SunPower review: Are these solar panels cost-effective and easy to install?
By Landon Groves
Nov 04, 2020 at 11:24 AM
As solar technology becomes more affordable for consumers, more and more people are choosing to outfit their homes with solar panels, but this clean energy source isn’t without its drawbacks. It’s still quite costly, and the lengthy consultation and installation process can be a headache.
SunPower positions itself as a clean energy company that “makes going solar safe and simple from the comfort of your home.” They claim that their panels are efficient, allowing you to maximize your energy output while drastically cutting down on your electricity bill.
But is it as cost-effective and straightforward as the brand makes it seem? To find out, we got a quote on SunPower solar panels and tested how the panels performed once installed.
We wanted to determine whether SunPower really made purchasing and maintaining solar panels easy, affordable, and reliable. Here’s what we found.
Getting a quote from SunPower
SunPower’s quoting process plays out in three stages: the application, the initial consultation, and the in-depth consultation.
We found that the application was simple and straightforward — and the information they asked for didn’t overstep any boundaries. Along with contact information and zip code, they needed to know whether we owned our home and if the energy bills were usually over $75. If they’re below that amount, they’ll advise against solar panels for your home.
SunPower’s initial consultation
The following morning we spoke to a SunPower representative about the broader details of what SunPower solar panels could offer, along with what it would take to get them installed. The rep asked for some more information about our energy use and bills, and later they checked our address on a few sun-mapping websites to determine whether there was enough sunlight for solar panels to make sense.
When that was all done, they scheduled a time the following week for an in-depth Zoom consultation with a regional rep who was based in our area.
SunPower’s in-depth consultation
SunPower’s representative started the consultation with information about the company, environmental impact, materials quality, and the installation process. They even had physical examples of the materials on hand to demonstrate (albeit over video), which was a nice touch. The overall tone of the meeting was informative, and we walked away feeling like we’d learned a lot.
The rep asked more questions about our current energy usage, along with plans for the future: Would we be having kids? Adding a fridge to the garage? Buying an electric car? Etc. All these things would have an impact on the kind and quantity of solar panels SunPower would recommend.
Later, the rep shared their screen and pulled up a prepared presentation that was customized to our address. They went over where the panels could fit, which placements would maximize efficiency, and what the installation process would look like.
Toward the end, they transitioned into the financials. After giving a broad overview of what the whole thing would cost, they were able to quickly adjust that number based on our questions, concerns, and requests for custom configurations. Example: A minimum of eight panels must be installed. We asked for a quote for only those eight panels, then for 10 panels, then for eight panels plus a battery backup unit, and options with a different type of solar panel. Our rep had the facts and figures for each configuration ready to go at a moment’s notice.
To close out the presentation, SunPower’s rep showed us the options for funding the project and walked us step by step through the changes in cost depending on which option we selected. They followed up with an email that included a few different quotes and told us to sign whichever we preferred. Once that was finished, we could start the loan process and set up an installation date.
SunPower solar panel maintenance
While we haven’t needed to perform any kind of maintenance yet, the company recommends having the panels cleaned occasionally, as semi-regular cleanings can minimally increase performance (though they contend that it’s not necessary for the longevity of the system). They recommend bringing in an expert for the job sometimes, when inexperienced users clean the panels themselves, they do more harm than good.
The upfront installation cost will be different for every home, but in theory, the panels should offset your energy bill enough that they pay for themselves at some point down the line. You’ll have to book a consultation with SunPower to get a quote.
During our consultation, the SunPower rep estimated that we’d cut our electricity bill from $96 a month to $10 a month. We were skeptical at first, but after using the panels for a while, we found that to be a conservative estimate. We have yet to have an electricity bill over $10.
Very often, the solar panels will create more energy than they use, leading to an energy surplus. Our electricity provider will then buy that energy from us and put it toward the grid in exchange for credits, usually ranging from around $10 to $40 per month. In the end, we actually often made money from their SunPower panels.
Our representative knew a lot about the technology and the industry, and we walked away from the consultation process confident that we knew what we were getting ourselves into. The quote process, from beginning to end, only took about a week, and the information they needed was minimal.
Once the panels are installed, they have a tendency to attract birds that want to nest in the one- to three-inch gap between the panel and the roof. This causes obvious problems — the birds can damage the wiring or even the underside of the panels. Fortunately, the company does offer a protective wire mesh barrier that can be installed during the initial installation.
Are SunPower solar panels worth it?
True to its marketing, SunPower’s panels are efficient, reliable modules that are relatively quick and painless to have installed. The initial investment is a big one, but you can expect to see a dramatic reduction in your electricity bill almost right away if you’re in it for the long haul, these panels might even pay for themselves someday.
We recommend SunPower to homeowners who are looking for long-term savings on electricity and want to end the day feeling good about the source of their home’s energy.
Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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