1. Homeowners
  2. Going Solar
  3. Best Solar Companies

Best Solar Companies of 2023

Find a Solar Energy partner near you.

    Find a Solar Energy partner near you.

      Author pictureAuthor pictureAuthor picture
      Author picture
      Written by
      Author picture
      Edited by
      Author picture
      Reviewed by
      Companies considered
      Companies selected
      Reviews analyzed
      Features compared

      A good solar company takes care of everything for you, from designing and installing your system to getting you set up with net metering and ongoing monitoring. Our research team compared 24 companies and chose our top solar brands based on equipment quality, availability of services, financing options, overall reputation and other factors.

      Read our full methodology for details on how we selected our top picks. Our picks may be Authorized Partners who compensate us — this does not affect our recommendations or evaluations but may impact the order in which companies appear.

      Our editor's top picks

      Why trust ConsumerAffairs?
      • Our recommendations are based on what reviewers say.
      • 4,338,283 reviews on ConsumerAffairs are verified.
      • We require contact information to ensure our reviewers are real.
      • We use intelligent software that helps us maintain the integrity of reviews.
      • Our moderators read all reviews to verify quality and helpfulness.

      Compare our top 6 solar energy companies


      Choose what information you want to see across each brand. At least one option must be selected.

      Need help making a decision?

      Find a Solar Energy partner near you.

      All information accurate as of time of publication.

      More details about our top 6 solar company picks

      Our pick for easy process


      10 to 25 years
      Payment options
      Cash, loan, lease

      SunPower specializes in designing, installing and maintaining panel systems for residential, commercial and industrial applications. You can choose between front- or back-contact panels with low-profile and solar roofing tile options. The company's Maxeon 5 series solar panels, known for durability, reliability and efficiency, are built on a solid copper foundation.

      SunPower also offers solar battery servicing and energy auditing to help you see how your power usage changes over time. After installation, SunPower offers monitoring and maintenance services to maximize your solar system’s efficiency and, if necessary, diagnose any issues.

      SunPower is a great option if you're not a solar expert. The company's team takes care of everything: evaluating your energy needs, customizing your system, helping you with permits and coordinating the installation.

      We also like that SunPower was awarded the Cradle to Cradle Certification for sustainable manufacturing processes in 2014 and 2016, and its Maxeon (DC) solar panels won the inaugural PV Magazine Sustainability Award in 2019.

      "When it rains, it doesn't produce as much, but it produces enough for the house," Robert in California told us. "So, I'm happy with SunPower and I recommended them. It's a bit pricey but it's worth it."

      As Robert and others pointed out, SunPower isn't the cheapest option — upfront costs tend to be a little higher than other companies. After all, you get what you pay for.

      "They are not the least expensive panels, by a long shot, but there is no better 'bang for your buck' brand out there when it comes to efficiency and quality," according to Jeff in California.

      "Based on my research, SunPower's panels seem to stand up longer and don't degrade as much," according to ConsumerAffairs reviewer Michele in California.

      Another SunPower customer, Jorge in California, told us, "SunPower is consistently one of the top providers for good reason." Jorge and other satisfied SunPower customers have frequently told us about SunPower's helpful staff, easy installation process and immediate savings.

      "I got 14 panels, and setting them up took a week," Abell in Texas said. "The system covers my monthly and also sends some power back to the grid. I get paid for that by my electricity provider too. They have an app through which you can monitor the production of your system."

      Douglas in Connecticut also highlighted SunPower's "awesome" app: "I check it all the time. I can predict my electric bill from that app because it tracks all my power in and out. So, I can just look at that to know how we're doing."

      Similarly, Gary in Connecticut is “absolutely hooked on watching the Sunpower app and seeing how much power we are generating and saving on electricity. Have numerous friends and neighbors with solar and they are jealous of the app. Friends without solar are jealous that we no longer have a monthly electric bill.”

      "The way that they sold the system was as turnkey, which was exactly that," Cesar in Pflugerville told us. "They did all of the permits and they hooked everything up. They gave me [an] explanation of everything that they did every time they were here. So it was very straightforward."

