The animated map above (based on data from the US Energy Information Administration) shows how far we’ve come in the last 20 years as far as solar energy goes. While the majority of solar power is generated in the southwest, the map shows how energy is now being produced in pretty much every state. A big reason for this is the boom in solar companies, especially in the last decade, and the ability to make more efficient solar panels.
In this year, now more than ever, the world needs our help. Making choices that will better our earth and, ultimately, our own future has made its way to the forefront of people’s minds. Clean energy is being looked at more and more as an alternative, and finding a way to harness that energy is where Solar Power comes in. Here you will learn everything you need to know about solar power and the best solar companies.
1. Best Overall Solar Company: SunPower
Located in Silicon Valley, SunPower provides both commercial and residential solar solutions all over America. They are an environmentally responsible company, proudly maintaining production standards, making use of environmentally friendly materials in their all-in-one solar solutions, reducing their carbon footprint, and above all – believing that everyone should have access to clean energy.
SunPower offers four different solar panels with ranging wattage from 320w – 470w offering the highest efficiencies on the market – between 19% – 22.7%.
Offering a design studio, SunPower helps you determine the best-laid plan for your panels by outlining your roof and using a rendering machine to determine your solar panels’ optimal placement.
Not only do they boast high-quality products, but SunPower also offers customer service to match. Ranking as the number one commercial solar power provider in the US for the last three consecutive years by Wood Mackenzie Energy Research, customers are extremely pleased with their reviews of this company. They offer a 25 year warranty promising 92% power output in the 25th year – an offer not matched by any other company in the industry.
- Ranked #1 commercial solar company in the US
- Services over 25 states
- Years of dedicated solar experience
- PPAs for commercial clients only
2. Most Affordable Solar Company: Vivint Solar
Vivint Solar brings clean energy and storage systems to both residential and commercial markets with the goal of affordability. By lowering, if not eliminating up-front costs and offering long term contracts, Vivint makes it easier and more affordable than ever for clients to harness a more environmentally friendly option to power their homes or businesses.
Along with the multiple financing options (including purchase programs, loans, and leasing options), Vivint offers complete design consultation and continued support through the entire process right through to installation to properly fit your home with the right panel structure.
- Flexible financing
- Easy installation
- Accessible to more Homeowners
- Pricing not available online
- only available in 22 states
3. Premium Solar Company: LG Solar
LG is a household name, from appliances to electronics and mobile products; they have been a trusted brand for many years. Offering solar solutions, LG’s designs, and innovative solutions have expanded to eco-conscious and clean energy for residential and commercial clients. These high-efficient and durable panels are the perfect choice for a high end or complex system.
The Neon 2 modules on these panels can withstand a Pa load of 10,000 without failing – giving these modules the strength to be mounted in high-wind areas with confidence. They also offer the highest level of corrosion resistance and ammonia resistance, allowing them to be used in coastal regions with a high level of salt mist. With a well above average Pa rating of 5,400 for wind loading, the engineered double-wall aluminum frames were built to last – doubling the industry standard of 2400.
Not only does LG offer multiple online resources for specs and info on their panels, but they also offer a Solar Concierge to do your roof evaluation to create a custom system for you. Connecting you with LG’s PRO installers located cross-country to help you every step from the quotes to builds. You can also submit questions on LG’s website and receive a response within 48 hours.
LG’s 25-year warranty comes with every solar product, covering the equipment, performance, and any labor for repairs. The online LG Concierge Energy Advisor is available online to help at any point in time as well.
- Find the right products from the best brands
- Long-standing commitment to quality and innovation
- Outstanding warranty
- Offers resources, tools, and tips for going solar
- Still want to have prior knowledge and experience
4. Wholesale Solar
Wholesale Solar offers a different type of solar solution for those looking for a more hands-on approach, with various DIY off-grid, grid-tie, RV, and even marine solar panels. Ranging anywhere from $4000 – more than $50,000+, the cost for grid-tie solar kits will fluctuate depending on the system’s size and what it includes (i.e., micro-inverters for panel efficiency).
