Running a business is hard, and for small businesses, there is a range of unique challenges that come with the territory. Any small business owner knows that there is very little margin for error if you want to grow your business. Anywhere you can reduce costs and increase efficiency can impact your profits and growth potential.
This is especially true for solar installers, who need to accurately estimate jobs, create up-to-code designs and compelling proposals, and keep an eye on the latest incentives and rates — all while making sure the business runs smoothly.
One thing that can help small businesses be more efficient and competitive is the right solar software solution. Yet, it can be difficult to navigate the ever-expanding sea of solar software. What features do you absolutely need when choosing a solution? What features will help you grow your business?
To help answer questions like these, we created The Big Book of Solar Software Must-Haves. In it, we highlight the features every solar installer should look for when choosing their solar software, plus some automation features that can give you a helping hand in your business.
As a small company owner, keeping costs in check is important, so when it comes to your solar software, it can be tempting to choose the cheapest solution available. But, prioritizing initial cost over longer-term efficiency can result in a lot of wasted time and lost productivity, which in turn makes it difficult to grow your business.
For example, you may lose valuable time due to bad onboarding and see lost productivity because of change orders. And if your solution doesn’t handle all aspects of your business — design, financing, sales, etc. — you may find yourself wasting even more time switching between apps, and risk information not getting copied between systems correctly.
While initial cost is certainly a factor, software that streamlines and automates the entire process, from design to sales, can actually have a lower total cost of ownership. This helps your company grow smoothly and efficiently — and ensures that you don’t need to acquire a new solution down the road.
Bankable Shading Analysis
Few things are more frustrating than having to re-do your energy estimates because of an inaccurate shading analysis. While most solar software provides shading analysis of some kind, doing it with precision is what lets you provide bankable shade reports for financing, and it can help speed up the entire sales and approval process.
To ensure you’re getting the most accurate analysis, make sure the software is validated by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and is equivalent to actual on-site shade measurements.
To be sure, ask the vendor about their shading analysis performance before buying. Questions like, “How accurate is your software compared to on-site visits? Down to what percentage?” cut right to the chase. As for their answer? The best software performs within 3-5% of site visit accuracy.
Another aspect that will save you a lot of time and headaches is the ability to pre-qualify your customer before you start designing their solution. This includes making sure their home is suitable for solar and that you get a precise estimate of their energy consumption.
A tool that lets you complete fully remote site assessments, with no truck roll needed, frees up valuable resources and shortens the sales cycle. This can mean the difference between multiple trips to the site and qualifying customers from the comfort of your home, only visiting the house once you know they’re ready to buy.
These three features are just the beginning. As anyone who’s looked into solar software knows, it can be difficult to determine exactly what a solution offers, and what you need. With must-haves and special features for design, financing, and sales, The Big Book of Solar Software Must-Haves can help you sort out what you need, and make sure the software you choose sets you up for success.
(Top photo by Michael Wilson)