Best Solar Panel Installation Companies in California

Going solar in California could be worth it, even with the state's new net metering rules.

Solar panels on the roof of a brick house.

California is a leader in rooftop solar panels.

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California is a leader in the solar industry, with enough solar power installed statewide as of December to power over 11 million homes. Solar panels may be a good option if you live in the Golden State and are interested in lowering your household carbon emissions while also saving on energy bills.

California's average residential electricity rate is higher than the national average, making Californians pay a higher traditional energy bill than residents in other states, according to SaveOnEnergy, CNET's sister company. 

On April 15, California's new net metering regulations went into effect. Overall, they increase the incentives for going solar with a battery while reducing the payouts for solar without storage.

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Meanwhile, the cost of residential solar panels has decreased by more than 69% in the last two decades, according to a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory report. Tax credits and rebates at the federal, state and local levels can help bring that cost down further. Whether you're interested in helping the environment or lowering your energy bills, the amount you could save on solar panels in 2022 is higher than in previous years.

Best national solar panel companies in California

According to the Solar Energy Industry Association, California has the largest solar market in the US, with nearly 2,000 solar companies operating across the state. While this means there are plenty of California solar installers to choose from, it can also feel overwhelming to sort through your options. 

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Interested in understanding the impact solar can have on your home? Enter some basic information below, and we’ll instantly provide a free estimate of your energy savings.

We've compiled a list of some of the best national solar panel companies that stand out in the industry. Here are a few that service California. 

ADT Solar

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Formerly Sunpro Solar, ADT Solar operates throughout California and provides a variety of solar systems, including battery installations. ADT Solar says it prioritizes customer satisfaction and offers 25-year labor, power production and manufacturer warranties. The company also extends a price-match guarantee on installations. 

ADT Solar does not offer solar leases or PPAs. The company installs panels from Qcells, Silfab and Canadian Solar. ADT Solar also offers a competitive price match guarantee. Read our full review of ADT Solar for more details.

Palmetto is one of the largest solar companies in the country and offers home solar systems in California. With Palmetto, you can buy solar panels outright or sign a solar lease or PPA. Most of Palmetto's customers choose to buy their solar system to save more on their energy bills over time.

Palmetto has operated in the solar industry since 2010 and says it's committed to customer service. It offers a subscription called Palmetto Protect, which monitors the performance of a solar system and provides tiered levels of support if the solar panels are damaged or fail. Palmetto solar panels have an efficiency rating above 19.8%, a minimum 12-year product warranty and a 25-year performance guarantee. Read our full review of Palmetto Solar for more details.

SunPower offers some of the most efficient residential solar panels and best warranties on the market. With an efficiency rating of up to 22.8%, the SunPower Equinox solar panels outrank all competitors. The SunPower Equinox package includes solar panels from Maxeon (a manufacturer that spun off from SunPower in 2020), Enphase microinverters and mounting equipment. 

SunPower operates across most California regions and aims to continue providing more accessible and affordable solar products. The company was founded in 1985 and offers some of the strongest warranties available, guaranteeing 92% production capacity for 25 years. Read our full review of SunPower Solar for more details.

Tesla Solar

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Tesla became a big player in the solar market in 2016 when it purchased SolarCity, significantly increasing Tesla's installation capacity. Between the solar panel branch of Tesla and the Tesla Solar Roof, Tesla is one of the most recognizable brands in the industry.

The price tag, efficiency rating and warranty terms will differ depending on the solar system you buy from Tesla. The Tesla Solar Roof comes with a 25-year product warranty and a performance warranty at 95% capacity after five years and 85% after 25 years. However, the Solar Roof has a much higher price tag than many competitors' offerings. 

Meanwhile, Tesla solar panels are more affordable than the Solar Roof, and the quality remains high. Its solar panels are warranted at 85% capacity after 25 years and have an efficiency range between 19.3% to 20.6%. However, it's worth noting that some Tesla customers have reported issues with customer service. Read our full review of Tesla Solar for more details.


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Sunrun offers a strong lineup of solar products and warranties. The company's focus is on solar leases, which come with a different set of pros and cons, but can be a good option for consumers who aren't able to purchase a solar system. While most of Sunrun's customers lease their equipment, the company still offers the option to buy solar panels.

The company currently sources its solar panels from several manufacturers. For people who lease their system from Sunrun, the company provides "bumper-to-bumper" coverage on maintenance and monitoring. However, those looking to buy a system will rely on the manufacturer's warranties. Sunrun does offer a 10-year quality warranty, which covers roof damage and installation issues. Read our full review of Sunrun for more details.

