Top Residential Solar Installers (with Most Megawatts Installed)
What are the top residential solar installers in the US?
As someone who has always embraced change, I have been fascinated with the idea of anything new. I am usually the first in my circle to buy new technologies and while some things didn’t work out so well (remember the fizzle of the Laserdisc?), for the most part I’ve been ahead of the pack.
That is except for solar power.
I love the idea of using solar power, but confusion about choosing the best solar installer has kept me in the dark.
Now that the costs have dropped, I decided it was time to act.
With hundreds of companies, I figured the process had to begin with focusing on the top residential solar installers, checking them out, including looking at Yelp reviews. From that research this list of the top 7 rooftop contractors with the most megawatts installed in 2014 was born. It is my hope that this will help you take that first step.
#1 SolarCity – San Mateo, California – 1,100 Total Megawatts
Not only does SolarCity hold the position top residential solar installer, they have also hold a high position in the ranking for all types of solar installers. That says a lot when you add utility, developer, and commercial markets to the mix. Founded a decade ago in 2006, they have grown to 10,000 employees.
SolarCity offers three different ways to go solar – Solar PPA Power Purchase, SolarLease and Purchase. At this time, they are in 19 states, plus Washington, D.C. and that number is sure to grow each year. It is also impressive that they give back with their GivePower Foundation.
Yelp Reviews for SolarCity – 4 Stars Average with 529 Reviews
There are plenty of 5 and 4 star reviews for SolarCity, many of which posted well beyond the initial installation.
• 5 Stars, Daniel M. waited an entire year before doing a review and provides positive feedback on the installation, billing department and a service call for a bird issue.
• 5 Stars, Todd C. posted his after two years of enjoying utility bills 1/3rd the amount before the installation.
• 5 Stars, J.W. in Henderson, NV notes, “I was made aware of exactly what I was getting, and guided through a process that could have been burdensome and complicated, but turned out to be smooth and effortless.”
On the flip side, there are a few unhappy customers as well, most of which seem to point to customer service and sales.
• 1 Star, Linda C. in Los Angeles, CA who discusses the problem she is had getting a roof leak resolved.
• 1 Star, Michale S. in Murrieta, CA who grew tired of SolarCity salespeople in Home Depot harassing him.
• 1 Star, Beth F. of San Carlos, CA notes, “We have had nothing but problems with the Customer Service folks.”
#2 PetersenDean Roofing and Solar – Fremont, California – 100 Total Megawatts
One thing that has always concerned me about adding solar is wondering if it would impact the roof of my home. The fact that PetersenDean is both a roofer and a solar installer seems like a plus to me. It is also nice that their solar packages are clearly outlined on their website, along with pricing.
In addition to grid-tied solar packages, they also offer energy storage for back-up and off-grid applications.
The company was founded back in 1984, and has numerous regional offices across the country. They have a workforce of 4,000 employees and are the largest privately held installer.
One of the things that makes them different is that they do not recommend leasing a solar system and it is their opinion that advertising that promises a free installation should be met with caution.
Yelp Reviews for PetersenDean – 4 Stars Average with 111 Reviews
The positive 5-Star reviews for this company reflect its commitment to quality and following up to assure satisfaction.
• 5 Stars, John P. of Riverside, CA reports that, “Each step was done promptly, correctly and professionally”.
• 5 Stars, Julio S. of San Jose, CA said, “Our sales consultant was like no other, I felt as if I was having a trusted friend talking to me.”
• 5 Stars, Grace L., of San Francisco, CA, notes that, “The company follows through on everything they commit to and the whole experience was just so amazing.”
In looking over a few of low star reviews, most involve missed appointments, or a lack of understanding that the process of having solar installed is not an overnight process.
• 1 Star, Clifford J. of San Lorenzo, CA noted that both the first appointment and second one were no-shows.
• 1 Star, S.C. of Oakland, CA had a similar experience and states their appointment was cancelled without notifying them.
• 2 Stars, Janet G. of San Francisco, CA discussed missed appointments and not being able to get an assurance the job could be done in three months.
