SunPower Texas Solar Panels — 3 Month Review

Below, I’ll review our SunPower solar panels that we have on our roof here in Texas, 3+ months since they were first installed on Twosday. I’ll review the overall process time, quality of installation, financing, the app, and other factors. For each factor, I’ll give SunPower a score from 0 to 5, with 0 being the worst and 5 being best for each factor. Overall, I gave SunPower a score of 41.5 out of 45. There are a few areas where it can improve, which is true for all of us. My overall recommendation: I highly recommend the panels and the company.

Note: Ukraine is getting pounded into oblivion by Russian aggression. Anything we can do to reduce funding for that murderous regime is in the world’s best interest. Solar panels are great to avoid burning coal and natural gas, saving tons of CO2 every year and greatly reducing your annual electricity costs. I own nominal amounts of shares in Ford, SunPower, Sunrun, and Tesla.

Average Lead Time — 5 months. Score: 3 out 5

This was the lowest scoring area for SunPower. Because of some unforced errors, our average lead time (the time from starting the process to the end) took 5 months. The major factor here was homeowner association (HOA) approval, which took 3 months, from October to January. I gave SunPower the Power of Attorney to negotiate and submit the necessary documentation for our solar panels on our behalf. The first time they submitted the documents wrong and incompletely. By the time they figured out what was wrong with HOA guidance, two months had passed. If you are looking for solar panels and have an HOA, get the necessary documents the HOA requires and submit them yourself. Our Architectural Review Committee meets once a month. If something is wrong, we have to wait another month. Texas efficiency at its finest (sarcasm). Not everyone will be as patient as I was to get solar panels. A community neighbor got panels installed on their roof in 2 months, start to finish, by using Tesla.

Average Cycle Time — 3 to 4 weeks. Score: 5 out of 5

Once we had HOA approval in hand, SunPower was able to schedule panel installation within 3 to 4 weeks. This seems reasonable, and it’s why I gave SunPower 5 out of 5.

Panel Installation Time — 3 hours. Score: 5 out of 5

22 solar panels were installed on my south-facing roof within 3 hours. This includes running the cabling through the attic, down my gutter, and next to the electrical box. Another person came in a few days, installed the SunPower monitoring box, hooked up the electrical wires, painted the cable next to my gutter, and did a preliminary inspection. The second person took 1 extra hour. States can do a lot better to make it easier to get solar approved. It shouldn’t take orders of magnitude more time to get approval than it does to do the installation.

It did take 1 month after the solar panels were installed to get my utility to install the bi-directional panel. SunPower said they would follow up, but there were no results after a month. I called the utility directly, they apologized and said they were backed up, and then they installed the bi-directional meter the next day. The power was out for 5 min and the new bi-directional meter was installed. This meter is what calculates how much power you get from the grid and how much you send back.

Note: Even if you don’t have the bi-directional meter set up, the panels are powering up your house. You just won’t get any credit for what you send back to the grid.

App Quality. Score: 4 out of 5

The app has some good features and has so much potential. If you have a battery, you can see the real time power flows between your home, battery, solar and the grid. I recommend SunPower do the same if you only have solar. Right now, I have to switch between my local utility app and the SunPower app to get all the home usage information. Our utility app is behind by one day. SunPower has a real opportunity to simplify the user experience.

Image from SunPower’s website, showing the real-time electricity flow in the app for users with batteries.

Features of the app I like: real-time power reading, energy production every 15 minutes, as well as energy and power produced in a day, month, year, lifetime, and custom. I really like seeing how much CO2 we have saved, the equivalent of trees planted, miles not driven, and gasoline saved. I would love to see how much water is saved from having solar panels.

The customer service phone number and email is easy to find. The app tells you the size of the system. This has not been working during my time with the app. I spoke with Sanah about the issue last week. Sanah is in SunPower’s public relations department. She said she would bring this up with their engineers and get it fixed.

Note: From backup-of-the-envelope calculations, any decently sized solar panel system will save more CO2 for a lower out-of-pocket cost than most mid-range and high-end EVs. The exceptions where an EV may make more sense to offset CO2 are if you drive a ton every year or your state’s grid heavily relies on coal for power (cough cough, Wyoming, West Virginia, and Kentucky). I’ve asked Sanah if SunPower can include the CO2 calculations in the app, for data geeks like me. Solar panels > EVs for most of us, concerning CO2 savings. Special thanks to secret for the discussion.

App tabs from the SunPower app

Includes real-time electricity production, lifetime production, and CO2 savings.

Professionalism. Score: 5 out of 5

Everyone was professional and cordial, all throughout the process. Photo by Vijay Govindan/CleanTechnica.

Customer Service. Score: 4 out of 5

I contacted SunPower customer service once by email after installation due to perceived low power production. They responded back within 2 days and said everything was okay. Sanah told me the new CEO, Peter Faricy, with a long stint at Amazon previously, has made improving customer service the #1 focus for SunPower going forward.

SunPower CS in the app

App includes the SunPower email and phone number, along with hours.

Quality. Score: 5 out of 5

As you can see from the photos, I’m very happy with the quality. Panels look good, installation is clean, everything is properly done.

Notice on our breaker panel, exterior wiring in a cable sleeve, and the SunPower monitoring box. Photo by Vijay Govindan/CleanTechnica.

Photo by Vijay Govindan/CleanTechnica.

Photo by Vijay Govindan/CleanTechnica.

Financing. Score: 6 out of 5

Tesla’s financing is now 4.49%, 10% down, and over 10 years. SunPower partnered me with Tech CU in California. They offered me 1.99%, 0% down, and a 25 year term. For the same $100, I can finance a 4 kW system with Tesla and a 7 kW system with SunPower. I am looking to add more panels and the interest rate will be higher. Even so, it will be lower than 4.49%.

Easy financing is key to quickly expanding residential solar. We need more panels, higher efficiency, at lower upfront and monthly cost. At this low rate, the solar financing rate is lower than my mortgage rate. Since the financing is a credit union, any extra money they get is used to benefit the credit union owners. SunPower did a great job partnering with Tech CU. Note: Once financing is set, you have 30 days with Tech CU to expand the amount of financing.

Even though solar panels will reduce your overall energy expenditure, making you a better credit risk, the financial system will ding your credit for being another loan. It’s another way the current financial system works hand in hand to promote fossil fuel providers. Picking a financing company that wants to help solar and renewable energy grow.

Miscellaneous. Score: 4.5 out of 5

SunPower has partnered with 17 of the leading 20 homebuilders in California to incorporate solar efficacy into new homes, right from the blueprint. Their latest was Landsea Homes on March 1st. I look forward to seeing that program expand nationwide. It’s easier for people to add in solar as they are building a new house. Ford has partnered with Sunrun for home solar and EV charger installation. SunPower can grow solar relationships by working with other auto manufacturers.

One thing I appreciate — SunPower makes it easy to expand solar or batteries with the existing system in the future.

Batteries and virtual power plants are in early stages of expansion. If you want batteries, Tesla Powerwalls through SunPower will cost much more than Powerwalls directly from Tesla. SunPower’s own battery offering is based on LFP chemistry.

Conclusion

As I said at the beginning, I would highly recommend SunPower for your solar panels. I’ve been telling everyone in our community to take a look. I eagerly await their own battery offering in Texas.


 


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