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Sunrun against Tesla: In 2023, Which Solar Company Should You Pick?

Sunrun vs. Tesla

Photo: bobvila.com

For some homeowners, choosing a solar company might feel like quite an ordeal. There is no shortage of solar installation companies, and each one offers similar services (installation of roof- and ground-mounted arrays as well as tying into the home’s electrical panel). However, homeowners need to find a company they can trust, and two of the top companies in the space are Sunrun and Tesla. When considering Sunrun versus Tesla, homeowners will want to compare the two companies to decide on the best solar company for their particular needs.

How We Compared Sunrun vs. Tesla

Man in a yellow safety vest installs solar panels on a roof.

Photo: istockphoto.com

  • Service area: Perhaps the most important factor is whether a customer’s chosen solar company offers service in their area. We compared the range of cities and states each company works in.
  • Panel efficiency and performance: We compared the efficiency of the solar panels, not only at the beginning of their usable life cycle but also toward the end, when panels are likely to be less efficient.
  • Additional products and services: It’s important that customers can customize or add services and products. We compared the additional options offered by both solar companies.
  • Cost and financing options: The cost of solar panels is a major factor for homeowners to consider. We researched both companies’ options for purchasing or leasing solar panel systems to see which offered the most options.
  • Warranties: Solar panel systems are big investments, and it’s important that customers know what they’re responsible for and what the company will cover if something stops working. Longer, more encompassing warranties are best, but ultimately, up-front warranty language and clarity are just as important.
  • Customer reviews: We relied on the collective opinions of customers to help homeowners understand what working with each individual solar provider might look like. We looked at Better Business Bureau, Trustpilot, Consumer Affairs, and other sources to determine which company is the best regarded.
Service Area18 states; Washington, D.C.; and Puerto Rico50 states and Washington, D.C.
Panel EfficiencyNot specifiedNot specified
Additional Products and ServicesSolar batteries, electric vehicle chargers, system monitoringSolar roof, solar batteries, electric vehicle chargers, system monitoring
Financing OptionsBuy, loan, lease, power purchase agreement (depending on the state)Buy, loan
Warranties25-year performance and product warranty; 10-year roof-leak warranty25-year performance guarantee; 10-year comprehensive warranty
Better Business Bureau RatingA+A+

Sunrun vs. Tesla: Service Area

Choosing a solar contractor often hinges on homeowners finding one that works in the area in which they live. Some contractors might install solar panels only in certain states, while others might offer nationwide services. Finding a company whose service area includes a given address is often the first step for homeowners to take in finding an installer.

Sunrun’s service area is somewhat confusing. The company’s website states that it serves 175 cities within 22 states, but it only names 18 states:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Vermont

Sunrun states it also services Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. States that aren’t named on the company website may be eligible, but customers will have to check, and this isn’t ideal for homeowners looking for a contractor.

On the other hand, Tesla’s website states that it serves all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Service may be performed by Tesla itself or some of its contractors, but the all-encompassing service area makes Tesla the clear choice when it comes to service area. Homeowners know that if they contact Tesla for solar panel quotes, the company will be able to meet their request regardless of where they live.

Verdict: Sunrun offers solar panel installation in at least 18 states; Puerto Rico; and Washington, D.C. However, Sunrun’s website has conflicting information about the exact service area, which makes it harder for customers to gauge whether Sunrun is an option in their state. Tesla solar panels, on the other hand, are available for installation in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., so more customers can opt for Tesla solar power.

Winner: Tesla

Solar panels are on a red roof against a city backdrop.

Photo: istockphoto.com

Sunrun vs. Tesla: Panel Efficiency and Performance

One of the main advantages of solar energy is that it allows customers to move away from fossil fuels—but if the panels don’t produce enough power, the homeowner will still need to get some of their power from a traditional source. That’s why, when it comes to installing a solar panel system, the performance of the panels is a major factor for homeowners to consider (the efficiency of the panels can also determine how many solar panels are needed to power a house). This is a process that takes time, and since the cost can be a significant investment, homeowners will want to know that the panels they install are efficient and will last a long time. Additionally, they want the best solar panel performance that they can afford to help them decide if solar is worth it for their home.

Neither Sunrun nor Tesla offers specifications or stats about how efficient its solar panels are. However, some third-party testers have found each company’s test panels to operate at around 20 percent to 21 percent efficiency, which is comparable with those of other solar companies.

