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Residential Solar Panel Installer
updated: Aug 02, 2014, 9:22 AM

We'd really appreciate recommendations for (local?) companies installing residential solar panels. The previous edhat thread on this topic is 2 years old with lots of conflicting reports. Thanks!

 COMMENT 541525 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-02 09:58 AM

go talk to the folks at the Community Environmental Council.
they put groups together for better costs per unit installed.


 COMMENT 541527 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-02 10:02 AM

For photovoltaic try Prime Solar, (805) 646-8383

Based on my first hand inside knowledge, I'd stay away from the smooth talking, Solar Energy Company


 COMMENT 541528 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-02 10:02 AM

My recommendation is wait five years. I love the idea of solar, but if you run the numbers it just doesn't pencil out yet. I think in a few years the panels will be half or less of what they cost now.


 COMMENT 541532 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-02 10:08 AM

I second the Community Environmental Council recommendation. solarizesb.org is the CEC's program website. Also I wouldn't recommend waiting 5 years because the federal tax credit is going to expire in 2016 and that helps cover 30% of the total cost.


 COMMENT 541539 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-02 10:27 AM

sungevity they installed ours and we are producing more energy than we use!


 COMMENT 541540 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-02 10:32 AM

Sun Pacific did ours. We're very happy with them.


 COMMENT 541551 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-02 10:57 AM

One of my parents used Sungevity and one used Sun Pacific and both are happy.

528 Maybe 20 years ago. Dads solar already paid off and making $$$. You want to own not lease so you get write offs and rebates.


 COMMENT 541576P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-02 12:16 PM

Yes, look into Solarize SB. As I recall, their deadline to sign a contract is mid August, and their price/watt installed is very compelling for a purchase agreement.

The price has come down a lot since I got quotes in 2012. @532 mentioned keeping an eye on the expiring federal tax credit. Another issue is getting onboard before the net metering arrangement changes.


 COMMENT 541578 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-02 12:22 PM

I had Solforce install mine just over a year ago based on good reviews on Edhat. The owner, Abe Powell has been doing solar installations for over a decade. The installation is neat and tidy with little conduit showing and all wires carefully tied. The building inspector was very impressed with the job. My solar system produces 10% more power than Abe estimated.


 COMMENT 541585 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-02 12:51 PM

I have heard good reports about Sungevity, and also Solar City (Tesla's partner).

Here in the South West, the Sun shines - a lot. Solar + advanced battery storage is the way of the future, especially here in S. California. That way, we can *liberate* ourselves, individually and collectively from the incestuous duopoly or "joint tyranny" of big oil and the power utilities.

The decentralization of power distribution - away from the grid - is vital to our peace and security, in every respect.


 COMMENT 541594P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-02 01:30 PM

Great discussion! Thank you everyone. We are all benefiting from this.


 COMMENT 541602 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-02 02:17 PM

Yes! Thank you for all the info :)


 COMMENT 541636P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-02 05:20 PM

We had a nightmare experience with the Solar Energy Company for our water solar system. 2 years of tepid water and being screamed at by the owner. That was immediately rectified when we found Mac Solar. Yay! Mike is awesome.

We then got solar electric with a battery back up from Sun Pacific Solar based on a recommendation from Mike at Mac Solar. The crew was so professional, the work was excellent, and everything was explained in great detail so we understood how everything worked.


 COMMENT 541638P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-02 05:31 PM

Out of all those mentioned - Sun Pacific, Solforce, and Mac Solar are the only "local" companies. Prime Solar is out of Ojai. Sungevity is out of Oakland and Solar City is national - the closest office being in SLO.

Just emphasizing the local aspect, as I'd like to think we take care of our own.


 COMMENT 541679 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-02 07:26 PM

Here are some quick numbers i came up with after getting a few local bids. I use an average amount of electricity in a 2300 Sqft house. It was going to cost $30,000 to install and would cover about 60% of our energy use. Our home has full sun from sunrise to sun set.Not to mention the cost of maintenance or repair. Definitely no where near worthy of investing into. Give it about 5 years or so for the technology to be there.


 BULLSEYEB agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-02 07:36 PM

My first thought is Mike at Mac's Solar. He is a knowledgeable guy who repairs all sorts of systems. He should have a good feel for which products are the best. Mike is super easy to deal with and he is super reliable! I'd trust his opinion on this.

Good luck with whatever you decide to go with for your home.


 JUKINJAY agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-02 08:51 PM

Justin from Coastal Construction in Ojai did ours. Very professional, reasonable, friendly people.


 COMMENT 541698P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-02 09:54 PM

I've had 3 solar installs since 2003 in 3 different locations. Two were in Santa Barbara, done by California Solar Electric. They're based in carpinteria. They did a great job. I have two all-electric cars and my PV system is both my "gas station" and my house power. My electric bill is zero.

Now is the time because you never know when the rebates will dry up federal and/or state.

I have a friend who had solar city do his roof mount and he's very happy. He chose a monthly lease.

I have another friend who did a large system and used California Solar Electric as well and also has been happy with it for 5yrs. Once it's installed, you don't really even think about it.


 COMMENT 541701P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-02 10:51 PM

OK, I call BS on 578, I've seen this mans work, AND have been called out to do repairs on his installs. because he does not honor his so called warranty, sorry Abe, your work at first may impress, but, your follow up leaves a lot to be desired, smooth talker, fast walker


 COMMENT 541713 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-03 07:01 AM

Good Energy Renewables installed our system this summer shortly after their Mesa Verde job. High quality product and work ethic.


 COMMENT 541717 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-03 07:34 AM

Lots of second rate operators and out and out crooks in this business. Do research on Angie's list and the better business bureau and you'll find many of the operators listed on this thread have inconsistant performance.

