Tesla vs Sunrun: Who Is Our Pick?
Tesla vs Sunrun, which solar panel provider is better? Let’s take an in-depth look.
As the world continues to experience the effects of climate change on a personal and collective level, the importance of switching to renewable energy sources cannot be overstated. Solar energy, in particular, has proven to be a viable and sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. It is environmentally friendly and has become a viable long-term investment—homeowners and business owners can save money on their energy bills with these systems.
However, choosing the right solar installer can be a daunting task. With so many providers advertising their offerings, it can be difficult to parse which is the best to partner with. It is essential to find an installer with a proven track record of delivering quality installations and top-notch customer service.
Recently, we compared Sunrun and SunPower. In this article, we compare two household names in the solar industry: Tesla and Sunrun. After this thorough breakdown, you can make an informed decision on which provider to choose.
First, let’s take a close look at each player.
At a Glance: Sunrun
Since its humble beginning in 2007 in San Francisco, California, Sunrun has become one of the leading solar companies in the country. It has helped over 500,000 households in the United States switch to solar power.
Known for pioneering the solar-as-a-service business model, Sunrun allows homeowners to lease solar panels for a fixed monthly fee. This program has made these cutting-edge systems more accessible for many people who might not have been able to afford them otherwise.
While Sunrun does not produce its own solar panels, it sources its materials from well-established third-party suppliers. Sunrun even sells the Tesla Powerwall through its Sunrun Brightbox program.
In addition to residential solar systems, Sunrun also offers solar battery storage. It also provides EV charging stations specifically designed for the Ford F-150 Lightning, an all-electric pickup truck produced by the Ford Motor Company.
Sunrun’s acquisition of Vivint—another major solar installer—in 2020 further solidified its position as a leader in the industry.
At a Glance: Tesla
Tesla Energy, formerly known as SolarCity, is a subsidiary of Tesla, Inc., that specializes in renewable energy solutions, including solar panels and solar roofs. It also offers battery storage solutions through Tesla Powerwall.
Need we tell you about how the brand is synonymous with Elon Musk?
Tesla’s solar products are also known for their sleek, modern designs. Its solar roofs, for example, consist of individual solar tiles that resemble traditional roof shingles made with slate or clay.
A unique element of Tesla’s solar business model is its reliance on certified third-party installers to handle all of its solar installations. While Tesla does not quite have full customization for its solar panel systems, it offers a range of capacities from 4.8 kW to 19.2 kW.
Tesla has an online-only sales strategy for dealers and end-users. Customers can browse and purchase Tesla’s solar panels through the company’s website without needing in-person consultations or salespeople.
Tesla vs Sunrun: Warranty
Tesla and Sunrun offer impressive warranty coverage for their solar panel systems, although their specifics differ slightly.
Sunrun offers a 25-year performance warranty for their systems, which covers any drop in energy production below the guaranteed level. They also provide a 10-year roof protection warranty, ensuring roof penetrations remain watertight for a decade.
Additionally, Sunrun offers a comprehensive bumper-to-bumper warranty that covers all parts and labor, with free equipment replacement and system repairs.
As for the panels themselves, Sunrun’s warranty will depend on the manufacturers of the panels used in the installation. Again, this is because the company sources its panels from third parties.
That said, Sunrun carefully selects and sources its panels from highly regarded suppliers to ensure that customers receive top-of-the-line products.
On the other hand, Tesla produces its own solar panels, so they have control over the design, manufacturing, and troubleshooting processes. This may give Tesla an edge in terms of quality control and consistency across its solar products.
Tesla provides a 25-year power production warranty, guaranteeing that their solar panels will maintain 80% of their nameplate power capacity after 25 years. This also covers any defects in panel design and materials.
Additionally, Tesla offers a 10-year workmanship warranty, ensuring that any issues arising from installation or construction are covered.
Our Verdict: Either one is good and promises to be reliable for years to come.
Do solar panels work when it rains?
Much like Pacific Northwest winter climates, some places like Georgia, Texas, and Southern California experience a cooler rainy season.
The sun still delivers daylight to solar panels through the rain and clouds. 5 Although solar panels are most productive in direct sunlight, they can still use diffuse or indirect sunlight (radiation) to generate energy.
Rainy days and clouds cause diffuse light. But what’s the difference? Direct light is solar radiation traveling in a straight line from the sun down to the earth’s surface. Diffuse light is sunlight that has been scattered by particles in the atmosphere yet still reaches the earth. 6 Thus, the amount of electricity generated is dependent on the density of Cloud cover. 7
Though energy production decreases with increasingly dense Cloud cover, panels continue working to a greater capacity than one may expect. Rain also helps wash away dust on panels to keep them operating efficiently. 8
Do solar panels work in snow?
