SolarCity Complaints: What America’s Homeowners Think About Its Top Installer

top solarcity complaints and issues graphics

If you’ve considered installing solar panels in the United States in the past decade, chances are you’ve heard the name “SolarCity” a few times. With its recognizable sun icon slated next to a catchy phrase in bold, the U.S. green giant has made a name for itself in the residential solar market, and is widely considered the country’s top installer for the past three years.

From a homeowner’s perspective, SolarCity is initially associated with innovation and market share (after all, it’s theoretically an Elon Musk venture). However, the installer behemoth generates a lot of skepticism and doubt due to its resoundingly negative review presence online. For this reason, we created an aggregate report on what homeowners are saying about SolarCity. We looked at trends on major review sites as well as themes we hear from our own customers who had an experience with SolarCity.

Is SolarCity worth it? The primary appeals of the lead installer

With more market share than any other solar company in the nation, it’s clear that SolarCity is doing something right, regardless of review trends. To start off, let’s look at what homeowners like about SolarCity.

One of the primary pain points and areas of uncertainty for those considering solar panels is around warranties. Solar panels can require maintenance and typically have warranties that range from 20 to 25 years. Understanding the terms and types of warranties offered with a solar installation is a very important step of the buying process for homeowners. For many homeowners, this is part of the appeal of SolarCity: they offer a 25-year warranty for all systems, which is about as good as it gets in the industry (though we will discuss later whether or not they always follow through on that support). Additionally, as a large company with a national presence and backing from Elon Musk, SolarCity offers solar shoppers a degree of certainty that they can’t find elsewhere. Taken together, people see an impressive warranty offering and a corporate giant ready to back it up. 

Overall, size and brand awareness are big selling points for homeowners that are interested in SolarCity. Several homeowners that used our platform to compare solar quotes also confessed that Elon Musk’s investment in SolarCity made the company most appealing initially. Take it from one popular review on Yelp that sums up this thematic homeowner impression:

screenshot of solarcity review

Source: Yelp

Additionally, SolarCity was founded in 2006 and has been in business for 10 years – a significant corporate achievement in an industry that has only come to full fruition in the past few years. The San Mateo installer boasts 20 locations across the U.S., which means that they can offer in-person support and feedback.

 

small installers vs solarcity

 

SolarCity also has a number of strong partnerships and acquisitions that allow it to, in theory, fulfill Elon Musk’s original vision for his cousins’ company: to satisfy every need of the solar installation process under one company roof. SolarCity can promote its own high efficiency panel brand (Silevo), solar financing packages such as its lease and loan offerings, and even offer a home equity audit and evaluation. To top it all off, SolarCity offers the Tesla Powerwall – a big selling point for the many homeowners seeking home energy storage options.

The top four complaints about SolarCity from homeowners

SolarCity offers many benefits as an installer, but breaking down the resounding criticisms we hear from homeowners directly will give you the full picture. It’s common speak that reviews of SolarCity are some of the harshest testimonies you’ll find on Yelp, but the ultimate question to unpack here is what are the consistent issues that drive this company’s customers to a state of keyboard frenzy? 

High pressure salesman: “a barrage of phone calls”

One of the most decisive and prominent criticisms that we hear about SolarCity revolves around their sales process. The company is founded on a “sign at all costs” mentality when it comes to finding homeowners who are unsure about going solar. The company’s focus on growth has led to a door-to-door canvassing operation driven by high stakes quotas and a telemarketing team that uses autodialers programmed to get an answer with no cap on call attempts. The consequences of their strategy have been dire for the company’s reputation.

