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The 5 Best Solar Companies in California (2024 Guide)

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Author Image Written by Tamara Jude + 2 others Reviewer Icon Reviewed by Roger Horowitz Fact Checked Icon Fact-checked Updated 05/09/2024

California is one of the country’s most solar-friendly states. It’s working toward a goal of running on 100% renewable energy by 2045, and it usually leads the United States in solar capacity—generating enough to power more than 5.8 million typical homes in 2022.

If you’re considering making the switch to solar power, we spent more than 770 hours researching leading installers to help you find the best solar company in California. We recommend Sunrun, as it offers unique leasing and budgeting options. We also recommend Momentum Solar if you want a seamless installation process.

Key Takeaways

The best solar companies in California are Sunrun for their flexible financing options and Palmetto Solar for their strong customer support. Our findings are based on a synthesis of user reviews, expert interviews and a survey of 1,000 homeowners.
California provides a property tax exemption for residential solar systems. Solar owners in California enjoy increased property values without an associated tax increase.
The average cost of a 8kW-h solar system in California is $21,924 before incentives are applied. Typically, incentives reduce this to around $15,347

Compare Solar Companies Across California

We compared solar companies in California using our rating methodology to determine which provides the best all-around services and products. Sunrun scored near the top due to their solar panel selections, additional service options, and positive reputations across review sites such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Company Star Rating Warranties Payment Options Link
4.4
10–25 years Full purchase, loan, lease, PPA GET QUOTE
4.5
10–25 years Full purchase, loan, lease, PPA GET QUOTE
4.4
25 years Full purchase, loan, lease, PPA GET QUOTE
4.6
25 years Full purchase, loan, lease, PPA GET QUOTE
4.0
10-25 years Full purchase, loan GET QUOTE
No results were found.

What Should You Know About Going Solar in CA?

Going solar in California requires understanding how much you may pay for a system, what solar incentives you can access, and what payment options are available. You should also know what warranties to look out for and be familiar with some industry jargon so you don’t get scammed.

The average cost of a standard 5-kilowatt (kW) solar panel system in California is around $13,703.* Your system’s cost varies based on several factors, including its size, where the company installs it on or around your home, installation complexity, and the solar panel type. Changes in a company’s technology will also affect the price, as will your region.

*Cost data via EnergySage

California offers one of the most extensive selections of solar tax incentives and rebates. All homeowners can use the federal government’s 30% solar investment tax credit. Other incentives include rebates for solar battery installation and financial assistance for low-income households. California also offers a net energy metering program (NEM), which provides credits for excess electricity sent back to the grid.

A quality solar company should assist you with finding and applying for solar incentives.

You may hear unfamiliar words when speaking with California solar installers. Here are some key terms and what they mean:

  • Active monitoring: Active monitoring involves real-time tracking and analysis of various performance metrics, such as electricity production, system health, and environmental conditions. This continuous monitoring allows you and your solar provider to detect issues promptly, optimize system efficiency, and proactively maintain your system to ensure it’s operating reliably and optimally.
  • Inverter: This component converts the direct current (DC) power your solar system receives from the sun into the alternating current (AC) power that runs your home. 
  • Solar panel efficiency rating: This is the percentage of sunlight that solar panels convert into usable electricity. The higher the efficiency rating, the better the energy production. It’s not possible for solar energy systems to operate at 100% efficiency. Most have efficiency rates between 15% and 22%.
  • Solar battery backup: A solar battery stores excess energy generated by solar panels, enabling you to power your home when the sun isn’t shining, such as at night or during power outages. This product allows for greater energy independence and resilience against grid failures.

Various solar financing options exist to fit different budgets and financial goals. Many companies offer two or more payment choices. A full purchase or loan is typically the most cost-effective option. Solar leasing may be a good fit for you, but this is highly situational. We recommend a full purchase or loan because these options yield more benefits than leasing.

Here is a list of the most common payment options:

  • Full purchase: A full cash purchase gives you system ownership, qualifying you for all tax incentives and rebates. 
  • Solar loan: This option requires smaller monthly payments for a set time frame and grants you full ownership. However, you’ll pay more over time due to interest rates.
  • Solar lease: You can lease your system from a solar provider and make monthly payments for its use. Check out our guide on this option to decide if a solar lease is worth it for you.
  • Power purchase agreement (PPA): The solar company retains system ownership and only charges you for the solar energy you use each month. We generally don’t recommend this option because it may disqualify you from incentives and other benefits, such as increased home value.

