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5 Best Solar Companies in California (2022)

California is one of the most solar power-friendly states in the country. If you want to join the renewable energy trend in the Golden State, read our review of the top providers below.

A neutral colored California home with desert landscaping and solar panels on the roof.
iStock

California is perhaps one of the most solar-friendly states in the country. From San Diego in sunny southern California to Sacramento in northern California, and all points between and beyond, the state annually leads the United States in solar capacity—enough to power 5.4 million homes.

One reason for this is a state mandate, passed by lawmakers in 2018 and enacted in 2020, that requires, with few exceptions, solar panels on all new single-family homes, duplexes, and apartment buildings up to three stories tall.

If you are planning to build a new home in the Golden State or want to upgrade your current solar system, read our review below of some of the best solar companies serving California. In compiling this list, the This Old House Reviews Team researched the best solar companies in the country and has included those that provide coverage in California.

California’s Top Solar Energy Companies:

Momentum Solar

Score: 98 out of 100

Momentum Solar tops our list of solar companies in California because of its ease of system integration for first time solar users. Momentum intentionally limits its coverage area to states with net metering programs, so the company can provide expert advice to California residents about how net metering works. Net metering is a partnership with utility companies that allows solar power users to earn credits on their electric bill in exchange for moving excess solar production to the power grid for use at night and during any outages.

Momentum helps further simplify solar through its mobile app for tracking the installation process and its consistently updated online blog, which contains a wealth of resources and latest solar industry news.

Pros and cons

✔ Assists customers with enrollment in government incentives and rebates
✔ Offers multiple solar panel brands to help customers meet their budget
✔ Partners with Enphase to offer a solar battery with complimentary monitoring

✘ Doesn’t provide pricing information online
✘ Numerous online customer reviews cite aggressive sales tactics

Momentum’s app provides customers with energy production alerts and data. This information helps homeowners track efficiency and peak solar production times. The app can also be used to directly contact Momentum’s customer support line or email address.

Services include:

  • Survey and design for solar projects
  • Solar panel installation
  • Audits for energy efficiency
  • Mobile app
  • Solar system monitoring
  • Electric vehicle charging system
  • 25-year output warranty
  • Optional service package
  • Consultation

In addition to Momentum’s solar app, the company’s micro-inverter supplier, Enphase, offers complimentary solar technology software that gives customers more advanced metrics on their system. Customers can analyze system performance against weather data, verify system health, and share metrics on social media.

Momentum provides 25-year workmanship and performance guarantees on its solar panel system installations. Customers can buy their solar panels through a lump-sum payment or a solar loan, lease their panels, or enter into a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). A PPA means Momentum will bill you for monthly solar usage, much like an electric bill but typically at a much lower rate. While PPAs and leases are more affordable options for solar panels, the downside is that they both are considered to be third-party ownership. This is significant in terms of federal and state solar tax credits and rebates. Since Momentum would be considered the owner of solar panels provided by lease or PPA, the company—not you as the homeowner—would be eligible to benefit from any available tax credits.

Learn More: Momentum Solar Review


Palmetto Solar

Score: 98 out of 100

Palmetto Solar creates customized residential solar systems equipped with high-performance black rooftop panels, standard inverters, and power grid connections. Inverters are used to convert the direct current (DC) energy absorbed by solar panels into alternating current (AC) electricity that can be used to power a home’s major systems and appliances.

The company focuses on providing quality customer service, offering 24/7 online chat support and an extensive optional monitoring and discount program.

Pros and cons

✔ Offers an extended warranty and solar service rebates
✔ Provides an online energy savings calculator
✔ Protects solar panels with a 25-year warranty on solar system performance

✘ Does not provide pricing on its website
✘ Does not offer monitoring standard with solar panel installations

Available by phone, email, or online, Palmetto representatives can help you determine whether solar is a good choice for your home and walk you through the process of solar system installation.

The company’s online savings calculator is a user-friendly tool that allows homeowners to check how much they can save with solar system installation. Using your address and monthly electric bill, the tool will provide you with an idea of how much your monthly utility bill would be if you switched to solar. Palmetto also provides a mobile app that can be used to track energy usage.

In addition to its standard 25-year power production warranty, Palmetto Solar offers the optional Peace of Mind Protection Plan. According to the company’s website, the plan, which costs $12 per month, provides nearly $2,000 annually in discounts on services like pest abatement, panel removal and reinstallation, and panel cleaning. The Peace of Mind Plan also covers labor costs associated with servicing and replacements.

