This article was originally published on Faze1’s blog and re-printed with permission.
The above picture is a heat map of the best and worst towns for residential solar based on proprietary LIDAR analysis created by Faze1.
Download the full report to get a more detailed breakdown of the count and concentration of residential solar targets in Massachusetts.
Finally, the solar industry doesn’t need to guess where all the best residential solar (roof mounted) opportunities are in Massachusetts, we’ve found them for you.
The following report will show you exactly where the best towns are in the state with the highest number of southern facing, large, un-shaded, roofs where solar can be installed. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments.
If you’re a residential solar contractor, this map and report should become your guide. It will tell you exactly which towns are the best to target for solar, so you can focus your marketing activities there.
I was using this heat map while talking with a solar contractor about their marketing. They were spending ~$30,000 per month online with PPC ads, review sites, and facebook ads. They were spending this money equally throughout their service territory. By showing them the heat map above, we were able to identify that in 50% of the towns in their service territory, a very small percentage of solar customers could actually go solar. The result? They reduced their marketing spend by $15,000 PER MONTH without a drop in qualified leads. Yes, the number of leads they were getting decreased, but the not the number of qualified leads.
We’ve seen similar results when talking about any other marketing activities a residential solar contractor does; digital ads, canvassing, newspaper ads, radios, community engagement, you name it.
Here’s what some industry experts have said about the report.
“Finding homes with good solar roofs can be like finding a needle in a haystack. With Faze1’s data, residential solar companies can focus their marketing resources on the best solar towns and neighborhoods.” – Sara Ross, Co-Founder + CEO at Sungage Financial
“When it comes to home services, hyper-local is always a better way to go when targeting online advertising. Using geo-targeted response and conversion data allows contractors to pinpoint the areas that are proven to be more profitable to them. It’s always a challenge to keep marketing costs under control, but any efficiencies you can gain on the marketing side will drop directly to your bottom line.” -Todd Bairstow – Home Improvement Marketing Expert and Principle at Keyword Connects
“If information is power, then there’s a lot of powerful information here for marketers to focus their efforts and marketing dollars and get the most bang for their buck.”
– TOR “SOLAR FRED” VALENZA | CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER of SOLAR IMPRESS LABS | @solarfred | Impress Tweets
This report is based on proprietary data published by Faze1. Faze1 created a proprietary algorithm to process publicly available LIDAR data (here is the raw Massachusetts dataset) to identify residential homes that have southern facing roof space that is not shaded by trees. With the publicly available data, Faze1 was able to pre-screen all of the roofs on all of the homes in Massachusetts to find roofs that are southern facing and don’t have shading from trees.
Within 18 seconds, Faze1 can look up where the best solar customers live in Massachusetts like Google Maps.
This is the first report that will published in a series of reports on HeatSpring Magazine for residential solar and HVAC products. All of the reports in the series will provide an analysis of the state of Massachusetts with data that’s never been available before.
Here are the reports that we have lined up:
- Residential Solar PV (roof mount)
- Residential Solar (ground mount)
- Advanced biomass both boilers and furnaces
- Oil to gas conversions both boilers and furnace
- Ductless heat pumps
- Central heat pumps
- Ground source heat pumps
Report Learning Objectives
After reading this article and downloading the full report, you will understand:
- The data profile of the customers that we’ll focus on and why the data is unique.
- How LIDAR analysis works.
- Where the best towns are in the state roof mounted solar. The full report will have the best clusters of solar targets in each area of Massachusetts. North Shore, South Shore, Metro West, Central, and Western Massachusetts.
- How the number of targets is used to defined the market size of a particular town
- Why “target concentration” is a measure of how expensive it will be to get the attention of good solar targets.
- How you can use this data today to focus your solar marketing.
Why this is unique and incredibly valuable
In the past, residential solar and HVAC companies have only been able to target homeowners based on their demographic profile. This is understandable, because it’s all that they had access to.
Faze1 has compiled all of the heating and solar characteristics of all of the residential homes in Massachusetts. This allows the solar and HVAC companies to make confident and informed decisions about where to focus their marketing time and cash, based on real data.
