How to reduce truck rolls and increase home solar reliability

solar installer doing a service call

Contributed by Matt Powers, founder of Virtue Solar

The solar industry continues to grow, and more and more aging solar systems require servicing. Each service call carries a cost for the customer, but also the solar industry. Solar customers are often promised unparalleled reliability and 25-year warranties on their equipment. But what about labor?

Many solar companies offer no service warranties, and the moment something in the PV system fails, the customer has to pay out-of-pocket. Some solar companies offer a very low upfront system cost with lower-quality equipment, but they sacrifice long-term quality along the way. This can lead to unexpected system failures, lower customer satisfaction, and a reduced return-on-investment.

Solar customers deserve peace of mind when they invest in a new system, and service warranties are one of the best ways to provide that assurance.

Service warranties ensure that a solar customer’s investment is safe, and that their system will perform for years to come. Solar companies, however, need to make sure that they are not overwhelmed with service calls, and that they can keep their truck rolls to a minimum.

Installing PV systems that are resilient and reliable is crucial, to not only protect the solar customer’s investment, but also to enhance the reputation of your company and the industry. You can reduce your service truck rolls by focusing on quality system design, long-lasting components, high-quality installation, and customer education.

The problem with truck rolls

Truck rolls, or service calls, are not just costly, but they also contribute to pollution, lead to a bad customer experience, and waste precious administrative time. It’s important to note that the cost of a truck roll is not just the direct expenses associated with the service call, such as labor and transportation costs, but also the indirect costs, such as lost productivity and potential damage to your solar company’s reputation. Therefore, minimizing truck rolls through preventive measures and efficient problem-solving can lead to significant savings and improved customer satisfaction.

The importance of good design

A quality solar system starts with good design. Solar systems design is your chance to maximize production, eliminate unnecessarily complex elements, and make sure that the system is easy to service in the future. Some crucial design principles:

  • Ensuring proper string lengths,
  • accurately modeling shading,
  • reducing unnecessary junctions,
  • limiting length of wire-runs,
  • leaving space for servicing, and
  • reducing design complexity

A well-designed solar system not only performs efficiently but also requires less maintenance (O&M), leading to fewer service calls and lower costs in the long run.

Long-lasting components

Inverter failures are the most common cause of serious system failures. Be sure to avoid low-quality electronics and make sure everything has a strong manufacturer’s warranty. Avoid inverters, optimizers, and RSD devices that are unproven in the market or that have a poor track record. Choosing high-quality, durable PV components can significantly increase the lifespan of a solar system, reduce maintenance costs, and improve system performance. Furthermore, using components with a strong manufacturer’s warranty can provide additional peace of mind to the customer and assure them that their investment is protected.

High-quality installation

Investing in training and certifications is crucial. As stated in a recent NREL study, “Installation quality significantly impacts overall system reliability.” Having a well-trained team who can identify issues and correct them during installation is one of the most important ways to minimize service calls and liability.

Solar installation professionals should ensure that all cabling and wire terminations are properly secured, clearly labeled and protected. Ensure that solar panels, racking, and inverters are installed according to manufacturer’s specs to limit issues down the road.

Solar installers should confirm that the system as-built is the same as the original plans. Installers should set up remote monitoring with a direct ethernet connection whenever possible. If an issue does occur, you’ll have good data to figure out what went wrong, and where.

As installations are completed, make sure that there is photo documentation of how the wiring was installed, where the conduits run, and how the racking was laid out. Good documentation of what was done, including photos, conversations, and any special considerations, can help catch problems early, or speed up the diagnostic process when they occur.

Customer education

Educating customers about their solar system can also help reduce service calls. Customer education improves the experience they get with your company and eliminates unnecessary inquiries about how their system works. If you often get calls from customers that aren’t sure if their system is working or not (it is), then focusing on customer education can help mitigate unneeded truck rolls.

Another benefit of customer education is that customers will be better informed if something does go wrong, and they will be more likely to identify it early. This means it can be fixed quickly, saving the homeowner costs, and improving their overall experience.

Conclusion

In conclusion, reducing solar truck rolls and enhancing reliability in residential solar systems is not only crucial for customer satisfaction but also for the sustainability of the solar industry as a whole. By …

  • implementing service warranties,
  • prioritizing quality system design,
  • investing in long-lasting components,
  • ensuring high-quality installations, and
  • educating customers

… solar companies can significantly minimize the need for service calls while providing peace of mind to their customers. Ultimately, this approach not only protects the customer’s investment but also strengthens the reputation of the company and the industry, paving the way for a more resilient and reliable solar future.


Matt Powers is the founder of Virtue Solar, a solar installation company in Charlottesville, VA. Matt is a Master Electrician with over ten years of experience installing and managing solar operations. Matt is passionate about sustainability, outdoors, rock-climbing, local food and music, and wants you to have a great day.

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