Baby boomers are the second-largest generation — and represent a vast, underserved customer base for the solar industry. On top of their sheer numbers, studies show that energy consumption increases with age, and that 77.8 percent of baby boomers in the United States are homeowners. So why aren’t they installing solar panels on those homes? Statistics show that Americans between the ages of 50-64 are the lowest percentage of solar panel owners.
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According to a recent survey of more than 2,000 people conducted by Mosaic, the overwhelming majority (80 percent) of homeowners over age 58 report that reducing their personal impact on the environment is important to them. But the Mosaic survey found that 64% of the same group said they were hesitant to get solar panels.
Clearly baby boomers are prime candidates for solar panels, so what’s holding them back?
Hurdles to boomer solar adoption
According to Mosaic’s survey, the number one reason for baby boomers’ hesitation was the price — almost 70 percent listed cost as their top concern. This should not be surprising given that many baby boomers may be approaching retirement, already retired or living on a fixed income.
Roughly another quarter of respondents said they were flat out intimidated by the whole process and didn’t know where to begin. Along the same lines, 19 percent of those surveyed said they thought the amount of time and coordination the process required wouldn’t be worth the hassle.
Essentially, baby boomers just don’t see how solar fits into their lifestyle.
Solutions: How to make solar attractive to baby boomers
Selling baby boomers on the benefits of solar panels is just a matter of meeting their needs. After all, it’s not the idea of solar power that they’re against; it’s the uncertainty around the process of adopting it — or at least their perception of the process — that concerns them.
The data confirms it: roughly one-third of those surveyed reported that they would consider getting solar panels if there was a simple-to-follow process for it, they had the ability to finance the cost over time, or they knew friends who’d had positive experiences switching to solar power.
These results confirm what Mosaic learned after talking with people in this age group who had already gotten, or were in the process of getting, solar panels for their homes. The biggest drivers that led these homeowners to switch to solar revolved around having their specific lifestyle needs met.
3 keys to meeting baby boomers’ needs
So what’s the secret? How do you get baby boomers on board with going solar? It turns out that you can do three things that will go a long way to turn this reluctant audience into solar panel advocates.
- Partner with a trusted source. Many of these new solar converts received in-person information via educational events at local community centers. It turns out free educational events at places they know and trust (like the library) are a great way to reach this audience and dispel misconceptions about solar panels.
- Make it simple. Some homeowners were also offered a simplified way to take on the project with their peers via a local co-op. These co-ops handle the entire process — from obtaining permits and hiring local contractors to offering group price reductions and more. When the process is handled via a “one-stop shop,” it becomes much more obtainable.
- Provide predictability. Perhaps most importantly, this group was also excited by the fixed-expense option that solar provides. Financing solar panels can not only reduce monthly cost (vs. utility bills), but it can also create a reliable, fixed expense during retirement years. That’s something over three-quarters of those surveyed said is important to them.
Ultimately, winning over baby boomers isn’t about selling them on the importance of green energy or how solar panels fit into the equation. It’s about removing the obstacles, real and perceived, that stand between this group and adoption. That means meeting their specific lifestyle needs. Make it easy and affordable, and you’ve got a whole lot of homeowners willing to go solar.
John Bumgarner is General Manager of Solar and Storage for Mosaic, a leading financing platform for U.S. residential solar and energy-efficient home improvements. Bumgarner is a longtime solar industry professional with nearly 15 years of experience managing new partner development and training, business intelligence and portfolio management. He works closely with Mosaic’s clients throughout the solar ecosystem including OEMs, distributors, installers, sales organizations and SaaS platforms.
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