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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26 Consumer Reviews for SolarCity

Average Consumer Rating: 1.3
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 2 4 star: 0 3 star: 0 2 star: 1 1 star:  23
Bottom Line: 12% would recommend it to a friend
Showing 1-11 of 26
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  • 1 out 1 people found this review helpful

    Rip off

    Is everyone getting together nationwide and filing a case to get out of this horrific contract? Surely with all the lies and more lies, something can be done. I have paid so much money for electric service I know would be able to not pay an electric bill for a couple of months if I had not done these panels with this lying company.

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

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  • 2 out 2 people found this review helpful

    Rip off

    I have never felt so violated by a company as I do with SolarCity. I trusted the salesperson and I find out LIES. My electric cost is higher now than before this company. I HATE paying this scamming company. Anyone find a way out of this contract?

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

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  • 1 out 1 people found this review helpful

    Terribly untrustworthy company!

    I'm writing this review because I don't want other well-meaning customers to go through what my family and I are going through. The SolarCity reps are really good at selling you on their crummy panels and environmental benefits, not to mention "how much you'll be saving!"

    What they fail to mention is that, while you will only be paying dollars and cents per month for taxes and fees to your electricity company, at the end of the year, you have to pay the sum amount of what the solar panels didn't cover. And really, they cover so little that, after all is said and done, whether you're renting the panels or paying for them in full, you're not saving anything, you're paying more. Even in California, with all that sun, what we accrued barely covered a fraction of our consumption for a full household.

    Our last bill at the end of 12 months was over $1,000. Who can afford to pay that all at once? The reps neglected to tell us that and only sold us on the ONE good point of the panels, and that's what you save just a little bit of money every month. Depending on how much you're paying a month to the solar company, you may be paying more than you were before and not helping anyone. If they had only told us that from the beginning, I wouldn't feel so slighted. It's the fact that they were so dishonest about it that makes them a bad company.

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

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  • 2 out 2 people found this review helpful

    Terrible experience

    • Dallas, TX,
    • Oct 9, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    My hubby thought he was doing a good thing in trying to help the environment by getting solar panels, but it has been an absolute nightmare now that we are selling! So many things that we were told were lies. If you decide to get solar panels definitely do your homework and stay away from SolarCity! It’s been a terrible experience, and we are now having to get lawyers involved.

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

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  • 3 out 3 people found this review helpful

    Rip off

    They are a high dollar electric bill. I have paid out more for my electric bill than I ever have in my adult life. Between the SolarCity bill and the lower electric bill, I am paying almost $500.00 a month. Before, the worst piece of paper I ever have signed my electric for in August in Texas was $330.00. So, BEWARE PEOPLE. Don't be fooled like I was!

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

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    • Sep 29, 2017

      Robert Clawson

      Hello Colleen L. Van Horn, I was trying to understand your situation better. Did you buy or lease the solar panels, or were you using a power purchase agreement? What is the maximum output of the solar panels? What was your (kWh) kilowatts per hour usage before and after the solar panels installation? Thanks, Rob.

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  • 10 out 10 people found this review helpful

    Lies, all lies! Stay away!

    • Braddock, PA,
    • Jun 20, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    This company is a disaster! They lied about EVERYTHING. They told me there was no charge for the panels, that I would never have an electric bill other than taxes and fees from the power company, that they were able to get my VERY small house 95% coverage, and that there was no way I would EVER use that mush power. LIES!

    I got my first full months bill, and it was two times the amount I paid BEFORE I made the MISTAKE of going solar. They give you three days to back out of the contract after you sign it, but in my case, it was four MONTHS before they EVEN started, and once everything was done another six MONTHS before they were able to turn it on! All they did was apologize over and over again. And now this. Unless you purchase the panels and even then I'm not so sure, but STAY AWAY from Solar City!

    I see now why they have so many class actions suits against them. Just look it up BEFORE you talk to them!

