Does Your Meter Really Run Backwards After a Solar PV Installation?
I won’t forget the first time I heard a Long Island-based solar energy advocate speak at my local library about the benefits of solar energy. When he talked about his meter running backward during the day, I thought he was speaking metaphorically. Then he passed around his energy bill and right there, in the “amount due” space, was a negative number. (It was approximately “-$38” but the return on investment for a Solar PV installation varies greatly based on a number of factors.)
“Wait,” I asked. “Your meter really spins backwards? You can go outside and see it?”
He confirmed that this was absolutely the case and explained how it works.
Normally, your electric meter spins in a clockwise rotation. The more electricity you burn, the faster it spins. If it spins rapidly in a home with a lot of kids, who are running the Wii, multiple computers, a few HDTVs, and have every light on in the house, it’s been known to make a parent’s head spin too!
But if you have solar panels for your home, during the day when the sun is burning brightly, those PV panels are turning the sun’s energy into electricity to run your lights, your AC and all those appliances. Your meter will come to a standstill, since you’re not drawing electricity from the power company. That’s a good thing, because every time your meter spins, your electric bill rises.
If you’re just a little bit conservative with your energy usage, you’ll see something else happen. Your solar PV installation will be producing more electricity than your home is using at the time. The excess is fed back to your electric company as an energy credit. And your electric meter runs backward, so your payment drops.
At night, when there’s no sun and your PV panels aren’t producing electricity, your grid-tied solar system will draw electric from the electric company again and your meter starts running forward. In an ideal situation, your meter will run backward more often than it runs forward, and you’ll get one of those cool electric bills with a negative number in the “amount due” column.
Remember, EcoOutfitters.net can connect you with solar installers in your area and you can start reversing the spin of your electric meter, too.