With a few wrinkles in their scheduling and communication, this company appears to do a fantastic job in most cases.
#3 Bland Solar & Air – Bakersfield, California – 62.87 Total Megawatts
Another aspect of a home that goes hand in hand with solar is the HVAC system. As this is the largest energy drain, having a company such as Bland Solar & Air that specializes in both solar and HVAC could be beneficial. They were founded in 1985.
In 2015, they celebrated 30 years of business and have grown to over 65 employees. They have a 5,000 square foot showroom so that you can see the latest products.
Yelp Reviews for Bland Solar & Air – 4.5 Stars Average with 13 Reviews
Bland Solar & Air does not have a huge presence on Yelp as they have only been yelping since 2015. Of the 13 reviews, 11 are 5 Star, one is 3 Star and one is 2 Star.
• 5 Stars, Charlie Z., Bakersfield, CA notes, “Dan the Solar Man, showed us how to do the math to compare all the different offers for cost to value and they were the best. They have been great in service before, during, and after installation.”
• 5 Stars, J.H., Bakersfield, CA notes, “We had great communication with the Bland team during the decision process, the purchase, and the installation.” He further notes that he went from a $690 power bill to a $5 one.
• 5 Stars, Foody B., Bakersfield, CA shared that he had a difficult design but they were still able to get optimal placement.
• 3 Stars, Chad H., Bakersfield, CA reports having ongoing problems with the inverter after installation.
• 2 Stars, Robert N., Bakersfield, CA also had inverter issues, but also feels that follow-up could be better. He did note that the techs, “were first class professional individuals.”
It will be interesting to see how the reviews go when Bland Solar & Air is on Yelp longer, but overall it appears that most customers receive excellent service and are happy with their experience.
#4 RevoluSun – Honolulu, Hawaii and Burlington, Massachusetts – 57 Total Megawatts
RevoluSun was founded in 2009 and has since added their first franchise in Burlington, MA. They expect to add new franchises nationwide.
If you are considering solar power, you should take advantage of their free monthly seminars. You’ll also find plenty of information about their innovative Smart Home collection including their SunPower® Signature™ X-Series Panels. Between the advanced technology and the 25-year warranty, they are worth taking a look at.
Yelp Reviews for RevoluSun, Hawaii – 3.5 Stars Average with 26 Reviews
RevoluSun, Hawaii began yelping in 2011 and currently has 12 5-star reviews, 7 1-star reviews and 7 with 2, 3 or 4 stars.
• 5 Stars, Jennifer P., Honolulu, HI had a wonderful experience and states, “every single member of the RevoluSun team was professional, the workmanship was top-notch, and the proactive communication was very much appreciated.”
• 5 Stars, Lori W., Honolulu, HI, wrote a review that outlined her experience when she needed to have her system uninstalled and reinstalled due to an unrelated roof issue. She speaks very highly of them, stating she really appreciates that, “they just helped re-do Palolo Elementary School–painting, hopscotch lines, mural, etc., and they send solar suitcases to the Philippines with Aloha Medical Mission”
• 5 Stars, Steven S, Honolulu, HI noted, “Revolusun was professional, helpful, and knowledgeable. I’d recommend them to anyone considering installing PV panels.”
As with other solar installers, the lower star ratings seem to be mostly customer service.
• 1 Star, Cami K, Kailua, HI noted that she received the worst customer service when needing to have her panels reinstalled after a renovation.
• 1 Star, Terrence I., Aiea, HI posts in the review, “Worst customer service ever” when unable to get a question answered from a phone operator.
• 1 Star, Daniel M., Kailua, HI already has a system from a few years ago, and reports that the original permit was not closed out making it difficult to proceed to add to the system.
#5 Solar Universe – Livermore, California – 46 Total Megawatts
Fifth on the list is another California solar installer. Solar Universe was founded in 2008 and is unique in that they are the only one to have a network of 40 franchises across the country.
