Once you get past a certain price point, consumers want to know how their purchase of a big ticket item is going to be a good investment. When you buy toothpaste, you're not thinking about your ROI – it doesn't cost enough to get that involved in figuring out the lifetime value of a tube of toothpaste. When you buy a car, however, you want to know that the value you'll get out of it exceeds what you pay for it, whether its the high cool factor of a luxury car or the high ROI of an economical hybrid car.
The same principle applies to solar power for the home or business. Even though the upfront cost of solar has dropped considerably over the last few years, many consumers are still a little leery of paying for solar. An article on Yahoo Finance pointed out that the reason for this hesitation is that a large number of Americans are still unaware of the cost reducing measures available for those who install solar capacity on their roofs.
Consumer education will be key for solar adoption
Until and unless consumers become aware of the short and long term cost savings that solar power can bring, it's going to be a tough sell. Fortunately, one survey found that the more consumers knew about the financing options, rebates and incentives that come with the purchase of a PV system, the more interested they were in going solar.
Yahoo Finance, reporting on a survey from Zogby Analytics, found that 62 percent of respondents want solar power for their homes. Yet despite this high level of desire for solar, fewer than half of the respondents said they realized solar is cheaper now than it was three years ago.
The problem, then, is not one of interest but of information. Consumers just don't seem to know about the reductions in cost that have come from technological innovations and the variety of financing options that are available to them. It will be up to installers and other solar industry stakeholders to share this information as much as possible. But sometimes hearing isn't enough. Consumers will have to see for themselves what alternative energy can do for them through the lens of some more familiar products.
Consumer comfort will be key
One way that consumers will become more comfortable with the idea of going solar is by tying it into something familiar. Often, the idea of jumping into the unknown can lead consumers to instead stick to what they know and are comfortable with, especially when they think it's going to cost them. Fortunately, the adoption of other, lower-priced clean technologies has ramped up and given consumers a taste of what energy efficiency can do for the environment and their wallets.
Things like LED lights, Energy Star appliances, double-paned windows, and other moderate-to-low priced energy efficient appliances and equipment have shown people the potential of an energy-smart home. As the upfront price of these items has fallen and their efficiency has risen, it is becoming undeniable that they are a worthwhile investment.
When consumers can get these small but still notable wins on their energy bill with very little hassle or cost, they can start to see why bigger investments like solar power can make so much sense for them. The familiarity they have with other energy efficient home goods will be a clear lens through which they can view bigger energy saving solutions.
By combining education about solar power with the proven track record of other clean technology, consumers will start to be more comfortable with the idea of investing in their homes now to reap the payoffs later.