      If an issue comes up, the company does what it can to fix it, according to Christina in California. "My experience when I enrolled was extremely positive. I like the communication, the professionalism and the work ethics of the crew that came out to the house. The only thing was there's a turn-off switch that is on the street," Christina said. "They came back out and fixed it for no charge."

      Our pick for prepaid energy


      25 years
      Payment options
      Cash, loan, lease, prepay
      California and Texas

      Sunlux is a Tesla-certified installer, so you get sleek panels plus ongoing customer support. The company can also take care of any necessary roof repairs or replacements before installing your system, whether for commercial or residential use, for an additional charge.

      Overall, its focus on high-quality products, comprehensive services, flexible financing options and exceptional customer service sets it apart from other solar companies.

      Sunlux has flexible financing options, including prepaid energy. With this option, you pay for your home's energy before you use it. When your balance reaches zero, you can either recharge or add more funds to the account.

      Once you receive permitting and Sunlux installs your system, the company takes care of submitting the permission to operate (PTO) to your local utility.

      Sunlux may not be ideal for small installations. Some customers have had to replace their roof because of the weight of the panels, which can get pricey.

      Kim in California said they were frustrated by the credit approval process and the fact they needed a new roof to support the panels, but "that aside, all the people were super nice."

      A few others we talked to were annoyed by supply chain delays (a common theme in many solar company reviews).

      "Sunlux was able to give me a better plan, and their design was better too," James in California told us.

      Genario in California also highlighted the price: "They were very competitive. What I really liked is they did not pressure me. I took my time. I thought about it." Genario also likes that Sunlux is "not a broker. So, right there, you're saving $15,000 for that."

      Donald in Victorville highlighted the cost benefits: "Sunlux's price was competitive and it was in line with the other people that I had talked to, so I went with them." Donald chose the prepaid lease, "which means I don't have any monthly payments."

      Other customers told us about the company's clear communication and transparency. "I've been in sales long enough to know when somebody's telling me a lie and somebody's not telling me the whole truth," Bill in California said. "But Sunlux's integrity was what I wanted. Communication is everything to me, and they've been very communicative."

      Daniel in California told us he "spoke to other companies. They were somewhat pushy. But with Sunlux, it was nothing like that. I asked for a quote. They gave me a quote and left me alone. The gentleman that gave me the quote showed me how extensive their installation process is to prevent roof leaks. That was another selling point."

      Our pick for customer service
      25+ years (product and labor)
      Payment options
      Not disclosed
      Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada and Texas

      Elevation specializes in low-profile panels and solar panel roofing tiles. Its systems incorporate high-quality solar panels and either Tesla Powerwall or Generac PWRcell batteries. It earned the ENERGY STAR Award for three years in a row, from 2019 to 2021.

      We like that Elevation's in-house team completes the installation and provides ongoing support if you run into any issues. Some companies use third-party contractors for installation work.

      You can monitor your energy usage with the Curb monitoring app. Curb connects to your home's electrical system to give you real-time data about your energy usage. The app also lets you remotely turn your smart devices on and off to stop waste and maximize efficiency.

      Customers occasionally experience installation delays due to equipment upgrades, local permitting and supply chain issues. Additionally, the company only offers solar panel services in the Southwest.

      "Elevation installed the highest quality panels available," Janet in California told us. "The process from start to finish was about 6 months, which is fast in California. They were attentive and helpful all the way. My system is working at 100%."

      Amy in California was also impressed by the customer service: "I can't believe how helpful these people were. It made the experience super stress free."

      Others who were pleased with their experience with Elevation Solar mentioned reasonable prices and the Curb app.

      "Elevation Solar had the cheapest quote that I got," Ravi in California said. "The only thing about the part was it took a little longer than expected. But other than that, it went nice. Everything worked as it should."

      Kevin in Arizona told us they "LOVE the Curb monitoring app, it's super cool! It shows me all the power/usage/data/etc. I can even see how much energy my pool pump is using vs. the AC unit, so that's fun to play around with. Biggest benefit is my power bill has been cut in half."

      Our pick for panel design
      25 years (system)
      Payment options
      Cash, lease, loan
      Some states

      Tesla Energy rolled out more efficient and powerful solar roof tiles a few years ago. The company also offers options for community solar and low-profile solar panels and has a price-match guarantee.

