SolarCity Review

Provides clean, industry leading efficiency

SolarCity places an emphasis on the environmental benefits of solar energy. The company is dedicated to offsetting carbon emissions and keeping energy clean and affordable. The technology used is cutting edge and constantly developing, to ensure both residential and business customers are happy with the streamlined panels, designed to contour with each specific rooftop. With efficiency around 5% higher than average, it offers one of the best solar solutions on the market. The company also gives power to communities in need. For every megawatt of residential solar power installed, SolarCity donates a solar power system and a battery to a school and community without power.

Best For:
Efficiency

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SolarCity Highlights

  • Personalized system tailored to your home

  • Biggest solar energy company in the USA, 275k+ customers

  • Free 1-day installation

Pros

  • Grid network technology

  • MySolarApp lets you track production in real time

  • Affordable and can save 30% on bills

  • Personalized Energy Consultant

  • Slimmer panels

Cons

  • Only economical for electricity bills over $100/month

  • Not available in every US state

  • You can’t move the solar panels when you move house

Expert’s Score Breakdown

Overall rating: 4

  1. Equipment: 4

  2. Installation & Monitoring: 4

  3. Efficiency: 5

  4. Cost & Savings: 3

  5. Customer Support: 4

Equipment

As a residential customer you have 3 options when it comes to switching to solar power with SolarCity. The first is to buy your panels and own the energy and the panels that generate it. You can also pay just for the energy production, known as a solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) or you can lease the panels. With both these last options, SolarCity owns the panels but you still get the benefits of cost effective cleaner energy. You can also choose to upgrade or buy the panels at a later date.

SolarCity owns Zep Solar as a subsidiary. Zep Solar provides all the panels and mounting technology used by SolarCity. These include a sleeker technology that allow contouring to your roof and redirected plumbing vents to ensure optimal panel placement. There are no top clamps or rail ends with jagged edges to provide a smooth surface and mounting hardware that either blends into your roof or is completely hidden. The new, low impact mounting technology uses fewer contact points and this is partly why the system only takes one day to install.

SolarCity uses all of the three types of solar power inverter so that it can offer each customer the best option for their home. They’ll talk you through your options and help you work out if your property is best suited to a stand-alone solar power inverter, a string inverter or a microinverter.

You will have a 10-year warranty for the panels and equipment.

Installation & Monitoring

SolarCity takes you through a very smooth process; from your initial estimated quote to the moment you get to switch over to solar. A surveyor will come to your house and take measurements, assessing the size of the panels you’ll need and what will benefit you the most economically based on your energy usage. You’ll have a personal online account that allows you to track the progress of your order. Your SolarCity installation team will take care of obtaining the planning permission and permits from your local building department and the connection transfer from your utility company. Once the panels have been fitted to the specifications of your home, they’ll be fitted in a single day.

Photo of panels

The customer care team is extremely friendly and offers advice on how to get the best from your solar panels. You’ll be given a booklet with information and a single point of contact to call if you have any questions. The PowerGuide Monitoring System will keep track of your energy usage and alert the repairs team directly if there is a problem and gives you the ability to track your solar production in realtime with the MySolarCity App.

Efficiency

Efficiency in photovoltaic solar panels is measured by the ability of a panel to convert sunlight into usable energy. SolarCity is one of the world’s most efficient solar power providers, with their panels coming in at 22.04% efficiency. This is higher than average, as most companies offer up to 15% efficiency from their panels. The new panels coming off the 100 megawatt Silveo production line are one of the most competitive panels yet. The target cost of these is $0.55 per watt of power. The panels are designed to provide a higher conversion efficiency rate and were tested by the Renewable Energy Test Center.

The DemandLogic and GridLogic are both systems for ensuring you’re saving energy when you don’t need to be using it from a utility provider. They also save money at peak times by using stored energy from lower cost times. The grid technology is for communities to obtain clean energy together while hedging energy costs and using more efficient systems.

Grid logic system

Any excess power which is not used immediately in daylight hours is conserved and put into the energy grid, for use at night or on less sunny days. Many utility companies now appreciate the benefits of solar power and allow you to sell or receive a credit for any surplus power produced.

Cost & Savings

There are three options for residential solar panel solutions with SolarCity.

  • Power Purchase: Pay a full pre-pay option per kWh

  • Lease: Low, fixed monthly payments

  • Purchase: Pay for your system upfront

There aren’t any set prices for installing the solar power system or providing the power. The installation is free and doesn’t require any payment up front whatsoever, though advance payment is an option if you want to reduce your monthly cost. The quote you are given by your advisor will be based on your area, government rebates, your utility usage and current costs – in other words, it will be specific to you. It is advised by SolarCity that if your power costs you more than $100/month you’ll be very likely to save on power. If you come in under that it might not be financially worth switching, though it will be cleaner energy.

Federal tax credits may cover 30% of your solar energy bills.

The basic savings calculator is based on residential PPA systems and by using more than a year’s worth of bills. It does not reflect extra government rebates, local utility rates and other savings you may be entitled to depending on your location. Financing is available directly through SolarCity and requires no security deposit and $0 upon signing the contract. A 3kW system starts at $25 – $100 per month and increases annually from 0 – 2.9% each year for 20-30 years depending on the length of your term and your approved credit.

Get in touch directly for a personalized quote for your residence or business, or try the online quote system.

Customer Support

At the center of the company is tech guru, inventor and business magnate Elon Musk as SolarCity chairman. He is the 39th wealthiest person in the USA and has been described as a real-life Iron Man. This name alone should show you that the company isn’t going anywhere, giving you peace of mind when choosing the system.

As well as your PowerGuide Monitoring System you’ll have dedicated 24/7 customer support. You’ll be given one point of contact, your own Energy Consultant, and he or she will provide you with personalized customer service based on your account and your energy needs. You won’t have to deal with an automated system – just one person dedicated to helping you. You can get in touch via phone or email, but the website do not currently have live chat.

Conclusion

The largest solar panel company in the US, SolarCity has nearly 300,000 customers and is the best option for those looking for maximum efficiency from their solar panels. They boast the ability to save you up to 30% on your bills, with three methods of transferring to solar depending on your financial situation and individual needs. They are an extremely ethical and environmentally friendly company, giving power to communities in need and offering each user a personalized system for their home.

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