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With each day, solar panels and solar inverters are becoming an exceedingly competitive option for generating electricity. That is wonderful news for the planet too!
If you do a search on the top solar panel installers, chances are you’ll find Tesla and Sunrun leading the pack.
The good news for homeowners – who want to reduce their carbon footprint – is, there are multiple choices in terms of price and quality while setting up a solar power system.
That also means, making the right choice is more challenging. You need to compare the performance of the brands to ensure that you can really save dollars when it comes to energy expenses.
You might be wondering who will emerge as the winner in a Tesla vs Sunrun showdown?
In short: in terms of panel quality and warranties, they seem very close. The main point of difference between Sunrun and Tesla includes the higher customization with Sunrun and lower upfront costs, provided you are okay with third-party ownership of the solar panels. Tesla, on the other hand, seems to offer a lower cost (overall – not necessarily upfront) and a higher level of aesthetic concern.
Often, the devil is in the details… So, let’s have a closer look at what each company has to offer when it comes to solar panels.
Sunrun Company Profile
Sunrun is an energy services company with a focus on residential solar panels. Presently, the brand is one of the top solar businesses in the US.
Since it was set up in 2007, Sunrun has captured a major chunk of the residential solar market. One primary reason for that is Sunrun’s acquisition of Vivint, another major solar installer, in 2020.
A great feature of the brand is it will customize a solar energy setup based on your requirements.
Also, the brand prefers to conduct business in the solar-as-service format. This means the majority of its customers are using solar panels on lease for a monthly fee.
Sunrun provides a “bumper-to-bumper warranty” on the installations which includes all repairs and replacements. Sunrun offers complete installation, maintenance, and monitoring for their panels. It also has an app for monitoring the performance of your solar installation.
Sunrun also provides backup battery options for customers. One of their battery options is the LG Chem and the other, surprisingly, is the Tesla Powerwall.
The advanced 24/7 solar system monitoring system by Sunrun is another great feature. If there’s a problem with the system, chances are Sunrun will know about it before you do.
The ordering process is simple. Once you provide some basic information through their website, Sunrun will provide you with a free quote. If you show further interest you will receive a detailed proposal from their sales rep.
Tesla Solar Company Profile
Since its purchase of the solar company SolarCity in 2016, Tesla has taken big steps in the field of solar power. While it’s still not the top residential solar installer in the US, Tesla has a significant market share and a cost advantage over its rivals.
Tesla has followed an online-only sales strategy for its solar panels. Apart from the solar panels, Tesla has a high-end Powerwall system that offers an energy backup solution for customers. It has also launched its own solar inverter to bring the entire Tesla home solar system package under its own manufacturing umbrella.
Besides superior quality, Tesla offers some of the lowest prices in the market along with a price match guarantee.
That’s not unexpected as providing solar power at affordable rates is a major objective of the brand. However, it doesn’t offer lease plans like Sunrun. So, upfront costs are higher.
Besides, Tesla panels are also sleek and the installation focuses on a simple design and minimalist aesthetic. In addition, there’s the Tesla solar roof which offers a unique solar solution in a weatherproof package.
One thing is, Tesla doesn’t offer full-on customization. Its solar package is available in four different capacities- 4.8, 9.6, 14.4, and 19.2kW. The monitoring is done through the Tesla app which can also be used to update the various components of the system.
Ordering from Tesla is simple and you can consult virtually with an energy advisor from the brand to discuss your requirements. Tesla also uses remote aerial imagery to design the system for your home and plan the installation.
Sunrun vs Tesla: The Comparison
Panel design and efficiency
Keep in mind, not all the solar energy that strikes a solar panel is converted into electricity. The general efficiency of solar panels in the market is around 20%, with the highest being 22.7%.
Firstly, high efficiency panels generate more electricity from a limited space. In addition, they also helps to quickly repay the installation costs.
Note, Tesla manufactures its own solar panels, while Sunrun does not. If your concern is only about panel performance and not the brand, this shouldn’t be an issue for you.
Sunrun mentions that it offers monocrystalline panels with high efficiency from top manufacturers. Previously, the brand used LG solar panels. Since LG stopped producing solar panels, Sunrun is using panels from brands like LONGi and Costco.
This gives the customer more choice to choose from multiple brands and judge between panel quality and efficiency. The same goes for other components of the Sunrun solar system.