I went with REC solar based on BBB reports and had the best experience I've ever had with any contractor including close friends I've used. Wow. Also, if you do Costco find out which ones they work with. Costco selects it's partners very carefully and audits them for financials and customer experience frequently.


 COMMENT 541718 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-03 07:41 AM

Sun Pacific
Jay Johnson, (805)450-0925 is LOCAL, honest and one of the first who started working in solar energy in this area.
He installed our solar array on a south facing hillside behind our house and we are very happy with the results. We got bids from 4 other companies and are very pleased that we chose Jay. We have referred him to several friends and all have had positive experiences with Jay and his work. We are very happy not to be supporting Edison and that we are doing our small part in taking care of our environment.


 COMMENT 541753 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-03 09:37 AM

There are bad reports on leasing solar systems. Homeowners are unable to sell their homes because the buyer has to assume the lease and that can be a turnoff. Also, leased panels are considered personal property and not part of the house, so a mortgage can't cover the panels. So the seller may have to pay off the lease and the home value may not increase enough to cover the payoff.


 COMMENT 541767P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-03 10:02 AM

Planet Solar did ours and we were very happy with them, including their price and more efficient panel technology. We are now approaching our first year of operation and things are great. Looks like it was right sized, efficient and very cost effective per our most recent (Thursday) SCE bill.


 COMMENT 541771 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-03 10:07 AM

We had Sun Pacific install our system late last year - high efficiency Sunpower panels (take up less roof space) and an SMA inverter that provides 1500 watts of "emergency" power if the electric grid goes down during the day. Our net metered SCE bill is -$81.07 so far this year, which included a fair amount of air conditioning in July (we live in the foothills where it's warmer).


 COMMENT 541778 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-03 10:20 AM

Do your self a favor and talk to Aaron Lucket at Good Energy Renewables. He's an honest, hard working local. I'm very happy with my solar investment.




 EARO65 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-03 10:26 AM

REC did ours in 2005. We have not had a bill or any problems since then. Our only expense was getting a new roof, we had to have the panels removed and reinstalled. Retirement costs enough, removing one bill helps not only the environment but also our bottom line. They cost about half now, of what we paid. Not worth the wait.


 COMMENT 541796 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-03 10:43 AM

Ditto for Rec Solar - good experience bad good results all the way around.


 MOUNTAINMAN4865 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-03 11:15 AM

Sun Pacific Solar did our house, and we are very pleased.
The crew was very professional, and they actually have fun and enjoy their jobs.
They are a LOCAL company, who have LOCAL emplyess who LIVE in Santa Barbara.
They are not a national or multi-national company.!
REC is owned by SunRun, look them up. Solar City is also a huge company.
Sure you may get a lower price (maybe) but you are in no way supporting local companies or your fellow residents. All your money leaves the city and supports stupidly large corporations.
I would rather spend the extra money and see our community benefit as well as help my neighbors.
I was told by the owners, that other than the actual panels and inverters, all other supplies are purchased through Channel City, Specialty Tool, Buena Tool, Haywards, CES, Graybar, McCormix, all of these companies are in Santa Barbara, and the vast majority of those employed there, live in Santa Barbara.
Thank you Sun Pacific Solar for being here.


 COMMENT 541822 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-03 11:23 AM

Is it worthwhile if your electric bill is only $75-$80 dollars per month? At what $ amount per month can you make the switch to solar and be ahead financially?


 COMMENT 541830P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-03 11:44 AM

I believe that Solar City could not care if local companies are used - their aim, solar as much as possible. Even if it means sharing information, as they did with Tesla, with other companies. So local is good.


 COMMENT 541852 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-03 12:53 PM

We used Santa Barbara based, "The Solar Company", (Chris Farley) to install our system about 10 years ago. After various credits and deductions the system costs amortized over about 4.5 years. We initially designed the system to reduce the bill to first tier usage (the least expensive tier and then logical way to design the system) and later decided to eliminate even that tier of charges with an easy addition of another 1.1kw worth of panels. The Solar Company employees were professional, timely, and competent. Contact info: The Solar Company, 1216 State Street, #606, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, (805) 962-8898 (T)


 COMMENT 541874P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-03 01:59 PM

@822: when I looked into this, I was told $100/month bill was the tipping point. We were in the $80/month range, but now, a couple of years later, we find ourselves wading into Tier 4. Edison's rates keep climbing.

A solar installer will ask for a year of your bills and calculate what your expected ROI (return on investment) would be as part of the bid.


 COMMENT 541886 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-03 02:33 PM

I have been exceptionally pleased with Mike McRae of Mac's Solar, since the early 1990's.
He has all the personal traits and competencies that one could wish for. He is a truly exceptional person. If you call him, you will soon learn that his many years of experience with solar issues result in the highest quality work -- whatever solar issue your project may involve. His honesty and integrity results in loyal and happy customers like myself. Kudos Mike!


 BONNER agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-03 03:01 PM

REC solar installed my system in 2006 and I've not paid more than $1.10 a month since. With all the rebates it was an obvious decision to make when doing a remodel to a 5-bdrm 2800 sf home. Even if it doesn't pay for itself in my lifetime, which I think it easily will, it's such a help and relief in the monthly utility bills that the peace of mind during my retirement years has been worth the cost over and over again. REC was a great contractor with great follow up, even all these years later when if I have a question.


 COMMENT 541929 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-03 05:32 PM

We can highly recommend Gary Gordon at SYV Solar. He's an honest, knowledgeable and experienced professional. 805/688-1213. (The whole story: He happens to be a personal friend of ours)


 COMMENT 542173 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-08-04 04:57 PM

I suggest Community Environmental Council as well. They have programs going on this summer that are great deals. They have a pretty strict selection process so you know you are getting the best when they recommend someone.



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