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Thinking About Getting Solar Power with Vivint

Being from Long Island I have one of the most expensive electricity costs in the entire country.  My average is right in line with the linked article from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  After fees I pay .21 cents per kilowatt hour (Kwh).  For comparison purposes my rate is about double the national average.  As such, the idea of solar panels has always intrigued me.  I can admit that my intrigue has much more to do with the saving money aspect and much less to do with the environment.  Knowing myself I know I would never actually pull the trigger on a $15,000, $20,000 or even $30,000 system.  The crossover time just always scared me.  Then I was introduced to Vivint.

How Vivint Works

I am not a salesperson for Vivint and my information is coming from my research and a sales meeting with a local branch manager.  They turn my roof into a power plant, putting up panels on their dime.  As explained to me, zero out of pocket cost from me.  I then buy power from them at .15 cents per Kwh.  An automatic savings of 45%.  If my house doesn’t produce enough power I then just buy what I need from my local power company (which I am doing anyway at the exorbitant amount highlighted above).  They would then keep my federal credit of $7,500 and I get to keep my New York State Credit which I believe is $500 per year for 10 years.

Thereafter I would have a 20 year lease with them.  If I needed to do repairs on my roof then it would only be $500 to take down everything and put it back.  If I moved the next people would have to agree to keep it up for the remaining period, or it would be a sliding scale as to the cost to break the lease.  I don’t have any plans on leaving but I wanted some type of number, so I pressed the salesman for an example.  So given, the size of the system being installed (multiple roofs, 30 panels) it would be about $15,000 to remove it in year 7.

In addition to the length of time issue the only downside (and it is such a small downside) is that if solar ever becomes cheaper and I could install my own system to have full access to zero cost energy I would still be stuck in a 20 year lease.  This downside is me really reaching, but it is a risk and tiny compared to the length issue.

My Experience with Vivint So Far

I am very early in the process, and as explained below I am not even sure I am going to go through with it, but so far it has been a positive experience.  The sales person I am working with is professional, courteous and responsive.  The materials they have presented are very clear which is nice when making such a big decision.

Calculating My Benefit with Vivint

As explained the decision is based almost entirely on money, and as such, I need to do some calculations (much like i did when I calculated how much money I would save converting from oil heat to gas heat).

KwH  Pure PSEG Cost
Jun-13 1123  $              235.83
Jul-13 1123  $              235.83
Aug-13 901  $              189.21
Sep-13 901  $              189.21
Oct-13 655  $              137.55
Nov-13 655  $              137.55
Dec-13 917  $              192.57
Jan-14 917  $              192.57
Feb-14 642.5  $              134.93
Mar-14 642.5  $              134.93
Apr-14 646  $              135.66
May-14 646  $              135.66
Jun-14 1038  $              217.98
Total   $2,269.47


As compared to the Vivint Solar System:

Estimated Solar Production Solar Price Remaining PSEG cost  Total Cost
Jun-13 809  $            121.35  $        65.94  $         187.29
Jul-13 904  $            135.60  $        45.99  $          181.59
Aug-13 865  $            129.75  $          7.56  $          137.31
Sep-13 690  $            103.50  $        44.31  $          147.81
Oct-13 420  $               63.00  $        49.35  $          112.35
Nov-13 289  $               43.35  $        76.86  $          120.21
Dec-13 202  $               30.30  $     150.15  $          180.45
Jan-14 198  $               29.70  $     150.99  $          180.69
Feb-14 404  $               60.60  $        50.09  $          110.69
Mar-14 565  $               84.75  $        16.28  $          101.03
Apr-14 874  $            131.10  $     (47.88)  $            83.22
May-14 1,030  $            154.50  $     (80.64)  $            73.86
Jun-14 809  $            121.35  $        48.09  $          169.44
 $      1,785.93


So in the end I would be saving $2,269 – $1,785.93 = $483.54 per year (or $40 a month).  Trust be told that is a pretty rough $40.  One, it depends on both costs being constant which we know traditional energy companies are going to keep increasing rates while the solar rate is capped at 2.9%.  Two, assumes those solar projections are in line with reality.  If my home produces less my $40 will exponentially decreases.   To be fair, I would also get a $500 credit for 10 years from NYS, but that doesn’t feel the same as money in my pocket.