Homeowners frequently describe SolarCity’s salesforce as “pushy”, “relentless” and “harassing” with numerous cases of people who described the experience as “a barrage of phone calls.” To get some insight from the inside perspective, check out a testimony from a former SolarCity prospect who was frustrated with the company’s sales methodology:

screenshot of solarcity complaint

Source: Highya

This internal pressure to quickly close leads engenders a confusing and stressful experience for the homeowners on the other end of the phone. Here are a few examples of customer testimonies that exemplify the pressure sales experience we hear about so much:

screenshot of solarcity review

Source: Yelp

screenshot of solarcity review

Source: Yelp

We often hear that the root cause for the confusion felt by solar homeowners is exposure to misleading solar sales tactics that stretch the truth about the cost of solar or the logistics of how simple going solar can be. To be fair, this is a problem across the entire solar industry, but the nation’s top installer is the top source of advertising and sales in that industry and shoulders some of the blame. It is our hypothesis that this sales mantra is responsible for a resounding association with SolarCity and the words “scam” or “manipulation.”

Poor customer service

As with any rapidly growing large company, SolarCity faces regular criticism about its customer support team. Our support reps at EnergySage are often the second call made after a homeowner speaks with a SolarCity rep, and we typically hear that they get different stories from different representatives.

The common thread in these homeowner complaints is that SolarCity representatives seem undereducated on solar terminology, manufacturers, equipment and financing options. A homeowner who considered SolarCity this past summer recounted how his customer representative only talked about Tesla Motors and the company’s plan to acquire SolarCity. The homeowner said it appeared the rep had been told to use the Tesla merger as a key selling point, but had no answers when the homeowner asked questions specific to their solar panel installation. Additionally, we often hear that sales reps are friendly and engaging but that the customer experience drops off dramatically once a contract is signed: 

screenshot of solarcity complaint/review

Source: Consumer Affairs

Manipulation: “is Solar City a scam?”

In addition to confusion around the cost and logistics of solar, the high-pressure sales tactics SolarCity salespeople use can also lead to doubt and skepticism from homeowners who feel they are being manipulated or taken advantage of. Suspicious offers such as the marketing gimmick “free solar panels from the government” often lead homeowners to ask our support team, “is Solar City a scam?” or “should I trust Solar City?”

One cause for this “scam” assumption are the audacious promises made by sales reps that are impossible for installers to follow through on. For example, homeowners often report that SolarCity promised total solar panel output (meaning that their panels will totally cover their electricity demands each month). However, the reality of solar panel technology is that there’s a level of variation with any system that makes that type of guarantee an impossible one to make. As a result, the following customer testimonies are common complaints we hear on a regular basis:

screenshot of solarcity review=

Source: Solar Reviews

screenshot of solarcity review

Source: Highya

SolarCity lease problems and buyer’s remorse

The three criticisms mentioned above come up frequently with EnergySage users, but there is no sentiment we hear more frequently from SolarCity customers than regret following system installation (often because of SolarCity’s complicated and binding lease model). Ultimately, the aggressive sales strategy will capture some percentage of homeowners who don’t fully understand their contracts. Additionally, those that do actually end up locked into a contract often express remorse and frustration once they realize there is no way out. 

These promises made by the company’s sales team can lead to a rude awakening for many homeowners who end up feeling tricked. Here are some testimonies that describe the actual solar savings, panel output and after-the-sale support by SolarCity, compared to the expectations garnered during the all-optimistic sales process and contract signing:

screenshot of solarcity complaint width=

Source: Solar Reviews

screenshot of solarcity complaint

Source: Yelp

The ultimate takeaway: solar shoppers should be armed with quotes and information

At the end of the day, the point of this article is not to bash the nation’s largest solar installer. After all, they are a titan in the industry and deserve credit for helping to accelerate the clean energy revolution in America. Our purpose is to shed light upon a familiar story from homeowners that use our platform to compare solar quotes and upload external quotes from SolarCity. It is EnergySage’s mission to help homeowners be as informed and educated as possible about solar. Part of that is understanding the tactics used in this industry.

 When all is said and done, not every homeowner’s experience with SolarCity will be a bad one – there’s a reason they’re the largest company in the industry! However, every homeowner should understand the specifics of their solar agreement before signing a binding contract. To start, take a look at reviews from the sites where we sourced these complaints, including Yelp, ConsumerAffairs and Highya, as well as the industry-focused site SolarReviewsIf you are interested in comparing your SolarCity or other contractor quote to other local installers in your area, enter your property details on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace and upload it as an external quote in order to compare it side by side to other offers made to you by local installers. To learn more about what to expect for solar cost and potential savings, get a custom instant estimate with our Solar Calculator.

