About SolarCity

By using their customizable solar panel systems to generate electricity, SolarCity claims to be a better way of powering homes and businesses at a lower cost, while also contributing to a healthier, cleaner planet. By offering solar panel systems for homes, businesses, and government institutions; by making the process easy; and by providing low, predictable locked-in rates, SolarCity claims to be America’s #1 full-service solar provider. In fact, the company claims that someone switches to SolarCity once every 5 minutes.

With an ever-increasing focus on “going green” and minimizing the impact on our environment, especially when it comes to powering our homes, it’s no wonder than solar power companies such as SolarCity have become immensely popular over the past several years. However, when it comes down to it, can SolarCity really help you enjoy all the benefits of clean solar energy, worry-free, or is it more of a pain than it’s worth? Let’s shine some light on the facts.

How SolarCity Works

Because solar power systems cost less than traditional power in many markets, SolarCity claims that they can help provide you with “a clean, more affordable energy bill.” In order to accomplish this, SolarCity claims that they will plan and supervise your project from start to finish, and that they feature the most sophisticated project management system in the industry.

If you’re interested in finding out if a SolarCity system is right for you, the first thing you’ll want to do is check to make sure that the company’s services are available in your area, which can be accomplished by entering your zip code on the website’s home page. If so, you’ll then need to follow these steps in order to begin experiencing all the benefits that the company claims to provide:

  • After a free consultation and signing an agreement, a site auditor will visit your home, take measurements, and gather technical information.
  • SolarCity’s engineering team will then use this information to custom design your solar system.
  • Plans are then submitted for permit and local HOA approvals.
  • After approval is received, installation will begin, which generally takes 1-3 days to complete.
  • Then, your system will be inspected by your local building department.
  • After this final approval, you’ll be able to enjoy clean solar energy!

According to SolarCity, each of their solar power systems are continuously monitored in order to ensure that everything’s running smoothly, and their online portal allows you to track your project’s progress. Once everything’s complete, you’ll also be able to monitor your system in real time by accessing the SolarCity Power Guide via any PC, tablet, or smartphone.

SolarCity Pricing & Refund Policy

If you decide that a SolarCity system is right for you, there are three different options from which to choose:

  1. $0 Down Solar Lease – Simply pay for the power your solar panels generate each month, along with your lease fee. Includes locked-in low rates and a 20-year protection plan. SolarCity claims that 95% of customers will benefit more from a lease than a purchase.
  2. Solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) – A contract to buy solar power based on a set rate that is usually equal to or less than market rate from your local utility company.
  3. Outright Purchase – Here, you’ll pay for equipment and installation upfront, although SolarCity claims you’ll see a return on your investment in less than 10 years, and you’ll be eligible for 30% or more annual solar tax rebates. Includes a 30-year protection plan.

If you choose option #1, SolarCity claims that solar panel installation is free, and that maintenance, repairs, and insurance are provided at no extra cost. In other words, the company claims that you’ll simply pay for the power your system generates.

All SolarCity systems come with a 100% performance guarantee. If not, you’ll need to contact the company at (888) 765-2489 in order to have the problem resolved.

Important note: As of the time of this writing, your monthly SolarCity bill will be increased by $15 if you choose not to sign up for automatic withdrawal.

Can SolarCity’s Solar Panel Systems Help Reduce Your Electricity Bills?

Now that you know more about SolarCity and their solar-based power systems, can they really provide you with a worry-free experience, and can you expect to save a lot of money in the process? Perhaps, but keep the following in mind:

Limited Availability

First, SolarCity systems are only available in 16 states: AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, DC, HI, MD, MA, NV, NJ, NY, OR, PA, TX, and WA. On top of this, you’ll need to own the home you live in order to install the solar panels on the roof (e.g. cannot lease your home).

Very Long-Term Contract

While SolarCity’s contracts seem to be in line with other solar energy providers such as SunRun, remember that you’ll be signing up for a 20-year service agreement, which comes with some fairly steep penalties if it’s cancelled it in advance.

While SolarCity claims that you can transfer your solar agreement to the buyer in the event you sell your home, you’ll be responsible for buying the system outright if they don’t agree to such a stipulation.

