Vivint Solar was among the most prominent full-service solar power providers in the United States until late 2020 when it was acquired by Sunrun, another prominent figure in the solar energy space. There’s a solid chance that you’ve heard about Vivint, especially if you’re a homeowner in a state that has widely adopted residential solar power such as California, New Mexico, or Arizona.
Vivint offered panel installation and other solar services in 24 states, predominantly in the southwest (California, Arizona, Texas) and northeast (Virginia up to New Hampshire), though the company also had a formidable presence in Florida, South Carolina, Illinois, and Hawaii.
In this review, we will go over important information about Vivint Solar, including the company’s products and services, equipment, installation process, warranties, cost and financing, customer reviews, and the current status of the company.
Vivint Company Overview
Founded in 1999, Vivint was originally a home security systems company that operated under the name APX Alarm Security Solutions. In 2011, APX Alarm Security Solutions rebranded itself to Vivint. The newly rebranded company eventually spun off Vivint Solar—a standalone company that provided solar energy solutions as a more environmentally responsible alternative to traditional energy.
It didn’t take long for Vivint to establish itself in the solar industry. Vivint’s rise to success was mainly driven by the company’s massive commission-based direct-to-home sales network and aggressive door-to-door sales tactics. Vivint’s aggressive business practices and loose sales structure, however, had allowed its salespeople to employ questionable marketing tactics which carried troubling ramifications for the company.
In late 2020, Vivint Solar was acquired by another prominent solar power provider in Sunrun. The acquisition proved to be a significant move that allowed both Sunrun and Vivint to provide more impactful solar energy offerings to more households across the United States.
Soon after the acquisition, Vivint began to operate as an independent subsidiary of Sunrun. At the time, Vivint and Sunrun combined had roughly three gigawatts of solar power and catered to roughly 600,000 customers. Today, in 2022, Vivint has been fully integrated into the Sunrun organization.
Products and Services
Vivint Solar was a full-service and exclusively residential solar energy provider. The company sold and installed residential solar panel systems, mainly solar panels, backup solar batteries, EV chargers and energy efficiency packages. Vivint’s comprehensive solar products and services allowed the company to offer highly customized solar experience to its customers.
Vivint sold low-profile solar panels that were known for its ruggedness and ability to withstand harsh weather, all while looking stylish on your roof. Vivint also offered batteries and 240-volt EV chargers for your solar energy storage needs.
Vivint Solar provided their customers the technology to monitor their residential system to make sure it is performing optimally. The company was able to develop its own Vivint Solar Home Energy App that allowed its customers to keep track of their daily energy generation and usage. Additionally, Vivint customers had access to an online solar account that provided real-time information about solar energy systems and allowed them to calculate their savings.
Vivint operated in 24 states, consisting of:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
Vivint Solar partnered with LG to offer highly efficient monocrystalline PV solar panels with passivated emitter and rear contact (PERC) solar cells. Vivint’s solar panel designs were some of the most efficient solar panels available on the market at the time, capable of maximizing power generation even with limited space.
Vivint’s solar panels were versatile enough to fit most residential installations, especially those with limited roofspace. Vivint used solar panels that weigh 40 pounds and measure 65 x 40 x 1.5 inches. Vivint Solar installed solar panels on roofs of all shapes and sizes that were in good condition.
At the end of their contract term, Vivint customers had the option to renew their contract for five more years or they can buy the panels at market price, or remove the panels for free if they were no longer interested in having solar panels.
Vivint Solar also sold and installed both the LG Chem battery and the Tesla Powerwall, which to this day remains to be the two of the most popular high-quality, high-efficiency solar batteries. These backup batteries provided Vivint customers with a steady supply of electricity at night and during blackouts. Both the LG Chem battery and the Tesla Powerwall were compatible with Vivint’s Solar and SmartHome options.
Vivint Solar followed a very straightforward 5-step installation process.
Step 1: Vivint Solar would perform an initial consultation. Vivint would survey your home in order to determine your energy needs. Vivint would also address any questions or concerns you might have had.
Step 2: Vivint’s in-house team of technicians would conduct a second visit to your home and examine the specifications of your property. Vivint would design a solar system specifically for your home that meets your energy requirements and financial goals.
Step 3: Vivint would confirm that your roof, along with the rest of the property, is suitable for installation. Vivint would work on accomplishing the municipal permits and utility paperwork necessary for installation.