We surveyed 1,000 homeowners who recently bought solar panels. Nearly half paid upfront, 23% signed up for a solar loan, 11% financed using a solar lease, and 17% went with a PPA.

Top solar companies offer 25-year warranties in most cases, but some limit their workmanship warranty to 10 years. We recommend finding a company that provides 25-year warranties for coverage throughout your system’s lifetime.

Here are the three most common warranties and what they cover:

  • Manufacturer’s warranty (or product warranty): Protects the individual solar system components in case of defects.
  • Workmanship warranty: Covers installation in case of poor workmanship or faulty installation materials.
  • Performance (or power production) guarantee: Certifies the solar system’s output as outlined in your contract.

California’s Top Solar Energy Companies

The following companies provide some of the best solar installation services in the Golden State according to our 100-point scale, including solar battery backup services and comprehensive warranty coverage.

Palmetto Solar: Best Customer Support
Sunrun: Best Solar Panel Leasing
Momentum Solar: Best Installation Process
Elevation: Best Energy-Efficient Upgrades
Tesla: Best Solar Tech
SunPower: Most Efficient Panels

Our Top Solar Company Picks

Sunrun Best Solar Panel Leasing
4.5

Sunrun offers two leasing options for those uninterested in full system ownership. We typically advise homeowners to avoid solar leases, but Sunrun offers standout leasing options that compete with solar loan options.

How We Scored Sunrun

Sunrun earned 4.5 out of 5 stars. Sunrun’s warranty coverage and long-standing reputation in the industry are impressive compared to other providers in our review. Its service selection is rather simple, but Sunrun is an excellent option for Californians who desire flexibility in leasing and financing.

Here’s a closer look at how it did in each category:

  • Solar Equipment and Services (15 out of 25 points): Sunrun only provides solar panel and battery installation. The company also uses third-party installers. Third-party installers are becoming an industry standard, but in-house installers often yield better communication and quality.
  • Warranty and Performance Guarantees (25 out of 25 points): The company offers an impressive 25-year manufacturer, a labor warranty, and a performance guarantee. 
  • Brand Reputation and Professional Certifications (13 out of 15 points): Sunrun features a high BBB rating and appears to have an overall positive reputation across other sites we check, such as Reddit.
  • Financing Options (14 out of 15 points): Sunrun offers flexible financing plans through in-house financing, third-party lenders, and leasing plans. Its leases also include more warranty coverage than those of other providers, such as Palmetto.
  • Industry Experience (9 out of 10 points): Sunrun has been in business for 17 years, which is longer than that of other providers in our review.
  • State Availability (8 out of 10 points): The company operates in 19 states and Puerto Rico.
Pros and Cons
Pros Offers insurance protection for theft or damage Provides flexible financing options, such as two lease types Sells EV chargers and battery add-ons Cons 25-year warranty is only for lease and prepaid customers Extra costs for coverage plans included in leases Has online reviews mentioning delayed repairs
Warranty and Financing

Warranty

Sunrun offers a 10-year comprehensive warranty that includes product, roof penetration, and workmanship coverage. Leasing customers receive an extended 25-year warranty, providing insurance protection for theft and damage.

Financing Options

✔ Full purchase
✔ Lease
✔ Loan
✔ PPA

Reputation and Reviews

Sunrun holds an A+ rating and accreditation from the BBB. Customers applaud Sunrun for its comprehensive coverage on leased systems, but they also complain about delayed installations, poor customer service, and poor communication with project managers. We noticed in recent Reddit threads that some homeowners are confused by Sunrun’s leasing and PPA options. However, these same threads mentioned that Sunrun is willing to go over these plans when asked, but the up-front information is confusing. 

Momentum

Best Installation Process
4.4

Momentum Solar creates a smooth and timely installation process for homeowners. The company provides progress updates through its app to keep you informed about your installation timeline. We like that Momentum tailors each system to customers’ energy needs and offers additional battery upgrades in some locations.