Other panels like off-grid kits will run you anywhere from $750 to almost $2,000, and for residential systems, you are looking at upwards of $35,000.
Not only can you get a pre-designed solar panel kit, but Wholesale Solar also offers the ability to completely customize your solar panel system using other brands like SunPower and LG. The handy cost calculator offered on their website will help you get an idea of what your dream system will cost you, with equipment and installation.
For a more detailed quote, Wholesale Solar has customer service agents available to assist you. Their website also offers many DIY resources for designing and installing your custom solar panel system.
- Completely customizable
- Multiple price options
- Options for RV panels
- Online support
- Need a lot of prior knowledge and experience
Zenernet is proud to offer top of the line service to their clients with remote consultations and modular pricing. Allowing clients to pay only for the systems they want, Zenernet helps customers maintain a lower energy cost while becoming completely independent from a utility company. Your panel installation will be completed by professional and experienced installers local to your area, saving the planet while supporting local!
- Modular pricing
- Local installations
- Does not give instant quotes
- Not available nationwide
Serving over 20 states, Sunrun understands the complications that can come with switching to solar power. Their goal is to make the process as easy and uncomplicated as possible for their customers, providing customer service, and helping every step of the process.
Their Brightbox battery and solar systems not only provide you with savings, but customers also get to control how to use your electricity by saving power when it is sunny out and bank it for on a day where the clouds have come to stay.
Knowing how difficult it can be to start, Sunrun has multiple financing options, such as purchase and PPA agreements, customizable leasing options, and no down payments.
- Provides a warranty with all plans
- S.-based customer service
- Multiple payment options
- Limited battery storage availability
- Pricing not available online
7. NRG Home Solar
For over a decade, NRG Home solar has been providing alternative energy solutions for commercial and residential clients all over the united states. Specializing in solar leasing with over 53 MW in each solar panel, NRG has an excellent understanding of the solar industry and technology.
NRG Home Solar provides ongoing maintenance of their equipment. They handle each order with care from the quote process right through to installation and utility integration and maintenance for the next 20 years. Your system comes installed with remote monitoring equipment that allows NRG to service your system at any time whenever a problem arises.
- Affordable for new buyers to solar
- Local business model with local customer support
- Upfront cost to those who do not qualify for lease agreement
8. Grape Solar
Based out of Oregon, Grape Solar has manufactured solar panels since 2009 and has built themselves a strong reputation for providing cost-effective and long-lasting solar panel kits. Along with great customer service, Grape also provides installation services from experienced contractors and sells their panels directly to the public from retailers such as Home Depot and Costco.
Grape Solar gives you a great start to your DIY energy endeavor with so many ways to support you. Just because they are known for their DIY, don’t discount their efficiencies – ranging between 12.5% and 18.4%, with a max power of 300w, top voltage power at 32.48v, and a maximum current of 9.24 amps.
With a 10-year product materials warranty, over 90% power promise, and 25 year over 80% power output, Grape Solar panels have you covered.
- Durable and well built
- Excellent customer service
- Available at major retailers
- Does not have IPS
9. Tesla Energy
Known for their electric car, Tesla has been a leader in harnessing sustainable energy and is proud to offer clean energy generation and storage solutions. As one of the biggest installers and producers of solar panel systems for your home, Tesla Energy is known for taking more action against climate change than any other company in the world, not just its industry.
Designed to last 25 to 30 years, Tesla’s solar panels drastically change your monthly energy cost and consumption and are easy to install as well. Even though the initial upfront cost may be high, their strength, durability, and warranty are at the top of the industry standards.
- Prices and signup available online
- Reduced price for residential systems
- Directly manufactured
- Lack of service after-sale
Being the most accessible, affordable, and abundant energy source on the planet, there is no wonder why solar energy is so important and popular. As solar energy does not use any natural resources needed elsewhere on earth, nor does its use harm the environment, solar energy actually reduces the number of contaminants – like carbon –released into the environment. Leaving us with cleaner water, air, and less pollution.