      You can schedule virtual or in-person consultations to determine your needs, and a rep helps you find any solar incentives you qualify for. After installation, the Tesla app lets you monitor your energy usage.

      We like that Tesla manufactures its own panels — made of sleek black anodized aluminum — that you can have installed in the ground or on your roof. We also like the company's Powerwall backup battery, which lets you store solar energy to use later.

      Some reviewers mentioned having trouble with the app or Powerwall after the installation was complete.

      "The price that Tesla offered was great and the installation went smoothly, everything else has been a nightmare," Timothy in Rhode Island told us. He also noted multiple delays and a lack of communication during the initial design phase.

      Additionally, it might be difficult (and sometimes impossible) to add more panels after purchase, so make sure that you take advantage of the consultation to explain exactly what you need.

      Jane in Delaware went with Tesla because she wanted both solar panels and solar batteries, and she liked the price. "Now that the system is up and running, I love the ease of seeing how everything is going on a certain day through their easily understood app," she said.

      "Throughout the entire permit process, I was kept well-informed, and both the installation and electrician teams were excellent and helpful," Mark in Utah told us. "Now, I am excited to watch the app in action and experience the power of the sun energizing my home and car."

      "The lead technician provided me with a good introduction to the app on the phone and some critical parts of the solar/powerwall system," Aziz in Orlando told us. "My system has been generating enough energy as it was designed, my power bill is near zero."

      Motman in Texas recommends Tesla for everything solar: "This entire process was extremely simple and we are in [our] early 60s. The Tesla app lets us monitor everything from the palm of your hand. Already saving/offsetting our energy cost."

      Our pick for community impact
      25 years (product and performance)
      Payment options
      Cash, lease, loan or PPA
      23 states

      Palmetto Solar has had the mission of "flipping the traditional solar industry model on its head" since 2015. The company developed software to calculate your monthly savings instantly, and its decentralized network of solar sellers and installers gives you quick access to service and support. In-house project management and active system monitoring also set Palmetto apart.

      Palmetto identifies and initiates any minor roof repairs and replacements you need to go solar, and the company's representatives help you find incentives you qualify for in your area. Like the other picks on our list, Palmetto offers low-profile panels and solar panel roofing tiles, and you can get started with an in-person or virtual consultation.

      We also like its "Get Solar, Give Solar" program, an initiative the company launched in 2021 to provide clean energy to underserved communities. Palmetto has pledged $5 million to invest in Solar Sister, a woman-owned entrepreneur program dedicated to making solar energy more accessible.

      Palmetto is a relatively new solar company with limited availability. You're also required to submit an initial reservation order for a residential solar installation and pay a $99 refundable deposit.

      Cory in Georgia seemed annoyed with their financing deal: "The amount I could 'save' was an exaggeration to say the least, between my electric bill now, and my solar panel payment, I am losing $80 a month. … I simply want my money back and these things off my house."

      (In general, solar panel companies don't offer money-back guarantees or free solar panel removal if you change your mind.)

      Happy customers highlight good deals and helpful reps. "They're honest and informative," James in Massachusetts told us. "The quote was almost $3,000 less than the other two we received. So, we went with Palmetto."

      Yuli in California also appreciated the Palmetto's sales rep: "He is not sales-y at all … he is very knowledgeable in all aspects of solar, credits, tax benefits, roof fixes, net metering, panels and battery."

      Our pick for quick installation


      25 years
      Payment options
      Cash, loan, lease
      20 states

      Sunrun is a residential solar panel company that designs, installs, finances, monitors, maintains and insures its systems.

      Navigant Research ranked Sunrun as the world's leading solar-plus-storage vendor in 2018. Its Brightbox system, a solar battery storage system it calls "a holistic service that puts the power in your hands," works with both Tesla Powerwall and LG Chem lithium-ion batteries.

      Sunrun customizes home systems based on your energy usage history, roof space and design preferences. The company uses an automated site modeling tool that profiles roof characteristics like shading, pitch and sun exposure.

