Best Solar Energy Companies
Solar Energy Contributing Editor
Updated on 03/12/2018
We’ve known light could be turned into electricity since 1839 when French physicist, A. E. Becquerel, discovered the photovoltaic effect. It wasn’t until the 1950s, however, that the first solar cells were available commercially, when Bell Labs produced them for use in outer space.
In the decades since, improvements in solar technology have been tremendous, as have drops in solar power cost. Since 1977, the price of solar panels has dropped approximately 100 times over, and solar power is now cheaper than power from the grid for billions of people. Many consumers are turning to solar energy to save money with this renewable energy source.
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Vivint is a technology and solar energy system company whose mission is to provide clean energy throughout the United States. It helps customers finance solar energy with leases, loans and PPAs.
Read 376 Reviews
SunRun offers solar leases and solar loans, along with solar panel design and installation. They also sell solar batteries. Plans start at $0 down & include free maintenance, repairs, monitoring, & insurance for 20 years.
Read 148 Reviews
SunLux was formed to help consumers switch to renewable energy by pinpointing what each individual needs to save them money and maximize efficiency. It has over 20 years of experience in installing solar energy systems and parts.
Read 605 Reviews
Dividend Solar works with a preferred network of solar installers to offer $0-down loans to homeowners looking to go solar. It focuses on delivering value and quality to all of its customers.
Read 487 Reviews
SolarCity is a fast-growing solar power company. It was founded in 2006 by two brothers who wanted to provide solar power to residential customers. It serves customers in 15 states and is one of America's largest providers.
Read 23 Reviews
Solar Spectrum offers solar energy solutions to fit your needs. Each plan lasts 20 years at a locked-in, affordable rate. Solar Spectrum covers all repairs, operation and monitoring to keep your system functioning.
Read 107 Reviews
SunPower is one of the oldest solar power companies in the United States, having first offered solar energy systems in 1985. Its solar-powered catamaran continually sails around the world without relying on external fuel sources.
Read 22 Reviews
Servicing Massachusetts only, Solar Five is a local solar power installer providing $0 down Leases & Loans, MA Solar Loan and Direct Purchasing while focusing on customers & supporting the local community.
Read 16 Reviews
PetersenDean offers roofing services as well as solar panel installation and maintenance for both residential and commercial customers. It operates out of Northern California and also services Arizona, Florida, Texas and Nevada.
Read 27 Reviews
RGS Energy started out as a small business running a general store that sold solar paneling. It has currently sold over 22,500 solar energy systems to homes, businesses and educational and governmental institutions.
What should you consider before you switch to solar energy?
In some cases, people can buy their solar power systems with cash, but with a price tag comparable to a new car.
For that reason, most people will want to consider financing. Many companies don’t make it clear there are various ways to finance your solar power system, but the difference in savings can be huge.
Our Solar Financing buyers guide covers everything you need to know about companies that can help you finance your solar purchase.
Do you want to own your solar power system? Just as with a car, you have options to personally own your solar power system by purchasing it from the solar company after a certain period of time, or you may choose to lease it indefinitely.
- Lease transfer vs. sale: If you intend to move after a few years and you have a solar lease, you will have to convince the new buyers to take over the lease – which isn’t always easy. If the solar system is already purchased, you can simply roll the cost of the system into the price of the home.
- Lease to own: Even if you choose the leasing or purchase power agreement (PPA) route, some companies allow you to buy the system for a fair market value once the leasing period has ended.
- Solar panel longevity: Many people don’t consider the benefits of an investment beyond 15-20 years, but it is worth noting that solar panels are very durable and can produce electricity close to the initial factory specs for many decades. Your long-term savings could be three or four times higher if you buy solar panels rather than lease them for a 20-year period.
Costs and savings
Just about every solar installation company has a “solar calculator” on their website to quickly estimate how much a solar system will cost and how much it will save you over time. Each solar calculator will yield very different estimates, so compare as many as possible and feel free to ask each company what factors they’ve used to come up with their estimates.
