How (and why) to pitch service packages in off-grid solar projects

In off-grid battery-based systems, the maintenance involved with traditional flooded lead-acid batteries can give installers issues. Customers might not want to do it, or (maybe worse) they agree to do it but mismanage it in some way, compromising the health of the batteries.

On this episode of The Pitch — an SB side project where we chat awkwardly with manufacturers about their ideas and innovations so you don’t have to — Jeff Myles, marketing manager of Rolls Battery, says solar installers should consider offering maintenance packages to help avoid both of those scenarios. Some highlights:

How are these are structured?

Myles: One of the things that installers will do when they are interviewing the customer to determine what their usage needs will be … one of the questions that they would want to ask the customer is “what is going to be your level of involvement in the management of this system? Are you comfortable with performing specific gravity tests on the cells in the battery periodically?” And when I say that, I mean every maybe every six to eight weeks. If they’re not interested in doing that, then you would provide them options like a sealed battery, for example, to take that aspect of the maintenance away, or if they’re relatively engaged and willing to make that commitment, then the installer may be able to offer a maintenance service.

The installer would come out maybe once, twice or three times a year to do a full inspection of the system, check all of the system components, make sure that every aspect of that off-grid system is in check, and also to see whether or not it’s actually operating as efficiently as it could be. Sometimes there’s some tweaking involved in programming. Oftentimes we don’t like the customer to kind of fumble around with that, so the installer is kind of better suited to do that because they’ve been trained on how to work with that equipment.

If you do that more often, the system will last a lot longer for the customer.

Words of caution when putting a service plan together?

Myles: Installers need to factor in your time and cost of travel, but also look at what the customer’s expectation is with this system as far as the number of years of service. If you are telling that customer this battery bank is going to last 15 years, then you’re setting up a scenario where you now need to meet that expectation.

The other thing is if that customer lives in like a remote location, it may not be as accessible for the installer to go out and be able to do it, and the installer may be reluctant to pitch the idea of doing a full service package where they go out and routinely check because that transit time is cutting into their opportunity to service another customer. So you would have to build that in and set that expectation with the with the homeowner.

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