How to Find the Best Solar Companies in Colorado
The best solar companies in Colorado can help you save $15,000 or more over the life of your installation. We’re here to help you find the right installer for you.
Coloradoans likes to boast that the state enjoys 300 days of sunshine every year. It’s that great weather that helps make rooftop solar a great decision. Colorado is a major source of wind energy, with almost 2,000 wind turbines that meet about 25% of the state’s energy needs, and it’s got plenty of solar energy as well.
Comparing total installed solar, Colorado ranks 12th in the nation, with about 1,200 MW – enough to power 200,000 homes.
Colorado is also home to over 230 solar installers, so if you’re thinking about installing solar, you need to make sure you take the right steps to find the best solar company. The easiest solution is to simply get multiple estimates, all for free, from local Colorado installers. Enter your zip code below to get started.
Average Colorado Home Solar Installation Costs
Rooftop solar in Colorado costs around $3.20 per watt. That’s a bit higher than the national average of $3 per watt, though similar to other solar-heavy states like New York, Minnesota, and Arizona.
To help drop this installation cost, Colorado homeowners have a few great incentives, including the federal tax credit, state property and sales tax exemptions, and even a few rebates depending on your utility. All these incentives, coupled with the excellent energy production that Colorado’s sunny skies provides, allows you to see a great return on your investment.
Here’s a look at how cost and savings play out for a few common installation sizes:
|Installation Size||Cost||Total Cost (after incentives and including maintenance costs)||Total Net Savings||Number of Years to Payback|
|Small Installation (4 kW)||$3.20 per watt||$10,960||$15,079||12|
|Medium Installation (6 kW)||$3.20 per watt||$16,440||$22,619||12|
|Large Installation (12 kW)||$3.20 per watt||$32,880||$45,238||12|
As you increase your installation size, your costs – as well as your savings – increase. However, you’ll see that your payback period remains around 12 years regardless of size.
Installation costs can vary significantly from company to company – we’ve heard of costs ranging by as much as $10,000! If you want to see an even faster return on your investment, you’ll want to lower your installation costs as much as possible without sacrificing quality. That’s why finding a reputable installer is so important. Not only will your installation experience be much better, if you find the best value you’ll see a better financial return as well.
The 3 Best Solar Installation Companies in Colorado
With 200 installers working in Colorado, we had to make some hard decisions to narrow down our list to just three. We focused in on local companies and assessed each installer’s experience, warranty, and customer service.
These three companies came to the forefront, beating out all the competition:
- Namasté Solar: Most Experienced
- Photon Brothers: Best Warranty
- Sunlight Solar Energy: Best Customer Service
Let’s take a look at each one.
Namasté Solar: Most Experienced
Quick Look: 7,400 installations, founded in 2005, based in Denver
Namasté Solar is one of the most successful Colorado-based installers out there. They’ve installed over 7,400 residential installations and have been around for 14 years – far longer than most installers in the up-and-down solar industry. On top of this long history, the company is 100% employee owned and it keeps all master electricians and installers on staff, so the employees/owners are dedicated to excellent customer service and installation quality.
Namasté is based in Denver and has an office in Boulder as well. The company doesn’t have a huge online presence, but with over 7,400 installations, they rely on word-of-mouth recommendations, which is always a good sign. Indeed, driving around Denver, you see trucks inscribed with their unique logo surprisingly often.
Namasté definitely takes its role as a sustainable company seriously. It is certified B-Corp, meaning they’ve met high sustainability and transparency standards. In fact, Outside Magazine named Namasté Solar one of the best places to work from 2013 to 2017.
If you want an experienced local company that not only installs excellent systems, but shares your own values around sustainability, Namasté is certainly the way to go.
Photon Brothers: Best Warranty
Quick Look: 25 year workmanship warranty, founded in 2013, installed 2,600 installations
Photon Brothers is based in Denver, but they’ve expanded since their founding in 2013, with offices in Pueblo, California, and Florida. In that short time, they’ve installed over 2,600 residential systems, a huge amount in so short a time.
Despite their huge catalog of installations, their real draw is their warranty. While other companies offer five to ten-year workmanship warranties, Photon Brothers extends that warranty to 25 years. That’s on par with the best we’ve seen nationwide and it even outlasts many manufacturing warranties for solar panels and inverters.
Workmanship warranties protect you against potential damage caused during the installation, like leaky roofs or torn shingles, so it’s a small but important factor to consider when choosing your installer. If you choose a solar company with well-trained installers and designers, you shouldn’t even need to use your workmanship warranty. But it will be a major help if something does go wrong years down the road.
All the equipment that Photon Brothers installs, including the panels and inverter, also come with 25-year warranties. They are an Elite Dealer for Sunpower, which makes the most efficient solar panels on the market today, and install both solar and energy storage.
