We do a lot of reviews on various solar manufacturers, installers, and service companies here because we want to give people who are interested in solar a leg up when it comes to choosing what is best for them. To continue with that mission, here is our far-ranging SolarWorld review.
SolarWorld has been the largest producer of solar panels in the U.S for more than 40 years, and although they have a global presence, they have a clear commitment to being involved with the country's economy. Most of the panels sold here, for instance, are produced on U.S. soil, and they make every effort to purchase supplies and parts from other American companies.
To be clear, SolarWorld only manufactures solar panels - they do not install the panels. Instead, they leave this work to a short list of local authorized and trained installers.Continue reading
Real Goods Solar (now known as RGS Energy) was founded in 1978 – quite old for a solar installation company. They currently work in 11 states, both installing and financing (via loans, not leases or PPAs) residential solar installations.
It's our job to research the major players in the solar industry to save you some of the hours of legwork involved in researching and purchasing your new system. We will take a look at Vivint solar reviews from a variety of sources below, highlight the compliments and complaints, analyze the review trends, and see how they stack up against similar companies in their niche. Numbers are current as of the writing of this post.
We’ve done the hard work for you by aggregating review scores from multiple websites below. We also highlight common customer comments (both the good and the bad) and compare SolarCity reviews to other solar installers.
Overall, SolarCity enjoys very average reviews, typically around 2½ to 3 stars (out of 5). Below is SolarCity’s review score from 3 popular online review sites:
SolarCity reviews are very middle-of-the-road on Best Company. This probably doesn’t elicit a strong reaction from you one way or the other, but when you dig a little deeper and break down that average review score, you might be surprised. People’s experiences with SolarCity end up being extremely varied. Looking closer, here’s how people actually reviewed SolarCity:
The vast majority of reviewers had a fantastic experience, but for a full quarter of reviewers, the experience was presumably quite disastrous. What’s going on?
Similar to Best Company, the Consumer Affairs average is actually quite interesting when you dive into the numbers. Although SolarCity’s average rating is about 4 stars, in actuality only 9% of all 228 reviewers gave SolarCity 4 stars. The vast majority actually gave them 5 stars. Here’s how it pans out:
Just like with Best Company, most reviewers loved their experience with SolarCity, but a worryingly high 17% gave just 1 star – that’s almost 1 in 5 reviewers! The plot thickens….
Reviewers on Solar Reviews give SolarCity an average rating of 2 ½ out of 5 stars. Just like the first two sites, many reviewers gave 5 stars and others gave 1 star to SolarCity, averaging out to a very middle-of-the-road score.
We’ve seen that review scores vary from user to user. What’s going on?
Maybe the different reviewers have different experiences depending on the branch of SolarCity they work with? The installer works in over 20 states and so has branches across the US. How do you know if your city’s branch is any good? Check out Yelp!
Yelp allows users to review their specific SolarCity branch instead of simply leaving a review on the company in general. This is great for you, as you can look for common praise or complaints from actual homeowners working with the same SolarCity employees you’ll likely work with. Here are a handful of Yelp reviews for specific branches:
Average reviews vary from branch to branch, but diving into the actual reviews, you’ll still find a wide variety of experiences. Some homeowners love SolarCity, others rue the day they ever signed their solar contract.
You might be scratching your head a little bit right now. If everyone is working with the same company, how can everyone’s experiences be so different? What exactly is going on? Why do homeowners have so many different experiences?
It all boils down to the fact that, yes everyone is working with SolarCity, but in reality, one person is working with Suzy the salesperson, John the customer service rep, and Joe and the Gang of installers, while another is working with George, Patrick, and Lisa.
SolarCity is a big company working 22 different states. Every homeowner is going to work with different people and will have different experiences. This is why Yelp reviews and personal recommendations are so important. You need the inside scoop on your local SolarCity branch. Did your neighbor have a great experience with their sales rep? Get her number and call that same rep so you can also have a great experience!
That being said, there are common issues that homeowners experience with SolarCity. Let’s take a look now.
Of the more positive reviews of SolarCity, reviewers discuss specific salespeople’s honesty or communication, great customer service, and attention to detail during installation.
Here’s a review from a Consumer Affairs user praising SolarCity for their customer service:
I truly appreciate the attention to detail shown by the SolarCity system installers, as well as the concierge service, making any number of call to answer questions and provide needed information regarding the product. Your service was excellent.
And another from Consumer Affairs, highlighting excellent customer service:
Very professional, great customer service. Punctual to all schedule appointments. Always followed up via email.
And one more review from a Yelp user praising her salesperson’s knowledge and tactics:
[Salesperson] was very professional and knowledgeable about the systems, business models, and options for me to consider.