I am going to write the company, but I don’t know if I am going to take a 20 year lease to save $40 a month.  What if the next homeowner doesn’t want the system?  What if I have a roof problem? $500 removal fee wipes out one year of savings.  Seems like there is an easier way to save $40 a month.

Am I missing anything? Do you have a similar system?



  1. Very interesting to read about! We are in the very beginning stages of looking for our next home and we have been “shopping” online to get an idea of prices and what we can afford. We have found many homes with solar power and we are somewhat interested in it.

  2. Back in April of this year I did some research on solar from my keyboard. I think my findings were very different than yours. Here’s my article:

    On of the big things is that it seems like the cost of solar power is going down dramatically. Here’s a chart from:

    From the first chart it looks like solar has gone from $7/watt to $0.74/watt over the last 20 years. What might it look like in the next 20 years? I think the question isn’t “IF” it goes down, but “How much” it goes down.

    I think there’s a danger in talking to only one company, even if the salesman appears to be nice and courteous. I’d get at least three vendors to quote you different prices. I know it is expensive to replace them if you replace a roof, but $15,000 sounds exaggerated… as if to get you to take their deal as their price is only $500.

    I’ve got a few more thoughts, but I think I’m going to leave it for an article on my own site in a couple of days. You can email me for a preview if you are interested (though it is only outlined in my head right now).

    • “Back in April of this year I did some research on solar from my keyboard. I think my findings were very different than yours.”
      – I don’t think our findings could be “different.” I am using my actual home energy use along with estimated solar production…not an article showing an average.

      “I think the question isn’t “IF” it goes down, but “How much” it goes down”
      – EXACTLY which is the only downfall I can really come up with against vivint (i.e. if it comes down low enough that it sucks that I am still in a 15 cent/kwh contract).

      “. I know it is expensive to replace them if you replace a roof, but $15,000 sounds exaggerated… as if to get you to take their deal as their price is only $500.”
      – I think you misread (or I wasn’t clear enough). To take down the panels and put them back after a roof job it is $500. If I want to break the lease OR if a buyer wanted to break the lease it would cost me $15K in year 7/8.

      • I meant findings to be different to be kind of a blanket statement encompassing how solar panels have gotten a lot cheaper over time. It sounded like you were doubtful it could happen with words like “if it ever becomes cheaper” and that the scenario would be “reaching.” Maybe I’m reading your emphasis there wrong.

        The other reason my findings were different is that I seem to recall that buying is much, much better. It was awhile ago and I obviously didn’t look at every company in every area. I know you said that you’d never put that kind of money up-front, but to give away what I was thinking with my article: HELOC. Also we got a similarly pricey air conditioning system put in and got 0% financing for 12 months.

        Maybe it’s worth running the numbers on buying after 0% financing for a year, using $8000 in tax credits the first year, to pay it down and then using a HELOC to pay off the rest. From there transfer your electricity savings (plus $500 each year) to pay off your HELOC. When does that become break-even? Is it 20 years? What if it was 5 years?

        I understand that personal finances are personal and if you don’t want to put that much money out there or finance it, I understand. I am curious about the math. I know depending on how it came out, I could change my mind to take a little more short-term financial risk for the prospect of free energy (seems like nearly $200 a month savings) and not being bound by leases.

        Yep, I totally read the $15,000 thing wrong. I thought they were implying that if you bought them from somewhere else the cost would be that. It seems like at $500 they would be paying for most of the second installation, which is kind of nice.

        My biggest fear is getting one data point to go on.

        • Buying isn’t even an option for me due to the cross over. Using my numbers above I spend about $2,300/yr in costs so even the system was $20K after the credits I am looking at a 9 year pay back time.

          Plus we know that my home currently wouldn’t produce as much energy as I need even if we use the optimistic numbers of the solar company.

          I had called another company in the past but they simply took a look at my house on google maps and said no lol.

          Unless there is something wrong with my calcs I just don’t think I’ll produce enough energy with current technology.

          I am hoping my calcs are wrong. I sent them over to my sales rep but haven’t heard back yet.

          • It sounded in the intro that 30K was the most expensive, so 20K after a $7.5K credit seems to be almost the worst case scenario. If it were a better case scenario, like the 15K cost the credit makes the numbers vastly different.