How We Scored Momentum Solar

Momentum received 4.4 out of 5 stars. Here’s how it did in each category:

  • Solar Equipment and Services (20 out of 25 points): Momentum offers plenty of solar services, including panel and battery installation. However, it doesn’t provide energy audits. We do like the company’s dedicated customer web portal. 
  • Warranty and Performance Guarantees (16 out of 25 points): The company provides robust warranties, including 25-year warranties for products and labor. However, it doesn’t include any production warranty like many other top providers. 
  • Brand Reputation and Professional Certifications (13 out of 15 points): The company has a positive reputation on popular review sites such as the BBB.
  • Financing Options (15 out of 15 points): Momentum features an in-house financing department, making it a go-to for a solar loan. It also scored all points in this category because it offers every payment option.
  • Industry Experience (8 out of 10 points): Momentum has been in business since 2009, so it’s one of the newer companies out there.
  • State Availability (7 out of 10 points): Momentum limits its service areas for more personalized customer service, and your available service options might change according to your ZIP code in Massachusetts.

Pros and Cons

Pros Helps customers apply for solar incentives Offers in-house installation only Provides multiple solar panel options for better customization Cons Doesn’t offer a power production guarantee Includes only five years of roof penetration coverage Sells solar batteries only in select areas

Warranty and Financing

Warranty

Momentum includes a 25-year manufacturer and workmanship warranty for its systems. 

Financing Options

✔ Full purchase
✔ Loan
✔ Lease
✔ PPA

Reputation and Reviews

Momentum has an accreditation and A+ rating with the BBB. Analyzing homeowner reviews informed us that customers appreciated the company’s helpful customer service team and system performance. However, some homeowners faced frequent scheduling delays during the installation process.

Palmetto Best Customer Support
4.4

Palmetto offers comprehensive customer support and system monitoring to keep your solar system in peak condition. This is extremely valuable for Californians because of the state’s unpredictable weather conditions and changing utilities.

How We Scored Palmetto

Palmetto earned 4.4 out of 5 stars according to our methodology. The company scored more points for its comprehensive service selection and long-term protection plans.

Here’s how it rated in our key categories:

  • Solar Equipment and Services (20 out of 25 points): Palmetto offers an excellent selection of solar services, including solar battery and electric vehicle (EV) charger installation. We especially like that the company focuses on using in-house installers.
  • Warranty and Performance Guarantees (16 out of 25 points): The company’s warranty options don’t stand out as much as Sunrun’s. It offers industry-standard coverage for 25 years on products and 10 years on labor.
  • Brand Reputation and Professional Certifications (14 out of 15 points): Palmetto features a highly positive online reputation on popular review sites such as the BBB. The company also screens its installers to ensure they’re certified with the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).
  • Financing Options (13.5 out of 15 points): Palmetto doesn’t provide in-house financing but offers all possible payment methods.
  • Industry Experience (8 out of 10 points): Palmetto holds a decent amount of experience, with 15 years in the industry.
  • State Availability (8 out of 10 points): The company provides services to 25 states.
Pros and Cons
Pros Boasts multiple customer support contact methods, including a mobile app Offers an online calculator to help you determine potential solar savings Provides tiered protection plans for additional system coverage Cons Charges more for the highest-tiered protection plan Features reviews about installation delays Limits its active monitoring services to three years
Warranty and Financing

Warranty

Palmetto includes a 25-year panel warranty, 12-year inverter warranty, 10-year workmanship warranty, plus five years of roof penetration coverage.

Financing Options

✔ Full purchase
✔ Lease
✔ Loan
✔ PPA

Reputation and Reviews

Palmetto holds an A+ rating and accreditation with the BBB. The company also features an overall positive customer score on the site. We noticed former customers praised Palmetto for its dedicated installation managers and quality systems but mentioned very long permitting periods and installation delays. This recent Reddit thread showed us that an Oakland homeowner received a fair and highly competitive quote from the company.

Elevation Best Energy-Efficient Upgrades
4.6

Elevation started its California branch in 2014. Like Palmetto, the company understands that Californian solar energy requires ongoing support. The company sells high-efficiency panels, batteries, and energy-monitoring equipment. It also conducts whole-home energy audits to identify where you’re losing energy and increasing utility bills. Elevation will repair these issues so your home’s energy efficiency increases while your electricity bills go down.

Roughly 5% of our 1,000 survey takers purchased their panels from Elevation.

