given “Permission to Operate” (or PTO) by the utility, your billing will shift to Net Metering (often the utility will change your meter to allow for that switch).  Every day, as your system operates, you will either be exporting (selling) energy back onto the grid, or importing (purchasing) energy from the grid. 

Think of it this way: you get up at 6 a.m. and it’s dark outside.  You turn on some lights, the radio, coffee maker, etc.  Your solar system isn’t producing anything (it’s dark outside, remember?) so you are purchasing energy from the grid.  You go off to work as the sun comes up, and your system turns on.  All day long, your solar system is producing energy, but there is no one there to use it—the A/C is off, the TV is off, the house is dark—so all of that excess energy is sold back to the utility.  Your fancy new meter keeps track of all of that energy coming and going.

Every billing cycle the utility will look at those readings—how much energy did you sell compared to how much did you purchase—and “net” out the difference.  If you were a net seller of energy, you will have a credit.  If you were a net purchaser of energy you will have a balance due.  But here is where some people get confused—your bill won’t ask you to pay for the energy you used that month.  Typically you  will only be charged for whatever “customer charge” there may be along with taxes and other fees.  The bill for your energy usage (or credit, if you are so lucky) is carried forward to the next billing cycle, and the next, and the next, until you get to the anniversary of your PTO date.  Now your usage will be “trued up” and you will either get a bill to pay (assuming that for the year you were a net energy purchaser) or a check (assuming you were a net energy seller, but don’t get too excited because that payment is really tiny).

Here’s the thing, depending on how much of a net energy purchaser you were, that bill could be pretty significant, in some cases well over a thousand dollars or more!

Of course, you would have been receiving bills every cycle that showed what you were accumulating (either a balance due or a credit) but since there is no related payment required, it is easy for some to overlook those bills, and if this process has never been explained—or even if it was but the consumer simply didn’t “get it” at the time—this can lead to a nasty surprise.

Bottom line - solar companies need to do a better job here in explaining how this works.  (Hence this post!)

A real-life example

Consider a hypothetical solar system owner, let’s call him Bob.  Now Bob is a smart guy, but this is the first solar power system he has ever owned.  His installer explained everything to him when the system went live, but Bob was distracted by the excitement of a potentially zero bill.  His system has Enphase microinverters so he has been receiving energy production emails from Enphase every month, and that looked cool, but he never attempted to reconcile his Enphase report with his utility bill (Bob’s not so big on balancing his checkbook, either).  But to be fair to Bob, the Enphase report that he receives is for each calendar month, but his billing is every two months, and they aren’t calendar months; rather, they run from meter read date to meter read date (e.g., 7/28/2016 to 9/26/2016).

The good news is that Enphase has a reporting feature that allows you to enter any two dates since the system went live and receive day-by-day energy production, with the total at the end.  Let’s see what we can learn when we put Bob’s billing data next to his production data from the Enphase reporting feature:

Usage versus production data

Ten months of Bob’s usage versus production

The first two columns show the start and end dates for each meter reading/billing cycle.  The bought column is the amount of energy that Bob purchased from his utility.  (Whoa, what happened during the latest billing cycle???)  The sold column is the amount of energy that Bob sold back to his utility during that period, as reported by the utility.  The next column is the amount of energy that Bob’s system produced during the dates in the billing cycle, according to the Enphase website.  But wait, how can this be?  In that first period, the utility says that Bob only sold 774 kWh of energy, but Enphase says his system produced nearly twice as much, 1,338 kWh!

How do we make sense of this disparity?  The answer is simple: local consumption.  It is important to remember that the utility has no idea how much energy Bob’s system is producing, all they see is how much energy Bob is selling back to them.  So both Enphase and the utility are correct, they are just measuring different things.  Enphase measures total energy produced.  The utility measures energy sold to them—the difference is energy used to power Bob’s house that didn’t come from the utility; rather, it came from the solar system!  In that first billing cycle, Bob’s system produced 1,338 kWh and of that, 774 kWh were sold back to the utility, meaning 564 kWh of that production were used to power his house.  And that means that Bob’s total consumption for the month is the amount that he bought from his utility, 1,402 kWh, plus the solar production that was consumed locally, 564 kWh, for a total consumption of 1,966 kWh.  Applying that reasoning to the rest of the data shows that Bob’s overall consumption has increased in every billing cycle except one, with a whopper over the holidays!  (Maybe too many holiday lights?)

