Residential solar systems have exponentially grown in popularity over the last 10 years. Everyday, more and more people are starting to appreciate the financial and environmental benefits of adding solar panels to their homes.
There are plenty of solar companies in the United States that offer a wide array of residential solar services. If you're in the market for a residential solar system, you've probably heard of SunPower and Tesla, as these two companies are absolute titans in the premium solar solutions market.
SunPower and Tesla are two of the biggest players in the US solar energy space, with an impressive 50-state solar service coverage. ** SunPower** is a full-service American solar company that develops, manufactures, and distributes residential solar solutions. Founded in 1985 by a Stanford electrical engineering professor Richard Swanson, SunPower has been in the business for nearly 40 years.
SunPower operates on a vertically integrated business model; this means that the company takes direct ownership of every aspect of its solar operations. SunPower develops and manufactures their solar panels, inverters, batteries, chargers in-house, and other pieces of solar equipment in-house, without the involvement of any third-party manufacturers.
Tesla is the renewable energy division of Tesla, a company best known for its highly regarded, high-tech electric vehicles (EVs). A relative newcomer to the solar power industry, Tesla made quite an entrance in 2016 when it acquired a veteran solar brand in SolarCity.
Tesla offers industry-leading residential solar arrays, batteries, inverters, and other solar offerings. The company has quickly become the poster child for green energy technology, thanks to its top-tier solar energy offerings and popular line of electric vehicles.
There’s an excess of information on both SunPower and Tesla, as these two are among the most popular high-end solar companies in the US. The sheer volume of information, however, can be overwhelming, especially when comparing the two companies.
In this article, we have distilled all the essential information about SunPower and Tesla, including both companies’ products and services, equipment, installation process, warranties, cost and financing, and customer reviews.
SunPower vs. Tesla: Products and Services
SunPower and Tesla are known for their top-of-the-line ultramodern solar installations, and both companies are arguably two of the most well-integrated, well-rounded solar service companies in the country.
SunPower is essentially a combination of two companies—SunPower and Maxeon. SunPower is responsible for supplying and distributing solar panel installations and other solar services to customers across the US. Maxeon, on the other hand, is responsible for manufacturing the company’s signature high-efficiency solar panels, as well as other pieces of patented solar hardware.
SunPower is among the leading developers, manufacturers, and suppliers of solar panels and other solar solutions worldwide. The company has manufacturing operations in the U.S., Mexico, Europe, China, Malaysia and the Philippines.
SunPower installations are usually powered by Maxeon’s high-efficiency solar panels, which are among the most efficient panels on the market. With a 22.8% efficiency rating, SunPower panels are ideal for homes with limited roof space, as you don't need as many panels to generate a usable amount of electricity.
SunPower has also developed its own smartphone app that lets SunPower customers monitor the performance of their solar power system wherever they go. The app allows customers access to important solar panel metrics, including: power output, energy production history, savings estimate, and environmental impact projection.
Tesla provides comprehensive residential solar solutions, from the production of premium, industry-standard solar panels, solar shingles, batteries, and inverters, to the installation and maintenance of its residential solar systems.
Tesla is especially known for innovating and developing cutting-edge solar products, such as the Tesla Solar Roof and the Tesla Power Wall. Other popular solar products from the company include, Tesla’’s standard monocrystalline panels, solar inverter, and the Tesla App.
Tesla successfully created a true alternative to traditional solar panels with the Tesla Solar Roof. The Tesla Solar Roof is made up of solar shingles—relatively compact solar panels—that take on the appearance of a traditional roof.
Tesla also manufactures the most reliable and the most popular solar energy storage solution on the market. Capable of storing 14 kilowatt-hours of backup energy, the Tesla Powerwall is the absolute gold-standard when it comes to solar battery solutions—so much so that other solar companies offer the Powerwall with their own solar installations.
SunPower vs. Tesla: Installation Process
SunPower and Tesla handle everything about their solar system installation process. Both companies share a very similar installation process, with a few notable differences.
SunPower follows these seven-steps in their standard installation process:
- Consultation: SunPower will ask you to provide preliminary information, including your address, monthly energy costs, savings goals, etc. SunPower will give you a free quote and set a schedule for an onsite survey.
- Survey: SunPower solar specialists will conduct a site assessment to work out the details of your SunPower system design, panel specifications, and appearance.
- Design: SunPower will give you access to the company’s online design studio that you can use to design your custom solar installation. You can play around with your design until you’re satisfied with your system configuration.
- Permitting: SunPower will compile the necessary paperwork and acquire all the necessary permits from your city, ensuring that your solar installation follows local codes and regulations.
- Installation: SunPower will install your residential solar system on the date of your choosing. During the day of installation, a local team of certified installers will arrive on site to install your solar system.
- Inspection: SunPower will coordinate a final inspection with the city and your local utility company. SunPower will make sure that your solar system successfully meets all the local requirements.
- Activation: SunPower will acquire the official Permission to Operate (PTO) for your newly installed solar system. SunPower will then connect your system to the electrical grid, so you can start powering your home with clean renewable solar energy.
Tesla follows these seven-steps in their standard installation process:
- Purchase: Tesla will suggest a personalizable solar system configuration when you enter your details on the website. Tesla will then provide a mockup of the installation and a rough estimate of how much it costs.
- Survey: Tesla will ask you to send photos of your equipment and system spaces. Tesla will then use remote aerial imaging technology to confirm your roof’s area and slope.
- Design: Tesla will ask you to collaborate on creating a custom design for your solar installation that accounts for your home’s structure and energy requirements.