We’ve learned that solar panels thrive in colder temperatures, but what happens when it snows?
The good news is that even when covered with snow, solar panels can generate electricity. 9
Sunlight still reaches solar panels through snow and keeps solar cells producing energy. Solar panels’ dark, reflective glass accelerates snow melt and it slides off before it hampers performance. Installation racks are also typically tilted up at 30 to 45 degrees, which keeps snow from accumulating (to a point). 10 A light dusting of snow is likely to blow off or disappear rapidly.
In fact, on cold, clear days, snow from the ground can reflect extra sunlight onto your solar panels like a mirror. This “albedo effect” enables panels to produce even more electricity in the cold. 11
Solar panels and cold weather states
Based on research across winter locations, solar is a proven economic energy solution in northern climates.12 Massachusetts and New Jersey were in the top ten states with solar installations in 2018.13 In 2019, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) ranked New York in the top ten states for solar installations. 14 Solar panels are even used in Alaska and U.S. facilities like McMurdo Station in Antarctica. 15
Your home doesn’t need to be in California, Arizona, or Florida to make the most out of solar. Solar panels clearly and consistently demonstrate that they can generate electricity in snow and extremely cold climates.
Power through winter storms with solar battery storage
In winter storms, the grid may not fare as well as solar panels. Power outages can be a frequent occurrence during the winter months, with some outages leaving families in the cold and in the dark for days. 16 Although record numbers of Americans are staying home due to the pandemic, rising global temperatures and increasingly extreme weather events are making it much more difficult to ride out the next storm without reliable back-up power. 17, 18
Installing a grid-connected, rooftop solar panel system with battery storage can give you clean, renewable back-up electricity so you can power through the next blackout. We’ve seen that solar panels are incredibly resilient in the face of extreme weather conditions. By pairing your panels with a solar battery, you can store up your sunny days for a stormy one.
Trust Sunrun for your home’s solar because you’ll be cared for and looked after like family as long as you are a customer – and because:
How’s that for peace of mind? Choose Sunrun as your solar panel company and save!
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Our pre-vetted network of installers compete for your business, which allows us to give you more options and the best deals.
Our Vision Sunrun believes there is a better, less expensive, cleaner way for families to power their homes. With Sunrun’s residential rooftop solar, storage and energy services, homeowners are saving money while dramatically reducing the amount of air pollution and carbon dioxide (CO2) they release into the atmosphere. After 10 years, Sunrun is still a steadfast believer in the power of the sun, and we aren’t alone. Continued, growing demand for our products and services proves that more and more Americans want better energy options. Our mission is simple – create a planet run by the sun.
Solar is InevitableSunrun is the pioneer of the solar-as-a-service model. We invented a new, simpler, more affordable way for homeowners to harness the natural resource of the sun to power their homes. Sunrun has grown by leaps and bounds, serving more than 189,000 families nationwide. We continue to drive innovation of solar generation, storage and energy services and technologies.
Everyone should have the freedom to choose where they get their energy, to control their home’s energy costs, and be safe from grid disruption. Consumers want access to affordable technology that enables energy generation, storage and management. We know this choice will ultimately help reduce the use of dirty fossil fuels as well as the need for expensive utility grid infrastructure replacements.
Rooftop solar and energy storage is the foundation for the next generation of the energy grid. Unlike the grid of the last 100 years, rooftop solar does not rely on transmitting and balancing energy over long distances. Rather, it generates and distributes locally. Investing in rooftop solar systems is like building cell towers instead of landlines. it’s Smart and forward-thinking. It benefits the solar system owners by delivering lower energy bills and allowing them to avoid costly rate increases, and it benefits the community by providing a clean, renewable source of energy that reduces the need for expensive new power plants and unsightly power lines.
Providing homeowners with savings through clean solar energy will always guide our core purpose. We partner with utility providers around the country to make rooftop solar and energy storage an integral part of the grid for the next hundred years.
We believe that, together, we can create a planet run by the sun.
