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At a recent sit-down at the University of Ottawa, TV personality and science advocate Bill Nye confronted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about his approval of the controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

"I've been to Fort McMurray, Alberta. It really is an amazing place in the most troubling way," the Science Guy said, likely referring to the area's notorious tar sands. "But this pipeline ... tell us about the Kinder Morgan pipeline."

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Residential solar energy companies are helping more and more homeowners upgrade their properties to clean energy sources. Solar energy companies can equip you with the technology you need to harness the amazing power of the sun and reduce your need for fossil fuels. In this article, we'll review some of the most trustworthy providers and installers of solar power.

Our picks for the best solar companies

The first step in the process is researching some of the top companies in the solar industry. Here are the ones that stood out in our research.

Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

How we chose the best solar energy companies

How did we determine which solar power companies to recommend?

To begin with, we took a deep dive into each company's offerings, assessing them for the following criteria:

  • Range of services offered
  • Pricing/affordability and financing options
  • Extent of service area
  • Solar panel efficiency
  • Warranty
  • Temperature coefficient (e.g., how much high temperatures affect efficiency)

Additionally, we weighed membership and certification by professional associations like the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Affiliation with these groups is a good indicator that a solar energy company is reputable, and that their work is up to the highest standards within the industry.

The best solar energy companies

schmidt-z / Getty Images

With these criteria in mind, consider our picks for the best solar panel providers and installers in the industry.

SunPower

If you're looking for a company that can walk you through the process of upgrading to solar power for an easy and convenient experience, look no further than to SunPower. The company offers:

  • A "design studio" app, allowing you to safely and seamlessly design your own solar power system so that you can see a visual of what the finished product will look like once installed.
  • Online calculators that make it easy for you to determine about how much electricity you will save once you upgrade to solar panels.
  • Virtual consultations, allowing you to chat one-on-one with a solar power expert and to ask any questions you might have.

SunPower offers leading solar panels and energy storage technology to homeowners across dozens of states. And, they are also the preferred solar partner of many major businesses, including Walmart, FedEx, and Lowes.

Why buy: SunPower is a reliable solar energy company with an impressive tech portfolio and an extremely easy, intuitive process.

SunRun

Upgrading to solar power can seem a little intimidating, but SunRun is out to bring simplicity. Their approach makes it extremely straightforward to select a custom solar energy plan for your household. Here's what to know about SunRun:

  • They offer virtual consultations with solar energy experts, making it simple to explore your options and determine which solar set-up is right for your home energy needs.
  • Each system they design is completely customized to address the customer's needs. SunRun doesn't do "one size fits all" solar equipment options.
  • Their guarantee, the best in the industry, offers extraordinary peace of mind that your solar system will prove durable and reliable.
  • SunRun also leads in terms of flexible financing options, making solar power accessible and affordable.

Why buy: With SunRun, the name of the game is customization. This is one of the best solar installation companies to turn to for solar power solutions that are truly made with you in mind.

Tesla

You probably associate Tesla with their electric vehicles, but did you know that the company also produces high-efficiency solar panels? Depending on your needs and your budget, Tesla can hook you up with an array of solar panels or even a solar roof, making it easy to cut electricity costs and power your home via the sun's vital energy.

Some fast facts about choosing solar power from Tesla:

  • They offer a price match guarantee and affordable financing options.
  • Their advanced solar panel technology offers a low profile, a sleek style, and long-term durability.
  • Home battery backups allow you to save solar power and then access it on demand, whenever you need it.

Why buy: Tesla offers sophisticated solar products for what the company claims is the lowest price of any national provider, which they back with a price-match guarantee. Plus, all of their solar panels come with a solid 25-year performance guarantee.

LG

LG is another well-known tech company that is also a leader in solar energy. Some of their solar panels use a bifacial solar module that captures energy from two directions to increase their efficiency. While they are a solar panel manufacturer, they can also help you with the installation process by finding an LG Pro installer in your area.

  • They offer an online "solar concierge" service that allows you to evaluate your home energy needs and to compare different options for going solar.
  • LG offers a 25-year warranty, not only on their technology but also on the work their of their solar installers.
  • They offer a range of solar panels and supporting products, and they supply you with plenty of information to make a fully informed choice.

