How to Choose The Right Solar Company For Your Home

August 31, 2023

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

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. That’s why we have a few key things to look for when looking for solar companies near you.

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

Oftentimes, a company near you is the best choice. 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 quickly resolve any services or repairs you need as well. 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.

However, we do understand that you might be wary to trust a smaller company. That’s why 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.

Should you ever use a national solar company? Large solar companies are usually the best option for homeowners who want to lease their solar panels. Solar leases are typically a good option for homeowners who don’t have upfront cash for an installation, don’t qualify for the federal solar tax credit incentive, and aren’t able to get a solar loan. Of the large installers, we recommend SunPower, as they have a local dealer network that eliminates some of the issues other large companies have.

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. SolarReviews hosts thousands of consumer reviews for solar panel installers across the U.S. We perform manual checks and use software to make sure you see reviews from real customers, not fake reviews made by companies themselves 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.

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.

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This content was originally published here.

How to Choose The Right Solar Company For Your Home