- Electricity costs: Calculators may estimate electricity costs in different ways. Numbers can be based on the national average, regional averages, or based on information you provide – and each input can result in very different overall cost and savings estimates.
- Incentives: Calculators may or may not include federal, state and local incentives which, if you’re eligible, can mean big savings.
- Generation potential: Some calculators take a satellite photo of your roof and offer a close estimate of how much electricity you can generate. Some calculators use your regional solar irradiation to create the estimate, while other calculators simply use the size of your roof or your typical electricity consumption with no other factors included.
- Financing assumptions: Cost calculators also make different assumptions regarding financing (for instance, whether you'll use a flat-rate cash purchase, a lease, a loan or PACE financing). Your actual cost will vary if you choose a different financing method.
There are many different solar panels on the market – each with their own benefits and disadvantages. Solar panels used for the rooftop solar market are less varied, but there are still considerable differences between each brand. Find out which manufacturer's solar panels the company installs.
- Price vs. efficiency: The biggest price differences among solar panel brands generally reflect variations in efficiency, but efficiency doesn’t usually matter unless you have very limited space on your roof.
- Warranties and reliability: How reliable are the chosen company’s panels known to be – and is the company likely to be around in 10 years? Will they guarantee the panels and service them if they become faulty?
- Options: Does the installer give you a choice between different types of panels, or at least disclose where the panels are manufactured?
Does the company offer service beyond installation? Some companies only install solar panels, while other companies manage every aspect of the process, including servicing them regularly and replacing parts as needed.
- Maintenance and warranties: Some solar companies will install the solar panels, provide maintenance and offer warranties on both the panels and the work. These additional services may come at a cost, but it is often worth it.
- Financing: Some companies will even assist you during the financing process, whether that be a lease, loan, or PACE financing. Check to see whether you will save money by financing through the solar panel company, or if it would be a better financial decision to seek financing elsewhere, such as through a home improvement loan from your bank.
- Incentives: Some companies help you find and take advantage of incentives you may be eligible for on the federal, state and local levels, such as tax breaks or rebates.
- Manufacturing: A number of solar installers also manufacture the solar panels and solar cells they use.
Some companies have dedicated customer service representatives available to help you with any questions or problems. Others will refer you to an automated 1-800 number for everything.
- Dedicated salesperson: Your solar company may provide a dedicated salesperson or customer service representative from day one or after a certain stage in the process – or maybe not at all.
- Post-sale: Ideally, your initial point-of-contact will be available if you need something after sales, but you may be assigned to a different representative at a later time.
- Service fees: There’s a good chance premium services will also come with an additional cost, but there should be no fee for asking questions.
What are the different types of solar panels?
Crystalline solar panels
Crystalline solar energy panels make up the majority of solar panels used for residential solar power. Crystalline silicon is the semiconducting material used in solar electric technology to produce solar cells. These solar cells are then built into solar panels. The purity of the crystalline silicon determines how efficient a solar panel is.
Monocrystalline solar panels
Monocrystalline solar energy panels are the most efficient panels on the market.They produce the highest power outputs and require the least amount of space when compared with other panels (15-20 percent efficiency rating). They have the longest lifespan of any panel on the market. Most companies warrant them for around 25 years.
Polycrystalline solar panels
Polycrystalline solar energy panels cost less than monocrystalline panels because the process to make them is simpler and less expensive. They’re less efficient than monocrystalline panels (13-16 percent efficiency rating). You will need to cover a larger surface area with polycrystalline panels to get the same amount of power as you would from a monocrystalline panel system.
Thin-film solar panels
Thin-film solar energy panels are made by layering thin solar cells on materials such as glass, metal or plastic. They are cheaper to manufacture than crystalline-based panels, so they’re easy to mass-produce.They can be made flexible, and are therefore used for multiple applications. High temperatures and shading don’t affect them as much as other panels, and they’re great for wide open spaces like farms and fields. Since thin-film panels require a lot of space, they’re not ideal for residential use. They also degrade faster than crystalline panels.