How We Scored Elevation

We awarded Elevation 4.6 out of 5 stars. The company boasts one of the best service selections, given its focus on entire home energy efficiency updates. Here’s how it did in our key categories:

  • Solar Equipment and Services (20 out of 25 points): The company offers many services, but one it doesn’t provide that many other providers do is solar roofing installation.
  • Warranty and Performance Guarantees (22 out of 25 points): Elevation provides impressive warranty coverage with 25 years on production, product, and workmanship. It only lacks roof leak protection. 
  • Brand Reputation and Professional Certifications (14 out of 15 points): Elevation has a nearly flawless reputation, but its customer review score on its BBB profile sits below 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Financing Options (13.5 out of 15 points): The company offers all possible solar payment methods but doesn’t provide any in-house financing solutions. 
  • Industry Experience (7 out of 10 points): Elevation is a newer company that entered the picture in 2014.
  • State Availability (6 out of 10 points): The company limits its service area to fewer than 10 states.
Pros and Cons
Pros Handles efficiency upgrades through an in-house installation team Conducts full-home energy efficiency audits Offers advanced energy monitoring devices Cons Known for installation delays, according to customer reviews Only available in five states You must make additional payments for extended warranty coverage
Warranty and Financing

Warranty

Elevation offers 25-year warranties for product, performance, and workmanship coverage.

Financing Options

✔ Full purchase
✔ Lease
✔ Loan
✔ PPA

Reputation and Reviews

Elevation features an A+ rating and accreditation with the BBB. The company also appears active on the site and replies to over 90% of reviews. We saw that customers reported finding value in its home efficiency audits and upgrades, which are especially helpful with California’s high utility costs. However, others mentioned installation process delays, which made the timeline of going solar longer than necessary.

SunPower

Best High-Efficiency System
4.8
  • Payment options: Full purchase, loan, lease, PPA 
  • State availability: 50 states, but varies by ZIP code

SunPower offers the most energy-efficient and high-performing solar systems available, with efficiency rates of 22.8% compared to the typical 15%–22% range. It’s one of the few companies that uses in-house system components, creating a streamlined system designed to perform better. SunPower also sells solar batteries and electric vehicle (EV) chargers.

Pros and Cons

Pros Builds customized, high-efficiency solar systems to suit each home Offers an extensive coverage area throughout the country Sells energy storage and EV charger add-ons Cons Limits solar equipment options due to in-house product exclusivity More expensive than other companies, according to some customer reviews

Warranty and Financing

SunPower backs its solar products with an all-inclusive 25-year warranty covering all solar system components, additional equipment add-ons, workmanship, and a production guarantee of 92% power output.

Reputation and Awards

SunPower received PV Magazine’s 2019 Sustainability Award for “outstanding sustainability leadership in the solar industry.” In 2022, SunPower received the Good Housekeeping’s 2022 Home Renovation Award in the Biggest Energy Savers category. The company was recognized for its innovative SunVault energy storage system.

SunPower currently holds an A+ rating and is accredited with the BBB. Based on our team’s review analysis, we discovered that customers were pleased with their SunPower system performance. However, we noticed a pattern of complaints about higher-than-average installation costs and communication issues with third-party installers.

Areas of Coverage

50 states, but varies by ZIP code


What Is the Cost of Solar Panel Installation in California?

Our research shows that California’s average solar panel system costs around $16,443 for a standard 6 kW system. This aligns with our survey of solar buyers, in which 43% of solar buyers noted paying between $10,000 and $20,000 for their solar setup. Several factors affect your total solar panel installation cost, including the following:

  • Household electrical demand: This is the monthly electricity your household uses. You’ll need a larger, more expensive system to match your needs if you have high monthly energy consumption.
  • Labor: Labor costs vary by location and are more expensive in states with higher living costs, such as California. All solar providers also charge different prices.
  • Panel quality: The equipment you choose greatly impacts both your electricity production and overall cost. More expensive equipment doesn’t always mean higher savings, while the cheapest option can sacrifice value.
  • Purchasing option: You can pay in one lump sum, take out a loan or lease, or enter a PPA. Each option affects how much you’ll spend in the short and long term.
  • System and panel size: Your panels and overall system size are the most influential factors in your installation cost. The bigger the system, the higher the price tag.

Get a better idea of what going solar in California might cost you with our table below. Cheaper solar panels are available for homeowners looking to go solar on a budget.

Cost per Watt*Cost per System SizeCost After Incentives
$2.74$13,703 for 5 kW$9,592
$2.74$16,443 for 6 kW$11,510
$2.74$19,184 for 7 kW$13,429
$2.74$21,924 for 8 kW$15,347
Cost data via EnergySage

What To Know About Local Solar Installers in California

The well-known and reputable companies listed above are great options, but smaller, local solar installers are also worth considering. These local operators often provide a more personalized experience and can customize their services to meet your specific location’s unique needs and characteristics.