 

small installers vs solarcity

 

24 thoughts on “SolarCity Complaints: What America’s Homeowners Think About Its Top Installer

  1. Anonymous

    Why was there no mention of them being 3+ Billion (yes Billion) in debt? How does that bode well for a warranty?

    Reply
  2. Matt

    Because in your contract it states thatsolarcity puts a percentage of income aside for repairs even if Solarcity goes out of business. Also the “debt” is caused by solar leases that are binding but haven’t been paid off yet bc it’s a 20 yr payback. Banks are always in debt bc they loan money out 10x more then cash they have in hand. Doesn’t mean the bank is in trouble.

    Reply
  3. Jack T.

    Solar City main cash flow is energy tax credit for “green energy”; which means they mostly want to grab the gov’t subsidy, but could care less about long-term maintenance of the deteriorating panels on your roof, which can quickly become an eyesore, while not fully paying the promised dividends. You’ll just have to trust them that they’ll properly credit you on solar hours received, even though in states like Western Washington and Western Oregon, the returns have proven to be greatly exaggerated. Caveat Emptor: “Buyer Beware” is an appropriate phrase.

    (The above doesn’t even take into account that many of Solar City’s panels are made overseas, and the production and ultimate disposal processes are not environmentally friendly.

    Reply
  4. Georgette Torrence

    I am a 67 year old widow who was mislead and scammed by Solar City. My electric bills are the same and what I pay to Solar City (now I realize is a lease not lease to own) is much more than what I was paying before going solar. It is going up each year and it was my understanding that it may not will. I trusted the salesmen who had sold this to my granddaughter thinking it was legitimate. Now She is also very sorry she went solar. She is Trying to sell her home and no one wants to lease from solar city so her home is not selling. To move panels to new home or have removed will cost her dearly. I am also being charged incorrectly per month by $12 it may not seem like much but it is when you are on a fixed income. The way it stands now as the cost to have solar on my roof goes up each year I will not be able to afford to pay in the future and I am a reck and scared out of my mind that I will lose my home. I have written to Solar City but have received any response. Speaking to a customer service representative is a waste. I am going with putting this out there no other elderly person falls prey to this scam. I

    Reply
      1. Chuck

        HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!
        I’ve tried numerous ways to get a hold of someone above the telemarketer and door to door salesmen to work towards some resolutions and they don’t even respond! Best answer so far (from one of their own “people”) is to continue ignoring them and maybe they’ll go away.

        Reply
    1. Angelica Cruz

      I have had almost an identical experience as you! We were promised the rate would be $60 per month by our sales person and that the solar would reduce our electric bill to almost nothing (and that we would be credited for unused solar!-this has NEVER happened), but instead our electric bill has INCREASED and we have never had a Solarcity bill that is less than $200, with most beging $300+ in the summertime. We are paying triple-4x in utility costs since installing solar panels and there is no way out. Such a misleading sales tactic. Wish we could do it all over again and never use Solarcity! At this point we are going to report to the BBB and get the news stations involved.

      Reply
  5. Sam

    This so called company is continues to call my wife’s and my phone; after numerous requests to not call us any more they continue to call, when I called to complain the agent ignored what I had to say, thanked me for my time and patients and rudely hang up,. After several more calls only the same; I’ve talked to a so called supervisor and was told are numbers are off the list; but he didn’t even know the numbers I was calling about. He was just as about as much like the fist rep I spoke to, beware this obviously is a pushy sale marketing tactic. If this is how they handle what they hope would be potential customers, how would they than treat you if you subscribed to the product as well as customer service. Go figure….. Sam west Covina cal.