Who should switch to solar power?
A large percentage of homeowners would benefit financially from going solar, but only a tiny percentage have made the switch. Residential solar installations have grown exponentially, and as more people see friends and family go solar, the number of installations continues to grow. Falling solar costs also make the offer enticing to more and more homeowners. Homeowners wanting to switch to solar may be limited by options offered in their particular state, as some solar companies do not operate nationwide.
Small and large businesses
Small and large businesses that switch to solar can save on energy costs while making a big statement about helping the environment. Solar power is often cheaper than electricity from the grid, making solar a logical (and even obvious) option for businesses. Many large companies such as Walmart, IKEA, Google, Facebook, Apple, Kohl’s and Walgreens have begun transitioning to solar on a large scale in recent years. In certain areas, PACE financing may be available for building owners.
Government agencies and nonprofits
Government agencies and nonprofit organizations are not able take advantage of very useful tax incentives, but solar companies that offer innovative financing options can help these organizations switch to solar as well. Dropping solar costs have made solar power a financially-beneficial option in some locations – even without any tax incentives.
Cash and loan consumers
Individuals or organizations that benefit from (or prefer to) purchase their solar power systems may have limited options. Some companies simply don’t offer the option to pay upfront for the solar system, or may only allow customers to purchase the system after a certain period of time. Those who choose to purchase their systems are usually looking for a long-term energy solution and are comfortable taking responsibility for the maintenance of their solar panel system.
Leasing and PPA customers
Many consumers don’t have thousands of dollars laying around to purchase their own solar system, so they’ll need to explore financing options that will make it possible. Some solar companies (or states) simply won’t offer solar leasing or PPAs, and others will offer these options but could tend to push consumers towards a different financing option instead. Solar lease or PPA payments will typically be lower than current utilities, so these customers will notice a cash savings right away and usually won’t have to bother with the maintenance of a leased solar system.
DIY solar users
Solar panel systems can be extremely durable and require little to no maintenance. Those who plan to install and maintain their own solar system may have a different set of criteria in choosing a solar company. If you plan to install and service the system yourself, you’ll likely need to purchase the system with cash or with a loan, as companies who offer solar leases and PPAs are more likely to require installation and even maintenance to be handled by their company or a partner company.
Many consumers wanting to switch to solar have little to no experience with solar systems. Choosing a company that offers both installation and maintenance services is likely the best route for those who want more of a hands-off solar experience.
Expert reviews about solar companies
Dividend Solar is a solar financing company that began in San Francisco. Its mission is to give investors a way to invest in solar and to provide homeowners another source of financing. Basically, through crowd-sourced investments, a homeowner can get a competitive loan to cover the cost of a rooftop solar system.
The #2 residential solar installer in the United States, Vivint Solar is a public solar company that launched in 2011.
- Combined services: Vivint offers various home services such as security and automation systems, so you can bundle solar with these products through Vivint at the same time.
- Customer acquisition and installation efficiency: Vivint Solar is reportedly very efficient when it comes to customer acquisition, allowing it to theoretically offer customers lower prices than its competitors.
- Solar panel flexibility: Vivint Solar isn’t tied to any particular solar panel provider, so it’s able to adapt to changes in the market and provide customers with a wide variety of options.
- Financing model: Vivint Solar's most popular financing option is their PPA structure.
- Best for: homeowners, small and large businesses, government agencies and nonprofits, leasing or PPA customers and solar beginners.
SolarCity is by far the largest residential solar installation company in the United States. It is also one of only a few companies vertically integrated, offering installation and financing while also including a manufacturing arm.
- Market share: With 26 percent of the residential solar market in 2013, SolarCity had more than 3 times the market share of #2 Vivint Solar and about 4.5 times the market share of #3 Verengo Solar. A strong market share indicates the company is performing well and attracting customers, and the wealth of experience can also be very useful for customers.
- Vertical integration: Vertical integration can (theoretically) allow SolarCity to offer customers a better deal. Greater efficiencies, economies of scale and a more secure process can mean lower prices for customers.
