For years, Hawaii residents have been reliant on imported energy, which results in higher costs for residents. But with a yearly average of about 200 days of sun across the islands, going solar is a popular and sensible decision for many homeowners. And while it may be tempting to go with the first Hawaii solar company a homeowner learns about or the one that provides the cheapest bid, it’s wise to research the available options and choose the one that offers the best quality products with standout customer service at the right price. Below, we’ve outlined four of the best solar companies in Hawaii, along with helpful tips on what to consider and how to choose the right solar electric company.
- BEST OVERALL: SunPower
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Tesla
- BEST CUSTOMER SUPPORT: Mālama Solar
- ALSO CONSIDER: Rising Sun Solar
What to Consider When Choosing One of the Best Solar Companies in Hawaii
There’s a lot of information to process when considering a solar panel installation project. Here are the most important factors to keep in mind when preparing for a solar panel installation and vetting local solar panel installers.
Home Location and Roof Type
When a homeowner is contemplating the installation of a solar panel system, their first consideration will likely be the house itself, particularly the orientation, pitch, and material of the roof. To obtain maximum sunlight exposure throughout the year in the northern hemisphere, it is recommended that solar panels be installed on a roof that faces south. This is due to the sun’s path, which is slightly to the south because of Earth’s tilt. Southeast- and southwest-facing roofs are also suitable because they still capture some of the sun’s southerly path. However, solar panels installed on other roof orientations may not generate power as efficiently.
For optimal performance, solar panels should be mounted at an angle of between 30 and 45 degrees. On flat roofs, the panels can be mounted on brackets that tilt them up to 30 degrees. While steep roofs can accommodate solar panels, they may not generate enough energy to make the home energy independent. Any roofing material can support a solar panel system, but certain types are more convenient to work with. Composite shingles are durable and can withstand the installation process, while standing seams on metal roofs reduce the need for drilling and modifications. Installing a solar panel system on a tile roof can be challenging due to the uneven surface of each tile, and it may require more labor and expense.
Type of Panels and Efficiency
Solar panels used for powering homes are generally classified as either monocrystalline or polycrystalline. Monocrystalline panels are more efficient in converting sunlight into usable electricity but are more expensive, while polycrystalline panels are less efficient but more affordable. One can distinguish between the two types by their color, with monocrystalline panels being black and polycrystalline panels being blue. Homeowners will need to consider their budget and power production goals when deciding on the right panel. A Hawaii-based solar installer can provide expert guidance.
It is essential to note that the efficiency of a solar cell is not the same as that of a panel. While a solar cell can achieve an efficiency of over 40 percent, a panel’s efficiency is lower. Monocrystalline panels have a maximum efficiency of around 23 percent, while polycrystalline panels reach approximately 16 percent. While there are solar panels with almost 40 percent efficiency, this technology is not yet widely available.
Thin-film solar panels are another type to consider. These panels are lightweight, flexible, and thin, but they are less efficient than polycrystalline panels. Thin-film panels also have a shorter lifespan of 10 to 20 years compared to the 25-year-plus lifespan of monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels. More thin-film panels are required to power a home fully due to their lower efficiency, and most roofs may not have sufficient space. However, thin-film panels can be useful for homes with irregularly shaped roofs that may not be suitable for traditional panels and can be used as supplemental power sources, or they can be some of the best portable solar panels.
On-Grid vs. Off-Grid
Homeowners have to choose whether to connect their solar system to the local power grid or not. When connected, it is called a grid-tied or on-grid home. Grid-tied homes can still draw power from the utility during times when the solar system is not generating enough electricity. However, they will lose power during a local power outage.
On the other hand, off-grid homes are entirely energy independent, producing enough energy for all their power needs. These systems store excess energy in solar batteries for use during the night or on cloudy days, and they use solar charge controllers to regulate energy flow. Off-grid homes are not affected by local outages, but they will experience a power outage if their batteries are depleted and the panels are not generating enough electricity. The feasibility of off-grid solar systems varies by region and home, and a professional solar installer can help homeowners make an informed decision.
Financing, Rebates, and Tax Incentives
The average cost to install a solar system in Hawaii is about $6,700 after state and federal incentives. Homeowners can opt to buy the system up front, which is a costly financial outlay but saves money long-term, or they can finance the system over several years.
With a solar loan, a homeowner borrows money from a lender or solar developer to purchase and install a solar system. In this situation, the homeowner owns the system, but it’s still subject to a lien or lender security interest. However, not every homeowner will be eligible for a loan, and the homeowner is totally responsible for any maintenance costs. Some of the best solar companies will provide in-house financing options, while others may require the homeowner to seek a third-party lender.
In a solar lease, a homeowner enters into a contract with a solar leasing company or developer. The homeowner makes regular payments and, in exchange, receives the energy the panels produce. Some contracts may require the homeowner to make a down payment. At first, the lease payments are often less than the value of the power being generated. However, payments for solar leases often escalate as time goes on. This option is attractive because there’s little to no up-front cost and the solar developer is in charge of any maintenance. However, homeowners may not be eligible for tax incentives, and there may be restrictions if a homeowner wants to add new construction (e.g., if the homeowner wanted to build a new addition that would block the panels from getting light).