Step 4: Vivint would work with you to set a formal installation date for your solar system. During the day of installation, Vivint crews would arrive on site and spend roughly 8 hours in installing the solar panels and other electrical components on your roof and other areas of the property. Vivint would also teach you how to operate your new solar system.
Step 5: Vivint would coordinate a final inspection with the city/municipality and your local utility company. After the inspection, you would have been granted the official Permission to Operate (PTO) that would have allowed Vivint to activate and connect your solar system to the power grid and start generating solar energy.
Customers who were moving or have plans of moving while still under contract with Vivint had the option to transfer and reinstall the solar panels to their new address at no additional cost, transfer the agreement to the new homeowner, or pre-pay the remainder of the contract, or purchase their solar system at market cost (provided that they had it for six years at the time of moving).
Vivint Solar residential systems came with a fairly standard set of warranties, including:
- a 10-year workmanship warranty that covered any damages to your solar system or to your home that might have resulted from the installation
- a 25-year linear performance warranty that ensured the performance and generation efficiency of your panels and solar equipment at or above a specified degradation rate
- a 10-year manufacturer's warranty on the inverter
As was fairly standard with most solar power providers, Vivint customers were made responsible for basic maintenance, including the routinary cleaning of the solar panels. Vivint also provided a solar support representative to help customers address any post-installation issues.
Costs and Financing
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the average cost of a residential solar panel system was roughly $2.94 per watt, which means that an average 5-kilowatt (kW) system cost roughly $11,000 before installation fees. Most residential solar providers charged between 100% and 200% of the cost of panels for installation, which means that a Vivint residential solar system cost approximately $22,000–$33,000.
Vivint Solar customers paid an average rate of $13.90 cents per kilowatt hour, which was relatively high when compared to the national average rate of $13.67 cents per kilowatt hour. However, Vivint Solar customers paid $75.34 per month for their electricity bill on average, which was 37.73% less compared to the rest of the country.
Vivint Solar offered the same financing options as other residential solar companies. Vivint solar systems were purchased through outright cash payments or were financed through solar loans, solar leases, and power purchase agreements (PPAs). While the company offered cash payments and solar loans, Vivint’s marketing definitely favored power purchase agreements and solar leases.
If you decided to finance your residential solar system through Vivint’s power purchase agreement (PPA), you would be paying the company for every kilowatt-hour of electricity your solar panels generated. Under the PPA, you had access to the solar energy produced by your solar panels, but you didn’t actually own the solar panels themselves; you rented them from Vivint instead. With Vivint retaining ownership of the panels, the company was entitled to any and all applicable tax incentives and rebates.
Vivint’s solar lease option also allowed you to avoid up-front costs. With Vivint’s solar lease, you paid a monthly fee to use the solar panels and all the electricity it generated. As with the PPA, you had access to the solar energy produced by your solar panels, but you didn't actually own the solar panels themselves; Vivint retained ownership so you were not eligible for any tax incentives and rebates.
Vivint’s also offered cash payment or solar loan options. While both required more significant up-front payment compared to solar leases and PPA, both cash payments and solar loan also gave you full ownership of the panels and therefore qualified you to take full advantage of the federal solar tax credits and any local incentives.
Vivint Customer Reviews
Vivint Solar, having been one of the most prominent solar providers in the US, had numerous reviews online. Vivint’s customer reviews were a mixed bag, to say the least.
Positive reviews for Vivint Solar were largely from customers who had opted to buy their residential solar system outright. These customers often remarked on how their customized solar installations met their specific energy needs. There were some positive remarks on how professional the Vivint’s solar panel installers were and how friendly the company’s sales representatives were.
Negative reviews for Vivint Solar were largely from customers who felt that they were misled into signing a questionable contract after being advertised free panels. Others negative comments were about sketchy sales tactics, faulty equipment, poor system monitoring, and high energy costs.
The Bottom Line
Given that the negative reviews on Vivint Solar overwhelmingly outweighed any positive reviews—plus multiple class-action lawsuits and state contractor license violations—it’s probably fair to say that there were far more reputable residential solar providers in the US.
Despite Vivint's history of questionable sales tactics, Vivint, until its acquisition, maintained a following of satisfied customers who had been quite happy with the system and services they got from the company.
Today, Sunrun owns and has completely integrated Vivint into its organization. Sunrun has an overall better customer service rating with a more extensive network of qualified solar professionals. If you are considering Sunrun, be sure to do your research, read your contract closely, and ask all the questions you have before signing a solar lease or PPA.