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5 Solar Roofing Best Practices That Will Help You Get Referrals

Posted by Allison Ruedig on Jul 9, 2020 6:23:41 PM

You’ve probably encountered prospects who are excited to go solar...until they start to worry about someone drilling holes in their roof.  

They get nervous about possible damages, leaks, or their roof not holding up under the weight of the solar panels. It doesn’t help when they inevitably go to Google and scroll through a few horror stories of what happened to other roofs of unsuspecting solar customers.

Believe it or not, this is where your solar company can actually stand out from competitors. By making sure you’re using proper installation practices, you can build a strong reputation for high-quality, reliable, leak-free installations and increase your solar referrals. 

Here are the 5 questions that you can ask to avoid common mistakes and create happy customers and enthusiastic referrals:

1. Is the Roof Ready for Solar? 

Solar installation best practices begin well before anyone sets foot on the roof — especially if that roof needs more preparation before going solar. 

It’s important that you never risk your company’s good reputation by agreeing to install solar on a damaged or unsuitable roof. To assess if the roof is ready for solar, here are a few questions you should get answers to: 

  1. How much longer will the roof last? (Since solar panels last 25+ years, ideally the roof will too.) 
  2. Does the roof leak?
  3. Can the roof carry the added weight of a solar panel system?
  4. Is the roof in a condition to bear regular solar panel maintenance?

If it turns out that the roof needs to be replaced, that doesn’t mean you’ve lost the sale. Discovering this information for your potential customer will help you build valuable trust with your prospects. They’ll likely appreciate your honesty and keep you at the top of the list to use your services once their roof is ready. 

2. Am I Using the Correct Roof Materials?

It’s important to match each roof to the best installation materials possible. Beyond the usual considerations, such as solar panels, racking, ballast, and other materials, it’s good to look at the type of roof you’re installing these components to. 

Here are a couple of roof types that require some additional equipment: 

Tile Roofs

Although concrete tile roofs are usually ready for solar, installers occasionally run across an older version, known as the clay tile roof. 

Since clay tiles are too brittle to bear solar panels, a solar installation on that roof will require what’s called a “comp-out process.” This involves replacing some tiles with shingles and then installing the panels on top of the shingles. 

This process requires not only extra shingles, but also extra tiles that match those on the original roof, which will replace any tiles that are still visible after the solar installation.

Pro Tip: If you’re remotely designing a system for a tile roof, try to find out the tile material before sending a quote. Many installers will price themselves out of an installation because they assume the tile roof is made of clay tiles. If you find out that the roof uses concrete tiles, you can provide a much more competitive quote since you know you won’t need a comp-out process.

Flat Roofs

Most solar installers love installing on flat roofs since there’s usually no need to drill holes. However, flat  roofs do require the following:

  • Additional brackets: to tilt solar panels at 10-25 degrees
  • A roof pad: to prevent the heavy ballasted system from perforating the roof membrane
  • Cold-resistant concrete ballast: to improve longevity as some concrete ballast breaks down if exposed to repeated below-freezing temperatures

3. Am I Using the Right Design for This Roof?

What works perfectly on a particular shingle roof (such as rail-less mounting) may be a disaster on a tile roof, and vice versa. While most common roof types work well with solar, each type has unique installation needs

Moreover, each individual roof always differs in its size, water flow, available space, obstructions, etc. When designing a solar panel system, you should take into account:

  1. Type (tile, shingle, or tin) 
  2. Slope (or, with flat roofs, lack thereof)
  3. Available space
  4. Sun exposure 
  5. Direction
  6. Obstructions 
  7. Necessary walkways
  8. Water Flow

If this sounds like a lot of variables, that’s because it is. But thankfully, you don’t have to crunch all the numbers yourself. 

A top-notch 3D solar design program, like Aurora, will give you the best-fit and most productive roof design based on your parameters. Aurora’s Smart Roof feature can automatically take into account most of these considerations. And if you’re really pressed for time, you can use the built-in solar design service, which will have a professional designer create and deliver the perfect design for your project within three hours.

