How do you know if a solar company, like Sunnova, is going to give you a quality customer experience?
After all, signing a contract with a solar company is no minor transaction. If you're purchasing that system, you're taking out a loan of $20,000 to $40,000. You're agreeing to have that system installed on your rooftop and then have it monitored and maintained for 20-25 long years. This is a bigger commitment than buying a car. And yes, many things can go wrong.
All of which are reasons to look at a solar company as a partner. Not as just as a vendor. You will be shackled to this relationship for some time. So how can you know if this is a relationship worth entering into?
For starters, it's always wise to read all the customer reviews you can get your hands on.
So what about Sunnova? Are they worthy of your commitment? Can you trust them with your money and your roof? Here at TheBestCompanys, we actually rate this four-year-old Houston, Texas, solar company right at the top of our list for their flexible payment options, their forward-thinking options for moving, and their efforts toward greater solar panel efficiency.
On top of that, Sunnova has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). While this sounds impressive, a closer look at what that means also uncovers some chinks in this solar company's armor. Consider, for example, that only 13 out of the 38 complaints that have been filed against the company with the BBB and closed have been done to the customer's satisfaction. Twenty-four of those complaints have been about product and service issues.
In other words, while this company seems to be active in resolving complaints once they're escalated to the BBB, they aren't necessarily leaving customers very happy about it.
So what are Sunnova customers unhappy about? What are they happy about? The relatively few Sunnova customer reviews online reveal five frequently mentioned issues that you should know about if you're considering signing a contract with Sunnova:
Your roof is a pretty important part of your house, and the thought of having a team of strangers walking around on it all day should give you some measure of apprehension. But what if you knew that team had a history of botched installations?
A substantial chunk of Sunnova's customer reviews tell of faulty installations. One customer, John Eht of Atlantic City, New Jersey, tells of Sunnova's third-party contractor (which is a problem in and of itself, but we'll discuss that later) leaving misplaced holes in a barn roof and rail mount bolts splitting through the roof trusses. At the same time, the installer also reportedly trashed the customer's landscaping.
"We were assured when this project began that your crew was professional and fully capable of installing the system on this particular type of roof," said Eht. "It is evident this is not the case. I understand that a tin roof is not your standard mounting surface, but if you were not capable of doing this type of installation, you should have declined the job entirely and not put us through this."
The ultimately to the two-year-old roof has been extensive enough to void its warranty.
Sadly, a huge number of the customer reviews reveal not only this kind of shoddy, neglectful workmanship, but systems that refuse to work, even months after installation.
One BBB complaint chronicled how the customer's solar system was still out of commission a year after signing a contract with Sunnova. The story is one of baffling ineptitude, as the customer stumbled through a tangled network of Sunnova customer service reps, installers, and subcontractors.
"First there was the problem with getting the correct panels," the customer said. "Then the connectors on every panel had to be replaced. Then it was the problem with the meter not working. Then we had to wait for [a technician] to come out and disconnect their meter. Now it is a problem of receiving pictures from them to be sent to Sunnova so they can turn us on."
To add insult to the injury of a having to pay for a non-functioning solar system that doesn't generate electricity, the installer left a gaping hole in the side of the customer's garage, exposing wiring and the house's structure to the elements for months.
Is this to say that all of Sunnova's installations are a mess? No. It probably depends on the third party they hired to do the job. But as long as so much of Sunnova's installations are done by third parties, you don't know what you're going to get. Which brings us to our next point...
Installations aren't the only place where Sunnova uses third party contractors. According to many of the reviews, Sunnova allegedly refuses to hold themselves responsible for the actions and promises of these contractors.
Denise Bonillas of Chico, California, left this frustrated review on TheBestCompanys:
"Everything their sales rep told us was basically false. They told us our [12-month utility charges] would be about $300, and it was almost $1,300. When we call to talk to them about it they claim that it is our fault that we did not do better research, that the salesperson is contracted out and that is not their problem."
