Good news: California is home to the majority of solar-powered buildings in the US. With enviable amounts of sunshine year-round and a state government that heavily incentivizes the use of solar panels, Los Angeles is a locale where it almost always benefits you to switch to solar energy. For one thing, there are serious savings to be had. Beyond that, you can sleep a bit easier at night knowing you’re doing your part to keep our environment thriving for years to come.
Before you head out to the nearest Los Angeles solar panel installer, though, there are a few things to consider, such as size of your roof, the amount of shaded area atop said roof, and the type of solar panels that best suit your needs. Making the right choice is no small task — especially since you’ll spend upwards of $20,000 for a system. That’s why we took it upon ourselves to analyze the vendors, installers, and local incentives to help you make an informed decision.
Freshome’s Top 3 Solar Panel Installers in Los Angeles
We compiled a list of Los Angeles solar-panel installers and evaluated them on their customer service, warranty offerings, efficiency and expected turnaround time.
There are several awesome solar panel installation companies in Los Angeles — which isn’t surprising given the prevalence of solar energy usage in California. Three companies stood out as trusted and reliable options in the area — they each employ designers, engineers, and sales associates that understand both the science and financials behind solar energy. As a bonus, all three companies are passionate about and can speak to the environmental impact of switching to solar, which is a lasting benefit no matter which financing option you choose.
Sullivan Solar Power
Before you even get started, Sullivan Solar Power studies your electrical bills and sends a professional to your home for a thorough site evaluation to determine if solar panel installation is right for you. It’ll customize the plan for you, based on your individual means and goals, and then present you with a comprehensive proposal, tweaking it to your needs. It also does all the government paperwork both on the state and federal level — that’s a big win.
Sullivan Solar Power is the most prominent solar energy installer in Southern California. And after speaking with a couple of representatives over the phone, we can see why it has: an A+ rating on BBB and 4,000 solar power systems under its belt. As far as brands go, it offers SunPower-made panels.
Verengo Solar installs Hyundai, Renesola, TrinaSolar, Yingli Solar, and LG panels. That’s a lot of variety to choose from, and their website goes into thorough detail of the science behind solar. Educating the customer is a high priority for the company, and Verengo Solar ensures that their customers understand just how much money they’ll be saving and from where those savings will derive before their certified professionals install a system in your home.
The company has been an accredited Better Business Bureau business for over 10 years with a rating of A+. Verengo Solar commits to installing your system in just about a day — a considerably shorter time frame than what other national and local companies offer.
SunRun approaches solar energy installation as a “service,” meaning it’s all about options: it offers solar leasing and power purchase agreements, which allow you to get a solar system installed for zero money down. Within that payment plan, it offers the “BrightSave Monthly,” which lets you pay your lease as you go, or the “BrightSave Prepaid,” a plan in which you pay the full lease amount up front and receive a monthly bill from SunRun.
This approach has made SunRun a go-to company for solar services. It’s served 100,000 customers in the area, The company offers a 10 year warranty on labor and partners with a wide variety of manufacturers and local installers (if SunRun isn’t located in your area).
Finding the best solar panels in Los Angeles
You get what you pay for when it comes to solar panels. Cheap panels often break easily and their warranties are often not sufficient enough to cover those breaks. To ensure your solar power system provides you with energy for years to come, we recommend you invest in a panel that meets these three requirements: minimum max wattage of 230 watts, minimum efficiency of 16.5, and a 25-year warranty.
Of course, your installer will be able to go into much more depth about which brand of solar panel is right for your home. The below brands are widely available and meet our above standards. Bonus: many of them are offered by the installers we listed in the prior section.
Solar Power in Los Angeles
What to Expect
Los Angeles receives 2190 harvestable kWh per year. Though it will vary slightly across the Greater Los Angeles Area, the average residential price per kW is about 13.03 cents. Solar panels are 3’ X 5’ and each panel produces about 190 watts, this makes solar energy in Los Angeles a solid investment no matter which way you spin it.
We made some conservative calculations to see how much you’d save based on how many panels you have on your roof. These number aren’t set in stone, but are a great reference for how much money’s worth of power you can expect to produce in a year’s time.
Los Angeles’s Solar Policies and Incentives
With 263 sunny days a year, it doesn’t take a rocket science to see why California and solar energy make sense. What’s more, the energy needs of the 9 million people in the Greater Los Angeles are immense — imagine what an impact it could make if even half of those people began using the sun to keep the lights on. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is well aware of the environmental benefits of solar energy and has ensured there are plenty of incentives in place to make putting solar panels on your roof worthwhile.
You can find a detailed and comprehensive guide to the state’s incentives here, but we’ll give you the major takeaways now. The first big one? Nationwide, taxpayers who install a solar system are eligible for a 30 percent federal credit for qualified expenditures. The Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit is a dollar-for-dollar tax reduction in the income tax of the company or person who applies for the credit — if you end up applying for this tax credit yourself, you could see major net gains the year you switch to a solar energy system. That being said, installation companies often use this credit themselves to keep costs low.
