How to Choose The Right Solar Company For Your Home

Author: Helen

Mar. 07, 2024

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Tags: Energy

We get it — installing home solar panels is a huge investment. Finding the best solar installer for such a big purchase can be stressful.

SolarReviews knows a thing or two about what to look for in a solar company. Our mission has always been to help homeowners make the most informed decision possible when going solar and connect them with reliable installers in their area.

Here are some of the top things you need to consider when choosing a solar panel installation company.

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Key takeaways

  • Locally owned solar companies that have been in business for at least five years can provide better customer service over the lifetime of your panels than a large national company.
  • National companies are the best choice for homeowners looking for solar leases or power purchase agreements because they don’t qualify for other financing options or the federal tax credit.
  • Find companies with positive customer reviews that use high-quality equipment and employ their own installation crews.
  • Don’t use a company with overly pushy salespeople or prices that are too good to be true.

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    When choosing a solar energy company, think small

    Sometimes, bigger is not always better. It's easy to gravitate toward large name-brand companies like Tesla, Sunrun, ADT Solar, or SunPower. But it's small, local solar energy installers that are often the best choice.

    Local solar companies generally provide more personalized and attentive customer service. But don’t just take our word for it - you can see it in the customer reviews on our site. Large national companies tend to have much lower review scores than your neighborhood solar installer.

    But, we understand that choosing a large company does provide a certain level of protection. To help you feel more comfortable choosing a smaller company, we have a few key things to look for when researching local companies.

    What to look for in a solar company

    Here are four key things to keep in mind when looking for a solar panel company:

    • Locally owned
    • Consistent positive consumer reviews
    • In-house installation crew
    • High-quality equipment

    Locally owned

    Locally owned companies have a good understanding of the solar industry in your area and can provide you with localized personal service that large national companies can’t.

    These companies will often be able to resolve any services or repairs that you need quickly. They understand that word of mouth is extremely important, so they want you to have the best service possible so you refer your friends and neighbors.

    We suggest looking for companies that have been in business for at least five years, as it shows they have some longevity as a business, and even if they do not have a “name brand” to back them up, they have years of experience.

    Consistent, positive reviews

    In the era of researching every purchase online, consumer reviews play an important part in making a decision about what solar company you choose.

    Aside from traditional review sites like Google, the Better Business Bureau, and Yelp, SolarReviews is a great one-stop site to see solar installation company reviews. We host thousands of consumer reviews for solar panel installers across the U.S. and perform manual and automated checks to ensure you see reviews from real customers — not fake reviews made by companies or their competitors.

    If you want more insight than what online reviews can provide, a potential installer can provide former customers as references. If they won’t, that might be a sign not to go with them.

    SolarReviews Expert Rating system. We came up with our own metrics for ranking solar installers that include years in business, license, and profitability to rate the best solar companies. The SolarReviews Expert Rating gives you a more well-rounded review of a company than consumer reviews alone.

    Employ their own crew

    For any job where you are relying on contractors, working with a company that employs its own crew should be your first pick.

    Companies using subcontractors have less leverage, making it harder to hold crews accountable than if the team was made of in-house employees. It also leads to variability in the quality of their installations. A company may have good reviews for installations completed by one crew but bad reviews for others.

    You should also look for companies that have NABCEP-certified installers. NABCEP is a respected nonprofit organization that provides professional certifications to solar professionals. When you see there’s a NABCEP professional on staff, you know the company takes the job seriously.

    Use high-quality equipment 

    Long-lasting solar systems use high-quality solar products. You’ll want every part of the solar system, from the panels to the inverters, to be reliable. As a general rule of thumb, a trustworthy installer will use good equipment. So, if a company is already checking all of your boxes, it’ll likely check this one off too. 

    Solar panels

    When you get a solar quote, do a little research on the panels the installer is using. Make sure the panels carried by the installer have at least a 25-year performance warranty, a 10-year product and workmanship warranty, and that the brand has a good reputation. 

    You can use our annual top 10 solar panel brands list as a starting point, which ranks manufacturers by things like cost, performance, and the financial health of the company. In 2023, Qcells, Canadian Solar, and Maxeon/SunPower took the top three spots, but any panels on the list are great picks for your solar power system. 

    Solar inverters

    Inverters act as the brain of the solar panel system, converting the energy generated by the panels into electricity your home can use. It’s also the most common part that needs to be replaced. So, you’re going to want one from a good quality brand to make sure it operates for as long as possible. 

    According to our Solar Industry Survey, the most popular inverter brands are Enphase and SolarEdge. So, if you’re quoted either of these brands, you can rest assured that you’re getting good equipment. There are some other brands, like Fronius and SMA, that have high-quality products as well. 

    If you’re getting a string inverter installed, make sure it comes with a minimum 10-year warranty. Microinverters and power optimizers, on the other hand, should come with 25-year warranties. 

