Solar Panels For Your Home: Things You Will Want to Know

Solar Panels for Your Home

Solar panel technician with drill installing solar panels on roof

In the last article I wrote about how we got started with considering solar energy for our home. Now, we’ll do a deeper dive and take a look at the exact buying process that we went through which will provide important insights for consumers who are preparing to get solar panels for their homes.

If you are a solar installer,  ​then you'll benefit from gaining an understanding of what your potential customers are thinking or asking before they buy from you.


We’ll also take a look at the top 10 questions that we had and you’ll be able to get a free resource.


As a consumer, this will help you navigate smoothly through a buying process for such a great investment as solar energy. We also include tips that may be helpful to the solar installers from a marketing perspective and as they look to connect with customers.


OK, let’s get straight into it then…


1.Where Do You Start With Solar?


You’ve probably been thinking about it for a while. Maybe it’s been a background thought or something that has started to interest you. You’ve seen it in the news, read about it online or seen an ad.


But if you are like we were as someone new to solar energy, then you may not know how it all works. (The short video in this post does a nice job at demonstrating how a home solar power system works) 


As we researched more solar companies we felt that many could have done a better job at bringing it all together for us in the beginning and given us a clearer picture of how solar would work for our home.


It would have been helpful to have a cheat sheet or a guide to reference. My wife is a bit a bit of a researcher so she went online to learn more and we discussed what she found.


Solar Installers: Are you providing a quick “Getting Started with Solar” Guide or similar resource to your potential customers?

We can help you with this too as we've already created many resources for our clients - just get in touch with us for a complimentary strategy session and consultation.

2. What Should We Do BEFORE We Get Solar For Our home?


This was a really important question for us that we discovered only after we had been pitched by a few solar companies.


Every home is different of course, but as we learned more and did our homework, we discovered that our attic insulation was significantly deteriorated. If we shored up our insulation it would improve the energy efficiency immediately which would affect the size of the solar installation that we needed, So we did - we also had radiant barrier installed and that gave us a better home-base to move forward with on solar.


It may make sense for you to assess your needs before you install solar.


We were impressed that the solar installer we chose recommended that we get our roof replaced before investing in solar. To be honest, it wasn’t what we wanted to hear because we were so gung-ho about getting solar installed as soon as possible, but...it was what we needed to hear.


Our roof had maybe three to five years max left. If we got the solar installed first and then had to take the panels down a few years later, we would pay for the removal and refitting of the solar system around the roof. But by doing the roof at the same time, we were able to benefit from the Federal Tax Credit on our roof also. So the solar installation and the roof would qualify for 30% tax credit which made perfect sense for us.


Homeowners can also check with their local energy companies - some offer complimentary energy audits which give you a report on home improvements you can make to gain energy efficiencies.


Solar Installers: Are you educating your customers on best practices to prepare for solar or sharing ideas on how to make their home more energy efficient? What are you doing to be the authority in your industry? Are you able to offer customers tips or resources that will help them maximize the value from their solar installation?

3.”Why Should We Buy From Your Company?”

There’s not a single person who doesn't ask this question.


As we got into it, there seemed to be lots of companies offering solar panel installation so we had to do decide who would be the best fit for our needs. Some companies said they were best price, others promoted superior products, In the end we made a decision based on what we perceived as best value for our situation.

I think Solar companies should be aware of who they are trying to attract and speak to them in a unique and personal way. Educating consumers on the benefits of working with your company are important as is the use of customer testimonials and experience.

Solar Installers: This is an opportunity to stand out from your competition and position your solar business as a leader in the market or you may decide to specialize in a niche segment. For example “We specialize in bringing solar power to single family homes who want to save money and go green!”

 What are you doing to educate your potential customers on the value that your company brings to the table and how you differentiate yourself from the competition.? Are you demonstrating experience or highlighting customer reviews? Establishing and communicating a clear competitive advantage is important for our clients - if you want to stand out from the crowd and win your unfair share of new solar customers, just get in touch to set up a strategy session with us and learn what you can do.