      Unlike some of its competitors, Sunrun contracts have a roof warranty that covers leaks and holes. The company also has options for community solar. As of publishing, the company's available discounts include $0 down for some financing and loan plans.

      Some recent reviewers have told us it's hard to get in touch with customer service if there's a problem after installation.

      "Sunrun needs to tighten up their act a little bit when it comes to their people in customer service," according to Sheryl in California. "Other than that, the installation went smoothly and there were no problems. They did the panels in one day then they had to come back and tie up some loose ends with the box," she said.

      "The process with Sunrun went perfectly. The installation was very quick. It took shorter than we were expecting," Reykhan in Colorado told us, adding that their monthly bill went down from $150 to $90.

      Pamela in New Jersey is leasing solar panels through Sunrun: "It's been a win-win for us. Our bills are $5 or $6 a month, and there have been months where we had credits, so we had no bills. Usually, one month in the winter, we will have what I consider a normal bill."

      Another verified customer, Christopher in California, highlighted the financial benefits since going solar with Sunrun: "Before, my electricity bill was $600 a month. And this was in winter. But now, if I pay anything, it's 20 bucks. And I'm running the AC all the time. We're an all-electric house, so going solar has made a huge impact."

      Others appreciate Sunrun's efficiency and coordination. "For the original installation, we needed to get a roof as well," Mark in California said. "So, part of Sunrun that I also liked was they had a roofing company attached to them when they took over. I liked the idea that you have one place where you could hold someone accountable and responsible."

      Complete guide to going solar

      This guide is for homeowners like you: forward-thinkers who are curious about investing in the future of renewable energy production.

      You'll learn what to consider when selecting a company, how to think about solar costs and what to expect during and after the solar panel installation process.

      Solar energy basics

      Photovoltaic solar panels work by harnessing the power of the sun and converting it into usable electricity. The three most common types of PV solar panels — monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film — are made of silicon cells, which easily absorb photons from the sun.

      If your solar panel system is connected to the grid, any excess energy generated during the day can be fed into the grid and credited to your account through net metering. At night, the system can draw energy from the grid to power devices and appliances in the home.

      » LEARN: Types of solar grid systems

      Should I go solar?

      Going solar is an awesome idea for many homeowners. Despite the high upfront costs, "the energy savings can offset the initial investment with a great (return on investment)," according to Warren Matthews, co-founder and head editor at Helius Hub.

      Like a lot of solar customers, Donald in Illinois told us they "went solar to save money, and to help keep our power bill down, and to also help our environment." It's a win-win.

      The primary benefit of going solar is the reduced cost of electricity. Most homeowners see significant savings on monthly bills even while making payments on the system. For example, a solar customer in Nevada said their bill went from over $300 per month to about $100, and that includes all their financing payments and connection fees. Solar panels can also increase your home’s value by 4.1%.

      But the high upfront cost and ongoing maintenance can be a drawback. "Based on my experience, people often overlook when buying/installing solar panels the importance of proper installation and maintenance of the panels," Matthews said.

      Solar power pros and cons


      • Lower monthly energy bills
      • Energy independence
      • Reduced carbon footprint
      • Little ongoing maintenance


      • High initial cost
      • Can't move with you
      • Not a one-size-fits-all solution

      » MORE: Solar energy pros and cons

      What to consider before going solar

      Not every household benefits from solar panels in the same way. High levels of sunshine and minimal shading are ideal for maximum energy production. The other big factor is your roof. Here's what else to think about before you make the commitment:

      • How much sunlight your roof gets: Solar panels need regular exposure to sunlight to produce the most energy possible. If there's a lot of shade around your house — lots of tall trees or buildings, for instance — your solar panels won't be as efficient.
      • Your household's energy consumption: Look over your past electricity bills to understand your monthly energy consumption patterns. If you finance solar panels (many homeowners do), it might not be worth it if the loan payments for your solar panels are more expensive than your existing electricity bill.
      • The condition of your roof: Solar panels can last for 25 years or more, so your roof needs to last at least that long. It's smart to replace your roof before installing solar panels. Otherwise, you'll have to spend thousands to remove the panels, fix your roof and reinstall them again in the future.

