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Best Solar Energy Companies

Read our guide to choose the best solar energy company by comparing availability, solar panel options and warranties. We vetted 18 solar energy companies and analyzed 1,153 reviews submitted by verified customers over the last year (July 29, 2020, through July 29, 2021) to select our picks for the top solar energy companies.

Zachary Shahan Solar Energy Contributing Editor
18
Companies considered
3,430
Customer ratings

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    Is going solar worth it?

    If you’re looking to go solar either for environmental or financial reasons, now might be a good time. Solar energy is a renewable affordable energy source that can help you reduce your energy bill. It also results in cleaner air and water than using fossil fuels. There are currently solar energy incentives that help reduce your cost.

    Key insights

    Methodology

    To narrow down the solar energy companies listed on this guide to our top picks, we first considered overall satisfaction ratings, eliminating those rated below 3.5 stars. To narrow it down again, we required companies to have at least twice as many 5-star reviews as 1-star reviews over the last year — in other words, a 2:1 ratio of customers who say they “would recommend” the solar company to customers who say they are “very dissatisfied” with the solar company. Sources

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      Our picks for top solar energy companies

      The ConsumerAffairs Editorial Team primarily relies on verified customer reviews and ratings to select our top picks and make recommendations. Read our methodology for more on how we make top-pick selections. All prices listed in this guide are accurate as of the time of publishing.

      Easy to get startedSunPowerAUTHORIZED PARTNER
      • Purchase, loan and lease options
      • 25-year system warranty; 10-year warranty on monitoring hardware
      • Serves most metro areas

      The SunPower Equinox is a complete home solar system designed and engineered by SunPower to be efficient, reliable and stylish. The minimalist design generates power with built-in microinverters hidden behind each panel, eliminating the need for unnecessary and unsightly hardware on the walls of your home.

      Median costs per watt range from $3.20 to $4.50, according to the company, but it’s best to contact a local representative to get the most accurate estimates for your area. Those who qualify for financing can get started with a small or no down payment.

      As of publishing, SunPower has an overall satisfaction rating of 4.4 stars. About 77% of SunPower customers we talked to said they would recommend the company.

      What to consider: Through the mySunPower app, you can monitor production, storage and electricity use. However, at least one reviewer in California said the app isn’t always reliable.

      What we like: Customers who left reviews on our site state the systems are built for efficiency, and many of them praise the local installation teams.

      “My system is doing great. I’m already at a $0 electric bill,” a reviewer in New Jersey said. “The installers were great. Sunpower held my hand right through to the end. They setup my TRECs for me. When I had questions I received an immediate response.”

      Other reviewers like how quickly their electric bills go down too. “We are in the middle of our second full month. I've never been more excited to get an electric bill in my life, which is really weird,” a reviewer in North Carolina said.

      Flexible modular pricing structureZenernetAUTHORIZED PARTNER
      • Instant online quotes
      • ​​10- to 25-year warranties
      • Serves 19 states across the U.S.

      Unlike other solar companies, Zenernet offers flat, modular pricing for its systems. This means that you can pick and choose the components and upgrades you want in your system, which gives you more control over the total price.

      As of publishing, Zenernet has an overall satisfaction rating of 4.5 stars. About 84% of Zenernet customers we talked to say they would recommend the company to a friend or family member.

      What to consider: Some other top companies provide longer standard warranties. Financing is available, but it doesn't offer leasing. One reviewer in Iowa said that “Zenernet was a little bit pushy.”

      What we like: Many people who left reviews for Zenernet on our site say it's easy to sign up and that the company has knowledgeable representatives.

      “The signing up process was fairly simple,” a reviewer in California said. “Zenernet was pretty straightforward, fairly priced, and was able to work with me.” Another reviewer in California said that their estimate was “very much in line with the price I was expecting. I also really enjoyed the sales experience. It was very professional and very well-put-together.”

