You’ve installed solar panels intending to lower your electric bill. If you live in certain areas, you may have noticed that your electricity expenses haven’t decreased (you might even be paying more). You wonder why your electric bill is soaring, even after installing solar panels.
More often than not, these high electric bills can often be solved by changing your habits. Investing in a monitoring system is one way to make sure that you aren’t taken by surprise with any large bills. To make your solar panel investment pay off and lower future electric bills read about some common causes of energy overconsumption below and follow our suggested solutions.
Common reasons for why your electric bill is so high despite having solar panels
1. How Weather Affects Energy Usage
Unless you are part of the X-Men, you can’t control the weather. However, you are in control of your thermostat. Check the kilowatt hour (kWh) total by month on your electric bill and compare it to the previous year. Looking at your history, do the summer months indicate higher usage? If so, your higher bill wouldn’t be too surprising, as additional heating or cooling causes an increase in electric use.
Heating and cooling a house account for about half of our home energy expenses. High temperatures mean that you will be running your air conditioner more often. It also takes energy to water-thirsty outdoor plants. And as El Paso, Las Cruces, and the surrounding areas are predicted to have even hotter summers in the coming years, high electricity usage will likely remain the norm for that part of the year.
Because of extreme summer heat, your household will likely be using more electricity than your solar panels can produce. Some people solve this by investing in a mini split that allows you to cool (or heat) selected spaces, saving energy. Mini splits can reduce your energy usage up to 40% after going solar.
To keep your electric bill down and your wallet happy, we recommend keeping your thermostat as high as comfort permits in the summer and low in the winter. By setting your thermostat higher in the summer and lower in the winter, you could save 3 to 5 percent on your energy bill. To save electricity and water, get drought-resistant plants and xeriscape your property. On hot days, close your blinds and curtains during the day. That cuts the amount of sunlight that enters your home and decreases the frequency with which your air conditioner kicks on.
2. How Appliances Inflate Your Electric Bill
Large appliances, such as dishwashers, washing machines, and tumble dryers, require much electricity. If you use them frequently, your electric bill will increase significantly. Get the most out of your dishwasher by filling it to capacity. Choose the quick wash cycle and change the drying setting to no or low heat. For clothes washers and dryers, try doing only one wash each week. Running full loads is more energy efficient. Drying laundry at low heat or hanging your clothes out to dry will help you save on your electric bill.
Keeping older appliances around can also be a source of higher consumption if they are not maintained. Those old appliances consume more energy than new energy-efficient models. An old-fashioned or retro refrigerator or oven might be stylish, but it could be spiking your energy usage. If you’re looking to upgrade your washer, dryer, or dishwasher, take advantage of all the rebates available for Energy Star-certified models.
Do you have an old working refrigerator or freezer you would like to get rid of? If so, check out the Texas and New Mexico Refrigerator Recycling programs, where your appliance is picked up for free and recycled.
Keep an eye out for any appliances working poorly. A leaking water heater, for example, can result in a large electric or gas bill. You may want to have a licensed contractor perform regular maintenance of your cooling system in the spring and a heating-system checkup in the fall to avoid any costly repairs and to make sure everything is running as efficiently as possible. Check out the El Paso Electric Energy Resource Center to conduct a virtual assessment of your home.
Monitoring systems like Solaredge Consumption Monitoring will help you identify how you use energy in your home, which is especially useful during high consumption months.
3. Refrigerator or Freezers in the Garage – convenience at a cost
It is common for many people to have an extra refrigerator in the garage for drinks or other cold items. Many of us in Texas and New Mexico have an extra freezer in our garage to store our beloved chile. The downside to having these is more energy is needed to keep drinks frosty and chile ready to go any time of year. It is important to know how much that extra appliance costs to operate. If you have an extra refrigerator or freezer, be aware of where it is placed. If you have a fridge or freezer in direct sunlight, it will have to work harder to keep food and drinks cold. Similarly, if you keep a fridge in a room without air conditioning, like a garage, the fridge will use more energy to stay cool. Having adequate ventilation helps refrigerators and freezers run efficiently. One way of keeping your garage cool is by installing a mini-split. If you are considering getting a new refrigerator or freezer, take the time to learn about the rebates you can get on Energy Star-certified models.
4. Powering More Time at Home
While more of us are out and about, the pandemic did shift the amount of time we spent at home, including those now working remotely from home. The increase in time spent at home is one factor that influences home energy costs. When your children are home for breaks, you may see a spike in your bill. They may be using electronics for summer school or entertainment, which accounts for the rise in energy costs. Likewise, if you or someone in your household is working from home full-time or part-time, this will increase your energy usage as well.
5. Ceiling Fans and Lighting
Did you know that the direction a ceiling fan is spinning makes a difference? In the summer, make sure your ceiling fan blades are turning counterclockwise. This creates a downward airflow and makes you feel cooler. In the winter, use the toggle switch so the fan blades spin clockwise. At a low speed, the blades will bring warm air near the ceiling down into the room. And if the space is not occupied, turn off the fan to save energy.
Many people incorrectly use lights to make an entire room bright rather than only the desired area. Lighting is most energy-efficient when only necessary spaces are lit up, such as kitchen tables and work surfaces. Full room ceiling lights are much less effective for providing the light you need than individual lamps. It is also essential to turn lights off in a room you are currently not using.
6. Utility Rates WENT UP!!!
In Texas, the base rate went up due to the utility rate increase approved last year. Rates went up on August 1, 2022. There were also several additional line items added to the electric bill. The most significant increase was in the fuel charge. Between the fuel charge and the fuel surcharge/credit line item, the fuel charge went up from about $.018 per kWh to almost $.05. That is quite an increase! But remember, fuel costs went up overall. Over the summer, we saw gas prices at the pump skyrocket. El Paso Electric uses natural gas in some of its power plants so the increased cost should not be a surprise. Fuel charges will always be a variable on your electric bill. Just imagine how big your electric bill would have been if you hadn’t gone solar. Be glad you took that step.
Ready to take control of your energy consumption?
No one likes being hit with an unexpectedly high bill. Prevention is always better than intervention! The best way to check your energy consumption is by investing in the Sense Monitoring Add-on For Solar Energy Systems or the Solaredge Consumption Monitoring Upgrade. Both systems put you in the driver’s seat by providing further details on how much energy is being consumed in your home in addition to the solar energy you are producing. These systems help troubleshoot a high electric bill or if you are using more energy than you planned. Having a monitoring system arms you with the information you need to take control of your electric bill and energy usage.