        Devin in California told us that when the company "came to inspect our roof to make sure it was suitable to install the panels, they said everything was ok. One year later, with the recent rainstorms, we noticed several leaks in our roof. We decided to replace our roof," and it cost $5,000 to remove the panels and reinstall them again.

      • Your roof's angle, pitch and size: Roofs that face south, southeast or southwest are typically the best angle for solar panels. Generally, a roof pitch of 25 to 45 degrees is best in the United States.
      • How much space you have: Average dimensions of a solar panel are roughly 5.5 feet by 3.25 feet. Ideally, your roof is big enough to fit the number of panels required to meet your energy needs. Some homeowners install smaller systems that produce around 80% of the power they need. It's not an ideal solution, but it works for many people.

      » GOING SOLAR: Is it really worth it?

      How much does solar cost?

      Think about how much it costs to go solar the way you shop for a car. Just like cars have "miles per gallon" (MPG) to show how efficient they are with fuel, solar panels have "cost per watt" to show how much energy you get for each dollar you spend.

      In 2023, the average home solar system costs $23,879 before the 30% federal solar tax credit.

      Just as you want a car with better MPG because you get more distance for each gallon of gas, you want a solar system with a lower cost per watt. It's a better bang for your buck, and knowing the average cost per watt in your area can help you get a better deal.

      A scenario where you would pay a higher total cost but get a cheaper cost per watt typically involves purchasing solar panels in bulk (or investing in a large commercial system).

      Average cost per wattTypical system sizeAverage cost after ITCPayback period*Estimated net savings
      Alabama $2.45 11.5 kW $19,723 11 years $28,590
      Alaska $2.41 6 kW $10,122 7 years $34,500
      Arizona $2.61 11.5 kW $21,011 12 years $23,891
      Arkansas $2.54 11 kW $19,558 13 years $15,567
      California $2.73 4.5 kW $11,466 8 years $30,000
      Colorado $2.69 7.5 kW $14,123 12 years $14,479
      Connecticut $2.80 7.5 kW $14,700 8 years $42,705
      Delaware $2.58 9.5 kW $17,157 12 years $29,016
      Florida $2.53 11.5 kW $20,367 12 years $21,500
      Georgia $2.55 11 kW $19,635 12 years $23,182
      Hawaii $2.67 5.5 kW $10,280 6 years $49,459
      Idaho $2.60 10 kW $18,200 14 years $11,478
      Illinois $2.73 7.5 kW $14,333 12 years $16,585
      Indiana $2.68 9.5 kW $17,822 12 years $21,994
      Iowa $2.77 9 kW $17,451 12 years $17,572
      Kansas $2.59 9 kW $16,317 11 years $21,455
      Kentucky $2.34 11 kW $18,018 12 years $20,247
      Louisiana $2.57 12.5 kW $22,488 14 years $13,646
      Maine $2.83 5.7 kW $11,886 10 years $25,880
      Maryland $2.77 10 kW $19,390 12 years $21,395
      Massachusetts $2.94 6.5 kW $13,377 8 years $33,013
      Michigan $2.81 7 kW $13,769 10 years $23,652
      Minnesota $2.84 8 kW $15,904 12 years $17,546
      Mississippi $2.64 11.5 kW $21,252 13 years $20,147
      Missouri $2.59 10.5 kW $19,037 13 years $18,292
      Montana $2.54 9 kW $16,002 13 years $15,189
      Nebraska $2.83 10.5 kW $20,801 14 years $13,421
      Nevada $2.52 10 kW $17,640 12 years $18,319
      New Hampshire $2.91 6.5 kW $13,241 9 years $28,409
      New Jersey $2.77 7 kW $13,573 10 years $23,806
      New Mexico $2.68 7 kW $13,132 12 years $15,413
      New York $2.94 6.5 kW $13,423 10 years $24,387
      North Carolina $2.54 6 kW $13,815 13 years $20,035
      North Dakota $2.42 11 kW $18,634 13 years $26,028
      Ohio $2.56 9.5 kW $16,128 12 years $19,272
      Oklahoma $2.62 11 kW $20,174 14 years $14,190
      Oregon $2.60 9.5 kW $17,290 14 years $23,058
      Pennsylvania $2.55 8.5 kW $15,173 10 years $23,634
      Rhode Island $2.84 6 kW $11,928 8 years $34,519
      South Carolina $2.72 11 kW $20,944 12 years $24,561
      South Dakota $2.39 10.5 kW $17,566 12 years $22,923
      Tennessee $2.49 12 kW $20,916 13 years $19,688
      Texas $2.69 8.5 kW $21,654 13 years $21,350
      Utah $2.68 8 kW $15,008 14 years $10,202
      Vermont $2.87 6 kW $12,054 9 years $26,468
      Virginia $2.75 11 kW $21,175 12 years $21,692
      Washington $2.69 10 kW $18,830 16 years $10,846
      West Virginia $2.64 11 kW $20,328 13 years $19,893
      Wisconsin $2.60 7 kW $12,740 10 years $21,005
      Wyoming $2.57 9 kW $16,191 13 years $14,959
      *When you pay upfront