      Sleek designsTesla Energy
      • Cash and loan purchase options
      • 25-year panel performance warranty; 10-year comprehensive warranty
      • Available in most states

      Tesla Energy is our pick for having the sleekest design. As of publishing, it has a 3.7 star rating, and about 48% of customers we talked to said they would recommend the company to a friend or family member. You can design your system online before you buy.

      What to consider: Tesla has lots of options, but some customers report getting wait-listed. “We finally got our Powerwall batteries installed on Friday and we are stoked. … Only downside is that we were on the waitlist for 10 months! Otherwise, 5 stars,” a reviewer in Florida said.

      What we like: Reviewers on ConsumerAffairs say Tesla is a good investment. Many people compliment the friendly installers.

      A reviewer in California told us they paid $1.50 per watt for a 4.08-kilowatt system: “The system looks beautiful and I can’t wait to pay it off in 3.5 years! If you are looking for a proper investment, this is as good as it gets.”

      Others highlighted that the team was on time and easy to work with. “Nice clean job. Very polite and professional,” said another reviewer in California.

      Installations within a few daysSunLuxAUTHORIZED PARTNER
      • Purchase, finance, lease and prepaid options
      • 25-year comprehensive warranty
      • Serves California and Texas

      SunLux is a manufacturer that partners with an independent network of brands and retailers. Installers typically finish within a few days. However, prep time can take up to six weeks.

      SunLux has an overall satisfaction rating of 4.6, as of publishing. About 71% of customers we talked to say they would recommend the company to a friend or family member.

      What to consider: SunLux might not be your cheapest option. “Even though SunLux was 15% higher, based on the customer feedback, it looked like their system had more pros than cons,” according to a reviewer in California.

      What we like: SunLux customers who have left reviews on our site mention the company's smooth process and responsive reps.

      “Their representatives were very responsive. Installation took less than a week, but it was pretty smooth. The cost of the service is fairly competitive,” according to a reviewer in California. Another reviewer in California said SunLux installed a large system: “It took three days and their reps were very professional.”

      Other customers we talked to highlighted similar benefits — a reviewer in Texas said the project manager “worked conscientiously to make the project easy for me. She prepared all the documents for my HOA to review on my behalf.” The rep even checked in after the project was completed.

      Great selection of solar panelsElevation SolarAUTHORIZED PARTNER
      • Free in-home consultations
      • 10-year workmanship warranty; 25-year product warranty
      • Serves Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada and Texas

      Elevation Solar specializes in whole-home energy solutions. It acquired Curb Energy to add monitoring technology to systems in 2020. Solar batteries and electric vehicle charging stations are also available.

      As of publishing, about 60% of Elevation customers we talked to recommended the company. Its overall satisfaction rating is 4 stars.

      What to consider: The company’s website could be more transparent about pricing. A reviewer in Arizona said that the beginning process went well, but they had a hard time getting through to customer service after the installers left.

      What we like: Customers who have left reviews on ConsumerAffairs discuss Elevation's selection of efficient solar panel options and the company's reasonable loan programs.

      “We were looking for Panasonic panels and only Elevation Solar was able to give them within our area. Plus, they do have this loan program and their interest rates are pretty okay compared to any other solar companies,” a reviewer in Arizona said.

      “Now, I don't have to worry about whenever ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) releases something saying that I need to limit my power usage. Because I make my own now and from where I'm at, there are 10 hours of sun, so energy production is pretty quick,” a reviewer in Texas said.

      What is solar energy?

      Solar energy is the most accessible energy source on Earth — and it’s currently the cheapest. It's a form of renewable energy, meaning it doesn’t use up natural resources or harm the environment. Compared with fossil fuels, solar power reduces the amount of carbon and other contaminants emitted into the environment, which ultimately creates less pollution and leads to cleaner air and water.

      When it comes to harnessing sunlight into usable energy, there are two main types of solar energy technologies: photovoltaic cell (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP). Both convert sun energy into electrical power.