Palmetto Solar customers have the option to buy their solar panels, either outright or through a loan. The company also has lease and PPA options. Leases and PPAs both mean the panels are still owned by the company that installs them. Leases come with the same flat-rate monthly fee, while PPAs function much like an electricity bill, in that you are charged each month for the amount of solar energy you use.

Learn More: Palmetto Solar Review


Vivint Solar

Score: 95 out of 100

Vivint Solar’s wide range of products and services allows customers to create a customized solar energy system that fits their home, budget, and energy needs. Vivint uses only Tier 1 panels and partners primarily with LG to offer LG Chem, a compact battery storage device that is installed in your garage or a covered area to provide energy at night or during an outage. Vivint will also try to accommodate customer requests for panels outside of its normal line-up, including those made by Tesla, whenever possible.

Tier 1 solar panels, as defined by Bloomberg New Energy Finance Corporation’s rating system, are those made by manufacturers in business for at least five years that invest in marketing their brand and are highly regarded in the industry. While designated as top-of-the-line within the solar industry, Tier 1 panels can also be significantly more expensive than Tier 2 panels, many of which meet most Tier 1 standards.

Pros and cons

✔ Provides flexible options for customers who sell their home while under contract
​​✔ Partners with LG to provide customers with a solar energy storage battery option
✔ ​​Is available nationwide

✘ Doesn’t offer a power warranty to customers who lease or purchase their panels
✘ Annually increases prices for customers who opt for the PPA payment option

Vivint Solar is unique in its flexible approach to handling solar panel contracts when homeowners decide to sell their house. If you want to sell your home while still under contract with Vivint, the company allows you the choice of paying off your remaining balance or transferring your agreement to the new owners of the home. If you want to keep your panels, Vivint will remove them and reinstall them at your new home at no cost to you.


Sunrun

Score: 95 out of 100

Sunrun was among one of the first solar panel installation companies to make residential solar power systems more accessible through a leasing program. That focus on financing options makes Sunrun one of our recommendations for best solar installers. Customers can choose from two leasing options. You can opt for a flat-rate monthly payment or select a prepaid 25-year lease that includes ongoing maintenance and monitoring.

Pros and cons

✔ Can often install residential solar energy systems within one day
​​✔ Offers multiple financing options, including two lease types
✔ Provides online chat support

✘ Does not include detailed information regarding products on its website
✘ Has received numerous online customer reviews that note delays on repairs or other issues

Sunrun designs solar panel layouts custom to a roof’s shape via satellite imagery, giving homeowners more control over the appearance and efficiency of their systems. The company’s integrated home solar battery storage service, Brightbox, sets it apart from the many other providers that have yet to deploy storage options that bring a number of key benefits to solar customers.

Sunrun’s extensive 10-year warranty provides free equipment replacement and system repairs, as well as proactive monitoring and a comprehensive insurance policy on your panels.

If you do not want to go with one of Sunrun’s two leasing options, you can opt to purchase solar panels outright or finance them with no money down, subject to credit approval. While Sunrun provides instant online quotes, the company cannot give an accurate estimate until after an in-person or virtual home consultation.

Learn More: Sunrun Review


SunLux

Score: 84 out of 100

SunLux’s availability is limited to California and Texas, but that makes the company an ideal choice for Golden State residents. Additionally, SunLux is well-versed in California’s solar incentive programs and can expertly educate and assist customers with specific regional sunlight exposure issues in both states.

Pros and cons

✔ Has three extensive warranties
✔ Provides monitoring standard with all packages
✔ Offers an online solar savings calculator

✘ Has received multiple customer reviews citing long wait times for panel installation
✘ Will not book a consultation without a customer phone number

The solar installation company provides many of the same solar panel products, solar technology, services, and customer support as larger companies, such as a mobile app, system monitoring, and extensive warranties. The company provides equipment, maintenance, and performance guarantees for 25 years each.

Services:

  • Consultation
  • Survey and design
  • Solar panel installation
  • Audits for energy efficiency
  • Mobile app
  • System monitoring
  • Electric vehicle charging system
  • 25-year warranty on system performance
  • Optional solar service package

SunLux customers can opt to buy their solar panels through a lump-sum payment or a loan, lease their panels, or sign a PPA.

