The Right Person for the Job: Solar Technicians vs. Installers
With residential solar maintenance and repair, the importance of getting the right person on the job is often overlooked in the industry. While reaching out to the original installers when issues arise seems to make sense, there is a difference between the specialties of installing versus maintaining solar equipment.
The original installation company may or may not have a service department; so when a service call comes in, often installers are sent in to complete a job that’s actually better suited to a service technician.
Let’s look at the main differentiators between solar installers and technicians, and how playing to the strengths of each makes for a more optimized process for everyone—from owners to installers and technicians.
Differences in Solar Service Work
Solar installers are more likely to be experts in new equipment from a single manufacturer or select manufacturers with whom they often work. They typically have only the equipment they need for their specific assembly, but they won’t have the variety of parts a service technician carries.
Service technicians, on the other hand, usually have more experience and a catalog of legacy systems, including broader manufacturer lists and yearly updates. One model year to another, even for the same manufacturer, can make a difference in methods for troubleshooting and having the necessary equipment at the ready.
In fact, technicians tend to see three to four times the number of systems versus an installer. Since they only work in problem areas, they typically know where mistakes can happen.
The best analogy for this is to think of solar installers as automobile manufacturers and technicians as automobile mechanics. One is expert for assembly; the other is the expert once the equipment rolls off the lot and starts encountering real-world problems.
Each equipment version can have its own unique issues, and technicians develop methods for addressing these over time. They get to know what they might encounter with this or that particular piece of equipment and can identify specific idiosyncrasies based on dealing with repairs on a consistent basis.
Technicians also have more knowledge of the calculations and equations involved with the production values of a system: how to determine them, how to calculate, and what can cause production shortfalls.
Work Day and Style Differences
A workday for a solar technician also tends to look very different from an installer’s. Technicians typically have multiple sites to visit on any given day, with varying degrees of complexity. This can mean longer and more undefined days, or very short days if an issue is resolved quickly. Installers, on the other hand, generally have a fairly set schedule, with clear daily parameters.
Another big differentiator is that of the team sport vs. individual sport work style. While technicians are used to working in a solo environment with remote support, installers work in teams. Each member of the install team contributes to a single or a few project aspects. Technicians are well versed in the whole process from head to tail.
This also means a technician’s vehicle can be smaller since it only needs to carry equipment and not several people. The technician’s smaller, outfitted nv200 service vehicle cuts down on travel costs, which reduces the overall price of service.
Customer relations is another area where technicians can shine. SunSystem Technology trains technicians on how to resolve issues and interact with upset customers. This can make all the difference when a customer is either upset or might be angling for freebies. Respectful customer management is essential for navigating conflict situations toward win-win solutions.
Certifications and Familiarity with RMA Requirements
Solar installers might only be certified in specific lines of equipment, not a multitude of manufacturers. This allows them to zero in on what they do best and get new equipment online as quickly and efficiently as possible.
On average, technicians will have more manufacturer certifications because they work with a wider base of equipment. There’s also an opportunity to achieve different technician levels by having a certain amount of time on-job, certain OSHA certifications, etc. SunSystem encourages and supports our technicians’ pursuits of continued education.
Technicians need to be able to clearly relay and accurately document what they find on-site. This process is especially critical because proper documentation is needed for any cases involving warranties or insurance.
In addition to this, each manufacturer has different processes for RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) documentation. SunSystem has relationships with every major manufacturer, so we know their RMA documentation requirements. Our technicians are well versed in these documentation processes as well, which shortens timelines for getting replacement parts.
Lastly, as installers often default to replacing equipment altogether, the cost of replacement vs. troubleshooting and repairing comes into play. If technicians can fix existing equipment rather than returning it, this can mean big savings.
Opportunity Cost of Relying Too Much on Installers
For solar system owners who are leasing to homeowners, the opportunity cost of moving an installer away from their work to go back for service can add up. It’s not cost-effective to send people who should be installing to do repairs. It’s a diversion of their talent and time away from what they do best—getting more solar systems up and running in the first place.
Not only are you paying them to fix it, but you’re also losing the opportunity for them to do another installation. You’ll likely have to pull one of your lead installers or electricians to do the service work, which is not the best use of their time. Our partners find that letting their installers install and pulling service work from our technicians is far more cost-effective.
As an installer, subbing your work to SunSystem means you can focus your energy on where it’s best spent. It’s a perfect example of utilizing different solar professionals in their areas of expertise and allowing them to do their strongest work through the specialization of labor.
Reach out today to find out more about how we partner with solar owners and installers.