During the summer months, solar companies are out in full force selling at-home solar panels to residents. They typically offer lofty deals and sometimes promise to make electric bills all but disappear. Some have even claimed to be partners with OEC, which is a false claim to make. We do not partner with solar companies but have a plethora of solar resources available on our website for those interested in exploring their options.
The information given to homeowners by solar companies is often misleading and inaccurate, causing them to purchase solar systems that are far too large for their homes. What can you do to avoid falling victim to these misleading sales tactics? OEC’s Energy Efficiency Solutions Specialist Daniel Lofland offers some tips.
“When solar salespeople size a home for solar panels, they typically look at your July and August electric bills as the standard,” he said. “They will try to sell you a system that will offset that usage, which is typically the highest period when looking at your last 12 months due to air conditioning, pool pumps and other heavy power users.”
We all have experienced higher usage and higher electric bills in the summer, but we also know this type of usage is not the norm. The other nine months of the year, electricity consumption decreases for most consumers.
“If they build a solar array to fit that high summertime usage, that system will be over-producing in March or April when you use half the amount of power as you do in July or August,” said Lofland. “Electric utilities in Oklahoma — and most other states — only credit consumers for excess production based on the cost of fuel that wasn’t purchased to produce that home’s power, because that home produced its own. This typically equates to about 3.5¢ per kilowatt-hour — and THIS is the key piece of information solar salespeople leave out when selling panels to a homeowner.”
Residents should ensure the size of their solar array is based on their electric consumption during “shoulder” months like October, November, March or April.
“Before you consider installing solar panels, I encourage homeowners to ensure their homes are performing as efficiently as possible,” said Lofland. “OEC members have access to a free home energy audit, and other electric providers might offer a similar solution. A solar array can certainly offset usage, but it’s important that your home be well insulated and sealed before installing any kind of distributed generation to maximize savings. This step will also help you avoid installing a system too large for your family’s energy consumption.”
Your electricity provider should be your first call if you are considering installing solar panels on your home. Call their solar experts and request they visit your home and help you size your solar array accordingly. Their expertise in the science behind solar generation, as well as in-depth access to your usage history, will be vital information to have as you make a purchase decision.
OEC members may visit www.okcoop.org/renewables to learn more about the state-of-the-art research OEC’s solar experts have contributed to, view our solar checklist, explore a contractor database, read about our large-scale solar projects and more. Call your electricity provider and ask to speak with their solar experts before finalizing your solar panel purchase.