      • Photovoltaic technology: Most common for home use, photovoltaic panels are made of many solar cells with semiconductor materials. When the sunlight hits those solar cells, electrons are knocked loose, which creates an electric current.
      • Concentrated solar power: CSP is used mostly in large power plants and is not typically recommended for residential use. CSP technology concentrates sunlight using mirrors and reflectors to collect solar energy and turn it into thermal energy.

      How does solar energy work?

      The sun releases photons. When sunlight hits the photovoltaic cells of a solar panel, those photons knock loose electrons from atoms. The electrons flow through a circuit via a conductor to generate electricity. The PV modules then produce a direct current (DC), which is converted into alternating current (AC) by an inverter.

      The average solar panel produces from 250 to 400 watts.

      The most practical and common way to capture solar energy for residential use today is through solar panels. Solar panels are made up of a collection of photovoltaic cells, commonly referred to as PV cells. Air conditioners, water heaters and anything else that operates on gas or electricity can run on power generated by solar panels.

      Solar production is measured in watts, kilowatts and kilowatt-hours (kWh). (Watts measure power, while kilowatt-hours measure energy consumption.) The average solar panel ranges from 250 to 400 watts and — under proper conditions — generates about 1 kWh per day.

      For example, imagine you have five 300-watt solar panels and get four hours of peak sun hours each day. Multiply each panel's wattage by peak sunlight hours, which gives you a production of 1,200 watt-hours per panel. Then divide by 1,000 to convert to kilowatt-hours per panel, which is 1.2 kWh. Multiply by the number of panels you have to estimate the total amount of energy your solar array can produce per day, which is 6 kWh.

      Types of solar companies

      Even the best alternative energy companies usually aren’t equipped to manufacture, install and finance your solar energy system on their own. Instead, many solar companies specialize in one or several of those areas. Homeowners mostly deal with installers and financing companies.

      • Solar panel manufacturers: Solar panel manufacturers create the solar cells and assemble the solar panels that go on your roof. They are often at the forefront of solar energy research and development. The best manufacturers own their supply chain, assemble high-efficiency solar panels from the cells they create and offer long-term warranties on their products.
      • Solar panel retailers: Retailers are the middlemen between the manufacturer and the installer. Solar equipment retailers and distribution companies work with networks of suppliers, manufacturers, contractors and installers.
      • Solar installers: A solar panel installer’s primary business is getting solar panels working on your rooftop, which requires other components, including wiring or inverters. If you think about purchasing a solar energy system like buying a car, your installer is like the dealership. Usually, solar panel installers source panels from a manufacturer directly or through a solar panel wholesaler or retailer.
      • Solar financing companies: These companies help people finance a solar panel system for their home through solar leases, loans or power purchase agreements. For more information, read our guide on solar financing companies.

      Should I go solar?

      If your yard receives a decent amount of sunlight, solar panels might be a good investment for you. Ask yourself two questions when considering switching to solar energy for your home or business:

      1. What kind of roof do I have?
        The best solar panels have a life expectancy of 40 or more years, so you need to be sure your roof can last just as long. Solar panels also require mounting hardware, which works best on composite or asphalt shingles, concrete tiles, standing-seam metal or other sturdy materials. If you’ve been thinking of replacing or repairing your roof, prioritize that over installing residential solar panels.
      2. How much is my energy bill?
        Most of the time, your current utility bill needs to be at least $75 per month to save money by going solar. Residential solar companies set this $75 threshold because your electricity usage isn’t high enough to see energy savings by installing solar panels if your monthly utility bill is less than that.

      Is my house a good candidate for solar?

      The benefits of solar probably outweigh the disadvantages if you have a sturdy roof and your utility bill is more than $75 per month. Next, consider the size of your roof, how much sun you get and your location to determine if your house is a good candidate for solar.

      • The size of your roof: One solar panel is about 5.5 feet tall by 3.5 feet wide, so the area of available space on your roof might determine how much of your energy needs can be met by solar panels. For example, if you use 30 kWh of power daily, you would need an average of 20 to 30 solar panels to generate the required power.
      • How much sun you get:  Solar panels produce more power when they get direct sunlight and aren’t shaded by trees or taller buildings. They are most efficient if they're mounted toward the rotation of the sun (that’s south-facing if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere).