However, over the long run, Tesla solar panel efficiency might edge Sunrun out. Tesla offers a 25-year power production guarantee, which states that after 25 years Tesla solar panels will still operate at 80 percent or greater, providing some peace of mind for homeowners.

Sunrun panels don’t have a power performance guarantee, so customers might not feel as comfortable about their long-term efficiency. However, what Sunrun does state is that it provides a proactive solar system monitoring service that will monitor the system to ensure it runs at peak performance. It doesn’t indicate what occurs when the monitoring system does detect an issue, however. This might be enough for some homeowners, but Tesla’s guarantee ensures that there is a measurable benchmark and gives it the edge over the Sunrun solar company.

Homeowners will want to note that biannual cleaning of solar panels can help improve their performance over the long run as well. For homeowners who aren’t comfortable cleaning their own solar panels, one of the best solar panel cleaning services can tackle the job for them.

Verdict: Neither Sunrun nor Tesla advertises the efficiency of its solar panels, though third-party sources put them both at around 20 percent to 21 percent. In terms of performance, Tesla offers a 25-year power production guarantee that assures customers their solar panels will perform to at least 80 percent of capacity over the long term. Sunrun doesn’t mention a power production guarantee but mentions that through solar system monitoring, the system will consistently run at peak performance.

Winner: Tesla

Sunrun vs. Tesla: Additional Products and Services

While some solar installation companies might be one-trick ponies, both Sunrun and Tesla offer other services that might be attractive to homeowners. Depending on how these services are bundled, they could be affordable upgrades that help homeowners take advantage of their new solar energy systems and get the most from their money.

Sunrun and Tesla both offer some base-level additional services. These include the installation of EV charging stations, solar batteries that can store excess energy and use it during power outages or overnight, and solar system monitoring software and apps.

However, Tesla takes these additional products and services to another level. It offers customers the option between standard roof panels, which are already sleek and modern, or solar roof tiles, which blend into the home’s roofing system and provide a very low-profile look. Solar shingles cost more than solar panels in most cases, but they offer many benefits, including a more seamless look and extreme durability. A Tesla solar roof can cost up to $150,000, which is expensive but may be a better option for homeowners who can afford it. Additionally, homeowners who own an electric vehicle from Tesla can charge it using solar power produced by their system, whereas Sunrun doesn’t sell electric vehicles.

Based on these comparisons, Tesla edges out Sunrun once again. There are simply more services, a wider range of products, and more ways to integrate renewable energy into daily life for homeowners who chooseTesla. Sunrun doesn’t offer the same product range, giving Tesla solar system customers a potentially better experience overall, depending on how they set up their solar installation.

Verdict: Sunrun and Tesla offer similar products and services, including solar batteries, electric vehicle chargers, and solar system monitoring. Tesla has an edge over Sunrun by offering the choice between traditional solar panels and sleek solar roof tiles, and customers who choose Tesla may also opt to purchase one of the company’s electric vehicles, which they can also power with their solar system.

Winner: Tesla

Sunrun vs. Tesla: Cost and Financing Options

While the service area, extra services, and panel efficiency are important, homeowners will also want to focus on the importance of the cost and financing of these systems. It doesn’t matter how many extra services or how well a panel can use solar energy if the system itself isn’t affordable.

Unfortunately, neither company offers prices for its solar panels or the installation costs on its website, so customers will have to call for quotes. The one edge that Tesla might have here is that it does offer a price-match guarantee, helping assure homeowners that they’re getting a fair price for their high-end system. While an initial quote for the cost of a Tesla solar panel system might be high, Tesla’s price-match guarantee means a homeowner might pay significantly less for Tesla solar panels if they find a lower price with a competitor.

Sunrun comes out ahead when it comes to financing options. Tesla financing options are limited, with the company offering homeowners just two methods for purchasing a solar system: paying in full for the system up front or taking out a solar panel loan. Sunrun, on the other hand, has a few more options. Customers can choose to purchase their Sunrun solar panels or take out a loan, or they can lease their system from Sunrun. Sunrun also offers power purchase agreements, which allow homeowners to pay reduced rates for power generated by the solar grid in exchange for the solar panel system.

Verdict: Neither company advertises the prices of its solar panel systems, but Tesla offers a price-match guarantee that can assure homeowners they’re getting a good deal on their solar system. However, while Tesla offers only two financing options (paying in full or taking out a solar panel loan), Sunrun offers leasing and power purchase agreements.