How Does Solar Energy Work?
There are two different kinds of solar energy technologies that turn the sun’s energy into electrical power; photovoltaic cells and concentrating solar power.
The most common way of harnessing and using solar energy for your home is using solar panels. Unlike water heaters and AC units that use gas or electricity to operate, solar panels are made up of PV cells (or photovoltaic cells). When the sun releases photons, and light hits the PV cells on your solar panels, the electrons from the atoms travel through the conductor circuit and generate electricity.
Measured in watts, kilowatts, and kilowatt-hours (kWh), solar panels average between 250 – 400 watts, generating roughly 1kWh/ day.
Concentrated Solar Power
Concentrated Solar Power (or CSP) is less common for residential use and typically used in large power plants. The technology begins CSP uses mirrors and reflectors to concentrate sunlight to collect the solar energy and convert it into thermal energy, which harnesses the sun’s heat and turns it into mechanical energy before turning that into concentrated solar power. Once converted to CSP, this energy makes electricity by powering turbines, and it is also capable of storing its energy, which enables it to manufacture electricity any time of day.
How to Pick the Right Solar Company for Me
Making the switch to solar can be intimidating, which is why it will serve you well to do your homework and pick a company that will best suit your needs. Before deciding which company to go with, there are certain things you want to look at: licenses and insurance policies, loans and financing options, warranties, and aftercare, and service.
Your monthly energy consumption will determine how many solar panels you will need. Getting quotes from more than one provider is important to ensure you are getting the best fit for your needs. Making sure you get a quality system and panels will ensure you optimize your clean energy.
Take things a step further by installing a power box that is a generator, battery, and inverter all in one. This will maximize not only your energy efficiency but your dollar as well. When thinking about installation, make sure to consider the durability of your mounting system and its ability to withstand the elements and issues relating to weather and atmosphere in your region.
Some states allow net metering, which means if your solar system is connected to the electrical grid, you would be able to sell surplus electricity to utility companies in your area.
Types of Solar Companies
As there are different facets to solar energy, energy companies do not typically offer every piece of the process. Most alternative energy companies tend to focus on one or two areas. Knowing the different types of solar companies will ensure you have well-rounded knowledge to make an educated decision on your solar energy company.
You won’t typically find any one solar company that does everything, as there are so many different aspects that go into harnessing and utilizing solar energy. Understanding what each company’s function is will help you to a better understanding of the overall process.
Involved in solar energy development and research, solar panel manufacturers are responsible for creating and assembling the solar cells and panels that will be installed on your home. The highest-rated solar companies offer long-term warranties for their products, and they can guarantee quality as they will own their supply chain and assemble their own panels.
These are the companies you will buy your solar panels from. Working with a network of manufacturers and suppliers, solar panel retailers can provide you with a variety to choose from. They also work with contractors and installers to help you get your solar panel system set up.
Purchasing your solar panels from an installation company is similar to purchasing your car from a dealership. Solar installation companies directly access the manufacturers and source their solar panels using either a retailer or wholesaler. Solar installation companies primarily focus on getting your panels installed and working on your roof, having obtained the proper knowledge regarding other installation pieces such as inverters or wiring.
With a large undertaking such as switching to solar energy for your home or business, the cost can be overwhelming. Solar financing companies aid in helping as many people gain access to solar energy as possible. Offering options such as purchase agreements, solar loans, and leases, solar financing companies believe in bridging the gap to cleaner energy. Not sure how to pick the right financing company? Here is a great resource for solar financing companies.
Typically for the installation of a solar panel system, customers are looking at a range anywhere from $10,000 – $25,000 (this is before taking into account any incentives or tax credits that could possibly be applied.) Several factors come into play when looking at solar panel installation cost, including the area you live in, eligibility for incentives, type, and number of solar panels you are having installed.
