Where to buy solar panels

Four options to consider

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    Going solar is a great way to help the environment, save money on energy bills and even increase the value of your home.

    Like most home improvement projects, once you know you want to go solar, you either contact the professionals or, if you prefer to do things yourself, shop for supplies at your favorite store. However, it can be hard to know where to start if you’ve never bought solar panels before.

    To help you through the process, we’ve put together a list of where you can find solar equipment for your home and included some tips for getting started.

    Key insights

    • Solar panels are commonly purchased through solar companies, big-box stores, home improvement stores and online retailers.
    • Purchasing through a solar company gives you the most support throughout the buying and installation process.
    • You can get discounts and benefits by going with a big-box or home improvement store you have an existing relationship with.
    • Purchasing solar equipment through online retailers like Amazon is best left to the highly informed DIYers.

    The best places to buy solar panels

    Broadly speaking, there are four different types of retailers where you can shop for solar panels. To start, check out websites (like Amazon), big-box stores (like Costco and Sam’s Club) and home improvement stores (like Lowe’s and The Home Depot), and then see what solar companies have to offer. From there, you can make an informed decision about where to buy.

    We’ve explained the pros and cons of each type of solar panel retailer in a little more detail below to help you know what to expect.

    Solar companies

    As soon as you start Googling solar options, you’ll probably see ads for solar companies pop up on your social media feeds. Companies like SunPower, Sunlux and Elevation not only sell solar panels, but they’ll also help you figure out how many panels you need, install them and provide follow-up maintenance. Going with a solar company is ideal if you want a company to handle your solar project for you.

    The downside of going with solar companies is they aren’t very transparent about prices. To get a quote, you’ll have to contact them and talk to representatives. Sales representatives can also be somewhat pushy, which can turn into a headache if you’re getting quotes from several different businesses.

    Make sure any quotes received are from a reputable company and anything extra promised is in writing.”
    — Neil Gallagher of Brighterway Solar

    When vetting companies, make sure to receive multiple quotes and do your own research. “There are dealer fees that are often not mentioned during the sales process, and some sales reps significantly mark up the price per watt for their commission,” said Neil Gallagher, co-founder of Brighterway Solar, a solar construction and contracting firm. “Make sure any quotes received are from a reputable company and anything extra promised is in writing.”

    » LEARN: 7 steps to going solar

    Big-box stores

    If you have a membership at a big-box store, buying your solar panels there may save you a lot of money. Costco, for instance, has partnered with Sunrun to provide its members special incentives, including a 10% Costco Shop Card, a 15-year roof penetration warranty on top of the warranty provided by Sunrun and membership rewards of 2% through Costco’s Executive Membership. If you’re a Sam’s Club member, you can get free shipping and membership rewards on solar panels.

    Because Costco is partnered with a big solar company, you get the benefits of professional installation and guidance through the purchasing process while still getting membership benefits. With Sam’s Club, you get savings, but you don’t need to worry about dealing with a solar company, which is great if you want to go the do-it-yourself route.

    Home improvement stores

    Home improvement stores, like Lowe’s and Home Depot, are another good choice for DIYers who want to set up their own solar energy systems. Instead of waiting for an installer or for your solar panels to ship, you can often just pick them up at your local store. Of course, if you need a lot of panels, your store may need to order them for you, so you may still need to wait a few days.

    DIY solar kits are generally better for small, off-grid uses. If you’re going for full-home solar, you’ll need professional assistance to ensure your home is up to code.

    If you have a store credit card, you may be able to save on your solar panels or rack up cash-back when you purchase them.

    If you like the idea of going through your home improvement store but don’t want to DIY, The Home Depot offers professional solar installation. It also offers financing through The Home Depot Project Loan.

    Online retailers

    Many online retailers, like Amazon, also sell solar panels. Shopping at online retailers should probably be reserved for those who want to complete installation themselves and have a good understanding of exactly what they want. Keep in mind that there’s no sales associate or representative to help if you have questions about the panels or what kind of accessories you need.

    Factors to consider when purchasing solar panels

    Where you should buy your solar panels depends on a lot of factors. Here are some things to keep in mind before shopping around:

    • Permits: Before you make any plans, make sure to check your town’s regulations on solar installation and what kind of permits you may need. A solar company, professional installer or contractor can often help with this step.
    • Engineering evaluation: If you’re going to place solar panels on your roof, you’ll need to have an engineer determine if your roof can handle the weight of a solar system. They’ll also check to make sure your roof has enough room for all of the panels. If you’re going with a solar company or other professional installation, the installer will complete this step for you.
    • Types of solar panels: The three main types of solar panels are monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film. (There are also permanent-mount styles and portable panels.) You should familiarize yourself with these options before you buy; otherwise, you might end up with the wrong kind of panel for your needs.
    • Buying or leasing: If you don’t have the money to pay upfront for panels, solar companies, big-box stores and home improvement stores often offer financing options, unlike online retailers. You can also lease your solar panels, which allows you to use a solar system without purchasing all the equipment.
    • Panel needs: If you’re DIYing, you’ll need to figure out just how many solar panels you need. On average, a 2,000-square-foot home will need about 19 solar panels, but you can use an online solar calculator, like the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s PVWatts Calculator, to get a better idea of how many you need.
    • Equipment needs: Aside from the panels themselves, there's quite a bit of extra equipment you’ll need to purchase, like an inverter and possibly batteries. An easy way to ensure you get everything you need is to purchase a kit instead of individual panels — or go with a solar company or professional installer.

    Our installation guide can help you get your solar energy system up and running.

    » MORE: Best solar panels in 2023

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      Do I need a battery backup for my solar system?

      If you want to run your home on 100% solar power or store energy for when there’s less sunlight available, purchasing a battery backup is a smart idea. Here are our picks for the best solar batteries.

      How can you tell the quality of a solar panel?

      One way to spot quality is to look at how the panels are constructed. For example, monocrystalline panels are durable and more efficient than other solar panels.

      Also, be sure to check out solar company reviews to hear what other consumers have to say.

      Where can you buy solar panels in bulk?

      Solar companies, online retailers, big-box stores and home improvement stores all allow you to purchase solar panels in bulk. Your local stores may need to place a special order, though, since they probably won’t have enough in stock.

      ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
      1. Costco, “Residential Home Solar.” Accessed May 15, 2023.
      2. The Home Depot, “Solar Panel Installation.” Accessed May 15, 2023.
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