If you want assurance that your system and roof will be in proper working order for years and years to come, Photon Brothers should definitely make your short list of installers.
Sunlight Solar Energy: Best Customer Service
Quick Look: Founded in 1988, installed 3,000 systems, excellent reviews
Unlike the other two companies on our list, Sunlight isn’t based in Colorado. It’s an Oregon company that has expanded to Colorado Springs, as well as towns in Connecticut and Massachusetts. But don’t let that turn you away. It’s not a giant corporation that cares more about profit and growth than customer service. No matter where you look, homeowners universally praise Sunlight for its attention to detail, painless installation process, and prompt service.
Even with the great customer service, after talking to multiple companies, many homeowners found that Sunlight offered the lowest prices and best value.
Established in 1988, Sunlight is one of the oldest solar companies not just in Colorado or Oregon, but anywhere in the US. In that time, they’ve installed 3,000 residential systems and 100 commercial projects.
They offer 10-year workmanship warranties and install high-quality components like Sunpower solar panels, Enphase microinverters, and SolarEdge power optimizers. They install both solar panels and energy storage and work with a long list of lenders.
If you live in the Colorado Springs area and are looking to finance your installation with a loan – or just looking for a solid customer experience – Sunlight Solar Energy is an excellent option.
How to Choose a Solar Installer in Colorado
Here are a few recommendations to help you find the best solar companies in Colorado a little easier.
This should go without saying, but before settling on any solar company, always take time to reach out to multiple installers. By talking to multiple companies and getting a handful of estimates, you’ll find the best deal you can.
We already mentioned that installation costs can vary wildly from installer to installer, but did you know that equipment selection can vary as well? Some installers will carry a wider array of solar panels or inverters, allowing you to tailor your installation to your liking. Whether you want premium panels, a more efficient inverter, or the best looking system, seeing what 3 or 4 installers have on offer will give you a few more choices.
Remember, you’re looking for the best value, not the lowest price. You get what you pay for, so take time to look over each installer’s cost, warranty, equipment, and projected savings.
Colorado is unique in that the state doesn’t offer any specific license for solar installation companies, but it does require them to be certified by either CoSEIA (Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association) or NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners).
NABCEP certification is an industry standard these days. Utilities will often require solar companies to have a NABCEP-certified installer on hand to ensure proper workmanship before working with them.
If you have any doubts if your installer is certified, simply ask for the name of the certified installer on its payroll and you can look up their details on the NABCEP website.
While not abnormally high, at $3.20/watt Colorado’s installation costs are higher than other states.
Dropping this cost as much as possible is the key to seeing the fastest return on your investment. Comparing quotes from multiple installers is the first step, since different installers can offer different prices. Don’t assume that the big, nationwide companies necessarily offer the lowest prices. In a 2017 study, the National Renewable Energy Lab found that smaller, estimates from local installers generally come in about 10% less than big nationwide companies.
And be sure to take advantage of all available incentives. Of course, this includes the federal tax credit, but don’t forget the sales and property tax exemptions that the state of Colorado offers solar homeowners.
Financing Options in Colorado
Homeowners in Colorado can finance their rooftop solar via cash, loan, or leasing.
Paying in cash is the old standard for financing solar. By paying in cash upfront, you avoid paying loan interest or leasing fees, so you’re able to save the most money over the life of your installation. Since you own the system outright, you’re eligible for the federal tax credit and all other incentives, which further drives down your cost.
And when it comes time to sell your home, you’ve added a valuable asset that should help your home sell for a premium. In 2015, the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab studied the resale values of solar and non-solar homes and found that solar homes sell for about $4/watt premium. Yes, that’s more than the cost of the installation!
While there’s a huge benefit to paying cash upfront, there’s still that one intrinsic drawback: you’ve got to pay in cash, upfront. That entails having an extra $18k or so in the bank – something many of us aren’t willing to part with for so long. If your funds are tight, loans also help you save by installing solar – and Colorado has some excellent loan options.
With solar so prevalent in Colorado, finding a loan provider is pretty easy. All installers have loan companies they like to work with. These are usually lenders specializing in green energy and which offer low-interest loans for solar, wind, geothermal, and energy efficiency upgrades.
Also check with your bank and local credit unions, as you can easily use a HELOC or Home Equity Loan (which is like a HELOC, but with lower rates) to pay for your installation. Some credit unions even have special solar loans.
By far the biggest lender in the Colorado solar scene is Elevations Credit Union, which offers special Energy Loans for solar and efficiency projects and works with homeowners, cities, and utilities across the state.
