Powering Your Future

Can solar panels really save you money?

Feb 1, 2021 9:25:31 PM / by Elise Vue

We’re all far too familiar with bills stacking up and costing more and more each year. One of the most unpredictable monthly charges homeowners face is an electric bill. Utilities are constantly changing base charges, “peak rates,” and even how much power you can use. Homeowners in Northern California are even more painfully aware of the fragility of our electric grid. The demand for electricity is too high for our poorly-maintained grid, and this has resulted in more frequent blackouts and power shutdowns from PG&E. Fire season heightens the need for safe power shutdowns, and we’re now seeing that fire season is becoming longer and more dangerous as years go on.


All of this is to say that not only does the utility make your power unreliable, it makes it difficult to really budget how much is going toward your electric bill each month. Homeowners end up spending hundreds of dollars each month just to stay at the mercy of this unpredictable utility. 


We’re seeing a surge in homeowners going for solar power. Why is this? Well, people are becoming more environmentally conscious, wanting to raise the value on their homes (a 2019 Zillow study showed an average home value increase of 4% for homes with solar panels), and realizing that solar power is actually extremely affordable. 


When we were introduced to mainstream solar power a couple decades ago, it was pretty expensive for homeowners to get a system. In the past decade alone, these prices have reduced by ninety percent. Gone are the days of solar power being unachievable or too expensive for the average homeowner. Pretty much every homeowner can afford to get some solar panels installed on their homes now. Westhaven Power offers rates as low as $67 per month with a 0.99% APR. This was unheard of years ago, but we’re making it happen. Of course, the more solar panels you add on, the more expensive it gets. But now is a great time to go solar - both for the reduced cost of the systems and the increased need for solar power in the near future.


How the utility charges you

Before going solar, all of your electricity is being provided via our main electric grid. Based on the amount of electricity you pull, your utility measures how many kilowatt hours of power you’re using and charges you for that. There is also a base charge that you automatically get charged each month. There are also extra charges at certain times of the year, and “peak hours” that cost more in an attempt to reduce how many people are pulling from the grid during busy hours.


This means that one month your bill could be $300, and another month it could be $450. It’s difficult to really budget for a utility bill because it does vary so much, and they’re able to change your rates regularly. 


How solar panels save you money

With solar installed, you’ll be pulling power from the grid only at night or when your consumption is higher than your solar system allows. When you book an appointment with Westhaven Power, we’ll ask for your PG&E bill to assess your energy consumption. This allows us to design a solar system that is optimal for your usage so you’re pulling from the grid as little as possible. The more power you’re able to self-generate, the less you’ll be pulling from the grid, and the less money you’ll end up spending on traditional utility bills. On top of this, any excess solar power you’re creating that you can’t use or store gets sold back to the grid. This means they end up paying YOU for the excess power you’re generating.


When you have solar, instead of being billed monthly by your utility, you will get billed once at the end of the year via what is called a “true up bill.” This adds up what you owe the utility and subtracts any of the excess solar power you have sold back to them. This means when all is said and done, you may owe nothing in the end and your true up bill could just be a payout. 


Battery storage

Battery storage can amplify your savings with solar power. Batteries give you the ability to store your excess solar energy and deploy it when your solar panels aren’t able to supply enough electricity during the day, or at night when the sun is not powering your panels. A recent customer of Westhaven Power installed two Tesla Powerwalls, giving her family the ability to store their excess power and stay mostly self-generated. Some of their power still ended up going back to the grid, so their true-up bill ended up being a $75 payout. 


How you will pay for solar

Solar panel systems can be paid in one of two ways. Homeowners can either buy the system with cash, which means there will be no additional payments outside of optional maintenance or add-ons down the line. This option is appealing to homeowners who have the means to pay a larger sum up-front and no longer want to have a monthly electricity bill. If paying cash isn’t a feasible option for you, financing a system will still save you a lot of money each month.


At Westhaven Power, you can get a standard-sized solar panel system for as little as $67 per month. The more panels or batteries you add on, the more expensive it becomes. But, even a robust solar panel system with two backup storage batteries will cost you only about $200 per month. Compared to a $400+ utility bill, this is definitely a purchase that will save you money. The icing on the cake is safer and more reliable power, especially when battery storage is involved.


More on battery storage:

  • Grid-connected solar energy systems provide energy to your home and when your system produces more electricity than you need, excess energy is sent to the grid. When it isn’t producing enough electricity for your needs (such as at night or during “peak” energy usage hours), you must purchase electricity from the grid. 
  •  Unless an energy storage system is installed in your home, your solar modules can't supply energy during a power outage because the inverters that control the solar modules are shut down during the outage. This “shut-down” occurs because it protects utility crews that are deployed to repair the grid. Also, excess energy can’t be sent to the grid during an outage. 
  •  Wouldn’t it be great if your solar system could power your home in the early mornings, late afternoons, at night or during a power outage? It can – but to make it happen, you must add a battery energy system. The excess energy generated will charge the battery (or batteries depending on how many you have), and discharge and supply power to your home. 
  • Our battery energy storage provides all the components you need, which generally are reliable and scalable based on your needs. These are not grid-tied and self-generated, enabling you to keep your own power.  

Save more with the ITC

Another way you can save money with solar is by applying for the ITC. The ITC is a solar investment tax credit. As of 2021, the federal government will pay for up to 26% of your solar system. This means that for a 20,000 solar system, you could be saving an additional $4,000! All of the above savings apply, plus you’ll be getting money back on your system just by making the decision to go solar.


The bottom line is that solar panels absolutely save you money. The utility is unpredictable and unreliable, and they can raise your rates arbitrarily whenever they feel like it. Going solar saves you money every month, and it’s an investment in your peace of mind. No more worrying about power shut offs or random rate increases. 

Book a call with us to learn how you can save the most money and keep your power safe and secure. No surprises.

Elise Vue

Written by Elise Vue