People looking to do right by the climate and save some money on electricity are turning to rooftop solar in record numbers. While the federal tax credit is still at 26%, adopting solar is a major purchase that requires research and careful thought. And, navigating the highly competitive solar industry requires avoiding the less-than-honest companies out there.
One of the most important things you can do is get multiple quotes from companies in your area, including local ones. It's worth knowing the national players who conduct much of the residential solar business in the United States.
Palmetto Solar is one of the 10 largest solar companies in the country. It stakes a claim to transparency and offers a choice of quality equipment, making it one of the more attractive choices on the market. Palmetto offers the most popular panels for residential uses and strong battery choices. While some of its warranties are not quite top of the line, they compete with many others. Palmetto does offer more upfront information than any solar company I've reviewed so far.
No review should take the place of getting multiple quotes (including local installers) specific to your property. This review is as well researched as possible, but it doesn't rely on any hands-on testing. I didn't go through the ordering process with Palmetto Solar or any other solar company, so your experience may be different from what's written here.
Read more:Best Solar Companies of 2022
Palmetto solar customers can purchase solar panels or enter into a lease or power purchase agreement (PPA), though the vast majority of its customers purchase their panels. While purchasing solar panels outright will often save you the most money in the long run, third-party ownership models like leases and PPAs have helped spur residential solar growth by removing much of the upfront cost.
Regardless of how you get solar panels on your roof, Palmetto is likely to offer quality ones. While the company is "equipment agnostic," as Jason Conrad, Palmetto's vice president of product marketing said, Palmetto's main offerings for solar panels and inverters are quality ones.
Palmetto currently installs Q Cells panels and REC Alpha Pure Black panels, according to its website. It only installs all black panels that have low profile mounting systems, 25-year warranties and certain supply chain ethics assurances. Q Cells solar panels are the most widely installed in residential applications. The Q Cells panels Palmetto highlights online have a maximum efficiency rating of 21.4%, a top tier mark, and the REC panels have a maximum efficiency rating of 21.6%. Both panels are guaranteed by the manufacturer to produce at 86% of their rated capacity after 25 years. These production warranties are near the top of the field for both length and the level of deterioration they protect against.
Palmetto installs Enphase microinverters and SolarEdge inverters with power optimizers, both of which allow for monitoring the system at the panel level. The two companies provide the majority of inverters used in residential solar installations. SolarEdge inverters come with a 12-year warranty, while Enphase inverters come with a 25-year warranty.
Palmetto offers batteries from one manufacturer, with more to come later this year. The current offerings are the sonnenCore and Eco batteries from Sonnen. A sonnenCore battery has 10 kilowatt-hours of capacity and can discharge at a peak of 8.6 kilowatts or continuously at 4.8 kilowatts. Sonnen's Eco has 20 kWh of capacity and can push out electricity at a peak of 17 kilowatts or at a continuous rate of 8 kilowatts. Both batteries come with a warranty that says they'll hold 70% of their capacity at 10 years or 10,000 cycles.
Solar installations from Palmetto are covered by a 10-year workmanship warranty and guarantees roof penetrations for five years, Conrad said. Those warranties are a bit shorter than some other companies.
Palmetto also offers Palmetto Protect, a tiered service for monitoring, maintenance and support. All Palmetto customers get basic monitoring of their system through the app for free. For an additional eight dollars a month, customers can get proactive monitoring by Palmetto, "prioritized support" and personalized energy savings recommendations.
For $25 a month, customers get additional benefits, highlighted by a yearly, in-person inspection and additional discounts. For $49 a month, additional benefits include a yearly panel cleaning and service appointments within 24 hours. You can read more about the plans at Palmetto's website. The company is open to people who got solar panels from somewhere else, too.
It's worth noting that solar panels are typically low maintenance and cleaning might not even be necessary, though dust buildup can hamper production. I would think twice before signing up for the pricier tiers.
Palmetto, like many solar companies, doesn't make its average prices per installation public, but the company does give you an upfront cost estimate for a few array options for your house. In some locations, with just your address and average monthly electricity bill, Palmetto will spit back a quote along with a solar irradiance map of your home, which gives you an idea of how much sun your roof gets.
Palmetto offers more financing options than most.
While Palmetto installs solar panels in 25 states, it doesn't install in the entirety of those states, so online estimates aren't available for all areas. For my address, I got four different system sizes with the same price per watt: $3.92. This price appears to be a financed price, and so will likely be higher than what you would pay without financing or depending on the financing you choose.
Palmetto also hosts and operates a financing marketplace, where different lenders offer competing loans. This drives down the lending cost, Conrad said, though couldn't say how much it saves people. To date, Palmetto offers 40 different loan products, including loans that allow you to lump in other energy efficiency or solar-related home improvements like new windows, roofing, panel upgrades, battery storage, and more.
Again, it's important to explore your options for paying for solar. Avoiding a loan can save you a lot of money because you won't pay lending fees or interest.
The average cost of installed solar systems vary state to state. Nationally, the average residential solar array runs $3.28 per watt, consulting firm Wood Mackenzie says. Others report lower numbers: EnergySage says the median cost is $2.33 per watt in Arizona and $3.41 in Washington, DC.
Palmetto currently operates in 25 states and connects customers with solar installers. While customers will interact with Palmetto through the process, Palmetto is "one hundred percent driven by vendors in our network," Conrad said.
To order, you'll contact the company through Palmetto's website to get quotes and connect with a solar advisor. That process includes an introductory meeting, a site survey, contract signing and system design, mostly online. From there, the company lays out a timeline to operating solar panels that will take two to four months.
Palmetto offers top of the line panels and inverters.
The short answer, as it always is for a purchase this big, is "it depends." Before you purchase solar panels, you should gather multiple quotes and carefully consider what's best for your home and energy use.
Palmetto does offer quality equipment that's widely used across the industry. Its stated standards for solar panels mean the panels the company sells you will be top tier and under strong warranties. The inverter and batteries on offer are strong candidates too. Palmetto's offerings will get stronger when it begins offering more choices for backup batteries in the future.
The warranties Palmetto offers varies from strong to lower than average. Because it offers quality equipment, the equipment warranties are strong. Its workmanship warranties match many of the others in the field, but the five-year warranty for roof penetrations could be longer.
Palmetto's promise to proactively monitor and offer quick servicing (for a fee) is a nice addition that can offer peace of mind for consumers who feel intimidated by the technology they're buying. I have a hard time making the upper tiers of Palmetto Protect make financial sense in all but a very few cases.
Palmetto does have an A rating from the Better Business Bureau. (Companies must pay the Better Business Bureau if they want a score.)
While this review is researched to the best of my ability, it cannot be overstated that each solar situation is different. Roof construction, local climate and your energy use all impact how solar panels best fit your needs. Getting multiple quotes and negotiating with solar companies is the best way to ensure you're getting a good deal. This review can't replace that.