Numbers Don’t Lie

If you decide to go the $0 Down Lease option, keep in mind that you could actually increase you overall expenses when compared to your current utility bill. For example:

Let’s say that you currently pay $300 per month for electricity, and SolarCity claims that one of their systems can significantly reduce this amount. After your panels are installed, you find that you’re generating 70% of the electricity you need, thereby decreasing your utility bill to approximately $90 per month. However, keep in mind that you’ll still have to pay for the leased panels, which could total several hundred dollars per month, ultimately negating any utility savings.

Also, according to the “What’s you electricity bill?” slider on SolarCity’s home page, it appears that you may not see much savings if you spend less than $100 per month on your electricity bills.

Company Reputation

SolarCity holds an A+ rating with the BBB, based on nearly 100 closed complaints over the past 3 years. However, the company claims that they have more than 90,000 customers, and that the vast majority of them have been satisfied with their service.

With this said, there are hundreds of customer complaints online, most of which appear to reference shoddy installation, poor customer service, high pressure sales tactics, and hidden fees in their contracts.

SolarCity’s Legal Woes

SolarCity is part of a class action lawsuit on behalf of its investors, who claim that the company has been providing false and misleading information in its financial statements. In addition, there is also an ongoing Federal investigation into SolarCity in regard to their "fair market value" pricing on leased systems. According to this same article, SolarCity customers can pay up to 70% more than some of the competition.

As if this weren’t enough, SolarCity has received millions in stimulus money and federal tax credits since 2008, but has still posted a net loss of more than $300 million. As such, it appears that the company may be staying afloat on the backs of taxpayers instead of their products, which might present some concern for their overall longevity.

Service Timeline

Finally, although SolarCity claims that your panels can often be installed in one day, this doesn’t mean you’ll be able to use them. In fact, although your contract will give you an estimated timeline as to when you can expect service, most people usually have to wait a month or more.

Bottom line

Although solar power can often represent a solid investment with low, lock-in rates, not to mention the environmental impact it can have, it’s important that you thoroughly think everything through before signing a 20-year contract, whether through SolarCity or another provider.

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16 Customer Reviews for SolarCity

Average Customer Rating: 1.6
Rating Snapshot:
5 stars: 2 4 stars: 0 3 stars: 0 2 stars: 1 1 stars: 13
Bottom Line: 19% would recommend it to a friend
Showing 1-11 of 16
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  • Blatantly lied to

    I was told by my salesman Romeo C. that by purchasing this solar system, I will receive a 30% Federal Tax refund credit from my total purchase. Along with Mosaic, my understanding was I could use the refund for a vacation (that Romeo C. mentioned to me on a recorded call to SolarCity) or pay down the balance of the loan, and I chose the loan to keep my payment at the choice target balance. I would never have purchased this system at the total price of over $36,000 for my home (which is 1,598 total square feet), I would have opted to lease at greater savings to my family.

    When I signed the loan documents with Mosaic Inc., I was reassured that we would be receiving the tax refund credit for the 30%. There is a section stating on page 5 that:

    SolarCity shall have no financial obligation to Customer regarding actual rebate and incentive amounts received. Customer agrees to pay the Contract Price in full regardless of the actual amount of rebate and/or incentives received.

    This made me worry that the incentive was not guaranteed, but like I said I was reassured that I would get the money back. This is one of the main reasons I decided to go forward with the purchase of solar panels opposed to leasing them from SolarCity.

    Now after having my taxes prepared on 2/18/17, I was told by my CPA that the 30% Federal Tax refund credit was no longer available and has not been available since the first year it was offered by the IRS, and I would only be eligible for a CARRY FORWARD CREDIT from the IRS. In addition, I was told that the state tax credit refund would be $1,000, and again I was told I would be able to do whatever I wanted with this refund from the state. My CPA informed me that the state of Arizona has never given a credit or refund for residential energy. I was blatantly lied to again.

    I have seen claims and reviews with the BBB from other customers that state they were lied to and were promised these incentives to get the sale for solar panels from SolarCity, and they did not learn about these complete misrepresentations until they prepared their taxes.

    When I contacted Solar City and spoke to a Customer Care Specialist, I was disregarded and told to refer to my Loan Agreement, which I quoted above. The specialist Viridiana B. did not seem to care that their sales professionals were misleading and lying to their customers about incentives and refunds. A salesman has to know the product they are selling, and if they cannot guarantee something, then be honest and inform your potential customers so they can make a decision based on the facts presented and are not completely shocked to learn the truth months after the documents are signed, and the installation is complete.

