U.S. residential solar installations surged in 2020, and this growth doesn’t seem to be slowing anytime soon. The U.S. residential PV market is projected to grow 13 percent in 2021 over 2020, according to the Q4 2020 Solar Market Insight report from SEIA and Wood Mackenzie. 

However, with this growth comes obstacles. For instance, hard costs for panels, inverters and hardware in residential solar have been on the decline for years now. This means softs costs can now account for up to 65 percent of total system costs, up from only 58 percent in 2014. 

To find new ways to boost margins, installers need every tool at their disposal to lower these softs. Thankfully, new digital applications, websites and online platforms provide a major opportunity for installers to cut soft costs and improve their margins.

Let’s take a look at 4 online resources residential solar installers can use for easier and more streamlined operations and installations.

1. Online Sales

Before the pandemic, residential installers largely conducted solar sales in person. However, the stay-at-home orders and social distancing restrictions put in place up-ended that business model. In response, many installers turned to online sales as an alternative.

This successful shift revealed that online sales not only helped installers weather the pandemic, but also presents a cost-saving route for the future.

By re-allocating resources to online sales, installers can lower customer acquisition costs while streamlining the sales process. These platforms provide access to pre-sales toolkits that let installers design, model, share, propose and close deals from a single online repository.

2. Bills of Material

An improperly filled out bill of materials (BOM) can create huge headaches, such as missing materials, incorrect orders and wrong delivery dates. All of these problems may ultimately mean a major delay in the installation and higher costs.

There are many online platforms and apps that can help resolve these issues. For instance, some BOM apps let installers submit a design and receive a granular list that covers every item needed down to the washers. This speeds up procurement and makes the process more accurate.

3. Logistics

Similarly, a logistics app project helps residential solar installers create checklists and workflows that help boost organizational efficiency. 

With a logistics app, installers can upload videos and photos to project management folders that can be shared in real-time by all stakeholders. They can track truck or technician inventory or gather on-site data for more streamlined installations and maintenance. In addition, logistics apps can also help optimize technician schedules and manage customer assets more effectively.

4. Permitting

The permitting process has become one of the biggest pain points for soft costs when it comes to a residential solar installation. Dealing with multiple Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs), fire, building and electric code regulations can lead installers into a labyrinth of bureaucratic red tape. 

Some new platforms and apps aim to change that. The first is The Orange Button Project, a searchable crowdsourced database, which can help installers more easily navigate these AHJs quickly and efficiently. Orange Button also facilities and simplifies the exchange of solar project data. At the end of the day, this means residential solar installers can drastically cut down on the time and resources necessary to navigate the permitting process.  

Another promising app is Solar Time-based Residential Analytics and Cycle time Estimator (Solar TRACE) developed by the National Renewable Energy laboratory (NREL). This handy and easy-to-use app helps make rooftop solar permitting, inspection, and interconnection (PII) quicker and more streamlined. An upcoming SEIA webinar will be discussing this promising new digital tool 

In addition to utilizing the latest and greatest in tech trends to cut residential solar soft costs, installers should also consider the benefits of high-power high-efficiency modules. Trina Solar’s high-power and high-efficiency all-black residential modules can improve power gains for rooftop PV systems. 

Want to learn more about Trina’s sleek, high-power residential solar modules? Reach out today!




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