    Reply
  6. DEBBI

    Mislead and scammed by Solar City. They are no help when you need help. Praying on the people!!!
    DON’T BUY THERE BULL !!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  7. Bryan Strother

    Solar City “Bait & Switch” My system was underestimated as admitted by Solar City. They offered to put another “underperforming” system on my house to add panels because they say there is no way to simply just add panels. I declined. My PG&E bills seem to have doubled. I just received my NEM “true up” bill from PG&E for almost One Thousand dollars. $922. to be specific. I pray I can sell my house this year and get far far away from Solar City. I pray it will not be a hassle to sell as people are becoming aware that Solar City “LIES” in their aggressive sales pitches to procure that government rebate as to actually trying to sell a viable product. In conclusion & my experience, Solar City is a Scam “Bait & Switch” scheme, Customer Service Sucks & your only a valued customer until “they have you on the hook.” Screwed in Oroville, CA.

    Reply
    1. Andrew

      Bryan I am a PG&E customer and I have SolarCity. True up payment only occurs if you use more electricity than the system can produce. Chances are you started using more power than you have in the past. You have to buy the residual power from somewhere because your depend has increased. This is poor customer understanding more than anything else. This is very misleading to homeowners that actually want to have solar but scared because of post such as yours. PG&E has had massive rate increases in the past 2 years and now we are paying for a decommissioning of the nuclear power plant in Diablo Canyon. $1.50 more on your bill until 2025.

      Reply
      1. Rick

        boy andrew you must be a solar city shill employee. How dare you diss Bryans factual posting on his actual experience with solar city. I am becoming aware of their scam leases as we are looking to purchase a house that has one of those crappy 20 year leases, The owner was vague on answering questions but did answer the main one that his system only produces 50 % of his electrical needs!!!!

        That is outrageous for a 20 year lease payment in the $ 150 per month range that equates to $ 36000 plus they took his credits!!!! The idea of a solar system is to cut out your electric bill completely and if solar city cannot do that properly then they are not a good solar company.

        I advise no one to deal with them for what I have read on the horror stories. Buy a system from someone else!!!

        Reply
        1. Glenn

          I had a system installed by SCTY when they started in Vegas, well the system that was installed saying it was not enough producing electricity to my home so they offer to add more panels and offered a new lower rate for the system. After so many months of waiting the additional panels went operational but now I am paying 2 bills because SCTY is saying the additional panels is a second system not tie up to the original system and the rate to the original system has not changed because it is a separate contract. So now my bill is higher with the production of the panels I’m paying….I was happy previously with my old bill what I was paying (before installation of the additional panels/2nd system) averaging about $82/month. Needless to say I was mislead by the Energy Consultant…not fully disclosing and deceptive sales information, they are just eager to sell you the system and not fully providing an explanation of what benefits/advantage of having a solar panel system. Better to have a lawyer look at the contract and spare you the heartache later.

          Reply
        2. Mike B

          I’m not sure how $ 150 per month, or $ 1600 per year, over 20 years adds up to $ 36000, My math makes it $ 32000, so your math is fuzzy. You need to consider the “net present value” aka, the time value of money. How much would a bank loan you today to get $ 150 per month for twenty years? Surely not $ 36000. You don’t state how many watts the system outputs, not even how many panels, only 8? Normally it takes at least 16 to “break even”. So you’re exaggerating. You don’t state how much the monthly electric bill was reduced. And that requires equating kwh before and after, since a lot of people assume once they have solar, they can use twice as much electricity per month. “I don’t get any more Honey, you forgot to turn off the lights” (per a solar panel TV commercial).

          Reply
  8. Joanne

    My father got talked into Solar City and is now getting bills from PG&E and Solar City. Solar City says the bill is because the panels produce too much energy and PG&E sends a bill because they are still providing electricity. So if the Solar City panels are producing too much electricity why are we getting a bill from the electric company? It just doesn’t add up. My dad is not doing well, health-wise, and we are handling the finances. It seems like they get paid by my dad for the “extra” electricity and also when they sell it to PG&E. I want to put solar on my house but not this company.

    Reply
  9. rusty

    Solar city is scam. plain and simple, you dont own the system, they charge $50000 for a system you can do yourself for $10000.