Xcel Energy, for example, has partnered with Elevations to offer customers low interest rates for solar and energy efficiency upgrades. Interest rates fall between 2.75% and 7.625% and the loan lasts between 3 and 15 years, with a maximum amount of $35,000.
The County of Denver as well as the City of Ft Collins also offer loans for renewable energy and efficiency upgrades through Elevations Credit Union. Your installer will know all about what financing options are available in your area.
You’re probably familiar with solar leases, the no-upfront-cost financing that helped the solar industry explode a decade ago. While it was the major financing tool for many years, today more homeowners are deciding to own their system by financing via cash or loan.
You generally come out far ahead by owning your system, since you own all the tax credits and avoid the high fees that leasing entails. For most homeowners, financing in cash or with a loan is a much better option financially.
Financial Incentives, Rebates, and Tax Credits
Colorado homeowners have a variety of incentives to help drop the cost of solar, from local rebates to state-wide tax exemptions, as well as the best incentive on the market: the federal tax credit.
While the state’s largest utility, Xcel Energy, no longer offers rebates for rooftop solar, there are still incentives to be had from a few municipal utilities and electric coops. Colorado Springs Utilities offers rebates of $0.20 per watt, for example, with a max of 10 kW (equal to $2,000). San Miguel Power Association in Ridgeway offers $0.25 per watt.
Xcel Energy will also buy your Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) through its Solar Rewards program. They’ll pay you $0.005 (that’s half a penny) for all solar electricity you produce. The average system produces about 12,000 kWh each year in Colorado, so that works out to about $60/year. That’s not much, but you can go buy a nice steak to celebrate how earth-friendly you’ve become. Keep in mind that Solar*Rewards is separate from an Xcel net metering agreement.
Sales and Property Tax Exemptions
The state of Colorado exempts all solar materials (not labor and other ‘soft’ costs) from sales tax. Colorado’s state sales tax is 2.9%. Equipment costs account for about 40% of your total installation costs, so you’d save about $200 on an average system. You’re not going to vacation in the Bahamas with this exemption, but it’s certainly worthwhile.
Colorado also offers a property tax exemption for rooftop solar. All additional value that your solar installation adds to your property is exempt from property tax. Colorado homeowners enjoy some of the lowest property taxes in the country, at just 0.57%, but for an average system that’s still $100 in savings in the first year alone.
The state of Colorado also allows local cities and counties to offer local sales and property tax exemptions for solar equipment. Not all counties take up on these offers, but your installer will know all about these incentives, if they are available. The City of Boulder, for example, offers a sales tax rebate on the materials and permit costs (as well as a solar grant for low- and middle-income homeowners).
Federal Tax Credit
All homeowners in the US are eligible for the federal Investment Tax Credit, or ITC. If your tax liability is high enough, this non-refundable credit can knock 30% off the cost of your installation. If you don’t owe the feds enough in a single year, you can break it apart and claim portions each year.
You’ll apply for the credit on your federal taxes the year following your installation. Your installer can help you figure out how to apply the credit, but it’s up to you to make this happen.
The full 30% credit is set to phase out at the end of 2019, so you’d better act fast if you want to take advantage. In 2020, the credit drops to 26%. In 2021, it drops to 23%. In 2022, it’s gone forever.
State Solar Policy Information
Colorado prides itself on its solar-friendly policies. First off, it’s got a fantastic net metering policy, which the people vigorously defended in a legal battle with Xcel back in 2013.
Colorado solar homeowners receive full retail-rate credits for any solar electricity they send to the grid. So if you pay $0.13 per kWh, you’ll receive $0.13 per kWh for all excess generation.
When you sign up for net metering, you’ll need to decide whether you want to carry over your credits year-to-year indefinitely, or have the utility pay you at their ‘incremental cost’ (which is typically about ¼ of retail rate) at the end of the year. Choose wisely. Once you make your decision, you can’t go back. Your installer can help you decide which option makes the most sense.
Another Colorado bonus in: All Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) from net-metered solar go to the homeowner. If you want, you can sell these to your utility (via Xcel’s Solar*Rewards program, for example) and make a few extra bucks.
The rules around connecting your installation to the grid, known as interconnection regulations, are pretty standard, though the state does require additional liability insurance for all rooftop solar. Systems under 10kW systems (which include almost all residential installations require a $300,000 in insurance, covered by the homeowner.
Lastly, your city or county might offer a few extra perks to make the installation process even easier. Denver County, for example, provides same-day permit review for solar projects – a process that can take weeks in other areas. The county has also capped all solar permit fees at $50.
Overall, Colorado is a pretty good spot to go solar. The local counties make the process very easy and the sunny skies help you see a healthy return on your investment.
Image Source: Public domain via Pixabay