4. Am I Using Good Installation Habits?

Even the best solar system designs and materials are only as good as the team who installs them. While it can be tempting to finish up a job quickly, a dissatisfied customer with a leaking roof will not only cost you a good review, but possibly dozens of potential referrals.

Here are a few common bad habits when it comes to solar installations and how to avoid them:

  1. Surround roof penetrations, especially lag bolts, with flashing. Flashing is a metal or plastic shield with an additional tar or rubber seal around it, which also has a final waterproofing sealant.

  2. Clean up all debris and ballast material after installation. Extra debris can often get caught in pipes and clog up the house’s water system.

  3. Don’t leave heavy tools lying on rooftops, even for a short time. The weight can often weaken or even puncture the roof membrane and cause unnecessary leaks.

  4. Don’t drag solar panels or racks across rooftops. Their weight can also cause leaks and their edges can scratch roof materials and membranes.

To create a leak-free PV system, you need to have the right design and the right installation practices. Following these simple best practices doesn’t cost much, but it will make sure that you secure those positive reviews that are crucial for your business. 

5. Do I Offer a Solar Maintenance Plan?

Offering a solar maintenance plan is not only a great way to increase long-term revenue, but also a great way to continue receiving positive referrals from happy customers. Even though a solar panel system is relatively low-maintenance, both it and its roof need some TLC once in a while to keep them performing at their best. 

Here are a couple of easy ways you can help customers maintain their solar system:

  1. Recommend the customer installs screens and squirrel guards to protect the roof from animal activity. The spaces beneath solar panels can encourage animals to nest or chew on wires, so preventing them from getting on the roof in the first place is recommended.
  2. Offer to inspect the solar pv system annually. Maintaining a clean PV system can prevent energy loss due to soiling and other roof-related issues.

These practices will ensure that your customers enjoy a long and satisfied experience with their high-performing solar PV system — and make them far more likely to send positive referrals and reviews your way.

Topics: solar installation

How to Read a Solar Panel Specification Sheet

Posted by Lisa Cohn on Mar 4, 2020 8:33:25 AM

A solar panel spec sheet provides valuable information about the operating parameters of a panel, and can help designers, engineers, and installers determine how to configure a solar PV system.

"The panel spec sheet will tell you about the panel's electrical power production, including its efficiency and how it operates with changing temperatures, as well as mechanical information like the dimensions and wind loads,” says Andrew Gong, research engineer for Aurora Solar. "This information is required to get an accurate performance simulation," he adds.

Understanding the Pmax Rating

The first value people should pay attention to is the maximum power point (Pmax) rating.

“Maximum power point is a combination of voltage and current,” he says. It’s the combination of volts and amps that creates the highest wattage.

“If you lower the current and increase the voltage, you move away from the maximum power point,” says Gong. 

Typically, solar panels are rated between 250 and 400 watts. Higher wattage generally means a system will be more efficient and require fewer modules.

Voltage is Important

Voltage is also an important consideration.

If, for example, a designer decided on 12 panels in a string, it’s important to make sure the voltage doesn’t exceed certain thresholds.

“You want to size the system so it doesn’t exceed 600 volts per string,” Gong explains. Above that, the panel won’t operate as well.

Solar Panel Efficiency

Installers, engineers, and designers should consider efficiency ratings. On average, solar panel efficiency ranges from 15% to 20%, with some panels as high as 23%. As cell technology improves, so do efficiency ratings. 

A spec sheet also provides information about the assumptions used to create a panel’s operating parameters. 

For example, SunPower's spec sheet provides a range of temperatures, from -40 C degrees F  to 85 degrees C. That’s listed under Operating Condition and Mechanical Data.

“In colder temperatures, panels operate a bit better,” says Gong.

What to Read Next — Solar Panel Wiring Basics: An Intro to How to String Solar  Panels

In Extreme Weather, Consider Temperature Ranges

The temperature ranges of modules generally are between -20 degrees C to +85 degrees C in the U.S. In areas with more extreme temperatures—such as Alaska—installers and designers should be aware of panels’ temperature ranges.

