In regular occasions, promoting photo voltaic is comparatively old-school.
Branded vans cruise neighborhoods, unloading workers who knock on dozens of doorways. After they’re fortunate sufficient to discover a sympathetic ear, many sellers step right into a buyer’s dwelling, able to signal the contract proper there.
Although the utility of rooftop photo voltaic panels is extra complicated to elucidate than, say, encyclopedias or a elaborate set of knives, the final approach has been used for over a century. Door-to-door gross sales practices, used most aggressively in photo voltaic by corporations equivalent to Vivint Photo voltaic and employed by many of the business’s largest companies, are seen as a vital device find new clients.
The coronavirus pandemic shut a lot of that down. However just for a time.
Of the almost 20 dwelling photo voltaic corporations Greentech Media contacted to ask about present door-to-door gross sales practices, many stated they’re at the moment canvassing.
Sunrun and Vivint Photo voltaic, two photo voltaic corporations which have merged and encompassed about 15 p.c of installations nationwide in 2020, confirmed they’re utilizing in-person gross sales “in every single place it’s allowed.” New Jersey-based Suntuity knocks doorways in states together with South Carolina and Florida and has solely suspended these operations in a few states. Whereas Louisiana-based Sunpro “ceased canvassing out of respect for the well being and security of the native communities” the place it really works, it’s since resumed in cities equivalent to Houston and San Antonio.
The exercise might be onerous to watch. Many corporations contract with separate gross sales organizations and door-to-door gross sales are largely unregulated. Eight of the businesses Greentech Media contacted didn’t reply in any respect. Others declined to supply specifics on the place that they had resumed door-knocking. And some stated that they had been further cautious a couple of return to canvassing. Lengthy Island’s SUNation Photo voltaic Methods stopped unsolicited in-person gross sales in March and hasn’t resumed, although it’s now licensed to.
In the meantime, COVID-19 case charges in lots of areas are larger than within the spring when some states, counties and cities requested residents to remain dwelling or put restrictions on how companies can function. Even so, these restrictions have been lightened or lifted fully in lots of elements of the nation — and photo voltaic corporations are taking benefit.
The choice about how you can conduct gross sales has not been straightforward. In the course of the course of the pandemic, photo voltaic corporations have had to deal with a patchwork of shifting coronavirus-related restrictions. Some states with a major photo voltaic market, equivalent to California, have restricted many actions.
Others have established few restrictions. Arizona, for instance, doesn’t have a statewide masks mandate. In lots of states, photo voltaic was additionally in a position to negotiate its method into the “important work” class.
It can be close to inconceivable to implement security protocols in non-public houses, although some corporations equivalent to Sunrun have laid out the steps they’re taking. (Sunrun additionally informed Greentech Media it isn’t conscious of any circumstances of transmission to clients or potential clients.)
The truth that some dwelling photo voltaic installers depend on a diffuse community of sellers or contractors makes it tougher to trace how every firm is conducting its work.
“I believe some corporations exploited that the place they might, to maintain operations working as easily as doable,” stated Bryan White, a photo voltaic analyst at vitality consultancy Wooden Mackenzie. “We all know that not each firm has adopted the foundations.”
Total, U.S. circumstances are at the moment in decline and vaccines are on the best way. Nonetheless, the precise well being implications of in-person photo voltaic gross sales are unclear, and well being specialists have a variety of views on the dangers.
Some photo voltaic corporations use door-to-door gross sales to assemble names of doubtless consumers, a course of within the business often known as “lead technology.” That might require minimal face time, in accordance with White.
However different corporations, equivalent to market leaders Vivint and Sunrun, typically attempt to shut gross sales on the identical day canvassers make contact. That historically requires a prolonged dialog and an in-home session, which might imply extra publicity relying on adherence to public well being measures like social distancing and mask-wearing.
Neither choice is “no threat” in accordance with Dr. Marissa Baker, an industrial hygienist and assistant professor on the College of Washington’s Division of Environmental and Occupational Well being Sciences. However having brief, masked conversations outdoor is healthier than speaking inside for an prolonged time period, she stated.
“The sort of surroundings that this illness likes to unfold is indoors in shut proximity [and] people who find themselves interacting for longer than 10 or 15 minutes,” stated Baker. “A contact tracer would contemplate that an publicity occasion.”
Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar on the Johns Hopkins College Heart for Well being Safety who focuses on rising infectious illness and pandemic preparedness, stated dwelling visits might be achieved safely with “easy security insurance policies” in step with public well being recommendation. However he additionally inspired brief, outside interactions.
The American Industrial Hygiene Affiliation has assembled protocols for “at-home service suppliers” equivalent to electricians and plumbers, a class that will additionally embody at-home gross sales. John L. Henshaw, a former head of the Occupational Security and Well being Administration who helped write these suggestions, informed Greentech Media that at-home visits nonetheless carry significant threat.
“I do suppose it’s a major threat, no less than at the moment,” he stated. “Primarily as a result of you might have an individual touring from dwelling to dwelling.”
Lack of adherence to public well being tips equivalent to masks carrying might put gross sales staff and householders in danger. Solely about half of U.S. adults surveyed in a current nationally consultant research from the College of Southern California stated they put on masks — now a polarizing selection in america — when interacting with folks exterior of their households.
WoodMac’s White famous that uneven attitudes in the direction of the severity of the pandemic throughout the nation has compelled photo voltaic corporations to evaluate the potential threats to their model alongside the doable well being dangers of promoting door-to-door. Many have opted to shift some or a majority of their gross sales on-line.
“There’s inherent threat to [door knocking]. Not simply from a well being perspective, however [also from the] response by the shopper,” stated White. “It solely takes a few folks to get mad about it earlier than you might have an issue in your fingers.”