What Customers Are Saying
Our experience with Sunrun was that the cost for everything was very competitive and our sales person was great; however, he was limited on how much influence he had to help us. All others involved were rarely responsive, and when a response was received it was always the issue has been escalated. Here were the issues we encountered: Sub-contracted Roofing Company got spray paint on our panels. this was never resolved. Battery that was installed does not appear to be connected to our system. this issue is currently in-process of being addressed but i mean, really? I paid an extra 8k for a battery so we have backup power AND we can use it during peak energy usage in the afternoons. It was up to ME to track the usage, the hours, etc. and then explain to them why this isn’t normal. You get what you pay for. Poor installation, management, service, competence, etc. Hopefully the panels work long enough to get my ROI
Longtime Costco Member! Purchased solar in 2019 thru Costco’s company, Sunrun. First rainstorm after install, garage flooded. Sunrun came to repair leak couple weeks later. Late 2022 with heavy rains, experienced another leak in bedroom directly under solar install. Sunrun sent team, was told leak was repaired. Sadly with next large rainstorm, leak began again except worse pouring onto hardwood floor and causing damage. We had leak inspected by private company. Damages more extensive than initially told by Sunrun. Now dealing with mold. Inspection reports/photos/images of damage all provided to Sunrun. Despite knowing we have mold and health issues involved with living with mold, over past 4 weeks, no one has called to follow up. Now forced to get an attorney to deal with issue. To say Costco and Sunrun have neglected us is an understatement! We will be taking any and all legal action against both Costco and Sunrun.
SunRun is the way to go if you want a generic experience. They definitely didn’t come off like they cared about me as a consumer. It felt like they knew how many other clients they have so I didn’t matter that much.
Was referred to Sunrun through a family connection. The salesperson was very focused on trashing all competitors and pushing a solution. I initially signed up before doing research and came to find out that Sunrun is significantly more expensive. When I asked about what made them so much more expensive he told various lies about their liquidity position (We have 5B in the bank) and vague promises of project management and that other solar companies will go bankrupt and not be able to support the warranty. He also set up the contract to have more solar panels than the inverter could support (raising the cost of the installation). They submitted the PGE application before the results of the site inspection came through to try to lock me in. He was very quick during the sales process, but then kept stalling when I raised questions. I ended up canceling because he was not trustworthy and I caught him in various lies. Summarizing: 1. Tried to install more panels than the inverter could support. When confronted, said that engineering would never screw it up but wasn’t able to explain why the system made sense. 2. The warranty is not through sunrun but through the panel manufacturer. They were only able to offer JA Solar JAM54S31-390-MR panels, which mid-tier (again, they charge higher prices). The JA Solar only offers a 12 year craftsmanship warranty vs 25 for other brands. 3. He misrepresented Sunrun’s financial position by saying they had 5B in the bank. Looking at their last SEC filings they had 700M in the bank and 8B in debt! Not to mention, they may have liquidity issues as a result of SVB collapse. 4. Sending unprofessional text messages after I cancelled Sunrun didn’t like your roof anyways and I’m not going to suck up to you to get your business 5. Stalling on returning deposit. Though the agreement said 10 business days, they are stalling on processing the cancellation and simply said that it could take up to 3 weeks. Their sales tactic is to say that they’re more expensive because they’re the best and biggest. They are the most expensive, but they provide lower quality panels, they outsource their engineering and after the sales process is done dealing with them is no different than dealing with your local cable provider. Don’t let them talk down to you about regional installers!
Beginning to end, SunRun made the entire process easy. If I ever had a question, they were an email or text away. They always called ahead before someone was arriving to do work. They coordinated everything from the city (permit, inspection), to contractors, to their team, to finance. We had a lot of questions in the beginning and the spent the time to walk us through everything. We were pretty sold, but wanted to do some research and comparisons. I reached out Tesla in the meantime and their customer interface was pretty terrible. SunRun checked out and we moved forward with them. All in, it took about 7 months, but it really happened in the background, there isn’t much needed from you, a few signatures and a few permissions for people to come and do work and that’s that. Very happy with our experience.
Sunrun vs Sunpower: The Comparison
As you can see both Sunrun and Sunpower have an impressive company profiles even though their business models differ.
However, Sunpower has been manufacturing solar panels for longer periods and has more experience in developing high-end products.
Let us compare the products under the main factors.
Panel design and efficiency
Before you ask, solar panel efficiency is the ability of a panel to convert the sun’s rays falling on it into electricity.
Most modern solar panels offer around 20% efficiency. That means they can convert 20% of the total sunlight falling on them into solar energy.
Since Sunrun doesn’t manufacture its own solar panels, they offer panels from other manufacturers.
Sunrun does not mention the specifics of the panel that they use. That makes evaluating the panel efficiency somewhat difficult. You have to request an online quotation to look into the details.
