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  • Honest Question about SolarCity

    Can anyone explain why the animosity about SolarCity and some of the other major installers like Vivint?

    I've read a lot of disparaging remarks about the company. In my interaction with the folks there, I felt pretty reassured that their long-term support is superior to many other co's out there. 30 year workmanship and material warranty, for instance, gives me peace of mind.

    I get costs could be lower at other places, but the inverter breakdown after a decade is a big deal to me.
    Last edited by inetdog; 11-18-2015, 08:11 PM. Reason: corrected xpelling in thread title, since there is an organization called Solacity.

  • #2
    I think the biggest complaint is their contract structure, not necessarily support. These companies are out there to make as much money as possible, and if you don't read the fine print, you will get screwed.
    I've seen a number of SolarCity installs lately where they are installing panels on parts of the roof that are shaded >50% of the day. There's no way that makes financial sense to the end user, but the more panels, the more they charge you.

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    • #3
      Disclaimer I got 3 quotes for my system, solarcity being one, and I went with a different company.

      There are two things I did not like about Solarcity.

      1. I ended up with a very straight forward solar loan. I own the system, and all of the credits. Solarcity did not have any straight forward loan options. Solarcity's loan was at a lower interest rate then my current loan, but it had a 3% escalator (on a loan, who does that) and I had to give up all of my srec credits for a one time payment of $2000. $2000 was conservatively what I would make in 3 years, and the program should be around for 6 or more years. Additionally my monthly payment was based on the solar I generated. After the rep explained all of this to me it just felt like one of those shady subprime loans that killed the housing market.


      2. Their phone sales reps were very pushy. After my initial appointment I was called multiple times trying to push solar on me. After a 20 minute conversation with a phone rep about my above issue I had to hang up on the sales rep because he would not let me go. Eventualy I had to ask to be removed from their call lists.
      Last edited by solar pete; 11-15-2015, 10:43 PM. Reason: correct way to mention installers

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      • #4
        Originally posted by emartin00 View Post
        I think the biggest complaint is their contract structure, not necessarily support. These companies are out there to make as much money as possible, and if you don't read the fine print, you will get screwed.
        I've seen a number of SolarCity installs lately where they are installing panels on parts of the roof that are shaded >50% of the day. There's no way that makes financial sense to the end user, but the more panels, the more they charge you.
        My understanding with typical leases or PPAs is that inefficiency doesn't necessarily matter; it is production that a monthly bill is based upon. In a purchase option, it definitely does not make sense to install inefficiently.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by mattlreese View Post
          Disclaimer I got 3 quotes for my system, solarcity being one, and I went with a different company.

          There are two things I did not like about Solarcity.

          1. I ended up with a very straight forward solar loan. I own the system, and all of the credits. Solarcity did not have any straight forward loan options. Solarcity's loan was at a lower interest rate then my current loan, but it had a 3% escalator (on a loan, who does that) and I had to give up all of my srec credits for a one time payment of $2000. $2000 was conservatively what I would make in 3 years, and the program should be around for 6 or more years. Additionally my monthly payment was based on the solar I generated. After the rep explained all of this to me it just felt like one of those shady subprime loans that killed the housing market.


          2. Their phone sales reps were very pushy. After my initial appointment I was called multiple times trying to push solar on me. After a 20 minute conversation with a phone rep about my above issue I had to hang up on the sales rep because he would not let me go. Eventualy I had to ask to be removed from their call lists.
          Yeah, I hear you. Their finance purchase option is not simple to grasp. The APR is 4.5% or so, and while their 3% escalator doesn't increase the APR, it does mean the monthly bill increases over years. Their point is that utility rates will increase at a steeper rate, so I sort of get that.

          I hate pushy sales everywhere. Seems the folks I've talked to there were actually quite decent.

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          • #6
            Pros and cons of Solar City IMHO.

            Pro: Zero out of pocket till one month after you start producing. Lowish interest.
            Con: Their finance option is insane. You pay for what you produce. Most people overproduce and pay more than they expected and thus complain. The loan is setup so that if you make what they promise you will produce, the first year your loan balance goes up. The following year you pay off a tiny bit... etc. It is designed to have you pay as much interest as possible. However, there isn't a prepayment penalty, so you simply pay more every month and you won't have a reason to complain.
            Pro: They can often get you up and running fast.
            Con: Horrible reputation for customer service. Plenty of stories of long installs too.

            Con: They try to have you put up more panels than you need. Sometimes in places that have 50% or greater shade.
            Pro: They design a system that can make at least what they promise it will make by doing the above. You, the customer, pays for it. However, you can tell them what you want and they may or may not conform to what you want. Be over informed and over involved. You can get what you want including deleting shaded panels.
            Con: They are usually about 30-40% more expensive than competitors.
            Pro: They have a 30 year warranty and performance guarantee. That is often 50% longer than competitors.
            Con: They won't let you specify what parts they use.
            Pro: They are tied to a large company. If the Giga factory meets its potential, they have a strong future. Who cares what they use because they warranty it and they have a good chance of being around.

