SolarCity Warranty & Performance Guarantee Explained

SolarCity warranty explained

A solar panel system is a 20- to 30-year investment in your home, and having a strong warranty to support your solar installation is one of the best ways to be confident in your investment. SolarCity, the largest solar leasing company in the country, claims that their coverage “is the best in the industry, with repairs and a production guarantee at no additional cost.” So how does their warranty measure up? Read on for our complete review of SolarCity’s warranty offerings.

The SolarCity Warranty: A Complete Review

Whether you buy or lease your solar panel system, the vast majority of solar companies will offer you an installation warranty. In general, the warranty states that the company will repair or replace any damage or defect that is covered under the warranty conditions. SolarCity’s warranty ­­also covers the cost of labor, which is the case with most (but not all) solar panel warranties.

SolarCity’s warranty is broken down into three subcategories, plus the “performance guarantee.”

SolarCity system warranty example

Excerpt from a SolarCity warranty agreement.

System Warranty

Your SolarCity warranty applies whether you buy your panels or sign a lease agreement or power purchase agreement (PPA). It’s very simple: under normal conditions, your solar panel system is guaranteed to be defect-free, whether as a result of workmanship errors (e.g., installation and maintenance) or equipment defects.

Most installers will offer their customers a similar warranty on workmanship. Manufacturers of solar equipment almost always have warranties on their products as well, ranging from five to 25 years for solar panels and anywhere from ten to 25 years for inverters (depending on the type of inverter you buy). In the case of SolarCity, your system warranty will last as long as your agreement lasts with them. For example, if you sign a 20-year PPA then your system warranty should last 20 years.

To ensure that your system is operating correctly, SolarCity also includes a “PowerGuide™” system to monitor the performance of your solar panels. This has the benefit of allowing you to see how much electricity your panels are producing, but it also makes it easier for the company to identify problems that are covered under the warranty.

Roof Warranty

In most cases when your solar panels are installed, your solar company will need to make holes in your roof to secure the mounting system that holds them. SolarCity’s warranty guarantees that any roof penetrations will be watertight for at least the first ten years of your solar panel installation. This is usually included as part of solar companies’ installation warranties.

Damage Warranty

The damage warranty simply states that SolarCity will repair any damage that they cause to your property during installation or routine maintenance. For the most part, this lasts for the full term of your agreement with the company; the only exception is damage to the roof, which is separately covered under the roof warranty.


How Does SolarCity’s Performance Guarantee Work?

 As part of your agreement with SolarCity, your warranty also includes a “performance guarantee.” The performance guarantee works a little bit differently depending on the type of agreement you’ve signed.

If you buy or lease your solar panels from SolarCity, your performance guarantee will include a “power production guarantee” that decreases incrementally as your solar installation ages.

SolarCity power production guarantee

Example power production guarantee table 

The power production guarantee promises that your solar panel system will produce a minimum amount of electricity each month. In the event that your system doesn’t produce the total kilowatt-hours (kWh) guaranteed in a month, SolarCity will send you a refund check for the difference.

SolarCity power production guarantee refund

Example power production guarantee refund calculation

The flipside of the power production guarantee is that if your system produces more electricity than is guaranteed in a month, the “surplus” production is carried over and can be used to offset future deficits. In practice, this means that you will likely only receive a refund check from SolarCity if your system is routinely underperforming, as month-to-month production surpluses should account for any minor deficits.

This system of credits and deficits is important to understand because, if your system produces more electricity than you use in a month, not every utility will give you credit for it on your electricity bill. (Many utilities offer credits that expire at the end of the year, and some give credits for excess electricity at a lower rate – learn more about the policy in your state.) In any case, SolarCity will still count it as a “surplus” – meaning that you could end up with “offsets” that you never actually get full credit for on your electricity bill.

The best way to avoid this is to seek out get unbiased information about the specifics of your solar panel system – in particular the equipment used and how much electricity it can reasonably be expected to produce – and compare multiple options before you make your solar purchasing decision. You don’t want to pay extra to install a solar panel system that generates more electricity than you need and can use!

If you sign a power purchase agreement (PPA) with SolarCity, you won’t receive a specific power production guarantee as part of your warranty. This is because, instead of paying the company a flat payment each month to buy or lease your system, you pay them per kWh of electricity generated. With a PPA, SolarCity will make repairs if your system isn’t performing properly, but because you won’t be losing money in the meantime you won’t receive any rebate.

Even if you have a PPA, you should still compare multiple offers to ensure that your solar panel system is appropriately sized for your home. If your system is producing more electricity than you use in a month, you may end up paying for more electricity than you are credited for on your electricity bill.

What Can Void Your SolarCity Warranty?

SolarCity and other companies offer installation warranties, equipment warranties, and damage warranties that cover a wide variety of situations. However, there are a few things that can void your SolarCity warranty, including:

  • Allowing anybody but SolarCity (or their approved service providers) to install, remove, or repair your solar panel system
  • Modifying or altering the system yourself
  • Failing to keep trees and other foliage trimmed in a way that causes additional shading to your solar panels

The power production guarantee also has its limits. As mentioned above, SolarCity will refund you in the event that your solar panels produce less electricity than guaranteed. This includes situations where your system is damaged as a result of installation or repair work done by the company. However, you won’t be refunded for lost electricity production if it is caused by damage that is beyond the company’s control, like a tree branch falling onto your system. The same applies if your system is stolen – the company will replace the stolen parts, but you won’t get refunded for the electricity you missed out on during that time period.

