What are the Best Solar Companies in California?
The Golden state is a fantastic place for going solar power – but how do you choose among best solar companies in California?
With such a high popularity, it should be no surprise that there are hundreds of solar installers in the state, all vying for your business. Whilst this means you’re spoilt for choice, it also means it can be hard to pick someone out of the crowd. We’ve taken a look at the available options, to try and help you find the best solar panel companies in California.
What to look for in a solar panel company
Solar panels are not a small investment, and it’s worth taking your time to thoroughly research the companies available to you. Back up your investment by ensuring you pick an experienced and trustworthy installer, and don’t get caught out with shoddy workmanship or poor customer service. A little time spent researching beforehand can save you from a vast amount of stress and unnecessary costs.
What licenses and certifications should the best solar companies in California have?
The licenses and certifications a solar installer should have varies between each state. Generally speaking, licenses are mandatory, and certifications are voluntary extras qualifications a contractor can get to improve your confidence in them.
In California, the main license a solar installer should have is a C-46 Solar Contractors License. To get this license, the contractor has to have a minimum of four years of experience, and pass several written examinations, including sections on Law and Business.
California also has several specialist licenses that you might want to be aware of:
- C-4 Boiler, Hot Water Heating and Steam Fitting (for solar thermal systems)
- C-10 Electrical (for photovoltaics only)
- C-20 Warm-Air, HVAC (for HVAC systems that utilize solar energy)
- C-36 Plumbing (for solar thermal systems)
- C-53 Swimming Pool (for solar pool heating)
One highly regarded certification you might want to keep an eye out for is the NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Providers). NABCEP aims to be the gold standard in solar certification, so if the contractor you’re considering has earned it, it’s a good sign.
What do the reviews say?
Checking review sites is a very good way to get a handle on the performance of a solar installer. Often, problematic behaviors and unscrupulous activity will be revealed when you look at other people’s experiences. A common example of this is a sharp decline in responsiveness and customer service after the contract has been signed.
There are sites dedicated to reviewing solar installers, but you may also find a lot of good information on more general business review sites. It’s rare to see a company with all good or all bad reviews – make sure you get a feel for the company as a whole, and don’t let a single review sway you in one direction or the other.
What warranties do they give?
It’s important to consider what sort of warranty will be provided with your system – not just for the solar panels, but also for things like your inverters. You should also note whether the contractor offers a workmanship or product warranty covering the individual components, such as the glass or backing of the panels. Where panels are usually covered for around 25 years, inverters are often only covered for 10.
What financial options do they offer?
This is a big one, and how it affects your search is going to depend heavily on your own circumstances. There are three main ways of financing a solar array, and not all of them are offered by every installer. Take a careful look, and consider what would be best for you.
Above all, you should feel comfortable working with the contractor. They should have good references, and be willing to answer any questions you have. You shouldn’t feel pressured into making any decisions.
A few companies to get you started
To help you make a start, here is a small sampling of the companies operating in California that we think may be worth taking a look at:
Company #1: Bland Solar and Air
Founded in 1985, Bland Solar and Air have a lot of experience installing solar power systems for both residential and commercial customers. Headquartered in Bakersfield, they also have locations in Fresno and Templeton. In all three cities they have showrooms where you can take a look at examples of their systems and get a good understanding of how solar works. As suggested in the name, Bland Solar and Air also supply HVAC systems. They don’t use subcontractors, preferring to use an internal installation crew, staffed with their own fully-trained and licensed employees.
Company #2: Complete Solar Solutions
Founded by Will Anderson, Complete Solar Solutions are very proud of their referral program, which has seen them installing solar systems for customers across the whole of the state of California. Based in San Mateo, Complete Solar was established in 2010. They are very proud of their HelioQuote™ software platform, which they promote as a method of providing their customers with an optimized system which maximizes their financial savings.
The company also maintains the California Solar Ease Index, ranking Californian cities by the time and expense involved in getting a permit for a solar installation. They’ve found a significant difference between different jurisdictions, with the fastest turning around a permit within a day, and the slowest city issuing a permit within a month.
Company #3: NRG Clean Power
NRG Clean Power was established in 1987, and after nearly 30 years they have a lot of experience. Based in the Los Angeles area, they have installed thousands of solar systems in homes across California. They’re very proud of their commitment to using high quality solar panels, making a point of only using panels supplied by SolarWorld, and offering a full 25-year warranty on every system they install. They also supply a variety of other services aimed at reducing your power costs, offering consultation services; insulation; high-efficiency air conditioning units; and eco pool pumps, among others.
Company #4: PetersenDean Roofing and Solar
Another long-standing company, PetersenDean were founded in 1984 by James P. Petersen, and they claim to be the largest privately-owned solar company in the United States. They proudly state that they only use American-made products in their solar installations, and since 2014 they have exclusively used SolarWorld solar panels and Buy American Act compliant inverters and racking. They boast that they have installed solar systems onto more than a million roofs across America. Though they operate across much of the US and have locations as far away as Georgia, PetersenDean are based in California and have almost 30 locations in the state.
Company #5: SolarCity (Now owned by Tesla)
Founded by the Rive brothers in 2006 after a suggestion by their cousin, Elon Musk, SolarCity has been one of the top solar installers in the USA since 2013. SolarCity was acquired by Tesla Motors, and at the same time accounced the introduction of several very interesting new products, including the Tesla Powerwall II and Solar Roof Tiles.
Their headquarters are based in San Mateo, but SolarCity install systems across the entire US. To date, they’ve installed systems in over 300,000 homes, and they claim to provide the longest warranty terms in the industry.
Company #6: Stellar Solar
Stellar Solar have been installing solar panels on homes and businesses in the San Diego area since 1998. They’ve supplied solar power solutions to more than 6000 homes so far, and state that most of their business comes through referrals. They are partnered with SunPower, exclusively using the company’s solar cells in their installations. Stellar Solar bill themselves as specialists in installing on top of tile roofs, with a streamlined system they have developed for ensuring a smooth, swift installation with no damage to any tiles. They were voted Best Solar Company by the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2011, 2013, 2014 & 2015.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the companies in California. There are many installers in the state, and you should take your time researching those in your area. There are many to choose from, both reputable and not, and it’s worth your time to choose very carefully.
Photo Credit CC License via Flickr