We don’t need to guess where the customers are any more.
In the solar market, finding customers is like finding a needle in a haystack. Within some solar companies, I’ve heard the ratio of solar leads (defined as someone who wants to go solar) to solar opportunities (someone has a good solar roof) declines by 70%. So, finding towns and areas with a high concentration of homeowners that have solar-ready roofs is VERY valuable.
In the HVAC market, anyone could be a customer because everyone has a heating system and most people have some sort of A/C. In this case, the issue is that there are so many HVAC products and so many customers, the challenge becomes finding the BEST customers. You’ll see why this is important in future reports that address HVAC products.
Why is better targeting more valuable?
One of the most expenses parts of solar marketing and sales is finding where the customers are. Right now, solar companies are spending between $0.50 and $0.75 per watt (DC)to generate a sale. A quick note on this:
- The national players are spending much more, because they believe leading a market will lead to profit in the long run. If you follow the rule of the “power law” (Ben Howowtiz writes about the ‘Power Law’) it means that the leaders in the industry get a disproportionate amount of press, referrals, and credibility simply because they are at the top. There’s a price to pay for being number one, but they believe it will benefit them in the long run.
- Local companies are relying more on referrals because those sales are far more profitable. This is important to local players because they don’t have investors cash to burn, so they must operate profitably.
For a 5kW system at $5.00 per watt, this is between $2,500 and $3,250 per customer. Generally, the sales person will make between $1,000 and $1,500 per job, which means the rest of the money is spent on marketing. $1,000+ for marketing to generate a lead is expensive.
Less than 50% of solar leads can actually go solar. It requires a substantial amount of time to generate those leads and then sift through all of them to find that ones that can actually install equipment on their roof.
By profiling towns, neighborhoods, and specific homes that have pre-screened roofs that could actually install solar, a residential solar contractor will have the best chance of decreasing marketing costs.
In the past, there were only two ways to target potential solar customers.
- By intent. If you’re buying Google PPC ads or having someone call you, it’s because they are interested in solar. They don’t know if their home is good for solar and you don’t know how likely it is that there home is good for solar, you just know that they’re interested. In the absence of knowledge about the solar readiness of their roof, understanding intent is very valuable.
- By demographics. The only way of identifying good solar homes was by demographics; where they live, how much they make, if they own their home, utility territory, etc. The idea here is that this would profile the person’s willingness to go solar. However, it says nothing about their ability to do so.
These methods were valuable for what the industry had at the time, but they don’t actually consider the quality of the building stock for solar. Where are there southern facing roofs that are un-shaded?
Download the Full Report
If you’re interested in a more custom analysis for your business with specific products and service territory, downloading the full state report will provide instructions on how you can get a custom report for free.
The full report has each region of Massachusetts broken down so you can see the best towns in each region.
The full report will provide analysis on the market value of the best solar towns.
The full report explains LIDAR analysis.
Data Profile of good solar targets
- Single family.
- Owner occupied.
- Solar potential (LIDAR data pre-screened roof.) Download the state report to learn more about LIDAR screening.
Not specified in the report
The following variables are not specified in the state analysis, but they can be in a custom report.
- Utility territory. I did not specify utility territory for the state report, but we can do this in a free custom report for you. In reality, most solar contractors don’t like to work in Municipal utilities because they’re more difficult to work in.
- Home value or income. This can be added in a custom report, but we didn’t include it in the state report.
It’s important to understand that this concentration is not weighted by population.
You could have two towns, each with a 30% concentration but Town A has 1,000 homes and Town B has 20,000 homes. In this case, Town B is the most likely to be the most valuable.
With that said, it’s interesting to note that as the population increases (going from West to East) the concentration of good solar roofs increases, until you get to Boston. This is good news– the more people, the more solar potential!
Why is concentration so important?
Generally, the rule of thumb thrown around is that 25% of the residential homes in Massachusetts are good for solar. Yes, this is true, if you look at the entire state as a whole.