Why buy: LG is a company that knows technological innovation. Their award-winning solar energy products are reliably efficient, well-priced, and designed for maximum efficiency.

Panasonic

Panasonic has one of the most impressive tech portfolios in the solar energy industry. Their products boast some of the highest conversion efficiency rates, along with the lowest degradation rates. And they back everything with a generous warranty.

Some additional reasons to choose Panasonic:

  • They offer a range of solar panels to choose from. With Panasonic, you'll find that you have plenty of options.
  • They also provide a lot of great online support and consumer education, ensuring you'll get the most out of your solar technology.

Why buy: Panasonic is a solar panel company with products that are tough to beat. Both their pricing and warranties are very appealing, and their HIT high-performance solar panels offer some of the best power conversion rates of any product.

Vivint

Vivint is a company that offers a full spectrum of services, including solar power consultation, design, and installation. A few reasons why homeowners trust their solar power needs to the Vivint team:

  • Everything Vivint does is customized. They tailor everything to fit your roof and to help you achieve your home energy goals.
  • They make the entire process simple, handling all of the little details for you. This includes securing permits, filing the right paperwork, etc.
  • They emphasize safety, using only the highest caliber of solar panels and backing everything with a world-class warranty.

Why buy: Vivint is noteworthy for their focus on customization, their commitment to safety, and their one-stop-shop solar power solutions. In addition to solar panel installation, they also offer other specialized technology, including solar-powered electric vehicle chargers.

Enphase

Enphase is another company that stands out, both for their robust technology as well as for their commitment to customization. Their microinverter technology makes their solar system safer by reducing the likelihood of arc fault fires.

  • They design their solar technology with safety in mind, including fire safeguards that other companies can't match.
  • Their solar panels are built for durability and can hold up even through the most extreme kinds of weather.
  • Enphase uses smart technology to update itself; all you need to do is connect it to your home Internet.
  • They also have one of the best apps in the solar industry, making it simple to monitor your home energy use.

Why buy: Enphase is a company of innovators, and their solar portfolio has a lot to offer. Their system is also modular, meaning you can easily add more panels to your system as you need them.

Canadian Solar

This solar power provider has won recognition not just for their excellent technology, but also for their sincere commitment to sustainability and to ecological stewardship. And don't let the name throw you off: Though Canadian Solar is based in Canada, they provide solar power solutions in the U.S. and other countries.

Some additional facts about Canadian Solar:

  • They offer a wide range of products, from energy converters to storage solutions.
  • Their solar panels boast exceedingly high energy efficiency rates.
  • Canadian Solar has won a number of awards for its first-class innovations, and one of their products even set a world record for conversion efficiency in 2020.

Why buy: This company has a proven track record of technological excellence, plus a real commitment to ecological stewardship. They also closely monitor their supply chain to ensure that no goods or materials used in their products come from prohibited forms of labor.

First Solar

First Solar boasts an impressive track record of advocacy for solar power and for renewable energy sources. And, thankfully, they back their advocacy with some excellent solar technologies.

A few reasons to choose First Solar solar panels:

  • Their technology offers an outstanding temperature coefficient, meaning they won't lose performance during high temperatures.
  • Their solar cells are among the most reliable and most efficient in the clean energy sector.
  • First Solar also offers a lot of post-purchase, post-installation help, as needed.

Why buy: First Solar is a great option for anyone who's serious about renewable energy, and who wants the best performance from their solar panels.

Go Solar

The biggest drawback to Go Solar is that, right now, their work is limited to just a few states. But if you happen to live in that part of the country, you're in luck. Go Solar's panels are uniquely calibrated to take advantage of the western region's abundant sunlight. Some additional reasons to pick Go Solar include:

  • They offer free home solar assessments.
  • They custom-design solar systems to meet the needs of your home.
  • They have some of the most trusted installers in the solar power industry.

Why buy: For solar solutions that are tailored to the climate of the American West, definitely consider Go Solar. Plus, with their Give Solar International partnership, they give an equivalent solar panel system to a family in Uganda for each system sold.

How does a solar energy system work?

schmidt-z / Getty Images

As you explore the different options for embracing solar power, it may be helpful to have a baseline understanding of how solar energy systems actually function.

