QuickBOLT: Sunnova AVL listing, Miami-Dade approval, and expanding product line | The Pitch

QuickBOLT Sunnova AVL Pitch

Quality solar system products – from the modules to mounts – prove their value and compliance by testing to standards and getting UL listed. But there are other markers of industry acceptance – such as approved vendor lists (AVL) for financiers and warranty providers – that provide even more peace of mind.

Example: Solar mount, screw and eBOS product supplier QuickBOLT was recently listed on Sunnova’s AVL. As of its Q1 2024 earnings call, Sunnova has provided energy services to over 438,000 customers, and partnered with over 2,100 dealers and new homes installers in over 50 U.S. states and territories. Not only does that make QuickBOLT products available to Sunnova installers, but it earns QuickBOLT a little extra cache.

We chatted with Mike Wiener, Systems Manager at QuickBOLT, about the AVL approval process, the value of a Miami-Dade County approval, and what new products are coming out next, on this episode of The Pitch.

CC: What is significance for QuickBOLT being on Sunnova’s AVL?

Wiener: “We’ve been working really hard on the back end with Sunnova for quite a while to get this through. The significance is that Sunnova is one of the largest financers and warranty providers for solar installs in the country. They’re huge, and we have a large customer base across the country that does utilize Sunnova for financing their jobs. Acceptance onto their AVL means that our products are now available for specific use on Sunnova jobs.

Well, what does that mean? What’s Sunnova doing differently than others? Specifically, they have very strict requirements on a per job basis. They have teams dedicated to reviewing each job, and those are often more rigorous than what the AHJ is doing and what their inspectors are doing. Installers have to take photos, and they have to submit photos and other information that goes beyond the minimum that the inspectors and AHJs are requiring, which is already quite a bit.

Big picture: approval on their AVL is another point on the scale for the industry confidence in our products and the services that we can provide our customers.

CC: What products in particular are approved by Sunnova?

Wiener: The great thing about Sunnova’s AVL, is they do an initial evaluation, and our whole product line is on their AVL. There are maybe two products that are just new enough that we are bringing on the market now that won’t be on this month’s AVL, but then after the initial batch, we can add new products for evaluation. On a monthly basis, as we come out with new products, the Sunnova AVL will be updated.

CC: QuickBOLT was also the first mounting supplier listed on Solar Insure’s AVL. In general, what is the AVL approval process like?

Wiener: Each company’s different, but they do follow certain patterns. If you think about what’s their underlying goal — why do they need to approve anything at all? Because they are warranting the jobs. They are taking responsibility for maintaining the quality and life of that solar system. So ultimately they want to know that their jobs are going to pencil out after 10, 15, 20, 25 years.

CC: With how many products you have available, and with more coming, and given the long timeline and the hurdles to prove a product’s worth – especially something new that hasn’t been tested over 5 or 10 years — how do you decide what new products are worth pursuing?

Wiener: There’s a lot of competing interests, and what we try to focus on is solving problems. There’s plenty of products that we get suggested or people ask us to make, and it’s not really solving a problem. They just think it’d be cool — which we do, sometimes. But that can be a distraction from what we believe we’re good at, which is solving problems and serving our customers’ needs.

Sometimes those needs can be really niche, and sometimes they can be very common problems. A lot of our tile hook lines have been developed out of niche problems with a large volume. For whatever reason, Southern California just has developments that were made with one kind of tile from a tile company that’s no longer in business. So we made a hook that has really specific needs.

So, there’s that side of it. But then there’s the other side of it: Common problems that have a large market. A good example of that would be the QuickBOLT. When we first released it, there was no field testing for that kind of product. Now we’re 14 years down the road and we have a lot of field testing for it. The combination of needs for a customer we can look at is:

• What sort of things have changed since we’ve released the product initially?
• What sort of improvements can we make?

In the product development process, we don’t just focus on new products. We focus on existing product lines. How can we improve a product? How can we make something a little bit better for our customers so that they can get a little bit more edge out of what they’re doing?

On testing and certifications, that’s a big factor. Our history working on woodworking fastening for specialty screws. There’s not nearly the same level of testing certifications required for making woodworking screws. The testing and certification process always plays a crucial role in what we want to do because it significantly increases the amount of time to bring a product to market. We’re pretty good at it now. Mounts all follow generally the same approval process. They might vary between areas of the country like Miami-Dade for example, but they all kind of follow the same thing.