    Solar batteries

    You don’t need to get battery storage when you switch to solar, but if you’re looking for a backup power option, you’ll want it to be a good one. 

    There are tons of battery options on the market. Most homeowners will likely want an all-in-one energy storage system that includes batteries, inverters, and system monitoring. Some of the most popular energy storage systems are the Enphase battery, the Tesla Powerwall, and the Generac PWRcell.

    When looking at battery brands, make sure they have at least a 10-year performance warranty that guarantees a minimum of 70% capacity at the end of the term.

    How can you choose between two companies?

    You can only pick one company to install your solar panels. If you are between two companies that fit the bill, here are some things to think about.

    Price

    This one seems obvious, but it’s not as simple as you might think. The lowest price is not always the best.  Going with the company that gave you the lowest solar installation cost might not be the best choice.

    Solar companies that charge prices that are too low are likely cutting corners, whether it’s the quality of their workmanship or equipment. Their practices likely aren’t sustainable, and they might not be in business in the future when you need repairs or solar panel maintenance. 

    You should look for cash prices that are somewhere in the range of  $3.00 per watt of solar installed. Anything lower than $2.60 per watt should be a red flag. But you don’t want to pay too much either! Cash prices that reach over the $3.50 per watt mark are steep, and you can probably get a better deal elsewhere. 

    Financing options

    Solar is a significant upfront investment, but there are solar financing options available. The company you choose should help you find the best financing route for you. If you want to get a lease or a power purchase agreement, ask the companies if they offer this type of financing. 

    Many solar installers offer solar loans to their customers, as they allow homeowners to get all the advantages of a cash-purchased solar system without needing to have all the money on hand. If you need a loan, make sure the company you choose has them available.

    If they do, you can compare rates and fees between companies to get the best deal. You should ask each company for both a quote for a cash-priced system and a financed system, so you can see what additional fees are added on with financing. This also allows you to look into personal financing options, like HELOCs or home equity loans, so you can get the best deal possible.

    Financed prices are higher than cash prices. Solar loans let you go solar and save big on your electricity bill, but when you finance, you will pay more for your solar system than if you purchased it with cash. Systems paid for with solar loans will usually be closer to $4 per watt installed. The inflated financed price is because of dealer fees - a 20%+ fee you pay to get a lower APR.

    Services offered

    It’s becoming increasingly common for solar companies to offer more than just solar installations. Some common services include battery installation, electric vehicle charger installations, home energy efficiency audits, and roof replacements.

    If you want these additional services, pick the installer that provides them! Even if you don’t want them now, future you will be glad you picked the installer that has these products available so you can easily add them to your home down the line.

    What to avoid when picking a solar installer

    There are tons of great solar companies out there that will help you on your renewable energy journey. But, the solar industry does have some bad actors to look out for.

    Steer clear of companies that you feel are trying to close the deal too quickly or are over-promising on savings by saying you’ll never pay your utility again. You should also be wary of companies that talk about “free solar panels” when talking about leases and power purchase agreements or if their prices seem too good to be true.

    Get quotes from reliable solar companies

    The easiest way to get quotes from trusted solar energy companies is through SolarReviews. We can connect you with reliable solar installers in your area so you can start getting free quotes for a solar energy system without having to seek out the companies yourself. We also have a state-of-the-art solar panel calculator that you can use to double-check the quotes you’re given.

    Find solar installers in your area
    Get quotes

    A lot bit hinges on the type of solar panels you choose to install. High-quality panels from a reputable manufacturer can last decades and save you a great deal on electricity costs over the years. On the other hand, panels from manufacturers who prioritize initial cost over long-term performance can leave you with an underperforming system that won’t stand up to the test of time.

    Choosing the right solar panels is an important step in creating a long-lasting, money-saving solar system. First, you’ll need to narrow down your aesthetic, budgetary, and energy production goals. Then, you can filter through all the options and end up with the perfect solar panels.

    We want to help you make the choice that’s right for you and your goals. That’s why we’ve assembled a list of six things you should consider when selecting your solar panels.

    What to look at when selecting the best solar panels for your project

    1. Panel Type: Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline

    There are two main types of solar panels: monocrystalline and polycrystalline. Which one you choose will impact the overall look of your system, its cost, how much electricity it will produce, and how much space your system will cover.

    Monocrystalline panels have an overall darker tint to the cells and are typically the more efficient option. Panels with a higher efficiency mean you can produce more electricity with fewer panels, so your overall system takes up less space. But for all their advantages, monocrystalline panels are often the more expensive option.

    Polycrystalline panels have a bluer tint and are typically less efficient than monocrystalline, meaning you’d need a few more panels to generate the same amount of electricity. However, they do often come at a lower price, and despite the additional panels you’ll need, will likely be the cheaper option.