4. “What Products Do You Use?”

This was a part of the process that involved some real education and there was surprising lack of information from some of the solar companies. Some did not even have images of the panels with their proposals. We eventually learned that we could buy solar panels from Suniva to Hyundai. Some solar panels were made in China and some were made in the US. Obviously companies will source from different manufacturers. Some people may not care, but we wanted know what we were buying and you might too.

Solar Installers: What car do you drive? Is it foreign or domestic? Was it a great deal or did you care more about the luxury aspects? Some people care a lot about the origin of their products. Others just want best price. How are you positioning the VALUE of your products and service?


5. How Will Solar Panels Look On Your Home?

Solar Panels For Your Home

I’m a visual person and it was important for us to get a picture of the solar installation, where the panels would be fixed and how our home would look. Only one company showed us this.

Solar Installers: A picture paints a thousand words. Help homeowners visualize how their home will look with your products and move them a step closer to becoming YOUR customer.

Image: PV Rooftop Layout for Our Home - 32 Solar Panels

6.Mono or Poly?

(For a quick explanation on these terms you can check out the Solar Installation Dictionary.)

The company we chose was helpful in explaining some of the differences here but again we needed to use the internet to get a better understanding.

We learned that, polycrystalline solar panels are not quite as efficient as monocrystalline solar panels and have a lower space-efficiency.

Poly solar panels also tend to have slightly lower heat tolerance than mono which would mean that they perform slightly worse in the high temperatures that we typically have here in Florida. One company sent a salesman who did not even know if they used Mono or Poly.

Solar Installers: Consumers are doing more research so you should make sure that you are positioning your company as the experts and the authority. In your proposals you should detail your products and describe why your recommendation is a good fit for their needs.

7. “What if You Want to Get Additional Panels Later?”

This is a fair question.

Some folks will want smaller PV systems while others may want large systems to totally eliminate their electric bill or even sell back to the grid.

We wanted to know how much it would cost to add more solar panels later, after the installation. Again it would have been helpful to know this sometime upfront.

Solar Installers: Can your company stand apart from the competition by offering a ‘price-lock’ where your customer locks in the same great rate if they need to add panels within the next 1-2 years?

One of the components of our Solar Customer Acquisition System is an automated reminder sequence for potential customers who may be on the fence. Our clients have higher conversion rates and you can too. Just get in touch to find out how.

8.How Much Will it Cost and How Can You Pay?

Solar panels for your home

a) How Much Will It Cost?

Each proposal that we looked at was similar in the fact that it broke down the purchase price and net cost after incentives, which is great. But what would have been really helpful for us, and saved us a lot of over-and-back, would have been a breakdown of payment options.

b) How Can You Pay?

We wanted to know exactly what payment options that we had and how they worked. We kind of needed someone to spell it out for us. People don’t want to have to get calculator out if they don’t have to.

Of course you can pay cash. But the 12 month 0% financing was extremely helpful for us and an option that we selected. We also went through with a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) which was a better option for us over the financing offered by some of the solar companies.

In the end it took us a while to evaluate all the financing options and actually the company who explained these to us the best was the one we ended up going with.

Solar Installers: Don’t assume that your customers are finance experts. You can help them by mapping out a few payment / financing scenarios and include it in your proposal. Speak to your customers on their level.

9.Peace of Mind: Warranties & insurance?

a) Warranties

All of the solar companies we spoke to had a warranty of some sort, but it was not always apparent or easy to find. I think it could be highlighted by companies a bit more.

Solar Installers: Warranties are important. Make sure your warranty is easy to find and demonstrates value to the customer. Removing any perceived risk as early as possible in the buying process is always going to be a smart move

b) Insurance

My wife kept having these visions of a leaky roof. Sure enough when we read through the proposal with (the company we chose), we discussed the warranty for contractor workmanship and they put our mind at ease.

