Real Goods Solar Review – Who Are They and Should You Purchase Your Solar Equipment from Them?

Oliver

Written by Oliver. Last updated:

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Solar equipment can be very expensive, which is why it is usually treated as a substantial long-term investment, rather than something you just pick up impulsively. With the rising popularity of residential solar power systems, it only makes sense that more people than ever are looking to purchase durable and reliable solar equipment from retailers that they can trust.

While there are plenty of trustworthy solar retailers and distributors out there, it can be a little bit overwhelming to determine which companies will actually deliver what they promise. This is why we firmly believe in the importance of reviewing each and every major solar retailer out there, as this can help our readers avoid making costly errors.

How Can We Help?

To help you understand your options, we are going to take an in-depth look at one of the longest-serving solar retailers in the industry – Real Goods Solar. Not only will we take a closer look at the company’s history and reputation, but we will also explore the solar products and packages that they have to offer. After we have given our overall impression of Real Goods Solar, we will even offer some viable alternatives that might be a better fit for your specific needs.

As discussed above, a solar power system should be viewed as a major investment for your home. By purchasing from a reliable retailer that only stocks high-quality solar equipment, you can ensure that your solar power system will continue to operate for many years, which will allow you to see a return on your investment!

Who is Real Goods Solar?

Real Goods Solar was first founded in 1978, so they are one of the earliest residential solar equipment retailers in America. Real Goods Solar was originally supposed to be a convenient, one-stop shop for residential solar equipment, specifically for those that owned remote homes and cabins that did not have access to electricity from a traditional grid network.

The company was so early on the solar scene that they were actually the first retailer in the United States to sell a solar panel that was specifically designed for domestic, rather than commercial use!

As the brand continued to grow, they began adding more products to their catalog and also started focussing on their goal of transforming how Americans viewed solar power. Rather than just being a convenient way to access power from remote, off-grid locations, they wanted people to begin viewing solar equipment as a way to achieve true energy independence.

Real Goods Solar Publications:

To support their aims, Real Goods Solar wrote and published their highly regarded “Declaration of Energy Independence” in 1991. This document acted as an open letter to anyone that had any interest in off-grid living and creating more sustainable energy solutions for the entirety of the United States. The document created such a buzz that former California governor, Jerry Brown, hand-delivered a copy and over 10,000 signatures supporting it to the White House!

They also wrote a tremendously influential book on solar living in 1982 titled, “The Solar Living Sourcebook”. This book acts as a comprehensive resource for anyone that is looking to get started with off-grid living. Today, the book is on its 14th edition and it has sold over 600,000 printed copies in over 40 different countries!

Real Goods Solar Today:

In 2019, Real Goods Solar was acquired by altE Store, which is a major online retailer of solar equipment. Through altE Store’s much larger network, Real Goods Solar is now able to offer a wider range of solar products.

They are still based out of their original location in Ukiah, California, and continue to offer renewable energy resources to customers on the western coast of the United States and beyond.

What Does Real Goods Solar Offer?

While they may have started out with a fairly limited inventory, Real Goods Solar now offers a wide range of solar power kits, as well as individual pieces of solar equipment that can be purchased on their own.

Their expanded catalog has a lot to do with the altE Store takeover, as both companies now stock many of the same products for roughly the same prices. With that being said, Real Goods Solar tends to focus almost exclusively on solar equipment, whereas altE Store also offers wind turbines and other non-solar products.

The Delta Max is Wi-Fi enabled, which means it is compatible with EcoFlow’s user-friendly mobile app. You can monitor everything from charge output and input information to the brightness of the LCD screen from your smartphone, tablet, or computer.

As we will explain in greater detail, it also means that the Delta Max is compatible with the new EcoFlow Smart Generator, which can efficiently and automatically charge your solar generators using gasoline when they need a boost.

Real Goods Solar’s Products

The Four Main Product Categories:

Real Goods Solar’s product catalog can be divided into four main categories – off-grid solar, grid-tie solar, grid-tie solar + backup, and solar water pumps.

Within each of these categories, Real Goods Solar offers several kits, as well as individual solar panels and mounting systems that can be used to expand the kits. For the most part, the kits are designed for those with relatively limited power requirements.

For example, out of their four grid-tied + backup solar power kits, the largest only offers 12kWh worth of storage capacity. While this can be really useful for residential power systems that are primarily designed for emergency backup, it is not quite enough power to convert an entire home over to solar power.

Product Quality and Pricing:

For the most part, the components within Real Goods Solar’s kits are of a reasonable standard. They carry products from some of the higher-end brands, like Sol-Ark, as well as some of the lower-end brands.

In terms of pricing, the kits are reasonably affordable, but they do not offer the best value on the market. This is down to the fact that most of their kits do not plainly state that they do not include some of the components you are almost required to add. Instead, they list certain items, like mounts and batteries, as optional upgrades, rather than necessary components within a complete solar power system.

If you are just looking at individual components, rather than solar kits, it is possible to find some reasonable deals through Real Goods Solar, however, they are fairly limited when it comes to options. Like you often find with the solar kits they carry, their individual components are limited in terms of their power capabilities. For example, their lithium solar batteries mostly sit under 3.8kWh, so they are not really useful for whole-home backup applications.

With all of that being said, almost everything they sell comes with free shipping, which is a really nice feature. Given that solar equipment can be very heavy and bulky, not having to pay hundreds of dollars in shipping fees for each component can really add up to some hefty savings!

Who Are Real Goods Solar’s Products For?

Given that their solar kits are relatively small by the standards of most residential solar power systems, it is fair to say that Real Goods Solar has remained focussed on those that are looking for limited off-grid power in remote areas. This means those that own off-grid cabins, tiny homes, small farms, and others that live in modest homes away from the grid would find their solar kits to be very practical. In fact, they even sell solar kits that are specifically designed for tiny houses.

