I wrote a long post last year about our saga getting solar panels installed on our house and approved for activation by the local electrical utility.1 While the panels were installed in the spring of 2018, we weren’t able to turn them on until August 2018. So one year later, how is it going?
Pretty awesome, to be blunt. In July 2018, our last full month on the grid, we used about 1 ,200 kWh of electricity from the utility, costing us about $286 in charges2.
This July 2019, our solar panels covered all of our electricity usage (in a massive heat wave) and generated an excess of 500 kWh to put back in the grid, generating a credit of $100. The Tesla solar panel lease is about $130, meaning we paid about 1/10th the amount for electricity this July over last.
Our current total credit balance for the year is about $450 so far and if current trends match last year’s, we should be on track to cover most, if not all, of our winter usage.3 I am very, very happy with this.
When I posted about this on Facebook, I got some good questions:
- Is this the solar roof that Tesla was doing, or is it standard panels?
- This is standard panels that we are leasing. The way it works is that the panels are installed with no upfront costs and then we pay a monthly lease to Tesla for typically less than half what you were paying to the utility previously, although your mileage may vary based on your usage, efficiency, etc. Tesla is working on a solar roof concept that doesn’t put panels on top of your roof, but replaces your shingles with a lookalike product that is actually a solar collector. Because it covers your whole roof, it’s much more efficient overall and looks better.
- What was the upfront cost?
- As I said above, we put zero dollars down. There should be no upfront cost, unless you need to do roof repairs first. We did have some issues with some of the utilities equipment on the pole that we thought might be put on us to replace, but that was worked out between Tesla and them. I wrote about it on my previous post.
- Do the solar panels power your home in the event of a power outage?
- Not in the standard configuration. If you wish to pay out of pocket, you can get a battery backup device that will store energy during a blackout (and at night during normal periods) as well as a device that prevents power from your panels going back out into the grid, potentially injuring a lineman working on the power lines. You would have the same device if you connected a generator to your home’s electrical. This is something I’d like to do at some point.
- What if my electric bill is usually under $130? Would solar panels be useless for me then?
- Not necessarily. You might be able to make money generating power and selling it back to the utility grid. By law, they have to buy it from you. My brother has had solar panels like mine for a number of years. The amount of panels that are installed on your roof is usually determined by both the area of available roof and your history of electrical consumption and the solar company tries to get close to that without going under. But my brother made some changes a couple years ago that reduced his power consumption by a lot and now his excess generation is so much that his lease is essentially free and he gets a check for about $800 each year.
If you have other questions, I’m happy to answer as best as I can in the comment section below.
Use my Tesla referral link
We both get benefits.
- If you don’t want to re-read the post, the problems had to do with corporate mergers and utility foot-dragging and miscommunications between big corporations. ↩
- Although we had a level-billing program that tried to anticipate our monthly average throughout the year and charge and average monthly cost. Our actual bill for July 2018 was about $300. ↩
- While the panels still operate in the winter, the days are much shorter and at our northern latitude the sun is lower to the horizon, meaning there is less energy hitting the panels each day. ↩