Editor’s note: This blog has been republished with permission from civicsolar.com.
By Charlie Saginaw, account manager at CivicSolar
Major solar installation companies are moving into big box stores in 2018 with storage offerings. As consumers shop for washing machines and refrigerators, they will also encounter kiosks offering solar and storage. To the small and medium-sized solar integrators, this is more an opportunity than a threat because of their service and versatility. Solar in Home Depot and other big box stores is a giant billboard for independent solar contractors. Here are the primary reasons why local installers will benefit greatly with increased storage sales as a result of this move by national installers.
Better cost and quality
Large solar integrators have high overhead and customer acquisition costs now include paying rent within large stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s, while local installers can leverage community rooted relationships. SunRun and SolarCity spent more than $.50/W on customer acquisition to fund several aggressive marketing strategies. One independent installer in Texas explained that “If a customer wants to get a hold of the salesmen, it might be hard to find them a year later at Home Depot. On the other hand, we have been active in our community and will be honoring warranties years later.”
More adaptable offerings
Nimble local installers are able to offer many of the same household brands. If name brands matter to a consumer, long tail installers can provide high-efficiency modules from trusted, bankable brands such as Panasonic panels have the flexibility to use more cost-effective brands. Meanwhile, other larger providers have a more rigid offering at higher prices to the consumer.
Local installers can take advantages of local utility incentives. For example, Oncor only allows five active projects in their portal at a time. Because smaller contractors are familiar with local AHJs, they know how to navigate the interconnection and rebate process as efficiently as possible.
While the presence of large solar integrators represents increased competition, the move into the big box space also alleviates consumers’ awareness of solar as a household standard. The right mix of price, responsiveness and community recognition can give local solar installation companies a new boost in 2018.