solar system estimator

Is solar right for me?

The Solar System Estimator is an online tool that you can use to help determine the benefits of installing a rooftop solar system on your home.

Use the tool to find your solar savings potential based on your rooftop characteristics, your electricity use, SMUD electricity rates and available tax credits and rebates.

Get an estimate

Learn from our experts

Installing a solar system on the roof of your home is a big decision. Not only is it important to understand how solar works, but it's likely you have questions about cost, maintenance, repairs or even selecting a contractor to work with. 

Our experts on rooftop solar want to help you make an informed choice.

Get real answers about solar. Watch this informative video to the right and start exploring your options today. 

Frequently asked questions

Do I need to do any maintenance?

Little maintenance is required with a solar electric system other than washing the panels a few times a year to help keep the system operating at its best.

Does having solar on my roof mean I am "off the grid" and not connected to electricity from SMUD? 

No. Having solar on your roof does not mean you are "off the grid". While it is possible to design a system to produce all your power and enable your home to be "off the grid," we do not recommend that you install a system that large. 

What happens at night when the sun is down? Do I still get electricity?

At night, or on very stormy days, a conventional solar electric system goes dormant. During these dormant times, you will get power from the electricity grid. When the sun comes back out, the system resumes producing energy. If you don't use all the electricity that you are producing at that moment, you can sell the excess electricity generated back to SMUD. 

What happens at the end of my contract if I'm in a lease or PPA?

Contact your solar provider to discuss the terms and conditions of your lease or PPA.

Can I recycle my old solar panels?

Contact your installer to check if they have a recycling program. You can also search the Department of Toxic Substances Control's List of Universal Waste Handlers that Accept PV Modules (Solar Panels) to find a universal waste recycling facility near you.

How can I tell if my house will be a good fit for solar?
The typical home will need to have a southern-facing roof with little or no shade. East and west facing roofs also are viable, but their output is decreased by 12%-15% or more over the course of a year. A perfect slope for your roof would be 25% to 30%. While a solar electric system will produce power at a wide variety of slopes and orientations, it is important to try to maximize your output in relation to the size of the system. The best orientation is usually south, then west, then east. Of course, shading can impact all of those decisions.

How can I calculate the size of the solar electricity system I would need?
The size of your system should be based upon your electricity usage patterns, not the size of your roof. There are many variables that determine your system’s production, for example slope, orientation and shading. SMUD will allow your system to be sized up to 110% of the last 12-month kWh consumption or up to 120% for customers on the Solar and Storage Rate (SSR) if battery storage is added at the premises. For more information, contact the solar interconnection team. Visit battery storage for homeowners to see if battery storage is right for you.

Can I increase the size of my solar electricity system?

For customers on the Solar and Storage Rate (SSR), SMUD will allow your system to be sized up to 110% of the last 12-month kWh consumption or up to 120% if battery storage is added on the premises. For existing NEM1 legacy customers, if the system size is increased by more than 10% of generating capacity originally approved, or 1 kW, whichever is greater, or exceeds 110% of generating capacity originally approved, you must move to the SSR rate schedule and submit a new Interconnection application.

Besides the basic warranty, price & service questions, what are the other questions I should ask?
Always try to get an idea of what is going to be produced by the system. While it is impossible to predict the weather and its impact on the output of your system, there are formulas to determine expected output.

Will my roof leak or do I need to re-roof my home?
It’s not often that your roof leaks. Newer mounting systems have improved resistance to leaks. Your solar electric system will be on your roof for at least 20 years so your roof should be in a condition to last that long.

Can I put it someplace else on my property other than my roof?
Yes, many properties have large lots or acreage to accommodate ground-based systems or carports with solar installed.

I am buying a new home and solar is an option. Should I buy the solar?
Purchasing solar when you buy a new home can be one of the most cost effective ways to invest in solar. The cost that solar would add to your mortgage payment is almost always less than the savings you would get on your monthly SMUD bill.

Does SMUD require a building permit if I install my own system?
Yes. SMUD requires a building permit for all installations, whether installed by a homeowner or contractor.

I am re-roofing my house, can I install integrated solar tiles?
Integrated solar tiles made to blend in with concrete tiles are mostly used in new construction. For more information regarding solar tiles, contact your contractor.

Will having a solar system help in the sale of my home?
There are many factors that go into a solar system. Contact your realtor for more information.

Will a rooftop solar electric system lower my bill?
Yes, solar electricity lowers your bill, but you must still factor in the upfront cost of the system.

Who benefits most from solar power?
The most cost-effective installations are in homes with very large electric bills. However, we have found that many people are installing solar for environmental benefits. The payback is fastest for customers with larger bills, yet many solar users value environmental responsibility as much as they value cost benefits. 

