Common Sunrun Solar Complaints: What’s the Story?

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Concerned about Sunrun solar complaints that are making the rounds?

Are you wondering what homeowners who’ve worked with Sunrun have to say about the company, or about any Sunrun solar complaints they may have submitted? Maybe you’ve heard horror stories of long wait periods or high bills after the installation. Or maybe you’ve heard bad things about the solar industry in general.

If so, you might be surprised to find that the majority of Sunrun reviews are actually pretty positive, noting great sales and customer service with fast installation times. However, sometimes everything seems to go wrong for a few unlucky homeowners working with Sunrun. What’s going on? Read on for common Sunrun solar complaints from homeowners.

Sunrun’s Business Model

Before we move on to Sunrun complaints, here’s a little background on how Sunrun works:

When compared to other solar installers/financiers like SolarCity, Sunrun has an interesting business model. SolarCity owns the entire installation process, from sales to installation and final inspection. Obviously, this can be quite expensive. You have to staff sales, designers, installers, managers, and everything else you need to make your business run smoothly.

Sunrun on the other hand, outsources much of the work. They work with third-party sales staff and hire small, local installation companies in each city they work in to complete their projects. In Sunrun’s mind, this allows them to keep costs as low as possible and keep their business streamlined, increasing profitability (in theory, since neither Sunrun nor SolarCity has yet to see a profit).

This presents complications, since as many as three different companies (Sunrun, the sales company, and the installation company) need to be aware of the progress of your project – and all the others they are working on – at any given time.

And this is where many of Sunrun’s customer experience problems come in. Communication between companies (and even between departments) can break down and cause project details, homeowner requests, or important information to be lost in the shuffle; eventually these things lead to construction delays and angry reviews.

Sunrun’s Overall Online Ratings

Overall, Sunrun’s reviews are middle of the road, with an average review of around 3.5 out of 5 stars. Here’s Sunrun’s average rating from four popular review sites:

  • Yelp: 3.43 out of 5 (based on 777 reviews from 5 cities, links below)
  • Best Company: 7.3 out of 10 (based on 212 customer reviews)
  • Consumer Affairs: 2.3 out of 5 (based on 39 ratings)
  • Reviews.org: 7 out of 10 (based on 520 reviews)

Best Company and Consumer Affairs allow you to dig a little deeper into the review data, showing why many reviewers gave a certain number of stars. The results are quite interesting. These reviews paint a picture, not of a company that provides average customer experiences all the time, but a company that either gives a really, really great customer experience or a really, really poor one.

On the Best Company site, 59% of customers rated their experience with Sunrun 5 stars, while 20% gave 1 or 2-star reviews. Over at Consumer Affairs, it’s much worse: 33% of reviewers gave Sunrun 5 stars, while 62% of consumers gave one star.

Since Sunrun works with local, independent installers in all its different branches – and even the Sunrun branches have their own internal installers – experiences vary wildly. Take a look at Sunrun’s reviews on Yelp. Above, we aggregated reviews from 5 different cities, but when you look at each branch’s review individually, they are quite different. The branches in San Francisco, Portland, and Los Angeles enjoy 3.5-star reviews, but Phoenix and Las Vegas (though Sunrun no longer works in Nevada) both have 2.5-star reviews.

While we all know that people write online reviews mostly to complain, the sheer volume of 1 and 2-star reviews, as well as the variety in the ratings, is alarming. Again, what is going on? (Read on to find out).

How Do Other Installers Compare?

Before we delve into common complaints against Sunrun, let’s compare their ratings to other national solar companies to get some context and see how Sunrun fares when compared to other big names in the solar industry.

SolarCity

The largest solar installer in the US, SolarCity sees similar reviews to Sunrun. Strangely, SolarCity sees lower ratings than Sunrun on some sites, but higher ratings on others. Here are a couple:

  • Best Company: Lower than Sunrun at 5.8 out of 10 (based on 295 reviews)
  • Consumer Affairs: Higher than Sunrun at 3.8 out of 5 (based on 367 reviews)

Vivint Solar

Vivint is about the same size as Sunrun, but sees the single highest rating of any solar company here:

  • Best Company: Lower than Sunrun at 6.8 out of 10 (out of 394 reviews)
  • Consumer Affairs: Higher than Sunrun at 4 out of 5 (based on 383 reviews)

Overall, reviews of national solar companies are poor to average – ranging from a low of 2.5 stars to a high of 4 stars (out of 5). You can see that creating a great customer experience is something they need to work on as an entire industry.

A decade ago, the solar industry exploded as costs for panels and other equipment dropped and new financing mechanisms (such as leases and power purchase agreements) were introduced, allowing customers to bypass the high purchase price of solar.

Since then, these solar companies have just been trying to keep up with the demand and grow as much as possible. They are all extremely hungry, oftentimes to the detriment of customers’ experiences.

Sunrun is no different. When you look at their reviews above, they certainly don’t stand out in any way. Their reviews aren’t shockingly lower than any of the others, but they aren’t incredible, either. They’re simply…. average.

Common Sunrun Solar Complaintssunrun company van

As we saw above, reviews of Sunrun are typically an extreme dichotomy – either 5 stars with a great experience or 1 to 2-star horror stories.

