Solar power installation advice
Seeking recommendations for excellent solar power companies, and any advice for which equipment options to go for, or any other recommendations. Got quotes from energy sage but totally overwhelmed by the choices, and trying to get into contract before the April deadline to get the beneficial rates under current CA law before the change.
Is there anything you learned during solar install process that you wish you knew in advance? Things that worked out well, or things you would've done differently? Or just worked with a great company that had good prices? I would love to learn from your experience! Thank you so much!!
Feb 3, 2023
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Went through this last October. Had quotes from Sunrun, SunPower, and a third smaller installer I don't remember. SunPower was the best price and went into the most detail for what we would need in a system. Installation was very efficient and well done, and we're very happy with the final result. SunRun had horrible aggressive marketing tactics (literally would call every hour), and that really put me off. They were also over-priced.
What I would have done differently is increased the system more than they recommended, as we only had just moved in and didn't have a full year of power statements, and so while we're not undersized, there's not a lot of room for further electrification of the house.
We used Albion Solar, and couldn't have been more pleased with them. I would go with them again in a heartbeat.
We also used energy sage and went with what seemed like a reliable company. They said we did not need a new roof and we were glad to hear it...fast forward three years and there was a very, very heavy couple of days of rain and water poured into our living room from where the solar installation is! Long story short, our roof was shot AND they had not installed the proper flashing and stanchions so water had been leaking a little into the roof crawlspace and then, with the big rain into the house!!! It took months to resolve. In the end, they came out and took off the solar and put it back on while we got a new roof from a company we trusted. The ceiling had some damage which ended up not costing much to fix. What a hassle! I am glad to have solar but make sure your roof is in good shape and that the installation is done properly to avoid leaks.
Stay away from Sunrun. I had a terrible experience with their salesperson trying to sell me their “leasing” option, something I had no interest in. They have oddly good reviews on google which is strange. I’m looking forward to hearing about positive reviews of other solar power companies.
Such a great question. We've had a great experience going solar, thanks to a ton of research and lots of advice. Here are some things to look out for: (1) You should look into the company and make sure they are profitable. You don't want to contract with them and then have them go out of business a year or 2 later - it'll be a lot harder to get your warranty honored. I asked for financial information and did some background research, (2) They should be willing to answer all of your questions in writing. If you email them questions and they don't respond or call you back, that's a red flag, (3) The contract they send you should give you notice of your right to cancel within 3 days of signing. That's the law in CA, and if they don't give you notice of your right to cancel, it raises red flags of what else they are hiding, (4) You should ask them what the installation timeline looks like. Some will sign the contract right away and then make you wait months to get the panels installed, (5) Most people don't need a battery. They are super pricey and will only really help you during a blackout, which is helpful if you have a medical device that needs to be powered overnight (like a CPAP machine), (6) Most people will use more electricity once they get solar, because they leave the lights on more, run the a/c more, etc. The solar company should add about 10-15% of additional power behind what you use pre-solar. It is far more expensive to add additional panels later, rather than as part of the initial contract, (7) If your roof is old(er) and will be replaced soon, you should should take care of that first. A good solar company will be able to inspect your roof for you, for free, and give you an objective recommendation. Same with your main breaker panel - they should tell you if you need to make any upgrades, (8) You should ask what happens if the system doesn't produce as much power as you're promised in your contract. A good solar company will make up the difference by literally cutting you a check for the excess power, (9) You should ask who does the installation - their own employees or do they subcontract it out? which is a red flag (10) And perhaps most importantly, you should do this as soon as you can. As you might know, NEM 3.0 has been approved, which makes it significantly less appealing to go solar. You should get your contract signed and application submitted to PG&E asap so that you can get grandfathered into NEM 2.0, which has much better terms. A good solar company will explain this to you and should make a commitment in writing that they will take the steps required to get you NEM 2.0.
Since you asked about companies with good prices, we ended up going with West Coast Solar. They checked all the boxes, including the ones I mentioned above. The salesperson was referred to by us and I've passed along his name to many happy neighbors. The price is also right, especially for what you get in return, which are high quality panels, quick turnaround time, and great customer support. If you want to reach out, his email is mikek [at] westcoastsolar.com. If you do end up reaching out to him please just let him know that he was recommended to you by me. I could go on and on about this for hours, so reach out to me if you have other questions or want to chat.
Oh my yes do I have advice to give. Just about two years ago I was in the same place as you with all those bids from EnergySage. I chose a company (NRG) based on positive reviews and a solid quote. Well over a year after signing contract with them without a completed system, I have so much regret. They are the worst in every possible way. They subcontracted the whole operation out. Which would be fine if they somehow kept tabs on what was happening. They had no clue. Communication has and continues to be awful. One of their subcontractors caused damage and they made me fight tooth and nail, gaslighting me for months, until they finally acquiesced and at least promise to take the damages off my final bill. Which hasn't happened yet because they can't seem to finish the job. If I had to do it again, I'd never go with a national or large solar outfit. I'd find a local contractor who does all the work themselves. You won't find a local contractor on EnergySage. Looking here on Berkeley Parents is a good idea.
We went with A-1 Solar and were extremely happy with them. They were efficient, competitively priced, and kept us informed throughout.