Solar for your home

Going solar is a big decision. Let us help you make an informed choice.

Curious about solar? See if you're ready to take the next step.
Learn about the many ways to finance a solar system.
Solar electric bills differ from standard electricity bills.
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 and start exploring your options today. 

Want to learn more from our SMUD experts? Find an upcoming “Solar for Your Home” seminar.


Frequently asked questions

Maintenance and repairs

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. For repairs, SMUD’s PV Incentive Program requires contractors to give you a 10-year warranty.

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. A solar electric system produces only 3% of its yearly power in December. Therefore, you would need a very large system to produce enough power for your December needs. Conversely, such a large system would not be needed in June, when the system produces 13% of its yearly output. To effectively go "off the grid", a home would require massive battery banks, which can add 40% or more to the cost of a system, and ultra-low energy consumption appliances and energy-efficient lighting would need to be incorporated into the dwelling. Converting a conventional home to an "off the grid" home is very expensive.

What happens with my solar electric system when I move? Does it stay with the house or can I remove and re-install it on my next house?

Most solar electric systems stay with the home to which they are attached. The cost to remove and reinstall a system is usually offset by the higher resale value of a home that produces some of its own electricity.

If the system is removed before 5 years and not re-installed in SMUD territory within six months, then a partial rebate will be due back to SMUD.

NOTE: It is the customer's responsibility to contact SMUD solar department to coordinate the pick-up of the PV Meter. If the meter is not returned to SMUD then the customer will be billed for the missing PV meter.

What happens at night when the sun is down? Do I still get electricity? Does electricity get stored somewhere in my house?

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, the excess gets sent back to the electricity grid. You are credited this amount on your bill. This process is called "net metering."

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

At the end of your contract, you'll need to work with your solar provider to determine if you'll keep the solar system on your home or have it removed. Many 20 year agreements have a 5-year extension option. Be aware of any final fees or costs associated with the end of your contract.

If you take ownership of your system after the 20th year, you will assume responsibility for the operation and maintenance. Also consider the inverter life expectancy in your decision.


Site and product selection

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 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. Customers with high electric bills may consider a larger system. A good rule of thumb is to start at a 2,000 watt system and determine the impact to your bill before you increase the size of the system. A 1,000 watt system will produce about 1,600 kWh (kilowatt-hours) per year. A 2,000 watt system produces about 3,200 kWh per year.

Begin by totaling all of your Basic Plus electricity use for the last 12 months. Then divide the total by 1,600. This will give you a system size in kW (kilowatts) that will keep you out of the highest energy cost range. There are online bill calculators that can help as well. Many contractors can calculate this for you if you provide them with 12 months or more of bills. For more information, visit our Getting Started page.

Besides the basic warranty, price & service questions, what are the other questions I should ask?

Always try to get an idea 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 companies have large lots or acreage to accommodate ground-based systems or parking lot covers 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. Many owners of SMUD Smart Homes have very low electric bills.

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, should/can I install integrated solar tiles?

Integrated solar tiles made to blend in with concrete tiles are mostly used in new construction. They can be installed when re-roofing but the cost for the conversion is generally prohibitive.

Will having a solar system help in the sale of my home?

It will depend on what type of solar contract you have and the age of your system. The value of your home may increase if the solar system is free of future encumbrances, like a lease. If you have a lease or PPA for your system, details will need to be worked out with your solar provider to transfer the lease or PPA obligations to the new homebuyer.


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.

What is net metering and how does it work?

Net metering is a billing method that gives you credit for excess electricity your solar electric system produces. When your house uses power from your solar electric system, you are not buying power from SMUD. That lowers your SMUD bill.

If I have rental homes can I put solar on those homes and have it apply to my house?

No. Net metering is only available for the location where the solar electric system is installed.

Do I get credit if I make more electricity than I use?

Yes, however, you should not oversize your solar electricity system to make more than you use. SMUD will only pay incentives for the system size needed to offset all or part of your 12-month historic use. State legislation that took effect in January of 2011 requires utilities like SMUD to pay for excess generation, but the amount paid may not be at retail rates. Refer to the "Net Metering for Qualifying Facilities" rate schedule for more information.

What is a "properly sized" system?

In order to qualify for Net Energy Metering the system must be sized to generate no more energy than your past 12-month’s energy history. SMUD will not provide stipends or Net Energy Metering for any system larger than your current home's load. If you consume 10,000 kWh per year, we will rebate a system that produces no more than 10,000 kWh.

Net metering is a billing method that gives you credit for excess electricity your solar electric system produces. When your house uses power from your solar electric system, you are not buying power from SMUD. That lowers your SMUD bill.

What about life changes that affect energy usage?

We understand that changes happen in life which are not always reflective of your past energy usage, such as retirement or children moving back into the home. In those instances, options may be available to address the variance in energy usage.

You might be able to increase the size of your system to cover up to 120% of your historical loads. Another option would be to install a system sized up to 2 watts per square foot of your home's conditioned space (living space not including the garage, attic, storage or such). For example, a 1,500 sq ft home could have up to a 3,000 watt solar system. To request a variance use the Solar System Variance Request form.

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's solar program does provide rebates to customers to offset the cost of installing their own systems.

What is the rebate? Does SMUD offer any rebates?

Check our Financing Options page for more information.

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 through SMUD PowerClerk website.

I have existing solar. Can I install more and do I get the same rebates?

You can install more solar on an existing system. Rebates/Stipends that are paid per site are limited to one per five year interval.

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 well lose money in the long-term. 

Finding a contractor

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.

How can SMUD help me in the solar purchasing process?

SMUD provides information to help you, but offers no direct recommendations or assistance. Many prospective solar customers take SMUD's homeowners class at our Energy & Technology Center at 6301 S Street. Check here for upcoming classes.

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.


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. If you use more electricity than you produce, you may choose to pay for the net electricity you consume from SMUD either monthly or at the end of the annual settlement period.

What happens if I produce more electricity than I use?

If, in any regular billing month, the electricity supplied by SMUD is less than the electricity supplied to SMUD by your solar system, then you'll receive a retail-valued electricity credit for that net excess electricity your system supplied. The retail-valued electricity credits will carry over to the following monthly billing period until the end of the annual settlement period. Retail-valued electricity credits will only be credited against electricity usage charges during the same settlement year.

What is the settlement period?

You'll have a 12 month settlement period that starts the day you move into your new home or when your powered system is energized, during which your electricity is tracked—how much you use from SMUD, if any, and how much you send back to SMUD.

What are my compensation options for my net surplus generation?

At the end of your 12-month settlement period, SMUD will calculate your net surplus generation over the 12-month period. If you have net generation, SMUD will, at your choosing, either:

  • Provide a monetary payment to you for the net surplus; or
  • Roll over the net annual surplus kWh into the next 12-month period.
  • You can choose to opt out of receiving compensation or kWh roll-over credit for your net surplus generation. If you do, you will not receive any form of compensation nor credit for your surplus generation delivered to SMUD.