Solar panels can provide homeowners with clean, renewable energy to power their homes, but given the high cost of the project, customers will generally want to make sure they go with the best company for their needs and budget. With so many solar energy companies out there, how is a homeowner meant to choose?
The best solar companies in Virginia have many factors in common, including all-encompassing warranties, a variety of payment options, and top-rated equipment. These companies strive to guide their customers through each step of the process, from the initial consultation to installation to maintenance. We’ve done the research to determine the best solar companies in Virginia to help homeowners narrow down their options and find the one that best fits their requirements.
- BEST OVERALL: SunPower
- RUNNER-UP: ADT Solar
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Tesla
- BEST FOR FINANCING: Blue Raven Solar
- ALSO CONSIDER: Southern Exposure Solar
What to Consider When Choosing One of the Best Solar Companies in Virginia
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 a solar company.
Home Location and Roof Type
When a homeowner considers installing a solar panel system, the first thing they will want to think about is their house, specifically the orientation of their roof, its pitch, and its material. For maximum sunlight exposure throughout the year, it’s advisable to install solar panels on a south-facing roof in the northern hemisphere, as the sun follows a slightly southern path due to the earth’s tilt. Southeast and southwest orientations are also viable options since they still capture some of the sun’s southerly path. However, panels installed on other roof orientations may not generate power as efficiently.
The optimal angle for mounting solar panels is between 30 and 45 degrees, but for flat roofs, panels can be mounted on brackets that tilt them up to 30 degrees. While panels can be mounted on steep roofs, they may not generate enough power for a home to become energy independent. Any roof material can support a solar panel system, but certain types are easier to work with. Composite shingles are resilient and can withstand the installation process well, 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 irregularities of each tile, and it may require more labor and cost.
Type of Panels and Efficiency
Solar panels that are commonly used for powering homes are either monocrystalline or polycrystalline. Monocrystalline panels are more efficient at converting sunlight into usable electricity but come with a higher price tag. On the other hand, polycrystalline panels are more affordable but less efficient at producing power. One can distinguish between the two types of panels by their color: monocrystalline panels are black, while polycrystalline panels are blue. Choosing the right panel will depend on a homeowner’s budget and power production goals. A skilled solar installer in Virginia can assist in making the best decision.
It is important to note that the efficiency of a solar cell is not equivalent to the efficiency of a panel. A solar cell is a component of a solar panel, and it can have an efficiency of over 40 percent. However, a panel’s efficiency is lower. Monocrystalline panels have a maximum efficiency of about 23 percent, while polycrystalline panels reach approximately 16 percent. Although researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have developed solar panels with an efficiency of almost 40 percent, this technology is not yet publicly available.
Thin-film solar panels are another type to consider. These panels are thin, lightweight, and flexible, 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. Because of their lower efficiency, more thin-film panels would be required to power a home fully, and most roofs do not have the necessary space. However, thin-film panels can be used as supplemental power sources and can be useful for homes with irregularly shaped roofs that may not be suitable for traditional panels.
On-Grid vs. Off-Grid
When installing a solar system, homeowners must decide whether to connect their home to the local power grid or not. A solar panel array connected to the municipal grid 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 producing enough electricity. However, the home will still lose power during a local power outage.
Off-grid homes, on the other hand, are entirely energy independent, generating enough energy for all the home’s power needs. These systems use solar batteries to store excess energy for use during the night or on cloudy days, and they rely on solar charge controllers to regulate energy flow. Off-grid homes are not affected by local outages but will experience a power outage if their batteries are depleted and the panels are not producing enough electricity. The suitability of off-grid solar systems varies by region and home, and a professional solar installer can assist homeowners in making a well-informed decision.
Financing, Rebates, and Tax Incentives
The average cost to install a solar system in Virginia is about $15,000, and not every homeowner has that lump sum of money readily available. The financing options available to a homeowner will, in part, depend on where they live. In Virginia, homeowners have three financing options: a solar loan, a solar lease, or a power purchase agreement (PPA).
- 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.
- 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. Eventually, the cost of the payment may be greater than the value of the power being produced. 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).
- Power purchase agreement (PPA): A PPA is similar to a solar lease. The solar company buys and installs the solar system, and the homeowner pays the company per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for the energy that’s produced. A homeowner typically pays less for the solar energy than they would buying the equivalent amount from the utility. However, the PPA rate generally increases over time. The advantages and disadvantages are similar to those of a solar lease.
Solar panel installation in Virginia can be made even more affordable with federal and state tax incentives.
