Elevation Solar Review: Bringing Energy Efficiency and Solar Together
Elevation takes a holistic approach to installing solar panels by offering options to tackle energy efficiency and monitoring before installation day.
App is poorly reviewed
A piece of advice homeowners interested in installing solar often hear goes something like this: Make your home as energy efficient as it can be first.
Checking your house for leaks and drafts isn't nearly as sexy as adding sleek panels to the roof and producing your own power, but it is essential to getting the most out of such an expensive new energy system. And that's why Arizona-based Elevation makes assessing and improving efficiency as much a part of its business as installing panels.
"We're energy experts and we're very focused and passionate about it," said Matt Bramson, the company's executive vice president of marketing and sales.
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Elevation was founded in 2014 and began by offering solar, but quickly expanded into energy efficiency after running into the familiar aforementioned advice. In 2020 Elevation acquired smart energy monitoring company Curb Energy, adding its technology to a holistic approach it calls the Elevated Home.
The Elevated Home is a three-part package that starts with a home energy efficiency assessment and improvements to common issues like inadequate insulation, leaks or poorly connected venting.
"We can have between a 10 and 20% impact on reducing the energy consumption," Bramson said.
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The next component is the Curb smart energy monitor that is installed to monitor real-time household energy consumption. The device doesn't actively control any appliances, but rather, provides insights on what Bramson calls the "human behavior side of consumption" and also helps to identify devices that hog energy.
Curb users can also compare their energy use with thousands of other users.
"It trims consumption by 8 to 12% just through driving awareness," Bramson said.
The third part of the package is installing home solar panels.
Elevation customers aren't required to go through the energy efficiency process or install the Curb monitor. The company can also unbundle the package components. About 20% of customers request just a standalone solar energy system installation.
For any package that Elevation offers, you can purchase panels, lease them or enter into a power purchase agreement. The company also offers a wide variety of financing options.
What solar equipment does Elevation install?
Elevation installs a handful of brands of tier one panels, including its most popular model by far: Qcells 400-watt black panels with Enphase microinverters, though customers can opt for affordable string inverters to save some money, Bramson said.
Elevation relies primarily on the manufacturer warranties for equipment, which are typically around 10 years for batteries and 25 years for panels and inverters.
Qcells' 25-year warranty guarantees that your solar panels will be operating at at least 86% of their rated capacity at that point in time. Enphase microinverters come with a 25-year warranty, but string inverters typically come with shorter 10- to 12-year warranties, though solar companies often offer extensions.
Tesla's warranty on its Powerwall is for 10 years and guarantees 70% of its original capacity at that point. Enphase batteries come with warranties that guarantee 70% capacity after 10 years or 60% after 15 years, depending on the model.
Elevation offers its own 10-year warranty on installation work and roof penetrations. These are fairly common terms for these warranties, though some companies, like ADT Solar, offer 25-year versions standard.
Elevation also sells a "bumper-to-bumper" extended warranty through a third-party insurance company that extends all warranties to 30 years, including for the panels, inverters and roof penetrations, as well as an energy production guarantee for the entire system.
Bramson said about 80% of customers opt for the extended warranty, the price of which is pinned to the size of your solar panel installation.
Does Elevation offer monitoring services?
Elevation's Curb app not only helps improve household energy efficiency by tracking different loads in real time; it also monitors the amount of energy coming into the home from solar panels, the grid and any batteries.
The app doesn't receive favorable reviews on Google Play, with an average rating of 1.5. Many of the negative reviews are tied to dissatisfaction with an update in 2022 that users report deleted much of their historical energy use data. The consensus in the Apple App Store is similar, although not as harsh, where the app has a 2.4 rating as of July 2023.
Does Elevation use subcontractors?
Elevation uses all in-house, employee installers who arrive on site in company-owned vehicles. All installers are trained and typically come to the company with previous solar experience. Electrical work is done by licensed electricians.
This is a significant plus in my book, although it isn't a factor in CNET's scoring methodology. Not all solar companies work with employee installers. Doing so can make the process of installation easier and dealing with just one company can be especially helpful when problems crop up.
How much do Elevation panels cost?
Most solar companies are reluctant to offer detailed information on pricing, and Elevation is no exception.
Bramson said that Elevation's pricing is "not the cheapest in the market" but more "in the middle or even the low end of the middle."
He added that the price per watt the company sells at varies by market and the particulars of each homeowner's needs. Whether or not a customer opts to finance a system also ends up impacting the effective price per watt as well.
For what it's worth, a recent report from consulting firm Wood Mackenzie (PDF) put the average price per watt of a solar system installation in the US at $3.28 per watt for the first quarter of 2023, though other reputable estimates of solar panel costs come in both higher and lower.
Elevation offers a price match typically managed by the salesperson.
"When we're in a competitive situation, we try to understand what we're competing against and in most cases we're able to match or beat pricing," Bramson said, though a competing quote has to be an "apples-to-apples situation" with respect to equipment, warranties and financing options.
What financing options does Elevation company offer?
Elevation offers leases and power purchase agreements as well as purchase and financing options.