    Reply
  10. Connie

    I have Solarcity and I am extremely disappointed! I have called numerous times and they keep telling me the system is working fine. My bill is TWICE what I would have paid for my electric. I have asked them to come to my house and they DO NOT RESPOND! BE CAREFUL IF YOU GET SOLAR FROM THIS COMPANY! The salesman was a sneak and used an electric bill that I needed to choose my service so it was high and now it is low and my BILL IS twice the amount! I would not buy from this company!. I just called again and I am supposed to get a call back- we will see!

    Reply
  11. Linda Hallmark

    I would NEVER recommend Solar City to anyone. They have the worst customer service of any company I have ever known. The falsely get you into a contract where you sign digital and don’t see the fine print. Our bills with them doubled and they continually said it was PG&E’s issue. We went round and round with them for years!! So frustrating beyond words. I wish we could find a class action suit to be involved in for they are crooks!!! Stay away and BEWARE!!

    Reply
    1. L. Rich

      Find one….let’s start one! I saw something that said you can stop paying them and they do not have a leg to stand on. I copied it because I could no copy/paste This is from a Wall Street website:
      Remember, customers put no money down to have a solar system installed. Afterwards, they’re still connected to the traditional grid.
      So what’s stopping them from stiffing SolarCity? Absolutely nothing. SolarCity might be able to remotely disable the system, but it can’t turn off a customer’s power completely.
      Bottom Line: Solar City has no leverage to force customers to honor their contracts. And if customers stop paying, it means that the cash flows intended for institutional investors takes a hit.
      This is a bad debt problem just waiting to happen.

      Reply
      1. Mike B

        This is wrong. No one is going to install $ 20000 worth of solar panels on your roof without collateral, even if you have stellar credit. No one is going to sell you a $ 20000 car without collateral.
        The collateral for a car is a down payment and repossession. No solar company is going to repossess the solar panels off your roof. They are a fixture, they become part of the real estate. So think of it like a room addition. Is someone going to come repossess your room addition if you stop paying? The collateral is a second mortgage on your property — just like a room addition. You probably already know what happens if you stop paying on a second mortgage…….

        Reply
  12. L. Rich

    This is what I sent to Solar City in 4 separate emails to 4 separate areas so they cannot say I did not write regarding this non ACH charge because I did not allow them to go into my bank automatically and remove funds:
    I am writing to let you know that I have received my bill and take EXCEPTION to the NON ACH charge of 7.50 just because I am not allowing you to go into my bank account and pull out funds. I question the LEGALITY of this charge.

    I want it removed P E R M A N A N T L Y from my bill. $90.00 per year so you cannot gain access to my bank account?????

    Where does your company get off????? I expect a response by July 31 2017 regarding this. Otherwise, I will be publishing copies of this email…the bill and any other communications to make P U B L I C this ridiculous and excessive charge. I am sending a copy of this to every line of communication I have from your company. I will use every means possible. Social Media…the media….ripoff reports….class action lawsuit for all who are paying it and for the full amount that they have already paid.

    Think about it…90.00 per person per year who does not allow you into their bank account NATIONWIDE…nice tidy profit for your company for doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. I would not mind having a 1% slice of that action myself. Time to make it right!

    Reply
  13. Stan

    As with L. Rich, I’m also fighting the non-ACH payment. In my case, SolarCity stated I was inadvertently receiving a discount, which was given to customers taking advantage of the ACH payment and now I must payback the discounts received. I asked them to show me on my statements, where the discount was received – because it was not evident to me. To date, I have not received a satisfactory answer.

    Reply
  14. Smith Efada

    I have two accounts with Solarcity. I will NEVER recommend them to my worst enemy. Mt first account: Will will GIVE you $200. I received $100 in Home depot Card. There is no communication between the house and the home office. I have have been called and harassed at least 30 times. Problem still not fixed. I will call consumer affairs on Monday.
    My nest broke down yesterday at my second account. I called Solar city and I was asked to call Nest. Nest asked me to call Solarcity. I called Solarcity and I did. Solarcity said to call a HVAC company. I told the rep it is not a HVAC issue because L am a contractor. I then asked if it not a HVAC issue would Solarcity pay for it? His answer was that we will see..

    Reply

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