The desire for rooftop panels is driven by a desire to reduce utility bills, reduce the use of climate-change intensifying fossil fuels and take advantage of generous tax credits and incentives. In recent years inflation, a worsening climate emergency and renewal of a 30 percent federal tax credit has sent the industry into overdrive.
In fact, we've reached a period of consolidation where smaller solar companies are getting gobbled up by or merging with bigger players.
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Such is the case with Utah-based Lumio, which was formed in 2020 through the merger of five regional residential solar companies: Atlantic Key Energy, DECA, Lift Energy, Our World Energy, and Smart Energy Today. The company says its predecessor firms have combined to complete tens of thousands of solar installations around the country.
Lumio emphasizes customer care and a personalized approach that can include extra services like putting down a new roof before covering it in panels meant to stay there for a quarter century or longer.
The company didn't make a representative available to answer questions for this review, so we couldn't gather all the information necessary to score it against other companies, but here's what we found from our own research.
What do I get from Lumio?
Lumio offers residential solar installations for purchase and lease as well as power purchase agreements, according to its website. It also works with customers to secure one of multiple financing options.
Lumio also offers an optional reroofing service for homeowners with older roofs that may need to be redone during the lifespan of a solar system.
What solar equipment does Lumio install?
Lumio only installs all-black, 60-cell, 5-foot-by-3-foot panels. The panels look sleeker than traditional blue silicon crystal panels but there is some debate in the industry over which technology is more efficient. The monocrystalline structure of black panels has been found to produce electricity more efficiently than the polycrystalline structure of blue cells, but black panels also absorb more heat, which can reduce efficiency.
Lumio says it sources panels from companies that "operate ethically" without offering any specific names.
Lumio relies on manufacturers' warranties of 25 years for panels and inverters and 10 years for batteries. In most cases, this means that panels are guaranteed to produce at least 80 percent of their original production levels for a quarter century, though leading warranties peg production at 92 percent after that time.
Watch this: How to Approach Home Batteries if the New 30% Tax Credit Has Your Attention
Batteries offered by Lumio come with a manufacturers' warranty of at least 10 years. These warranties are essentially the industry standard. Lumio guarantees its workmanship on the installation for 10 years, meaning if your roof leaks from where the panels were installed at any point in the first decade, the company should be compelled to fix that.
Does Lumio offer monitoring services?
The Lumio HX app is available on Apple and Google app stores. It primarily monitors progress through the permitting and installation process, but is also meant to monitor energy production of the system once installed.
The Android version of the app does not yet have any reviews, while the Apple app has a five-star rating based on just two reviews.
Does Lumio use subcontractors?
Lumio uses all in-house, certified employee installers. Technicians should show up in Lumio-branded trucks and uniforms to finish a full installation in a single day in most cases.
We consider the use of W-2 employees a bonus, because it reduces the potential for headaches in coordinating between your solar company and subcontractors.
How much do Lumio panels cost?
Like most companies, Lumio does not make details available about pricing or whether or not it may offer a price match.
What we can say is that data from consulting firm Wood Mackenzie for the first quarter of 2023 put the average price-per-watt of a solar installation in the US at $3.28 per watt, which is roughly in the middle of other reputable estimates.
This number can vary quite a bit, however, depending on the local market and a homeowner's specific needs. The black panels that Lumio installs may also cost a bit more than more traditional blue panels, although that difference becomes more negligible all the time.
What financing options does Lumio offer?
Lumio works with a number of financing options, including home equity lines of credit or loans, solar loans, leases, mortgages, refinances and power purchase agreements.
The company may not offer all these options itself, but can help point customers in the right direction to secure the financing they need.
Lumio offers a 3D modeling tool on its website that will ask you a few basic questions and pull up a satellite photo of your home. The app then provides a model and price estimate for a solar system. It's helpful to begin to establish a baseline for what to expect. When I put in my own address, the image that came up was clearly several years out of date, and the system was unable to generate a model or estimate for me. This isn't entirely surprising as I live in a relatively remote area.
The process starts with a brief phone call or face-to-face conversation with a solar consultant to go over a quote, energy production estimate and customized design. Once the plan is finalized and a contract is signed, the next step is to complete the financing process, if applicable. Once this is approved, the company moves on to permitting the system with local governments, homeowners associations and other required entities, which Lumio will handle on its own.
Once every office is satisfied and the installation is fully authorized, the company will reach out to schedule a date to actually put panels on your roof. In most cases, installation is done in a single day and can be turned on after an inspection and permission to operate is granted from the local utility or other authorities, a process that can take up to four weeks.
Lumio reviews: What are customers saying?
Lumio has an A-plus rating and is accredited with the Better Business Bureau, where it has a score of 3.12 out of a possible five stars. We don't place a whole lot of weight on online reviews, but it's worth noting that the company takes its online reputation seriously and has a decent track record of addressing issues. Lumio has responded to all reviews on the Better Business Bureau's website.
Five-star Lumio reviews
"After listening to several presentations from other solar companies, Lumio's presentation and explanations were clear and understandable. At this point we are totally satisfied with the installation and operating results." - Steven P, 8/10/2023
One-star Lumio reviews
"I absolutely regret this. As excited and motivated I was to get solar, the customer service and the overall install process was a nightmare. " - Johnny M, 8/14/2023
Is Lumio the best choice?
We're unable to score Lumio because the company was unable to make a representative available to answer questions required for scoring. Also keep in mind that CNET does not directly test any of the equipment mentioned in this review and has not gone through the ordering or installation process with any solar companies.
That said, Lumio is worth consideration and further due diligence given their status and reputation in the market. Be sure to always get multiple quotes from installers working in your local market before signing any agreements.
Reputation for efficient installation
Uses employee installers
Website has a wealth of information
Only installs one type of panel
Transparency about pricing could be improved
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 solar 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.
What kind of solar panels does Lumio use?
Lumio exclusively installs black, monocrystalline solar panels that have a sleek look. The company says it sources its panels only from ethical manufacturers.
How long has Lumio been in business?
Lumio was formed in 2020 out of the merger of five regional solar companies.
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.