Generally speaking, solar energy systems involve solar panels installed on your roof. These panels absorb the sun's energy, storing it in what are known as photovoltaic cells. These cells convert the solar energy into direct current (DC) energy, then use an inverter to convert that DC energy into alternate current (AC) electricity. AC electricity is what you need to power all your home appliances.

It's important to note that, before you purchase solar panels, it's worthwhile to meet with a solar energy consultant who can tell you more about how many panels your home will require, and also to let you know how those panels should be ideally positioned on the roof.

One more note: If you're concerned about the affordability of solar power, it's important to remember that most solar energy companies provide a host of options, including flexible financing and solar lease options for a system rather than purchase it outright. As you talk with different solar energy companies, don't hesitate to inquire about these leasing and financing options.

Benefits of solar energy

Installing solar panels on your home can yield a number of benefits. Here are just a few examples.

Cleaner energy

One of the main reasons why homeowners choose to install solar cells is that it allows them to truly embrace clean energy sources. Rather than depend on fossil fuels and power plants, you can power your home with renewable energy that comes straight from the sun. This can be a highly effective way to minimize your environmental footprint.

Solar tax credits and rebates

There are a number of ways in which choosing renewable energy can save you money, starting with the fact that there are so many rebates and tax credits available. Essentially, both the federal government and many state governments want to encourage people to "go green" as much as possible, and they will make it worth your while by allowing you to claim these important tax incentives. Some utility companies also offer rebates that can help pay for the upfront costs of solar projects.

Lower electricity bills

Of course, embracing solar power will also help you save money by slashing your electricity bills. Most solar energy companies offer online calculators that allow you to see for yourself how much money you'll save over time, simply by changing to a renewable energy source. There is also an option called a power purchase agreement (PPA) that can allow you to host a solar or renewable energy system from a utility provider in exchange for lowered energy rates. If your solar panel system generates excess energy, the utility will then purchase that energy from you in the form of a net metering credit on your bill.

Make a smart choice about solar power

There are obviously a lot of perks to choosing solar energy for your home. And yet, it can also be a rather daunting process, simply because there are so many solar energy companies to choose from.

Using our guidelines and rankings, start doing your due diligence, seeking the solar power company that's right for you. Remember to look for a company that's well-regarded within the industry and get a consultation before you buy. Always be sure to ask some direct questions about the financing options that are available to you.

Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. His writing on natural health, nutrition, and supplements has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.

Bill Nye, the CEO of The Planetary Society. Lindsay Mann / Structure Films, PBS

As the former host of PBS's Bill Nye the Science Guy, Bill Nye taught a whole generation of kids about the wonders of science. But in his new documentary, Nye laments how his life's work could be upended by an emerging war on science. (Just think of Trump's stack of climate change skeptics in his cabinet).

"We're living in this extraordinary time where people are anti-science," Nye tells famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson over a glass of wine, adding that scientific innovation helped propel the U.S. as the world's preeminent industrial nation.

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Bill Nye spent much of the 1990s teaching children about science. "Nowadays," he says in the first trailer for the upcoming documentary, Bill Nye: Science Guy, "I'm talking to adults."

It's true. These days, you mostly see Nye on cable news shows explaining scientific topics with hosts, marching with thousands in Washington, DC to remind our lawmakers about the importance of science, and hosting a Netflix show geared toward older audiences. In the trailer, Nye even shares wine with climate change denier Joe Bastardi.

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Bill Nye delved into the debate between hurricanes and climate change in recent interviews.

When asked by TMZ if Harvey and Irma—as well as Jose and Katia, two other dangerous hurricanes swirling in the Atlantic—are "the new normal," the Science Guy suggested a link between global warming and the intensity of the hurricanes.

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Donald Trump has done what Al Gore, Jim Hansen, climate scientists, the Sierra Club and the rest of the environmental movement could never do—make climate disruption breaking cable TV news. Trump's histrionic, largely symbolic and recklessly self-destructive decision to abandon the Paris climate agreement means, among other things, that far more Americans know about the Paris climate agreement this morning than 24 hours ago. Never has climate dominated a news cycle as it did Thursday—even when the Paris agreement was signed by all of the world, (Nicaragua and Syria excepted).

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Tens of thousands of people celebrated Earth Day Saturday by taking to the streets in a historic day of action for science and truth. A massive March for Science took place in Washington, DC, and more than 600 sister marches took place in other cities around the world.

