Tesla vs. Swell Energy for Powerwall Installation

The new construction home I purchased from KB Home included solar panels from Swell Energy who offered me the option to add a Tesla Powerwall for $14,700. Luckily, I was able to include the cost in my mortgage! But was it worth it?

The Good

During this time, I had a fear that the Powerwall would not be there when I closed on my home because I’ve been hearing stories about Tesla Powerwall orders that were delayed for months. Fortunately, when I did a walkthrough a few weeks before I closed on my house, it was there! My solar panel’s PTO was also enabled before I closed, so I didn’t have to worry about it. Overall, I am pretty pleased with the buying process.

Additionally, what I really enjoyed with Swell is the customer service. Unlike Tesla, I can email someone and they’ll respond with an actual answer within a day. When you call Tesla for Powerwall support, expect to wait hours on the phone.

For those installing a system in California, Tesla already ran out of its SGIP credits whereas Swell Energy did not when I had my system installed, thus I was able to get the SGIP credits, which was $1,740 for me. Something to consider, but not a deal breaker when selecting a system, and these credits will eventually be depleted.

The Bad

$14,700 was a few grand more than the price Tesla was quoting online for a Tesla Powerwall, so it was definitely more expensive. However, I consider the higher price a way to jump the queue and make sure the Powerwall was installed before I closed. Additionally, the additional cost was partially offset by the SGIP credits I received. I am guessing Tesla prioritizes these third party sellers because either they pay more or prefer not having to worry about installation.

Even though Swell installs the Powerwall, you still have to contact Tesla for many Powerwall issues. For example, Tesla hid the Energy Exports option from me and Swell couldn’t help; they told me to call Tesla, which did in fact solve the problem. Ideally, Swell handled more of the customer service.

When installing the option, Swell did not explain the options to me. I didn’t realize, until I moved in, that my house was only partially backed up. I would’ve paid more to fully back up my house or at least install the system so that I could easily fully back up my home in the future (for example by installing a Span). Instead, I am simply left with sadness as a lot of the calculations and features on the Tesla app do not work properly for partially backed up homes.

As of this writing, my biggest struggle with Swell Energy is that they have an agreement with Tesla to not allow any of their customers to join a Tesla VPP. Because I am not in the Swell service area for their VPP (most likely because my home is new construction), I am currently unable to join any VPP. They have been discussing with Tesla about giving me an exemption to this agreement for weeks, which I have little hope for, as they have just stopped responding to my follow ups.

Would Not Recommend

Overall, I am pretty happy with Swell Energy. If you are getting a Tesla Powerwall from them, make sure you learn my lessons and ask questions about how much of your home is backed up, whether you’d be eligible for SGIP or other credits, and whether you can join their VPP. Perhaps the biggest reason I would use Swell Energy over Tesla is because I am a fan of Enphase Microinverters and have read way too many /r/TeslaSolar posts about Tesla’s inverters failing and their customer support sucking.

However, if I were to get solar again, I would just buy directly from Tesla. It’s cheaper, you can join the VPP, you can get the new Powerwall 3, and Tesla’s inverters are fine. I don’t see the need of going to other solar companies.

If you decide to buy from Tesla, use my referral code! If you’re interested in installing from Swell Energy, let me refer you and I’ll give you a third of my commission!