- Various financing options: Homeowners, businesses, or organizations can get solar leases, PPAs, loans, or pay for their systems in cash with SolarCity.
- Leasing: SolarCity has a strong preference for solar leasing and PPAs, as it makes more money from these options. SolarCity may try to steer customers towards leasing or PPAs when it would actually be in the customer's best interest to use a loan to purchase a system.
- Acquisition: SolarCity reportedly has relatively high customer acquisition costs, which could result in higher costs for consumers.
- Best for: homeowners, small and large businesses, government agencies, nonprofits, leasing and PPA customers, solar beginners and cash and loan consumers.
Solar Five is a Massachusetts-based company providing affordable solar energy to homeowners, businesses and government. Solar Five manages the installation process from start to finish for an easy transition to solar power. They have completed over 400 solar energy projects of all sizes and can customize a solar package to meet every consumer’s needs.
- Solar Five Ambassador Program: Solar Five will give customers a $500 Visa gift card if the person they refer ends up going solar. There is no limit to the amount of referrals a customer can make.
- Community focused: Solar Five believes in building a stronger community by supporting neighborhood businesses that employ local residents. They also support local initiatives.
- Weekly check-ins: Once the sales period has closed, Solar Five will keep you updated with weekly check-ins so you always know the status of your solar project.
- Financing options: Solar Five customers can purchase their system in full or finance it using a lease, PPA, solar loan or MASS Solar Loan, a program in which the state of Massachusetts buys down the interest on your solar loan.
- Free online quote: Get a free quote for your solar energy project using Solar Five’s online quote form. Input your address, contact information, average monthly electric bill and any additional information you want to provide to receive your quote.
- Best for: Solar Five is best for residential, commercial and government solar projects.
In business for over 10 years, SunRun services more than 100,000 customers in 22 states. The company specializes in customized solar energy systems and offers a lifetime warranty on its products.
- Multiple financing options: SunRun lets you pay for your solar energy system in many ways. If you want to lease the system, you can pay SunRun a set amount per month or pay them a higher up-front fee and avoid the monthly payment. If you want to own the system, you can pay off the system in full or finance it with a loan.
- Lifetime warranty: SunRun guarantees the performance of its product throughout the product’s lifetime. This warranty promises free repairs on your solar energy system. SunRun’s systems also include a roof warranty in case of leaks or holes.
- mySunRun app: With SunRun’s mobile app, mySunRun, you can track your system’s production, share your system’s stats via social media and change your billing preferences. The app also helps you submit customer support issues and refer friends to SunRun in exchange for Visa gift cards.
- LG Chem battery: With SunRun, you can purchase an LG Chem battery in addition to your solar energy system. This battery can store the excess energy that your system produces, making it available to you in the event of an outage.
- States available: AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, HI, MD, MA, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OR, PA, RI, SC, TX, UT, VT, WY
- Best for: homeowners who want a customized solar energy system.
SunLux Energy has over 20 years of experience in installing quality solar energy systems and components. Understanding switching to renewable solar energy can be expensive, It focuses on helping consumers save money but pinpointing their properties exact energy needs. Whether you’re a homeowner wanting to make the switch to renewable energy or a Californian commercial property or business owner, SunLux Energy will work with you to develop a system to meet your properties needs.
- Installation process: Upon signing a contract, SunLux will do a site evaluation, measuring your roof and conduct a shading study. Once the evaluation is complete, its team of engineers will design a system that fits your property and send it to you for approval. They will handle all permits that are needed through your city and once the proper permits are obtained, they will install your system. Finally, SunLux will do a final inspection with the city manager to check for proper installation.
- Leasing options: SunLux Energy partners with solar leasing programs and offers leasing options for people paying over $100 per month on their energy bills. Its customers who use a leasing program save over 30% on their energy bills and an average of $500 by the end of the first year.
- Financing options: SunLux Energy partners with finance companies to offer financing for its energy systems. No down payment is required and you can choose between 5- to 25-year terms. Additionally, financing your system earns you a 30-percent tax credit and allows you to own your own solar panels, which has an average return on investment of 20 percent.