Winner: Sunrun

Two people in yellow vests work and inspect solar panels.

Photo: istockphoto.com

Sunrun vs. Tesla: Warranties

The practical longevity of a solar panel system is important. These systems and their components are expensive, so homeowners will want to make sure their investments are protected. Sunrun and Tesla both offer some protection to customers by providing warranties, and giving the win to either in this category is challenging.

Sunrun’s warranties are generous, but they’re not necessarily all-encompassing. The Sunrun warranty covers leased systems and components for 25 years. However, there isn’t any information available about warranties for purchased products, so customers will have to contact Sunrun and find out what’s covered, how long it’s covered, and what the replacement process or reimbursement is like.

Sunrun also offers comprehensive insurance for its systems. However, it only refers to this insurance as part of the lease plan, and it’s unclear exactly what insurance covers or if customers who have purchased their systems can pay for this coverage.

Tesla’s warranties only apply to purchased products as the company doesn’t lease systems. However, these warranties cover purchased panels for up to 25 years (and come with the power performance guarantee) while also offering 10-year comprehensive warranties for batteries, solar inverters, and roof-mounting systems.

Ultimately, the two competitors tie here. Sunrun’s warranty covers the entire system for 25 years, and although Tesla’s power coverage guarantee is a benefit, it only covers certain components for 10 years. Customers will have to decide which warranty provides enough peace of mind for their money, and each case may be different.

Verdict: The warranties offered by Sunrun and Tesla are relatively comparable; Sunrun offers a comprehensive 25-year warranty for leased systems, though the website doesn’t list warranty information for purchased systems. Tesla has a 25-year warranty for its purchased panels and a 10-year comprehensive warranty that protects batteries, solar inverters, and roof mounting.

Winner: Tie

Sunrun vs. Tesla: Customer Reviews

Sometimes it makes sense to draw upon the collective opinions of existing customers to determine which company is the best bet. This is another area where the two solar energy companies are fairly neck and neck, and deciding between the two may be difficult. Homeowners can look at Better Business Bureau ratings, Trustpilot, Consumer Affairs reports, and other sources to find complaints and other reviews that would tip the scales in favor of one company over the other.

Both Tesla and Sunrun reviews are fairly mixed, though this isn’t unusual when also considering other Tesla or Sunrun competitors, which also have a mixed bag of reviews. There are folks who love these companies’ services, while others have legitimate complaints. Tesla reviews on the Better Business Bureau site outperform Sunrun. However, on Consumer Affairs, it’s Sunrun that has the edge over Tesla’s Consumer Affairs rating. Neither company performs particularly well on Trustpilot, so this truly makes choosing one over the other a difficult task for homeowners.

However, homeowners may want to note that the Better Business Bureau currently has an open alert for Sunrun. This alert claims there is a pattern of consistent complaints from Sunrun customers, which may be a concern for potential customers. There are also multiple complaints on Trustpilot concerning Sunrun customer support.

It might interest some customers to realize that there are many more consumer reviews available for Sunrun than there are for Tesla. Sunrun has approximately five times the number of reviews that Tesla does across review platforms. This doesn’t indicate which company is better, only that one is reviewed more consistently than the other.

Verdict: Customer reviews are mixed for both Sunrun and Tesla, with Tesla garnering slightly higher ratings on the Better Business Bureau and Sunrun being higher rated on Consumer Affairs. However, the BBB has a current alert for Sunrun claiming a pattern of complaints, which may be a concern for potential customers.

Winner: Tesla

Verdict: Tesla is a solid option for homeowners who want the choice between traditional solar panels and solar roof tiles and who want to make sure they’re getting the best price on their system. However, Sunrun’s impressive solar panel lease option may make it a better choice for customers who don’t want to purchase or finance their solar panels.

Ultimately, folks who want the best possible price for their top-notch solar panel system will want to consider Tesla. The price-match guarantee, assortment of additional products and services, and choices between solar types are tough to beat. However, when it comes to overall affordability, Sunrun deserves some consideration, as the option to lease a system can be something many homeowners might not want to overlook. Customers may also want to consider Sunrun vs. SunPower when searching for a top-quality solar installer.

Between these two companies, there is something for just about every potential solar customer. Regardless of which company one chooses, both companies can help homeowners make the transition to clean energy for their home.


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Author: Darlene Ward

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