- Permitting: Tesla will secure all necessary permits and other relevant documentation in preparation for the installation of your solar system.
- Installation: Tesla will install your residential solar system on the date of your choosing. A local team of Tesla certified installers will arrive onsite and. you will be required to be present for the first hour of installation.
- Inspection: Tesla will coordinate with your local building department to arrange a final inspection after the installation is completed.
- Activation: Tesla will acquire the official Permission to Operate (PTO) for your Tesla system. Tesla will then connect your system to the electrical grid, and you will officially have access to clean renewable energy.
SunPower vs. Tesla: Warranties
SunPower and Tesla both have complete confidence over the quality of their solar offerings; both provide comprehensive system warranties and extended performance guarantees on every solar system they install.
SunPower products are designed to work in tandem, and they all enjoy the same level of warranty coverage. SunPower provides a comprehensive 25-year system warranty that covers the entire solar installation—including repairs, replacement, labor, and shipping—at no extra cost.
SunPower solar installations also come with a 25-year performance guarantee that ensures that the panels will continue to produce 94% of their original capacity for up to 25 years. Meanwhile, the company's top-shelf Maxeon series of solar panels come with an even longer 40-year performance guarantee.
Tesla provides a 10-year comprehensive warranty that covers all the main components of your solar system, including: the solar array, Powerwalls, solar inverter, and roof mounting and leaks. For the next ten years after the installation, Tesla will handle any necessary maintenance or labor requests for your solar system at no cost to you.
Tesla solar panels also come with a 25-year performance guarantee that ensures that the panels will continue to operate at 80% of their maximum power capacity for the next 25 years, far longer than the 12-year industry standard.
SunPower vs. Tesla: Costs and Financing
SunPower and Tesla both play an important part in making residential solar technology economically competitive with more traditional forms of energy.
SunPower residential solar systems and installation costs are typically pricier than the industry average, although not by an exorbitant amount. A 6-kilowatt SunPower system should cost anywhere between $18,720 and $22,440. It’s worth considering, though, that SunPower prices come with the company’s signature high-efficiency solar panels.
SunPower solar systems can be paid for using two payment options—you can pay in cash, or you can take a solar loan, which is payable for up to 12 years, through the company’s various finance partners. Both cash and loan options will grant you full ownership of your SunPower panels and will make you eligible for any solar credits, rebates, and incentives.
SunPower solar systems can also be financed through the company’s various solar lease and solar financing agreements. Both these financing options are available to qualified homeowners and provide the lowest barrier to entry for many people. While the upfront costs for both are negligible—sometimes at 0% downpayment—you won’t have ownership over your panels, and you won’t be eligible for any solar credits, rebates, and incentives.
Tesla solar installations tend to vary a lot depending on customer location, system size, and selected solar equipment—for instance, whether you’re going for the company’s standard solar panels or the Tesla Solar Roof.
Tesla will recommend a solar system configuration if you head over to their website and enter your details. Tesla’s purchasing process is quite simple as their solar array offerings come in standard panel sizes—small (12 panels), medium (24 panels), large (36 panels), Solar Roof (2,329 sq. ft.).
Tesla solar systems can be paid for using two payment options—you can pay upfront with cash, or you can take out a solar loan through the company itself. Both payment options grant you full ownership of your Tesla panels, so you are eligible for any federal solar tax credits, any local incentives, and rebates.
SunPower vs. Tesla: Customer Reviews
SunPower and Tesla both have varied reviews that seem to be largely dependent on customer location. This isn’t surprising as both companies have a wide service coverage in all 50 states.
SunPower receives numerous positive customer reviews commending the company’s high-quality and state-of-the-art solar panels, professional installation process, consistent system performance, and extensive warranties. ** SunPower** receives a number of negative customer reviews criticizing the company’s unreliable customer service and spotty communication. SunPower’s wide service area makes it quite difficult for the company to promptly and consistently address every customer issue.
Tesla receives loads of positive reviews praising the company’s seamless solar system integration, unrivaled equipment quality, and cutting-edge solar innovations, and ability to deliver significant energy savings.
Tesla receives many negative customer reviews criticizing the company’s ineffective communication channels, questionable maintenance schedule, and inability to follow up on post-installation issues. It appears that the company is finding it difficult to establish reliable after-sales customer support across its wide service coverage.
SunPower vs. Tesla: The Bottom Line
SunPower and Tesla are two of the most reliable premium solar solutions companies that actively push the boundaries of solar power technology.
SunPower is a good choice if you want a fully-integrated residential solar system that is designed to work together from the factory to your home. With SunPower, you know that your solar panels are designed and built by the same company that installs and maintains them.
SunPower might also be the way to go if you want best-in-class system warranties and performance guarantees. SunPower residential solar installations has some of the best warranties in the business, including a 25-year system warranty and a 40-year performance guarantee on the company’s Maxeon panels
Tesla may be a good choice if you want to get the best available solar technology for your money, even if it means dealing with fairly unreliable customer service. Given that most of the company’s positive customer reviews are about the hardware that Tesla uses in their residential solar installations, it’s safe to assume that Tesla's strengths lie mainly in its advanced solar technology.
Tesla is a great option for you if you put a premium on bleeding-edge solar products like the highly-efficient and stylishly modern Tesla Solar Roof and the company’s vaunted Powerwall solar batteries. Tesla is a good choice if you want a residential solar system that doesn’t impact your home’s appearance.
SunPower and Tesla both provide premium solar installations and advanced solar solutions at the end of the day, and both companies definitely deserve your consideration.