The following article will appear in the Jan./Feb. issue of Solar Builder magazine. Sign up for your free subscription (print or digital) today.
1. Education tools.
Often, the biggest hurdle for selling solar is a lack of understanding by potential customers. Energy costs can be hard to understand, not to mention the value propositions of different financing methods or the basic effect of the investment on home value. Luckily, more guides are available to aid in your explanation.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), How Owning a Solar System Impacts My Home Value: A Guide to Valuing Residential Solar Energy Systems, walks consumers through the various methodologies that professionals use to value a solar system and provides homeowners with tips along with a recommended valuation method. In the guide, SEIA advises readers to focus on the projected income a solar system will generate for the owner over its expected lifetime. According to a recent study by Sandia National Labs and Energy Sense Finance, that approach is typically used to determine value in home appraisals in major solar markets.
But the education shouldn’t stop at the sale. Smarter homes are starting to make the general public more aware of their energy use, which is also a helpful nudge toward selling solar systems. Smappee Plus is the coolest device for this that we’ve seen. It measures real-time energy use from household appliances, offering valuable insights into a homeowner’s energy use and production. Smappee Plus is the only energy monitor that combines load disaggregation with submetering technology to provide real-time data also for appliances with variable output –such as air conditioning, electric vehicles, heatpumps, etc. Consumers are able to see how much energy a device uses and its daily, monthly or annual energy costs. Consequentially, owners can make informed decisions on their energy consumption (e.g. when to buy a more energy efficient fridge) and act to save on energy costs and efficiency.
Smappee Plus is also the only energy monitor that you can program to take on the role of an “energy traffic controller” in the home. The product can automatically steer excess energy production, such as solar power, to appliances in order of preference, further increasing a homeowner’s energy efficiency and cost savings. You can choose from numerous “recipes” that automate certain actions.
2. Comparison shopping
The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) has a wealth of information on incentives and policies that support renewable energy and energy efficiency in the United States, including solar. In order to make that info more accessible to those who need it, when they need it, the DSIRE teamed up with EnergySage, an online comparison shopping marketplace for solar. EnergySage and its full set of tools are now available through DSIRE, including comprehensive solar data on pricing and savings.
Like DSIRE, the EnergySage Solar Marketplace provides consumers with access to a free, unbiased content library built to simplify the process of researching and going solar. By collaborating with EnergySage, DSIRE is offering consumers the option to seamlessly move from education and research, to evaluating their solar options online.
3. Stronger protection
Two stigmas to address here: 1) The worries of some customers (especially in a market like Ohio) of relying so much on the sun for energy when it feels like it’s cloudy all the time. 2) The reality that some solar systems are installed with subpar quality equipment that either underperforms, or fails but can’t be replaced because the company that provided the warranty went out of business.
One defense is always installing quality equipment by trusted brands with solid warranties. Another new concept is looking to third parties that guarantee performance for the lifetime of a PV system. Omnidian, for example, is a nationwide provider of comprehensive protection plans for investments in residential solar systems. Omnidian’s performance guarantee includes 24/7 continuous monitoring, proactive service alerts and 100-percent covered hardware and software through a nationwide network of field service professionals, as well as 100-percent guarantee of promised energy or plan owners will be reimbursed for energy loss.
Omnidian’s proprietary technology integrates with all major third-party monitoring platforms and quickly identifies underperforming assets requiring field service dispatch. The firm partners with a nationwide network of pre-certified field technicians. Omnidian’s 100-percent performance guarantee transfers solar energy production risk away from the asset owner. This risk transfer secures the solar energy investment, enhancing asset security and liberating capital.
4. Streamline payments
Solar contractors are in a constant battle against soft costs, so every gain in efficiency helps. Frequently installers have disparate and fragmented systems in place for their billing and payments that increase the cost of their cash and require high degrees of financial and IT labor. Operationally, these legacy systems often mean solar businesses are taking a combination of extremely expensive credit cards (fees of 3 percent or more!), manually intensive bank payments, and a staggering number of paper checks that delay cash settlement. Rarely do these payments tie back to the financial systems or the POS/invoices, so manual labor and reconciliation end up introducing needless costs in lost productivity and customer maintenance.
In 2018, consider a new cash management process: from accounting software, to invoice, to receivables, to payments, to settlement, to reconciliation. PayStand is one such cloud payment suite. With PayStand, solar distributors, manufacturers and installers, can take payments across multiple channels such as PayStand’s 0% network, as well as echeck bank transfers, and wholesale ACH and card transactions all-in-one system. Further, PayStand works directly with invoices, automating financial processes alongside accounting software, and ads powerful management & reporting capabilities.
PayStand has recently added Allterra Solar, Geoscape Solar, Gunthers, and Simplify Solar to its ranks of solar customers. With PayStand, these new customers are enjoying the many benefits including: faster time to cash, a frictionless customer payment experience, automation & improved billing efficiencies, and significantly reduced transaction costs.