At SolarReviews, our core goal is to help you identify good solar installers and avoid the bad ones. Both myself and SolarReviews CEO Lachlan Fleet have founded and run successful solar installation companies. So we know what it takes to be one of the good guys.
We look for solar companies with owners who understand that when they sell you a solar system, you expect them to be there for the next 25 years to fix any issues that may arise. There are many good local solar companies in California, but finding the right one can still be tricky. To help, I've outlined the best solar companies in California by their services, so you can get exactly what you need from your solar company.
I don’t usually recommend leasing your solar panels because it can make it difficult to sell your home and result in lower lifetime solar savings. But leasing might be best if you don’t have the upfront cash for an installation, can't use the federal solar tax credit, or don’t qualify for loan options.
Of the big leasing companies, my pick is SunPower, as they have the best review scores among large national leasing companies. Plus, they guarantee the energy output from the system you lease, which is an additional protection that other companies don’t always provide. SunPower and other similar leases are offered by a number of local solar companies in California and my pick of these are:
Solar loans are popular among homeowners because you don’t have to have the money for the installation upfront, but you get better lifetime savings than with a leased system. You also get to directly use incentives (tax credits etc) available in California, rather than a leasing company retaining them. Most importantly, with a loan you do not have a lien over your property as you do with a lease.
You can choose to go solar with a personal loan, but many installers offer solar-specific loans through special providers such as Mosaic, Sunlight Financial, Goodleap or Enfin.
Recent interest rate hikes have bumped solar loan APRs above 5.99%, but we are aware of one provider offering a 30 year 3.99% offering. Getting quotes from different installers is essential to getting the best rates possible. Here is my pick of California solar installers that have good loan options:
Batteries have become increasingly popular because they take an intermittent energy source like solar and turn it into a reliable and consistent supply of electricity. I recommend getting a solar battery quote if you want a backup power source or if your utility company doesn’t buy excess solar energy at the full price of power, as you could save a little extra on your electric bill.
Here are some California solar companies that can help you install battery storage and solar panel systems:
SolarReviews developed our Expert Rating criteria to make it easier for homeowners to find solar companies they can trust. It’s not just about the consumer reviews or the products they sell - it’s about how they treat their employees, how they support their customers, and if they run an honest business.
We used our team’s extensive knowledge of the solar industry to create a data-based scoring system for rating solar companies that encompasses all of the most important things to consider when picking the best solar company, including:
Learn more about the SolarReviews Expert Rating system
Picking a solar company is the most important decision you make when going solar. You need to trust them to drill holes in your roof, help you navigate financing and incentives, and provide you with 25+ years of customer service.
Check out this video where I explain what to look for when choosing the best solar company near you.
Years in business
One of the first things to look at when finding a company is how long they have been in business. We suggest looking for companies that have been around for at least five years, as the longer it has been in business, the more likely it is you’ll have a positive installation experience.
Companies with five or more years of experience will probably have established after-sales service and warranty support. It signals that they aren’t a company in it to make a quick buck; they’re in it for the long haul.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, which is why you should also keep a few other factors in mind.
Licenses, insurance, and certifications
Solar companies that are licensed, insured, and hold certifications take their business seriously. Look for companies that have NABCEP Certified professionals or certified electricians on staff and are properly insured, so their workers, and you, are protected.
Not everyone has thousands of dollars to spend on a solar panel installation. So, you’ll want to find a company with solar financing options that work for you. Ask for quotes for various types of financing plans to see which one will work best for your budget. Solar loans are often your next best choice if you can’t pay in cash. But, if you don’t pay federal income taxes or can’t qualify for a loan, finding a company that offers solar leases or power purchase agreements might be the right move.
Services and products offered
Don’t choose a company that can’t complete the job that you want to be done. If you need an energy storage system, get quotes from companies that install batteries! Maybe you want a particular brand of panels or an electric vehicle charger installation. Ask the company if they provide those services or carry those brands so you don’t have to settle for less.