Solar Installers: Are you getting ahead of the question and putting your customer's mind at ease by making your insurance and warranties easily understandable?

10.We’re ready! How do we get started?

It was a little surprising for us how some companies really didn’t make it clear exactly how we would move forward. With this being our first time to be involved with solar and with so much other stuff going on in our lives, we needed to know exactly how to get started. Where do we sign….?

Solar Installers: Don’t take anything for granted. Make it easy for the customer to say yes. When you ask for the sale show them the exact steps involved in getting solar panels installed for their home. This could be something as simple as bullet points within your new customer proposal.


























The Solar Installation Dictionary

Solar Dictionary

As with any decision you make, it's important to understand the language and terms that you're dealing with. Before we got solar for our home, we didn't know the difference between mono or poly, or what an inverter was. Browse our FREE Solar Installation Dictionary below and get the lingo down before you put the panels up!

Solar Panel

A panel exposed to radiation from the sun, used to heat water or, when mounted with solar cells, to produce electricity direct. [Dictionary.com]

Photovoltaics (PV)

Solar cells, also called photovoltaic (PV) cells by scientists, convert sunlight directly into electricity. PV gets its name from the process of converting light (photons) to electricity (voltage), which is called the PV effect. [www.nrel.gov]

Kilowatts

The kilowatt hour (symbol kWh) is a derived unit of energy equal to 3.6 megajoules. If the energy is being transmitted or used at a constant rate (power) over a period of time, the total energy in kilowatt-hours is the power in kilowatts multiplied by the time in hours. [Wikipedia]

Inverter

A solar inverter, or converter or PV inverter, converts the variable direct current (DC) output of a photovoltaic (PV) solar panel into a utility frequency alternating current (AC) that can be fed into a commercial electrical grid or used by a local, off-grid electrical network. [Wikipedia]

Mono

Monocrystalline silicon (or "single-crystal silicon", "single-crystal Si", "mono c-Si", or just mono-Si) is the base material for silicon chips used in virtually all electronic equipment today. Mono-Si also serves as photovoltaic, light-absorbing material in the manufacture of solar cells.. [Wikipedia]

Poly

Polycrystalline silicon, also called polysilicon or poly-Si, is a high purity, polycrystalline form of silicon, used as a raw material by the solar photovoltaic and electronics industry. [Wikipedia]

Net Metering

This is where you as a homeowner receive credit from your utility company for electricity that your panels produce but you don’t use (e.g create excess power in the summer and sell it back to the grid). Net metering is currently available in every state with the exception of Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and South Dakota. Check with your utility company regarding their net metering policies.

Considering Solar Energy For Your Home? Our Solar Experience (Part I)

So excited for solar

Taking a break from my normal writing on digital marketing, I wanted to focus an article on solar. I think that the timing is perfect as we see a shift in consumer sensitivity towards our environment and heightened awareness of renewable energy thanks in part to the Tesla’s of this world (an interesting marketing story of its own) but also the presidential race. Hillary Clinton’s vision calls for half billion solar panels, or about 140 gigawatts of solar, to be installed in the U.S. by 2020, and enough clean energy to power all homes by 2027. Now that would be a game-changer and a huge step forward for the US to not only progress with renewable energy but also to catch up with other nations.


I also believe that Solar energy plays into my philosophy of generating results -positive results that the end user benefits from. In this case, we look at consumers who can reap the rewards of going solar and also the companies who provide the solar installations.


On top of this, my family and I had been exploring getting solar panels on our home and from this, we found ourselves in a position to tell a story about the process.


So as you read on, my goal is that you will:




  • Get a clearer picture of the consumer benefits of solar energy

  • Understand what a typical family solar buying process looks like (taking a liberty by calling my family typical!)

  • Decide if solar may be a good option for you



Background Snapshot


Since I was a kid, renewable energy has been super-interesting for me. Growing up in Ireland, I remember seeing the first wind-turbines appear across the country in rural parts.


