Residential solar systems are becoming more and more popular every year, and for good reason. Solar Energy is clean and renewable, and residential solar technology has become rather cost-effective and readily accessible over the last decade.
There are numerous solar companies in the United States that provide various residential solar services. If you're thinking of investing in a residential solar system, you've probably heard of Sunrun and Tesla, as these two companies are major players in the solar energy space.
Sunrun and Tesla are two of the leading solar companies in the United States, providing best-in-class residential solar solutions to homeowners nationwide.
Sunrun was established in San Francisco in 2007. Widely regarded as the company that popularized “solar leasing" or “solar as a service”, Sunrun has always been about making residential solar systems and solar service plans available to the public.
Sunrun is among the largest solar companies in the United States, operating in over 23 states and servicing over 250,000 homes. According to Wood Mckenzie, Sunrun has managed to capture 13% of the residential solar market in 2020 alone.
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 in all 50 states. 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 excessive amount of information available on both Sunrun and Tesla, as these two are titans in the solar service space. 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 Sunrun and Tesla, including both companies’ products and services, equipment, installation process, warranties, cost and financing, and customer reviews.
Sunrun vs. Tesla: Products and Services
Sunrun and Tesla both offer a comprehensive array of residential solar energy solutions. While similar in a lot of ways, these two companies do have fundamental differences in the way they operate.
Sunrun mainly provides residential solar panel installation services and other solar energy solutions. However, the company operates more like a solar financing firm. Sunrun does not produce its own solar equipment, including the panels used in their solar installations. Instead, the company leases residential solar systems as part of its “solar-as-service” business model.
Sunrun made residential solar technology a lot more affordable to a lot more homeowners in the US by popularizing low-cost solar leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs). Today, solar leases and solar PPAs account for about 80% to 90% percent of Sunrun's total business.
Sunrun, for a long time, exclusively used LG Neon R monocrystalline solar panels, which are some of the best performing panels in the market. In 2022, however, Sunrun started working with other top-tier solar panel manufacturers, including: SolarEdge, LONGi and Costco.
Sunrun also provides Brightbox solar battery service to its customers, which is an integrated solar storage solution that enables backup power to be used in low-to-no sunlight situations, like power outages.
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.
Sunrun vs. Tesla: Installation Process
Sunrun and Tesla handle everything about their solar system installation process. Both companies share a very similar installation process, with a few notable differences.
Sunrun follows these seven-steps in their standard installation process:
- Consultation: Sunrun will ask you to provide preliminary information, including your address, monthly energy costs, savings goals, etc. Sunrun will give you a free quote and set a schedule for an onsite survey.
- Survey: Sunrun solar specialists will conduct a site assessment to work out the details of your Sunrun system design, panel specifications, and appearance.
- Design: Sunrun will design a blueprint for a custom solar system that matches the specifications of your home and that meets both your energy requirements and financial goals.
- Permitting: Sunrun 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: Sunrun 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: Sunrun will coordinate a final inspection with the city and your local utility company. Sunrun will make sure that your solar system successfully meets all the local requirements.
- Activation: Sunrun will acquire the official Permission to Operate (PTO) for your newly installed solar system. Sunrun 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.
Sunrun vs. Tesla: Warranties
Sunrun and Tesla are both known to stand by the quality of their solar products; both provide comprehensive system warranties and performance guarantees on every solar system they install.
Sunrun residential solar installations come with a 10-year system warranty that covers any solar panel repairs and replacements, including labor and spares. Sunrun solar systems also come with a 10-year roof warranty that covers any leaks caused by the solar panel installation, as well as any accidental damage caused by the leak.
Sunrun residential solar systems also come with a 10-year performance guarantee that guarantees that the panels will continue to perform close to its maximum capacity for the next ten years. It’s worth noting, however, that the panels’ guaranteed production output diminishes each year to account for the typical panel degradation that takes place over time.
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.
Sunrun vs. Tesla: Costs and Financing
Sunrun and Tesla don’t necessarily have the most accurate pricing information online; this isn’t anything unusual since solar system prices tend to vary a lot depending on several key considerations such as customer location and solar system specifications, among other things.
Sunrun, in particular, is notorious for its overall lack of transparency when it comes to their pricing information. According to various reports, however, Sunrun’s prices are about 14% higher than the market average, which figures as Sunrun is a big corporation that carries higher overheads compared to other solar providers.
Sunrun residential solar panel systems can be paid for using two different payment options: full solar purchase and monthly solar loans. Both options get you full ownership of your panels, which makes you eligible for any federal solar tax credits, any local incentives, and rebates.
Sunrun residential solar panel systems, for the most part, are financed through solar leases and power purchase agreements. According to a Sunrun investors presentation, solar leases and solar PPAs account for roughly 90% percent of the company’s total business.
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.
Sunrun vs. Tesla: Customer Reviews
Sunrun and Tesla both have a mixed bag of reviews that appears to be predominantly determined by customer location. This isn’t surprising as both have a massive national coverage, with Sunrun operating in over 23 states and Tesla operating in all 50 states.
Sunrun receives numerous positive customer reviews commending the company’s hassle-free installation and immediate energy savings. Note that most of Sunrun’s positive reviews come from customers who are leasing their solar panels, instead of buying them.
Sunrun receives a number of negative customer reviews criticizing the company’s inattentive customer service. Sunrun has an expansive service area and massive customer base that make it very difficult for the company to promptly respond to every panel issue.
Tesla receives loads of positive reviews praising the company’s seamless solar system integration, top-tier 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.
Sunrun vs. Tesla: The Bottom Line
Sunrun and Tesla both make a very compelling case to invest in residential solar technology, at the end of the day.
Sunrun may be a good and practical choice if you’re looking for a quick and cost-effective way to go solar, as the company offers affordable solar leases and solar PPAs. It’s worth noting, however, that there have been complaints over Sunrun’s lack of transparency about their payment options, so it’s best to get in touch with a Sunrun representative directly.
Sunrun solar installations come with a 10-year system warranty. Sunrun solar installations also come with a 10-year performance guarantee, which is significantly shorter compared to Tesla’s 25 year performance guarantee. Sunrun, however, is excellent at maintaining its solar installations.
Tesla is maybe 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 industry-leading, 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.