Customer review scores
Customer ratings give valuable insight into how a solar company actually operates and treats its customers. Read SolarReviews, Google, and Yelp reviews to understand the company’s installation process, sales practices, and overall customer service. But remember that some companies incentivize customers to leave positive reviews, so make sure you read reviews with some scrutiny.
Any reputable solar installation company will offer a workmanship or labor warranty that covers any damages that may occur during the installation process. We recommend using an installer with at least a ten-year labor warranty.
Some installation companies, like SunPower, include a system performance guarantee. This promises you’ll get a certain amount of electricity from your solar panels and is an excellent added protection.
Solar incentives and rebates can cut the cost of installing solar by thousands of dollars. The most significant incentive is the 30% federal solar tax credit, available to any taxpayer in the country when they purchase solar panels or battery storage.
Some states and utility companies offer additional solar incentives, saving homeowners even more money. Here are the solar incentives available in California:
|Residential Clean Energy Tax Credit||Federal||Personal Tax Credit|
|Self-Generation Incentive Program||State||Battery Rebate|
|Property Tax Exclusion for Solar Energy Systems||State||Property Tax Incentive|
|Net Billing (NEM 3.0)||State||Net Metering|
Once you’ve found a few companies you like, you can start getting solar quotes. You can get a better deal when you get quotes from multiple solar installers; I suggest getting at least three quotes. Here are a few of my favorite tips and tricks for comparing quotes and what questions you should ask installers.
System size and energy production
All solar quotes should include the size of the system and how much energy it is projected to produce. Most of the quotes you get will probably be in the same ballpark. But, if one is drastically larger or smaller than the others - ask about it! Maybe one installer included shading from a tree, while another based its estimates on having that tree removed.
If you choose reliable installers, you can trust that these estimates will be as accurate as possible. But you can always double-check using the SolarReviews solar calculator and enter the information received in your quotes.
You should know as much as possible about how much the solar panels cost. Make sure you know both the total cost of the system and the price per watt of solar installed. The cost per watt makes it easier to compare prices between quotes and gives you a better idea of how fairly the system is priced. The average price of solar is about $2.14 to $3.22 per watt in California, so anything in that range is a fair price.
Some prices may be too good to be true. If your installer quotes you way below the average price in your area, proceed with caution. Installers must charge fair prices to remain in business and provide you with 25 years of support. If their prices are low, they might not be around when you need them down the road.
Financing is one of the most important things to look for in your solar quote. There are a few different things to keep an eye out for, depending on what type of solar financing you’re using.
If you’re looking to use a solar loan, you should ask the company for both a cash quote and the financed quote. Solar loans include something called dealer fees, which can sometimes add 20% or more to the total cost of your system in exchange for a lower interest rate. It’s worth comparing what dealer fees and interest rates you’re quoted from different companies to get the best deal possible.
If you want a solar lease or power purchase agreement (PPA), you’ll want to look for an escalator clause in the contract. The escalator clause outlines how much your payments will go up every year. Ideally, this should be lower than the rate at which electric prices increase in your area, typically about 3% annually. If the escalator rate is higher than this, you could end up paying more than if you hadn’t gone solar at all!
Some quotes may include when you’ll break even, meaning when your panels have saved as much as you spent on them. If it’s not explicitly listed on the quote, you can compare any savings estimates they provide to the system’s total price and get a rough estimate of when your panels will pay themselves off. The shorter the payback period, the better.
Good quality solar installers will carry good quality equipment. So if you pick an installer you trust, you can expect reliable products. But, it can’t hurt to research and ask the installer questions about what would be going on your roof.
Most solar panels installed today are about 400 watts in size and have efficiency ratings above 19%. Higher wattage and efficiency panels can produce slightly more electricity but may add a price premium. You’ll want to make sure the solar panels have the industry standard 25-year product and performance warranties.