Having the installer handle the paperwork can make switching to solar a lot less overwhelming, so even if they do take the credit you’ll still reap the rewards in lower prices and minimal headaches. The installer typically does the state work too, which brings us to the California Incentive Program. Their rebate and payback system assesses several elements, including system size, utility territory, and performance and efficiency of your solar system. The only mark against California’s solar program is that they do not offer any solar power tax credits. Though, this is offset by their agreement to not reassess your property value after you install your system, meaning your taxes remain the same despite increasing your home’s value.
The next factor you’ll need to consider is financing options. Buying your system outright will give you the most significant savings in the long run and the expense is often considerably offset by the federal tax credit. Not everyone has that kind of cash though, so you can usually lease your solar panels from the installation company. If you can find a contract with a small yearly increase, your monthly loan repayments will typically be smaller than the reduction of your electricity bill. Net profit!
There are two types of loans offered: secured and unsecured (no collateral required). Secured loans typically require you to use your home as collateral. Avoid high interest rates and a loan could be a great, money saving option — especially if you can pay it back quickly. Just makes sure you’re okay with potentially paying more on your energy bill for the first few years, knowing the long-term savings (think over 25 years) will be more than worth it.
So, why is California so crazy for solar panels? Besides the obvious reasons, the answer lies in something called Renewable portfolio standards (RPS). These are regulations that require increased production from renewable energy sources, and California has the most aggressive goals in the country. The state has committed to sourcing at least 33 percent of its power from renewable energy sources by 2020. As of 2010, California was well on its way with a 20 percent share. To avoid fines for not hitting those numbers, utility companies and the state both want residents like you to switch to solar energy — it helps everybody in the long run.
How do solar panels work?
The process of turning the sun’s energy into your home’s electrical current is surprisingly straightforward. The key lies in the word: “photovoltaic,” which is the term for the material that makes up solar panels. It’s either made of monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicon, which stores the sun’s energy and converts it into electricity by causing the electrons in the panel to move and generate a current.
After the current is generated, an inverter takes over. The inverter takes the raw energy (known as direct current, or DC) and turns it into alternating current (AC), which funnels into your home’s fuse box.
There are sometimes batteries included in systems for homes located in remote areas, but most solar energy systems, especially in Los Angeles, can be tapped into the “grid,” also known as your municipality’s power source. This is financially advantageous as being plugged into the grid means you’re eligible for net-metering, an agreement with the utility company in which you’ll receive credits for the surplus energy your solar panels create. Then, when you’re in need of energy (at night or on a cloudy day, for instance) you’ll have those credits to fall back on.
Installation typically takes one to seven days, and systems need about one to two weeks to start harvesting energy, depending on the size and complexity of your system. Also, if you’re on the fence about solar energy, remember it’s not all or nothing — you can partially outfit your home with solar panels and reap serious benefits (and environmental karma).
Though most panels are made from silicon, there are also panels described as “thin film” — this option is cheaper but, be warned, it involves toxic chemicals. Manufacturers do address this by offering free recycling services at the end of panel’s life. People sometimes prefer thin film due to its aesthetic appeal — it looks more like roofing shingles and is available in a “peel and stick” or spray-on application.
Should I go on or off the grid?
In short, we recommend staying on the grid. We previously mentioned this in reference to “net metering,” a way in which you can get money back from utilities companies. The only potential downfall? You’ll be susceptible to power outages (just like you are now).
People with “battery” systems don’t have to worry about storm outages, but they’re still susceptible to bad weather. An extended period of cloudy weather could run out the supply and leave them without power.
Does color matter?
Historically, solar panels were only available in navy blue, but recent scientific strides have increased the availability of color options. You can find a color that suits you but be known that it does come at cost — colored panels are less efficient than their more traditional counterparts.
Our recommendation is navy panels — they’re made from polycrystalline which tends to ensure the least energy loss. That being said, consider how the color of panels might affect the curb appeal of your home. Solar panels will add a ton to your home value, and can look great if done right.
How long does the install take?
They usually only take one day to install and another day to wire everything up. However, the real time suck comes with getting approval from your local authorities. Permits can hold up your installation for anywhere from two weeks to a couple months. Luckily, your solar contractor will usually take care of the legal stuff for you.
Solar rays are abundant — especially in California — and there’s no reason to not take advantage of them. Paying for solar panels up front can cost a bit of money, but the federal and state government provide enough incentives to make the investment more than worth it. Even if you don’t plan to stay in your current home, your solar energy system will increase the value of your home without raising your taxes.
So what’s next? Get a quote for installing solar panels from a local company. Start with our recommended providers and compare prices for your home