As you can see, all the reviews focus on professionalism, timeliness, and knowledgeability.
For each great salesperson or installation one reviewer experiences, there’s another reviewer who had a terrible experience with their salesperson or installation.
Homeowners commonly cite pushy and aggressive sales tactics, uncommunicative or unknowledgeable staff, and misleading information around utility and solar bills after the installation, not to mention poor customer service. Here are a few highlights from online reviews:
A Yelp reviewer discusses SolarCity’s poor customer service:
Our [salesperson] has a full voice mailbox for weeks now. We called HQ and the service was spotty and disorganized on that end, too. We are growing frustrated with the lack of customer service to get our project finalized.
A reviewer on Solar Reviews expresses confusion about payments:
The bills are confusing. My wife is an accountant and could not track what they were doing on the bill.
And one more from Yelp on SolarCity’s unprofessionalism:
We are planning to go solar before summer and this company was one of the ones we were looking at. No longer. You’d think when they send someone out to survey neighborhoods they would send people with a personality and some semblance of friendliness. Not the guy they sent to our block! Unfriendly, rude and combative. Not the way to sell a product. Years of potentially poor customer service overrides any cost benefit always.
Online reviews for other national solar companies are very similar to SolarCity. Online reviews of Sunrun, Vivint, and Sunnova both praise and condemn the companies for their customer service, communication, and sales and installation practices.
For example, here’s a positive Yelp review of Sunrun, calling out the salesperson’s honesty:
I think what really stuck out for me when dealing with the representative who came to my house was how upfront and honest the [salesperson] was
And here’s a negative review (from Consumer Affairs) on Sunrun’s poor communication:
It took almost 2 years to get a system installed. Very friendly people when you call but nothing gets done. No one calls backed when they say they will.
Sound familiar? This could easily be for SolarCity as well.
All this might be leading you to wonder if it’s worth working with any solar company at all. With reviews so polarized, how do you know if you’ll have a great experience?
Well, online reviews are just one piece of the pie! As we’ve seen, each reviewer’s experience is largely dependent on their local branch and the individuals they work with. Is their salesperson honest and trustworthy? Is the local branch efficient and quick in their paperwork and installation practices?
The best thing you can do is gather knowledge about your local branch. Pretend you’re Agatha Christie, uncovering clues. Read Yelp reviews of your specific branch. Talk to friends and family who’ve worked with the local branch before. If they had a great experience, get their salesperson’s name and give them a call. If it wasn’t so great, you might want to look at other companies.
Of course, the sales and installation are just the first steps in your new solar life. After the installation is complete, you’ll be working with the customer service and billing departments if something goes wrong over the life of your solar installation. Instead of a local office, these departments are likely at a centralized regional or national office, so it’s harder to judge if you’ll have a great experience there.
To set yourself up for a great experience after your installation is complete, be sure to understand everything before signing the contract.
Be sure to know the answers to questions like these: Does your monthly solar payment increase? What will your utility bill be after the installation?
All these questions (and more) are important to know before getting into any solar agreement. The more you know, the fewer unpleasant surprises there will be later on!
No matter who you decide to work with, the first step is contacting several installers to compare savings, customer service, and cost. Once you have all the information you can get, you’ll be better able to make an informed decision.
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.
SolarCity – more than other solar installer – instills polarized opinions from anyone and everyone who knows a little about the solar industry. Some would put absolute trust in SolarCity (most likely because Mr. Tesla is so heavily involved) while others wouldn’t come close with a 50 foot pole. In fact, some have been saying bailout is a more appropriate label for Tesla’s recent buyout of the still-not-yet-profitable solar installer (though to be fair, unprofitability is common for large national solar companies). With that said, what are the problems with SolarCity?
More on this below.Continue reading
Going solar can seem like a daunting challenge if you are just starting your research. You’ll need to figure out how large your system should be, who should install it, how to finance the system, and how to work with your local utility company to tie into the grid – among other things!
The good news is that if you find the right solar contractor, they can help you navigate the entire process, answer questions along the way, and provide you with the peace of mind that you need in order to feel great about your decision to invest in solar.
Let’s read about some things that we should be considering during our search for the right installer.
Flipping through the yellow pages and making random phone calls might work, but there are a few things that you can try to help narrow down your list before you start researching individual contractors in earnest. To start, check with your local utility or the local/state agency in charge of your local utility. They might already have a list of pre-qualified installers that are certified to work on your system. Most pro-solar states, like California, have a database like this to help you get started.
Before you commit to any specific solar contractor it is highly important that you get multiple quotes and interview with multiple installers. Yes, interview. Make no mistake, purchasing a solar panel system and having it professionally installed is not a small job. The workers will be performing modifications to your roof and handling very expensive electrical equipment. With this in mind, it is important that you are doing your due diligence in determining who is right for the job.
