Save On Energy With These Top 5 Solar Companies

Explore PPAs, leases, financing, and purchasing options to cut utility costs.

Solar panels and solar contracts have an average lifespan of 20 years. To help you make the smartest, long-term decision, we’ve compiled top solar power companies and highlighted their respective benefits. Below, you can compare unique cost savings, equipment monitoring, tax breaks, and contracts that require little to no money down. Whichever company you choose, you’ll experience greater energy savings and the perks of environmentally-friendly living.

Top 5 Solar Companies

Sunrun

Sunrun has been helping homeowners save on energy bills since 2007. Choose from flexible payment options that allow you to put as little as zero down.

  • Pros
  • Solar PPAs
  • Financing
  • Leasing
  • Purchase Options
  • Little as $0 Down
  • 20 Percent Savings
  • Cons
  • Only available in 15 states
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Vivint Solar

Vivint made its debut as a home security and home automation company in 1999.

  • Pros
  • Solar PPAs
  • Leasing
  • Financing
  • Home Security
  • Home Automation
  • 10-30 Percent Savings
  • Cons
  • Only available in 12 states
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NRG Home Solar

NRG Home Solar doesn’t have PPAs, but it does offer energy cost savings with little to no upfront costs. Plus, the company makes solar power easy—designing, installing, and monitoring your solar unit without interrupting your daily routine.

  • Pros
  • Design
  • Engineering
  • Permitting
  • Monitoring
  • Leasing
  • Cons
  • Only available in 17 states
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XOOM Solar

XOOM Solar lets you lease, finance, sign up for a solar PPA, or purchase your solar equipment. Each option has unique benefits like 30 percent tax credits, little to no money down, and monitoring.

  • Pros
  • Solar PPAs
  • Leasing
  • Purchase Options
  • Financing
  • Cons
  • Only available in 12 states
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SunPower

For over 30 years, SunPower has been a trusted provider of innovative solar products to businesses and homeowners around the globe. Its patented solar panels produce 55 percent more energy than competitors, making SunPower one of the better solar companies out there.

  • Pros
  • 55 Percent More Energy Output
  • App lets you see real-time energy data of your system
  • Lease
  • Finance
  • Purchase Options
  • Cons
  • No PPAs
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How Much Does Solar Cost?

Solar power companies are hesitant to provide off-site quotes because every household is different. However, you can use this information to help give you an idea of how much solar panels might cost.

The Factors

The time of year, sun exposure, amount of solar panels needed, and excess energy usage all impact the cost of installing solar panels. So do the prices of utilities and whether you’re installing on-the-grid or on a battery-operated system.

Average usage

American households consume one kilowatt of electricity per hour on average, which costs about $0.10 apiece. Per month, that amounts to an average $73 in electricity (based on roughly 730 hours that are in every month). Considering the average price of installing solar panels is between $7–$9 per watt, a 5 kilowatt system could anywhere from $25,000–$35,000.

Now, this is just an average. Utility prices ebb and flow and so does energy usage. However, you can talk to your solar company about your specific needs to get an accurate quote and determine if solar is right for you.

What Solar Adds to Your Home's Resale Value

Solar panels don’t only save you on utility bills, they add $5,000 per kilowatt to the resale value of your home. So, if you own a $35,000 solar system (five to eight kilowatts), you can increase your home equity by about $20,000. The tax credits at this level amount to nearly $21,000; so you’d be getting about 97 percent of your investment back if you sell your home—and living more efficiently in the meantime.

Are You a Good Candidate for Solar Energy?

When you consult with a solar company, they’ll give you an honest assessment. If your home isn’t ideal for solar, they’ll tell you—and vice versa. To prepare for your consultation, here are some of the criteria companies look at to see if your house will efficiently run on solar—and if the solar panels will save you money.

Roof Size

Determining the size of your solar unit is first and foremost. If you use a lot of energy, you need more roof space to accommodate. Normally, you need 10 Watts per square foot, which represents a panel conversion efficiency of about 12 percent (this is typical). This means that for every kilowatt of energy you use, you need about 100 sq. ft. of solar panels.

Placement of Panels

Your solar panels need to be installed on eastern, southern, or western facing roofs (or a combination of two). Northern facing roofs don’t get sun and aren’t suitable for solar. This only becomes a problem if you have trees obstructing sun or a need for a larger unit.

Sun Exposure

How many hours of sunlight you get per day? Places like Seattle, Chicago, and Pittsburgh get three to four hours, whereas Colorado, California, and Arizona get upwards of seven. Locations with less sun need bigger systems to harness more energy.

Energy Needs

Solar companies calculate a quote by dividing your average daily electrical use by the power you get from the sun (solar irradiance), and multiplying that by 71 percent. The 71 percent accounts for the inherent inefficiencies in solar power systems and increases accuracy in the quoting process. It’s here where you learn if your solar panels can save you money on electricity.

Cost vs Incentives

Whether you lease, get a PPA, buy, or finance, there are costs involved. For all options, you want to ensure your solar unit will save you money. Compare rebates and tax credits—as well as selling energy back to utility companies—to how much your solar panels will cost you. If it’s a positive number, solar power is a great, money-saving choice for you.

What to Look for in Solar Companies

Solar companies all have their own incentives. Make sure your goals align with your solar company’s pricing by keeping these things in mind:

PPAs/Leases

If you’re trying to avoid a huge down payment, choose a solar company that has Power Purchase Agreements or leases. You won’t own the equipment, but you won’t have to pay for it either. Instead, you’ll pay for the amount of energy the installation provides (PPAs), rental fees (Lease), and any additional grid power you need.

Tax Credits

If you purchase your solar equipment outright, you can get big tax breaks—up to 30 percent. You may also receive local utility credits and rebates, making solar a great return on your investment.

Warranties

Solar panels are built to last. However, you’ll want to be covered in case installation damages your roof or the panels fail. The solar companies you find on this website all offer exemplary warranties, but be wary of this when researching on your own.

Monitoring

When you sign up for a PPA or lease, you usually receive monitoring services. If your solar panels aren’t functioning at optimal efficiency, the solar company will send a technician to fix the problem. Homeowners who buy or finance have to do this on their own and can miss technical issues.

Flexibility

Some companies offer PPAs, leases, financing, and purchasing options. If you’re not sure where to start, go with a company that provides all four payments options so you can pick the best one for you.

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Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) vs. Leases

Leases and PPAs have a lot in common: monthly payments, monitoring, equipment that’s owned by the solar power company, and no or little upfront costs. However, there are a few key differences:

PPAs

PPAs, also known as Power Purchase Agreements, are an incredibly affordable way to install solar panels. You don’t pay for equipment—just the power generated by your solar panels. In most cases, solar companies won’t charge anything upfront for your solar installation.

Leases

Leases are essentially equipment rentals. You don’t own your solar panels, but you don’t pay for them either. At the time of installation, all you’re responsible for paying is the cost of renting the equipment. This is a fixed monthly rate. Much like PPAs, you don’t have to pay much or anything upfront.

How Solar Works

There are generally four components in every photovoltaic solar panel system:

1

The photovoltaic cells in solar panels capture the sun’s energy and convert it to electricity.

2

This protects batteries from being overloaded by regulating the flow of electricity.

3

Batteries store electricity for use at night and when it’s cloudy. In places without grid power, they are the only backup for electricity.

4

This equipment converts energy stored in a battery to voltage needed to run standard electrical equipment.

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