Best Solar Companies in California

engineer and businessman next to solar panels

With rising global temperatures and climate concerns firmly on government agendas, the need to switch to renewable energy couldn’t be greater. While solar energy technologies are still in their infancy, the number of providers is on the rise, making them more accessible and affordable for the average consumer. 

However, solar energy is a big investment in terms of cost and installation. Therefore, you want to select the best company that can meet your needs and your budget. With so many solar companies to choose from—California has around 2,000—it’s easy to get lost in the numbers. To help you out, we’ve provided a guide below to explain what solar energy is and what you should look for in a solar company. We’ll then finish off with a list of our top recommendations.

What Is Solar Energy?

Solar energy is essentially sunlight that is converted into usable energy for the planet. In terms of how it works, energy particles from the sun (known as photons) are transformed via technologies like solar panels to provide light, heat, and power. 

These technologies convert solar energy using photovoltaic panels (PV) or mirrors that concentrate solar radiation. The energy produced by these technologies can be readily used or stored for later use.

While still nascent, solar energy is becoming more widespread, particularly with the push to tackle climate change. Compared with other green energies, solar is currently one of the most affordable and fastest-growing renewable power sources.

Why Go Solar?

Climate change and the urgent need for environmental protection are among the most significant reasons to go solar. Not only does solar energy avoid the damage of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, but it also reduces our dependence on fossil fuels. With global temperatures rising, switching to renewable, clean sources of energy can be a wise decision.

Another reason to switch to solar energy is the rising costs of electricity. According to estimates, electricity is set to increase in the US by 1.3% between 2021 and 2022. Therefore, switching to solar (especially if you live in a sunny state like California) can save you money in the long run. 

What To Look For in a Solar Energy Company

There are approximately 20,000 solar panel installation businesses in the US. With so much competition emerging, it’s worth knowing what to look for when choosing the right company. Below are a few things to watch out for before signing up.

Products and Services

Many solar companies vary in terms of their products and services. However, below are a few standard services that solar companies provide.

Solar Panels

As mentioned, panels are the primary offering of most solar companies. Solar panels work by capturing the sun’s rays and creating heat and electricity, and there are three main types: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin film.

Monocrystalline panels are the most common and efficient; they are also the most expensive. These panels are constructed with single-crystal silicon, which allows more electrons to flow freely through the cells, which is why these types are more efficient and more expensive. On the other hand, polycrystalline panels are made with melted silicon crystals, which are less slightly less effective than monocrystalline.

Thin film panels are the cheapest and least efficient of all solar panels. Unlike mono and polycrystalline, these panels are made with a thin film of semiconductor materials such as amorphous silicon, which is deposited onto plastic, metal, or glass. While it’s less efficient, thin film can be as much as 20 times thinner, making it light and portable.  

Batteries

Solar batteries store excess energy that is produced by solar panels. While most homes won’t need batteries on a regular basis, they are useful during times when there is less sun. For example, if you’re using a portable solar panel off-grid, you’ll want to have a battery for nighttime and on days when it’s cloudy or rainy. Batteries are also useful during emergencies such as blackouts.

The main types of solar batteries are lead-acid or lithium-ion, although newer types are coming onto the market.

Inverters

Inverters play an essential role in how solar energy is converted into usable energy. A solar panel produces what is known as direct current (DC) electricity; however, the electrical grid that powers our modern appliances uses alternating current (AC) electricity. What an inverter does is turn DC electricity into AC so that it can be readily used. 

Like solar panels, inverters come in different types. The most common are string inverters, which consist of strings connected to numerous panels that transfer the electricity for conversion. However, a newer type known as microinverters are installed into each panel and don’t require attachments to a string inverter.

Installation

Another thing to consider when looking for a solar company is installation. For example, do they provide an initial consultation? Do they offer installation services? If so, will it be done in-house or by a third-party contractor? To assess your needs, you’ll need to consider how long installation will take, the cost, and whether it is insured.

Diversity

Depending on your needs, you may also want to vet the company for its diversity of services. For example, while some companies focus solely on solar panels, others offer a range of services like panel installation, energy efficiency upgrades, electric vehicle (EV) charger installations, or other solutions like wind technology.

Warranty

Due to the cost and scale of solar energy, warranties matter a great deal. The companies on our list offer warranties that hover around 20 to 25 years, but many also have product-specific warranties that range from 5 to 10 years. Before you decide, check to see what types of warranty they have on the products you’re interested in.

Financing

Solar panel installation can be expensive, which is why it’s worth reviewing the company’s financing options that include loans, leases, or cash purchases. Depending on your budget, you’ll need to assess how much money you can spare and how much you can afford to pay back each month. While each company differs, the general payback range is between 6 and 12 years.

To determine your best options, it’s worth calculating the system’s total cost, how much energy you use, the cost of electricity in your area, and how much energy your system will produce. It’s also a good idea to collect bids from potential companies to weigh your options. 

If solar installation costs are putting you off, bear in mind that investment into this type of energy will save you money long term due to the reduced energy costs. There are also state-wide solar incentives that can reduce any upfront costs.