    I am continuing to wait for the company to research my complaint. I want to believe SolarCity cares about their customers and are outraged at the lengths their sales team has gone to get a sale when I would have benefited a great deal more with a lease.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • Horrible!

    • Enfield, CT,
    • Feb 22, 2017

    I don't even know where to begin.

    My family was approached by two Solar City representatives at Home Depot, and my family did initially have the interest to go solar, so we decided, why not? My mom made the appointment for a Solar City representative to come to the house and show us a presentation. The representative came, and my mom and family were definitely sold. They were so excited!

    The representative informed us that he's going to be there every step of the way and will come over once the plans are complete and go over the details. We made an appointment for an audit and measurement. The representative told us that he was going to be there. Well, guess what folks? He never showed up!

    The man that came to do the audit is very nice, and he spent a considerable amount of time in the attic in which it was during the summer time, and it gets super hot up there. We offered the man water and we were very nice. My mom tried multiple times to contact the representative, and he didn't bother to pick up or call back. Then, instead of getting the blueprints and paperwork and the representative that was SUPPOSED to come and go over it with us, my mom was bombarded with emails asking to "please approve so we may proceed with the install." She was shocked!

    Oh and I forgot to mention that my family spent over $10,000 for a brand new roof that was only a year old. She looked at the multiple pages so confused and saw the blueprints. Instead of a higher kWh system, they gave blueprints for an even LOWER kWh system instead of the higher one we were promised by the representative. And guess what folks? The representative STILL hasn't responded or even called us back after many voicemails left!

    My mother called Solar City to complain. She informed the girl of what the representative had initially promised and was promised to be at every appointment. The girl apologized and stated that she's going to email the representative and his boss and stated that someone will get in touch with her. During this time, my mother kept getting bombarded with emails asking for approval! One year later, she received no phone call from upper management, never heard from the rep, nothing.

    Not today, 2/21/17, when my mom received a letter from Solar City stating they are going to cancel and cancel the signed agreement. First of all, my mother and family NEVER signed an agreement! Also, she told them in the past that due to the poor customer service, my family is no longer interested. Secondly, we are not going to risk our brand new roof that cost so much over emails.

    My mother is going to file a complaint, and I've never seen her so upset. We're going to make an appointment with another Solar Company this spring and pray that we won't go through hell with them like we did with Solar City.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 4 out 4 people found this review helpful

    Impossible company

    We have tried to spend $45,000 with this company for eight to ten weeks. SolarCity is long on inexperienced people. We worked with COUNTLESS persons, all who over promised and under delivered.

    We are architects and KNOW houses and structures. We have a complete set of architectural drawings on our home. SolarCity's staff had no clue how to read the drawings. Trying to reach a manager or someone who could get this project off the ground was impossible.

    TESLA is making a HUGE mistake by acquiring this company.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 10 out 14 people found this review helpful

    Solar City Misrepresentation

    • New Jersey,
    • Dec 30, 2016

    The agents, all are very nice and polite. They claim "all calls are recorded." They call you with updates, act as a friend, (asking about the weather, their weather, out sick, etc.) as if they want to help you. I asked many questions and which I still have my emails. When it's time to sign, the agent went right through the process, pages in the corners, not explaining anything - just paperwork. And then when it's time to receive a bill about six months later you're stunned because of the misrepresentation. I called to come and find out, I will be paying them $60,000, the monthly payment goes up EVERY 12 months. When I tried to explain, it didn't matter. An email was sent stating, nothing they can do because I signed.

    They say it doesn't cost you a penny, that they do write-offs for their taxes (that's what's in it for them, so they say). I would not ever recommend Solar, especially SolarCity, to anyone. I was misled, unfortunately. I really don't want this to happen to anyone. Please make sure that you're okay with all the terms, read through each and every one of them no matter how fast they're going through all the paperwork.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • 6 out 6 people found this review helpful

    Nightmare

    I walked into Home Depot and was greeted by SolarCity rep. I told her solar power was not for me cause my monthly Edison bill was 35 to 75 dollars per month.

    She suckered me into getting the panels installed. It took them 3 months to send out the first bill. $103 just in interest. I told them to take it out because I couldn't afford it. They said it was impossible. I could only send 75 dollars and that was still not easy to send it.

