Will Hybrid Owners Buy Solar?

Have you ever noticed all of the hybrid vehicles on the streets? From January through September 2012, over 322 thousand hybrids were sold in the U.S. Why do people buy them?

Ask people and many will say they believe they are saving money. They do get better mileage, but they don’t save money. Compare the cost of ownership between a hybrid vehicle and it’s standard counterpart (Edmunds.com has a nice comparison tool). The hybrid almost always cost more to own over a five year period.

So why do people say they’re saving money? Once they buy the vehicle, people no longer think about the upfront cost. That’s a sunk cost. Even if the car is leased, the car payment is a fixed cost most people live with and don’t think about. Yet, people think about gas prices every time they fill their tanks. They think they’re saving money because they’re reducing their variable costs.

If people bought hybrids solely over dollars and cents, few sales would be made. There must be other reasons people buy hybrids. We can come up with several…

Some believe they are lowering emissions and making the planet healthier. They care about the environment and have enough money to put green living ahead of economics.

Others buy hybrids to make a fashion statement. They might care about living green, but they care more about looking like they are living green. The “hybrid” emblem on the Yukon is a get-out-of-guilt-free card. Well, not exactly free. You get the idea.

I’m also convinced that some become enticed by the technology. The instrument panels from some of these hybrids look more like video games than the analog dials I grew up with. People do buy things for silly reasons. I think I bought an F-150 because of the air conditioned seats (it was 105 degrees at the time).

There are other reasons but the top four are:

1. Reduce variable vehicle operating expenses

2. Live greener

3. Make a green “fashion statement”

4. Cool, fun dashboard technology.

All of these apply to solar for HVAC contractors. Combine solar with an HVAC replacement and the homeowner will see variable operating expenses reduced, will live a greener lifestyle, will be able to flaunt solar panels to friends and neighbors, and will get some cool, fun controls technology.

Combining solar with an HVAC replacement makes more sense than buying a hybrid vehicle. Most people trade in their cars after five years. For all practical purposes, a solar installation is good for the life of the home. In fact, the solar component will outlast the HVAC component.

Finally, solar carries great federal tax credits that can be extended to part of the HVAC installation. Many utilities and states sweeten the pot even more. With tax credits scheduled to jump considerably, the after tax cost of solar gets even better.

No doubt, some people will want solar. The trick is finding them. It’s not like selling hybrid vehicles where people walk in off the street and ask about them. After all, the 322 thousand hybrids sold this year only represent 3% of all vehicles sold. But that is 3% who buy the argument and they have already identified themselves!

The target demographic for solar companies should be affluent, hybrid vehicle owners in homes ten years old or older. Again, this group is susceptible to the solar argument, has means, and the need. Sounds like a reasonable prospect to me. Call you list broker or mail house and get busy!

For simple ways to market solar to your customers, join the Service Roundtable’s Solar Roundtable. It’s only $25 a month more if you are members of the HVAC Roundtable ($50 otherwise). Members can get up to 9% cash back on selected solar panels and products. Call 877.262.3341 for a free tour.

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