If you’ve been thinking about going solar, you may have wondered about how your panels will produce electricity for your family on dark, cloudy days when there isn’t much sun, or at night when there isn’t sun at all! While solar panels are becoming more efficient every year thanks to increased technology, it’s true—your panels aren’t going to be producing at night. But don’t worry—you’ll still be able to Netflix and chill into the wee hours, thanks to soalr net metering.
What Is Solar Net Metering?
As you may have heard, even when you have solar panels installed at your home, you will still remain connected to the grid. Net metering (sometimes called Net Energy Metering or NEM) is the system that keeps track of how much energy your system produces and allows the back and forth relationship you’ll have with the grid.
In essence, net metering allows you to store the energy your system has produced in the grid, allowing you to access the energy you’ve created when your panels are not actively producing. You can think of it as a giant rechargeable battery. When you produce energy your meter will run backward as you contribute power to the grid, and when you use energy your meter will run forward as you consume power. While it may sound complicated, the process is actually seamless.
On average, your panels will produce the most energy in the afternoon, even though your family will probably consume the most energy in the morning and evening. Net Metering allows your extra afternoon energy to enter the grid and then gives you access to that energy at night when you really need it.
Do I have to pay for net metering?
While all energy customers—even those with solar panels—will pay a small monthly fee to access the grid, net metering will actually help reduce your electricity bill by making sure you can take advantage of every kilowatt of energy your system produces.
When your solar system produces more energy than your home uses over a month, you’ll be given a credit based on how much extra energy you produced. If you used more energy than you produced, depending on how your energy company carries over credits, you may have to pay for the extra energy you used in that month.
Overall, you will usually produce more energy in the longer days of summer than you will in the darker, stormier winter months. Your energy company may carry over your extra energy credits from summer to compensate for the fewer kilowatts you will produce in the winter.
Will solar net metering make me money?
For the most part, net metering will help reduce your energy costs—ideally down to zero, if your energy consumption is the same as the bill your solar provider used to design your system. Most energy companies do not refund money in cash if your system produced more energy than you consumed, but some may allow your energy credits to roll over to the next year. Talk to your energy company to find out what their policy is, as it is different from company to company.
If you live in Colorado Springs and are an Xcel Energy customer, their Solar*Rewards Program will give you a small cash rebate on extra energy that you produce. You can check out their website or talk to your Solar Consultant to learn more.
Is going off the grid better than solar net metering?
Unless you are living in an area without access to the grid or have an extremely large solar array, staying connected to the grid is your best bet. Disconnecting from the grid requires you to have a large battery onsite to store the energy you produce for when you need it. These batteries are large and expensive and usually not worth the investment when net metering makes energy storage so easy for the average homeowner.
How do I set up solar net metering?
Your solar installer will help you take care of everything. Net metering is the standard system across most of the US, so solar installers and energy companies are well equipped to hook your solar system up with the grid.