How to answer 5 tough questions homeowners have about solar modules
How to answer 5 tough questions homeowners have about solar modules
As a solar installer, you wear many hats. First, you're there to help homeowners figure out how they can achieve their solar power dreams. You recommend products, help design PV systems, and guide homeowners through the multiple decisions involved in transitioning to solar power. Along the way, Markus Virta, Director of Sales and Development for Bellingham, WA-based and Panasonic Elite installer, Western Solar, says installers often encounter some tough questions about solar panel modules.
He compiled some of the more challenging questions that homeowners along with guidance for how installers can provide excellent answers:
1. The manufacturer uses an OEM for its solar modules. Does that impact the quality?
Given the number of solar module manufacturers using OEMs, it's understandable that homeowners have questions. Installers can help alleviate concerns as well as provide context. For example, he often reminds homeowners that outsourced manufacturing is widespread across industries. "You know Apple isn't building their iPhones—they have OEMs doing that," he says.
What homeowners need to realize, however, is that the OEM partnerships enable solar panel manufacturers to maintain their high-quality standards. For example, Panasonic requires its OEMs to meet specific product quality benchmarks and then accept or reject products that don't meet the standard. "It's a lot easier to tell an OEM partner that they're not hitting the mark than it is to correct something in a vertically integrated operation," Virta says.
So manufacturers like Panasonic have full authority over the quality of the OEM product, and in many ways, they also have more flexibility. What's more, when manufacturers provide a 25-year warranty, then homeowners know that they'll stand behind the product quality for the majority of the solar panel's life.
2. There are many solar panels options. Should I save money by purchasing a lesser-quality module?
Homeowners are often looking for places to save money—and the solar panel modules present an opportunity. With the perception that panels have become a commodity, homeowners may question whether prioritizing premium panels is worth it. Helping homeowners balance their budget with their solar goals is essential, Virta notes. But cutting corners by purchasing low-quality panels may cost homeowners more in the long run. "You want to evaluate the quality question with a long-term view," he says.
Panels that come with limited warranties or at much lower price points may save homeowners money in the short term. But the potential for repairs that aren't warrantied and the need to replace panels that much sooner can increase the cost of your PV system over its lifetime. Look for manufacturers that offer premium products at relatively competitive prices.
A manufacturer such as Panasonic, for example, can help improve the ROI of your solar investment by providing a more efficient, high-performing panel along with a 25-year warranty that ensures the quality of the product.
Virta also notes that installers should reiterate the importance of a manufacturer's history and future. "When you're buying a premium module, you're establishing a relationship that will last 25 years," he says. The warranty is one of the most important parts of your solar panel purchase; homeowners need to have confidence that the manufacturer will be around to service that agreement for decades to come.
3. Which panels are the most efficient, and how do I evaluate that?
Many homeowners zero in on efficiency. But for installers, this is another area where they can provide additional information and context. First, the efficiency of the panel does make a difference. A panel with an efficiency rating of 15% produces significantly less power than one with a 20%+ efficiency rating.
However, within premium solar panel modules, efficiency ratings vary only slightly. It's critical to help homeowners make accurate comparisons. Virta notes that installers should evaluate the panel's size compared to the output so that homeowners can understand the panel's efficiency per square inch.
Importantly, installers should remind homeowners that efficiency doesn't make a difference if the PV system is poorly designed. They want a system that's as efficient as possible while still working within the parameters of their environment, structures, budget, panel quality, and more. "It's a balancing act that also factors in the longevity of the equipment, whether it's in a serviceable area, and the projected degradation of the panels," Virta says.
4. The manufacturer is one component. Should I be concerned about the entire supply chain?
Selecting a high-quality solar module is an essential piece of a homeowner's PV puzzle. But ensuring that panel arrives on time and in good shape is something many homeowners overlook. Installers should talk to homeowners about the manufacturer's entire supply chain and their own role in maintaining the quality of the product. For instance, let homeowners know about the risk that microfractures pose to panels and that you've educated shipping and handling companies on how to prevent them.
Also, talk to homeowners about your distributor relationships, including whether they distribute solar equipment as a primary focus and the process you have for denying damaged equipment that comes into your warehouse. You've likely worked with the homeowner to select the best solar panel module for their PV system. Showing how you prioritize the quality from the manufacturer to their doorstep can differentiate you from other installers.
5. If I choose a quality solar module, does the installer make much of a difference?
Of course, as installers, we know that the answer to this question is a resounding yes. Still, it's important to educate homeowners on why selecting the right installer is as important as choosing the right solar panel module. From providing information about products to designing the PV system to answering questions and responding to calls, installers can ensure that a homeowners' experience with solar power is top-notch.
"Installers need to demonstrate that they have a technical understanding of the PV system, that they can answer technical questions and solve technical problems," Virta says.
Helping homeowners navigate the entire solar installation process is an important job. Answer the hard questions well, and you'll gain the trust — and referrals — of customers for years to come.
Learn more about going solar with some basic helpful knowledge on Panasonic's Green Living blog. Is solar on your radar this year? Check out Panasonic's Total Home Solar Energy Solutions and find out the benefits of going solar with one of America's most trusted brands.