    Almost a year later and I owe more than the original price. And the phone calls are coming in every month. It's like signing a contract with the devil himself because I'm 54 and I will never finish paying for it.

    Can anyone advise on what to do? I can only think of gathering 50 to 100 people in the same situation and going to BBB, The Federal Trade Commission and finding a lawyer.

    It's easier for 100 people to speak than just me alone. All those Solar City people knew that these panels weren't for me but they just care about the money.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 10 out 10 people found this review helpful

    Bad Deal For Homeowners In AZ

    I am about to buy a home with Solar City panels on it, and deciding to do so was a TOUGH decision, and what I learned is worth listening to. Figuring out if SolarCity will save you money is tricky business indeed.

    Situations vary, so first, ask yourself “Will these panels be even partially shaded much of the day?” If the answer is yes, throw up a big red flag. Even partial shading all but destroys production, as this is a series circuit in essence.

    If your panels will get sun for a whole bunch of the day, then you may do OK. If you see shading being a problem for a good chunk of the day you probably won't meet their optimistic estimate of production. In the case of my possible new home, they don't. I pulled the SolarCity reports and verified this. But that's just one issue.

    While my case might differ from yours, and you will need to do your own homework, here's what I saw in my case. Basically, your lease month per month start low, then get higher each month increasing 2.9% increase per year. My local utility averages a 1.4% increase per year. This was an immediate red flag. This deal is "rear loaded", meaning that while things might look one way to start out, the balance shifts into their favor year by year.

    Exacerbating this issue is that panel efficacy falls off a little each year. How much is a topic of debate, and an unknown, so this is the X factor you can't quite define. SolarCity says .5%, most say 1%, and some say 3-4%. In fairness, I modeled things with the 1% number.

    What I found after doing a lot of math (utility rates vary by month, tiers of monthly usage, etc.), is that in the long term the only people making money are Solar City. You just provide them with the location to place panels that THEY own so that THEY get all of the government credits.

    The math is tedious to figure out, and I suspect that SC banks on you not trying to do so, but I suspect a majority would find little if any savings over the 20-year term.

    The most likely scenario seems to be a) Panels under-perform due to overly optimistic projections up front and b) The rear-loaded payments fool someone into thinking they are doing OK to begin with, but due to the SolarCity payments increasing faster than utility rates, and the panel efficacy falling off each year, the equation is reversed somewhere in the middle, meaning steadily worsening losses as you go through the term. This results in a substantial net loss over the entire term.

    The panels on the home I'm going to buy are a losing proposition for 2-3 thousand dollars by my best estimate.

    I'm still going to buy the home because I love it and the price is great and I'm asking for a few extras in the sale, so I'm good with the deal.

    However, if you are considering SolarCity for your home. think it out carefully and do the math.

    You may well find that long term it's a losing deal and that you just made your house less desirable to a good segment of home buyers in the future.

    Even if you make a little net money over the term, is it worth having THEIR panels on your roof so that they can be the ones making out like bandits?

    I'm sure some will find it a good deal, so you enjoy! But to all I say, proceed with caution and do the math.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 8 out 21 people found this review helpful

    Love my SolarCity panels

    I first became acquainted with SolarCity when my neighbor signed up and had their solar system was installed. My neighbor told me that I could really save money each month on my utility bill. At first it was tough to believe so I contacted my brother and found out he already had SolarCity install the panels on his roof and was waiting for the okay to turn on the switch. I was originally paying .05 cents per kwh with TXU but after speaking with a consultant I found out I was really paying around .15 cents per kwh with my Oncor delivery charges and all of the other fees included on my bill. SolarCity ended up being cheaper than what I was paying today. I did the math and it would take over 15 years for my new solar rate to reach where I was paying today from TXU which doesn't include the rate at which utility rates go up each year. Plus, I can buy the system any time after year five if I ever wanted free electricity. Solar City still covers the maintenance of my panels at no cost to me even if I owned the equipment. I decided to sign up.

    The next step was an onsite inspection whereby they checked out my roof and found out where the panels would be placed. Then, they designed a plan for my home. There was about a 3 week lag time for them to obtain permits. Yesterday, the crew came to install my system and finished installing all 53 panels in one day. Now I will wait about 7-8 weeks for Oncor to install a new meter and will soon get the okay to "flip the switch" on my system.