- Commercial project development: SunLux Energy works with commercial clients in the state of California to maximize energy savings and return on investment. Its engineers work with your company during the design phase to develop a customized energy solutions for your business.
- Qualification: Interested customers can visit the SunLux website and fill out a form with their basic information and the amount of their average electric bill to see if they qualify to switch to solar energy.
- Best for: individual property owners looking for a customized solar energy solution.
Sungevity was one of the first solar installers to offer solar leasing, but it is not tied to that financing model. It uses a unique, efficient, satellite-based system for providing customers with an initial solar quote.
- iQuote: Sungevity’s iQuote system is a very efficient, satellite-based system for providing customers with a solar system quote without having to visit their property.
- Financing options: Sungevity was a solar leasing pioneer, but it is reportedly agnostic when it comes to leasing versus loan or cash options.
- Dedicated project manager: Sungevity provides you with a dedicated project manager so you don’t have to go through automated customer support.
- Service: Sungevity offers service to seven states in the U.S. in addition to providing service in Australia and the Netherlands.
- Manufactures: Sungevity doesn’t have a manufacturing arm, so it is subject to changes and potential lack-of-supply in the solar panel manufacturing market.
- Best for: homeowners, small and large businesses, government agencies and nonprofits, leasing and PPA customers, solar beginners and cash and loan consumers.
GreenMind Energy got its start in 2015 and offers customized solar power solutions to consumers in Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Utah and California. GreenMind Energy evaluates each client's personal property to customize a solar system that is right for their home. It prides itself on putting the customer first by including them in every step of the process, from selecting panels to the designing the system.
SunPower is one of the world’s leading solar cell and solar module manufacturers, and it’s also a leading solar installer. It was one of the first solar companies to become vertically integrated, and was the first U.S. company focused on the home solar market to do so. Aside from residential solar installations, SunPower is routinely one of the top commercial solar panel installers in the United States.
RGS Energy is part of Real Goods Solar and sold some of the first solar panels to the public, over 35 years ago! Real Goods Solar was the 5th-largest residential solar installer in the U.S. in 2013.
Complete Solar is a company devoted to designing and installing residential solar power systems. The company offers a range of services, and much of its success comes from a proprietary technology that helps clients choose specific features while staying within their budgets.
PetersenDean is a residential and commercial roofing and solar company founded in 1984. It entered the solar market relatively recently, but is the #1 residential roofing contractor in the U.S., with over 1 million roofs installed.
Founded in 2008, REPOWER by Solar Universe has been around for several years yet pursued a different business model than most of its peers – franchising.
In 2012 and 2013, Yingli Solar held the title as the #1 solar module manufacturer in the world in terms of annual solar module capacity sales.
As one of the leading providers of solar power installation in Southern California, Horizon Solar Power is dedicated to offering residential homes a renewable energy system at discount pricing. Their unique take on solar installation helps more homes reap the benefits of solar energy without the high cost of panels.
Go Solar, Inc., is a Colorado-based and Colorado-focused full-service solar company. It has partnered with high-quality US-based companies to offer great solar products made in the USA.
- Supports the US economy: Focused on supporting the U.S. economy, Go Solar, Inc. uses solar panels and solar inverters from top U.S. solar companies such as SunEdison and Enphase.
- Industry knowledge: The company’s leadership knows solar technology and solar financing in depth, which leads to a high-quality product offering and competitive financing options.
- High-quality industry partnership: With SunEdison as a dedicated partner, Go Solar, Inc., presumably gets a good deal on its solar panels, thus allowing the company to offer customers a good deal on high-quality solar technology (which includes a 25-year warranty).
- Complete service: Go Solar, Inc. keeps the customer experience smooth and pleasant with in-house contractors, financing, maintenance, monitoring and even roof repair (with a 20-year “bumper to bumper” warranty).
- Mutual benefit with growth: The company also offers a $500 reward for referring new customers.