Previously, Sunrun used panels manufactured by LG. However, after LG stopped manufacturing solar panels, the company has tied up with other high-end manufacturers for procuring solar panels.
On the other hand, Sunpower has some of the most efficient solar panels under its belt. You also get excellent temperature coefficient ratings from their panels. If you have a limited amount of space and want to derive the best solar output, you can not go wrong with Sunpower panels.
When it comes to panel efficiency, Sunrun mentions that average solar panels come with 15% to 20% efficiency. However, the Maxeon Gen 5 solar panels from Sunpower can deliver as high as 22.7% efficiency.
Fact is, Sunpower offers better panel efficiency than brands like Panasonic and JinkoSolar.
In terms of power output, Sunrun provides residential solar panels that offer 250 to 400 watts of output. The M-series solar panels from Sunpower can also deliver up to 440W of power.
Overall, in terms of panel efficiency, Sunpower turns out to be the winner.
Shifting to solar is a big investment. So, the longer the warranty on the products, the better it is.
Sunpower offers a comprehensive warranty on the entire system for 25 years. This also includes the cost of labor, components, and shipping. Beyond that Sunpower also guarantees that the maximum loss in power output for their panels is limited to 8% in 25 years.
over, you do not need any proof of purchase or receipts to claim warranty service from Sunrun.
When it comes to Sunrun, the brand provides a comprehensive warranty on its products and installation for 10 years. Also, the 24/7 monitoring of your solar output is also a great feature
Even so, no prizes to guess the winner in this category. It is Sunpower!
Cost is an important factor that you need to consider before installing solar panels. And with higher panel quality the will rise.
Since Sunpower offers high-end solar panels, their costs are higher than the market average. However, the are not astronomical.
In general, you can consider Sunpower solar panels to cost 450.52/watt. A competitor like Panasonic will cost around 450.12/watt.
However, keep in mind that solar panels will make up only around 25% of the total installation costs. Besides, if you have sufficient space, you can use panels of slightly lower efficiency to cut down the costs.
Sunrun provides customers with multiple flexible lease options that can fit their budgets. By choosing the monthly lease plan from Sunrun, you can avoid the upfront expense too.
That said, you need to check the lease agreement and compare it with the local energy to see if the plan works out for you.
Still, we have to say that Sunrun is the more affordable option among the two.
Keep in mind that Sunpower sells its panels through pre-approved installers. This could be an issue in many states as not all states have the same number of dealers.
Also, this could be a problem for users when it comes to cost and installation time.
Sunrun provides a hassle-free system that works through their online system and virtual consultation sessions. The team will provide a custom-designed solar power delivery system for your home and arrange for all the permits and approvals.
Let me add that there are some reviewers who had unfavorable experiences with Sunrun. Make sure that you do your own research to prevent getting influenced by a sales team.
With the main differences between the Sunpower and Sunrun solar panels clear to you, it is time to sum up the facts.
Sunpower manufactures its own solar panel systems and also offers installation services. But Sunrun mainly works as solar panel installers.
This makes Sunpower the better choice in terms of panel quality and performance. In reality, Sunpower panels are highly regarded by industry experts.
Admittedly, they are the more pricey option. But with higher panel durability and a fantastic 25-year warranty, Sunpower panels will provide more value in the long run.
Sunrun is a good choice when you are on a budget and not willing to pay a higher upfront cost. They also offer more customized solutions that are good for small homes.
Now it is your turn to make the final choice based on your solar energy needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Sunrun better than Sunpower?
Not really. Sunpower manufactures its own solar panels which are some of the best in the market in terms of performance and durability. Sunrun installs panels that are made by other manufacturers. So in terms of solar panel quality, Sunpower is the better option. Sunrun is nevertheless a valid option, particularly if you are after a cheaper deal.
Is Sunrun owned by Tesla?
No Sunrun is not owned by Tesla. In fact, after its acquisition of Vivint Solar, Sunrun has emerged as a major challenger to the solar ambitions of Tesla. That said, Sunrun has also been using the Tesla Powerwall Smart home battery as a backup power solution for its customers.
Does NASA use Sunpower panels?
Yes, NASA has been using high-efficiency solar panels from Sunpower since 1997. The panels have been used to power NASA facilities, and solar-powered unmanned vehicles and aircraft. They were also used in exploring the Greenland ice sheet.
Silvia is a mom of three pre-teen kids and is passionate about living a more sustainable family life. She feels she has only just begun her journey towards environmentally friendly living, and hopes that EnviroMom can be a resource to help other families on their own journeys!