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Solar savings less than expected

So you just received your electric bill and notice that it’s higher than you expected. You want to know why that’s the case and what you can do to change that. Not to worry, we can help you with that.


There may be several reasons why you received a high electricity bill. To make this easier for you, we’re going to go through the things to be aware of regarding solar and your utility bill. We recommend following along with us to determine the cause of the high bill you received and what you can do to reduce it. Let’s get started.

Step 1. Understand your solar agreement

Your billing structure is based on the type of agreement you signed during the initial consultation. For you to accurately assess your savings, we’d like you to understand the terms of your agreement and how it can impact your bill. If you already understand how your agreement impacts your bill, feel free to skip this step.

To locate your agreement: 1. Go to account.vivintsolar.com 2. Login to your account. 3. Click “Documents.” 4. Click “Agreement” 5. Look at the top of your agreement. That’s where you’ll see which type of agreement you signed.

For more information, check out "Accessing and using Account Center" or “Downloading and using the Vivint Solar app”.

Keep in mind that agreement types differ based on the area in which you live. For a breakdown of contracts by area, check out Solar Across the Country.

To simplify things, we’ve put together a short explanation of each agreement type and how they work:

  • Power Purchase Agreement (PPA): you pay for the power generated by your Vivint Solar system at a rate that’s typically lower than what your utility can offer. Note that we said you’ll pay for the power generated by your system—not the amount of energy you use from the system. This is important because you will still receive a bill from your utility. Your overall electricity costs are affected by a few factors, including your consumption of electricity, the price you pay the utility, any charges imposed by your utility apart from energy costs, and the amount of sun the solar energy system receives.
  • Lease Agreement: you pay a fixed monthly amount for power at a rate that’s typically lower than what your utility can offer. Your monthly payment amount is set upfront and will only increase by 2.9% per year.
  • Solar Loan Agreement: you purchase a Vivint Solar system from us and work with a trusted lender to make payments to it over time. The amount and frequency of your solar loan payment are set with your lender, but once it’s paid off, the system (and the power it produces) will be 100% yours. While you’re making payments, and after you’ve paid it off, any power the Vivint Solar system produces will help you reduce your dependence on nonrenewable sources of energy that typically come from your utility company.
  • Solar Cash Purchase Agreement: you purchase a Vivint Solar system from us outright, and—like a loan agreement—any power it produces will help you reduce your dependence on nonrenewable sources of energy that typically come from your utility company.

Here's another way of looking at them.

*Warranty refers to solar panels. Refer to your customer agreement for all warranty terms and conditions. ** Production guarantee not available in all markets.

Step 2. Ensure you’re on the right plan for solar

The goal here is to ensure that you’re on the optimal utility billing plan for a homeowner with a solar energy system and that you understand how said plan works. Why do this, you may ask? Because the addition of a solar energy system can change the type of plan you previously had with your utility company and impact the way they (your utility company) calculate your bill. It’s important that you understand how those changes can affect you.

For example, some utility companies automatically set up their solar customers on something called a True-Up plan, which compiles all cumulative energy charges, credits, and compensation for a full 12-month billing cycle and sends one single bill to the customer at the end of those twelve months.


Other companies may offer billing plans catered explicitly to homeowners with solar energy systems. These plans may be very beneficial, but it is possible to make keying errors or inadvertently set someone up on the wrong plan for solar. Some utility companies may even remove select services from your plan now that you have a solar energy system. These services may include an income-based discount or financial hardship payment plan.

Though we work closely with utility companies to help set up your net metering, we don’t dictate the restrictions they set on homeowners with solar energy systems, nor can we influence their business decisions. This is why we strongly recommend calling your utility company to ensure you’re set up on the best billing plan for you as a solar energy system owner and understand how it works.

Step 3. Review your utility bills

Even if you aren’t concerned with your savings, it’s a good idea to read and understand how your utility company bills your account. For more information on the differences between the two, check out Utility bills vs. Vivint Solar Bills.

To properly assess your utility bill, here are some things we recommend.

Compare your utility history

Before and after you activate your solar energy system, review the most recent 3-6 months’ worth of utility bills. This will help you get a clear idea of:

  • How your bill was initially set up
  • How the utility company was charging you before you signed on for solar
  • How solar is impacting your utility bill now that your system is active
  • The change in your utility totals before and after going solar

At the very least, checking your bill will help you see whether or not the solar energy system is producing enough energy to sustain your needs. It’s also important to keep in mind any external factors that can impact your solar production such as Seasonality, Time of Use Rates, or unpredictable weather conditions such as Clouds or Winter Weather.

Understand net metering

Net metering is essentially a billing agreement between you and your utility company. It allows you to receive credits on your electricity bill when your solar panels produce excess electricity and send that electricity to the power grid. For more information, check out our video on net metering.