      How to pay for solar panels

      You can pay for your system upfront, but most people finance solar panels. A solar loan works a lot like any other type of loan — there's an application and approval process, and you pay it back over time (with interest).

      Most installers offer a variety of payment and financing options, including cash purchases, loans, leases or power purchase agreements (PPAs). They should explain the pros and cons of each for your financial situation.

      If you're considering a solar loan, lease or PPA, always ask:

      • Is there a down payment?
      • How much will I pay per month?
      • When will monthly payments increase, and by how much?

      Taking advantage of solar incentives and tax credits

      The federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) reduces your total solar installation costs by up to 30%. Applied against your federal income tax liability, the solar ITC represents a dollar-for-dollar reduction in avoided tax payments. For example, if your new system costs $18,000, you may be eligible for a federal income tax credit of up to $5,400.

      » MORE: How the federal solar tax credit works

      Solar incentives by state
      Local installers are usually knowledgeable about available solar incentives, tax credits and rebates. Explore state-level solar incentives below.

      How to choose a solar company

      Here's how to narrow down your options and find a reputable solar energy company that can provide ongoing service at a competitive price.

      1. Do your research

      With any investment, the first company you come across probably won't be your best fit. It's worth considering all your local options. Read lots of reviews and check for any complaints filed against the company.

      For instance, Carol in California said she did an "enormous amount of research" to find a solar installer. "The installer that we liked the most has a Ph.D. in physics, and that's why we picked him," Carol told us.

      Carol was smart to interview multiple installers before making a final decision. This is your chance to ask preliminary questions.

      Look out for pushy sales reps when you start these conversations. Unhappy solar customers often tell us about sales reps making false promises, particularly around rebates, credits and savings. 

      » BUYER BEWARE: Solar panel scams

      2. Compare a few quotes

      "The price of a system will depend on your electricity usage; there's not a fixed price but more of a range," Neil Gallagher, who owns a company in Tampa, Florida, told us. "Since COVID, the price of materials has gone up due to supply chain issues, mostly foreign panels. The cost of labor has also increased."

      There's also more to consider than just price. Megan in Texas got four quotes before going with Sunpro (now part of ADT Solar). She said it wasn't the cheapest but was a better fit for her needs.

      "Momentum Solar was the cheapest, but did not offer some of the perks I was inclined to take," she said.

      » TIPS: Get the best solar quotes

      3. Check licenses and certifications

      The solar industry is booming, and there are many inexperienced newcomers in the game right now. Before you hire anyone, request their license number and any credentials they claim to have. You should also check that the company has liability insurance, especially since technicians will be on your roof.

      For credentials, reputable companies often have affiliations with organizations like the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) or are certified by the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation (SRCC).

      Check if the company is a member of industry associations, such as the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) or local solar industry groups. Membership in these often requires adherence to certain standards and practices.

      4. Ask about solar panel efficiency

      When comparing solar panels, look for reliability, efficiency and durability. Higher-efficiency solar panels are more expensive but generate more electricity and require less space. Depending on where you live, the panels might need to be tough enough to withstand harsh weather conditions like hail, wind and snow.

      Solar panels last 25 to 30 years.

      Monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels are the most common types of solar panels for residential and commercial installations. There are pros and cons to each — compare monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panels for more information.

      5. Pay attention to the warranty and fine print

      Once you're satisfied with the proposal and financing method, it's time to sign a contract. This contract should detail the installation process, system specifications, warranty information and other terms.

      Some unhappy solar customers told us they felt trapped in contracts or felt they were penalized unfairly for changes or breaches in the contract. Some had issues with early termination fees. Reading the contract carefully and asking questions about anything you’re not sure you understand helps reduce the likelihood of this happening to you.

      Understanding solar warranties

      Look for solar panel and inverter manufacturers and installers that stand by their service and products. The best local solar energy installers always offer warranties and service guarantees. They're also typically readily available for maintenance, system checks or addressing any concerns you might have after your system is installed.

      Panels typically come with a manufacturer's warranty that covers the panel's performance and materials. A good warranty should cover at least 25 years for panels. In some states, you need at least that to qualify for certain renewable energy incentives.

      Solar inverters are also a common source of maintenance issues, so check your warranty for the inverter you choose. A typical warranty for a solar inverter lasts between 10 and 25 years.

      Types of solar equipment

      It's not just about picking the best solar panels. A solar array is made up of many different components. Think about how your whole system will work together.

      You most likely need several other pieces of hardware, including wiring that connects the panels to the inverter and the wiring that connects the inverter to your home's electrical system. You may also choose to install a battery to store electricity for use at night or during power outages.

      • Inverters turn sunlight into usable energy. The solar inverter is what converts the direct current (DC) electricity produced by the solar panels into alternating current (AC) electricity that can be used to power your home or business.
      • Solar batteries store that sunny day for a rainy one. If you want to store the energy produced by your solar panels for use later, you need to install solar batteries. This is especially useful if you live in an area with frequent power outages or if you want to use solar energy when the sun is not shining. If you get a battery, you'll also need a charge controller. Solar generators are another option to get a sustainable source of backup electricity.
      • Mounting and tracking systems maximize sun exposure. This is what attaches the solar panels to your roof or another location on your property. The mounting system needs to be sturdy and weather-resistant.
      • Monitoring lets you keep track of your system through an app. Monitoring apps provide real-time data on the performance of your solar panels. You get an alert if there's a drop in performance. Some advanced monitoring systems let your solar company access performance data remotely, which facilitates quick repairs.

      » COMPARE: Best solar monitoring systems

      What to know about solar installations

      "The sign-up part was easy and straightforward," Anthony in Texas said. "The hard part was the installation part. That took longer than expected. They were still running into some of those supply chain issues last year, which a lot of people were."

      We've talked to other solar customers with similar stories. It's important to understand the installation process to know what you should expect.

      1. Initial consultation: When you start contacting solar installers for quotes, some may show you satellite images of your home at different times of the day. They use these pictures to demonstrate which sides of your home get the most sunlight. For example, if the shorter side of your roof happens to be the side that gets the most sun, you may require a larger solar array.
      2. Site assessment: The installer often conducts a physical or remote (using satellite imagery) assessment of your property. They evaluate your roof's orientation, size, shading and condition. These assessments provide an overview of your property's overall solar potential.
      3. Design and permitting: The installer then designs a solar system for your property and provides a detailed proposal based on the site assessment and your energy needs. This proposal should include the system size (in kilowatts), estimated energy production, cost, potential savings and return on investment.
      4. Panel installation: After you secure your permits, your solar company begins the installation process. Local installers often have in-depth knowledge of local building codes and practices that help ensure smooth installation. This process typically takes a few days but can vary based on the system's size and complexity.
      5. Final inspection: Once the system is installed, it needs to be inspected by local authorities and the utility company (if grid-tied) to ensure it meets all regulations. After inspections, the system can be commissioned, and you can start generating solar power.

      » LEARN MORE: Solar panel installation guide


      How much can I save going solar?

      Solar panels save most people money over time. On average, the estimated net savings after going solar range from $10,000 to $25,000 over 25 years.

      » EXPLORE: Where solar savings go the furthest

      How many solar panels do I need to power my house?