Does SMUD offer Net Energy Metering Aggregation?
No. Net Energy Metering Aggregation was a pilot rate that closed to all new applications on December 31, 2016.

Is there a cost to connect to SMUD? 
Yes, there is a one-time fee to connect new solar systems to SMUD’s grid to recover the cost of providing interconnection service. The interconnection fee will be applied to all new systems starting March 1, 2022. The interconnection fee applies when adding a new solar system, a solar system with battery storage or a battery storage system only.

Do I get credit if I make more electricity than I use?
Effective March 1, 2022, excess electricity generated on the Solar and Storage Rate for power you don’t use or store in your battery can be sold back to SMUD at a rate of 7.4¢/kWh, no matter the time of day or season. 

Are there any tax credits available?
Tax incentives may vary over time. Consult with your tax consultant before making a purchase decision. They'll let you know the latest federal tax incentives and their possible benefit to you.

Does SMUD finance solar electric systems?
No. SMUD does not currently have financing options available.

How much do systems cost?
System prices vary by size and technology. The more expensive systems are ones that integrate with concrete tile roofs. The least expensive ones are traditional framed modules mounted on the roof. Prices in the SMUD service area generally range between $3.50 and $4.50 per watt before tax credits and rebates.

What is the likely payback on my investment, in terms of years?
Payback time is determined by many factors, most importantly the amount of your current electricity bill. Customers with lower bill amounts typically have a 20-plus year payback period. Customers who have larger bills may see a return on their investment in as little as 7 to 10 years.

Does SMUD sell solar electric systems?
No. SMUD does not sell solar electric systems. SMUD offers clean energy programs for your home. 

Does SMUD offer solar incentives or rebates?
SMUD does not offer rebates for solar installations. Production meter stipends for interconnection projects were discontinued effective June 1, 2023. 

How do I apply?
If you are buying a system from a contractor, the contractor will take care of the paperwork. If you are installing the system yourself, you can submit the application here for through SMUD’s PowerClerk online portal.

How does an escalator in the PPA affect my negotiated contract?
The escalator in your PPA should be less than or equal to SMUD's average annual historic escalation rate of 2-2.5%. You may save in the long-term with a 0% escalator and a PPA rate slightly above SMUD's average cost of energy. If the PPA rate is lower than SMUD's average cost of energy, you may save in the short term but with a 3% or greater escalator, you may lose money in the long-term.

How do I find a contractor?
Use web resources like Angie’s List and the BBB to find and talk to as many contractors as possible. The contractor you select will place an interconnection application with SMUD through the PowerClerk portal, This will start the SMUD interconnection procedure. 

Do contractors need to be certified or licensed to install solar?
A contractor should have a C-10 electrician's license or a C-46 solar installer license. We also recommend you use a NABCEP certified installer.

When can I use SMUD’s online interconnection application system?

SMUD’s online interconnection application system can be used for any on-site generating facility (renewable or non-renewable) operated by or for a customer and/or facility owner to supplement or serve the customer's electric service requirements that would otherwise be served by SMUD. The application may not be used for interconnection to SMUD’s Transmission System.

What are the steps in the interconnection process?

  1. Visit SMUD's online interconnection application system to apply. Submit system details including single line diagram, site plans, diagrams or layout drawings and copy of your SMUD Bill. An interconnection fee is collected at the time of application.
  2. SMUD conducts initial review of the application and contacts applicant if needed.
  3. SMUD approves application and applicant receives email notification. Email includes SMUD prescribed inverter settings (if applicable) and any Designer or Engineer comments.
  4. System is installed. Installer obtains local agency permits and inspections and configures Advanced Inverter Functions (AIF) settings if applicable.
  5. If applicable, proof of AIF settings are required to be submitted
  6. Meter install is scheduled and performed; PTO (permission to operate) issued. 
    Important meter installation video: 3 common mistakes that solar installers make.
  7. Billing is set up and project completed.

Why do I have charges each month on my SMUD bill when I produce more electricity than I use?
Those charges are SMUD service charges which include the System Infrastructure Fixed charge, any fees for programs you might be enrolled in, surcharges and taxes, all of which must be paid monthly.

Why do I receive a monthly bill from SMUD when I have solar?
At night, or on very stormy days, a conventional solar electric system goes dormant.  During those dormant times, you will get power from the electricity grid.

What happens if I produce more electricity than I use?
Effective March 1, 2022, excess electricity generated on the Solar and Storage Rate for power you don’t use or store in your battery can be sold back to SMUD at a rate of 7.4¢/kWh, no matter the time of day or season.

I am enrolled in Budget Billing. Can I remain on this program as a solar customer?
Yes, as a Solar and Storage Rate customer, you can remain on SMUD’s Budget Billing program.