We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to solar panel systems. Where you buy your solar panels from or who you decide to contract with for installation will depend on your personal preferences, how you want to finance the system, and the type of system you want to install. In this article, we’ll evaluate several options for buying solar panel systems, including wholesale resellers, national installation companies, Amazon solar kits, and EnergySage.
Where can you buy solar panels? An overview of solar panel purchase options
There are many options available for purchasing a solar panel system, including but not limited to the choices below:
|Buying option||Cost||Install included?||Financing included?||Best for|
|Amazon solar kits||$||No||No||DIY, small off-grid systems|
|Large national installers||$$$||Yes||Yes||Turnkey installations|
How do the details of these different options compare? Read on to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of these options to help determine which is best suited for your own installation.
Buying solar panels from wholesale resellers
Wholesale resellers are companies that sell equipment online to consumers looking to go solar. While labeled as “wholesale,” these items will still typically include a markup so that the company selling the product will make a profit. It’s currently not possible for consumers to purchase wholesale solar panels directly from panel manufacturers.
One of the biggest benefits of buying solar panels from wholesale resellers or other websites is that the equipment is relatively affordable compared to other options in the market. If you’re working on a DIY solar project, then purchasing your solar panels and inverter through a reseller is going to be a quick and easy way to get your equipment. However, it’s not advisable to attempt a DIY solar panel system if you don’t have the proper expertise. Anyone looking to install their own solar panel system should have a thorough understanding of electrical systems prior to tackling the project.
If you buy solar panel equipment from a reseller but are not planning on installing the equipment yourself, it can be difficult to find an installer. This is because many solar installation companies only provide turnkey solutions and will not install equipment they didn’t purchase themselves.
Buying solar panel kits from Amazon
Similar to wholesale resellers, Amazon is another way to purchase solar equipment directly. Many people most commonly purchase solar panel kits from Amazon that include the majority of equipment necessary for getting a solar panel system up and running (i.e. wiring, solar panels, the inverter, etc.)
Solar panel kits are often used for off-grid solar panel systems, though there are grid-tied options available. It’s important to know exactly what equipment you’ll be receiving as part of the kit, as not all solar kits come with every component you need. For example, the ECO-WORTHY’s 200 Watt solar panel kit includes two separate panels and a lead acid battery, while WindyNation’s standard 200 Watt solar panel kit doesn’t include a battery (though you can add it on for an additional price).
Generally speaking, most solar panel kits won’t generate enough power to cover the electricity needs of the average household; however, they can be a great option if you’re interested in generating solar power on-the-go, such as for an RV or boat. Keep in mind that with solar panel kits, you’ll likely need to perform the installation of the system yourself.
Buying solar panels from national installation companies
There are certain advantages to buying a solar panel system from a large solar company. For one, they often have proven track records and plenty of experience when it comes to installing residential solar panel systems. Additionally, they offer turnkey solar system solutions, meaning they provide equipment, labor, and a financing option as a part of your solar package. As a part of their total price, large solar companies also handle any permitting and interconnection processes necessary to get your solar panel system up and running.
Companies like SunRun and Vivint are also most likely to offer third-party ownership options like leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs). While these financing options typically offer lower overall savings than loan options, they can be preferable if you don’t want to take out a loan or if you aren’t eligible for federal and state tax credits.
However, bigger isn’t always better. Many large solar companies charge a higher price for turnkey solar panel installations than smaller, local competitors. In fact, a report from the National Renewable Renewables Laboratory (NREL) found that larger installation companies, on average, charge a 10 percent premium for solar panel systems over smaller installation companies. When you’re purchasing a solar panel installation, this 10 percent can add up to thousands of dollars.
Buying solar panels from EnergySage
Last but not least, EnergySage: we don’t actually sell solar panel systems directly. Our online Solar Marketplace allows you to receive and compare up to seven custom solar quotes from installers near you. All of our installer partners go through a stringent screening and vetting process prior to quoting on the Marketplace; we ensure they’re an experienced, reputable company with proper insurance and licensing
The installers that provide you quotes through the Marketplace are likely smaller in size than the SunRuns and Vivints of the world. However, there are benefits to choosing a local installer on EnergySage over larger national companies. For one, they’re more likely to offer better pricing and higher quality equipment. Smaller installation companies often have lower overhead costs, therefore can charge less for similarly-sized installations.
Additionally, by shopping on the EnergySage Marketplace, you can ensure you’re getting the right system for the right price. Installation companies large and small charge different amounts based on the quality of the equipment, the size of the system, their own installation services, and more. Your solar panel system is an investment, and by looking at multiple offers, you can better understand average market prices for the level of service and equipment you’re looking for.
Our quote comparison tool also standardizes assumptions for cost and savings calculations. Offline, you’ll likely receive quotes directly from installers that assume different utility inflation rates, degradations, or incentives that can misrepresent one company’s offering over another. Standardization of these factors ensures that every quote is on an even-level playing field.
That said, our Marketplace isn’t the best solution for every type of installation. Similar to the national companies, installers on EnergySage provide turnkey quotes that include equipment, financing, and installation. If you’re looking to solely purchase equipment for a DIY project or are looking to install a small, portable off-grid system, wholesale resellers or Amazon may be the most suitable option.
Which option is right for you?
Every solar project has its own unique characteristics. For some, buying equipment directly from Amazon or wholesale resellers is going to be the best and most affordable options. For others, a large, national company may be able to provide you with a better deal than you can find on the EnergySage Marketplace.
Regardless of which option you choose, it’s important to shop around before writing a check or signing a contract. If you’re interested in comparing turnkey installation options, registering on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace is a great way to start. If you’re just starting out in your solar research and want to see some ballpark numbers of what it would cost to install solar panels on your home or business, try our Solar Calculator.