Bramson estimates that 80% of Elevation customers finance their system through one of multiple loan options.
Among its financing options, Elevation maintains a lending portal that allows consumers to shop for loans from some of the country's biggest banks.
Bramson said rising interest rates on loans, including solar loans, often mean it will take longer for homeowners to pay off the amount and begin to really start to see savings from their system, but suggested Elevation's financing options might make it easier for you to see savings faster.
As always, confirm for yourself.
Does Elevation operate in my state? How do I order?
Elevation operates in Texas, California, Arizona and Nevada. The company typically does about 5,000 residential installations a year, according to Bramson.
If you opt to go with Elevation, the first step in the ordering process is a consultation with a salesperson, usually done remotely via a screenshare, but in-person consultations are also an option. The session will include a review of recent electric bills going back as far as a full year to understand the energy needs of the home. A company representative will try to ascertain the condition of the home to determine if any inefficiency issues might justify Elevation's efficiency improvement service.
Next the company creates a proposal for a system or package that fits your situation. The proposal includes tax credits and other incentives that may apply and both purchase and financing options. Next comes an installation agreement and a site survey at the home.
Bramson said there may need to be revisions to the installation agreement following the site survey while any loans are being approved. Once there is a final installation agreement and loan approval in place, the company will schedule an installation date for the job.
"That process takes 30 to 45 days for us to get out to the home," Bramson said, during which time Elevation takes care of needed permits from local authorities and utilities.
Interested homeowners can get started on the website by plugging an address and some basic information about energy bills into a tool that will provide a preliminary proposal in advance of a live consultation, though you'll have to give up some contact info. Another tool also provides an estimated "energy score" based on some basic information about your home and how its energy efficiency is likely to compare to others using the Curb app in exchange for some contact info.
Elevation reviews: What are customers saying?
Elevation gets an A+ from and is an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau. Customer reviews there give it a 3.97 star rating out of a possible five.
There's been a bit of a run on one-star reviews in the past few months, but keep in mind that customer reviews are specific to individual circumstances. Definitely give them a look, try to take note of certain trends and identify any questions you'd like to ask your installer, but don't take them as the gospel truth.
Here's a sample of the good and the bad from recent customers. Each review has received a response from the company.
Five-star Elevation reviews
"I had Elevate (sic) add insulation in the attic of my 19 year old house. They did a leak test on the duct system, sealed openings in the ductwork and around pipes going into the walls, and increased the insulation level from 6" to 14". The 3-man crew was very professional, friendly, and courteous. They showed me before and after pictures of the attic when they finished and did a very good job cleaning up. Excellent job for an excellent price." Don S. 3/30/23
One-star Elevation reviews
"They are terrible! They installed our solar panels 4 months ago and have not connected them yet. We have called and called for the service we are still paying for and have received no response. The telephone operators promise they will call but they never do." Ellen M. 5/17/2023
Is Elevation the best choice?
While we've done our best to profile Elevation here, make sure to always do your own research and definitely get multiple quotes from local installers before making any sort of decision on a solar system.
It's also important to note that CNET does not directly test the solar equipment mentioned here and has not gone through the ordering or installation process with Elevation. Instead, we rely on detailed conversation with a company representative, our own research and knowledge of the industry.
With all that in mind, Elevation's unique approach that includes an emphasis on energy efficiency and home monitoring will appeal to certain customers looking to maximize their energy savings. Its score puts it just inside the top half of companies we've reviewed so far.
All in-house installers and employees; no subcontractors
A holistic approach to energy conservation including efficiency
Comprehensive home monitoring option
Offers a price match
Warranties are basic, complete extended warranty costs extra
Complaints about latest versions of monitoring apps
How we evaluate solar companies
Reviewing solar companies in a hands-on way is difficult. Accounting for all the differences project to project is impossible. To provide a helpful review, we focused on what we can measure and meaningfully compare among companies.
We focus on three buckets of criteria: equipment, warranties and service.
Within the equipment category, companies receive scores for the panels, inverters and batteries they install. Warranties include the guarantees on the panels, workmanship and weatherization against leaks. Companies earn points for service if they offer a price match, a meaningful level of price transparency and a well-rated app for monitoring solar production. They lose points if there are major issues pertaining to customer service (lawsuits, investigations or clear reputations for shoddy service). These issues will always be detailed in the review.
We don't consider the average price of a company's installations in their score. This information is difficult to find and hard to compare across service areas (and even roof to roof). Companies are often slow to disclose it, too. We also leave out easily found but not useful information like how many states a company operates in.
How long has Elevation been in business?
Elevation was founded in 2014 as an energy services provider for single family rental homes and has since expanded to service other homeowners.
Who founded Elevation?
Elevation was founded by real estate entrepreneurs Jerry Coleman and Brian Blair.
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.
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Eric MackContributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is email@example.com.
ExpertiseSolar, solar storage, space, science, climate change, deregulated energy, DIY solar panels, DIY off-grid life projects. CNET's "Living off the Grid" series. https://www.cnet.com/feature/home/energy-and-utilities/living-off-the-grid/Credentials
Finalist for the Nesta Tipping Point prize and a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.