        Solar energy companies calculate “peak sun hours” specific to your home. The more peak sun hours in your area, the more electricity you can produce. You can calculate your peak sun hours by placing an insulation meter in direct sunlight — the meter measures the potential solar power supply and current light intensity in your area.

        Most homes in the United States average three to five peak sun hours, with less in the winter and more in the summer.

      • Where you live: Some states are better for going solar than others. For example, California’s solar industry has boomed in the last few years because of the state’s $46 billion investment in renewable energy. Your climate also affects how much energy you need (e.g., you use more power if you must continuously run air conditioning). Keep in mind that if your home is surrounded by shade from tall buildings, large trees or other obstructions, this interferes with the amount of sunlight your panels receive and makes them less effective.

      Going solar

      Going solar is much easier than it used to be. Once you determine your energy needs and compare solar energy companies, make sure your roof can handle having solar panels installed. You should understand solar incentives and consider the available financing options.

      It’s smart to get quotes from multiple companies — this ensures you get the best deal on all your solar equipment components. If you hire an installer, its employees do all the heavy lifting and help you complete permitting paperwork. Finally, connect to the grid to officially go solar.

      1. Determine your energy needs
      The first step in going solar is determining how much energy your home uses. The average U.S. household requires approximately 900 kWh of electricity per month. Considering each solar panel generates between 1 and 1.5 kWh of power each day, the average American home would need between 20 and 30 panels to run entirely on solar.

      Generally, the more panels on a home or business, the more energy the system can create. The amount of electricity your panels generate varies by location and available sunlight. Efficiency of your solar panels and how much power you require in your home or business affects the number of solar panels you need.

      Find out if your state offers solar incentives, such as government subsidies or rebate programs designed to encourage more residential solar energy systems. Solar investment tax credits also make the economic benefits of solar energy accessible to more people. After tax credits have been applied, the average price to go solar ranges from $7,926 for a 4-kilowatt system to $37,985 for a 20-kilowatt system.
      Solar modules and installation costs have gone down since the commercial solar industry started. Still, going solar isn't affordable for the average homeowner without a little help. To offset the high upfront price of going solar, many solar companies offer financing loans or power purchase agreement (PPA) programs.

      Solar loans have terms and conditions similar to most other home improvement loans, and some states offer subsidized solar energy loans with below-market interest rates.

      Solar lease companies let you use solar panel equipment for a fee. Homeowners who choose to lease solar panels instead of purchasing them don't receive the same tax credits, rebates or other incentives offered by the federal government and local utility companies.

      Select a handful of companies in your area that provide residential solar power options, then request quotes so you can compare pricing.

      Most solar energy companies want to see an annual statement of your electric bill to estimate costs, so it’s smart to have that information ready when you’re requesting bids. All solar contractors will provide you with a quote that states how much you will save over 25 years.

      To narrow down your solar power options, check each company’s licenses and insurance policies. You should request quotes from at least three of your top picks. As you’re requesting a quote, ask the following questions:

      • What solar loans or financing programs do you offer?
      • How many solar panels will I need based on my monthly energy consumption?
      • What does your warranty cover, and for how long?
      • Will you take care of city permitting and state requirements?
      The best solar brands maximize the amount of energy you can generate in the minimum amount of space. You should evaluate solar panels and other equipment options on three primary parameters: electricity production, durability and quality. Remember to ask about the warranty for all solar equipment components.
      • Solar panels: As you compare solar energy options, remember that higher efficiency is always better. Currently, three types of panels are available on the solar market — monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film amorphous.

        Residential solar energy systems most commonly incorporate monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels. Thin-film amorphous solar panels are cheaper but also less efficient, which makes them more ideal for commercial applications where space isn’t a concern.