            Con: High pressure sales including using laughable scare tactics. No excuse for that. If you are easily swayed by this kind of sales tactic. RUN!
            Very minimal Pro: You can back out of the contract up until a point.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by gwelty View Post
              My understanding with typical leases or PPAs is that inefficiency doesn't necessarily matter; it is production that a monthly bill is based upon. In a purchase option, it definitely does not make sense to install inefficiently.
              Well, it does matter to the net return of the system as a whole. If the inefficiency is not costing you any money (your PPA does not take into account at all the initial cost of the array) it is still costing SolarCity money and thus indirectly costing all of their customers, including you. It is a decision that is yours to make, of course. Be sure that their rate structure will really stay lower than the POCO rates in the long run. Often they tell you that their purchase price, with built-in escalator factor, will stay below the POCO price, but that is only true if you believe that POCO rates will increase at the rate they predict.
              In some states like CA with severe production problems it may be more likely to be true.
              If they intend to make quick money off the incentives with diminishing returns for them in future years is would be a sign that the company is not going to be around for the long term, since that business model does not make sense.
              Leases on the other hand involve you committing to a long term total payout based on the cost of the system, so inefficiencies do matter directly there.
              SunnyBoy 3000 US, 18 BP Solar 175B panels.

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              • #8
                "I get costs could be lower at other places, but the inverter breakdown after a decade is a big deal to me"

                Hey it's your money so if you want to pay 50% or more for solar, go for it. Remember you are only buying energy. Think of it like gasoline. If you pull up to a corner and there are four gas stations, three of them are at $2.50 a gallon and one is at $3.50 per gallon, which one would you go to?

                SolarEdge lists the cost of their inverter extended warranty on the website. 7.6 kW inverter for 20 years is $303. If you ask your contractor to include this at no additional cost, 9 out of 10 will say yes.

                SMA and Fronius also offer extended warranties. Enphase has a standard 25 year warranty.

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                • #9
                  From a quality assurance perspective, solar city is quite low from the several systems I've had a chance to look over. They seem to be a top down type company intent on capturing market share, going public etc. They have lots of turnover in their workers and have a lot of newbie installers that go for speed not quality. The ladies down at my building dept say they have to come back and back and back for revisions and changes....
                  BSEE, R11, NABCEP, >1200kW installed

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                  • #10
                    people keep saying OH THEYRE SECURE THEY OFFER A 30 YEAR WARRANTY. that's great, but for a company to honor their warranty they have to exist. most people dont do any research beyond "well, the sales rep said theyre big and backed by google and elon musk which are names i've heard of so theyre going to be around forever!" this is a company that lost $234 million in their most recent quarter. i almost feel bad for the people who are going to end up stuck with paying the bill for a nonsupported, bottom of the barrel solar installation when interest rates go up and SC gets expletive by the long, hard expetive of expensive debt.


                    theyre a marketing company that happens to install panels. they sell systems by appealing to emotion (30 year warranty! backed by the tech giants! you can cancel up until the moment we install! lifetime roof penetration warranty! $500 to have your system removed so you can build that second floor on your home!), not by offering a superior product, even within the lower end solar market. at least a company like NRG (who I hear more horror stories about than anyone else) will actually exist ten years from now to honor the obligations of their contracts.
                    Last edited by solar pete; 11-16-2015, 06:34 PM. Reason: no f words please

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                    • #11
                      interesting thread

                      Hi All, found this thread to be very interesting. Someone mentioned marketing companies that install solar, BINGO, dont get me wrong I dont have a problem with SC its just business. I do think that if and when the 30% Fed tax credit and net metering goes away so will they, and the other marketing companies, cheers.

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                      • #12
                        In my case, I wanted to purchase my system outright and told Solar City exactly that when I asked for a quote. The salesman arrived and as soon as he realized I could not be talked into a lease he couldn't get to the door fast enough. Their quote for a purchased system came in almost three times what I paid through a locally owned solar company. The salesman mentioned Elon Musk about every other sentence so I guess I was supposed to be impressed?
                        Dave W. Gilbert AZ
                        6.63kW grid-tie owner

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                        • #13
                          Over the last 7+ yrs., I've reviewed all the solar installs for my HOA for CC & R conformance - about 80+ jobs so far. That has allowed me to have access to a lot of information including quotes, prices, a fair amount of vendor interface and homeowner ignorance.

                          All that aside, SolarCity has about 10 of those jobs. Bottom line, after what I've seen of their knowledgeability, revolving door for personnel, business ethics, often subcontracted labor and installation, and just plain overall bad taste in my mouth, while I do not recommend installers, I wouldn't let Solar City on my property, even if they actually were in business to sell solar equipment.

                          And, FWIW, if I was in the job market, I'd not consider working for them under any conditions I can think of. I can't remember a time when I was that destitute.

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                          • #14
                            I was talking to one of these large companies originally. The guy spent an hour explaining to me that the sun makes electricity, and going through their loan structure. Turns out, they use a local installer subcontractor. I called up the subcontractor, and they were awesome! Spent an hour exploring where the panels would go, how they would run the conduit, what kind of inverter I wanted, etc. etc. At the end, I asked how they run the financing, and the local installer just said they could have me talk to one of their partners but they didn't do financing. Made me feel really good that their focus was on making money selling and installing solar panels, not making money as a finance scam.

                            Go with a highly rated local installer, and spend your time talking to the people that are going to be on your roof and in your attic, not some finance / sales guy.

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                            • #15
                              I just had one of their reps over last night.

                              His first rough estimate was to squeeze 40+ panels on my roof (highest I have seen from others is 27)

                              I was also shocked at the premium pricing 41k gross for an 8.06kw system (5.1 per watt/installed)

                              Focus of his sale was the ongoing relationship...they don't want to sell and move on. They stay part of your solar experience for 30 years

                              Their business model appears to be looong term investment.

                              Not my #1 choice currently

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