You’ll also see them referred to as REPOWER by Solar Universe. They combine solar energy and smart home technology to give you savings along with comfort and total control. It sounds pretty futuristic and I find it quite exciting that they offer such a high-tech way to power a home while saving on utility bills.
Yelp Reviews for REPOWER by Solar Universe – 5 Stars on 11 Reviews
With this being a franchise opportunity, you should check Yelp reviews for the specific franchise location you plan to deal with. The sampling given here is for the Santa Rosa, CA location which has earned exclusively five star reviews.
• 5 Stars, Frank F., Napa, CA, noted, “These folks are head and shoulders above the others we interviewed. I cannot say enough about the professionalism exhibited by everyone I interfaced with.”
• 5 Stars, Carolyn P., Santa Rosa, CA, writes how they took on a failed PG&E permit from another contractor and corrected the problem. She stated, “I have never been so surprised and impressed by a contractor.”
• 5 Stars, Ken R., Napa, CA, noted that, “If I could add more stars I would.”
#6 Summerwind Solar LLC – Phoenix, Arizona – 44.55 Total Megawatts Installed
Summerwind Solar LLC was originally operating in the California marketplace, but has since shifted to focus on Arizona. Founded in 2009, they offer zero-down leasing, purchase and financing options to enable more people to take advantage of solar energy’s benefits. They have 26 employees.
They provide information on pricing on their website for 12 panel up to 42 panel systems. For each installation, they make a $240 donation to a nonprofit organization of your choice as part of their, “Solar for a Cause” program.
Yelp Reviews for Summerwind Solar LLC – 5 Stars with 1 Review
There is only one review on Yelp for this company. Brandon R. of Phoenix, AZ gave them a 5 Star review stating, “The process from beginning to end was easy enjoyable and pressures. I felt we were getting the best product on the market, saving money, and helping the environment at the same time.”
#7 Direct Energy Solar – Annapolis Junction, Maryland – 50 Total Megawatts
Direct Energy Solar was founded in 2008 and has also acquired Astrum Solar. They have 500 employees and serve the six Mid-Atlantic States, New England, Washington, D.C. and California.
They pride themselves on providing custom-designed systems and have the latest in solar irradiance mapping technology so that they can evaluate your home’s potential.
Yelp Reviews for Direct Energy Solar (Astrum Solar Review) – 2.5 Stars Average with 9 Reviews
It would appear they either do a really incredible job, or drop the ball entirely. The mediocre 2.5-star average rating comes from 3 5-star and 6 1-star ratings, nothing in between.
• 5 Stars, Matt R., Gaithersburg, MD stated that he chose them because of their competitive financing options, and although the installation time was lengthy, the company held to their $500 60-day install guarantee and promptly paid him after taking 120 days.
• 5 Stars, Welton C., Washington, D.C. dealt with Astrum and has been enjoying electric bills under $25 for five years.
• 5 Stars, Sam S., Rockville, MD was also an Astrum customer, back in 2008. He noted, “Astrum solar was really clear in making sure that we understood the process and making sure that everything was taken care of as part of their turnkey process.”
• 1 Star, Katherine O., Churchton, MD was unable to get a system because she was told there was not enough roof space during a phone call. They never came out to assess if the four outbuildings would work.
• 1 Star, Chris S., Woburn, MA has a more serious complaint. Chris claims they took a deposit and has never installed them nor refunded the deposit.
• 1 Star, Ken A., Lexington, MA posted that, “It’s been six months since the system was finally installed, we are still not hooked up to the grid.”
What did I learn and what should you look for?
During my investigation into the top 7 solar installers with the most megawatts installed in the United States, it became apparent to me that there is more involved than just going by who has the most megawatt installations.
For example, you’ll note that what might be more important than total megawatts installed is seeing continued steady growth from year to year.
Our TOP 5 Solar Companies (based on company growth):
I also feel they need the ability to keep up customer service standards during that growth. There are numerous strong players in the national market that have many positive 5-Star Yelp reviews.
Feel free to tell me what you think in the comments and share the article if you liked it. The more we get the word out, the better planet we can leave for future generations.
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Image credit via FlickR under CC license.