        • Degradation rate: Pay attention to the degradation rate and temperature coefficient to find quality solar panels. The degradation rate refers to how much the output declines each year — the average degradation rate for solar panels is about 0.8%, so anything less than that is more durable than average.
        • Temperature coefficient: The temperature coefficient refers to how much panels decrease in efficiency each degree above 25 degrees Celsius (PV modules are tested at 25 C, so 25 C is the solar industry’s universal reference point). Look for PV modules with a temperature coefficient between -0.3% and -0.5%.
      • Power inverter: An inverter converts DC electricity into AC electricity, which is what powers your home. After panels, your inverter is the most critical part of your solar energy system. To select the best inverter for you, consider how many watts you need and the power rating. The most common kinds of inverters are string inverters, central inverters and micro-inverters.
      • Storage batteries: Solar storage batteries provide continuous power to your home, even when the sun isn’t shining. These batteries come in handy whether you're on or off the grid. The best solar batteries can store large amounts of electricity and withstand multiple discharge-recharge cycles.
      • Charge controllers: Charge controllers regulate current and voltage to prevent batteries from overcharging. Solar charge controllers can be either PWM (pulse-width modulation) or MPPT (maximum power point tracking). Generally, MPPT controllers are more expensive but more sophisticated.
      • Monitoring equipment: Monitoring equipment connects to the inverter and lets you know how efficiently your panels are generating electricity. Most solar energy companies use proprietary software to monitor solar arrays.
      Once you have an idea of the solar equipment you want, start thinking about whether you want a national or local installer. There are pros and cons to both — national companies often have better warranties, but local companies are more familiar with your state’s incentives and permitting requirements. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), local solar installers cost an average of 10% less than national residential solar installers.

      Before selecting a local solar installation company, review companies’ customer ratings and seek references from homeowners who've recently completed a similar system installation. Find out if they employ in-house installers or use contractors. You should also consider whether or not the company offers in-house financing and if it offers warranties for parts or equipment.

      There’s some paperwork to complete before solar panels can be installed. Homeowners must apply for proper permissions with their state or local government. You might have to comply with building codes, depending on where you live. Without the correct paperwork, you risk hefty fines.

      You then need to make arrangements with your local utility company to outline a net-metering agreement, a contract that details the responsibilities for you and the utility company and covers information like electric rates and compensation for excess energy fed into the grid. Your utility company may also require justification for the size of your system, particularly if it produces more power than you typically use.

      A final inspection is required to ensure the system meets safety regulations before you can connect to your local utility grid. A grid system provides reliable, economical electricity. Solar panels can be directly connected to a power inverter and then connected to a home grid, or they can be connected to the inverter through the battery and then to the home grid. It’s not wise to install the panels yourself, though; instead, hire a qualified professional with certification who works with high-quality solar panels.

      What are the best solar energy companies near me?

      We compared the top local solar energy companies across the U.S. to help you find the best in your city:

      Solar energy questions

      Average solar installation costs range from about $10,000 to $25,000 before incentives and tax credits. Solar panel installation prices vary depending on multiple factors, including:
      • Where you live
      • The type of panels
      • The number of panels
      • Incentive eligibility

      From 2010 to 2020, there was a 64% reduction in the residential PV system cost benchmark, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

      The residential federal solar tax credit is a reduction in the amount of taxes you owe, based on a percentage of the cost of your solar energy system, including the panels, mounting equipment, inverters, permitting fees and installation. Homeowners are allowed to claim this tax credit on a solar photovoltaic system they own, whether they purchase it outright or through a financing plan.

      For systems installed in 2021, the federal solar tax credit is 22% of the cost of a system if you meet all the eligibility requirements. The tax credit decreased from 26% in 2020. Keep in mind that you could also be eligible for other state and local incentives. The residential federal solar tax credit is set to expire in 2022 unless Congress takes action.

