Rooftop Solar or Solar Roof: What’s in Your Pitch?
I must begin by acknowledging that, for most of you, business is darn good right now. With a few more months left in the roofing season and a fair amount of optimism looking forward to 2018, this may not seem like a very good time to ramp up a new line of business.
Let me once again remind you of the wisdom of President John F. Kennedy, who said, “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.”
If your roofing company isn’t offering solar today, you should begin making plans now to add it to your repertoire for the future of your enterprise. Why solar, and why now? Here’s some of what I’m seeing that prompts this call to action.
There’s a new energy abounding in the solar market these days. The announcement of a solar roofing revolution by SolarCity last October was an unmitigated marketing coup. I remain skeptical of the many technical promises put forward about the product, but the real innovation (a beautiful solar roof) is pure genius.
SolarCity’s solar roofing product may or may not succeed, and if it does, there’s no telling how long it will take. That really doesn’t matter. The simple promise of an affordable solar home has completely energized the market. On the heels of all the media attention drawn by SolarCity, competitors in the solar space are racing to announce new products and improvements to existing ones.
In addition to the new energy in the market, the technology continues to grow and solar cell costs continue to fall. This is a well-defined trend that should continue until a point where solar roofing will become commonplace. I can’t predict exactly when that will be, but do feel that roofing contractors unprepared to take it on may find themselves left out of more and more roofing work.
The cost of entry into the solar market is dropping as well. It’s still a complex sales and installation process, but there are apps that are making the sales process much easier by assessing roofs for solar capacity in real time. Some apps offer return on investment reporting, taking into account government and other rebate programs.
All solar systems designed to be a roof or mounted on a roof have a few things in common — they’re complex systems. They’re integrated into the roofing system as well as the electrical system of the building. They all need to be installed by competent contractors who can manage the entire project, which often will (or should) include a full roof replacement. I’m not sure that’s the focus of all solar product manufacturers, and should you seek to add solar as a new line of business, you must align yourself with the ones who understand and address the entire scope, including the building enclosure.
If you do nothing else this year and aren’t already fully involved in solar, put some feelers out. Take a meeting with your existing suppliers who are offering solar solutions. Make some online inquiries. If you’re in the solar business, consider yourself in a good place. You’re miles ahead of the pack at a very interesting point in the history of this technology.