Local solar panel companies in California

During your search for solar installers, consider looking into local solar companies, too. We pulled a few California solar companies with some of the highest average Google review scores. However, you should also do some research on your own, and get referrals from people you know if you can. Here are a few local solar companies in California that might be worth considering.

AWS Solar

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AWS Solar is one of the highest-rated solar companies in southern California, specializing in residential and commercial solar installations. Its installers are certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners and the company is also certified by the Tile Roofing Institute. AWS Solar offers a 25-year manufacturer and labor warranty, as well as a 25-year panel performance warranty. There are other warranties available as well. You can request a quick, free over-the-phone quote before committing to an on-site consultation. With AWS Solar, you can either pay cash or finance your solar panels. 

Forme Solar

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Forme Solar is another highly rated local solar installer in California. The company specializes in residential and commercial solar installations, as well as solar panel and roof repair services. They also install solar batteries and EV chargers. Forme Solar offers straightforward pricing in the form of packages. Equipment, warranties and pricing will differ depending on the package. You can pay cash or finance your solar panels. 

Your Energy Solutions

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Your Energy Solutions is a highly rated solar installer servicing various parts of California. The company installs a wide variety of solar panels and offers two battery options: the SunPower SunVault or Enphase IQ batteries. Your Energy Solutions also offers a 25-year panel production and workmanship warranty. You can pay cash or finance your solar panels.

How to determine which solar company in California is best for me

You'll want to make sure your installer has experience working with the type of roof that you have, and the type of system you want installed, like grid-tied or off-grid. 

Ben Delman, a communications director with Solar United Neighbors, a clean energy nonprofit, says a homeowner interested in solar should look for solar installers that are certified by NABCEP and have the proper licensing for their work. Reading online reviews from multiple sources can also help you get a better understanding of a company's reputation. A few places to start looking for solar company reviews are Google, Yelp and Angie's. Delman recommends looking for solar companies that have at least 20 to 30 reviews. If you know someone who has solar panels on their home, you can ask them for recommendations too.

Aside from certifications and reviews, there are a few other things to look for in a solar installer. A good installer, Delman said, will be able to:

  • Give good word-of-mouth references
  • Clearly explain the project and working deadlines in detail 
  • Define technical terms in an easy-to-understand manner
  • Be transparent about pricing and how financing works
  • Have knowledge about the local permit requirements and the process for system interconnection with the local utility company
  • Understand homeowners association restrictions and help you navigate that process

A reputable solar installer should be able to answer any questions you may have, no matter how difficult those questions might be. Don't feel hesitant to ask for clarification on any project and pricing details. To get the best price possible, shop around for multiple quotes. Delman recommends getting at least three quotes before settling on an installer.

Read more: Just looking for an emergency backup? Check out portable solar panels and solar generators.  

Average cost of solar panels in California

Here's a look at the average cash price for a 5-kilowatt system before factoring in tax credits incentives, according to data from

California solar panel costs

System size (kW) Price per wattTotal cost
5 $3.47$17,350

California solar panel incentives and rebates

Even though the cost of solar panels has decreased in the last two decades, they're still a substantial investment. But several solar tax credits and incentives make solar more affordable, especially in California. One key solar incentive, net metering, was reduced in a utility commission vote last year. When that change goes into effect April 15, it's expected to increase a solar system's payback period from six years to 10. California also introduced time of use rates, which could make installing backup batteries more profitable.

The residential clean energy credit (previously known as the investment tax credit) is a federal solar tax incentive offered in California that credits 30% of the cost of a solar system back to consumers who buy solar panels. This solar tax credit was increased and extended due to the Inflation Reduction Act, passed in August. There is no cap on the federal tax credit, so you can claim the entire 30% regardless of the size of the system.

You can apply for the residential clean energy credit by including IRS Form 5695 with your tax return. The IRS provides instructions on how to fill out this form, or the best tax software can take care of it for you. Your savings from the tax credit will be included in your tax refund or used to offset taxes you owe. 

There are various state and local solar incentives available in California, too. You can find a more comprehensive list through the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. Here are just a few you should know.

California solar incentives

Program Description
Disadvantaged Communities - Single-Family Homes DAC-SASH provides no-cost rooftop solar installations to California households that meet set income qualifications.
Property tax exclusion for solar energy systems and solar plus storage system Consumers who install solar energy systems before 2024 are excluded from paying increased property taxes.
Net metering programs California offers net metering programs, which let consumers sell back to the grid any extra solar energy generated by their system. Californians connecting their solar system to the grid after April 15, 2023, will be under net energy metering 3.0, which sets reimbursements for power lower than previously.
Sales and use tax exemption Equipment that generates or stores electricity, including solar panels and batteries, are exempt from sales and use tax in California.
Self-Generation Incentives Program SGIP provides rebates to homes and businesses that install energy storage systems, such as solar batteries.