The production data shows that Bob’s system has been performing appropriately - increasing over the summer months, decreasing over the winter months.  Here’s a graph that puts that all into perspective:

Bob's usage versus production

Bob’s solar power system: Lifetime energy production versus expected.

The blue represents the actual energy produced each day.  The gray line is the predicted system production (in this case modeled using the CSI calculator). Over the lifetime of the system, the maximum amount of energy produced in a day was 29.7 kWh (42% above what was predicted for that day) and on the day when this graph was created, the system produced 15.7 kWh.

Generally, the performance peaks well above what is expected (particularly in the late June through early November period).  But once we get into mid-November things deteriorate—not because of a fault in the system, but because of abnormally wet weather here in SoCal (as we head into a 1″/hour rain storm today!).  For much of the past two months, actual production has fallen well below what was predicted, with just 77% of predicted being realized so far this month.  And yet, despite all of that, overall the system has still produced 99% of its estimated lifetime production.

This points out a couple of key things to me: First, you just gotta love the data that is available through the Enphase monitoring system.  It allows system owners and installers alike to have near-real time access to system performance, as well as to review long-term data to discern trends and uncover patterns.  Priceless!

Second, we as solar professionals need to do a much better job of informing our clients so that they know what to expect.  (I’m leaving out the hype-sters who couldn’t care less what the consumer knows as long as they make a sale.) 

We live with this stuff every day but for most of our clients, this is all brand new, and confusing.  We need to take the time to explain how this works so that they can understand the actual value of their investment.



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Comment from:
Awesome article, Jim- explains, with the clarity characteristic of your writing, what customers can realistically expect from their solar system. Most helpful!
02/20/17 @ 18:36
Comment from:
5 stars
Jim, I only recently found your website and blog. WISH I WOULD HAVE SOONER!. Awesome and clear explanation of these issues and concepts, and does not feel like a sales pitch. I have a question I can’t seem to answer drifting around the web and the SCE site (kind of confusing, and they have been changing the site constantly). In your 2/17/17 post, you talk about bill shock and the “true up” time, on the anniversary of solar PTO being granted. Briefly you mention, “Now your usage will be “trued up” and you will either get a bill to pay (assuming that for the year you were a net energy purchaser) or a check (assuming you were a net energy seller, but don’t get too excited because that payment is really tiny).” I am trying to find out…how TINY that payment really will be. I have had solar since the end of June (just got in NEM 1.0 (I ‘think”, because I can’t find a SCE thing that says “NEM 1.0”, but I appear to continue to be on a tiered program)). I am making more than I am using, after I kind of really went into conserve mode. (Ironically I conserve a lot more now than I did when I had no solar). But up to the tune of 250-280 kWh excess each month. SCE bill shows a monetary value connected with that (say it is now $120) but then it says elsewhere “this is not the value you will receive” at the end of your relevant period, even if you request a check. They state that at the end of the relevant period, they true up the NET kWh’s, (in my case that I produced in excess of what I consumed so it is “negative” in their bookkeeping) and they multiply that by a number. This number is the “Net Surplus Compensation Rate” (NSCR). It gets more confusing trying to figure out what the NSCR is based upon, but in short, they use the NSCR times your production to decide what to pay you. But the NSCR is only around 2.5 CENTS per kWh. Nothing close to the 16 cents or more that a consumer would pay to use a grid kWh. I could understand it being a “little” less, minus