      Solar panels really do save money on electricity costs. For those who install solar panels in 2021, the average savings are $1,492 per year, according to SolarReviews. This means you could save almost $30,000 on energy bills over 20 years. Plus, you might even make money. Through net-metering, you can sell extra electricity your panels produce back to your local power company.
      The average American house needs approximately 20 to 30 solar panels to cover 100% of its electrical power needs. The exact number of solar panels you need to power your house depends on a few factors, including:
      • Your electricity usage
      • The type of panels you have
      • Solar exposure

      Solar systems don’t always generate the exact amount of energy you need. With a solar battery, you can store energy to use when the sun isn’t shining. If you’re connected to the electrical grid and live in a state that allows net metering, you can also sell surplus electricity to your local utility company.

      Depending on where you live, your homeowners association might have specific rules for the type, location and number of solar panels that can be installed. Some states, such as Texas, have regulations in place that prevent HOAs from banning solar panel installation.

      Other states, such as Maryland, restrict solar panel installation on historic homes. California, Utah and Florida have “solar access” laws that protect homeowners’ rights to install solar panels on their properties. Still, HOAs are allowed to make system requests, as long as it does not increase the overall price. Arizona has similar regulations.

      No, home warranty companies do not usually cover solar panel systems. Instead, you can get a warranty through the manufacturer and installation company.

      Solar panel warranties cover issues related to the efficiency (performance) and quality of various system components (products and materials). They don’t cover expenses due to accidents, extreme weather or other "acts of God." If extreme weather does cause damages to the PV array, it should be covered by your homeowners insurance policy.

      Different solar companies offer different warranty plans. The most common types of solar warranties include:

      • Manufacturer's warranty: The manufacturer’s warranty is backed by the brand that made the solar panels. Both product and performance warranties are considered types of manufacturer's warranties.
        • Product warranty: The product warranty covers the solar panel equipment for issues caused by manufacturing defects, premature wear and tear and some environmental issues. Product warranties typically last between 10 and 25 years.
        • Performance warranty: Sometimes called a “performance guarantee,” the performance warranty covers the energy output and power efficiency of the solar array. It pays to replace equipment if it underperforms, per the terms of your contract. Good performance warranties last 25 years or longer.
      • Inverter warranty: The inverter warranty is issued by the manufacturer to provide coverage if inverter equipment fails or underperforms. Depending on your type of inverter, the warranty can last anywhere from five to 25 years.
      • Service warranty: The service warranty protects you from labor-related defects, including roof damage that could occur during the installation process. Service warranties, sometimes called workmanship or installation warranties, usually last five to 10 years.
      Often, solar energy systems do increase a home’s value. On average, homeowners who install solar panels see a 3% to 4% increase in property value. Most property owners recoup the cost of solar power installation when they sell their homes.
      Sometimes it’s harder to sell a house with solar panels, but not always. The process is relatively straightforward if you own the solar panels on the house you’re selling. However, it can occasionally complicate appraisals if you don’t include them in the value of your home.

      It’s often more challenging to sell a home if you lease solar panels. You most likely will have to buy out of the lease or transfer the lease to your buyer. Some companies allow early termination, though an exit fee will likely apply. Transferring a solar lease can become complicated because the buyer and seller must both cooperate.

      Bottom line

      Installing quality solar panels on the roof of your home or business benefits the environment and your wallet. Remember that solar energy systems only work as well as the solar cells used in the panels. You can further maximize your solar energy's efficiency with a power box, which combines a battery, inverter and generator into one unit. Be sure that the mounting system is durable and certified for weather-related issues in your area, such as high winds or cyclones.

      Not sure how to choose?

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        Guide sources
        ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. To learn more about the content on our site, visit our FAQ page.
        1. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), “U.S. Solar Photovoltaic System and Energy Storage Cost Benchmark: Q1 2020.” Accessed July 30, 2021.
        2. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), “Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC).” Accessed July 30, 2021.
        by Zachary Shahan Solar Energy Contributing Editor

        Zachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, and his key areas of focus are solar energy and electric vehicles. He has been referenced or interviewed by essentially every major media organization as a recognized global thought leader on solar energy.

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