Big, national solar installers often command many headlines thanks to vast marketing and public relations budgets, but when bad things happen and those companies close up shop, small local contractors are the ones that pick up the pieces.
Such was the case for Detroit, Michigan-area installer Sumpter Solar Services when a national solar outfit active in the area closed its doors in 2022. Sumpter Solar got right to work helping customers fix faulty systems or plan new solar arrays they were promised. Owner Matt Kadwell takes pride in his small-but-nimble team’s attention to detail and commitment to new and existing customers.
An edited portion of the interview is below, but be sure to listen to the full podcast for more insight on how the long-term ITC will temper the usual December installation rush.
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SPW: Can you start off by telling me a little bit about the size of your business and the scope?
Kadwell: The business is split pretty evenly between new installations and repair jobs. We started the whole business back in 2017 only doing repair work for other companies. So we didn’t do any installs at all for a couple years. Right now, we have eight employees and we do about 100 new installs a year and then some 400 repair jobs.
We get a lot of comments on our site saying people have been left in the dark by an installer, looking for someone to help.
Yes, we’re glad to help. Especially recently, there was a company that went bankrupt out of North Carolina. We’ve done a huge amount of work from that. We’ve been working through this as quick as we can here to help people out.
Has that been mostly bringing inverters back online?
It’s been a variety of different things, anywhere from upgrading communication equipment, and inverters that either have failed or just were never commissioned all the way in the first place.
Would you say that your repair work helps you get more new jobs, too?
Yes, I think so. We have a very, very small marketing budget. We rely almost exclusively on referrals, so the more we can get out in front of the people, the more referrals we’re going to get. Our crews do a good job, so it just builds itself that way.
How else does Sumpter Solar stand out from other local installers in your area?
We’re just not a production-based company, where other companies just pound them in as quick as they can and move on to the next job. We end up working with customers for longer if there are ever any service issues or warranty problems or anything like that. We deal with jobs a lot of other companies would walk away from, which sometimes the crew doesn’t always appreciate, but it’s worked out really well.