fees and taxes and what not, but 2.5 cents seems really small. The wind up to the questions: Am I missing something here? Is SCE really going to pay only about 2.5 cents for each kWh I paid to produce in excess (at the anniversary of my PTO)? Is there another charge factor that I am missing? It also states a customer can “roll over” the kWh’s into the next relevant period…which might be a better value, for instance in case you thought your system might be down for maintenance for an extended period of time, or you wanted to store up kWh credits for a very hot summer… Just wanted to check with you and see if I am reading this confusing SCE stuff correctly or not. It seems to me “cashing out” at the true up date is not really worth it at all. Like getting cash for airline miles or something. I suppose this is what the utility companies WANT, i.e. de-incentivize the consumer from ever selling back to the grid (net energy). But it also seems counter to what the law “intended” when it decreed the companies had to buy back power fair and square. Lastly, the dollar amount they keep showing me REALLY should be defined as , “Thanks for producing extra! this is the amount of money, after all your usage and production, that you are letting us charge our other customers for electricity that we did nothing to produce”.
10/15/17 @ 08:33
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO
First off, thanks for the kind words, much appreciated. I’m afraid you are reading it correctly - even though SCE shows the credit amount in retail dollars during the year, that is entirely misleading since they will not pay you that; rather, they will instead pay the $0.025/kWh that you identified. (We installed a large solar system for a client who then moved out of the house for a year during a major interior renovation. They showed a credit of more than $1,000! I had to remind him that what he was actually going to get was just a fraction of that amount!) I’m curious about one thing that you said - that SCE would allow you to carry over the credit past the true-up as kWh. I was not aware of that, and the law does not require them to do so, making it odd that they would allow it! Can you point me to where that is discussed? Best regards… Jim
10/15/17 @ 09:26
Comment from:
I found this in a brochure from SCE. Trying to see if I can attach it here,. But upon re-reading, I “think” they convert the kWh to $$ (and not much of it) and roll the $$ over to apply to whatever, usage, connection fees, etc. It just reads weird so I thought it might mean kWH. I can’t seem to attach, but it is entitled “Understanding Your Energy Bill For NET Energy Metering Customers”
10/15/17 @ 17:44
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO
Thanks for that - in the FAQ section of that document is this clarification: “Please note that any net surplus energy credits remaining after your 12-month relevant period has ended will be given a monetary value. You may choose to receive a check, or roll-over the monetary value to your new 12-month relevant period.” So, either way, any surplus gets converted to a (tiny) monetary amount and you either get a (tiny) check, or apply it to next year’s bill. Jim
10/16/17 @ 11:30
Comment from:
Ironically, the utility companies’ policy (which yes, is what the CA laws allow, but I am certain is what their political action committees created) - those policies de-incentivize any conservation. Even with solar, which is only installed and paid for by a small percentage of the population, conservation is (or would be) important if we really care about reducing carbon emissions, sustainability, etc. The current policy encourages me to use every bit of the solar I have produced, because those excess kWh are the cheapest ones I will ever get. If they cost the same as 1kWh over production, then it really would be 1kWh for 1kWh and make sense to just conserve (as well as be a greater incentive for people on the fence to install, since they could recoup their investment sooner.) I need to buy another electric car and start charging it!
10/18/17 @ 06:00
Comment from:
How does one calculate the new solar bill for customer. During proposal of the system.
04/11/18 @ 21:44
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO

@Sunnyday –

Back in the day, we built an entire series of spreadsheets for each utility in our service area. Those spreadsheets encoded the details of all of the specific rate schedules that we had encountered. When we came across a new one, we built a new spreadsheet.

We would then take the monthly usage for the potential client from the past year and plug it into our spreadsheet. Usually our calculation matched the utility within pennies. We could then apply the monthly anticipated production of the proposed PV array to the past usage, and see what the new bill would be.

We operated that way for many years, confident that it was a reasonable, and reasonably accurate way to model savings - particularly compared to people who just said, “Oh, you will save $0.25/kWh produced!”

Alas, things are way more complicated today, particularly in SCE territory where all new solar clients are switched to time-of-use rates, which means that the quantity of energy produced has to be applied to when that energy is produced. Nowadays we rely on getting hourly interval data (via UtilityAPI) and we use Energy Toolbase to incorporate that hourly usage data against hourly production data, and then model that against the appropriate rate structure. Again, we believe that is the most honest approach we can offer.

You might be interested in the three-part series that we are working on now that talks about these issues. You can read it here.

Thanks for the comment!


04/12/18 @ 08:15
Comment from:
Hi there I recently had 20 solar panels installed,I have just recieved my first electricity bill, which are normally between 750/800 dollars After solar was installed I looked at the amounts on the box regularly and to often showed 3459 and figures higher or slightly lower I used my washing machine dishwasher and pool pump during the day ,there are just 2 of us Just recieved my latest bill and was horrified t see that it was 851.80 dollars The house on the bottom block has only 5 panels and they have 5 children much heavier consumption than us there bills are around 150 i am so upset with this bill can it possibly be correct feel like i have been stitched up completely
06/22/18 @ 02:27
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO
I am sorry to hear that your bill came as such a shocker. I have sent you an email directly, please respond to that and I will see what we can do to help. Jim
06/23/18 @ 09:43
Comment from:
Our first bill was a shocker too. Our sales rep told us we would be paying our taxes, etc to the tune of around $19 per month for the Utility Company. Actually, they add up to around $40. Now we got our bill saying it is $120. That combined with the lease payment of $150 per month, we are paying about $90 a month more then we were paying for our level pay for electricity. We’ve read that we should use our utilities during the day when we are on sun energy. We’re so disappointed.
08/12/18 @ 21:50
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO
I am sorry to hear of your situation. You might contact the lease company and see what, if anything, they will do for you. Yet another reason why we hate leases! Jim
08/12/18 @ 22:12
Comment from:
We have solar panels installed for a year now with Sunrun. They told us that our bills will significantly go down every month. Instead of going down, our power bills went up tremendously. How can we get out of this contract. The promises they gave us on saving money every month was a total lie. Every time I see my power bill my blood pressure goes up. This is the first winter that my power bill is $170.00. Please help me on what to do.
01/14/19 @ 21:45
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO
I will reply to you directly.
01/14/19 @ 21:51
Comment from:
I live in Florida and I just receive my 1st solar panel bill. To my surprise I was shock, I was expecting to have a bill a lot less than what I got. I wish I would of found this link before I invested in these solar panels. I have a total of 27 panels and two inverters, I have 13 panels in the front of house which faces south and the other 14 on the right side of the house. The 1st two weeks one of the inverters was not working, should I notified the contractor to see if they can pay the difference? I am under contract and my payments are $136. My first bill now with the electric company is $100. As of now I am not saving nothing I am actually over. Without solar panels my bill would of been around $150 to $160. Yeah I am very upset due to they sold me a dream which in reality it is a nightmare. Will my electric bill eventually go down or will this be an ongoing thing? Please help
04/16/19 @ 09:52
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO

I am very sorry to hear of your difficulties. It is certainly the responsibility of your installer to make sure that your system is fully operational. Whether they have an obligation to pay you for the energy shortfall is a function of your contract – if it includes a performance guarantee, then they may have to pay you.

If your contractor can’t - or won’t - solve your problem, please let me know. There are plenty of conscientious solar installers in Florida, and I’m sure we can find someone to help make things right.

Good luck!

04/16/19 @ 17:23
Comment from:
Hi Jim I am hoping you can help me. I live in NJ and purchased a home that had solar panels. Actually I learned additional panels were installed per the provider so I now receive 2 separate billings. The cost per month is 3x more than what I was paying to the electric company in previous homes I lived in. Avg. bill is 100.00 or more per month. At the time of purchase I did sign a transfer form stating I would be the new owner. I never received nor signed a contract with the solar company. Previous owner shared her monthly bill was approx. 50 per month very doable. Do I have any recourse. Would love to have no solar lease and just pay a mo bill to electric company which is far more affordable. Lastly I DO NOT understand the solar bill to get a better understanding of usuage. Thanks
04/20/19 @ 23:31
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO

I am sorry that you are having so much trouble with your solar billing. Without know what you signed, I am really unable to provide much assistance. (You may need to consult with a lawyer to get out of the lease, if indeed that is what you assumed.) Given that we are in California, I don’t have a lot of contacts in New Jersey, but I will ask around and see if I can find someone local who can try to explain your bill and your obligations to you better.

Best of luck.

04/20/19 @ 23:42
Comment from:
Hi, Jim - thanks so much for this site and your clear, informative explanations. At the risk of adding to the barrage of complaints you’re fielding, through no fault of your own, I’d like to say that my bill has gone up significantly since having solar panels installed. I pay $88/month toward ownership of the panels, which will happen in a total of 20 years, and pay $250 a month toward PG&E; I started doing this after my first shocking “true up” bill. I’m now about to have my annual true up bill deducted, to the tune of $1200(!). This all adds up to $438 a month. Before solar, my goal was to reduce my bill from the average of around $200. I’m baffled by this. I’m aware that some of it has to do with PG&E’s rates going up, but I have the impression they do some kind of mathematical voodoo with the bill. Do you understand it? I’m tempted to stop payments on my solar panels and ask them to take them back. Is that a thing? At least I’d eliminate that expense, and possibly eliminate whatever it is that has caused my costs to skyrocket. I do what I can to decrease energy use (big house with granny unit). This is all very disappointing; I wanted to go “greener,” but I find the whole mess bewildering. I’d appreciate any thoughts you could share. Thanks, Jim.
07/11/19 @ 18:02
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO

Thank you for the kind words, I’m glad you found this helpful.

