Consumer reports on solar panels: What can I learn from them?
Solar energy is quickly becoming a more viable option for residential property owners in the United States. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, there are more than 2 million solar installations across the country in 2020. This number is nearly double the nationwide installed capacity in 2016.
This exponential growth, among other factors, prompted the trusted consumer review site Consumer Reports to investigate where getting solar installed on a home was a good idea. Their detailed report in 2016 was a ringing endorsement, concluding: “there has probably never been a better time to switch to solar.”
Just two years later, in 2018, the imposition of the Trump tariffs on solar panels prompted Consumer Reports to reevaluate solar energy. However, they came to the same conclusion, stating that there were still many other incentives and solar remained “a good idea.”
Consumer Reports is an authoritative source that Americans trust and their endorsement of solar panels will help sway many homeowners who have been sitting on the fence. Unfortunately, Consumer Reports doesn't review solar companies or solar panels.
If you are inspired to investigate solar power systems, you’ll need trustworthy sources to help you make informed decisions. Luckily, there are online resources that you can rely on during your search for the perfect residential solar system. On this page, we’ll discuss the best resources you can use to do your research.
What is the difference between solar company reviews and solar panel reviews?
During your research, you’ll encounter reviews for solar installation companies, as well as those for solar panels. What is the difference?
- Solar company reviews focus on the installation companies that provide services to residential clients. These reviews talk about customer service, quality of workmanship, and general client experience. Use these to decide which local installation company to choose for your home solar project.
- Solar panel reviews concentrate on the equipment. Solar panels are the most essential component of residential solar installations. The equipment you pick plays a large role in how much energy you can collect. Take a look at these to get an idea of brands and models ahead of your first meeting with an installation company representative.
Both types of reviews contain vital information for residential solar shoppers. Use them at the appropriate stage in your installation process to get the most benefit.
What information can be found in home solar power reviews?
Reviews from different sources can vary widely. However, there is some basic information that can be found in most types of reviews.
- Manufacturer name and location for equipment.
- Location and areas of service for installation companies.
- Warranty information.
- Technical specifications.
- Customer service contact information.
- Real-life client experiences with the product or service in question.
Which is more useful: consumer reviews or expert solar electric reviews?
Consumer reviews are actual feedback from those who have already purchased the product or service. By reading them, you will learn what it is like to work with the solar company/installer, and whether the solar panels they purchased performed as advertised. All said, readers will come out with a reasonable understanding of what to expect if they decide to buy.
Expert solar electric reviews are more technical. Done by those with a working knowledge of the solar energy industry, these pieces talk about capabilities, integrations, and capacity. They provide a more in-depth view of the product or service’s potential fit into your overall system. Both types of reviews contain useful information. Some expert reviews can be dense reading for those who aren’t technically proficient. However, it’s worth the time to ensure you find the right parts for your residential solar energy system.
Should I consider older residential solar energy system reviews?
Short answer: no.
The science of photovoltaic energy is rapidly evolving. As political and ecological issues make fossil fuels less reliable, everyone from governments to community groups are investing in solar energy. This influx of funds drives the continuous advancement of the technology that allows these systems to function. For example, solar panels of the past were only capable of operating at around 1% efficiency. Today, solar panel installations normally operate between 15 and 22% efficiency.
Unless you’re thinking about buying aftermarket equipment, it’s better to stick with more recent reviews.
What should you know before starting your solar installation?
- Solar is now the third-largest renewable energy source in the U.S. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that solar and wind will be the fastest growing source of US electricity generation for at least the next two years.
- The average cost of a new residential solar system in 2020 is $2.60 per watt. The final cost of your solar installation will vary depending on your location, system size, and the layout of your property.
- Property owners who complete their systems before December 31, 2020, can claim a 26% federal investment tax credit (ITC) on their tax bill. After that, the tax credit drops down to 22% in 2021 before going down to zero in 2022. That means you should go solar now to receive the maximum possible credit.
- Solar energy doesn’t just save you money when the sun is out. Your local utility company may also offer net metering programs that allow you to exchange your excess energy for credits that can lower your bills during the winter months. You can also integrate batteries into your system to store excess energy for nighttime use or emergencies.
Tools like consumer reports, expert reviews and online quotes make it easier to apply this beneficial technology to your own property.
Author: Zeeshan Hyder | SolarReviews Blog Author
Zeeshan is passionate about promoting renewable energy and tackling climate change. He developed these interests while studying at beautiful Middlebury College, Vermont, which has a strong focus on sustainability. He has previously worked in the humanitarian sector — for Doctors Without Borders — and in communications and journalism.