Another value is the operating cell temperature, says Gong. “Some panels run hotter than others. This value tells you how modules respond to various levels of sunlight.”

It’s also important to understand current in panels. Under the heading of electrical data, a spec sheet provides a rated current.

“If you exceed the current, you destroy the panel,” says Gong. “Maximum current depends on the panel and how many parallel strings in the system,” he says.

Ratings That are Important in Areas With High Winds

In areas of extreme weather—those susceptible to high winds or snow—installers should pay attention to the mechanical or static load ratings.

The front side rating focuses on the snow load, and the back side rating is about the wind load.

The load figures appear in Pascals, a unit of pressure. Higher numbers mean the panel is stronger.  

Warranties Can Vary

Spec sheets also mention warranties. Most have 25-year warranties, according to Gong. Some manufacturers offer a 90% warranty for 10 years, and decrease that amount as the panels age. Premium panels have better warranties.

Once you’ve gathered this and other data from a spec sheet, you can load the data into  Aurora Solar or other software and create a picture of how the panels will fare.

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Topics: solar design, solar installation

Lessons From Down Under: Ways to Lower PV Solar Soft Costs

Posted by Sara Carbone on Apr 17, 2019 9:00:00 AM

In recent years, costs for solar in the United States have come down, largely due to decreasing solar PV module costs. However, soft costs—including customer acquisition and the cost of services like installation, interconnection and permitting—have remained high, now making up approximately 64% of the total cost of a new solar system. If those costs were reduced it would help make solar more widely accessible in the U.S.

Australia’s thriving solar market offers a number of lessons about how contractors can reduce soft costs. Solar contractors there have focused on creating more efficient processes, resulting in increased profit due to more installations in less time.

This article explores the findings of a 2014 report on Australia’s solar market from the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) entitled Lessons From Australia - Reducing Solar PV Costs Through Installation Labor Efficiency.

See how your solar contracting business can work smarter with Aurora.

Background on Australia’s Solar Industry

Australia has a booming solar industry. Currently, 20% of Australian households have rooftop solar. Clean Energy Regulator General Manager Michelle Crosbie states, “Australia has the largest uptake of household solar installations and capacity per capita in the world.”

The Australian solar industry has experienced significant growth in the past few years. Electricity generated by new rooftop solar was 86% higher than the average annual growth during the previous three years, and utility-scale PV output is projected to reach more than 1 TWh in 2019. And the number of small business solar installations grew from over 9,663 in 2017 to 16,596 in 2018.

There are several reasons why the country’s rooftop solar market is doing so well. There is considerable policy support from federal and state governments for PV systems less than 10kW, and residential electricity prices are very high compared to those of other countries. Both the sunny climate and the fact that a large percentage of Australia’s houses are stand-alone structures with large roof spaces make it a region conducive to solar. Finally, prices are low for solar, with the typical system cost averaging about $7,000 compared to $16,000 in the U.S.

While many of these differences are beyond the control of solar contractors, when it comes to this final difference, the cost of solar installations, Australia may offer some lessons for the U.S. solar market.

Australia's solar industry offers lessons for the U.S. Twenty percent of Australian households have solar installations. The Australian solar market offers some lessons for the U.S. industry, according to a study by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and Georgia Tech Research Institute.

Lessons for American Contractors

The RMI/GTRI report has a number of insights for American solar contractors about ways to lower costs around installation labor. The authors acknowledge that there are certain fundamental differences in the structural and policy context of Australia’s solar industry. Some of these include the country’s high electricity costs, simplified permitting process, streamlined architecture, and greater efficiencies regarding building and electric codes.

However, the authors of the report highlight a number of instructive best practices that have led to a shorter, more cost-effective installation processes in Australia. While the report found that the American median total install time is 9.4 labor hours per kW, it states that “based on benchmarked Australian installers, our analysis highlights an opportunity to reduce total installation time by nearly 2.3 labor hours per kW, thereby approaching the Australian median total install time of 6.1 labor hours per kW.”

