San Diego, CA – This is getting 3 stars because I am feeling generous and want to so Vivint pull their collective heads out of you-know-where and get this going right. We're (finally) up and running, and now that the painful installation process is done, I have only very minor complaints. Namely, the billing system is very limited, and I have no way to get any detailed reports on what my system is producing other than looking at what it's producing right this minute. I have to call customer service to get any kind of daily, weekly or monthly production numbers.
Purchase – this part went fine, but only because we asked a ton of questions, read ALL the fine print, and researched the heck out of everything before we signed. The sales guy was nice and informative, but he did not have a lot of knowledge about the legal side.in fact, he gave us the wrong answer to what happens when we sell the house, and I had to educate him by showing him in the contract where it addresses that. The contract we signed did not fully address transfer of ownership, just that it was possible. It did not spell out (and he did not know) that if you sell the house and the new owner does not voluntarily take over the Vivint contract, you are still legally obligated to pay for the solar production regardless.
He was completely unaware that when selling the house, the seller needs to put the assumption of the solar contract as a contingency on the sale to ensure that the buyer is legally obligated to take over the 20 year PPA. He wasn't terribly educated on what a PPA even was. The only reason I know is that I worked for a large-scale solar company at the time. The average consumer would be hard pressed come away from this process adequately informed or prepared with the proper knowledge on how to sell their house or manage the contract.
Design – Double and triple check their design! They did not adequately estimate our electrical use, and we had to send them back to the drawing board several times. They ended up needing to add a whole second set of panels on our garage to meet our needs. The guy they had come estimate it did some very weird math that the average 5th grader could have improved on. Don't assume at any point that the person advising you knows their stuff – double check everything.
Installation – boy, what a nightmare. They had to come out at least 3 times to fix their own work, and each time anything went wrong it was 3-4 weeks until the next appointment. They repeatedly told me they were going to call and schedule the next action item, and I wouldn't ever hear back from them. After more than 6 months of waiting for them to get this done, I took over the role of project manager and managed the Vivint staff and installation crews, and played go-between with the city to make sure inspections happened. The staff seemed relieved to have someone driving the bus and keeping track of tasks. They were wholly incapable of driving this project themselves. At the very end of our installation process, when I had all the final steps scheduled, we did get a new account manager who helped drive it over the finish line. It was too little too late, but I hope it means they are getting their act together a little, at least in CA.
PROSPECTIVE BUYERS – Do your homework, and be ready and willing to take charge of the *entire* process. A PPA is a great model and will save you money over the long run, but do not go into this without knowing 1) all of the steps involved in installation, 2) the name and number of the city inspector's office so you can call yourself, 3) exactly how this contract affects the sale of your property in the future. Have a solid understanding of your electrical use through the entire year, and when they size your system, do the math to make sure it's not too big or too small. Remember, you pay for everything it generates, whether you use it or not!