Note: A version of this post appears in the May 2012 issue of Solar Industry magazine.
The U.S. residential solar market has grown substantially over the past several years. Companies such as SolarCity, Sungevity, and SunRun have brought innovative business models and scale to the business. However, the market is still served by a very large number of dealer-installers. As solar increasingly becomes a mainstream business, we thought it would make sense to look at how mature industries with similarities to solar distribute and sell their products to find hints about the business models that will be successful in the future.
To do this, we identified industries whose products are, like solar, sold to consumers or installed in single family homes, related to energy, professionally installed, and that have long expected lives. We also looked for products that have an aesthetic aspect and that cost $10,000 or more. In the end, we studied the sales channels for circuit breaker boxes, hot water heaters, flooring materials, roofing materials, central air conditioners, backup generators, and windows.