- Best for: homeowners, small and large businesses, government agencies and nonprofits, cash and loan consumers, leasing and PPA customers and solar beginners.
Verengo Solar was the #3 residential solar installer in 2013 in terms of residential market share. The company has installed over 12,000 residential solar power systems, however, the company is reportedly up for sale.
Pick My Solar is a unique solar company that is focused on assisting homeowners who want to go solar. It collects bids from various solar installers, evaluates them and makes recommendations to the homeowners.
Tesla Energy Solar Power has been providing alternative sources of energy since 2015. Tesla Energy offers solar solutions for both businesses and residences. Tesla has partnered with Sunworks to build a solar-driven community that provides affordable, clean energy to clients all over the world. Tesla Energy Solar power is based in Sacramento, California.
- Tesla solar panels: Tesla solar panels have a low-profile design that blends into your roof. These sleek panels show no mounting hardware to give them a clean, integrated look.
- Tesla Powerwall: The Tesla Powerwall stores energy that the solar panels capture for use during natural disasters and power outages. These compact backup power sources integrate with Tesla solar.
- Tesla solar roof: Tesla started production on solar roofs in 2017. These roofs are made entirely of solar panels, and they come in four different options: smooth, textured, tuscan and slate.
- Commercial and government products: Tesla offers solar energy solutions for commercial and government organizations. Tesla provides panels and Powerpack energy storage for municipalities, schools, enterprises, agriculture and more.
- Utilities: Tesla designs solar energy solutions for power grids. Tesla’s centralized solar power generators provide clean, renewable energy storage.
- Best for: residences and businesses interested in investing in solar power solutions.
The most popular line for selling home solar power is, “You can go solar for as little as $0 down!” It’s important to know whether the solar company offers solar leases or Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), if they offer loans, or if they can help you get Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing.
Some companies are known to have one financing preference (like leasing) over other options, but their preference may not be in your best interest. Choosing between solar leasing, solar loans and PACE financing is very specific case-by-case. While one option may be the best for your neighbor or friend, a different option could be better for you.Are you an expert?
Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.
Compare Reviews for Top Solar Energy Companies
Read 181 Reviews
Complete Solar offers California residents custom solar solutions to deliver optimal energy output. Their proprietary software platform, HelioQuote™, can save you money with streamlined and fast installation.
Read 12 Reviews
Verengo Solar helps customers throughout California convert their homes from electrical power to solar power and provides information about rebates. It is a top U.S. residential solar contractor on the Solar Power World List.
|Solar Universe||Read Reviews|
Solar Universe offers a network of local franchises across the United States so that consumers can get solar energy systems from providers in their neighborhoods. They have been assisting consumers with solar power since 2008.
|Yingli Solar||Read Reviews|
Yingli Solar is a large global solar energy company that has 30 offices in various countries. It has provided service in Europe, South America, Asia and Australia in addition to its locations within the United States.
|Go Solar||Read Expert Review|
Based in colorado, Go Solar is dedicated to making quality solar products that are made in the USA. The company offers both residential and commercial solutions.
|Pick My Solar||Read Reviews|
Pick My Solar was founded with the goal to put solar panels on every compatible rooftop in America. The company is striving towards this goal by bringing about solar awareness, creating affordable prices and simplify the process.
|GreenMind Energy||Read Reviews|
Headquartered in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, GreenMind Energy services multiple states with solar energy solutions. It focuses on putting its customer’s needs first by walking them through each step of becoming a solar household.
|Tesla Energy||Read Expert Review|
Tesla Solar Power began providing solar energy solutions to homes and businesses since 2015. Tesla makes solar panels and energy storage devices that can power anything from residences to utility power grids.
EnergySage does not offer direct financing. It is an online marketplace where customers receive quotes and estimates for solar power installation. They also offer options for homeowners looking to invest in community solar.
|Horizon Solar Power||Read Reviews|
Horizon Solar Power offers residential solar energy system installation services throughout the Inland Empire area in Southern California. Consumers can get a quote by filling out an online form or by calling the company