SunPower Vs. Sunrun: Which should you choose? 

SunPower vs. Sunrun —two giants at the forefront of the U.S. solar industry.

Both are known for their quality solar panels, battery systems, and other solar-related offerings.

But who are? Which company has the superior products? And above all, which of these solar providers are right for you?

This article will help familiarize you with each of the above companies by answering these questions and more!

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SunPower Vs. Sunrun

SpecificationsSunPowerSunrun
Solar Panel ManufacturingMaxeon Solar TechnologiesThird-Party Suppliers
Rating / Efficiency415W @ 22.3%N/A
Output Warranty25 yearsN/A
Output Guarantee92% of Rated PowerN/A
Solar Product Warranty25 yearsN/A
Warranty of Other ComponentsInverter (25 years)
Mount (25 years)
Monitoring System (10 years)
Energy Storage (10 years)
N/A
(1 The term ‘Rated Power’ is the ideal solar panel output in desirable conditions. It is expressed in watts.)

Getting To Know SunPower

SunPower was first established in 1985 by Richard Swanson, an electrical engineering professor from Stanford, and has been headquartered in Silicon Valley ever since.

The company provides green-tech energy solutions to consumers by selling, installing, and financing solar power products such as panels, batteries, monitoring software, and mounting hardware.

A point of pride for this solar giant is the fact that they’re the only U.S-based company that’s been around longer than its 25-year warranty.

SunPower logo

Split

In August 2020, the SunPower Corporation made the decision to split into two separate public companies:

  • SunPower: responsible for supplying all solar-related services to customers.
  • Maxeon Solar: the company responsible for producing the high-efficiency solar panels that SunPower is known for
SunPower company split.
Source: SunPower

Maxeon Solar is based in Singapore, with factories in France, Malaysia, Mexico, and the Philippines. The company strategically chose these locations to help them take advantage of low-cost manufacturing processes throughout Asia.

Now don’t let the idea of “low-cost manufacturing” put you off. While the split and change in locations have brought their manufacturing costs down, the quality remains the same.

Since the split, Maxeon has provided SunPower with quality products such as the Maxeon 6 AC Solar Panel — boasting an efficiency rating of 22.8%.

SunPower vs. SunRun — Maxeon panel efficiency.
Source: SunPower Separation/Investment Announcement

In short, the strategic decision to divide the company into two parts has paid off for both them and their consumers.

Are you struggling to size your solar system? Our in-house experts have created a unique solar calculator to help make things easier for you!

Getting To Know Sunrun

Sunrun was first established in 2007 by founders Lynn Jurich, Nat Kreamer, and Ed Fenster.

The company engages in the design, development, installation, sale, ownership, and maintenance of residential solar energy systems throughout the United States.

They offer these solar services both directly to their customers and through their partners, including installation, sales, and strategic partners (retail partners included).

Solar Service Pioneers

A significant difference between Sunrun and other solar companies (SunPower included) is their solar service model. Right from its inception, Sunrun pioneered this model to create a low-cost solution for customers seeking to lower their energy bills.

So, what is this solar service model?

The core service offering comes in the form of Sunrun’s lease and power purchase agreements — the company refers to these agreements as “Customer Agreements.”

SunRun logo.

How It Works

While SunRun allows customers such as yourself to purchase one of their solar systems, 80% – 90% of their business comes from “solar as a service.”

Essentially, a customer will enter into an agreement with Sunrun, which allows the company to lease out and install a solar system on your home — typically over a 20 to 25-year period.

Sunrun provides daily system monitoring, free maintenance, repairs, and comprehensive insurance throughout this period. In exchange, they receive a steady cash flow from a high-quality customer with good credit. Ultimately, this allows the company to qualify for tax (and other) benefits.

If you’re interested in SunRun’s leasing options, click here.

What’s In It For The Homeowner?

By entering into a lease agreement with Sunrun, you can acquire a solar system for little to no money upfront. Instead, you pay a monthly fee. When this fee is less than the local utility’s electricity rates, you save money.

But remember, Sunrun does still sell solar systems. As such, you can choose from several flexible solar financing options or pay outright.

What’s more, you can choose to purchase a leased solar system after the contract period is up.


Which Company Produces Better Quality?