- Federal investment tax credit (ITC): For solar systems installed between 2023 and 2032, homeowners are eligible for a 30 percent tax credit. So, for example, if the solar system cost $10,000, the homeowner can obtain a $3,000 reduction on their federal income taxes. Solar leases and PPAs do not qualify for this credit.
- Solar sales tax exemption: Home solar systems are not subject to Virginia’s sales and use tax.
- Property tax exemption: As of January 1, 2023, the installation of solar panels does not raise a homeowner’s property taxes in Virginia.
- Virginia Clean Economy Act: Virginia has a program through the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) that helps homeowners get reimbursed for energy production. For each megawatt-hour of solar energy produced, a homeowner will receive a solar renewable energy certificate (SREC), which they can sell to utility companies.
Similar to other types of home improvement projects, labor warranties are commonly provided with solar panel installations to address any issues that result from the installation process. These warranties can typically range from 10 to 25 years. In addition to labor warranties, the solar panels will also come with a manufacturer warranty, which can usually last up to 25 years. Moreover, several solar companies operating in Virginia offer power-production guarantees, which ensure that the solar system will produce a certain level of energy for the entire guarantee term, often ranging from 20 to 25 years.
Solar companies that provide various customer support options typically receive higher satisfaction ratings, as customers find it easier to contact representatives with their questions and concerns. While phone support is the norm, some companies may have longer wait times to speak with a live person. For this reason, some customers prefer to email the company, which also provides a written record of the conversation.
Our Top Picks
We looked at some of the top solar companies to determine the best of the best. The following companies met most, if not all, of our criteria, and are among the best solar companies in Virginia.
Why It Made the Cut: SunPower offers the most efficient panels in the industry, as well as an interactive design studio to help customers determine how many panels they need and what they will look like once installed on their home.
When a homeowner is looking into installing solar panels on their home, it may be difficult for them to visualize what it will look like. SunPower has a handy online design studio that allows potential customers to input their address and get an aerial view of what their home would look like with solar panels installed. This feature can also help homeowners gauge the number of solar panels they may need, which can help them determine a realistic budget for the project.
SunPower’s panels have an efficiency rate of 22.8 percent—the highest in the industry, which allows customers to power their home using fewer solar panels. This, in addition to a Cradle to Cradle certification, makes SunPower Maxeon solar panels a smart choice for homeowners in Virginia concerned about sustainability and clean living. Cradle to Cradle certification indicates that the company sources materials that are safe for humans and the environment, and that materials are recycled at the end of their life.
Although customers are limited to the phone if they want to contact SunPower customer service, the company offers an extensive FAQ section to help homeowners troubleshoot any issues that happen outside of supported hours. As an added bonus, SunPower’s low-profile solar panels come with built-in microinverters to deliver 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: Backed by a leader in the home security and smart-home industry, ADT Solar offers a lengthy power-production guarantee, roofing services through its sister company, and an intuitive app to help customers monitor their solar power system.
Through its partnership with roofing company Buildpro, ADT Solar offers roofing services in addition to solar panel installation and monitoring. This means customers can replace their existing roof and install solar panels through one company rather than needing to find an additional contractor for roof replacement or repair if needed. And while information on ADT Solar’s battery warranty is not readily available on the company’s website, ADT Solar offers a 25-year power-production guarantee that will reimburse customers for any difference between the amount of energy produced and the amount guaranteed by ADT Solar.
ADT Solar also offers lifetime 24/7 solar monitoring through the Enphase Enlighten app. Customers can use the app to monitor their system, receive energy insights, track their energy consumption, and view their savings in real time. The app will also send the customer a notification if there are any issues with the system that require attention—including details on the specific problem and the panel that needs to be inspected.
- Type of panels: Q Cells, Silfab, Canadian Solar
- Payment options: Buy, finance, lease
- Guarantee: 25-year power-production guarantee
- Customer support: Phone, email
- Generous 25-year power-production guarantee
- 24/7 solar monitoring
- Additional roofing repair services available
- Warranty information on battery not readily available on website
Why It Made the Cut: Tesla’s price-match guarantee gives customers the confidence that they are getting the best price for their solar panel installation; the company also offers an instant online quote to help customers budget for their solar roof.
In addition to traditional solar panels, Tesla sells solar tiles that blend in more cohesively with a home’s design. This allows customers to choose between installing panels on their existing roof or installing a new roof made from sleek solar tiles. Although Tesla doesn’t allow customers to lease their solar panels, the company offers a price-match guarantee that will meet a competitor’s pricing, provided the quote is recent and is for a system of a comparable size.
