Top 5 Best Solar Companies in California (2022 Reviews)

In this guide to the best solar companies in California, you’ll learn:

  • Who our top 5 picks are for solar providers in California
  • How we evaluated California’s solar companies
  • What Californians should look for when choosing a solar company
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California’s Top 5 Solar Energy Companies Reviewed

California is perhaps the biggest state when it comes  leading the charge solar energy for the United States, which is why we thought that it was important the EcoWatch reviews team cover our top picks for solar companies in the Golden State.

Below we cover the pros and cons of solar providers in California as well as a number of key details (like other solar services, batteries offered, etc).

Our scope for this review is for a professionally installed residential solar system around 9 kilowatts (kW) in size. This size is typical for an average U.S. residential solar system.

Below is our quick list of EcoWatch approved installers.

For more detailed reviews of each company, click the “Why We Chose…” box down below.

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SunPower

Best National Provider

Nationwide Service

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Read full review now

Pros

  • Most efficient panels on the market
  • National coverage
  • Cradle to Cradle sustainability certification
  • Great warranty coverage

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Customer service varies by local dealer
Badge icon

ADT Solar

Best Warranty Coverage

Regional Service

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

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Pros

  • Industry-leading warranty coverage
  • Expansive service area

Cons

  • Some reported communication issues
  • No leases or PPAs
Badge icon

NRG Clean Power

Great Warranty Coverage

Regional Service

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Industry-leading warranty
  • Outstanding customer service
  • Representatives are experts on local policies

Cons

  • No leases or PPAs
  • Can be slightly expensive
Badge icon

Stellar Solar

Outstanding Local Installer

Local Service

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Educational, no-pressure sales approach
  • Offers products from leading manufacturers
  • Representatives are experts on local policies

Cons

  • Slightly limited service offerings

How To Save Money When Hiring a Solar Company In California

The average cost per watt of solar is slightly higher in California, sitting around $2.73 compared to the national average of $2.66. But because solar goes further in the Golden State, it offers more value in California compared to the majority of states.

That’s mostly thanks to the availability of sunshine, allowing a smaller system to work more efficiently. As such, the average California homeowner can power their home with a relatively small 6 kW system, compared to the national average 9 kW system.

Location Pre-Incentive Cost for Average Solar System
California $16,380
U.S. Average $23,940

The typical solar panel system costs a California homeowner $16,380, while the average U.S. homeowner pays $23,940. These figures are also before applying any solar incentives and assuming top-quality brands.

In California, there are several ways you can save money on going solar:

  • Take advantage of solar incentives and rebates
  • Compare types of solar equipment
  • Shop solar panel companies
  • Pay in cash if possible

We’ll discuss how you can save money when buying solar panels in California below. But first, here are our preferred picks:

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Take Advantage of Solar Incentives and Rebates

There are a number of solar incentives in California — including tax credits, exemptions and rebate opportunities — that make installing solar photovoltaic (PV) systems more affordable for residents while helping the state produce more clean energy. Below is an overview of those incentives:

California Solar Incentive Incentive Overview
Federal Solar Tax Credit (ITC) The federal solar investment tax credit, or ITC, allows homeowners to claim 30% of their system costs as a credit against the federal taxes they owe. As it stands, the credit is set to reduce to 26% in 2033 and 22% in 2034 and will be eliminated for residential systems in 2035.1
Net Metering Net Metering allows customers to feed excess energy generated by their solar panels back to the local power grid. In exchange, customers receive credits from their utility companies that can be applied to future energy bills. California has historically offered one of the nation’s best net metering programs, compensating its solar customers at full retail rate. However, the program is undergoing changes and is expected to decrease soon.
Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) The SGIP as described by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) offers rebates for installing energy storage systems at both residential and non-residential facilities.2
SGIP Equity Resiliency Program Offered as an additional incentive within the SGIP program, California provides additional rebates of either $850 or $1,000 per kWh of battery storage. This program works primarily with low-income households and families living in areas prone to wildfires or power outages.3
Single-Family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) Program The California Solar Initiative (CSI) launched its SASH program (aka DAC-SASH) to provide fixed, up-front incentives on qualifying affordable single-family housing.4
Active Solar Energy System Property Tax Exclusion This incentive ensures the addition of a solar panel installation doesn’t raise homeowners’ property taxes.5
Local Solar Incentives Some local utility companies and municipalities offer their own solar incentive programs. For example, The Rancho Mirage Energy Authority offers a $500 rebate to its residential customers who install or expand a home solar system, and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District offers up to $2,500 for solar users with battery storage systems.

Learn more in our California solar incentives guide here.

Compare Types of Solar Equipment

Just like clothing brands, solar equipment brands come with their own price tags and level of quality. Solar panel systems are sized by watt, and different types of solar panels have varying watt output.