I am sorry to hear of your plight – from who did you lease the system? If it was sized and installed correctly, even as a lease, you should not be spending more than before you got solar. Are you sure the system is working? Without real data it is hard to give you more direction.

As for stopping payments on the lease, you should consult with a lawyer before you do that. You don’t want to damage your credit rating on top of your other troubles.

Good luck - Jim
07/13/19 @ 17:32
Comment from:
5 stars
Hello Jim, Firstly, thanks a lot for the explanation you provided. I was trying to search on Google as to why there was a discrepancy between what the electricity company shows for my energy credit Vs what my panels were generating and I found your blog! You saved me a lot of time! I have one basic question bugging me. If the Solar Panels are feeding my home first and only the excess power is going to the grid, why is that I lose power when there is a power outage during the day (with Sunny clear sky)? Thank you….Srikanth
08/14/19 @ 19:59
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO
Srikanth –

I’m glad this was helpful. Here’s the explanation, it is called “anti-islanding” and it is an important safety feature. Think of it this way - let’s imagine that the grid is down because a tree fell over a power line and snapped it. The utility de-energizes the grid surrounding the fallen wire and sends a crew to re-string it. But, there is your solar system producing power and possibly feeding excess energy back to the grid… where you have now energized that fallen wire that was supposed to be off! Yikes.

So to prevent you from being that island of energy, your inverter(s) will shut off when the grid goes away.

Solar systems with backup storage have to include a transfer switch that isolates your microgrid from the main grid in order to meet code.

Hope that helps…

08/24/19 @ 08:49
Comment from:
Hi Jim, Thanks for the vital but late for me information. I have a situation similar to stellareese’s with sunrun. They promised me a 97% offset on my bill and that my powerbill will not go pass 200 bucks. Well my first bill was way over 300 bucks and now my second bill is way over 200 bucks. I feel hopeless due to this 20 year contract. How can we get out of this contract. We are paying 190 for panels plus the ridiculous powerbill this is putting us at a possible 5 to 600 dollar bill monthly combined. We have never paid over 200 dollars before. The promises they gave us on saving money every month was a total lie. Please help me on what to do.
08/25/20 @ 18:41
Comment from:
Jim I also wanted to add that its just myself, my husband and 7month old. We have a stove, hot water heater, and dryer thats gas. I do not see why our bill is this high
08/25/20 @ 18:47
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO

GoGreen8 -

I am very sorry to hear of your issues - sadly, as the comments above attest, it is not at all uncommon.

I will contact you directly.


08/25/20 @ 23:46
Comment from:
I’ve had solar for like 3 years since I’ve had solar I have never seen a credit the lowest I have ever seen my electric was under $50 in January of this year. Since I’ve had solar I’ve called the company to complain about my phone electric bill having solar has not saved me AZ nything especially during the summer ever summer for 3 4 months straight my bill goes up so between solar and electric I pay the sam as if I didnt have solar $700+ I’ve contacted my solar company and they said their is nothing they can do they have even hung up on me because I told them the salesman lied to me about my system they just said look at the contract but between what the salesman told me my wife my mom my dad my brother is not what was in the contract SAS nd when he brought us the contract I realized we didn’t read it because he actually didnt let us he went through it quick and when we started to ask question about what he was saying he changed the subject.i am not the only one with the same issue like high electric Bill’s many people have c as me forward to complain. Sunrun is a bunch of liars and thieves I even talked to another solar company recently and they even said my solar is not right they said it is to small I honestly dont know what to do
09/06/20 @ 07:01
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO
I’m sorry to hear of your experience. I would suggest you call the Arizona Solar Energy Industry Association and see if they can intervene on your behalf. Their phone number is 623-204-0366. Good luck!
09/06/20 @ 08:09
Comment from:
I understand the calculations, but after the first electric utility bill showing solar credits and purchases plus local consumption via Enphase stats, it would appear that I had my largest usage month ever in 5 years and by almost 60%. Weather was not extreme and my thermostat showed very little AC usage. I’m really concerned something isn’t adding up somewhere, but my installer gave same explanation as you.
10/25/20 @ 15:55
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO
I’m sorry to hear about your troubles. If you would like me to look into this more, please email your bill to info @ runonsun DOT solar.
10/26/20 @ 23:05
Comment from:
5 stars
Hello there. My story is way to long to post on here. I have had issues since the end of the 1st week of signing the contract. Of course now if I was to get out of it I would have to pay alot of money. I need guidance on how to get this company to give me what was promised. We just don’t see it and no one will go over anything with us. I have mix feelings about this company and they know how angry I am. Any help will be great appreciated.
02/01/21 @ 22:58
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO
I will email you directly. Good luck!
02/01/21 @ 23:25
Comment from:
5 stars
Great article. Recently had 2 presentations from solar brokers. They contend that with a properly sized rooftop system I can totally off-set my monthly power bill (averaging $140 a momth). I live in nevada, and the net metering rules allow banking your surplus power at 75% (for every kw you bank, you can draw .75 kw free at a later time. Size of system can’t be greater than 100% of you average historical use. Is this possible, or are the sales people blowing smoke up my ass? System quoted is 8-9 kw, 25 year warranty, cost $30,000 before 26% tax rebate. What do you think? Thanks.
02/11/21 @ 02:24
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO

Thanks for the kind words. It is hard to judge the claims without knowing your actual usage, the projected production from the proposed systems, and the relevant rate structure in play. (In other words, it is complicated, which is why we use EnergyToolbase to do those calculations for us.)

Are you on a tiered rate structure? What is the LCOE of the solar systems being proposed? If you are on a tiered rate structure, and the bottom tier is cheaper than the LCOE, then it makes no financial sense to “zero out” your bill.

Good luck. Jim
02/11/21 @ 08:13
Comment from:
Nevada residential power through nv energy is not tiered, the rate is fixed at about 11 cents a kwh, no “peak rates", but it does change slightly through the year depending on the season, with summer rates being a couple of cents higher per kwh (plus the standard monthly service fees that are incurred) my last bill was $105 for 833 kwh. if i only get future credit for surplus power to the tune of 75% of what i banked, how can i ever have enough credit to fully off-set my bill. i suppose if i found a way to conserve, and lower my usage about 30%, it could be possible. even if that were possible, it would also take about 12 years of use to recover my initial investment ($150 month = $1800 year x 12-13 years =$23.000). of coarse, if the power rates increase drastically in the future, the pay-off could occur much sooner. thanks for any advise you can provide.
02/11/21 @ 13:40
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO
When the rates are as low as $0.11/kWh, and your LCOE on solar is $0.08/kWh, it will indeed take a very long time to recoup your investment. When we do projections, we assume an annual increase of 3%, but it might even be lower in your neck of the woods.
02/17/21 @ 04:30
Comment from:
Hi Jim, Novice on solar here, so be gentle in response. I am thinking of building a new home, which will be out of state (in Texas). While I know state laws vary, it is possible to pay outright for panels (so there is no lease contract) and not sign up with the utility company for a net exchange - basically, I would like to use my own solar energy and if I exceed my solar usage, have my house switch to local power? I think that is a more sustainable model than the pay for power model by big energy companies who only pay you pennies for the energy you provide them. Ultimately, is it possible to have a converter (or something) that is able to switch back to local power when my solar usage is low or out for the day? Second question, can I purchase batteries to store energy from solar panels, to power the home (at least partially at night or during winter storms - i.e. what is currently going on in Texas ice storms). If so, what kind of storage space would be required for a home of 4,500 sq feet? I am very new to all of this, but would like to get some seasoned knowledge before I proceed. Feel free to email me directly. Thank you in advance, Jason
02/16/21 @ 11:37
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO
Jayson –

I don’t know how things work in TX, but generally if you build a home in a city area, you will be required to be tied into the local utilities. You could certainly size a PV system large enough to cover most, if not all of your usage, but you would need a storage system as well to cover night time, as well as stormy days. And you would still end up paying access fees to the utility, even if you rarely pull energy from the grid.

Designing a storage system to support you during an outage like what is going on in TX right now is a complicated process. While a home of the size you describe will likely use 35-45 kWh/day - more if you have lots of toys - in an emergency you are not going to try and power all of that, unless money is no object.

Instead, you would want to pare down to just the absolutely necessary loads: refrigerator, lights, maybe a space heater if the gas goes out.

Good luck!