While they offer grid-tied and hybrid solar power kits, they are fairly limited in size and power capabilities, which means there is a good chance that they would not be sufficient for a large-scale house, unless they were just being used to reduce monthly electricity bills or act as a backup power system for blackouts, grid failures, and other emergency situations.

What is Our Overall Impression of Real Goods Solar?

There is plenty to like about Real Goods Solar. For starters, the fact that they have been in continuous operation since 1978 is incredibly impressive. They have undoubtedly contributed an incredible amount to the solar movement, especially when you consider their advocacy for off-grid living. Their many publications are informative and raise many compelling arguments for the advantages of using solar power systems to live a more independent and sustainable lifestyle.

In terms of their products and prices, Real Goods Solar stocks high-quality components at prices that we find to be very reasonable. With that being said, they do not offer some of the higher-end equipment that you can find through some of the larger retailers.

They tend to gear their products towards those that are looking for small-scale solar power systems, rather than those with greater power needs. Given that they place such a clear focus on this smaller off-grid and grid-tied systems, we also find it very surprising that they do not carry any solar generators or solar generator kits.

If you are looking for a solar water pump, Real Goods Solar carries plenty of options. Those living off-grid that rely on a well for their water will find these offerings very interesting.

Put simply, we would certainly recommend browsing the Real Goods Solar online store if you are looking for a small-scale solar kit for your tiny home or cabin, but if you are someone that is looking for a more powerful option for a full-sized home, you may want to look elsewhere. We also recommend taking a look at solar generators from some of the other retailers out there if you are someone that values portability.

Real Goods Solar Pros & Cons

Pros

Cons

As you can see, the pros and cons for Real Goods Solar are just about even. This means they are a great option for some, but the company does have its limitations. If you are looking for a small-scale system for your tiny home or off-grid cabin, you may find exactly what you need by shopping through their online store.

We also highly recommend purchasing and reading their off-grid solar living handbooks, as these are excellent resources for those that are just starting out.

Potential Alternatives?

If you are looking for something that Real Goods Solar does not carry, such as a whole-home solar kit, or a solar generator, there are plenty of options out there to choose from.

One of our favorite options is ShopSolarKits. Not only do they carry many of the products that Real Goods Solar does not stock, but they also offer solar kits for just about every budget and need. Best of all, they design all of their solar kits to be as beginner-friendly as possible, which means they come with every single component you need, and they come with straightforward wiring and assembly guides.

Who is ShopSolarKits.com?

As mentioned, ShopSolarKits specialize in a wider range of solar products and kits than Real Goods Solar. Where Real Goods Solar’s main focus is roof-mounted, small-scale solar power systems, ShopSolarKits offers solar kits for just about every budget and power requirement.

Above all, ShopSolarKits specializes in pre-assembled solar kits that range from beginner-friendly, plug-and-play kits, to large-scale whole-home and off-grid kits.

What we like the most about this retailer is the fact that all of their solar kits actually come with everything you need. This includes everything from mounts and brackets, to solar cables and connectors. Where Real Goods Solar and other retailers often make you add items at an additional cost, when you purchase a solar kit from ShopSolarKits, you know that you will have everything you need to start storing and using solar power.

With that being said, they also sell individual components, so you have the option to upgrade or replace any piece of equipment in your current solar setup.

Why ShopSolarKits?

Another thing we really like about ShopSolarKits is the fact that they offer true lifetime customer support. Whether you have purchased one of their complete kits, or you have only ordered a few solar panels, ShopSolarKits guarantees that they will always be there to answer your questions and support you.

While their low prices are certainly appealing, the variety of their solar kits and their beginner-friendly nature are the most impressive features of what they sell.

What Do They Sell?

They sell traditional grid-tied and off-grid solar kits, as well as complete solar generator kits.

If you are unfamiliar with solar generators, they are incredible pieces of solar equipment. Basically, they are all-in-one units that contain a deep-cycle battery, a charge controller, a power inverter, and a wide range of output ports. All you need to do is connect a solar generator to an appropriate number of solar panels and you have portable, off-grid power that you can use anywhere.

As mentioned, ShopSolarKits sells a wide range of solar generators and solar generator kits. These kits package solar generators from some of the best brands in the industry with an appropriate number of solar panels. They offer these kits at low prices and often promote sales and discounts, so you can double down on the savings.

Like their other solar kits, they also come with wiring and installation instructions, so even the least experienced individuals can get them up and running in no time.

For example, their EcoFlow Delta MAX Quad Kit contains a highly versatile 2,016Wh / 2,400W solar generator with four 12V monocrystalline solar panels. You also get all of the cables, plugs, and connectors required to get it up and running in minutes. All of this is available for just over $2,500! This is ideal for beginners, those with basic power needs, and anyone that is on a tight budget.

We encourage you to browse their entire Solar Generator Kit Collection to find a wide range of kits that can meet just about any need.

For those with greater power needs, they also sell a range of Whole Home Solar Panel Kits, which come with everything you need, including high-capacity battery banks. While Real Goods Solar also offers some off-grid solar kits, their kits are smaller and lack the power you can get with some of the Whole Home Solar Kits sold through ShopSolarKits.com.

Final Words

Real Goods Solar is a great company with a long history and a well-earned reputation. While they may not carry exactly what every consumer needs, their products, and resources will certainly be of interest to many customers.

Just keep in mind that many of their kits are designed for tiny homes and off-grid cabins. If you are looking for something larger, or you just want a more beginner-friendly option, like a solar generator kit, consider shopping through ShopSolarKits.

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