Interesting side note: According to this article from TheJournal.ie, in 2015 wind turbines generated 23% of Ireland's average electricity demand, one of the highest electric grid penetration values in the world and Ireland is now set to start seriously investing in solar energy also.

Welcome to Florida USA


But in 2004 I swapped the ‘four-seasons-in-a-day’ climate of Ireland for the sunshine state of Florida. Somewhat surprisingly however, there really hadn’t seemed to be very much solar energy production in this state.


According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, ‘Florida, “the sunshine state,” ranks third in the nation for rooftop solar potential, but all the way down at 14th for cumulative solar capacity installed’.


Now, as many readers will understand, there are various reasons for this relative lack of pace with solar in Florida including somewhat unprogressive renewable energy policies to this point.


However, I am excited to say that Floridians took a step forward in August 2016, by voting Yes on Amendment 4 which supported providing tax exemptions for solar power equipment.


How We Got Started With Solar


We purchased our home at the end of 2014 and as new homeowners we were excited to make it our own. My wife and I spoke about looking into solar a few times, but we never really had the time to sit down and explore it seriously.


Then one day as the kids were napping, she saw an ad in her Facebook newsfeed, offering a free solar calculator. She filled it in and got a report on what it would cost, the amount of energy it would provide and our lifetime savings from solar. We were then contacted later that day by a solar company who answered some of our preliminary questions and they set a date later that week to give us a full energy audit, including solar.

As my wife says, “Education on solar power was important for us”. She is definitely more of a researcher and a planner, while I prefer to boil it down and make a decision.


Now we had the ball rolling on evaluating solar for our home. As we did our research and understood the advantages of having solar panels installed on our home, it became clear that we would achieve quite a few benefits.


Why We Chose Solar


My wife is from Washington state and we enjoy periodic visits back to her hometown of Kelso where we stay with her parents (they have a hot tub and cool outdoor shower). As a youngster, she enjoyed listening to Willie Nelson. Since we met, I have teased her for being a hippy 😉


Coming from Ireland and growing up in the country, the environment has always been important to me - so renewable energy and solar definitely resonated with us. We could feel good about helping the environment.


But that alone, wouldn’t have been enough for us to move forward. We’re a young family, still establishing ourselves and my wife left her job to focus on raising our two young boys, so economics plays a part in our decision-making too.


Solar checked that box also. In fact it checks a few financial boxes:

  • Eliminating or heavily reducing our electricity bill: Our 9.6kw system (32 panels) will reduce our average monthly electricity bill from $160 per month to close to practically $0.

  • Increasing the value of our home: According to an article by Fannie Mae, homes with solar panels sell for more because they offer a definite financial benefit to the future owner. We estimate that our system will add $20-30k in value to our property.


On a really basic level, instead of paying for an electricity bill every month, we’ll be contributing towards an investment in our home and our environment. One can’t help but feel good about that!


Federal Tax Credit



As if that wasn’t enough, we also have the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which has been extended through 2021. This is a real beauty for a number of reasons. From our family standpoint we get to clip 30% off the total cost of our solar installation!


But from a macro position, the ITC continues to help sustain the growth of solar in the US and according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the Solar industry is expected to add over 200,000 new jobs in the US by 2020.



Things You Need to Know When You Go Solar.

The short video below from Mark Jones does a nice job of explaining how a home solar power system works. Take a peek and then we can continue on with our story and get into the nuts and bolts of investing in solar for your home...

When it comes time for you to speak with a solar installer and get a proposal, you may also want to check out The Solar Installation Dictionary for your home.

So now let’s do a deeper dive and take a look at the exact buying process that we went through to get solar installed on our home.


We’ll also take a look at the top 10 questions that we had and you’ll be able to get a free resource to help you consider what’s best for your needs when having solar installed on your home.


Just head on over to this article...