The report suggests that the primary way to do this is for U.S. PV contractors to make efforts to shift their installation practices to make one-day installs more common.

See how Aurora helps solar companies grow revenue, cut costs, and impress their  customers!

An Expedited Installation Process

The report found that Australian solar contractors spend approximately the same proportion of time on each category of installation activities as U.S. companies but are able to perform discrete activities much more quickly. This is due to their use of highly specialized roles and simplified processes and components.

Pre-Installation Process Optimization

There are several aspects of the pre-installation process that have been streamlined by Australian solar companies. They have shorter prep time for activities that take place before arriving on site.

At the warehouse, contractors prepare and load the trucks more quickly, partly because their trucks are stocked with universal equipment and loaded with system-specific components by job. The study authors suggest that American contractors could benefit from increased warehouse organization and task identification.

On-site pre-installation is simplified, with system installation often beginning within approximately 20 minutes of arrival. Australian contractors demonstrate high levels of task specialization and efficiency when loading and unloading racking and mounting materials. Modules are largely prepped and fully unpacked before arriving on site. Additionally, less time is spent setting up safety gear, though this is partly due to differing roof types and local safety requirements in Australia.

Lessons from Australia, like streamlining equipment pickup from warehouses, can help reduce solar costs in the USThe study authors suggest that efforts to streamline the pre-installation process, including equipment pickup, can help reduce U.S. solar costs. 

Faster Racking Installation

While Australian system components and finished products are similar to those of the U.S. market, differences exist regarding the sequence of activities and implementation of specific components.

In Australia, bases and rails are ready to be installed with minimal preparation. Contractors have more efficient processes around array measurement and squaring, moisture protection installation for racking and mounting system base components, and preparation for clay tiles.

Given the predominance of clay tile roofs in key U.S. markets, it is helpful to note Australian solar contractors’ expedited install process for them. They assemble bases prior to roof transfer or use a very simplified base design that requires very little assembling.

They also opt for bases that self-seal or reduce the need for additional flashing and choose racking systems that require fewer base attachments and penetrations. Integrated or rail-less racking systems decrease installation times by removing an entire hardware component.

In an effort to expedite the install process, the RMI/GTRI team is working on a new racking design that includes features like minimal base preparation, integrated string and grounding management, and no conventional rails.

Solar racking is streamlined in Australia, particularly for tile roofsRMI and GTRI found that racking approaches that require less preparation and installation time have helped make one-day installs common in Australia.

Simplified Electrical Procedures

There are certain aspects of the electrical and monitoring systems that help expedite the installation process. Grounding and combiner box activities tend to have simplified component and overall system design. Australian contractors use grounding systems with a fewer number of contact points with the racking systems and choose combiner boxes that allow for a faster installation process.

Off-roof electrical processes are also expedited, largely due to the use of fewer system output monitoring meters. American companies typically install two meters on a single PV system while Australian solar companies often don’t use any. The RMI/GTRI report states that “time spent on off-roof electrical activities to connect the solar array to the home electrical panel is consistently the highest (or tied for highest) cost area of any of the bucketed activities.” Given this, the team is developing PV-ready electrical circuits that would accept a single connection from a PV system.

Conclusions

By implementing processes that move them closer to a one-day installation, American contractors could see a $0.10/W reduction in total install cost according to the study authors. The RMI/GTRI authors state “the 9.4 labor hour per kW in the U.S. can be decreased to 7.1 if our key changes are undertaken to improve process efficiency and work towards a one-day installation goal.”

High soft costs have been a stubborn problem in the U.S. solar market, hindering solar cost reductions that could make the technology accessible to more Americans. Applying some of the tactics that have contributed to greater installation efficiency in Australia could help American solar businesses put a significant dent in that vexing issue.

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Topics: solar installation, solar industry

Solar Has Played a Key Role in Job Creation and Economic Growth: Why That Matters and Trends You Should Know

Posted by Gwen Brown on Aug 30, 2017 12:00:00 AM

Did you know that one in every 50 new U.S. jobs created in 2016 was in solar? We often think of the value solar energy offers in terms of bill savings and environmental benefits, but it also contributes substantially to the US economy through job creation.