California sees ample sunshine, so you may be able to power your entire home even with a cheaper solar panel that produces less energy (for example, buying an older 350W model instead of a cutting-edge 400W). Or, you can pick high-efficiency panels and install fewer of them. Either way, you’re saving money.

If you don’t live in an area prone to power outages, you can also save by skipping out on a solar battery installation. However, keep in mind that utility companies, like PG&E, will frequently perform public safety power shut-offs when there are wildfire risks, which have been especially frequent up and down the Golden State.

Shop Different Solar Companies

California is home to nearly 900 registered solar installers, which means you’ll have plenty of options when it comes to choosing a solar company.6 We’ve outlined the top five best solar installers in California in this article — don’t hesitate to reach out to each one and compare quotes to ensure you’re getting the best deal. If you get a quote from one solar company but prefer another, see if they’ll match the rate.

Pay for Your System in Cash (If You Can)

The method you choose to pay for your solar panels will alter the total cost of installation. We recommend paying in cash if you can. Of course, cash purchases require the highest payments up front, but they save the most over time because they don’t require you to pay interest. Solar loans make your equipment more affordable up front, but they save slightly less because they include interest paid over time.

Luckily, California has plenty of financing programs to make solar more affordable and accessible to most homeowners. For example, Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs are available to the majority of homeowners, and they serve to reduce financing costs and up-front payments for solar systems.7

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Will Solar Increase Your Home Value In California?

Multiple studies have shown that solar panels do increase the value of a home, including a 2022 EcoWatch survey where 63% of respondents said they would pay more for a home with solar panels than a home without.

A study from Zillow revealed that homes with solar installations tend to sell for about 4.1% more on average than homes without solar. The study specifically examined the housing market in Riverside, California, reporting that homes with solar energy systems went for roughly $9,930 above market value.8

And an older study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory revealed that home resale value jumps by nearly $6,000 for each kilowatt of solar that’s installed.9

Should California Residents Hire a Professional Solar Installer Or DIY?

Installing solar panels in California is appealing for many reasons, but the cost may lead to some hesitancy. Many homeowners may look to install DIY panels to avoid solar panel installation costs. But is it a good idea?

Here are a few things to consider:

  • How much do you save with a DIY solar panel installation?
  • Are you capable of installing your own solar panels?
  • Is the cost saved from DIY worth the risks?

How Much Do You Save With a DIY Solar Installation in California?

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, labor typically accounts for about 10% of the total cost of solar installation.10 In California, that could lead to savings of $1,638.

Are You Capable of Installing Your Own Solar Panels?

There are people recording DIY solar panel installations on YouTube. So you may be thinking, how hard can it be?

The answer: it’s more complicated than you think. Unless you’re certified in a similar trade, we don’t recommend installing your own solar panels. Solar contractors have to go through rigorous training and licensing because there are complexities to the job.

Plus, solar companies have software designed to find the exact angle and placement of panels to maximize production, which can lead to savings of well over $1,600 when you consider 25 years of production. If you install your solar panels improperly, you’re not going to benefit as much as you could.

Is the Savings of DIY Solar Installation Worth the Risks?

While it sounds nice to save, you have to think about the risk involved in installing your own solar panels. DIY installations can be dangerous, as you’ll be up on the roof and dealing with direct electricity and wires. If you’re not 100% confident in what you’re doing, chances are higher that you could install them improperly, damage your solar equipment or even damage your roof.

Bottom line, unless you have relevant experience, we don’t recommend DIY solar panels installations.

What Should California Residents Look for in a Solar Installer?

California has hundreds of solar installers all competing for your business. The state is also home to high energy costs and frequent outages, which make for a unique energy market. With that in mind, we recommend considering the following factors when choosing the best company for your installation:

  • Local reputation and reviews
  • Solar pricing and financing
  • Services offered
  • Warranty coverage
  • Company experience
  • Brand quality

Local Reputation & Reviews

We read through dozens of customer reviews and complaints from fellow California homeowners, as well as examining each company’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) score. Companies like Stellar Solar score well in this category thanks to its excellent local reputation, proven by the success of its referral network.

We also recommend working with a company that maintains membership in the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) or other professional associations. Membership in these groups is a great indicator of the company’s professionalism, workmanship, reputation and reliability.

Solar Pricing and Financing

Sticker shock is common with solar systems, but keep in mind that you’ll ultimately save money in the long run, thanks to the reduced energy costs. In addition, California offers statewide solar incentives that can help you reduce these upfront costs. We give high scores to companies that offer a wide range of solar financing options, as well as have proven experience navigating the many statewide incentive programs of California.

Services Offered

For one, it’s important to note that different solar companies may offer slightly different services. Most California homeowners will want a company that provides a wide range of services, assisting with everything from initial consultation to panel installation to applying for financial incentives. Since power outages and EVs are very common in California, we place special weight on companies that have ample experience installing solar batteries and EV chargers.