02/17/21 @ 04:40
Comment from:
Hi, i am considering solar installation and my research brought me here. looking at all the coments and problems here, it makes me loose interest in going that route. i have a company called trinity solar come knock my door telling me i could save on my bill and they gave me an estimate of free installation and only pay $67 monthly for 25 years fixed. i am suspecting the problem of paying my electricity company in addition with the “net metering". also I would prefer to have the back up battery for nights and stormy days. i forgot to add that i was told if i use the state grant towards my bill, i would be paying $44 monthly fixed for 25 years. I live in Newburgh NY. Please what should i do to avoid similar problems other people had with solar installation in terms of paying electricity company whiles with solar. please any other advise or guidance will be mich appreciated. How many panels do i need to install for a 2500 square feet house. God bless you.
03/09/21 @ 08:48
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO

Vickson -

I cannot really advise you directly, since I’m unfamiliar with the details of the market in New York. What I would suggest is you contact an installer who is NABCEP certified. Here’s a link to the list of such installers in New York state:


Get multiple quotes, and ask a lot of questions. Ask for references and talk to them. Take your time, this is a big investment and you want to get it right.

Good luck!


03/09/21 @ 23:59
Comment from:
5 stars
Thanks for everyone who posted their issues with solar. I do have an issue at hand and am trying to figure out how to even begin, so I am going to look at contract’s signed first and gather as much info as I can then reply again. Jim, thanks for the time that you put in to your responding to issues that people are having and really are not your issues or concern, I truly respect the information you have taken time to give on each situation. People really do have genuine problems from the solar that they are now obligated and contracted and locked in, however, the sales person I have experienced is their lack of honesty and only concerned at the end of the day is what commission they made for that day no matter how they got the sale. we as home owners are left with excitement and then in financial distress and the end of the year due to poor salesmanship and lack of truth portrayed to the homeowner’s. I do thank you for all that you do. you will hear back from me soon with my problem.
01/19/22 @ 15:51
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO

Thank you for your kind words. I agree completely that unscrupulous salespeople - and especially the companies that hire them - are a blight on our industry.

I don’t know where you are or when you signed your contract, but for the past few years in California solar contracts have to include a disclosure document that identifies the total cost of the project - including all financing costs - over the lifetime of the project. That doesn’t solve all problems, but it is a start.

Feel free to contact me directly.

Best regards…

01/20/22 @ 00:11
Comment from:
I created an account just so I could thank you for this article and discussion. I am totally in love with the idea of solar, just not in love with the payoff horizon. Being older, and within 5 years of retirement, the last thing I want to do is lease OR grab a 25 year loan to pay for a system. Especially true if I should decide to downsize within 5-10 years. But your article really opened my mind to new questions and realities around net metering and solar in general. Thank you for all of your answers, Jim. Really appreciate your transparency on the subject.
01/28/22 @ 22:01
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO

Darren -

Thank you for the kind words. This post drives more traffic than pretty much every other post I’ve written in 12 years of writing this blog - clearly it hits home with a lot of people.

The issue around NEM 3.0 in California is nothing less than an existential threat to the industry. That is why hundreds of people stayed on hold for hours to tell the CPUC that this was going in the wrong direction. We need to make it easier and more rewarding for everyone to add solar. Hopefully they got the message!

Best regards…

01/29/22 @ 03:10
Comment from:
Hello Jim, I’m so glad I found this article and the comments. I have not yet installed, we are waiting for the city to approve the permit. We just found out that the city does not have the ‘net metering or energy buyback program? I’m having major second thoughts. Especially, with the total costs being close to $60k. After the Solar credit we will still owe $43k. Do you recommend Solar without that? Our contract is for 20 panels and 1 Tesla battery. I live in Texas, Gonzales County, I know you’re in California but any advice would be appreciated.
02/03/22 @ 18:26
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO
Thank you for the kind words.

$60k sounds pretty high for 20 panels and one battery. What percentage of your produced energy will be exported? The battery will help with that, since you will charge the battery before exporting surplus energy, but if that percentage is high, you might do better with a smaller system. (It is not uncommon for a solar power system to export 50% of its production or more.)

I know very little about the deregulated mess that is the Texas energy market, but I found this article interesting: Going solar in Texas without net metering. I don’t know if you have access to any of the four retail electricity providers that do offer net metering, but if so, you might want to switch to one of them.

Best of luck!

02/05/22 @ 02:34
Comment from:
Thank you for this article. It is great. We have had solar for approximately 8 years now. We have always had the TOU system and it has worked mostly after the first initial shock of receiving that first bill. Recently the TOU hours have changed and our bill has doubled. Do you suggest we go back to the tiered system or add more solar panels. Our bill seems to have increased significantly over the last year.
03/23/22 @ 00:44
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO

Glad you liked the post!