There are federal solar taxes available, which can reduce the cost of your solar panel installation by 30% if you qualify and are eligible. Other state and local government programs also offer incentives that you might be eligible for as well, which could aid in affording the initial costs involved when getting yourself set up with solar power. Homeowners will usually recuperate the installation cost when selling their home
How to Choose the Right Installation Company
Having your solar panel system installed by a professional is crucial in ensuring you get the proper installation of your system. Even though there are Do it Yourself systems, having a professional on hand will ensure your system is securely installed, especially since there are wiring specifics to be aware of.
Reviewing an installation company’s license and certifications, as well as reputation and track-record for their installations, will give you a good feel if the company is a good fit for you. It has been reported that larger solar companies servicing nationwide actually charge more than smaller solar companies for the same – if not lesser quality solar equipment, so getting multiple quotes from installers will help get the best price.
A tip to picking a good installation company is that they do most of the work themselves, using very few subcontractors.
Is Solar Energy Right for Me?
Deciding whether or not to make the switch to solar energy will depend on a few things: how much sunlight your lot receives, how much your monthly energy bill is, and the type of roof your home has.
To optimize and receive enough light to power your solar panels, your home must be in an area with a clear path to receive the sun’s photons for the panels to create the energy to power your home.
To see monthly savings switching to solar, your monthly utility bill needs to be a minimum of $75. If your energy consumption is less than $75 per month, you would see savings in going solar as your electricity usage would not be high enough to balance out.
How to Tell if Your House is Right for Solar
You want to review several things about your house to make sure you can take your house off the grid and use solar panels to power your home.
Roof Size, Structure, Position, and Condition
Making sure your roof is solar panel friendly means looking at several aspects of your roof. To obtain maximum efficiency of your solar panels, you will want to install them facing south (in the northern hemisphere) to face the sun’s rotation. As many quality solar panels last for at least 40 years, they need to be installed on a roof with the same life expectancy.
The mounting hardware that comes with the solar panel is most compatible with shingles (asphalt or composite), standing seam metal, concrete tiles, and other durable materials. If your roof needs repair, consider doing that before having your solar panels installed
The size of your roof also needs to be considered when determining if solar energy is right for your home. Solar panels are 5 ½ ft by 3 ½ ft, so depending on how many panels will fit on your roof, you can calculate how much energy you will be able to produce, ultimately determining if your roof size can accommodate enough panels to make a savings in switching to solar energy.
Amount of Sun Your Roof Gets
The more direct sunlight solar panels get, the more power they produce. By calculating peak sun hours in your area, solar companies can see how much electricity your home can produce. To calculate your own peak sun hours yourself, take an insolation meter, and place it in direct sunlight. This will measure light intensity and the potential supply of solar power in your area. Typical sun peak hours in the United States average from three to five hours, with hours decreasing in the winter and increasing in the summer.
Solar energy is more easily accessible in some states than others. With the solar industry exploding in California as the state invested $46 billion into renewable energy, some states support the energy source a lot more. Climate is another factor that impacts the amount of energy you require; cooling or heating units need to be run constantly, for example.
Large buildings, trees, or other obstructions that will interfere with how much sunlight will reach your panels will make them less effective, possibly rendering the savings not worth making the switch.
Add Value to Your Home
Not only does investing in solar energy benefit the environment and your monthly electricity bills, having a solar panel system on your roof will add value to your home when going to sell it. Being environmentally conscious and responsible is more popular than ever. Having a home set to run off clean energy is an added bonus that will give you more back on your investment when selling your home.
What Happens to Your Solar Panel System if you Move?
Even though it is technically possible to bring your solar panel system to your new house, the amount of money involved in the process, from removal costs to transport and re-installation, the cost is incredibly significant, so it may not be financially feasible to take them with you.
Despite the enormous undertaking your wallet would take, there is potential for the solar panels to become damaged during their transport. If you did not buy your solar panel system outright and are leasing them, these leases can typically be transferred over to the new buyers; however, if you did purchase the system outright, it is something you should speak to your real estate agent about to add it into the price of your home when selling.