Installing solar is a hot topic for homeowners and has become commonplace with new lease and finance options where homeowners can go solar with $0 upfront and recognize immediate monthly savings. It’s hard to leave home without hearing an advertisement, seeing a representative at your local supermarket, hardware store, or electronics retailer, and most homeowners have had their doors knocked on and phones rung several times. It makes sense that consumers are now familiar with names like SunPower, Sunrun, Solar City, and Vivint with all of the buzz around solar, but for some homeowners their choice of solar provider is just a question of which one approached them at the right time.
Not all solar is created equal, and not all solar providers are created equally. Most homeowners are concerned with the amount of electricity that they can generate, the quality of the work, the guarantees provided, the process for service when required, and ultimately the savings their solar will provide. These factors will vary drastically based on the solar provider and installer. So who is the best solar provider? We’ll let you be the judge of that.
How will the Provider Affect the Amount of Electricity I Can Generate?
The brand, wattage, and efficiency of solar panel will vary between providers. You want to select a provider that uses a high efficiency panel to maximize your roof space, to maximize your savings, and even leave room for expansion in case an electric car is in your future!
How does the Workmanship Differ between Solar Providers?
Some solar providers only fulfill a portion of the process and use sub-contractors to perform the work, which can lead to finger pointing if there is ever an issue. You want to make sure your provider performs all of the work in house with a track record of quality work so you have a point of contact with questions or service, and to ensure you have a seamless process.
What Guarantees do I have?
Most solar contracts include 20 years of service, but the guarantee is only as good as the company giving the guarantee. Four of the five top solar providers consistently show a loss! This can be concerning if you have a contract for them to take care of your panels for the next 20 years. The brand of panel used for your installation will affect the warranty on your solar panels as warranties differ between manufacturers. You want to select a provider with a warranty that will cover you for decades to come. Additionally, you want to consider how long the manufacturer has been making solar panels to ensure they can back their warranty up. SunPower is the only solar manufacturer that offers a true 25-year warranty covering parts, labor, and power output and have been around for over 30 years to back it up!
What About Service?
If you are working with a provider that uses sub-contractors or doesn’t have a strong presence in your market (or consistently shows a loss), you may have issues with service in the future. SunPower only works with local installers that have a proven track record of providing quality installations and service. With SunPower, you get the benefit of a publicly traded, profitable, multi-billion dollar corporation backstopping your project with the work performed by a local expert.
Who Will Save me the Most Money?
Your savings are based on two things: how much energy your system can produce to offset your electric bills, and how much you have to pay for that energy over time. SunPower panels produce more energy from day one due to their proprietary Maxeon technology that is 30% more efficient than a conventional panel, and 20% more power watt for watt over their life because of the quality components. Most national solar providers include an annual escalation in their contract price. SunPower has a standard 0% escalation in their contracts so your savings are locked in, and you know exactly what you will pay over the life of your system.
There are several factors to consider when considering your solar provider, and it pays to do your research! The table below provides and overview of the top 5 solar providers.
|Company Name||Publicly Traded?||Profitable?||Standard Annual Price Escalator||Panel Type||Common Panel Wattage|
|Yes – SPWR||7/8 Past Quarters||0%||SunPower||327|
|Sunrun||Yes – RUN||No||2.9%||REC Solar||260|
|Solar City||Yes – SCTY||Never||2.9%||Canadian Solar, Trina Solar||250|
|Vivint||Yes – VSLR||Never||2.9%||Canadian Solar, Trina Solar||250|
|NRG Home Solar||No, part of larger publicly traded entity||No, recently fired 500 employees and closed offices.||2.9%||Canadian Solar, Trina Solar, Yingli||250|