      The average American home ends up needing 15 to 30 panels to fully power their household. How many solar panels you need depends on your energy usage, roof and solar panels' efficiency. To figure out your energy usage, check your utility bill for "kWh used." To get your monthly average, look at bills for the past year, add up the stated kWh used and divide by 12.

      What is the output of one solar panel?

      In general, the output of a residential solar panel is anywhere from 100 watts to 500 watts, depending on the capacity of the equipment and its operating conditions. Most panels on homes are rated to output between 250 watts and 450 watts, meaning they produce 250 to 450 watt-hours of electricity for each hour they are exposed to direct sunlight.

      How long do solar panels last?

      Quality solar panels are designed to last 25 to 30 years, but the efficiency of solar panels decreases a bit each year.

      Why is solar so popular right now?

      The solar industry is thriving. There's more competition, technology is improving and panels are cheaper than ever. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the costs to install solar have gone down more than 40% over the last decade.

      Rising electricity rates and the 30% federal solar investment tax credit have also led to more people choosing to go solar.

      » MORE: What is an off-grid solar system?

      Do solar panels work on cloudy days?

      Solar panels still work on cloudy days, but the electricity generation drops to about 10% to 25% compared to sunny weather. Direct sunlight definitely boosts energy output.

      » MORE: What are peak sun hours?

      Will hail damage my solar panels?

      Large hail can damage solar panels. Hail damage mostly happens in the Midwest and Great Plains. Your homeowners insurance might cover the cost of any needed repairs.

      Is my house a good candidate for solar panels?

      Not every household benefits from solar panels in the same way. For best results, you need plenty of sunlight and a strong roof that faces the right direction, like Dariusz in Connecticut.

      Dariusz, whose house gets sunlight from the east in the morning and the west in the afternoon, said: “I've been thinking about doing solar for a while and with the current energy prices, it was a no-brainer especially since my home has a good location.”

      What solar options are available for small businesses?

      Businesses, local governments and nonprofits of all sizes can benefit from commercial solar panel installation. Solar carports, ground-mounted systems and solar thermal systems are also options. The biggest difference between commercial and residential solar panels comes down to scale, financing options and tax incentives.

      How often do solar panels need to be cleaned?

      Hosing down solar panels once or twice a year should keep performance high. Otherwise, dirt, debris and other substances accumulate on panels over time, reducing their effectiveness. You can clean your panels yourself or hire a professional to do it. Hiring someone to clean your panels typically costs around $150 to $300 per visit.

      » GUIDE: Solar panel maintenance


      To choose our top picks for solar energy companies, we started with 24 popular providers (including those not yet featured on our site). Our picks may be Authorized Partners who compensate us — this does not affect our recommendations or evaluations but may impact the order in which companies appear. We compared several key features, including:

      • Financing options: All our top picks provide at least one alternative to outright purchase — this may include options for solar loans, solar leases or solar PPAs.
      • Range of services: We prioritized companies that offer a broad range of services, including permitting and incentives help, energy auditing, usage monitoring, cleaning and maintenance.
      • Availability: Although many solar companies are regionally focused, we made sure to include options in our top picks that service a broader area..

      Guide sources
      ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
      1. U.S. Department of Energy, " Benefits of Residential Solar Electricity ." Accessed September 6, 2023.
      2. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, " Homeowner's Guide to the Federal Tax Credit for Solar Photovoltaics ." Accessed September 6, 2023.
      3. Solar Energy Industries Association, " Solar Industry Research Data ." Accessed September 6, 2023.
      4. Center for Sustainable Energy, " Solar Energy Adoption: Information for Homeowners and Small Businesses ." Accessed September 6, 2023.
      5. EcoWatch, " Are Solar Panels Worth It for Your Home? (2023 Buyer's Guide) ." Accessed September 6, 2023.

      Not sure how to choose?

      Get buying tips about Solar Energy Companies delivered to your inbox.

        By entering your email, you agree to sign up for consumer news, tips and giveaways from ConsumerAffairs. Unsubscribe at any time.

        Thanks for subscribing.

        You have successfully subscribed to our newsletter! Enjoy reading our tips and recommendations.

        Read solar company reviews

        Want your company to be on this guide?

        Yes, continue