Tesla solar panels offer an efficiency of 19.8% to 20.6%. These aren’t the best numbers in the market but they aren’t bad either. It is also offering a 420-watt panel which is the best in terms of power delivery in the residential solar market.
In addition, Tesla panels also have a higher shade tolerance through a half-cell panel architecture.
Since each roof installation is unique based on user requirements, it’s hard to point out a winner in this category.
To sum up, you are not particular about choosing panels based on manufacturers, you get a more economical option with Tesla.
The durability of the panels is an important factor that you can’t overlook. In general solar panels are covered by a performance guarantee and a product warranty.
A Tesla warranty plan mentions that the panels will deliver 80% of nameplate power capacity after 25 years. The product warranty of 25 years is also applicable to any defects in panel design and materials.
If you choose a complete solar installation from Tesla, it’s covered by a comprehensive 10-year warranty.
Likewise, Sunrun offers a bumper-to-bumper warranty on the total installation for 10 years. When it comes to the product and performance warranties, it depends on the individual panel manufacturers.
However, Sunrun’s warranties are less strong when you purchase a solar system instead of taking a lease. So make sure to check the warranty documents carefully before choosing a plan.
The other thing is, customer service for solar installations varies between states. It’s best to take feedback from other customers to find out about the service quality in your area. In general, users have found the quality of care offered by Sunrun for their leases to be satisfactory.
On the other hand, there have been some complaints about Tesla customer service and some issues with Tesla panels that you need to keep in mind.
Coming to the app interface, Tesla is the clear winner here. The Tesla app has a smoother interface and more advanced features in terms of service and panel monitoring.
In comparison, the Sunrun app has a lower rating in both Google Play, and App Store.
In 2021 the average cost of residential solar installations in the US was around $3.28 per watt. Even so, installation costs can vary between the states.
None of the two brands offer the costs of their solar installations upfront. So you will need to get a quotation to find out the exact price for your home.
In terms of installation costs, Tesla is the cheaper option than Sunrun. All the four offerings from Tesla are well below the average costs. If you go without the Powerwall battery system, the costs can be as low as $1.50 per watt.
However, a solar lease from Sunrun with no upfront costs is definitely a cheaper option for many users. Apart from lease options, you can also pay outright or choose a solar financing plan from Sunrun.
Keep in mind, the annual lease fees can escalate each year based on the energy costs. The average annual figure for escalation is around 2%. Still, as long as the local energy charges are lower than the lease amount, you will keep saving money.
I’d suggest that you take multiple quotations and work out the math to find out the most economical option in your state.
Sunrun panels are available in 22 states and territories. For Tesla, you need to check from their website if the services are available in your locality. At present, Tesla panels are available in 25 states.
For both the brands, the online process of application is fast and smooth. In the case of Tesla, installation is done by trained local teams. Sunrun uses both subcontractors and in-house teams.
One thing is, Sunrun will send a solar expert to check the architecture and finalize the design details. Tesla conducts the entire process through online consultations.
If this seems odd, keep in mind that these steps help Tesla to cut costs.
That brings us to the end of this Sunrun vs Tesla review.
Honestly, it’s hard to choose a winner between the two as solar service requirements vary between users.
In terms of panel quality and warranties, there isn’t much to choose between the brands. However, if you don’t mind third-party panel ownership, you get more choices and better customization with Sunrun.
To sum up, if you want aesthetic-looking panels from a dependable brand at low costs, Tesla is the right choice.
But if you want to avoid the high upfront costs, Sunrun has some great plans that you can check out. That said, make sure that your state allows third-party ownership of solar panels.
Finally, before you make a choice, consult a solar expert and users with first-hand experience. Also, take estimates from different installers and check the cost/watt numbers to find out what works best for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Sunrun the same as Tesla?
Sunrun is not the same as Tesla and both are different brands. Tesla manufactures all components of its solar installations. Sunrun assembles third-part components to supply a solar power system to customers.
Does Sunrun use Tesla solar panels?
Sunrun doesn’t specify the brands whose panels they use. They use top-grade panels from manufacturers who have a track record of superior quality. However, they have officially started using the Tesla Powerwall battery system as a part of their solar installations.
Is Sunrun a good deal?
Sunrun can be a good deal when you’re on a budget and need a customized solution for your home. Also, their lease ownership plans are a great option to save upfront costs.