Solar is adding jobs faster than the rest of the economy, and employs more people than most other energy sectors. Add to that the fact that solar offers meaningful jobs with living wages, and it’s clear that the solar industry is creating economic opportunity both on an individual level for workers and for the U.S. economy more broadly.

Data on recent trends in solar employment not only provide a lens for communicating the importance of the solar industry—essential for advocating for supportive policies—but also offer insights on steps you can take to set yourself up for career success.

We explored the results of The Solar Foundation’s 2016 Solar Jobs Census —a rigorous survey of actual employers—as well as data for 2017 thus far. Whether you’re a business owner evaluating the landscape for growth, or an industry professional assessing your job prospects, these findings can help you know where you stand and identify opportunities to get ahead.

Solar is a Major Source of New Jobs

Between November 2015 and November 2016, the solar industry added 51,000 new positions. This growth (24.5%) resulted in a total of 260,077 industry workers at the end of that period. During this time, the industry added $84 billion to the US GDP!

In 2016, jobs in solar were added nearly 17 times faster than the overall economy. And, while 2016 was a banner year for solar growth (fueled in part by the anticipated expiration of the ITC), this strong growth was not an anomaly. The industry grew at a rate of 20% annually for each of the prior three years. In total, since The Solar Foundation began conducting its annual Jobs Census in 2010, industry employment has grown 178%, creating over 166,575 new domestic living-wage jobs.

Solar Employment Growth by Sector 2010-2016, from the Solar Jobs Census Source: National Solar Jobs Census 2016, The Solar Foundation, available at: SolarJobsCensus.org (Figure 1, page 9).

Solar also provides more employment opportunities than most other energy industries. Solar ranks second among energy industries in the number of people it employs, slightly exceeding the natural gas industry and surpassed only by the petroleum industry. Solar employs twice as many people as coal, three times as many as wind, and five times as many as nuclear energy.

In the words of Curtis Seymour , Program Director, Renewables and Grid, at the Energy Foundation, “Rapid growth in the U.S. solar industry is helping drive a profound transformation of our economy, bringing quality jobs to communities, lowering costs for families and businesses, and reducing America’s contribution to climate change.”

Looking at 2017 and Beyond

At the time of the 2016 Solar Jobs Census, surveyed employers anticipated an additional 10% increase in solar jobs by the end of 2017. While the year isn’t over and data to assess this projection isn’t yet available, it’s well known that 2017 has been a tougher year for solar—particularly compared to last year’s record-breaking growth.

Slower growth has been observed in both residential and non-residential sectors, a number of prominent industry players have experienced bankruptcies , and a pending trade case brought by bankrupt solar manufacturer Suniva is creating significant uncertainty.1 Market research released in June by GTM Research and SEIA predicts that new solar capacity this year will be 16% less than 2016. However, it’s important to note that this still represents growth; a total of 12.6 GWdc of new capacity is forecasted to come online.

Longer term, however, there are many reasons to believe that the outlook for solar is bright. According to the same market report, over the next five years total installed solar capacity is expected to nearly triple, and by 2022 over 17 GWs of solar are expected to be installed annually. And, with cities and states increasingly making commitments to address climate change , including California’s mandate of 50% renewable energy by 2030 and a recent commitment from several Northeast states to reduce carbon emissions 65% by 2030 —there are strong indications that the solar industry has plenty of growth ahead.

Expected Solar Employment Growth from 2016-2017, from the Solar Jobs Census 2016 Source: National Solar Jobs Census 2016, The Solar Foundation, available at: SolarJobsCensus.org (Figure 2, page 11).

Solar Jobs Offer Economic Advancement

Not all jobs are created equal and there is a big difference between a job and a career. When examining the job creation impacts of solar, just looking at the number of jobs created doesn’t capture the full value of industry growth. It's essential to note that jobs in the solar industry are relatively well-paying and offer living wages.

