California is one of the most important states for solar energy in the US. Because of this, we thought it was important for the Solarsystems reviews team to talk about our top picks for solar companies in the Golden State.
Below, we talk about the good and bad things about solar companies in California, as well as a number of important details (like other solar services, batteries offered, etc).
For this review, we’ll be looking at a professionally installed 9-kW residential solar system. This size is typical for a residential solar system in the United States.
Here is a quick list of installers who have been approved by Solarreviews.
How To Save Money When Hiring a Solar Company In California
The average cost per watt of solar power in California is about $2.73, while the average cost per watt across the country is $2.66. But because solar goes farther in California than in most other states, it is a better deal in California.
That’s mostly because there’s a lot of sunlight, which makes a smaller system work better. So, the average California homeowner can power their home with a 6 kW system, which is smaller than the average 9 kW system in the rest of the country.
The average solar panel system in California costs $16,380, while the average solar panel system in the rest of the U.S. costs $23,940. These numbers are also for top-quality brands and don’t take into account any solar incentives.
In California, going solar can save you money in several ways:
- Use rebates and incentives for going solar.
- Compare different kinds of solar gear
- Shop solar panel companies
- Whenever possible, pay in cash
- Find out if you should get a solar lease.
Compare Types of Solar Equipment
Solar equipment brands have their own prices and levels of quality, just like clothing brands. The size of a solar panel system is measured in watts, and different kinds of solar panels have different watt outputs.
Since there is a lot of sun in California, you might be able to power your whole house with a cheaper solar panel that makes less energy (for example, buying an older 350W model instead of a cutting-edge 400W). Or, you can choose panels that work well and install less of them. You’ll save money either way.
If you don’t live in a place where power goes out often, you can also save money by not getting a solar battery. Keep in mind, though, that utility companies like PG&E will often turn off the power for public safety when there is a risk of wildfire, which has been happening a lot in California.
Shop Different Solar Companies
There are almost 900 registered solar installers in California, so you’ll have a lot of choices when it comes to picking a solar company. 6 In this article, we list the top five best solar installers in California. Don’t be afraid to contact all of them and get quotes from each one to make sure you’re getting the best deal. If you get a quote from one solar company but want to go with another, ask the second company if they’ll match the price.
Pay for Your System in Cash (If You Can)
How you pay for your solar panels will change how much it will cost to install them. If you can, it’s best to pay in cash. Cash purchases require the most money up front, but in the long run, they save you the most because you don’t have to pay interest. Solar loans make your equipment cheaper up front, but you save less money in the long run because you have to pay interest.
The good news is that California has a lot of financing options that make solar cheaper and easier for most homeowners to get. For example, most homeowners can sign up for Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs, which make it easier to finance and pay for solar energy systems.
Will Solar Increase Your Home Value In California?
Multiple studies have shown that solar panels do increase the value of a home. For example, in a 2022 Solarsystems Solar Growth Outlook survey, 63% of people said they would pay more for a home with solar panels than for a home without them.
A study by Zillow found that, on average, homes with solar panels sell for 4.1% more than homes without them. The study looked at the housing market in Riverside, California, and found that homes with solar energy systems sold for about $9,930 more than the market price.
And an older study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that each kilowatt of solar added to a home makes it worth nearly $6,000 more when it comes time to sell.
Should California Residents Hire a Professional Solar Installer Or DIY?
Solar panels are appealing in California for many reasons, but the cost may make some people think twice. To save money on solar panel installation costs, many homeowners may try to set up their own panels. But does it make sense?
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- How much do you save if you install solar panels yourself?
- Are you able to put solar panels up on your own?
- Is the money you save by doing it yourself worth the risk?
How Much Do You Save With a DIY Solar Installation in California?
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy says that labor costs make up about 10% of the total cost of installing solar panels. 10 In California, doing that could save $1,638.
Are You Capable of Installing Your Own Solar Panels?
On YouTube, there are videos of people installing solar panels on their own. So you might be thinking, How hard can it be?
The answer is that it’s not as simple as you think. We don’t think you should install your own solar panels unless you have a license to do so. Because the job is hard, solar contractors have to go through a lot of training and get a license.
Plus, solar companies have software that can find the right angle and placement of panels to get the most power out of them. This can save you well over $1,600 over the 25 years that the panels will be working. If you don’t install your solar panels right, you won’t get as much use out of them as you could.
Is the Savings of DIY Solar Installation Worth the Risks?
Even though saving money sounds good, you should think about the risks of installing your own solar panels. Do-it-yourself installations can be dangerous because you have to get up on the roof and work directly with wires and electricity. If you’re not sure of what you’re doing, you’re more likely to install them wrong, which could hurt your solar equipment or even your roof.
In the end, we don’t recommend installing solar panels yourself unless you’ve done it before.
What Should California Residents Look for in a Solar Installer?
