Best Solar Panels For Your Home: SunPower vs SunRun vs Solarcity vs Sungevity vs Vivint Solar vs Tesla

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Are you tired of high electric bills? Worried about the impact of CO2 emissions on our environment? Look no further than that big ball of energy in the sky. Did you know homeowners save an average of $1,000 per year on electricity by installing rooftop solar panels?

Article Overview

Solar panels on roof (caption: Solar Panels For Your Home)With multiple financing options and the cost of utilizing solar energy continuing to decline, your choices for an affordable switch-over to solar are better than ever. We have reviewed the big players in this space and provided a quick and easy way to get free quotes from multiple companies to help you find the best price for the best provider in your geographic location. To get your quote, simply click here to get started.

What Company Offers The Best Solar Panels For Your Home?

We suggest reading up on all the companies, so you are even more informed about getting your energy from the sun. Since availability varies based on your geographical location, it is good to be informed about all companies in this space.

Clearway Community Solar | Dividend | ION Solar | Modern Energy | PetersenDean Solar | Sungevity | Sunnova | SunPower | Sunrun | Tesla Solar | Vivint Solar

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Solar panel (caption: how does a solar panel work)First, it helps to understand how solar panels work. Solar panels contain silicon or other photovoltaic (PV) materials that absorb the sunlight’s energy. Typically when sunlight hits an object, its energy creates heat. But when sunlight hits PV materials, their atoms release electrons that bind together, creating an accelerated energy level. It’s this higher level that provides electricity for your home. Learn more in our how does a solar panel work article.

What Should You Consider Before Going Solar?

  • Are you a good candidate? Most likely, if the expanse of your roof gets at least five hours of direct sunlight each day and you have high electricity bills. Most sun-powered companies give you a free consultation to see if you’re a good fit.
  • Get estimates and consultations from several different companies to compare your options and gauge their customer service. Ask for their residential project references.
  • Solar lease vs buy? The high cost of solar panels makes it a significant consideration. Many companies give you the option of leasing panels rather than purchasing them outright. A solar panel lease is a good option for people who don’t want many upfront costs and want to break-even much sooner than you would by purchasing solar panels. Most leases require at least a 10-year commitment.
  • Know the difference between leasing and power purchase agreements (PPAs). In many ways, leasing and PPAs are the same, but when you lease a sun-powered system, you pay a fixed monthly fee as you would if you’re leasing a car. However, with PPAs, you pay by kilowatt-per-hour, similar to your electricity bill, but the solar rates are typically lower.
  • Look into local, state, and federal solar rebates and tax incentives that can help you save even more money when you’re considering solar panels for your home.

Best Residential Solar Companies

We researched dozens of companies and consumer reviews to help you narrow down the playing field. Here we present our top picks for the best solar companies, including locations, financing options, features, customer service, and more.

But how much do solar panels cost? We don’t include actual pricing due to the wide variety of financing options and the custom-design aspect of installing solar cells for your home. Use this quote form to get started or read on for individual solar company reviews.

Clearway Community Solar Review

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Clearway Community Solar offers a unique solar energy sharing program. The company is building Community Solar farms for customers to tap into. With this program, there is $0 down, no rooftop installation or ongoing maintenance cost.

We found many customer complaints about non-responsive customer service, especially concerning customers who want to cancel their account after not seeing the expected energy savings.

Clearway Community Solar is only available in Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New York.

Dividend Solar Review

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Established in 2013, Dividend Solar has made a name for itself with its excellent service reputation. The major catch with this company is that it only offers loan financing and no leasing or PPA options. But Dividend is an excellent option if you’re considering a loan (with no money down).

All customers get a performance guarantee, a 5-year roof warranty, and 20-year equipment and quality warranty. And although they outsource their installations, they have strict requirements for their contractors to hold professional licensing and be certified. Dividend Solar services are available in Washington DC and 28 states, including AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, LA, MD, MA, MI, MO, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH, OR, RI, SC, TX, UT, and VA.

Pros

Cons

  • EmpowerLoan is $0 down
  • All installers must be certified and professionally licensed
  • Performance guarantee with every contract
  • You can monitor your system’s performance in real-time
  • Vast majority of customer reviews we found were positive
  • BBB accredited and A+ rating
  • Doesn’t offer leasing or PPA
  • No backup battery option
  • Lack of detailed information on website about solar panel equipment and systems
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ION Solar Review

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Utah-based ION Solar is a new company resulting from the merger of Vision Solar and Zing Solar in early 2017. It’s too soon to give this company a thorough review, but ION has some good things going for it. They hire their own installers rather than contracting out locally, and they offer solid warranties for all of their financing plans. These include a 25-year equipment warranty, a 10-year labor warranty, and a 10-year roof warranty.

Unfortunately, ION’s website is pretty bare-bones, and you must contact them for many details. ION Solar services eight states, including CA, CO, ID, NM, NV, TX, VA, and UT.