We can probably contribute some of these extremes to the fact that most people get online to review a company when they either have a stellar experience or some sort of nightmare. Few of us actually bother to write a review of a mundane experience.

Even still, let’s look at what reviewers have to say, starting with the positive.

Common Praise

For those homeowners who have a good experience, they typically cite honest and knowledgeable sales staff, clear and consistent communication, and fast turnaround – basic things any customer should expect. Here’s a sample of actual customer comments:

“The sales person gave us all of the information we needed to make an informed decision. The project management team kept us up-to-date on what to expect every step of the way. The installers and electricians were wonderful.” (Reviewer in Arizona)

“[My sales rep] has been there from day one and always makes herself available to answer any questions that I have had throughout the process. I have also been really impressed with how she is so knowledgeable and a consummate professional with a genuine desire to ensure that she takes excellent care of us.” (Reviewer in California)

For the majority of their projects, Sunrun is doing it right. Honest and helpful sales staff, knowledgeable customer service, and quick, professional installations.

Common Complaints

However, there are those times when nothing seems to go right. Complaints come in many different forms, though they typically focus around these key points:

  • Misleading sales tactics and uninformed sales staff.
  • Poor communication from Sunrun and its partners to the customer.
  • Installation issues leading to long wait periods. These typically revolve around roof problems, electrical issues, or improper solar design for the house.

With more thorough planning and proper communication, most of these issues could be avoided. (Are you listening, Sunrun?)

Here are a handful of reviews from across the country:

“Since day one nothing but a nightmare with this company. Took 6 months to have panels installed. As soon as they were, my circuit breakers kept going off. Losing power each time. Called Sunrun, given the run around right off the bat. I was told it was my problem and to hire an electrician and put in a new electrical box. Unreal…. Countless promises they will never keep. Outright lies about energy production. No customer service whatsoever. This company is a nightmare… Stay away.” (Reviewer in New York)

And remember how Sunrun partners with local companies? If not properly organized, this can create customer experience disasters:

“I had our system activated on Nov 30, 2016. It stopped producing on Dec 30, 2016. Since then it’s been an endless call with Sunrun and their partner Solar Universe. Your Customer Service do not even have the courtesy to follow up on my behalf. I have to wait 5 days to give Solar Universe to respond (which they did NOT). And since then, I have to call every other day to follow up.” (Reviewer in California)

Alarmingly, one of the most common complaints about Sunrun is high utility bills after the solar installation is complete. Here’s an example:

“My electric bill for the past 3 months have going up [sic]. We lease these panels so we’re paying Sunrun and also paying the electrical bill which has become well over what our Sunrun bill is. So I’m paying over double…” (Reviewer in California)

Sunrun (as well as other solar companies) need to be more explicit in explaining how solar will affect utility bills, more accurately estimate how much homeowners will be paying their utility company after the solar installation is complete, and give them tips on how to manage electricity use afterwards as well.

In our opinion, this is the single most serious issue with Sunrun, as most homeowners go solar to save money. Bad customer service can be forgotten. Even if your installation takes 8 months, at the end you’ve got a solar installation. But if bill estimates and savings estimates aren’t accurate, customers can be left in the financial hole. And they’ll be stuck there for the life of the solar installation or lease with no way of escaping.

What to Do if You’re Working with Sunrunsunrun-complaints-installers

If you are working with Sunrun (or any other solar installer), take the following steps to ensure you have a great experience going solar:

  1. Read reviews – You are already doing that. Good job. But as we’ve seen, you need to hear about how your specific branch does. Yelp allows users to leave reviews for specific installation branches, so start there. Check with local friends or family who have gone solar with Sunrun to hear about their experiences. Read Angie’s List and forums. Do whatever you can to get some feedback on your branch.
  2. Get everything in writing – Nothing is official if it’s not in writing. It doesn’t matter if the salesperson promises you a hundred times that your huge satellite dish is no big deal and the installers can remove it ‘while they’re up there’. If it’s not in writing, that promise doesn’t exist. If it can’t be added to the contract, at least have your salesperson send you an email detailing whatever he or she promised you. That way, you at least have proof and Sunrun is more likely to honor it.
  3. Be flexible – When something goes wrong, it’s not always the solar installer’s fault. They might get on your roof and see damage or shingle wear. If they recommend you get new shingles on your roof, it’s not their fault – they’re actually looking out for you; getting solar panels removed for a reroof 10 years down the line is expensive! There are a lot of moving parts when planning a solar installation – from sales, design, permitting to installation and inspection – occasionally things go wrong. They likely aren’t doing it on purpose. If they do make a mistake, be certain to voice your opinion and thoughts on the situation, but don’t yell at your customer service rep; they’re probably trying to help you as much as they can within their limited position.
  4. Write a bad review – This is for worst case scenarios. If it’s been 6 months and your installation is still only partially completed or if your installation isn’t working and no one at Sunrun can help, write a review online with one of the big review sites (Yelp, the BBB, etc). Sunrun often responds to these promptly and more than one customer has said their issue was taken care of very quickly after they wrote the review. Use your voice!

Have you had a positive or negative experience with Sunrun? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Image Credit under CC License from Wikimedia 1 and Flickr 3; Image 2 courtesy of Sunrun.

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