Following an in-person or virtual consultation, SunLux will provide you with a solar panel installation estimate and create a design to specifically fit your roof and sunlight exposure.

Learn More: SunLux Review


Our Conclusion

The solar energy company you select is dependent on your home’s unique clean energy needs and capacity. Momentum Solar is our top choice from among the best solar installers in California because of its user-friendly tools and educational approach to solar installation. Momentum also only works in states with established net metering programs, so it can provide expert knowledge on California’s program if you are unfamiliar and/or need assistance.

If creating a customized system that can easily be moved to another home is important to you, Vivint Solar offers one of the most flexible contracts in terms of relocations. And Palmetto Solar is a potentially good fit for first-time solar customers since it provides several options for customer support and servicing. We recommend getting quotes from at least three solar providers before making your decision.

Before contacting solar panel installers, you should consider a few key factors: how much direct daily sunlight your home receives; the layout, slope, and direction of your roof; and your average monthly electricity usage.

It’s also important to factor California’s solar tax incentives into your cost consideration. You cannot qualify for those incentives, however, if you lease your panels or enter into a PPA with the solar installer. For this reason, it’s important to carefully evaluate your ability to pay for your panels outright or through a loan as opposed to leasing them.

Frequently Asked Questions About Solar Companies in CA

What are two main disadvantages to solar energy?

The two main disadvantages of solar power are the upfront cost, and the limitations home size and location can place on solar system size. While solar panels can save you money in the long run, they do require a hefty initial investment—anywhere from $11,000 to $50,000—and it can take several years to begin to see any payoffs. Additionally, the available roof space can severely limit the size of a home’s solar system. This means that homeowners who want to switch to solar may have to utilize a system that isn’t large enough to meet their daily needs or abandon the idea altogether.

How do I qualify for free solar in California?

California’s Single-Family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) program focuses on helping lower-income residents switch to clean energy. To qualify, you must have a household income 80% or below the area median income, own and live in your home, and live in a house defined as “affordable housing” in the California public utilities code.

The State of California launched SASH and a similar program—Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing (MASH)—in 2009. The programs are funded through a portion of the $2.2 billion California Solar Initiative. When created, MASH and SASH were the first solar programs in the nation for low-income households.

What is net energy metering?

Net metering utilizes a public utility’s electric grid for excess energy storage of power generated by residential solar systems. That renewable energy, in turn, is used to power solar households during periods in which solar panels are not receiving as much sunlight, such as at night or during overcast days. In turn, the utility company compensates solar power users for that extra stored energy through credits to their electricity bill.

Can a homeowners association (HOA) in California prohibit solar panel installation?

No. The California Solar Rights Act prevents HOAs from limiting a person’s ability to install solar panels on their property. Homeowners therefore have the right to install a solar system, although there can be reasonable restrictions on the placement of the solar panels.

Under the act, reasonable restrictions are defined as those that “do not significantly increase the cost of the system or significantly decrease its efficiency or specified performance.” The current version of the Solar Rights Act caps reasonable restrictions, cost-wise, as $1,000 over the original cost of the system. An HOA cannot place limits on solar systems that would decrease their efficiency by more than 10%.

HOAs may still maintain some oversight as to how and when your system can be installed. For example, HOA rules might require approval of solar system plans before installation can begin.

Our Rating Methodology

The This Old House Reviews Team is committed to providing comprehensive and unbiased reviews to our readers. This means earning your trust through transparent reviews and having the data to back up our ratings and recommendations. Our rating system for solar panel companies and installers is on a 100-point scale based on five factors:

  • Payment options (40 points): Options include purchase, loan, lease, and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). Companies receive points for each of those four options it provides.
  • Solar services (30 points): Does the company provide in-house installation of solar panels and battery backups? Can the company also monitor energy production and perform energy-efficiency audits to ensure system performance. The more options available, the higher the score.
  • Warranty options (10 points): The success of a residential solar system depends on the workmanship, performance guarantees, and length of product coverage. We score solar companies based on the number of warranty options available. The more warranties a solar company offers, the higher the score it receives.
  • State Availability (10 points): We award the most points to solar companies with the broadest service area and state availability.
  • Reputation (10 points): We factor in how the Business Better Bureau (BBB) scores each company. We deduct points for any alerts or pending lawsuits.

To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews Team at reviews@thisoldhousereviews.com.