Pros

Cons

  • Variety of financing choices, including loans, leasing, and PPAs
  • They hire their own installers
  • 24/7 monitoring of system (and app for you to monitor as well)
  • Good user reviews for customer service
  • BBB accredited and A+ rating
  • $200 refer a friend program
  • Company is new
  • Lack of transparency on website, including details about financing, production guarantees, and equipment (although they say they only use premium panels)
  • No battery backup option

Modern Energy Review

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Modern Energy is an Ohio-based, family-owned solar company that specializes in residential and corporate solar roof panels. Like other companies in our reviews, they guide you through the process from start to finish with accredited engineers and solar professionals.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any information on their website about financing options, installers, or other important information. You have to call or email them to learn more and obtain a proposal. We also couldn’t find any customer reviews online about their services. Modern Energy services five states, including IN, OH, PA, NY, and NC.

Pros

Cons

  • Battery backup available (you can pair it with a natural gas generator)
  • In-person free rooftop consultation
  • PC and mobile apps let you monitor your system’s performance
  • BBB accredited and A+ rating
  • No information on site about financing options, installers, guarantees, etc.
  • Only available in 5 states
  • Lack of detailed information on website about solar panel equipment and systems

PetersenDean Solar Review

PetersenDean logoAs of December, 2020, PetersonDean is no longer offering solar quotes.

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Sungevity Review

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Sungevity recently became the second-largest residential solar company in California and the fourth largest in the U.S. with the acquisitions of Solar Spectrum and California’s Horizon Solar Power. The company operates under all three brand names (Solar Spectrum, Horizon Solar and, Sungevity), depending on the geographic location. The European division was sold off during Sungevity’s 2017 bankruptcy actions.

Sungevity offers several financing options and a dedicated account representative. So far, the newly combined company gets good customer reviews for their sales and customer service. Still it’s too early to get a clear picture of their installation process, system performance, and other business practices. But we’re keeping an eye on them.

Sungevity (sometimes under the brand names of Solar Spectrum or Horizon Solar) currently services seven states, including CA, CO, CT, DE, MA, MD, NJ, NY, RI, VT, and Washington DC.

Sunnova Review

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Houston-based Sunnova currently ranks as the third-largest residential solar company in the U.S. They offer four financing options, including EZ Own (loan), leasing, and two separate PPA agreements. It’s worth noting that their EZ Pay PPA has a fixed monthly cost (annual adjustment) and a production guarantee. Their regular PPA agreement has a variable monthly price based on your energy use but no production guarantee.

We’re hesitant to recommend this company, even though they’re a big player — far too many consumer complaints about bad customer service, installation issues, repairs, and more.

Sunnova services 20 states, including AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, HI, IL, IN, LA, MA, MD, MO, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OR, PA, and TX, as well as Puerto Rico, Guam, and Saipan.

Pros

Cons

  • Variety of financing choices, including loans, leasing, and PPAs
  • Production guarantee with EZ Pay PPA, EZ Own and lease programs
  • 24/7/365 monitoring of your solar system (and you can monitor via app)
  • In-person free rooftop consultation
  • BBB accredited and A+ rating
  • No production guarantee with regular PPA program
  • A ton of users report poor, non-responsive customer service
  • Many customer complaints about repairs taking a long time (or never getting done)
  • Quality of outsourced installers varies by location
  • No information on website about solar panel equipment
  • No battery backup option (currently in testing phase)

SunPower Review

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SunPower is one of the oldest manufacturers and providers of residential solar panels in the U.S. Their claims to fame today? Their X Series solar panels deliver 44% more power per panel than most competitors, and their roof panels are more aesthetically pleasing than what other manufacturers offer.

Regarding purchasing options and installation, however, SunPower doesn’t quite make the grade. They don’t offer a PPA, which is quickly becoming an industry norm these days. And they outsource most of their installations to local companies that may not meet your customer service expectations.

The bottom line with SunPower? Their panels and solar technology are top-rate, but you’re not guaranteed an easy installation process. Further, their customer service reviews and BBB rating are some of the lowest we’ve seen.

SunPower used to service seven states, but it is unclear where they offer residential installations today. They seem to be more focused on their corporate arm.

Pros

Cons

  • Leading manufacturer of top-of-the-line residential solar panels
  • PC and mobile apps to track your power usage
  • Free consultation for rooftop design
  • Battery backup
  • Live chat, phone, and email customer service
  • Charitable giving to encourage solar power use
  • Doesn’t offer PPA financing option
  • Outsources most installations
  • No energy consumption performance guarantee
  • Doesn’t monitor your system 24/7
  • Many consumer complaints about poor customer service
  • D- BBB rating

Sunrun Review

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Sunrun is a large player in the residential solar industry. Sunrun pioneered the panel leasing business model, taking away the high upfront costs incurred if you purchase. The company offers solar panels for purchase, loans, leases, and PPAs. Sunrun also offers its Brightbox smart, clean-energy battery backup solution (for an added cost, either via purchase or lease). The company partners with local market installers to encourage community-wide job growth and to provide local customer support.

