Installing a home solar panel system was once an ambitious (and potentially dangerous) DIY project. Now, solar has gone mainstream and prices have come down. Solar has blossomed into a $14 billion market in the US alone, generating enough power for 26 million homes.
This means while you no longer need to study to be an electrician to put panels on your home, consumers now need to research a rapidly growing marketplace of solar manufacturers, retailers, installers and even something called energy-as-a-service providers. And even though going green, reducing your utility bill and increasing the value of your property make for compelling motivation, the daunting task of researching and selecting the right solar company still provides enough friction to give many consumers pause.
Arizona-based Primitive Power offers another approach to sailing the solar seas by operating essentially as a broker and concierge to help consumers navigate the industry. Primitive functions primarily as a virtual call center, educating consumers about the current solar landscape, equipment, financing and incentives. After a consultation, the company then connects customers with its network of solar installation companies. The company’s founder Jarom Wall explained Primitive hopes to set itself apart from other companies that may offer only their own branded equipment.
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“With access to multiple options, our consultants are equipped to provide an optimal system setup or, if necessary, suggest that a homeowner does not go solar at all,” Wall said.
CNET does not test solar panels directly or work with a company to design, order, permit and install a system. Instead we compare the equipment, warranties and services offered by numerous solar companies, as well as our broad knowledge of the industry. And any quote you get, not just from Primitive, should be compared against multiple others. It’s just smart to shop around. Still, we’ll lay out everything we know about them to help you decide if Primitive Power is the right fit for you.
What do I get from Primitive?
Primitive sells itself as offering a lifetime partnership with its customers.
The company emphasizes that it doesn’t just hand customers off to the local installer, but rather stays in touch through the whole process, maintaining three-way communication, often for years.
Wall said that in some cases when Primitive no longer has a relationship with the original installer, the company has paid for other contractors to service customers.
“We want to have a relationship with our customers forever,” Wall said. “If someone wants to call us after 10 years of having solar and ask a question about their system or if one of their panels is down, we want to facilitate the whole thing.”
What equipment does Primitive offer?
Primitive may as well be considered a bespoke solar system design consultant. It didn’t provide a specific list of solar panel-makers or models it prefers, but told us it will recommend panels from “top-tier” manufacturers with energy efficiency ratings between 18 and 22%, which is pretty standard for the industry in 2023.
The company typically uses monocrystalline panels between 300 and 400 watts each with a 25 year warranty. Again, all this is pretty typical for most systems at the moment.
As for batteries and inverters, Primitive says it is able to source the full range of what’s available today, but recommends lithium-ion batteries with 10-15 year warranties and inverters or microinverters with 15-25 year warranties. These ranges are consistent with what we see from other companies.
Does Primitive offer system monitoring?
Primitive has an app that primarily allows customers to contact the company and also monitor solar system energy production. It is available on both the Google Play and Apple App stores, but it has not yet been reviewed.
What warranties does Primitive offer?
The company doesn’t offer a standard warranty, instead relying on the equipment manufacturers’ warranties, which are typically 25 years for panels, 10-15 years for batteries and 15-25 years for inverters and microinverters.
The installer selected by Primitive will usually provide a 15-25 year workmanship warranty that protects against leaks and other issues related to installation.
Despite not directly guaranteeing solar systems, Wall says he expects customers will first contact Primitive directly in the event of a warranty claim. He explained that the company will work to get most issues resolved or at least point customers in the right direction. For example, certain instances like natural disasters may be covered in a homeowners insurance policy.
How much do Primitive solar panels cost?
Like most solar companies, Primitive elected not to share specific pricing information.
Wall said the company has average pricing data by state “but it’s not really going to be accurate on the individual level,” due to the very different needs and situations of each household.
“There are just so many variables that come into play when determining the cost of a solar system, such as your location, financing options, system size, solar components, and installation specifics.”
You may be able to find statistics on the cost of going solar in your region, but what we know more broadly is that the average cost of a solar system in the US is $22,091 according to SaveOnEnergy, which is owned by CNET’s parent company. That accounts for federal clean energy credits of 30%. Other solar incentives from state, county and municipal governments and sometimes even utilities, banks and credit unions may be available to reduce the total out-of-pocket expense further.
Another recent calculation from Wood Mackenzie places the average cost of installed solar power at $2.99 per watt for an 8-kilowatt system.
It’s also worth doing more comprehensive research and calling multiple installers in your area. In fact, Primitive encourages this.
