Tag: "solar clients"

07/30/18

  08:45:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 500 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, Residential Solar, Ranting

Think Your Solar Investment is Safe? Think Again!

Those of us involved in solar in sunny Southern California generally think that we have it pretty good.  The climate is just about perfect for solar - and by that I mean the political climate, every bit as much as our abundant sunshine.  From the Governor, to the legislature, to the CPUC and the CEC, generally those forces support the growth of not just solar power in general, but distributed, on your own rooftop solar in particular.  But we become complacent at our peril - both to the jobs of those in the industry as well as the investment value of all of those solar installations out there.

A recent story from Columbia, South Carolina brought this peril to mind.  As portions of the state edged closer to the existing 2% cap on net metering installations, the legislature was working on a compromise to lift the cap,  allowing more residents the opportunity to install solar and take advantage of net metering.  The utilities had other ideas - from the Greenville News:

Deep-pocketed power companies outspent the solar industry nearly $3 to $1 as part of an intensive lobbying effort during an S.C. legislative session that included efforts to curb rooftop solar’s expansion in the state.
Electric utilities spent nearly $523,000 from January through May to hire more than three dozen lobbyists to advocate for them at the State House as lawmakers decided what to do about solar incentives.

Yikes.

The result of all that lobbying?  The effort to lift the net metering cap was defeated - and local solar companies are going to be laying off employees (if not closing altogether) while affected residents will either have to forego solar, or find it far less financially viable.

Solar Rights AllianceWe delude ourselves if we think that it can’t happen here.  Utility lobbyists are in Sacramento just as they are in Columbia, and the recent forced change to net metering 2.0 in SCE territory is a reminder that our progress is not guaranteed.

Which brings me to the Solar Rights AllianceWe have written about this important organization before, and will do so in the future.  But I wanted to use this post to show how we are putting our money where our mouth is.  Starting today, we are modifying our solar installation contracts to provide an opt-in checkbox for new clients to be signed up for the Solar Rights Alliance, with Run on Sun making a donation in their name to help support the important work of organizing solar clients statewide.

We are never going to be able to match the money coming from the utilities and their allies.  But what we do have is tens of thousands of happy solar owners all across the state.  If we can organize even a fraction of them, we will be able to speak directly to policy makers and let them know that the value of installed solar power systems must be protected.  That is a fight that we need to take on, and the Solar Rights Alliance (along with our wonderful trade association, CALSSA) is key to winning that fight.

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04/04/18

  02:08:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 793 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Residential Solar, Ranting

Why does a Solar Client Choose Enphase?

Our friends over at Enphase Energy just completed their most recent survey of solar clients who chose Enphase for their PV system.  Since all of our clients for years now have benefitted from having an Enphase system installed, the insights that Enphase gleaned are pretty relevant to understanding our clients here at Run on Sun.  So what did they find out?

Enphase identified three goals for their survey: Determine how homeowners decided to go solar and choose their installer; assess the role of brand name products in the purchasing decision; and see what, if any, questions remained unanswered.  Let’s take those one at a time.

How Enphase Customers Chose Their Installer

Solar companies employ a variety of strategies for finding new clients, from door-to-door canvassing or cold calling leads, to print, radio, or TV advertising, as well as word of mouth.  Of course, all but that last avenue can be trod simply by throwing money at the problem. Hence the very high cost of acquisition that we see for some of the national chains, in some cases upwards of $3,000/client! 

How did Enphase customers choose their installer?  The results are quite interesting:

How did Enphase customers find their installer?

Now that is interesting - over two-thirds of Enphase customers found their installer either by referrals or from doing their own Internet research!  This tracks very closely with our own experience: we don’t purchase leads, we don’t cold-call people, and we don’t go knocking on their doors.  We do devote a lot of energy to having a quality Internet presence (via both our website and this blog), and a significant percentage of our new clients are referrals from our earlier ones.  It looks like we are meeting Enphase customer where they are looking!

It is interesting to see that third result - “My installer found me” - clearly represents all of those things we don’t do!  So that explains why you are still getting dozens of calls and knocks on your door asking you to go solar – for 1 in 5 customers that approach works, at least when it comes to signing on the line that is dotted!  (Actually, we use a solid line, but that’s an issue for another post!)

Oh, and those other forms of advertising?  Looks pretty much like money down the drain – ouch!

The Importance of Product Branding

So now we know how these Enphase customers found installers to consider, but how did they make their purchase decision?  Survey says:

What was your purchase process like?

Not surprisingly, the installer’s reputation was the most important factor, cited by nearly half of all respondents – which dovetails nicely with choosing the installer based on referrals.  

At roughly 30% each, the brand name of the solar panel, and the inverter was important in the decision.  This is interesting to me, and consistent with our experience.  Maybe one client in three has a strong view on either the panel or the inverter when we first speak with them.  Of course, that means LG and Enphase because that is all that we install.   I suspect if you were to look at this question five years ago, the number of respondents saying brand was important to them would have been much smaller.

Oh, and again, the survey shows that we are missing out on one in five potential clients since their installer offered a variety of products from which to choose.  In our view that is something of an abdication of our responsibility as pros.  Our clients want to rely upon our expertise to guide them to the right choice – how are they supposed to know what it the best inverter or solar panel out there?

Questions, questions!

An important part of the installation process is to manage client expectations, and a key component of that is to answer their questions.  So how good a job are installers doing at answering those questions?  Survey says:

Answering client questions

The overwhelming number of Enphase installers are answering their clients questions – good job!  But interestingly, about one in five clients are being left in the dark about questions that they had regarding their systems.  (I wonder if this is the same one in five who had the installer find them?)

For folks who have questions, what is it that they most want to know?  Again, these open questions reflect on the need to manage expectations:

questions about new solar projects

Not surprisingly, the number one question, asked by a 60% of respondents, is how does the production from the solar system relate to their electric bill!  This is an extremely common concern – leading to that famous complaint: I’ve got solar, why is my bill so high?  I think the evidence is overwhelming that solar installers need to do a better job of explaining how these systems will work in real life.  

Are you a recent solar consumer?  How do these results match up with your experience?  We would love to hear your thoughts/experiences in the comments!

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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