Local solar companies deeply understand the regional climate, building codes, and regulations, which can be beneficial when designing and installing a solar system tailored to your area’s specific needs. They’re usually more involved in the community, which can lead to better customer service and a stronger commitment to maintaining a good reputation in their area. Some local installers may offer more flexibility in customizing your solar system with different panel brands, inverters, and other components, as strict corporate guidelines do not limit them.

Southern California homeowners can consider Sullivan Solar Power near San Diego or AWS Solar in Los Angeles, as well as other smaller, local solar installers. SolarCraft and Byers Solar are also excellent choices for Northern California residents.

Smaller local operators in your region may provide a more tailored and community-focused solar installation experience. Ultimately, it’s advisable to research and obtain quotes from multiple installers, both larger and smaller local companies, to compare their offerings, pricing, and customer reviews. This will help ensure you find the solar installer that best aligns with your needs, preferences, and desired level of personalized service.

What Solar Incentives Are Available in California?

The Golden State is aiming to generate 100% clean energy by 2045, and California officials have spent several years pushing for solar conversion. The state provides several solar incentives, credits, and rebates to help offset solar system costs, making going solar more affordable.

All California residents qualify for the federal tax credit, which offers 30% off photovoltaic (PV) panels and stand-alone solar batteries. Note that the federal tax credit is not a rebate or cash payment. Instead, it’s applied to your owed federal tax liability. At tax time, this credit helps reduce or eliminate any owed taxes. 

We’ve highlighted some of the biggest incentives below, but we encourage you to read our in-depth guide to California solar incentives for more information.

Active Solar Energy System Property Tax Exemption

Disadvantaged Communities – Single-Family Solar Homes (DAC-SASH)

Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP)

Equity Resilience Rebate Program

Local incentives and rebates

This exemption allows you to benefit from the increased home value solar panels provide without increasing your property tax.

This program provides affordable solar system installations to California’s low-income homeowners. You must meet income requirements and be a current customer of Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), or Southern California Edison (SCE). 

This program provides up-front rebates for adding a solar battery to your system. The SGIP offers $200 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of stored energy capacity. For example, you would earn about $2,700 for installing a Tesla Powerwall, one of our top solar battery choices, thanks to its 13.5-kWh energy capacity. Though you will also want to consider the up front cost of the Powerwall.

This rebate program offers up to $1,000 per kWh to low-income households, homeowners in high-risk fire areas, and those who have experienced two or more Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events.

Additional incentives and rebates are available to residents in certain counties, cities, and municipalities. Some utility customers may receive special rebates for solar panel and battery storage installations.

Check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) for a complete list of local incentives.


What Areas Do Solar Installation Companies Service in CA?

Solar installers’ service areas may change based on your ZIP code or city. Use our resource below to see the top solar installers in your area.


Are There Solar Regulations in California?

California imposes a few regulations for residential solar energy systems. Various new regulations and building codes instituted in 2023 may influence your solar journey. Here’s a breakdown of key solar regulations in California:

  • 2020 Solar Mandate: This is part of the California Energy Commission’s Building Energy Efficiency Standards, a mandate that requires all newly built homes to install solar photovoltaic systems. These requirements focus on the home’s floor area and the climate zone. The solar panel systems must be sized to provide full annual energy usage to the home, typically between 2.7 and 5.7 kilowatts. These system sizes take into consideration that new homes will include other energy-efficient technology. The exceptions to this mandate are if a home’s roof is too small for solar panels, the home gets too much shade, or it already has access to community solar. 
  • 2022 Solar PV, Solar Ready, Battery, and Electric Ready Energy Code: This code is also part of the Building Energy Efficiency Standards and requires all single-family homes to be electric-ready, meaning new homes must be built using electric systems rather than other energy types, such as gas. It will include installation guidance for professional solar battery installers. The battery portion of the mandate currently only applies to select businesses, but it’s a good indication of where future code updates may go. Tristan Cronshaw, product manager for Geneverse, shared with us how crucial solar batteries are becoming in California due to this new legislation, “Homeowners should understand that investing in a battery backup system not only enhances their energy independence but also provides greater control over their electricity usage and savings. It also better prepares them for potential grid disruptions or outages, offering peace of mind and resilience in the face of unforeseen circumstances.”
  • NEM3: NEM3 is shorthand for the third version of the state’s net energy metering program. Solar users who got their solar before NEM3 are referred to as NEM1 or NEM2, depending on the year their solar turned on. Solar users under NEM3 will earn 75%–80% less from the utility for the extra solar energy they share with the grid. Compensation for that extra energy will go from an average of 30 cents per kWh to around 5 cents per kWh. These changes will extend the payback period for a solar investment from an average of six years to more than 10 years.