“We would encourage anyone that has a quote with another company to just go to Primitive and let us double check,” vice president of strategic partnerships Brian Graff told CNET.
Remember to get multiple quotes from solar companies. Even if you connect with Primitive and receive multiple figures for different installers, try to get quotes from others outside Primitive’s network if possible. You can’t have too much information before signing an agreement that could last a quarter century.
What financing options does Primitive offer?
Primitive works with customers to match them with the best arrangement for each situation, including options for leasing, power purchase agreements and financing, Wall told CNET in an email.
“Our flexibility is one of the key advantages of working with us. We don’t force a single product on our customers,” Wall said.. “Instead, we provide access to a wide variety of materials, financing options, and installation partners all across the USA.”
One interesting thing Primitive offers is a “best value guarantee” rather than a price match. The company will review a competing quote or contract and try to put together a package which it says may not beat the competitor on price, but will at least match the overall value, considering factors such as product quality, warranties, and installation services.
“We’ll be able to match what we call value because sometimes what you’re going to need is a better panel or system and maybe the price goes up but what you’re getting is better,” Graff explained.
Does Primitive operate in my state? How do I order?
Primitive Power operates in 32 states, plus DC, spread across the country.
The order process starts with a virtual consultation with Primitive consultants who review each individual consumer’s situation and needs and try to match them with a system and plan if there is a fit.
After the customer chooses an installer’s proposal, Primitive and the chosen installer handle design, permitting, utility connections, installation and inspections in consultation with the customer.
Even after a system is up and running, Primitive likes to remain the main point of contact for customer questions about their systems, equipment, warranties and most other issues.
Is Primitive the best choice?
Primitive offers an interesting alternative to other solar companies that work more closely with the equipment that ends up going on your property.
The broker model theoretically offers a partner in your solar journey, but it can be hard to know how much the company’s existing relationships with installers and equipment manufacturers might influence its recommendations.
To really do your due diligence, we would recommend researching any installer that Primitive suggests working with on your own.
CNET doesn’t put a lot of stock in online reviews, but we do note that Primitive Power is accredited by the Better Business Bureau with an A- rating and a handful of complaints over the past three years.
At the very least, it seems worth taking Primitive up on its offer to review a quote or contract you might receive from another solar company.
- Pursues lifetime relationships with its customers
- Provides information on all aspects of going solar
- Willing to analyze and “value match” competing quotes
- Primarily a sales operation
- No standard warranties
Primitive Power reviews: What customers are saying
Internet reviews are a tricky place to go looking for truth, but they can be useful. While individual reviews aren’t likely to capture the entirety of your experience with any given company, reading them can be useful for identifying trends and questions that you haven’t thought of.
Here’s a selection of reviews from Google that give you an idea of what customers are saying.
“We had been very skeptical about solar and their service and explanations of all our questions helped us to realize that solar was the right decision for us. They also made the financing and installation process simple and seamless, keeping us informed every step of the way.” Danica A., February 2023.
“I can truly say that I had no issues whatsoever. The process was super smooth.” Juan A., March 2023.
“When trying to do business with Primitive Power I asked for a price breakdown because their prices seemed very high and they never gave it to me and then wouldn’t call me back.” Danny S., 2021.
How we evaluate solar companies
Primitive Power isn’t getting a score from CNET because its business model doesn’t line up with how we evaluate solar companies. That doesn’t mean that it’s better or worse than the companies that do receive scores, just that we don’t feel we can meaningfully or fairly evaluate it compared to other companies. The lack of score also means it won’t appear on our best list.
CNET doesn’t review solar companies in a hands-on way — we don’t have companies install solar on our homes. Instead we thoroughly research companies and interview representatives to learn as much about them as we can before running the measurable and helpful criteria through a scoring rubric.
We focus on three buckets of criteria to calculate a final score: equipment, warranties and service.
Companies receive scores for the equipment they install, like panels, inverters and batteries. Warranty scores cover guarantees on the panels, workmanship and weatherization against leaks. Companies score high for service if they offer a price match, a meaningful level of price transparency and a well-rated app for monitoring solar production. Their scores are lower if there are obvious issues pertaining to customer service (lawsuits, investigations or clear reputations for shoddy service). These issues will always be detailed in the review.
We don’t consider the average price of a company’s installations in their score because prices vary by system size, roof construction and the state they’re in. Companies often don’t disclose it either. We also leave out easy to find information that doesn’t mean much to a consumer, like how many states a company operates in.
Primitive Power FAQs