    2. Panel Color: The Backsheet and Frame

    Another way you can control the look and price of your solar system is through the selection of backsheet and frame color.

    Each panel is composed of several silicon cells that are placed on a backsheet. This backsheet shows through the gaps between the cells and creates a grid-type design. Some manufacturers offer solar panels with black backsheets instead of the typical white.

    Black backsheets create a more uniform-looking panel that blends into darker roofs. However, black holds heat, so black backsheets may get hotter than traditional panels, which could slightly reduce the panels’ efficiency.

    There are also two options when it comes to the color of the metal frame around the borders of the panels: black and silver. Black frame panels can be more aesthetically appealing but will cost more. Aside from that, both black- and silver-frame panels should perform identically.

    3. Solar Panel Size

    Solar panels come in two different sizes: 60-cell and 72-cell. This refers to the number of cells (the small, crystalline silicon wafer) on the solar panel. 72-cell panels are, on average, about a foot longer than 60-cell panels.

    Their larger size makes 72-cell panels better suited for large, wide-open spaces like commercial roofs and ground mount systems. 60-cells are typically better suited to fit in tighter spaces, like on the dormer of a home’s roof. However, this isn’t a hard and fast rule and will vary from location to location.

    Overall, 72-cells tend to be more economical, as they’ll generate more electricity per panel compared to an otherwise identical 60-cell panel.

    4. Panel Production: Output Rating and Efficiency

    Both the panel’s output rating and efficiency will impact how much power it can produce.

    The output rating is the three-digit number you’ll see in the solar panel’s name, and it represents how many watts of electricity the panel will generate under ideal conditions.

    Most panels have a wattage between 250 watts to 400 watts, with a few panels exceeding the 400-watt mark. A higher wattage means more electricity generated per panel, but it will likely mean a higher price tag. Though you’ll need fewer panels to reach your generation goals, it likely won’t offset the price increase.

    However, wattage isn’t the only thing to look out for. You should also consider the panel’s efficiency. This is the percentage of electricity it produces from the energy it receives from the sun.

    The more efficient a solar panel is, the more kilowatt-hours of electricity it will produce per watt of power capacity. This is especially important if you’re concerned about the amount of space your solar system takes up.

    For example, let’s compare two 300-watt solar panels: one that’s 21% efficient, and another that’s 17% efficient. Both will produce 300 watts of power under ideal conditions. However, the one that has a higher efficiency will be physically smaller and take up less space than the one that is less efficient. So if you have high electric bills and a small amount of space to install your solar system, you’ll want to look for efficient panels.

    5. Warranty

    An important indication of overall panel quality is a robust warranty from the manufacturer. Many high-quality solar panels are guaranteed for 25 to 30 years and can continue working even after their warranty expires.

    Making sure you purchase solar panels that will stand the test of time is essential to the long-term success of your system. The longer your solar panels generate electricity, the more money you save. And purchasing panels that are backed by a comprehensive warranty will help guarantee their success.

    There are two kinds of warranties offered by most manufacturers: the performance and product warranty. The performance warranty assures that the panel will have the capability to produce a specified percentage of power during the warranty period, despite the panel's degradation. The production warranty protects your panels from material or workmanship issues.

    6. Overall Quality

    You want the highest quality solar panels at the best price. However, there are a few important factors to consider when evaluating the quality of a specific solar panel.

    To get a true measure of a solar panel’s quality, you’ll want to look at things like their guarantee, the reputation of the manufacturer, customer reviews, and the panel’s technical specifications for things like efficiency, temperature coefficient, and power tolerance. Here’s a list of ten of the top solar panels on the market now.

    Another way to measure a solar panel brand, though imperfect, is by looking at what “tier” the solar panel manufacturer falls under. When researching different brands, you’ll likely come across lists that separate manufacturers into tier one, and even tier two and three, though there is no formal definition for tiers two and three.

    Most assume tier one solar panel manufacturers tend to be the stronger brands. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. The tier system for solar panel manufacturers refers to how bankable a solar company is according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance Corporation (BNEF). While it’s fair to reason that a bankable company must have quality products, there are plenty of companies out there that do not meet the tier one specifications that offer great, high-quality panels. 

    What Are the Best Solar Panels?

    There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to which solar panels are the best. That answer changes based on a variety of factors, like your budget, how much electricity you’d like to generate, the space you have to install the system, and what aesthetic concerns you have.

    With the sheer amount of options available, this process can be overwhelming. Trying to determine the best combination of panel size, output rating, and efficiency is the most economical for your space, all while ensuring the panels are high quality and backed by extensive warranties takes experience. At Paradise Energy, we’ll maximize your budget and space with panels that suit your specific goals, be them budgetary, energy-related, aesthetically driven, or a combination of them all.

    How to Choose The Right Solar Company For Your Home

    How to Choose the Best Solar Panels

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