Sunrun solar lease contracts: What to watch out for

Comparing Sunrun offer EnergySage

Sunrun is one of the largest solar installation companies in the country, with partnerships like Comcast, Major League Baseball, and Costco. The company primarily offers solar leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs), though cash purchase and solar loan options also exist. If you’re considering a lease or PPA from Sunrun, it’s important to understand the rates and terms being offered to you to ensure you’re getting the best deal possible. 

Here’s everything you need to know about signing up for a lease or PPA with Sunrun.

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When you sign a Sunrun lease or PPA, you’re giving the company permission to install solar panels on your home. Even though the panels are on your roof, you don't own them. You agree to pay the owner (Sunrun) monthly for the electricity the panels generate.

If you sign a solar lease, you pay a flat monthly "rent" to Sunrun in exchange for electricity. If you sign a PPA, you commit to paying a fixed rate per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for the electricity your solar panels generate, which means your monthly payment will fluctuate depending on how much energy you use. As with most other solar leasing companies, Sunrun leases and PPAs are both typically 20-year agreements.

All Sunrun leases and PPA offers have standard rates that you can use to evaluate your long-term solar savings. Here's a rundown of what you're signing up for if you accept a Sunrun quote.

Sunrun PPA offer screenshot

Monthly payments to Sunrun

Every Sunrun offer is based on a per-kWh rate, in the case of a PPA, or a flat monthly payment, in the case of a lease. Those are two of the most important numbers that will show up in your Sunrun quote. If you want to see significant savings when you sign up for a solar lease or PPA with Sunrun, make sure your new monthly payments will be lower than your average electric bill from your utility.

Annual rate increase ("escalator")

It's important to note that the monthly payment indicated in your Sunrun lease or PPA offer is only your rate for the first year. Leases and PPAs often have an annual rate increase of around 3% per year built into the agreement, which is commonly referred to as an escalator clause.

In the example above, the annual increase is 0.99%, which means that the 14.5-cent rate you pay per kWh will increase to 17.5 cents per kWh by the end of the 20-year agreement.

Electricity rate assumptions for PPAs

In Sunrun's calculation of 20-year savings, the PPA offer assumes that electricity rates will increase by 4.75% each year. However, electricity rates – and rate increases – can vary significantly by state. For example, the national ten-year average is closer to 3%.

You can use the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a federally funded energy statistics and analysis resource, to get an idea of what sort of rate increase to expect in your state. The EIA has information about historical per-kWh rate increases, as well as projections for future electricity rates. Double-check the EIA's predictions for your area to ensure they’re similar to the rates in your Sunrun offer. Additionally, confirm that the electric bill information is accurate for your home. Don't be afraid to ask clarifying questions to ensure your final quote is correct.

Sunrun quote information EnergySage

Understanding how much electricity your panels will generate and how much you may still need to buy from your utility can help you confirm that your system is the right size for your home.

When it comes to leases and PPAs, you don't want a system that will produce more electricity than you can use. If Sunrun installs a system that produces more electricity than you use, you could end up paying Sunrun for more electricity than you need.

Sunrun lease and PPA offers also include information about the equipment being installed on your roof. You’ll want to evaluate the quality of the solar panels and inverters included in your offer to make sure you’re receiving high-quality equipment that will last through your 20-year commitment.

The initial quote you receive from Sunrun won't contain all of the information included in your final contract. Before you sign on the dotted line, there are a few more questions you should ask your Sunrun energy consultant:

  • Is there a performance guarantee? A performance guarantee states that your system won't fall below a set standard for its technical capabilities. In the unlikely event that your system malfunctions, the performance guarantee is your recourse with the company. Make sure you have one in your contract.

  • Did you make any changes to the design of the system? Your system's design isn't finalized until you receive the final contract from Sunrun. Before you sign, verify that your solar panel system's physical design and layout are what you expect based on your original offer. For example, check if any new panels have been added or if their location on your roof has changed. You also want to make sure that you review where the electrical equipment that powers your new solar system will be located in your backyard.

  • What are the terms of the warranty? Your initial offer may include an overview of terms for warranties and repairs, but you should review the fine print in your final contract to understand what is and is not covered in your warranty.

  • What are my options when the agreement ends? Most homeowners will have the option to either extend their agreement with its existing terms, upgrade to a new system under a new contract, or have the system removed at no cost.

Whether it makes sense for you to buy or lease solar panels depends on your personal financial situation and your reasons for going solar. While owning your solar panels offers significantly higher 20-year savings than leasing does, solar leases can sometimes be a better deal for homeowners who can't take advantage of tax credits or other rebates and incentives.

Most solar leases don’t require a down payment, and solar leasing companies will often entice you to sign a same-day agreement by highlighting benefits like zero money down – but you don't want to commit to the first offer you receive. As with any major financial decision, shopping around and receiving multiple quotes is the best way to ensure you get the most competitive offer for your solar lease or PPA agreement.

Receiving multiple offers from local solar installers on the EnergySage Marketplace is an easy, no-cost way to review your solar options and find the best fit. The more offers you receive, the better your chances of finding the lowest cost option available to you. Many EnergySage shoppers already have quotes from other companies when they register on our Marketplace. If you already have a Sunrun quote, we encourage you to register and compare it to competing offers from local EnergySage installers.

Find out what solar panels cost in your area in 2024
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