The Solar Foundation’s Solar Census reports a median 2016 wage for solar installation jobs of approximately $26 per hour and approximately $45 per hour for sales and distribution workers.

Median Hourly Wage for Solar Installation Workers by Region, from the Solar Jobs Census 2016 Source: National Solar Jobs Census 2016, The Solar Foundation, available at: SolarJobsCensus.org (Figure 18, page 41).

The solar industry also provides paths for low-wage workers in other roles to transition into positions with sustainable wages. The Solar Census notes that workers can make this transition in as little as 12 months with training in solar technologies, and that apprentice and entry-level workers in construction trades can advance into higher paying solar installer positions.

In the words of George Hershman , Senior Vice President and General Manager at Swinerton Renewable Energy, “It’s really a wide range of people that get hired into this industry... a great aspect of this business is that it isn’t an exclusionary trade. It’s a teachable job that can create opportunity for people and give them a skill.”

Actionable Insights for Job Seekers and Employers

Responses from employers about the hiring process indicate that there is strong demand for workers with industry experience. Almost a quarter of employers reported that it is “very difficult” to find qualified employees and 80% reported that it is at least “somewhat difficult.”

By far the leading reasons that solar employers cited for difficulty in filling open positions were 1) lack of experience, training, or technical skills; and 2) insufficient qualifications (certifications or education).

Reasons for Difficulty Hiring in the Solar Industry, from the Solar Census 2016 Source: National Solar Jobs Census 2016, The Solar Foundation, available at: SolarJobsCensus.org (Figure 16, page 39).

Across all sectors in the industry, solar employers consider experience to be the most important hiring requirement. Experience is required by 65% of employers, while just 32% require a bachelor’s degree.

Difficulty Hiring by Solar Industry Sector 2016, from the Solar Census 2016 Source: National Solar Jobs Census 2016, The Solar Foundation, available at: SolarJobsCensus.org (Figure 14, page 37).

These trends offer valuable insights on how you can improve your prospects, whether you’re an employer or an employee. For job seekers, the importance of experience in the solar sector indicates that seeking out opportunities to gain hands-on experience is a great move for increasing your desirability. Some organizations and programs that provide training include:

As an employer, connecting with these types of programs that offer training and experience can provide a pipeline of qualified hires. Another potential source of great hires is the Solar Ready Vets program , which trains exiting military personnel for careers in solar. Interviews with industry employers have indicated a high degree of skill transferability between military occupations and solar jobs. Interested companies can sign up to be added to the program’s employer directory.

Why This Matters

Keeping a pulse on industry trends can help advance your solar career. Knowing patterns in job growth and projections for the market can help you prepare for booms (or busts). And, understanding the challenges employers face in filling new roles offers insights on how to make yourself more marketable.

More broadly, understanding the economic benefits solar provides is essential to effectively advocate for the industry. Many of the benefits of solar energy—like clean, carbon-free energy and utility bill savings—are well known, but the industry’s positive contributions to the economy are often overlooked.

The substantial job growth resulting from the rise of solar tells an important story. Narratives used to oppose supportive policies for solar are often based on ideas this trend proves wrong. These include the idea that sustainability must come at the expense of economic growth, or that other energy industries are significantly more important for jobs. The next time you confront these misconceptions, we hope this employment data comes in handy.


  1. At the time of writing, the pending trade case brought by bankrupt solar manufacturer Suniva presents a major uncertainty for the growth of the market. The company is requesting a price floor on PV modules; if approved, a substantial contraction in the market is widely expected.

For an update on the state of the solar job market in 2017, see our follow-up article, How Are Solar Job Markets Performing Around the U.S.?

Topics: trends, solar energy, solar installation, employment

A Roofer's Guide to Going Solar - with Michelle Meier

Posted by Marion Wellington on Dec 3, 2016 12:00:00 AM

This is an installment of our Solar Spotlight series

Michelle Meier

With a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering and a decade of solar experience, Michelle Meier is one of those people you want in your corner and never on the other side of the ring. She is the founder of Solar Roof Services, a company that helps roofing contractors boost their income by adding solar installation services to their existing book of business. I had the opportunity to peek inside the mind of the woman who is helping drive the adoption of solar by monetizing the natural synergies between the solar and roofing industries.