    I feel good about dealing with SolarCity because they have been professional and informative every step of the way. I highly recommend them. I paid no upfront costs, the installation was totally free, and will pay no costs to maintain the system if anything goes wrong. And best of all, I will be saving over $60 a month on my utility bill.

    I have been spreading the word and so far two of my friends have signed up with SolarCity. So far I have recommended 17 friends and relatives and this week 6 have signed up with SolarCIty. Contact me if you want more info.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • 43 out 46 people found this review helpful

    Total RIP OFF and cheats!

    • Gardner MA,
    • Dec 25, 2015

    More and more both my wife and I are EXTREMELY UNHAPPY with SolarCity’s: performance, lack of honest communication and proper customer service! SolarCity decided to change the design from the original design (due to necessity or on a whim) was not asked for or agreed to by us. They only installed 15% of what we were originally informed that we would get. However; SolarCity then changed our rate from the promised $.16 per kwh. to $.16½ per kwh and then to $.1652 due to the modification. We received NO response to the question of, "Why are we being charged/penalized for something that we had no idea was happening?" If we could afford it, we would have hired a lawyer to handle this case. If nothing else, it would be a case of elder abuse! This is nothing more than thieves that prey on the unsuspecting with promises of helping. They remind me of the convict Bernie Madoff​ and the kind of stuff he pulled. Although we ware now STUCK with them, I NEVER want to hear another LIE from them again. For the first time since I bought this house, I'm looking forward to selling it JUST TO GET RID of these leaches.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 33 out 33 people found this review helpful

    Poor support

    Very poor experience. I was asked to get in touch with them so they could review my case. I did, it took another week before someone responded and only after posting another review did someone finally email me. The explanation I was given was that these times sometimes take a couple of week. Well if you were smart enough to check into my problem you would see that it has been month and I am just getting the same answer -- sometimes it takes weeks. Here is a review I found on line from one of your employees:

    "Get ready for an organization that makes decisions on a massive scale with little regard for the worker bees out there selling solar. There is a new initiative of the week every week, sometimes more than one. This leaves sales reps confused on what the goal is. Case in point: all focus was on initially signing customers up, then shifted to final contracts. In the process, they are punishing people for having too many…"

    Advice to Management:

    You have developed a negative sales culture that is hounding prospective customers about solar. I have run into too many people that are sick of SolarCity calls and having 8 different people contact them in a short amount of time -- all calling without any knowledge of the others. SolarCity is getting too big for itself, creating a wake of unhappy prospects and customers along the way.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 27 out 29 people found this review helpful

    Very dissatisfied

    • Douglas, Ma,
    • Nov 10, 2015

    The whole process was a struggle once everything got started. The inspector who came out had come out twice. The first time he did not take enough measurements. Once the system was designed it was to small to meet my needs. The system was redesigned. The day of installation most of the crew looked very sketchy. They wanted to come in the house, I declined. They said they need to use the bathroom. I felt very uncomfortable with the situation. Later after the installation the inspector did not show. I left hours later. I was called and informed he was there. After the inspection I was told it would be 3 to 4 weeks before the system could be turned on, it has been 7 with no real answers. I guess there is a problem with some type of PTO, must be a secret code they use? I am now being told it may be up to 10 weeks or more and no turn on date is available. Currently I would not recommend them to any one.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 32 out 34 people found this review helpful

    SolarCity scam

    • Nov 2, 2015

    Got a huge bill from Edison of over $600 in just a time frame of 3 months or so. This is after 11 months of actually having SolarCity. Therefore, the bill is going to be well over $600 when I get the next bill. Called Edison, they said it was because the solar panels were not creating enough energy. Then, called SolarCity and they said it was true the panels were not creating enough to cover my energy but it was not their problem and they are not going to do anything about it.

    When asked whether this has happened before they paused and said with hesitation uhhh, it's happened a couple of times. So bottom line is that they never even told me my solar panels were not producing enough energy which they claim that they closely monitor. It took 11 months to get a bill from Edison within a time frame of about 3 months. Now I don't even know what to expect from them in the rest of the 8 months. SolarCity will not cover it nor do they care about the customers that they cheat out on. Would not recommend this to ANYBODY, unless you want to be left in fear of additional unknown bills from Edison!

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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