Understand the differences between energy production and consumption

The primary difference between your Vivint Solar bill and your utility bill is that your utility bill charges you based on how much energy you consume, whereas Vivint Solar charges you based on how much energy you produce.

Step 4. Ensure your solar energy system is producing power

The next thing we want to go over is the importance of monitoring your solar energy system.

Your solar savings may be lower if there is an issue with how your solar energy system functions. To check your system production, log in to Account Center or the Vivint Solar App for Apple or Android. If you’re able to see your production data, it means your system is online and reporting that information to your utility company and us. Compare that production data against your utility bill to see how much you’re paying Vivint Solar versus how much you’re paying to your utility company. If you see savings, it can be an indication that the system is producing enough to sustain your needs. For more information, check out Accessing and Using Account Center.

1. Go to account.vivintsolar.com 2. Login to your account 3. View your production data to ensure your system is working.

If you don’t see your production, it may mean that your system isn’t online. Keep in mind that this doesn’t necessarily mean the system has stopped producing solar energy. It may only be that the system has stopped communicating the energy production to us.

To get your system back up-and-running, check out Troubleshooting my Vivint Solar system (my system is not producing).

Once your system is back up-and-running, give the utility company some time to track the system production and account for it on your bill. If you start to see the balance on your bill go down, you know that system connectivity was the issue.

Step 5. Consider external factors

Aside from understanding your bill and system connectivity, there are other external factors to consider when determining cost savings.

Check your household energy consumption

We’d love to tell you that a solar energy system means you can stop being careful with the amount of energy you use every day, but we’d be lying. Just because you have solar doesn’t mean you have unlimited energy to use. Remember, solar energy offsets your energy consumption—it doesn’t replace it. It’s possible that you inadvertently started using more energy after you activated your solar energy system.

Pool-and-Solar-Panels

The other option could be that you are a high-energy consuming consumer. That’s not an accusatory term mind you—just a description. If you are, it could mean that—no matter the offset—the amount of energy your solar system produces may never be enough to offset the amount of energy you use to power your home.

Things that can impact energy consumption include an addition to your home, such as a pool or hot tub, or a new member of your household, like a friend, family member, roommate or tenant.

Watch your “Time of Use” (TOU) Rates

Under TOU rates, utilities charge customers based on how much and when they use power from the utility. The exact times of day determined to be “peak” or “off-peak” vary from season to season and from utility to utility. TOU rates also commonly vary between weekdays and weekends. Electricity used during peak times is billed at a higher rate than electricity used during off-peak times, creating an incentive for homeowners to lower energy usage during peak times. To learn more about TOU rates, check out What are “Time of Use” Rates?

Time-of-Use

Remember that weather matters

Has it been raining a lot lately? Is your cloud coverage high? Poor weather could contribute to low panel production, and thus impact your potential savings. Though you can’t do a lot about the weather, it will help to be aware of the impact it can have on your panels and to monitor your solar energy production online regularly, so you can anticipate how it may impact your upcoming utility bill. For more information, check out, "Factors that influence savings (offsets, system size, overall energy usage, etc.)”.

Monitor panel blockage and shade

Occasionally something will block your panels, which can reduce their production efficiency. Think about the area around your roof. Has it been a while since you’ve pruned your tree(s)? Shade or shadow coverage can prevent panels from getting the necessary access to the sun. This can impact your production and, thus, your potential savings. Check your trees and/or other foliage on or around the panels to ensure they’re not blocking access to the sun. If they are, we recommend trimming them back or paying a third-party company to trim them for you.

Check to ensure your panels are clean

Dirty panels can also reduce solar production. If it hasn’t rained in a while and you suspect your panels might be dirty, go ahead and hose them down. For more information about this topic, check out How to Clean Solar Panels.

Look into energy-saving technology

Check your bill and talk to your household members. See where you can cut energy costs to reduce that consumption use down a bit. At the very least, you may be able to add some convenient gadgets that may help you reduce your carbon footprint as well as your electricity bill.

Step 6. Ask for a savings analysis

One thing that we ask you to keep in mind is that it’s difficult for us to provide an exact breakout of your solar production and how it compares to your specific utility consumption. This is because every utility company calculates energy consumption a little differently, and every household consumes energy a little differently.

That being said, if your account has been activated for more than a year, here is what we CAN tell you:

  • The total amount of kilowatt-hours (kWh) your system has produced since it was activated.
  • The amount you paid Vivint Solar for that energy.
  • How much the average customer—with your same utility company—would have paid for that same amount of energy.
  • How much the average customer—with your same utility company—would have saved, in the same period, if they produced the same amount of kWh for the same amount of time.

To obtain this information, simply Contact Us and request a soft savings analysis of your system.

Copyright © 2020 Vivint Solar Developer, LLC. All rights reserved. Vivint Solar Developer, LLC (EIN: 80‐0756438) is a licensed contractor in each state in which we operate. For information about our contractor licenses, please visit vivintsolar.com/licenses.