Consider the following factors when comparing potential California installers. 

Different companies offer varying coverage areas. A company might list full state coverage but only service a few specific cities. Verify the coverage area for any potential companies and ensure they include your city or ZIP code. Also, check with the company about its installer’s locations to ensure they offer local services. 

We recommend checking online reviews from trusted review sites such as the Better Business Bureau, TrustPilot, and Google Reviews. Check both positive and negative reviews to best gauge current and former customer experiences. Review details concerning customer support, panel quality, installation, repairs, and warranty claims. Good customer reviews was the top reason our survey respondents chose the solar brand they did.

Up-front payments and solar loans offer the best return on investment and the shortest solar payback period. Therefore, we recommend considering companies that offer you the ability to pay for your system in full or take out a loan. These financing options also qualify you for federal and state solar incentives. Solar leases and PPAs offer the least financial advantages since the panels remain under the solar company’s name. 

A solar lease often leads to some challenges with an installer, too. Robin Saidov, owner of Your Energy Footprint, shared with us that a company aggressively pushing for leasing is a red flag. She also mentioned that maintenance plans are often unnecessary: “Solar panels are very low maintenance and shouldn’t require any ‘periodic maintenance’ like washing that a salesperson might reference. Rain is almost always sufficient to clean the panels, even in the desert.”

Solar brand availability varies among installers. Some companies offer several name-brand solar products, while others limit their offerings to in-house. You’ll want excellent solar panels to take advantage of Californias 258 sunny days yearly. Top-quality solar panels offer the best power production and energy savings potential. Compare solar installer catalogs to find the right panel for your needs and budget. 

We recommend investing in solar companies with 25-year equipment warranties. Solar panels last 25 years on average, ensuring coverage throughout their lifetime. Look for companies offering 25-year manufacturer (or product) and workmanship coverage. Some companies also provide power performance warranties that guarantee panel performance for a set time frame. This ensures your panels remain in excellent performance for your entire warranty. 

Professional installers we spoke to recommend working with companies that have at least 10 years of solar industry experience. You should also consider companies with extensive business experience, even if they’re new to solar. Established companies often buy existing solar companies to enter the industry. A proven track record of reliability and longevity provides peace of mind for the future.


Questions To Ask Your Solar Installer

You’ll likely meet with company representatives to discuss your potential solar system after requesting quotes. We’ve compiled a list of questions to ask your potential installer to help you prepare for those meetings.

  • Are you a NABCEP-certified installer or work with certificated installers? Do you have or work with master electricians?
  • Do you assist with solar tax incentive research and applications?
  • Do you have examples of local solar projects and reviews from your current customers?
  • Does your company use in-house installers or third-party contractors?
  • What additional solar services do you offer? What’s included in my contract? What services do you offer at cost?
  • What financing options do you offer? Do you offer financing directly through your company or specific lenders?
  • What is my estimated solar savings and solar payback period?
  • What is the condition of my roof? Will I need additional repairs or upgrades completed before installing solar panels? What about additional services such as tree removal or electrical upgrades?
  • What official licenses and insurance do you have? What about your subcontractors?
  • What warranties come with my panels? What additional guarantees are included for roof leaks, panel performance, or other solar-related coverage?

How Can You Save Money on Solar?

Our research shows that Californians pay around $2.73 per watt for a solar panel system, higher than the $2.66 national average. Despite the slightly higher up-front cost, you can save money on solar in California with the following tips.

Review each company’s solar financing options. This includes the financing terms, initial payments, interest rates, and lender choices. Select the most cost-effective option for your budget, but we recommend considering a full purchase and solar loan over leasing or a PPA. These options yield higher long-term savings.
Review each solar installer’s quote for equipment details, such as the number of panels required for installation and any extra solar components. Compare your options and select the best panels for your energy needs. Investing in high-efficiency panels is ideal, but you don’t need that much power production if your home energy needs are low.
We recommended getting quotes from at least three providers. Your quotes should include potential savings estimates, solar equipment, your estimated payback period, and warranty coverage.
Use federal and state solar incentives to help reduce investment costs. We discovered that some programs in California require lengthy paperwork and approvals, so take your time to read all qualifications and make a note of any deadlines. Approximately 75% of our survey takers took advantage of solar incentives to save money.