Solar systems purchased and installed in Hawaii are eligible for a 35 percent state tax incentive. Additionally, for solar systems installed between 2023 and 2032, homeowners are eligible for a 30 percent tax credit.
As with other types of home improvement projects, solar panel installations often come with labor warranties to cover any problems that may arise during the installation process. These warranties usually last from 10 to 25 years. Along with labor warranties, the solar panels themselves come with a manufacturer warranty that can last up to 25 years.
Furthermore, many Hawaii solar contractors offer power-production guarantees, ensuring that the solar system will generate a specific level of energy throughout the guarantee period, typically ranging from 20 to 25 years.
Solar system companies in Hawaii that offer multiple customer support channels typically receive higher satisfaction ratings because customers find it easier to reach out to representatives for their inquiries and issues. While telephone support is the standard, some firms may have extended wait times before connecting to a live representative. As a result, some customers prefer to contact the company via email, which also maintains a written record of the conversation.
Our Top Picks
With all of the basics of solar power and installation out of the way, it’s time for homeowners to find out which we consider to be the best solar companies in the Aloha State.
Why It Made the Cut: SunPower provides the most efficient solar panels available in the industry, in addition to an interactive design studio that can assist customers in determining the number of panels required and what they will look like upon installation on their property.
For homeowners who may have trouble visualizing how solar panels will appear on their home, SunPower has a practical online design studio that enables potential clients to enter their address and obtain an aerial view of their property with solar panels installed. This feature can also assist homeowners in estimating the number of solar panels they may require, allowing them to develop a realistic budget for the project.
SunPower Maxeon solar panels have an efficiency rate of 22.8 percent, which is the highest in the industry, enabling clients to generate more power using fewer panels. Additionally, the company has earned Cradle to Cradle certification, signifying that it employs environmentally safe and sustainable materials that are recycled at the end of their life cycle. This feature makes SunPower Maxeon solar panels a wise investment for homeowners in Hawaii who prioritize clean living and sustainability.
Although SunPower customer service is limited to phone support, the company has an extensive FAQ section available to assist homeowners in addressing any concerns that may arise outside of operating hours. As a bonus, SunPower’s low-profile solar panels include built-in microinverters that supply continuous power, even in the event of a power outage.
- Type of panels: SunPower Maxeon monocrystalline
- Payment options: Buy, finance, lease
- Guarantee: 25-year complete-system warranty
- Customer support: Phone
- High 22.8 percent efficiency rate
- Cradle to Cradle–certified equipment
- Interactive online design-studio feature
- Sleek solar panel design with built-in microinverters
- Customer service only available by phone
Why It Made the Cut: Tesla’s price-matching assurance grants customers the confidence of receiving the most reasonable price for their solar panel installation. The company also provides an instant online quote to help customers prepare financially for their solar roof.
Aside from conventional solar panels, Tesla has solar tiles that integrate with a house’s architecture seamlessly. This enables customers to decide between retrofitting panels on their existing roof or constructing a new roof using modern solar tiles. Although leasing of solar panels is not an option at Tesla, the company pledges to match a rival’s price as long as the quote is recent and is for a comparable system size.
Furthermore, Tesla’s website allows clients to obtain a free instant online quote by providing their address and their average monthly electricity bill. This feature enables potential customers to gauge the approximate cost of solar panel installation and establish a budget for the project. Tesla also offers customer support through live chat, allowing clients to reach out to a representative or request a callback if no agents are available.
- Type of panels: Tesla monocrystalline
- Payment options: Buy, finance
- Guarantee: 25-year performance guarantee, 10-year comprehensive warranty
- Customer support: Live chat
- Traditional solar panels and sleek solar tiles available
- Generous price-match guarantee
- Instant online quotes available
- No solar lease option
- Customer support only available by live chat
Why It Made the Cut: “Mālama” means to care for, protect, and preserve, and that’s exactly what Mālama Solar provides with its commitment to sustainable solar energy and standout customer support.
As a Honolulu-based company founded by a husband and wife, Mālama Solar has a strong commitment not only to installing valuable solar panel systems, but also to providing excellent customer support and engaging with the local community. Reviews of the company cite the team’s excellent communication and clear education on what solar solution is right for each home. Mālama allows clients to contact them by phone, text, or email, so clients can pick the method that is most convenient for them. The company also regularly participates in local community events and holds cultural awareness days for the team, so customers can feel confident that Mālama is a company that values and respects the communities it serves. Customers can purchase or finance their installation projects and reach out to the company with any questions regarding guarantees or installation processes.
- Type of panels: Monocrystalline (various brands)
- Payment options: Buy, finance
- Guarantee: Not specified
- Customer support: Phone, text, email
- Strong commitment to sustainability, community building, and preservation
- Reports of excellent customer support
- Customer support available by phone, text, and email
- No solar lease option
- Guarantee information not readily available
Why It Made the Cut: Rising Sun Solar offers a price-match guarantee, so those looking for solar panel companies in Hawaii can save even more money on their solar installation projects.
