Below are some key factors to consider when comparing companies.
Check that the company you’re considering doesn’t just sell solar panels but also installs them. We recommend in-house rather than third-party installation because you’ll likely experience better communication and quality assurance. You’ll also get a more comprehensive labor warranty on the workmanship.
Verify whether the provider only installs solar panels or also installs solar batteries, inverters, chargers, and other equipment. Check for additional offered solar services, including system monitoring, dedicated apps, and energy audits.
These are the most common solar warranties you’ll come across:
- Manufacturer’s warranty (or product warranty): This protects the individual solar panel system components in case of defects.
- Workmanship warranty: This covers installation in case of poor workmanship or faulty installation materials.
- Performance (or power production) guarantee: This guarantees the solar system’s output performs as outlined in your contract.
The best companies offer 25-year warranties in each of these cases, though some limit their workmanship warranty to 10 years. We recommend finding a company that provides at least 20 years of coverage for each warranty type.
Most solar companies offer at least two of these solar financing options:
- Full purchase: Purchasing your system in full gives you immediate ownership and qualifies you for solar incentives. This is the most cost-effective option, as you won’t have to pay extra for interest fees. However, it involves a large amount of cash up-front.
- Solar loan: A solar loan allows you to pay for your system in monthly installments rather than all at once. You’ll pay more over time due to interest rates, but you’ll still own your system and be able to use solar incentives to save money.
- Solar lease: Similar to a loan, a solar lease allows you to make set monthly payments to use solar energy. However, you won’t own your system, which disqualifies you from most solar incentives.
- Power purchase agreement (PPA): A PPA allows you to pay for only the energy you use with no money down, similar to an electricity bill. As with a lease, you won’t own the system or qualify for solar incentives.
We recommend buying your system outright or financing through a loan if it’s in your budget. Be wary of companies that push solar leases or PPAs without being transparent about the fact that these options disqualify you from incentives.
Customer service can make all the difference in your experience. You want a provider that’s friendly, reachable, responsive, and helpful. Companies should provide multiple ways to reach them, such as phone, email, online chat, online portal, or mobile app. They should be responsive across each of these options.
Try calling, emailing, or messaging the provider to see how long it takes to reach the right person. Look at the customer support hours to see if you’ll be able to reach someone on weekends and evenings. Lastly, consider how supportive the customer service team is. A provider that thoroughly answers all of your questions, looks for ways to save you money, and takes the time to get the best product for your needs should be at the top of your list.