Tesla vs Sunrun, which solar panel provider is better? Let’s take an in-depth look.
As the world continues to experience the effects of climate change on a personal and collective level, the importance of switching to renewable energy sources cannot be overstated. Solar energy, in particular, has proven to be a viable and sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. It is environmentally friendly and has become a viable long-term investment—homeowners and business owners can save money on their energy bills with these systems.
However, choosing the right solar installer can be a daunting task. With so many providers advertising their offerings, it can be difficult to parse which is the best to partner with. It is essential to find an installer with a proven track record of delivering quality installations and top-notch customer service.
Recently, we compared Sunrun and SunPower. In this article, we compare two household names in the solar industry: Tesla and Sunrun. After this thorough breakdown, you can make an informed decision on which provider to choose.
First, let’s take a close look at each player.
At a Glance: Sunrun
Since its humble beginning in 2007 in San Francisco, California, Sunrun has become one of the leading solar companies in the country. It has helped over 500,000 households in the United States switch to solar power.
Known for pioneering the solar-as-a-service business model, Sunrun allows homeowners to lease solar panels for a fixed monthly fee. This program has made these cutting-edge systems more accessible for many people who might not have been able to afford them otherwise.
While Sunrun does not produce its own solar panels, it sources its materials from well-established third-party suppliers. Sunrun even sells the Tesla Powerwall through its Sunrun Brightbox program.
In addition to residential solar systems, Sunrun also offers solar battery storage. It also provides EV charging stations specifically designed for the Ford F-150 Lightning, an all-electric pickup truck produced by the Ford Motor Company.
Sunrun’s acquisition of Vivint—another major solar installer—in 2020 further solidified its position as a leader in the industry.
At a Glance: Tesla
Tesla Energy, formerly known as SolarCity, is a subsidiary of Tesla, Inc., that specializes in renewable energy solutions, including solar panels and solar roofs. It also offers battery storage solutions through Tesla Powerwall.
Need we tell you about how the brand is synonymous with Elon Musk?
Tesla’s solar products are also known for their sleek, modern designs. Its solar roofs, for example, consist of individual solar tiles that resemble traditional roof shingles made with slate or clay.
A unique element of Tesla’s solar business model is its reliance on certified third-party installers to handle all of its solar installations. While Tesla does not quite have full customization for its solar panel systems, it offers a range of capacities from 4.8 kW to 19.2 kW.
Tesla has an online-only sales strategy for dealers and end-users. Customers can browse and purchase Tesla’s solar panels through the company’s website without needing in-person consultations or salespeople.
Tesla vs Sunrun: Warranty
Tesla and Sunrun offer impressive warranty coverage for their solar panel systems, although their specifics differ slightly.
Sunrun offers a 25-year performance warranty for their systems, which covers any drop in energy production below the guaranteed level. They also provide a 10-year roof protection warranty, ensuring roof penetrations remain watertight for a decade.
Additionally, Sunrun offers a comprehensive bumper-to-bumper warranty that covers all parts and labor, with free equipment replacement and system repairs.
As for the panels themselves, Sunrun’s warranty will depend on the manufacturers of the panels used in the installation. Again, this is because the company sources its panels from third parties.
That said, Sunrun carefully selects and sources its panels from highly regarded suppliers to ensure that customers receive top-of-the-line products.
On the other hand, Tesla produces its own solar panels, so they have control over the design, manufacturing, and troubleshooting processes. This may give Tesla an edge in terms of quality control and consistency across its solar products.
Tesla provides a 25-year power production warranty, guaranteeing that their solar panels will maintain 80% of their nameplate power capacity after 25 years. This also covers any defects in panel design and materials.
Additionally, Tesla offers a 10-year workmanship warranty, ensuring that any issues arising from installation or construction are covered.
Our Verdict: Either one is good and promises to be reliable for years to come.
Tesla vs Sunrun: Cost, Payment, and Ownership
When it comes to the cost of solar panel installations, Tesla’s prices are lower than the national average at about $2.75 per watt. Sunrun’s prices are much higher at $4.75 per watt.
Tesla offers price matching on its solar panels, which brings its effective price below average. Sunrun, on the other hand, doesn’t post specific costs on its website, so comparing its prices to other companies is difficult.
Tesla and Sunrun offer cash and loan payment options. They also offers lease and PPA (power purchase agreement), where customers can pay for the energy their solar panels produce rather than owning the panels outright. This can be a good option for homeowners who don’t want to pay upfront costs for a solar panel system.
Both companies offer solar systems that are eligible for the ITC (investment tax credit). But there is a critical difference between the two.
All of Tesla’s financing options give buyers ownership of the solar panels, meaning they are eligible for the tax credit. With Sunrun, only some financing options are qualified. If a customer chooses a lease or PPA, they don’t own the panels, just the energy they generate. Sunrun maintains ownership of the system and claims the tax credit instead.
Our Verdict: Tesla has a definite edge when considering cost-to-value and claiming the tax credit. Sunrun has the upper hand from an affordability standpoint, thanks to robust lease options with little to no upfront expenses.
Tesla vs Sunrun: Coverage and Customer Verdict
Overall, Tesla seems to have received more positive reviews than Sunrun. But there’s no shortage of overly positive and overly negative feedback for both companies.
For instance, a customer on Consumer Affairs praised Tesla for their great experience, better solar array size for the cost, and helpful project manager. One customer on Yelp had nothing positive to say about Tesla, claiming it was the worst customer service experience of their life.
Similarly, a Yelp user praised Sunrun for their excellent customer service, while another on Consumer Affairs claimed that Sunrun was a terrible company that did not care about its customers.
Both companies have received mixed reviews and average ratings on various review platforms. Tesla has a 3.8 out of 5 star review on Consumer Affairs, while Sunrun has a 3.7. These review aggregates suggest that while both companies have many satisfied customers, others have had very negative experiences.
Our Verdict: Tesla has a slight advantage thanks to its consistent brand image. It is best to do your due diligence and contact each company to understand how they interact with customers. Get a quote from NRG here in 30 seconds.
Tesla Wins Per Our Judgment (By a Narrow Margin)
While our objective assessment inclines very slightly toward Tesla, it’s worth noting that, ultimately, the brand experience largely centers on the customer’s preferences and how well they align.
It’s, therefore, essential to consider factors such as cost, quality of solar panels, warranty, and installation process when choosing a solar company. Either company has got pros and cons on all these fronts.