There are a lot of solar installers in California, and they all want your business. The state also has high energy prices and a lot of power outages, which makes its energy market unique. So, here are some things you should think about when choosing the best company for your installation:
- Reputation and reviews in the area
- Services for solar pricing and financing
- What a warranty covers
- Brand experience and quality at the company
Local Reputation & Reviews
We looked at each company’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) score and read dozens of customer reviews and complaints from other California homeowners. Companies like Stellar Solar do well in this category because they have a good reputation in their community, which is shown by how well their referral network works.
We also suggest working with a company that is a member of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) or other professional groups. The fact that a company is a member of these groups says a lot about its professionalism, quality of work, reputation, and dependability.
Solar Pricing and Financing
Sticker shock is common with solar systems, but keep in mind that the lower energy costs will save you money in the long run. Also, the state of California has solar incentives that can help you lower these initial costs. We give high scores to companies that offer a wide range of solar financing options and have shown they know how to work with California’s many incentive programs.
One thing to keep in mind is that different solar companies may offer slightly different services. Most California homeowners will want a company that offers a wide range of services, such as helping with everything from the first consultation to the installation of solar panels to the application for financial incentives. California has a lot of power outages and electric vehicles, so we give more weight to companies that have a lot of experience installing solar batteries and EV chargers.
Lastly, we suggest that you look for an installer who can give you a good warranty. Solar panels can last anywhere from 25 to 30 years, and you’ll want to protect your investment for as long as possible. The best solar installers will give you a 25-year warranty on the roof, the system’s performance, and the work.
Because SunPower, ADT Solar, and NRG Clean Power all have warranties that cover everything for at least 25 years, they did well in this category.
Most of the time, we only recommend solar companies that have been in business for at least 10 years. Most of the time, having more experience is better. In California, there are more than 900 solar installers to choose from. If a company has been around for a long time and has a lot of customer recommendations, this is a good sign that it is a good company to work with.
California also has a lot of local solar policies that encourage things like EV chargers and energy storage devices that can be added to homes with solar panels. Because of this, add-on installations are much more common here than in other states. You want a business that knows a lot about California.
Pay attention to the type of solar technology that is used in the panels that are being sold. Some companies, like SunPower, can only sell the best solar modules, while others may have a wider range of products that are better for customers who want to save money. Is the company licensed to install top brands like Tesla, Panasonic, and LG? It’s never a bad idea to take a closer look at the tech portfolio of a company. If you want a certain brand of solar panel or battery, make sure the company you’re talking to is licensed to sell and install that brand.
Methodology: How We Ranked California’s Solar Companies
Solarsystems’ solar experts looked into each major California solar installer’s product lines, services, warranty coverage, financing options, customer feedback, and reputation in the industry. Using this solar method, we rated and ranked each company based on the information we gathered. This helped us narrow down our choices for the best solar companies in California.
Here are some of the things we looked at when we looked at California solar companies:
- Local reputation and reviews (20%): We look at each company’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating and the reviews that other homeowners in California have left for each company. We give extra points to companies in California that have a wide range of referral networks and can show proof that their customers are happy.
- Pricing and financing (20%): Companies that offer a lot of different ways to pay get more points. The best companies know that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions in a state like California, where the economy is so different from place to place.
- Services (20%): In addition to installing solar panels, we give more points to companies that also offer solar batteries, EV chargers, energy audits, etc. Because there are more and more power outages in California, we pay extra attention to companies that offer backup battery installations.
- Warranty coverage (20%): Most of the best providers offer a 25-year guarantee on how well their products will work. If a company doesn’t offer this, we take away points.
- Experience (10%): We only look at solar companies that have been in business for at least 10 years. The longer a business has been in California, the more points it gets.
- Brand quality (10%): Each company’s services will include different brands of solar equipment. We give more points to businesses that have a lot of different brands and a lot of good products.
How do I find the most affordable solar company in California?
Solarsystems suggests getting a few quotes from different solar companies so you can compare and contrast the total costs. You will also learn more about each company after they do an energy audit. Also, compare the ways to pay for it: Should you pay for something in full, rent it, or get a loan? What incentives or rebates are there for solar power? Does it say anything about the federal tax credit? Does the company have any PPAs that it sells? Is net metering offered?
What is the most important factor when choosing the best solar company in California?
Overall, it’s a mix of how well the solar panels work and the weather. Solar power is becoming more and more popular in California, and because of this, rates are also getting lower. But California’s energy market is not regulated, and the weather there has been very bad over the last few years. The best solar panel company will be the one that is ready to deal with these things.
What does the “Solarsystems Rating” mean?
We can see why another website that gives “ratings” to companies for their products and services might make you scratch your head. We don’t do things like that. An Solarsystem rating ranks a number of companies on a 0.5-point scale based on the things we’ve talked about so far, like the services they offer compared to industry standards and how happy their customers are. Here, you can learn more about how we do things. In the end, a Solarsystem rating means that you can trust the solar companies we list to do what they say they will do. If they don’t, they’ll let us know.