Additionally, customers can use Tesla’s website for a free instant online quote simply by entering their address and their average monthly electricity bill. This can give potential customers a good idea of what they can expect to pay for solar panel installation, making it easier for them to come up with a budget for the project. Tesla also offers customer support through live chat so customers can connect with an available 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
Why It Made the Cut: Blue Raven Solar’s BluePower Plus+ financing provides customers with 18 months of free power and up to 5 years of low monthly payments, offering the benefits of leasing solar panels with the return on investment of purchasing.
Blue Raven Solar stands out for its BluePower Plus+ financing option, which combines the traditional benefits of a solar lease with the flexibility of ownership. While there is no stand-alone lease option, customers who opt for this financing plan will receive 18 months of free solar power after initial installation, potentially saving them thousands of dollars. According to Blue Raven Solar, this financing plan allows customers to pay for 33 percent or more of their system without actually having to pay any money out of pocket.
In addition, Blue Raven Solar offers the exclusive Smart Start program. Using this program, customers can extend the 18-month promotional period by an extra 42 months, keeping their payments the same for a full 5 years. This allows customers to install solar panels while enjoying a guaranteed low monthly payment.
Although Blue Energy Solar does not currently sell solar batteries, it does provide customers with a complimentary energy-saving kit that comes with a smart thermostat and LED light package. This kit can help homeowners save an average of 20 percent on their annual heating and cooling costs.
- Type of panels: Monocrystalline (various manufacturers)
- Payment options: Buy, finance
- Guarantee: 25-year manufacturer warranty, 10-year labor warranty
- Customer support: Phone, email
- Flexible and relatively affordable BluePower Plus+ financing option
- Money-saving Smart Start program available
- Complimentary energy-saving kit
- No solar lease option
- No solar batteries available
Why It Made the Cut: As a master installer of CertainTeed solar panels, Southern Exposure Solar offers a 25-year installation warranty as well as a single-source warranty covering all system components.
Southern Exposure Solar is a designated master installer of CertainTeed monocrystalline solar panels, which marks the company as an experienced installer with advanced training credentials. The main benefits of this designation include a 25-year installation warranty backed by CertainTeed, and a single-source warranty for all system components. This is a unique feature as many solar companies have separate warranties from each component manufacturer, which could make it difficult for customers to file a warranty claim for their system. The warranty will also cover the home’s roof if it is replaced with CertainTeed products.
Although Southern Exposure Solar only offers customer service by phone, customers can request a free consultation by filling out a form on the company website. After this consultation, the customer will receive a customized design along with information about pricing, warranties, and installation timelines. If a customer needs to make a claim on their warranty after installation, they can contact CertainTeed directly if Southern Exposure Solar’s offices are closed.
Although it’s difficult to find detailed information about financing options on the website, Southern Exposure Solar claims to offer 100 percent financing, no down payment, and a local team of dedicated professionals. Customers can learn the specifics of the company’s financing options by contacting a representative.
- Type of panels: CertainTeed monocrystalline
- Payment options: Not specified
- Guarantee: 25-year solar module power output, microinverter, mounting system, and flashing warranty; 12-year DC optimized inverter warranty
- Customer support: Phone, email
- Comprehensive warranty terms
- Designated CertainTeed master installer
- Financing information not readily available
We chose SunPower as our Best Overall pick because of its high-efficiency solar panels, Cradle to Cradle certification indicating environmental responsibility, and user-friendly online design studio. ADT Solar took the Runner-Up spot thanks to its impressive 25-year power-production guarantee, roofing services through Buildpro, and system monitoring through the Enphase Enlighten app.
How We Chose the Best Solar Companies in Virginia
To determine the best residential solar companies in Virginia, we looked at several factors. First, we examined each contender to determine the length and type of guarantees or warranties offered. We also reviewed payment options to determine which companies offered purchasing, financing, and leasing. Another important factor was customer service—specifically, the ways customers can get in touch with each company if they have questions or concerns with their solar system. Finally, we looked for features that helped a solar company stand out from the competition, such as unique financing options, online quotes, and related services on offer.
Before You Work With One of the Best Solar Companies in Virginia
Before signing a contract with a solar power company, it’s important for Virginia homeowners to do their research and find a company that best fits their needs. While many customers are likely to find a good fit in this list of the best solar companies in Virginia, others may need to look outside this list to find the best fit for them.