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"When I'm not studying hard in 1st grade, I'm working on my podcast." That's the adorable Twitter tagline of six-year-old podcaster Nate Butkus, who hosts "The Show About Science."

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The March for Science has announced three honorary national co-chairs for the April 22 march in Washington, DC.

They are: Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician and key whistleblower of the Flint water crisis, Dr. Lydia Villa-Komaroff, a biologist who made critical contributions to how bacterial cells could be used to generate insulin, and Bill Nye, beloved science educator and CEO of The Planetary Society.

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Erin from Scotland had already switched to a completely plant-based diet when she asked Bill Nye on the Big Think to explain the science behind her decision to go vegan.

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Lawyers representing fossil fuel defendants in a youth climate lawsuit filed a motion Friday with a U.S. District Court seeking an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on a Nov. 10, 2016 order in Juliana v. United States. As reported by The Washington Post, the Trump Administration filed a similar motion requesting appeal on Tuesday. Fossil fuel defendants support the Trump Administration's motion.

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Science educator Bill Nye and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders held a Facebook Live conversation on Monday morning about climate change.

In the two hours after it aired, the interview has already been viewed about 2 million times, drawn about 100,000 "Reactions" and 52,000 "shares."

The chat was announced Sunday on the senator's Facebook page, with many fans eagerly anticipating the sit-down. Here's what one person said:

The former presidential candidate—who has one of the strongest records on climate change in the Senate and has been highly critical of President Trump's cabinet appointees such as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt—got straight to the point with his first question to Nye.

"We have a president of the United States who thinks that climate change is a 'hoax' emanating from China," Sanders stated. "We have a new administrator of the EPA—somebody who I strongly opposed—who is in the process of dismembering environmental protection regulations in this country. What are the short and long term implications of a president who has that view?"

In response, Nye said that the long term implications of global warming are "potentially catastrophic," adding that "the problem is the speed the world is warming and the rate climate is changing."

As for the short term effects, Nye described how coastal cities such as New York will have to spend billions of dollars to build more seawalls to avoid future extreme weather events such as Hurricane Sandy.

Additionally, he explained how the effects of climate change will be "much more difficult" for people in the developing world who will be forced to migrate and potentially foment conflict due to a lack of resources.

Nye, the former host of the beloved children's science program Bill Nye the Science Guy, has since become a frequent and prominent commentator about scientific topics, especially the perils of a warming planet.

The half-hour interview covered topics such as climate change deniers, the fossil fuel industry's tremendous influence in politics, transforming the transportation industry and getting more people interested in science by promoting space exploration.

Nye also criticized President Trump's recent 2-for-1 executive order that requires federal agencies to repeal two old regulations for every new one.

"Who came up with that number? Regulations are like a machine," Nye said. "You don't just take parts away from the machine just because."

During a poignant moment in the interview, Sanders touched upon the Trump administration's notorious crackdown on the EPA and climate scientists.

"What is the role of scientists today?" Sanders asked. "[The] people who are searching for truth are under pressure."

"I have close friends who work in climate science and they are very concerned about their data being reviewed or erased," Nye said. "They are also concerned about their jobs."

On the topic of climate deniers, Nye said that they suffer from cognitive dissonance, describing how these people have a psychological disorder preventing them from facing reality.

"To the deniers out there. I want you to think about what is called cognitive dissonance," Nye said. "Instead of accepting that the climate is changing, deniers are denying the evidence and dismissing the authorities."

Nye said that the best way to change their minds is to convince them of the economic potential of renewable energy. He used The Solutions Project—a state-by-state roadmap to convert the country to 100 percent renewables by 2050—as an example.

"We can power the entire U.S. renewably right now if we just decided to do it," Nye said, explaining how transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy alternatives such as wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal, tidal and a reconfigured electric grid "can run the whole place."

He noted that investing in renewable energy would create domestic jobs "that can't be exported."

"From an optimistic point of view, I think if we can get these people to look at the world a little differently, they will be on the side of domestic reproduced renewable electricity in a very quick short order," Nye said.

Not only that, renewable energy is now a very affordable option for many people. As Nye said later in the interview, "You can hate me, you can hate everything. But when you get an electric bill—in California, [you can get it] for 10 bucks every 60 days—that's just fun. Just look at it that way."