How to pay for solar panels in California

If you decide to invest in solar panels for your home, there are several financing options to make the purchase easier. 

Cash: A big expensive project like solar panels requires a lot of cash. If you see solar power in your future consider saving money now. Regular contributions to a high-yield savings account can help pad your savings.

Solar loan: Many solar companies will offer third party financing. Shop around with different lenders, because your solar company's third party choice might not have the best terms or interest rate. 

Home equity loan or HELOC: You can also consider a home equity loan or line of credit. These can save you on interest but your home is at risk if you fail to repay.

Mortgage: Another way to get the cash for solar panels is to refinance your mortgage. Fannie Mae's HomeStyle energy mortgage is designed to fund energy efficiency projects.

Installation factors to keep in mind

Solar panels are a big investment, so it's important to consider all elements that could impact whether they're right for you. Some installation aspects to consider include: 

  • The condition of your roof: The size, shape and slope of your roof can affect how much electricity a solar system generates. According to the Department of Energy, solar panels are most efficient on roofs with a slope between 15 and 40 degrees. The age and overall condition of your roof are also considerations. Older roofs or roofs needing maintenance should be replaced or repaired before solar panel installation.
  • HOA and neighborhood regulations: California law prohibits homeowner associations from banning solar panel installations, but there may still be specific requirements and approval processes in your neighborhood. Be sure to research the requirements for solar installation in your neighborhood ahead of time, so there are no issues down the road.
  • Insurance coverage: After installing solar panels, contact your homeowner's insurance agency to add the panels to your policy. Most standard homeowner's policies cover rooftop solar panels, but you'll need to check with your agency for the specific details of your policy.
  • Your location: Solar panels are designed to work in all climates and areas that receive indirect sunlight. But they'll be much more efficient when installed where they receive at least four hours of direct sunlight each day. If your home is in a cloudy region of California or gets shade coverage throughout the day, a solar panel system will not generate as much electricity as it would with direct sunlight.
  • Rentals: If you rent your home, you may not be allowed to install solar panels. You can check with your landlord or rental management company to confirm whether solar panels are allowed. If not, you can consider community solar programs as an alternative. These let you subscribe to electricity produced by solar panels at another location and receive a credit on your energy bills. The subscription fees are set at a lower rate than the value of these credits, so you come out ahead financially. In California, community solar programs are expected to grow quickly due to new regulations.

How we found the best solar companies 

Doing a hands-on review of a solar company is difficult, and considering all the differences between projects is impossible. Instead, we focused on what we can measure and meaningfully compare among solar companies.

When evaluating solar companies, we focus on three categories of criteria: equipment, warranties and service. 

For the equipment category, companies receive scores for the panels, batteries and inverters they install. The warranty category includes the guarantees on the panels, workmanship and weatherization against leaks. Solar companies will earn points in the service category if they offer a price match guarantee, a decent level of price transparency and a well-rated app for monitoring solar energy production. Solar companies lose points if there are glaring issues concerning customer service. This includes lawsuits, investigations or reputations for low-quality service. These service issues will always be detailed in the review.

Here's a more detailed look at how we break down the scoring.

We don't consider the average price of a solar company's installations in their score. Accurate and reliable pricing information is hard to find and difficult to compare across service areas (and even project to project). Solar companies are often slow to disclose this information as well. We also leave out easy-to-find (but not useful information), such as how many states a company operates in.

California solar power FAQs

Updated on Aug. 11, 2023

Written by  Caitlin Ritchie Sarah Drolet
CNET staff -- not advertisers, partners or business interests -- determine how we review the products and services we cover. If you buy through our links, we may get paid. Reviews ethics statement
Caitlin Ritchie
Caitlin Ritchie is a CNET contributor and a writer for our sister publication and has been covering home energy, residential solar power and energy efficiency since 2019. In her writing, Caitlin aims to demystify the energy industry and help readers find clear and straightforward answers and advice. Caitlin earned her master's degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and her B.A. from the University of Georgia, both in English. Snopes, The Washington Post and The American Solar Energy Society have cited her writing and research.
Sarah Drolet Associate Writer
Sarah Drolet is an associate writer at CNET covering home energy, residential solar power and emerging energy technology. She previously wrote about home and moving-related topics for MYMOVE. Sarah graduated from Coastal Carolina University with a bachelor's degree in communications.
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