Naturally, when choosing between solar companies, it makes sense to go with the one that provides better quality panels.


SunPower

In this case, you know what you’re getting with SunPower — top-quality products like the Maxeon 6 AC Solar Panel.

Together, SunPower and Maxeon have developed an incredibly strong following due to the quality of their offerings. What’s more, you know (even before you purchase) where your solar panels are coming from and who’s manufacturing them.

Warranty

Quality-wise, SunPower stands confidently behind its products, offering 25-year industry-leading warranties that cover its systems comprehensively.

The warranty covers repairs, repairs, labor, and shipping at no extra cost.


Sunrun

Sunrun does not manufacture its own products. Instead, the company uses multiple suppliers for their equipment, though they do have a partnership with LG.

Here’s the issue: you won’t know which panels you’ll be provided with until going through the purchasing process.

With this in mind, it’s difficult for us to provide you with a concrete answer as to the overall quality of their panels.

Warranty

Sunrun provides a 10-year workmanship warranty against damage to your roof or any installation problems.


Verdict

In this aspect of the SunPower vs. Sunrun debate, SunPower takes the cake. Their comprehensive, 25-year warranty and the fact that their panels are a known entity make it an absolute no-brainer!

In need of some solar blueprints? Look no further!

SunPower Vs. Sunrun: Which Company Is Cheaper?

Price Of Residential Solar In The U.S.

The 2021 NREL white paper report puts the median cost of residential solar at $2.75 per watt (2020).

Median cost of solar panels in 2020 — SunPower vs. SunRun.
As of 2020, the median gross cost of solar panels is $2.75 per watt.
Source: 2021 NREL white paper

However, EcoWatch provides an updated 2022 price of $2.66 per watt.

For argument’s sake, we’ll use the more update-to-date value.


SunPower

According to the NREL’s white paper report, SunPower’s residential solar panels cost around $4.15 per watt.

Taking this figure into consideration, a 5kW solar panel system in the United States will cost you around:

$4.15 per watt * 5,000 watts = $20,750

SunPower vs. SunRun cost per watt.
SunPower vs. SunRun cost per watt.
Source: Source: 2021 NREL white paper

Sunrun

Sunrun’s solar panels tend to come in at a more expensive $4.91 per watt.

Looking at these figures, a 5kW solar panel system in the United States will cost you around:

$4.91 per watt * 5,000 watts = $24,550

Please Note: the above values do not consider system efficiency. While we’d like to account for efficiency to give you more accurate estimates, it simply isn’t possible due to Sunrun sourcing its products from multiple third-party suppliers.

Verdict

Both SunPower ($4.15) and Sunrun’s ($4.91) costs per watt are well over the $2.66 average.

But again, it’s clear that the second round of the SunPower vs. Sunrun duel goes to SunPower, with the former having a slightly cheaper cost per watt average.


Which Company is Right For You?

This part of the SunPower vs. Sunrun debate comes down to your needs.

If you’re looking to purchase a solar system outright, we highly recommend SunPower. There’s a reason they’ve become a juggernaut in the solar industry — their service and products are well renowned and of high quality.

However, if you don’t want to commit to purchasing a system and would instead prefer to lease one, then Sunrun is a solid bet.

Yes, we know that SunPower leases out their systems too, but Sunrun has been at the forefront of solar leasing agreements for a long time. After all, they did pioneer the model.


Reviews

Reviews exist for a reason. Sure, inherent bias does exist, but it’d be silly to ignore the value of reviews entirely.

Here are some links to each company’s reviews on Consumer Affairs and Best Company with the above in mind.

SunPower

Sunrun


Final Thoughts

There you have it, the SunPower vs. Sunrun debate!

By now, we’re confident that you have a much better idea of each company and what they entail. But remember, additional research can only benefit you. So before you commit to anything, be sure to investigate as much as possible.

In closing, we hope you’ve found this resource to be of use. Should you have any further questions or insights into this (or any other topic), we encourage you to join our budding community!

Robert Wortrich

Robert Wortrich

Robert is a content creator and editor. His passion for researching and the environment led him to joining the Climatebiz team. When he isn’t busy writing articles or learning more about everything Green Technology-related, you’ll find him spending time with friends or hiking one of the many wonderful trails that his home – Cape Town – has to offer.

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