Compare Solar Installers to Find the Best Option

The smartest way to be certain you’re getting the best deal on your solar energy system is to compare all of your options before making your choice. Every homeowner considering solar power should get, at a minimum, three offers from different solar companies to get a sense of what’s available in their local market. Smaller, local solar installers often can offer better prices too – it’s wise to get quotes from them in addition to large solar leasing companies like SolarCity.

The EnergySage Solar Marketplace is the easiest way to make apples-to-apples comparisons between quotes from pre-vetted local solar installers. In fact, 33 percent of people who register their property on EnergySage already have a quote in hand – often from a large solar leasing company like SolarCity. If you have a quote from SolarCity, you can register your property on EnergySage at no cost and easily evaluate their offer alongside the other offers available near you.


20 thoughts on “SolarCity Warranty & Performance Guarantee Explained

  1. John

    NO HAVE A LAWYER REVIEW AND COMPARE TO SUNRUN , I HAVE BEEN WITH SOLAR CITY 1 YEAR AND AM DREADING THE NEXT 19 I wish I had a lawyer review my contract net metering and the warranty are not explained correctly.

    1. Chris

      I agree with John. What the sales rep had explained is we would no longer have to pay anything to our electric company. If we do incur any costs with the electric company, then SolarCity would reimburse me. FALSE. With SolarCity, my monthly utility costs have increased since I now pay two companies for electricity. Also the battery backup is suppose to be installed for free when available. Free is going to cost $5500 dollars minimum. Don’t get scammed.

      1. Sherry

        If you use more energy than the system produces and what was designed for you based on past usage…..yes you need to pay for your extra usage to the electric company. That is not the solar company’s fault. If the system did not produce what it was guaranteed to produce yearly…they pay you back for the amount you had to cover with the utility company. AND If you actually thought they were going to give you a Tesla Powerwall worth $5500-$7000 for free….Either your consultant needs to be fired or you should have made sure everything was clear and read before signing. They don’t scam…but there are bad consultants that Tesla is in the process of weeding out.

    2. Lynn

      I’m with u on this!! My system is declining as the years go on! 2 years and I’m producing less each yr. so I’m thinking class action!

  2. Kenneth

    Has anyone had a problem with a leaky roof? Solar City Claims my problem was already there, but the surveyor checked prior to the install. My leaky roof problem started 2 months after the install. I have been going/fourth on getting it repaired. They now claiming they may fix it, if we get third party opinion which we will pay for. The issue, how the any roof company determine the damage with the panels on the roof.

    1. anthony

      Yup, leaky roof the the past 2 years. We go back and forth on who to blame. Bottom line is, there was no leak before the install. After the install, the roof is leaking. The whole roof is the same age so I guess it’s just a coincidence that the leak is only where the solar panels are installed. I just contacted the local news to see what they can do to help. I’m done dealing with these clowns.

      1. Gemma

        Did you contact the news station? I’m having the same issue and thinking about escalating this issue further.

    2. Gemma

      I am having the same problem. Solar city is asking me to prove that the leaks are caused by the solar panels. We only have leaks where solar panels are installed. Were you able to get your roof fixed?

    3. Ernie

      Having same problem. no leak before install now several leaks after. However, I haven’t and will not turn their system on until this is resolved. I had two other roofers say it’s solar city’s fault. they want me to submit the findings to them. I’d rather go to the local courts. Also, go to your local home depot if you see solar city’s stand, go complain to management of home depot that they are letting fraudulent people sell in their store. that will get their attention.

    4. Gemma

      Yes I have had an issue with two leaks where solar panels are. No other leaks anywhere in the house. Solar city doing everything to say they are not liable. Solar city has horrible customer service and has let this issue go on since December 2015. Beware of solar city!

    5. Gemma Johnson

      We have been in the process of trying to find root cause as well. When our sales rep went over warranty not once was it mentioned that we have to prove the leak was caused by the panels by hiring a third party. In fact, we were told today by solar city rep taking off the panels that one leak was for certain caused by the solar panels but they were only allowed to take off the panels not provide any customer service. I would not recommend Solar City to anyone. Customer service is horrible and they do not stand behind their warranty.

  3. K Carey

    I just got my FOURTH patch job on my roof since the rains (and leaks) started back in December. I’ve spent countless days chasing Reps and being escalated. Finally I got promised a new roof. 2 weeks go by. Nothing. Call back, no explanation. Reschedule again for the second time and the scope of work is reduced to a 15 x 20ft re- roof. The manager who overruled both roofing companies recommendation has yet to return my phone calls despite promises to do so. Now I await their Drywall contractors to come out and fix whatever they decide to! It’s a joke that they are so irresponsible.

    1. Gemma

      Any progress on getting your roof and walls fixed?? Solar city is stating they will make repairs if I can get third party to prove leaks are caused by solar panels.

  4. kim

    Our inverter needs to be replaced. We have only had the system in place 2013 now it’s going to take three
    weeks and our Edison bill is going to go into the highest KW during the heat wave we not happy campers
    and they did’nt install the right amount of panles inthe first place .

  5. Andrew

    ” If SolarCity installs a system that produces more electricity than you use, you could end up paying SolarCity for more electricity than you actually need.”
    I ran across this quote on a sister page to this site and would love a little clarification on it. I’m no engineer but am pretty competent with electricity and how it works. With that said, how can I be charged for more power than I needed? If the electricity was used buy something in my house, then I obviously needed it. Electricity is a form of energy that can neither be destroyed or made; it is simply converted from one form of energy to another. If the electricity was used by something there would be a byproduct of its use, i.e. light, heat, etc…, therefore it was needed and not poured down the drain.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *