Solar for your home
Going solar is a big decision. Let us help you make an informed choice.
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.
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 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, however it is possible to relocate a system within SMUD's territory. If relocating the system, contact SMUD's solar department at email@example.com.
NOTE: It is the contractor's responsibility to contact SMUD solar department at firstname.lastname@example.org to coordinate the pick-up of the PV meter. If the meter is not returned to SMUD then the contractor 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?
Contact your solar provider to discuss the terms and conditions of your lease or PPA.
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 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. For more information, click here for the solar estimator.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Do I get credit if I make more electricity than I use?
Yes. However, you should not oversize your solar electric system to make more than you 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.
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 a $300 solar stipend for residential installations. SMUD offers renewable energy programs for your home. To learn more, go to smud.org/GoGreen or call 1-888-742-7683.
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.
I have existing solar. Can I install more and do I get the same incentives?
Yes. You can install more solar on an existing system. If you install a 2nd PV meter socket, SMUD’s solar program does provide a $300 solar stipend.
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.
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, https://smudinterconnect.powerclerk.com/Account/Login. 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 Education & 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.