            This is one of the reasons, I’d try to get a firm price from a few vendors. Not trying to be overly critical, I haven’t explored vendors myself and I’ve been thinking of solar for months and months now.

            I might pull trigger on something with a 9 year break even point. The question becomes how long is the lifespan of the panels. Even if I move before that time, presumably they add significant value to home in any kind of sale. Years of free electricity down the road is pretty tempting.

            If your home isn’t going to generate that much electricity, it almost seems like the discussion is kind of moot. I’d punt for a few years for the costs to continue to come down or the technology to become more efficient. It seems more of a reason not to be stuck in something for 20 years, no?

  3. I think my previous comment might be stuck in moderation as I used a couple of links.

    That said, I also had this to say. My math in “percent off” situations is usually pretty bad, but I don’t see how going from 21 cents to 15 cents is 45% off. Seems that’s only 6 cents and it would need to go a full 10.5 cents to get 50% off of 21 cents.

    I’m not trying to over-criticize, but if the view is “I’m saving 45%” it sounds pretty good. However, it looks closer to saving 22% which isn’t as sexy.

    • My $40/month is really the question I am asking of people, but I think you may be right in terms of savings I will fix that mistake.

  4. You should check the NREL labs for your solar irradiation potential to determine if you’ll actually be able estimate how much you’ll be able to net from solar every month (after you factor in system inefficiences, which If I recall correctly are about 20-40%) Check the solar prospector here:
    and see what sort of production you can expect. If you’re not getting enough production to basically wholly subsidize you bill then it probably wont be worth it
    did you ask vivint what would happen if you produced MORE energy than you use? Typically if you own the system, you sell the extra energy back to the power company (you feed it into the grid) at the going rate (in your case 21 cents/kWh), But you dont own the system, they do – so will they keep that $ (if there is any)?

    • I did ask and I would get a credit from my energy company. However, as you can see from my calcs most months I would still be paying the energy company. You are really into this world – did I do my calcs correctly?

  5. I had a 3.9ish kW system from Vivint activated in February of last year. Saved $586 the first full 11 months. Saved $600 in the 8 months this year due to running the AC a lot the last couple months and the rates in CA being increased.

    Would I have preferred to buy it outright? Yeah. But that wasn’t really a good option at the time.

    • Buying it outright is no where near an option also!

      Are you getting better or worse projections? or did you not keep track?

  6. Interesting….Isnt that business model something similar to what SolarCity is doing. Of course the companies are not doing it out of good will and if you arent putting up the investment up front, you wont be making much either. Renting out your rooftop for $40 sounds like a no-brainer (its not worth the investment), esp considering you are locked in for 20 years and if you sell, the next person has to agree.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and numbers.

    • R2R,

      The problem is the next person issue. Saving $40 a month isn’t worth it if to take down the system in 10 years its going to cost me $10K+ (which is what I was quoted). If I knew this home was my forever home I could see saying $40 saved is $40 saved, but there is a possible back-end cost that is not worth the risk for The Wife and I.

  7. Mike here mdepalo at solarcity dot com, a 3+ vet at solarcity well in tune with solar programs. how about $0 down owning the the system,and be covered for 30 years of monitoring ,maintenance ,insurance,performance guarentees?

    • Mike,

      I think my post was pretty clear on how deep I looked into it. In trying to dive into your cheesy pitch – it sounds like I am buying the system from you guys? If that’s the case then we are back to the crossover point, right?

      • Sure you looked into it,seems like only with 1 company.I was presenting an alternative approach on home owners that want to own the system with $0 out of pocket and own it through a loan.FYI: in NYS the lease is a better product then the Power Purchase Agreement you’ve been presented. The fact that in the lease you get your (%25 of the overall lease cost)NYS tax credit dollar for dollar back. Which means the first $5,000 you pay the solar company you get back up until you reach $5,000 ,so in your model above you would collect that back in the first 32 months,instead of wishing the NYS tax credit will be around 5-15 years from now.Also in your numbers above you only receive 25% of the 1786= $446,this would extend it to 11 years + and your system needs to be performing at peak with hopefully good weather no trees growing and shading it. The lease comes with a performance guarentee,if it ever under performs in a 2 year true up period the solar company gives you back a check.Another thing on this is we start at 14.5 cents,with the best looking sleek mount system design and your homes power guide monitoring not just production monitoring. The company I am with installs 5-7 system on Long Island per day ,6 days a week.Have 150K systems in America. I don’t see this as a cheesy pitch or is it simply helping fellow Long Islanders with a choice of where they buy thier power from and pay less by putting thousands of dollar$ in thier pockets instead of handing it to PSE&G.
        As my grandma used to say “It’s not what to make it’s what you save”. Keep in touch.