You can find Sunrun in 21 states: AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, HI, IL, MA, MD, NH, NV, NJ, NM, NY, PA, RI, SC, TX, UT, VT, and WI, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Pros

Cons

  • Financing options include loan, lease, and PPA
  • They pay the difference if you’re not producing what they quoted you (for PPA and lease)
  • Sunrun monitors your system 24/7
  • PC and mobile monitoring give you your stats and environmental impact
  • Rates locked in for 20 years
  • BBB accredited and A+ rating
  • Sunrun outsources some installers
  • Many customer complaints about poor customer service and panels not producing the energy they quoted
  • System design based on satellite imaging of your roof instead of an in-person evaluation
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Tesla Solar Review

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Tesla, formerly SolarCity, holds an estimated 30% of the U.S. market share, making them the one to beat in the residential solar industry. However, as of August 2018, only 12 solar roofs have been installed under the Tesla name and, this past summer, the company shut down a dozen facilities across 9 U.S. states.

An all-service company, Tesla is a one-stop-shop for financing, designing, obtaining permits, and installing, with several financing options, including purchasing, loan financing, leasing, and PPA.

In addition to solar panels, Tesla now offers a solar roof (attractive roof tiles with solar cells) and a Powerwall, a clean energy backup power supply for utility outages. Tesla gives you one team that takes care of it all, with locations in the District of Columbia and 21 states (AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, HI, MD, MA, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OR, PA, RI, TX, UT, VT, and VA).

Pros

Cons

  • Excellent financing options, including lease, loan and PPA
  • They hire their own installers
  • Energy performance guarantee with contract
  • Monitors your system 24/7
  • Mobile app tracks system’s production and your home’s consumption
  • Battery backup if your grid goes down
  • Award-winning customer service
  • In-person evaluation of your roof
  • Team of engineers designs your system
  • BBB rating: B-
  • Some consumer complaints about pushy salespeople and installation delays
  • Since Tesla bought SolarCity, negative reviews have increased

Coupon

Looking for a Tesla Solar promo code? Click here for the best deal we could find.

Read our in-depth Tesla Solar Review

Vivint Solar Review

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Vivint Solar is a subsidiary of Sunrun, reviewed above. They were previously an offshoot of Vivint (home security), but in July 2020, Sunrun completed its acquisition of Vivint’s solar business and customers. The company still operates under the brand name Vivint Solar but offers Sunrun’s clean energy solutions.

Pros

Cons

  • Variety of financing choices, including loans, leasing, and PPAs
  • They hire their own installers in each market
  • 24/7/365 monitoring of your solar system
  • Uses rail-free Zep technology reducing installation time and cost
  • Use of micro-inverters increases efficiency by 15% or more compared to a centralized inverter, which most companies use
  • In-person free rooftop consultation
  • Overall excellent customer service reviews
  • Can sync with Vivint home security and automation system and monitor via mobile apps
  • BBB rating: C+
  • No energy production guarantee with contract
  • Some consumer complaints about problems with energy production once system is installed

Coupon

Looking for a VivintSolar promo code? Click here for the best deal we could find.    

Read our in-depth Vivint Solar Review

How Does The Installation Process Work?

Are you wondering how the whole process works from the design phase to installation? Watch this helpful video by Vivint to give you a better idea of what to expect when they transition your home from standard electricity to sub-generated power.

A Bright Future For Solar Panel Consumers

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The use of residential solar panels in the U.S. continues to increase, in part, because residential installation costs keep dropping. That’s great news for anyone considering making the switch to solar.

Energy costs aside, when you install sun-powered panels in your home, you’re investing in the equity of your home. You’re also helping to offset tens of thousands of pounds of CO2 emissions. If you’re committed to being an Earth’s friend, you can feel good about the potential positive impact.

Can You Go The DIY Route?

Many retailers sell solar panel kits that include most of what you need to install them yourself. But you need to make sure you acquire all the necessary permits — and verify that your state doesn’t require a certified company to install the panels for you (some states do).

Learn more in our Solar 101 article, and be sure to look into small travel kits, solar attic fans, and solar pool heaters.

Why are you considering solar energy for your home?

About The Author:

Sally is a huge fan of fresh, organic food. One of her favorite hobbies is cooking with as many fresh herbs, spices and veggies as possible. And she's devoted to her all-natural skin products and cosmetics. It's saved her and her daughter from the curse of skin allergies. When she's not writing and researching (and being a Mom), you can find Sally getting down to earth in her home garden. Her work has appeared in many notable media outlets, including The Washington Post, Entrepreneur, People, Forbes, Huffington Post, and more.

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