Rising Sun Solar was founded in 1986 and has installed the most kilowatts of solar across the state, making it the largest solar company in Hawaii. Hawaii residents can feel confident with the company’s long history and track record of success. Even though solar installations are already relatively affordable in Hawaii, thanks to the generous state tax incentive, Rising Sun aims to make the project even cheaper by offering a competitive price-match guarantee for Maui and Big Island customers who have received a quote from another Hawaii-based company. The company also installs solar panels or solar roof tiles for those who want a sleeker solar array. Customers can reach out to Rising Sun via phone with any questions regarding financing options.
- Type of panels: Monocrystalline (various brands)
- Payment options: Not specified
- Guarantee: 5-year parts-and-labor warranty, 25-year equipment warranty
- Customer support: Phone
- Sleek solar roof products available
- Price-match guarantee for select customers
- Financing information not readily available
- Price match only available for residents of the Maui and Hawai’i islands
- Customer service only available by phone
SunPower is our Best Overall pick, thanks to its best-in-class panel efficiency and dedication to sustainability. With its price-match guarantee, Tesla gives homeowners the opportunity to get a great deal on a solar system.
How We Chose the Best Solar Companies in Hawaii
We researched dozens of companies with national presences, along with those based on one of the islands of Hawaii. Next, we considered companies that can serve most or all of the islands to reach the greatest number of customers. Companies that were transparent about their products and business practices were given priority. We also referenced customer reviews to evaluate overall satisfaction and customer service. Finally, we selected awards based on each company’s strengths. Companies that did not meet our criteria were not included.
Before You Work With One of the Best Solar Companies in Hawaii
Hawaii has a strong tradition of environmental preservation, along with many state regulations to back up this tradition. Hawaii has clearly designated environmental zoning laws, which shouldn’t be an issue for homeowners installing solar panels on their roofs. However, these zoning laws could come into play if a homeowner wants to install ground-mounted panels.
Homeowners who live in a community governed by a homeowners association may worry that installing solar panels isn’t an option, and while this is the case in much of the U.S., it’s not so in Hawaii. Hawaii has laws to maintain homeowners’ rights to install solar panels on their homes, and HOAs are not allowed to prohibit or unreasonably restrict solar installations.
It’s also important to remember that solar panels require maintenance. Cleaning solar panels can increase their efficiency, so homeowners will want to learn how to clean solar panels or hire one of the best solar panel cleaning services.
Cost of Working With One of the Best Solar Companies in Hawaii
Installing solar panels in Hawaii costs $2.67 per watt. The average household will need a system that is 5.5 kilowatts (kW), which comes out to a total system cost of $14,685. Hawaii offers a 35 percent state tax credit, and with the 30 percent federal credit, the average cost of the system comes down to $6,681. The brand of solar equipment, the size of the system, and financing options will affect the total amount that a homeowner pays for the installation. However, with an average cost-per-watt just above the national average of $2.66, along with far lower than average installation and system costs, going solar in Hawaii is a worthwhile investment for most.
The Advantages of Working With One of the Best Solar Companies in Hawaii
Hawaii ranks 17th in the country for solar installations, and there are many incentives and benefits for homeowners looking to make the switch to a more sustainable energy option. These include:
- Average savings of nearly $50,000 for the lifetime of the system.
- A generous state solar tax credit of 35 percent.
- An average payback period of 6 years—half of the average U.S. payback period of 12 years.
- State programs to make solar more affordable to underserved communities.
Homeowners considering solar may still have some questions regarding this big project. Below, we’ve answered some of the most common ones Hawaii residents have regarding solar installation, permits, cost, and more.
Q. Do you need a permit to install solar in Hawaii?
Yes, permits are typically required for solar installations. Your solar company will usually handle pulling any permits.
Q. What is the most important factor when choosing the best solar provider in Hawaii?
Efficient panels, years in business, and solar services offered are among the most important factors when selecting a solar provider.
Q. Is there a solar tax credit in Hawaii?
Yes, there is a 35 percent state solar tax credit for systems purchased in Hawaii.
Q: How many solar panels do I need in Hawaii?
The average homeowner will need a solar system that produces 5.5 kW. Residential solar panels typically produce between 250 and 400 W each. This means that a home will require between 13 and 22 solar panels to produce 5.5 kW.
Q. Is solar installation worth it in Hawaii?
Yes, with ample sunlight and a generous state tax credit, it’s worth it to go solar in Hawaii.
Q. How much does solar cost in Hawaii?
The average cost of solar in Hawaii is $2.67 per watt. Most homes will need a system that is 5.5 kilowatts, which comes out to a total system cost of $14,685. However, Hawaii offers a 35 percent state tax credit, and with the 30 percent federal credit, the average cost of the system comes down to $6,681.
Sources: Current Results, EcoWatch