Warranty Coverage

Finally, we recommend seeking an installer that can offer a good warranty. Panels can last 25 to 30 years, and you will want to ensure your investment is protected for as long as possible. The top solar installers will offer 25-year warranties for roofing, performance and workmanship.

SunPower, ADT Solar and NRG Clean Power all offer comprehensive warranties of at least 25 years, hence why they scored well in this category.

Company Experience

We typically only recommend solar companies that have at least 10 years of experience. In most cases, the more experience, the better. With more than 900 solar installers to choose from in California, a company that has a long track record and customer referrals is a strong sign that it’s a good company to work with.

California also has a lot of local solar policies promoting certain residential solar add-ons, like EV chargers and energy storage devices. As a result, installations with add-ons are much more common here compared to other states. You want a company that knows California well.

Brand Quality

Pay attention to the specific type of solar technology that is offered. Some companies, like SunPower, can exclusively offer best-in-class solar modules, while others may have a variety of products better suited for a budget-minded customer. Is the company certified to install leading brands like Tesla, Panasonic and LG? It never hurts to take a closer look into the company’s tech portfolio. If you have a specific brand of solar panel or battery in mind, check that the company you’re speaking with is certified to sell and install those products.

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Methodology: How We Ranked California’s Solar Companies

When we rank our top solar companies, we start by identifying the factors that matter most when ensuring that our readers find a trustworthy, reliable and environmentally responsible installation. We’ve listed those factors as categories below. We then weigh these factors against the industry benchmark (a company meeting the industry standard in all categories would earn 4 stars in our rating system). Our goal is to deliver unbiased reports and honest reviews, thus, our methodology is not affected by commercial partnerships and is specifically tailored to California homes.

Solar Services (20%): A company earns a perfect score in this category if it offers: in-house installations, energy storage systems (solar batteries) and home-efficiency audits or upgrades. A company can earn bonus points if it offers additional services that we don’t consider essential, including electric vehicle (EV) chargers, home thermostats, etc. The industry standard that we measure against includes solar panel and backup battery installations only.

Qualifications, Reputation & Certifications (20%): A company earns a perfect score in this category if it is: NABCEP-certified, has a minimum of four stars over its last 100 reviews on Google, an A+ with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and 4 or more stars on Glassdoor to reflect employee satisfaction and low turnover rates. We give bonus points for additional certifications, such as LEED or with the Building Performance Institute (BPI). We flag a company for further review if it has any track record of lawsuits or customer rights violations in California.

Solar Warranty & Customer Support (15%): A company earns a perfect score in this category if it offers 25-year warranties that cover performance, product and workmanship. The industry standard that we measure companies against is 25-year product and performance warranties, along with a 10-year workmanship warranty. We also look closely into the track record of the post-installation support each company provides in terms of honoring its warranties.

Solar Financing Options (15%): A company earns a perfect score in this category if it offers multiple financing options, including in-house plans in addition to partner organizations. As many solar companies choose not to offer leases and PPAs in the interest of consumer well-being, we do not dock points for companies that don’t offer them. 

Experience (10%): A company earns a perfect score in this category if it has 10+ years of experience installing solar in California. The industry standard that we measure against is at least 5 years of experience in California. The more experience a company has in the region, the more likely it will be to stay in business for the long term.

Availability (10%): A company earns a perfect score in this category if it offers services throughout the entire state of California. The industry standard that we measure against in California is offering services to at least two large metropolitan areas.

Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance Factors (10%): A company earns a perfect score in this category if it offers public data disclosure, addresses end-of-life (EoL) products or processes and demonstrates a commitment to uplifting the communities that it serves in California.

Read More About Going Solar in California

EcoWatch FAQ: Best Solar Companies in California

California is one of the biggest solar markets, which means your questions about going solar set the tone for the future of solar. If you have specific questions that aren’t answered here, reach out to our team of solar experts at solar@ecowatch.com.

Blog author image
Article author
Karsten is an editor and energy specialist focused on environmental, social and cultural development. His work has been shared by sources including NPR, the World Economic Forum, Marketwatch and the SEIA, and he is certified in ESG with the CFA Institute. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the solar energy sector, studying energy policy, climate tech and environmental education. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.
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Expert reviewer
Melissa is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainability studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a nonprofit that’s featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.

Comparing authorized solar partners

EcoWatch rating
Average cost
Pros
Cons
BBB Rating
Location Presence
Year founded
Service Area
Brands of Solar Equipment Offered
Warranty Coverage
  • 5.0
    • Most efficient panels on the market
    • National coverage
    • Cradle to Cradle sustainability certification
    • Great warranty coverage
    • Expensive
    • Customer service varies by local dealer
    A+
    Best National Provider
    1985
    SunPower Panels
    25-year all-inclusive warranty

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