Don’t be afraid to entertain multiple bids and ask lots of questions during the interviews to determine how knowledgeable your potential installer is about solar power and roofing. During this time you should also be paying attention to how quickly the company responds to your inquiries, their general attitude, their level of helpfulness, and how genuine they are. All of these qualities will factor into their finished product and it might be worth paying a little extra to ensure that your process is as painless as possible.
Once you’ve identified a small list of contractors that you are interested in working with, start by looking online for reviews of these companies. If they do not have an online presence it is not necessarily a red flag, but it should be comforting to see lots of positive reviews on the company that you are looking into. Pay special attention to any details provided about finished work, timeliness, and general level of satisfaction from the job.
After you’ve tossed out any contractors with poor or a lack of reviews you can start asking for references. Even in the modern age of internet reviews, honest face-to-face recommendations from other customers simply cannot be matched in terms of authenticity. Don’t shy away from asking your potential installer for references from some of their recent clients. If they refuse to give you the information then they are probably not worth working with.
Just as if you were checking up on any other contractor, you should ask the following:
As I mentioned before, a solar panel installation is a major commitment and carries a substantial financial investment. It is extremely important to read your entire contract carefully and ask questions about anything that seems unclear or disadvantageous to you.
Getting into every detail of a contract could require the services of a lawyer if you want to be certain you are protected. Here are some key things to watch out for to make sure that you are aware of how the contractor will perform under certain circumstances and to ensure that you are protected.
Determining how large your system should be and what type of equipment will work best is one of the first priorities that you’ll have. This will factor into your next decisions about the type of equipment you need for your system. The right solar contractor should be able to help you navigate through these options and find what works best for your unique situation.
Earlier I mentioned that you should ask your installer who will be designing your system. The reason for this is simple: not every system works on every roof. It is important that your installer is capable of designing a system that is tailored to your exact needs: roof pitch, shade, sunlight exposure, etc.
First, ask yourself what your goals are for your system:
Photo courtesy of NREL.gov
As you can see in the chart, the size requirements for your system will be determined by multiple factors such as the panels used and your desired output.
An experienced installer should be familiar with lots of different types of equipment. Remember that your system will include not only the panels themselves, but also inverters, cables, mounting framework, and other miscellaneous items. If you have done your research and selected a top-notch solar contractor then you should feel confident that they will be able to help you determine the best equipment for the job.
You do not need to be an expert, but review some information online about power inverters and the basics of solar panel installations so that you can ask your potential solar contractor some questions about your system:
There are two major ways that you will be paying for your system and your solar contractor will be more or less relevant depending on the method you choose.
If you choose the cash or loan method, remember that you will be responsible for the total upfront cost of the system. This means that a ballooning budget could end up setting you back way more than you originally thought. It is highly important that you lock in some kind of price guarantee if you are going this route so that they cannot sneak any hidden costs into the equation. If you have your financing pre-approved for a certain amount you could try to put that in the contract as a maximum allowable spend. Also remember that you will be 100% responsible for any maintenance or repairs to your system so you should have complete knowledge of your warranty’s stipulations.
If you are leasing your solar panels from your contractor or installer then you should be looking at different areas of the process. Your monthly payment as a lessee will probably be fixed, but this means that your contractor will have a perverse incentive to save as much money as possible on the equipment and installation process. Be sure to double-check their work and ensure that your contract has iron-clad protection for any potential roof damage caused by your system installation. You do not want to ruin the value of your home due to a shoddy solar installation.
It is easy for solar contractors to install your system, take your money, and then ride off into the sunset, never to be seen again. It is important that you put in the work up front to ensure that you will be covered in the future.
This is the most obvious thing to check. Key watch-outs are the time covered and any exceptions that would void the warranty. Remember that individual components might have different warranty lengths. For instance, even though the panels might be good for 25 years, the inverter might only have a 10-year warranty. Ask as many questions as you need in order to make sure that you are well aware of your rights and limitation.
An iron-clad lease or contract does not really mean anything if the company you are doing business with has gone out of business when you need them to perform a service. Just because a company offers the cheapest price does not mean that they are the best team for the job. In order for them to stay in business, they must provide quality workmanship and service while generating a fair profit. Companies with long histories are preferable. Also preferable is a larger construction company that simply has a branch specifically for solar. This means that they are well-diversified and probably able to withstand changes and ups and downs in the market.
Hopefully, you are feeling a bit more secure about your upcoming solar system installation. Although the task of finding solar contractors can seem daunting, if you break the process down it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Attention to detail and due diligence are your best friends during this journey. Follow the steps I outlined and you will be well on your way to a great relationship with a great installer!
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions please feel free to leave a comment!