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Now that we’ve reviewed what features to look for when choosing a solar company, let’s review our top seven recommendations for the best solar companies in California. 

7 Best Solar Companiessolar panels on a shoreline

1. Best Overall: SunPower

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Why We Like It: As one of the longest-standing solar companies on this list, SunPower manufactures its own panels and is known for providing top-notch products and installations, it also offers a generous all-in-one warranty.

Editor’s Rating: 5 of 5

Quick Facts:

  • Founded: 1985
  • Service Area: San Jose, California
  • Products and Services: Solar panels, backup batteries, electric vehicle (EV) chargers
  • Warranty: All-in-one 25-year warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan, solar lease/PPA

Founded over 35 years ago, SunPower has consistently ranked as one of the top national solar companies in terms of quality installations and products. The company offers all-in-one solar systems for residential and commercial properties and is supported by a strong reputation in customer service. Its 25-year all-in-one warranty is also one of the best in the business.

SunPower’s solar panels are powered with Maxeon® cell technology, and their A-Series offers the world’s first 400-watt solar panels, which require less space than traditional models. 

While its panels can be expensive upfront, they offer competitive financing and monthly subscription plans. The company doesn’t manufacture batteries; however, customers can pair their systems with batteries from other companies like Sonnen and Tesla. 

Pros:

  • Manufactures its own solar panels
  • Top-ranked for several years
  • Has a diverse portfolio that serves residential, commercial, and solar storage
  • Provides 25-year warranty

Cons:

  • Doesn’t make or offer batteries with their solar energy systems 

2. Most Efficient Delivery: GoGreen Solar

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Why We Like It: While it doesn’t offer installation services, GoGreen Solar is known for high-quality customer service and fast and efficient delivery times. 

Editor’s Rating: 5 of 5

Quick Facts:

  • Founded: 2003
  • Service Area: Anaheim, California
  • Products and Services: Solar panels, backup batteries 
  • Warranty: Product-specific warranties 
  • Financing Options: Solar loan 

GoGreen Solar is part of GigaWatt, Inc. and provides solar panels, backup batteries, and off-grid solar kits. Known for its responsive customer service and efficient planning, GoGreen Solar is one of the best companies for customized solar panel technology.

Unlike many other companies on our list, GoGreen doesn’t offer installation services. However, when you request a quote, they provide an initial proposal that shows the planned roof layout along with an energy forecast. Those less engineer-inclined are also provided with custom installation guides and ongoing technical support. 

In terms of financing, GoGreen offers solar loans; they also provide referrals for other types of financing.

Pros:

  • Fast delivery
  • Provides a money-back guarantee
  • Responsive customer service
  • Customers receive an initial consultation and proposal

Cons:

  • No installation services

3. Most Accessible Service: Greenlife Solar

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Why We Like It: It may be the newest and most unique on our list, but Greenlife Solar deserves recognition because it finds solar companies on behalf of the customer. 

Editor’s Rating: 4.5 of 5

Quick Facts:

  • Founded: 2021
  • Service Area: California
  • Products and Services: Solar panels, backup batteries (dependent on company)
  • Warranty: Variable (dependent on company)
  • Financing Options: Variable (dependent on company)

As the only comparison finder on this list, Greenlife Solar is unique because it does the work for you. Rather than performing endless searches and navigating the complexities of solar websites, Greenlife pairs you up with a list of options instead. The company’s website is also full of information and FAQs about solar installation, which is ideal for consumers who aren’t sure whether it’s a good fit for them.

With thousands of solar companies to choose from in California alone, Greenlife takes the legwork out of research and sends you free quotes for pre-screened solar companies in your area. 

While it means dealing with a third party, this service is suited to people who are new to solar technology and don’t have time to research. The only downside is that some quality solar companies may get left out during the pre-screening process.

Pros:

  • Takes the legwork out of researching a solar company
  • Provides flexibility and multiple options
  • Offers free quotes

Cons:

  • Customers are reliant on a third-party
  • Pre-screening means quality companies can be left out

4. Most Comprehensive: NRG Clean Power

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Why We Like It: With competitive rates, flexible financing, and lifetime warranties, this company comes out on top in terms of its comprehensive and affordable approach to clean energy.

Editor’s Rating: 4.5 of 5

Quick Facts:

  • Founded: 1992
  • Service Area: Los Angeles, California
  • Products and Services: Solar panels, backup batteries, electric vehicle chargers, roofing, and energy efficiency upgrades
  • Warranty: Lifetime labor warranty, product-specific warranties for photovoltaic panels and inverters
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan

As one of California’s leading solar energy providers, NRG Clean Power is known for offering highly competitive rates and flexible financing options. With over 30 years of experience, CleanPower is a total home performance company with a diverse service portfolio that includes efficiency upgrades, EV chargers, and backup batteries.

CleanPower offers generous lifetime warranties on labor, and they are Diamond Certified, which exemplifies their reputation for excellent customer service. 

One downside is they don’t offer solar leases, which can exclude homeowners who want to use solar energy without purchasing a system of their own. Also, while the sales process is top-notch, follow-up tech support can be hit or miss.

Pros:

  • Offers lifetime warranty on labor
  • Flexible financing
  • Excellent customer service

Cons:

  • Doesn’t offer solar leases
  • Tech support isn’t always reliable

5. Best Customer Service: Sunlux

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Why We Like It: With one of the highest ratings for customer service, Sunlux is known for its efficiency and expert managers and representatives. They also offer a diverse range of services.

Editor’s Rating: 4 of 5

Quick Facts:

  • Founded: 2015
  • Service Area: Placentia, California
  • Products and Services: Solar panels, backup batteries, EV chargers, roof inspections
  • Warranty: 25-year equipment warranty, 25-year labor warranty, 25-year production guarantee
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan, solar lease/PPA

Delivering solar solutions in California and Texas, Sunlux offers a range of services and equipment options, including batteries, electric vehicle (EV) chargers, and roof inspections. Known for their professionalism and exceptional customer service, Sunlux’s team of experts goes the extra mile by handling installation paperwork and providing follow-up care.

Sunlux also offers flexible financing, and their team is well versed in the solar incentives and rebates for the state. They also provide a generous 25-year warranty on equipment, labor, and production. Although prep time can take a while, they make it up with their top-notch service.

Pros:

  • Exceptional customer service
  • Variety of equipment options
  • 25-year warranty

Cons:

  • Prep time can take a while
  • Expensive if paying in full

6. Sleekest Design: Tesla

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Why We Like It: While they don’t offer solar installation services, Tesla gets top marks for its sleek solar panel designs, which are three times stronger than traditional roofing tiles. 

Editor’s Rating: 4 of 5

Quick Facts:

  • Founded: 2003
  • Service Area: Palo Alto, California
  • Products and Services: Solar panels, backup batteries, EV chargers, solar roofs
  • Warranty: 25-year panel performance warranty, 10-year comprehensive warranty
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan

Known for its high-tech electric vehicles, Tesla is also making a name for itself as a top solar energy provider. With sleek, modern designs on its solar panels, Tesla’s cutting-edge technology rivals some of the best in the industry. 

Three times stronger than standard roofing tiles, Tesla’s solar panels are made to withstand adverse weather. They also provide an app that allows you to monitor your service from your cell phone.

However, prices for Tesla’s products can be expensive upfront, so it’s something to bear in mind beforehand. Another downside is that Tesla’s popularity can mean long wait times for customer service. Those requiring more responsive customer support may want to try Sunlux instead.

Pros:

  • Sleek and cutting-edge design 
  • Durable materials
  • Offers a mobile app to monitor power usage

Cons:

  • Wait times for customer service can be long 
  • Expensive upfront costs

7. Best Financing Options: Sunrun

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Why We Like It: Sunrun offers one of the industry’s most flexible, affordable financing options. They also provide free quotes and consultations. 

Editor’s Rating: 3.5 of 5

Quick Facts:

  • Founded: 2007
  • Service Area: California
  • Products and Services: Solar panels, backup batteries, EV chargers
  • Warranty: Worry-free warranty for repairs, 10-year all-inclusive warranty, and product-specific warranties
  • Financing Options: Cash purchase, solar loan, solar lease/power purchase agreement (PPA)

Operating since 2007, Sunrun has a reputation for providing personalized home solar energy design. While upfront costs can be high, Sunrun provides affordable leasing options and monthly payment plans with zero money down.

Sunrun also offers a wide range of products and accessories, including solar panels, batteries, and electric vehicle (EV) chargers. They also offer free consultations and a “worry-free” warranty that covers equipment repairs and replacement, as well as parts and labor. 

Pros:

  • Flexible payment options
  • Fast installation
  • Offers rate hike protection

Cons:

    • Expensive upfront costs
  • Customer service could be better

Best Solar Companies FAQs

How Do I Know if My House Can Host Solar Panels?

One of the first things you can do is approach a solar company and ask for an assessment and a quote. However, it’s also worth evaluating your home first by checking your energy efficiency, investigating solar options in your area, and evaluating the amount of solar energy you could generate.

If you require more assistance, you can also use an online tool from Google called Project Sunroof. A simple input of your address into the search bar reveals approximately how much direct sunlight your home receives each year. It also tells you how many square feet are available for solar panel tiles.

How Much Does Solar Installation Cost?

Solar energy has come down in price over the years and is becoming affordable for more people. While prices range depending on the type and number of panels, the average cost is between $15,000 and $25,000 for a 10kw solar energy system with battery storage. It’s worth remembering that most companies offer a range of financing options, too.

Where Are the Best Solar Panels Manufactured?

The best solar panels are currently manufactured in East Asia, particularly South Korea and China. However, other manufacturing companies are emerging in the US (e.g. SunPower and LG Solar) and Canada (Canadian Solar). 

Final Thoughts

Solar technology is quickly becoming one of the most affordable and efficient sources of clean energy. Many people are choosing to switch to solar in the face of rising energy prices and the environmental impact of climate change. California is leading the way in this arena with over 2,000 companies that offer the latest in solar panels and solar installation.

However, due to its newness, many consumers are unfamiliar with solar and how to find the best company. We hope our guide above helps explain how this technology works and what to look for when searching for a reputable company. 

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