However, the truth is that some towns have a 50% concentration of homes that are good for solar and some towns have a 5% concentration.
Now, all else equal, you would want to focus any and all marketing activities on the towns with a concentration of 50%+ households.
There are two numbers that the reports use as output.
- Number of targets in town.
- Concentration of targets within a town.
Here’s the explanation for how to think about each of these.
- Absolute number of targets. This is good for measuring the size of the target market for a specific town. This is the number of homes that fit the data criteria. It doesn’t take into consideration the amount of other homes in an area. However, this number is poor at defining how expensive it will be to get in front of a good potential target.
- Concentration of targets. Concentration is a proxy for how expensive it will be to get in front of all a good potential customer. All else equal, the higher the concentration, the lower the cost to get in front of the right person.
Concentration is the number of target customers divided by the number of housing units in that town. A helpful way to think of concentration is: it is the likelihood of bumping into a good target while walking down the street. The difference between a town with a 5% concentration and 50% concentration is that in a town with a 50% concentration you have 10X higher likelihood of a good solar target seeing your marketing message, all else equal. If you have a 10X better chance of bumping into a customer, this means the same marketing activity will yield better results and be cheaper.
Concentration is important because it impacts all of your market activity.
5 Best Solar Towns
These are towns with the highest concentration of solar targets. If you wanted to operate a solar business in a single town, all else equal, it would be these towns.
You can see that each of those towns have DOUBLE that state average of residential homes that are good for solar. The state average is that 25% of residential homes are good for solar.
5 Most Valuable Towns
Assuming $20k per system. These are assessed based on raw number of targets.
When looking through the report, I wanted to find the most valuable clusters of towns. A cluster is defined as:
- Above average targets
- Above average concentration of targets
- Most importantly, towns that have both 1 and 2, close together
Based on my analysis. Here is the center of some of the best clusters. If you work around these areas, make sure to look at them in detail in the full report.
Recommendations for Using the Information to Focus your Marketing
The data can be used in two critical ways.
- Focus your existing marketing, by eliminating marketing in towns with no potential customers and doubling down in areas where targets do live.
- Find the best places for strategic expansion.
Process 1. Optimize existing activities.
- Download the full report to get more detailed view of each region. If you want a custom report, you can see how to do this after downloading the full report. We’ll be able to customize the specific query based on other characteristics that might be important for you.
- Outline your service territory.
- Create a list of all of your existing marketing activities. Create a list of everything you are doing or are planning on doing, both online and offline.
- Create a list of the the best 10 towns that you want to target. For most businesses and their service territories, you should be able to find 10,000 to 30,000 high value targets in a small area right around your office.
- Eliminate marketing activities in all towns that are not your target towns.
- Continue or start marketing in all of your target towns.
The result of this approach will be a greater presence in the areas that have the best potential of going solar.
Why focus so much?
- More impressions, more credibility and trust in that neighborhood.
- In solar, the largest predictor of if someone goes solar is if a neighbor goes solar. This is based on research done in Connecticut by. You can read more about this research in the Washington Post, “Why do people put solar on their roofs? Because other people put solar on their roofs.”
- From an operations perspective, it’s always easier and more profitable to send the installation crews to the same areas that are close to the shop.
Process 2 – Find the best areas to enter the market
If you’re looking to find new towns to enter, the process is easier. Based on where you have operations, you need to identify the group of towns.
The best towns are towns that have both a high number of targets and also a high concentration. If you have a high concentration, but a low number of targets, marketing will be too expensive in those locations.
This tool is used in Chris Lord‘s Financial Modeling for Solar PV Projects course. Enroll today!
About Chris Williams
Chris Williams is from Faze1. Faze1 helps HVAC and solar companies laser focus their marketing by using big data to target homeowners based on their heating and solar characteristics. Go to Faze1 to put their data to work for you for free with free custom analysis of your service territory. Chris has worked with HeatSpring, Nexamp, Ground Energy Support, and on lobbying for renewable thermal legislation in Massachusetts. You can connect with him on Linkedin.