Comparing Major Brands: SolarCity vs. Vivint vs. Sungevity

As consumer demand for solar power systems continues to climb, more and more solar panel manufacturers enter the arena. Knowing which manufacturer to choose out of today’s top residential solar companies requires a comparison of the three major contenders: SolarCity, Vivint Solar, and Sungevity. Each company has strengths and weaknesses, and no single option is the answer for every consumer. Compare your specific needs with what each brand has to offer, and make your decision based on the best match.

SolarCity

SolarCity is the current leader in industry market shares. Since 2006, SolarCity has impressed consumers with cutting edge, clean energy services, and solutions. As America’s largest brand, it offers several perks to customers:

  • One-stop- shop for system design, finance, and installation
  • A number of financing options, including leasing and purchasing
  • 24/7 system monitoring
  • Connection with a mobile app to track your system’s operation
  • Battery bank backup if the grid breaks down
  • High-quality customer service with hundreds of positive reviews
  • Lower prices than competitors per watt

SolarCity is cheaper per watt than competitors such as Vivint Solar. Its Q1 cost structure is currently at $3.18 per watt, while Vivint Solar reported $3.34 per watt. It’s rumored that Tesla Motors may acquire SolarCity, which would most likely make costs drop even lower. The price comparison between SolarCity and other companies varies depending on the state. For example, SunRun is typically a cheaper option in Hawaii, where the cost of kilowatts per hour (kWh) is the highest in the nation at $0.42 kWh.

Vivint Solar

Vivint Solar is a newer company that started up on the East Coast about three years ago. For a company younger than SolarCity, Vivint is quickly catching up in terms of prices and customer satisfaction. SolarCity has strategic advantages over Vivint in terms of market shares, but the smaller company is poised to potentially outgrow SolarCity over time. So far Vivint does not offer the same number of payment options as SolarCity, with no options to purchase. However,

Vivint offers other advantages:

  • Zero up-front costs
  • 24/7 monitoring of the solar power system
  • Uses rail-free Zep technology to reduce installation cost and time
  • Hires their own installers
  • Uses microinverters to increase efficiency by at least 15% compared to centralized inverters
  • Their customer reviews are mostly positive, although some complain about the lack of customers ervice and periodic system failure after installation.

Sungevity

Sungevity offers something the other two companies currently don’t – a donation to their Empowered by Light Program, which provides cell phone charging kits powered by solar energy to children living off the grid in Zambia. For every system Sungevity installs, the company contributes to the program. It also partners with several non-profit organizations, including the American Diabetes Association, to transfer their offices to solar energy and increase funding for their causes. Sungevity’s goals are not only to bring green energy to the world, but also to make a positive impact.

Sungevity offers loan financing, leasing, purchase, and power purchase agreement options, making it more desirable than Vivint Solar in terms of budget-friendliness. Other advantages include:

  • In-house representatives available at some Lowe’s locations
  • Energy quote guarantee – they will pay the difference if your system doesn’t produce the energy in your quote
  • Preferred installers local to your market
  • 24/7 system monitoring
  • Mobile and PC apps available to monitor your system’s performance

While Sungevity does not currently offer a battery backup if your power goes out, this translates into lower purchase and installation costs. Sungevity bases its design on a satellite image of your house, not an in-person evaluation, which can be a disadvantage to some homeowners.

Take a careful look at all three of these top companies, and others on the market, before choosing your solar power system brand.