CC: Miami Dade County approval comes up a lot …

Do you find that people care about this beyond Miami-Dade? Will in AHJ in Omaha be like ‘my gosh, this one’s approved in Miami-Dade. OK, we’re good to go.’ Does that carry any extra weight?

Wiener: We find it to be somewhat regional, and it really depends more on say the weather systems than the proximity to Florida. … Texas has hurricanes, so there are parts of Texas and installers there say ‘Oh wow, Miami-Dade. High wind Zone. We get it.’

CC: Which mounts of yours have been approved by Miami-Dade to this point?

Wiener: The QB2 was our first one. That includes the variations because with each QuickBOLT we have a variety of options available with different L feet and different size micro flashing, or if you want the mini flashing to go with that. Any variation of the QB2 is approved for Miami-Dade.

Just recently, our butyl bottom deck mount. Same thing with that [in terms of variations], we have a silver finish and a black matte finish, and we are coming out with a split top product very soon. That’s an example of taking an existing product line and saying what more value can we add here without coming up with an entirely new product?

We’re also pursuing Miami-Dade approval for our stone-coated steel line. We’re jumping back into the process. This one we expect to be slightly different. Both products we have put through Miami-Dade approval are both for asphalt, but the stone-coated steel line is slightly different in execution given that it’s a metal roof, and the way the roof works with the tiles overlapping, essentially.

CC: Let’s look at some new products …

First, on the wire management side, you have a few new products. You have an expanded line of conduit clips, and QuickBOX junction box. What’s different about those?

QuickBOLT conduit clips

Wiener: The conduit clip line is following an existing product line we have where we had a gap. That was the EPDM conduit block, which we’re now calling The Puck. People love that because it’s so simple. Given that adoption by the industry [we decided to] complete the line, so now we’re bringing in the clips. You can get the clips, you can get the kit with the block and the clips, or you can get just the block if you already have your own clips.

That’s something we do. We kit almost every product we have. You can get just the mount, you can get just the screws, or you can get a la carte individual pieces. We’re able to do that because we have a really efficient system for warehousing and the way we’ve set up our sales systems.

The QuickBOX is another step toward that BOS market. We think it’s a clever design in terms of how the internals are laid out, and how the mounting is completed to the roof. We’re adding butyl to the bottom, which is not new in terms of the product because we have the butyl deck mount, and there are obviously other companies using butyl. But we find that people in the industry, they just love it. Over the last two and a half years, we’ve seen the entire industry take a huge shift toward the product, So coming out with a junction box with that sealing option seems like a no-brainer to us.

The prevailing method for junction boxes is slightly different than the mindset for mounts. Most of the industry might cut away the shingle because it’s coming more from a roofing perspective. For the rest of our product lines, we say don’t tough the shingle, that’s a big ethos of ours. So, for the junction box, we’ve got to be a little bit flexible on that because that’s what our installers are already doing. We can get halfway there between where we think the industry should be, and what they’re already doing, by offering a bit of a step in between where we think the industry is going to go.

On the mount side, you’re now promoting RibRider — another great name from the QuickBOLT team — a new corrugated metal roof solution. You have other metal roof mounts so is this an update over a previous product design? Or does it fit a new specific niche that you hadn’t filled in yet?

QuickBOLT RibRider

Wiener: The corrugated roof is an interesting roof type for us. In California, there’s a lot of buildings, especially agricultural buildings, that are commercial or industrial structures with metal roofs, but they still have wooden rafters. The RibRider is essentially a deck-mounted product that doesn’t go into the rafter. It screws into the metal roof itself, the corrugations. That just opens up the available options for our customers because we can fill that need.

Anything else we didn’t cover today that you wanted to mention coming down the road?

Wiener: We’ve been bringing in T-bolts now. That’s another niche part of the install but there’s enough demand there that we evaluated it and said we can bring this in. It’s a natural evolution of the product line. As I mentioned, being able to buy the pieces a la carte, you can do the same thing now with T-bolts for our products. If you want the QB2 with T-bolts, that’s a kit. If you want the Deck Mount with T-bolts, that’s a kit. And if you just want T-bolts, we’ve got those by themselves.

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