Steps to follow

The solar installation process requires several steps and involves your solar company, local officials, and utility company. Here are the general steps to expect.

You meet with a company representative to discuss your savings potential and energy needs. Many companies offer in-person and virtual consultations. You need a recent copy of your electricity bill to help with this estimate.

The sales rep inspects your roof for any structural issues and design complications. They determine your overall roof space and plan your system based on spatial availability. The rep may advise you of any structural concerns and recommend roof repair or upgrades as needed. They may also advise of additional services such as tree removal or electrical upgrades.

Company reps design your panel based on the site survey and initial energy assessment. You then choose your panels, system components, and any additional equipment. Finally, you receive a detailed quote to review before signing a contract. Once signed, the company begins filing necessary paperwork and design plans with local officials. The permitting process varies but could take two to four weeks. 

Installers arrive with panels, wiring, racking systems, add-on components, and any other necessary equipment. Nearly a third of our survey takers said installation took just one day. The solar company should provide timely updates for any delays in installation.

Your installer works with local officials for a final inspection. Solar installations must meet local codes and design plans to qualify for activation. This process could add two to four weeks, depending on your solar company and local officials’ availability.

Your installer coordinates grid connections and final approvals with your local utility company. Your system is granted permission to operate and is ready for use once it receives all approvals.


Our Conclusion

We recommend Sunrun if you want to take full advantage of California’s plentiful sunny days and maximize your solar savings. Sunrun is an excellent option if leasing matches your budgeting needs and energy goals.

We suggest getting quotes from at least three providers. You should also consider a few key factors, such as your home’s amount of direct daily sunlight, your roof’s layout, slope, and direction, and your average monthly electricity usage, before contacting solar contractors. Ask for local references and check online reviews for each installer.


FAQ About Solar Companies in CA

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

No. The California Solar Rights Act prevents HOAs from limiting your ability to install solar panels on your property. However, HOAs may still maintain some oversight as to how and when your system is installed. For example, HOA rules might require the approval of solar system plans before the installation process can begin.

Is California paying people to go solar?

California is not directly paying people to go solar, but it is incentivizing it. The California Public Utilities Commission says that eligible customers can receive up to $3 per watt in incentives for solar installations, and you may also receive a rebate through the SGIP for installing a solar battery in addition to solar panels. You’re not necessarily paid for these installations, but you receive some financial compensation to lessen the total cost.

Is solar worth it in California?

Solar energy is worth it in California for several reasons. California has some of the country’s highest electricity costs. A solar panel system takes advantage of the state’s abundant sunlight, making clean energy a long-term, cost-effective solution for energy bill reduction. Additionally, California offers several government incentives and rebates to help combat greenhouse gas emissions, making solar energy an excellent option for environmentally conscious California homeowners.

Do solar panels increase property taxes in California?

No, solar panel installation doesn’t increase property taxes for California homes. According to Section 73 of the state’s revenue and taxation code, qualifying solar installations receive a property tax exclusion.


Our Methodology and Solar Research Process

We are committed to providing comprehensive and unbiased reviews to our readers. We’ve researched solar companies for hundreds of hours, including deep-diving into each provider’s website. We obtained warranty information through their websites or by calling and interviewing customer service representatives. We analyzed warranties and weighed their coverage with industry standards. We also examined each provider’s product selection specifications to determine if they can disclose any partnerships or information on their products.

We ensured each provider followed the steps most solar installation companies should provide, such as in-home estimates and permitting, to offer quality solar panel installation. We also checked to see if the companies are certified with the NABCEP or if they partner with local, third-party contractors. We analyzed recent customer reviews through popular review sites such as the BBB and Google Reviews to gain further insight into what it’s like to interact with each provider’s customer support staff and installers. We then synthesized this information to add to your rating scale. 

We cross-checked all of our findings through surveys with thousands of residential solar energy customers and interviews with experts in the industry. We also had another industry expert fact-check our articles. We then created  a detailed rating system for solar providers based on six factors:

  • Solar equipment, installation, and services (25%)
  • Warranty and performance guarantees (25%)
  • Brand reputation and certifications (15%)
  • Financing options (15%)
  • Experience (10%)
  • Availability (10%)

Total scores are divided by 20 for a final 5-point rating scale.

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