3 Strategies to Offset the Labor Cost to Install Solar Panels

As a solar contractor, there are many facets of your company you deal with on a daily basis.

Aside from the system equipment, you have to contend with the multitude of soft costs.

While the total cost of residential PV systems has declined due to decreased hardware costs, more than 65% are now made up of soft costs. Of that percentage, installation labor makes up 10.5% of costs. In fact, total labor costs are $0.59/W. When you break that down, electrician installation labor is $0.33/W, while non-electrician installation labor comes in at $0.26/W.

You need to offset your labor cost to install solar panels. Are there any ways to accomplish this? These ways may be to consider investing in technical school graduates and ongoing training for new hires.

You can also offset your labor soft costs by using a solar supplier that can offer ways to efficiently install your PV solar panels. Here are 3 strategies you can use to address your labor cost to install solar panels.

PV Solar Panel Labor Hinders Solar Contractors

In 2016, the solar industry added 51,000 new solar jobs, many of which went unfilled. In fact, some 84% of solar installers reported difficulty filling open installation positions in 2016. The Solar Foundation also reported:

  • 65% of solar employers report that their difficulty in finding qualified workers led to increased costs.
  • 68% of solar employers report that hiring impacts their ability to grow.
  • 39% report recruitment costs and growth opportunity costs of delayed hiring totaled more than $10,000 on average for each open position. Some reported that their costs to obtain qualified workers reached 13.7%, reporting costs of more than $50,000.

In their Solar Training and Hiring Insights 2017 report, The Solar Foundation reported that there was a deficient supply of applicants. Over 77.6% of all employers cite difficulty finding candidates with any training specific to the position. A similar number—77.9%—reported they had difficulty finding candidates with any work experience.

Strategies to Offset Labor Cost to Install Solar Panels

There are three strategies you can implement to offset your labor costs. These involve investing in specific types of graduate, post-hire training, and using a discount wholesaler who provides free design and permit services, and quality hardware from a range of well-known manufacturers at highly competitive prices.

1. Invest in Graduates

This doesn’t mean just any graduate.

You can invest in technical school graduates or those who have graduated with Associate degrees from area community colleges. Consider looking at these individuals or Bachelor’s degree grads. They would be in programs that prepare students to apply basic engineering principles, solar energy principles, and technical skills to support professionals in solar-powered energy systems. Overall, look for degrees or substantial work in solar energy technician or solar energy technology coursework.

2. Invest in Post-Hire Training

The Solar Training and Hiring Insights 2017 report also showed that companies that invested in post-hire training had lower installation labor costs on average. With continued training and ongoing investment in this area, it experienced a positive knock-on effect: there would be increased labor efficiencies and decrease call-backs to correct site errors or perform re-installations. This is turn could save the solar industry over $10 million annually.

The training involved?

In addition to training already received there’s:

  • 40 hours in-house training to pass work probation and be able to work independently and safely
  • OSHA 10 to pass probation and work independently
  • 40 hours in-house for electrical license, required in many locations
  • 2-3 weeks supervision with the Operations Director prior to a crew assignment
  • 8 hours of supervision on the job site
  • 5 hours of online safety training
  • 4 hours of safety with the Crew Lead
  • 3 hours Safety Training with the Solar Manager
  • Going on to their NABCEP certifications

In addition, if you have job applicants who are NABCEP-certified, you’ll know that they’re going to make your hiring decisions much easier and save you time and money to fill your open positions since they’re already qualified. You’ll be able to eliminate the costs associated with poor quality installations and re-installations and know they have the skills and knowledge to get jobs done. With proper forms of training, you can look to an increase in new customers and increased profit outcomes.

3. Use Free Design Services and Discounted Hardware to Offset Labor Costs

When you want to offset your labor cost to install solar panels, look to a knowledgeable partner who provides the insight you need to complete a project. Solerus Energy offers services that not every wholesale solar panels and equipment supplier offers. You receive free design and permit services along with high quality equipment from well-known manufacturers.

Solerus Energy has services that help you design the solar system your client specified. They can also walk you through the design process. Their technical staff are NABCEP-certified. This way, they can handle your drawing and design needs for your permitting, construction, inspection, and commissioning needs for systems from 2 kW to 500 kW. Their technical support for your projects is supplied before, during, AND after your installations.

Offset Labor Cost to Install Solar Panels with Trained New Hires

With solar installation labor costs sitting at 10.5% of your total soft costs, that’s a significant amount of lost profits. If you invest in new hires with a technical school certificate or community college degree or beyond, you can provide additional training so you don’t have to worry about expensive re-installations or work site errors. You can also hire more experienced workers who have the desired qualifications and make your company even more marketable with experienced crews on board. And when you partner with Solerus Energy, you can offset your labor costs through our free services and high-quality equipment.

To learn more about how Solerus Energy can provide you with free design and permit services and discounted equipment, reach out and contact us today!