If you are in SCE territory I don’t believe they will let you switch back, but if you can where you are, absolutely do so.

Adding more panels is an option, but you might also want to focus on how you are using energy - can you switch high energy loads out of the peak TOU period? For example, if you have an EV, program it to not charge during that peak period (in SCE territory, 4-9 p.m.) - that will help a lot. Dishwashers and clothes washers also generally have a delayed start option that can be helpful.

Best regards…

03/23/22 @ 02:43
Comment from:
Added 1.2 kw system to my house shocked to see my rates went from .26 to .30/.52 norm/peak my bill was actually higher go figure spending thousands for nothing. they should have warned me.
08/16/22 @ 08:45
Comment from:
We got solar when we moved to Florida. Was getting a bill over 200 a month to even 300. Got solar, was told it would drop to under 100 and I would pay 177 a month for payment on solar. My electric bill during the summer is right now 186..last year it got up to over 250, plus then the solar payment, it is more than I was paying for just electric. So disappointed in this. I also thought I was getting a battery with this..never happen3d
08/16/22 @ 15:13
Comment from:
Hi Jim. I haven’t installed solar yet but I have chosen a company through SCE’s Solar Market Place. I was contacted by Electrum who provided me with bids from many solar companies that are vetted by SCE. Because I have a small roof there is only room for 12 panels. I was told that it would only generate about 70% of my electricity usage based on my previous usage of the last 12 months. I will be paying all cash, the system is only about $16.5k. I am wondering if it is even worth getting solar. Right now we are on TOU 4-9 so run the dishwasher and wash clothes at night. That’s when we use the most energy. We are all electric here. I live in Whittier, CA. If I’m not generating power at night then I guess I will be using SCE power. Will I be able to use the power I generate during the day or will I have to buy it back from SCE at night? Is it true I only get it back at 75%?
10/27/22 @ 16:25
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO

I would note that in the first instance it would make sense to ask these questions of the company that you picked to do the install!

That said, let me see if I can answer some of these. I don’t know anything about your usage, so it is impossible to say whether it is “worth it” to add solar. You said 12 panels, so if they are 400 Watt panels, that is a 4.8 kW system, that on average would produce around 7,200 kWh/year. If it is covering 70% of your usage, that would mean you are using roughly 10,300 kWh/year - is that correct? The price seems reasonable, coming in at $3.43/Watt - assuming 400 W panels.

Because you will be under the current net metering rules - and a time-of-use rate - energy you export to the grid during the middle of the day is compensated at a lower rate than energy you import from the grid during peak rates at 4-9 p.m. (The only way around that is to add an energy storage system - i.e., a battery - but that would nearly double to cost of the system.)

Good luck…


10/28/22 @ 02:27
Comment from:
1. They raise the electric rates once you sign up for the program 2. They now add a min usage fee of 19 dollars a month 3. If you do not shut off your mini inverters at night there is a $10 a month drain all night long.
11/12/22 @ 00:18
Comment from:
Good afternoon, Jim! Thank you for the breakdown of the discrepancy between the production measured by the solar company (Sunnova in my case) and the utility (MetEd). My wife and I were fairly shocked when we looked at our bill from the utility company after our first month with solar panels. I thought there would at least be some minimal savings, yet the bill was even higher than the same time last year (same kWH usage, higher per kWH cost from the utility). We use a fair amount of kWH due to charging my Tesla most days and we have 20 total 400 Hanwha Q Cells. We produced 300 kWH for February (which I realize isn’t much due to the time of year/weather in Pennsylvania), yet the utility bill still went up. I feel like I was scammed into signing the lease contract after being promised close to a 50% offset with our bill. We’d appreciate any insight you could provide! Thank you!
03/21/23 @ 00:19
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO

I’m sorry you are not seeing any benefit (negative benefit??) from having solar - have you spoken to the installer? I would expect mid-Winter in PA would be fairly minimal production, which 300 kWh clearly is for an 8 kW system. I would go back and look at the proposal that you were given - did it have estimated monthly production figures? If so, you might compare the 300 kWh to what was modeled. Perhaps the 50% reduction isn’t predicted for every month, but for the year as a whole? In which case, you might see greater than 50% reductions in the peak summer months.

In any event, give the installer a call and see what they will do for you.

Best of luck…

03/22/23 @ 09:19

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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