        • I am not against the idea – I would love to do it, but it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Lets talk numbers. Hell, if you could get a sale out of it and I save money its a win-win.

          It seems we are working within that same ~14.5cent from your company and vivint. Lets assume their testing was accurate.

          What is now different? I get the NYS Credit sooner? Is that really the only difference?

  8. No doubt you would save money from .21 cents to .145 cents is always a savings.
    1) Sleek mount design ,less penetrations and closer to the day installed.
    2) Monitoring of your homes power usage and production of solar.
    3) No subcontractors 6,000+ employees
    4) 150K installed systems in America
    5) Tesla Battery back-up in near future to add to systems
    6) A+ Accredited rating from the Better Business Bureau.
    7) Lease is a fixed monthly cost for a year then has a fixed 2.9% increase,you will know what your paying for power for the next 20 years.
    8) Monitoring / warrantee / performance guarentee / Insurance
    9) at 20 years free full removal or sign on chioce of 2 increments of 5 year terms.
    10) Affiliations with Home DePot/Best Buy/Google/CitiBank/Goldman sachs/Bank of NY
    11) 17,000 square ft building in Hauppauge NY
    12) local references if needed

    • This post is not focused on 1 through 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. This post was only about hard savings. I put forward my spreadsheet. I asked how your company, Solar City, would change that spreadsheet in terms of savings?

      Your comments aren’t adding value without answering that question.

  9. sure , easy to figure. looks like your estimated system would produce 7,259 kilowatts annually X .145 cents = $1052.55 annual / 12 months @ $87.71 per month first year. Savings $2,269 – $1,629.67 = $639.33 per year (or $53.28 a month).

  10. 2 choices: $998 moves the system physically to a new home within the PSEG area. Or buy out the remaining balance ie: 5 years left on agreement 60 months x $130 =$7,800.

      • Fair enough,this is why I have my clients put money into it to buy down the ROI timeframe if they plan on moving before 10 years. Although at 15 years you’re ahead of the game with a $0 down. Using round #’s by paying approx $1000 per year to the solar company the 1st 5 years of payments comes back as a tax credit = (+$5,000). now assuming on the low end of PSE&G goimg up only 2.9% matching the solar company (which is a generous assumption as L.I. electric rates have the highest percentage increases in the state over the last decade at 4.5% increase yearly) documented in an article of “LIPA by the numbers”. so that leaves us saving a static $53.00 monthly for 120 months(year 5-15) =+$6,360. The total savings put aside is $5,000+$6,360=$11,360.

        Note:You did mention above “I would have loved to find a home with it already built in!”
        Would you feel 15 years from now your buyer would think the same as solar systems are going to be so much more common by then and being installed at rate of 15+ systems per day from all solar companies on L.I. 6 days a week. And my company is opening up a 2nd L.I warehouse to add to the demand.

        • Update : Due to the title of this article: within the last 6 weeks Vivint solar sold out and is no longer. The company I a represent opened a 2nd warehouse in Bethpage L.I ,2 more in NJ. expanded to Vermont and went International within Mexico. Also plans to add 3,000+ more employees with the panel manufactoring plant in Buffalo NY. Completed multiple installations at Walmarts, and military houses in Westbury NY.Also opened up a small and medium business rooftop division.Tesla home batterys available.

  11. I was misled and lied to by Vivint. There salesman Kelly G went to my house when I wasn’t home and installed the system
    Now 1 year later and after trying to bribe me with a $1500.00 check they have put a lien on my house. They are very despicable I have emails with Kelly back and forth
    If anyone in Westchester County Ny wants to discuss with me 1st here is my cell. 203-912-9817


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