I've already mentioned that Sunnova's installations are done by third-party groups. Sadly, this problem, with Sunnova passing their customers through a crowd of contractors to get anything done, continues allegedly into repairs and maintenance of the solar systems they're accountable for.
If both Sunnova's sales and their installations are actually performed by contractors, then how does much of the company's promises do they actually intend to fulfill? Can you really trust a company that will hide behind the excuse that a salesperson was not an employee, therefore, they can't be held liable for anything the salesperson said? In that case, nothing that was said during the sales process, nothing that was done during the installation process, nor the security of your system for the next 25 years can be trusted.
This is probably where you see the most polarization in Sunnova's customer reviews. Some customers seem to absolutely love the customer service they received with the solar company.
"Carter [our sales rep] is THE most professional, knowledgeable and pleasant company rep!" proclaimed Patrick Osterman of San Francisco in the review he posted on this site. "The whole experience was awesome from start to finish and your customer service department is to be commended, too!"
But then other customers were equally zealous in their condemnation of Sunnova's customer service.
"Customer service? They don't know the meaning of that," scoffed Roderick of Carson, California. "When you call and request a call back, they call and disconnect when you answer and this can go on for sometime. I have called many, many, many times to get this resolved and it's always the same response: 'The IT Dept is working on it!' They must be preschool kids."
Whether it be sending in people to make repairs, monitoring equipment for inefficiencies, or helping with a change of ownership, the reviews show a company that succeeds in pleasing a few customers but, overall, gives customers the runaround when they should be making things easier. And speaking of monitoring...
Monitoring is a big part of Sunnova's sales pitch. They promise they'll keep an eye on your system, just in case it breaks down or starts producing less power than it should. It's made to make customers feel safe and secure, but does Sunnova actually deliver on this promise?
Not according to many customer reviews. In fact, too many of them claim that they were always the first ones to discover that their system was failing, not Sunnova.
"They claim to monitor the system," lamented one Las Vegas customer on our site. "System has been installed two months. System has not produced the power they said it would, has been down three weeks so far. They claim to monitor system, but yet I had to call them to let them know it was not working. The first time it was down two weeks. This time it has been down one week with no response."
For what is supposed to be a reassuring feature, these reviews are shockingly non-reassuring. Honestly, though, they do seem to jive with the other points made above. Sunnova's first priority does not seem to be its customers' satisfaction and security. And especially not checking in to see if their customers' systems are working.
This is underscored in all of the points made above. In none of the reviews did anyone boast about how much money they were saving with their new Sunnova solar system. In those few positive reviews, they gushed about helpful sales reps and quick installations. On the other hand, far too many reviews complain about underperforming systems.
Said one customer complaint filed with the BBB:
"Sunnova has not given me the service that they advertised and promised when they sold me the Solar System. The system hasn't been producing what is in the contract. They also advertised that I would have a savings of AT LEAST 30% of my current electric bill. That is also false, due to the fact that since they haven't been monitoring my account, which was another selling point of theirs (24 hours of monitoring service), I've had to pay both Sunnova and [the utility company]."
And here's another one, pulled from another BBB complaint:
"I signed a contract with Sunnova for a 7,000-watt solar system. The system installed only provides 5,100 watts of power. Their subcontractor who installed the system will not install the proper inverter to provide 7,000 watts of power production per hour during peak times."
It's worth mentioning here that Sunnova is not the only solar company that talks a big game before you sign the contract and then falls short when things get serious. Truthfully, all but the best solar companies seem to be geared to collect the customer's check, while being completely oblivious to the fact that they've just committed to a 25-year relationship with a customer.
These are just some of the warning flags out there around Sunnova. Of course, all customer reviews should be taken, and Sunnova has offerings that put it above the competition in our book. Still, by being aware of the potential cons (pun intended), as well as the pros, of doing business with Sunnova, you can make a more educated purchasing decision.
To see how Sunnova measures up to other solar companies, as reviewed by real customers, visit our Solar Company Reviews page.