Regardless of whether a homeowner goes with a company in this roundup or a different company, it’s important to make sure they fully understand the contract they are signing. They’ll want to review the contract to make sure the layout and number of panels will provide the power they need, the price fits within their budget, and the installation time works with their schedule. It’s also a good idea for a homeowner to ask questions about how the solar panels work, what happens if the system overproduces, and the best options for financing the system. The best solar companies will be more than willing to answer any questions a customer may have to the best of their ability.
Cost of Working With One of the Best Solar Companies in Virginia
While the exact cost of solar panels for homes will vary from customer to customer, Virginia homeowners can expect to pay an average of $3.03 per watt of power. This means a homeowner will pay around $15,150 to install a 5-kilowatt solar system on their home. That cost can rise to an average of $30,300 for a larger 10-kilowatt system. However, some of these costs can be offset by taking advantage of available tax credits and rebates. Customers can also look into the best solar panel loans if they need financing options beyond what their chosen company offers.
The federal government offers a residential clean-energy credit for homeowners who install solar panels. This can decrease the total cost of the system by up to 30 percent. With the full tax credit applied, this can decrease the cost of a 5-kilowatt system to $11,211 and the cost of a 10-kilowatt system to $22,422. Virginia residents can also take advantage of the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) program, which will earn them solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs) for each megawatt-hour of energy produced by their solar panels. Homeowners can sell their SRECs to utility companies, resulting in extra income simply for producing solar energy.
The Advantages of Working With One of the Best Solar Companies in Virginia
The best solar companies in Virginia offer many benefits to customers who choose to work with them. Homeowners can often choose from a variety of financing or leasing options, which can make solar panel installation more affordable. They may also be able to get a free quote online, which can help them gauge their approximate cost to install solar panels on their home. In addition, many of the best Virginia solar companies offer the following advantages:
- Lengthy guarantees on equipment and labor;
- 24/7 solar monitoring through a user-friendly app; and
- High-efficiency solar panels from top solar manufacturers.
The decision to install solar panels can be a difficult one, since the cost is generally high and customers might wonder whether the project is worth it. The following frequently asked questions and their answers can help Virginia homeowners get a clearer idea of the benefits of solar panels and their installation process.
Q. Does Virginia offer a tax credit for solar panels?
Yes; in addition to the federal residential clean-energy credit that can save homeowners up to 30 percent on solar panel installation costs, Virginia has a program through the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) that helps homeowners get reimbursed for energy production. For each megawatt-hour of solar energy produced, a homeowner will receive a solar renewable energy certificate (SREC), which they can sell to utility companies.
Q. Which solar power company is the most reputable?
There are many reputable solar power companies in the market today, including those mentioned in this roundup. Reputable companies typically install the best solar panels for their customers and offer lengthy warranties for equipment and installation.
Q. Is installing solar panels worth it in Virginia?
For many Virginia homeowners, installing solar panels is worth the cost. Solar panels can help decrease a homeowner’s reliance on fossil fuels, which can be a benefit in the eyes of many. To determine whether installing solar panels is worth it, Virginia residents will want to consider their home’s energy usage and the amount of sun exposure their roof gets; if they have high usage and a roof that sits in full sun most of the day, solar panels are likely a worthwhile investment. However, homeowners will want to keep in mind that, since energy prices are relatively low in Virginia, it can take a homeowner around 13 years to recoup their investment, which is slightly above the national average payback period of 12 years.
Q. How many solar companies are in VA?
There are currently more than 70 solar companies operating in the commonwealth of Virginia.
Q. How much does it cost to install solar panels in Virginia?
The average cost for residential or commercial solar panel installation in Virginia is $3.03 per watt of power. A 3-kilowatt system will cost around $9,090 to install, although tax rebates and incentives can decrease that cost to $6,727. On the high end, Virginia residents can expect to pay an average of $30,300 for a 10-kilowatt solar system, or $22,422 with the full federal tax credit amount applied.
Q. Can I install my own solar panels in Virginia?
While technically allowed, it’s generally not recommended for homeowners in Virginia to install their own solar panels. An improperly installed system can lead to major roof damage, which can add significant cost to the overall project. In addition, homeowners attempting to install solar panels themselves are at risk of injury from falling or electrocution, and they may find that their system underproduces energy. Finally, professional solar installers can ensure that the system will qualify for any available tax incentives, which will save the homeowner money on the overall project costs. Homeowners can search for professionals in their area with an online search such as “solar installers Northern Virginia.”
Sources: EnergySage, EcoWatch