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

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    • Sep 29, 2017

      Robert Clawson

      Hello James Cope, I am trying to figure out what went wrong for you. There is no charge for the panels if you don't buy them, that leaves you with either a lease or a PPA. The lease you are buying whatever the panels produce so you need to make sure they checked your kilowatts per hour prior to building the unit so they don't make it bigger than you need. It is usually hard to build a unit that is too big for a small house. Was there any change in your electrical usage (kwph) before and after getting the unit? The PPA, you just pay for the power you use so this sounds like If you use very little electricity then it is hard to save. The delay in turning the unit on usually has to do with your city inspector, no matter which solar company you go with, it can take months for the city inspector to get around to yours. Now that Tesla bought them, I hope that there is a change for the better. It sounds like there is room for improvement.

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  • 17 out 17 people found this review helpful

    100% scam artists!

    • Las Vegas, Nevada,
    • May 26, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    SolarCity sold us on the system but could not deliver on their promises. First off, they told us that our electric bill would be almost ZERO and that the ONLY bill would be from Solar City. When I asked the salesman what would happen if it wasn't, he said that they would come out and add more panels. SOLD!

    Two years later our electric bill is triple of what SolarCity's bill is. When I called on them a year ago to come out and add more panels, they said they would have to tear the old system down and recreate a new system. I said whatever it takes. They told me that they are no longer working in Nevada and that they can't help me. That's the first problem!

    The second problem is we're moving and want to rent the home out. Because of this, the renters would need to be responsible for their utility bill. SolarCity said they do have the means to do that and because I'm on TBD contract, it's my responsibility. Which means I can't even rent the place out unless I pay the solar bill!

    If you want to solidify any hopes of not renting your home out, or you don't want to see the promised savings, or the support disappears due to the local electric company changing their protocol, SolarCity is for you. Otherwise, avoid these scam artists like you would the plague!

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

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  • 15 out 15 people found this review helpful

    False promises

    • Troy, NY,
    • May 21, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    The SolarCity rep (Shaun Monet), promised that our system would save us anywhere from $20 to $50 each month on our current electric bill. After spending half a day discussing SolarCity's new PPA program and showing us how much we will save on our bill, he has us electronically sign a lease agreement for 20 years. Upon this discovery, we were told that we couldn't change the agreement as we were past the allocated time for change or cancellation. We are now paying more for our electric service than we were paying to National Grid. Mr. Monet has left their employment and we are now stuck with this B.S.

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

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  • 21 out 21 people found this review helpful

    My electricity costs me more since I had Solar City panels installed

    After having solar panels installed by Solar City, I now pay over $500 a year MORE than before. I'm an 87-year-old disabled veteran. I was promised to save at least a $1,000. I've called them umpteen times and get stonewalled. How do I get out of a bad deal?

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

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    • Jul 4, 2017

      harold

      SolarCity has told me the same thing last year. My lights were cut off because I owe PG&E $1100.00 or more on top of paying SolarCity each month.

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  • 22 out 23 people found this review helpful

    SolarCity is 100% a lie

    • windsor california,
    • Mar 8, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    This is an update after 1.5 years. At this time I feel even more strongly that SolarCity is 100% a scam. They answered my other post with a triad of 100% lies. They did send a field rep out to make my system produce more than it did before. Of course, they did, since I pay for what I produce, not what I use. They also sent a salesman out to try to con me into believing I am saving money. They certainly know how to use smoke and mirrors, but at the end of the day, you will still have an electric bill.

    You pay SolarCity, not PG&E. They show pictures of your PG&E bill in their ads, and they are usually $8. This is true, you pay PG&E a transmission fee for the use of their lines. What they don't tell you is that you will also have a SolarCity bill that is higher than what you paid PG&E pre-solar. In addition, you will NEVER sell power back to PG&E, but you will have a true-up at the end of the year. It could get into four figures.

    They tell lies larger than the state of Texas. 100% lies 100% of the time.

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

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    • Aug 29, 2017

      Colleen L VanHorn

      Totally agree, I want to find a way out of this nightmare. They are liars!

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  • 17 out 18 people found this review helpful

    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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