Your solar energy system can produce power all year round to reduce your electric bills. By providing much of the power you need, going solar means relying less on the utility and getting a large share of energy from an inexhaustible, clean source.
But what time of year will a solar energy system work best? What season will your solar have the greatest impact on your energy costs, and how does your energy use pattern influence your savings?
Here are three reasons why the season you think is best for solar may not be!
Reason #1: Blast that A/C!
We all do it sometimes: Keep the air conditioning set nice and cool sometimes in the summer. There’s that rush of relief when you head inside after finishing yard work and feel that chilly air. It’s comfortable at night with the A/C kicking on in your bedroom. Those early August days with high humidity, that’s when it’s really working overtime.
Running air conditioning uses lots of electricity. (Even experts at utility companies have noticed this, and some electric providers now offer programs where the customer opts to get paid an annual bonus for having a remote device cycle their air conditioning off for 30-40 minutes on some days to help prevent a brown-out.) Is solar the answer to off-setting cooling cost?
We’d answer that question this way: It will help a bunch, but don’t expect solar to take care of your whole bill in summer if cooling is a significant driver.
Reason #2: A pesky little thing called power conversion efficiency
There’s a saying that goes, “Heat is the enemy of power conversion.” It’s related to why your uncle keeps his AA batteries in the fridge to prolong their life, and it comes into play with solar. While you might expect the longest days of the year to push summer solar energy production to exceed spring production month by month, power conversion is reduced in hot conditions making the solar tend to top out at or below spring levels.
Reason #3: Right-sizing your solar systems means…
“My solar rep said there’d be days like this,” to paraphrase the old song. When you consult with your local professionals about going solar, usually through all the discussions and back and forth about your energy goals a few main goals will emerge.
For the most part, one goal is to size the solar system prudently according to past energy bills to try to estimate the most favorable offset. This “closest-without-going-over” mentality helps ensure the customer isn’t paying upfront for more solar than they need – no reason to squander their funds filling up a roof with panels when half the roof will do!
But the weather gods don’t care that you’ve invested in solar, and will still throw extremes of seasonal temperature at you. The chilliest cold snaps and hottest heat waves throw off your energy usage figures. In a normal month it may be easy for your solar system to produce enough power to equal your kWh needs – ideal! But in those weird months, you may “eat into” any rollover credit you’ve saved up (if your solar program allows for this) and still have to pay a bill.
But think about it, the bill’s smaller than it would have been without solar! So more than likely, your best months for noticing an ultra-low bill will be mid-to-late-spring, while solar savings in July and August will be substantial, but probably not out-of-the-park. With the right sense of what your with-solar energy profile will look like, we think you’ll be happy and satisfied throughout the year.