Tell me a bit about yourself and your relationship to solar over the years.

I started in solar in 2007. I have a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering and I was in the semiconductor field for 20 years before solar. When I decided to reinvent myself I got hired by a roofer in San Jose and started their solar division. I learned solar from a roofing perspective from day one, which is really unique in the industry.

I later went to work for GAF and became their national solar sales director, essentially incorporating their residential roofers into solar. When we decided to part ways, I thought "I've done this for two other companies, let me do this for myself."

What exactly does that entail?

I teach roofers how to take their roofing business and extend it to solar. It’s logical. We do that by partnering them with their current favorite electrician! I created an office that lets that contractor have no overhead. Our office does what you guys call a proposal, I call it a financial analysis. We do all of the utility paperwork, the permit package, and I even connect them to distribution. I help roofers turn every single roof lead into a solar lead.

3D site assessment on AuroraMichelle trains her clients to use Aurora for their remote site assessment or creates projects on their behalf.

You’re a seasoned marketer in the solar industry. Can you describe the solar landscape from your perspective?

My best way to describe it is—when I started doing this 10 years ago, people would look at you and say “Oh my gosh, you have solar?” Another five years from now and it’s gonna be exactly the opposite: “Wow, you don’t have solar?”

In terms of the feasibility for homeowners getting solar, it varies. In California with the rates the way are, it’s almost stupid not to get solar when you can do the "no money down" options. No matter which financing option you go with, if you’re paying less for your solar payment plus whatever’s left on your utility bill than your current bill, it’s just stupid not to do it. I work with other states where it’s a little bit harder.

However, the industry is ours to win or lose. Mar our reputation or build a great reputation, it’s ours.

10 years ago, people would look at you and say “Oh my gosh, you have solar?” Another five years from now and it’s gonna be exactly the opposite: “Wow, you don’t have solar?”

How do you help the industry win?

I come at it from the roofers. One of the things that we’ve found over the years is an average home has 14 penetrations. A bathroom vent, a kitchen hood vent, other normal penetrations on the roof of a typical home. An average solar system has 25-50 penetrations. So you took that 14 to 64! How much more of a chance did you make of having a leaky roof? Why is Joe Blow allowed to poke all those holes in a roof and not have it inspected?

The direction that I come from is what makes the difference. The more and more we can give homeowners a trustworthy installation, the better our image will become.

An average home has 14 penetrations. An average solar system has 25-50 penetrations. So you took that 14 to 64!

What are the three most important pieces of advice that you give to your clients?

First, always lead with your value-add as a roofer. The fact that you’re licensed to do penetrations, and you’re giving them a 10-year warranty on the roof, plain. On a tile roof that’s significant, for the following reason: if you walk across even a lightweight tile roof, you’re gonna break tile.

Second, pull the local card because your locality is one of the bigger advantages against the big guys. Do you really want to depend on a company that doesn’t even have an office here?

Third, go with the facts, don’t cheat. Underpromise, overdeliver.

Always lead with your value-add, pull the local card, and underpromise, overdeliver.

What is the biggest challenge facing solar installers today?

For the roofer, the biggest challenge is that they’re new to the market and you’ve got all these established guys out there. So they have to sell their roofing reputation and hope that clients will trust them as they get into solar.

Solar installers doing what they do best

If you couldn’t work with roofers who would you work with to help transition into solar?

Electricians. Teach them how to do the roofing properly. Those penetrations; how to find that rafter, make sure it’s in the rafter, waterproof it, etc.

Any secret talents?

I was a competitive baton twirler. I put myself through college doing it; I was Featured Twirler for Mississippi State University for 5 years on a full tuition scholarship. That’s my secret hidden talent!

Topics: Solar Spotlight, solar design, solar energy, pv, roofing, contractors, interview, pv installation, solar installation, roofer

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