Part 2: Solar Panel Hanger: Why You Think You Don't Need One

A few weeks ago I called out the top 2 reasons why you’ve most likely brushed off the idea of adding the Solar Panel Hanger to your solar installation toolbox.

In part one I addressed at length reason #1, which covered why installers think the tool isn’t going to really make a difference for them, followed by an in-depth look into the multifaceted uses the tool has which could reduce some of the day-to-day challenges for a solar installer. If you missed it, hop over to the article now so the stage is fully set when I dive into reason #2, the cost.

Let me start with my favorite part of the rationale above . . .

“Pfft! I could totally make something just like that for waaayyy cheaper!”

In the words of the hosts of Mythbusters to you I say . . .plausible, but highly improbable. Chances are you can squeeze something out that does the basic idea, but it wouldn't have all the features and good looks this tool does. If you have ever taken the time to invent something (especially with the intention of it being mass-produced for the public) then you know it takes a whole heck of a lot more than a Sunday afternoon in the garage to bust something out worthy of writing home about. And yes, I did start with my first two prototypes in the garage with a few trips to Home Depot, a blow torch, and a tig welder. My guess is with time and materials I was probably a hundred bucks in with a single tool that weighed 10 lbs and could only mount on one style of racking. Beyond the fact that it couldn’t do anything other than hold a solar panel in place for me, I would still need to make an identical replica for it to be effective and truthfully it looked like crap.

By all means, if you’ve got time to tinker then go for it. As is with many things in this world, it’s all about the time value of money.

Alright, enough about that.

Moving on to the more all-encompassing . . .

“The tool costs too much. I can’t justify the purchase.”

I get it, we as business owners have to continually review the bottom line and we’re always looking for ways to cut expenses, not add to them. But that's exactly the whole rationale behind why I created this tool in the first place; to cut expenses.

As my solar business began to grow, it no longer became realistic for me to engineer the systems, order the product and single-handedly install each job. So as any other company would naturally do, we began to hire installers. As I trained each new member, I quickly found, not everyone is equally skilled on the roof and my completed installation rate per day began to dip while the jobs began to pile up. Every smart business owner quickly realizes there is a fine balance between the cost of labor and how many install jobs you should be taking before you realize you are barely breaking even.

Labor has hands down got to be the highest variable cost of doing business and in the solar world, it’s really the only place we’ve got room to squeeze out a little extra cheddar.

This is absolutely the number one reason why I began to conceptualize the idea of the Solar Panel Hanger in my head.

Just for the fun of it, let me run the numbers for you.

A typical install crew consists of a minimum of two to three rooftop installers. Let me pause for a moment and suggest if you're a crew of one just stop reading this and immediately go buy this tool because you my friend need help. Alright, so I am going to assume the average wage of an installer is $15 an hour, without factoring in your other costs like worker's comp, overtime, etc.; if they are not independent contractors. Bottom line, a small crew of two installers is a minimum $30 an hour. If we assume the average solar array takes 8 hours to install ($240 in labor) and that the Solar Panel Hanger was able to reduce this install time by one hour then you’d probably think a $30 savings isn’t much to get excited about. Right?

Let’s now put that into the perspective of an entire workweek. Five days of installs, reducing each install by one hour each day means by the end of the week you just saved yourself $150 in labor cost. If you haven’t already worked ahead on your math that means in 2 ½ weeks the tool has already paid for itself.

If we take these numbers and analyze them the same way we sell solar, through the ROI method, then an ROI of 2 ½ weeks means you are making an additional $7,800 a year, per crew, based on the deflated values I have been using. Values that I’m sure many of you are already realizing mean these calculations could only make for a larger number if you supersized it. Just imagine how many additional solar systems you could install by reducing your average installation time per project by one hour. Christmas bonuses for everyone!

Simple math dictates the tool is a no-brainer.

Inventing products is not cheap fellas, especially when you get into the thick of patenting and manufacturing. Until the day comes that I’m selling tools like IronRidge is selling racking, it’s probably just not in the cards for this tool to be at a price you’d be excited about. I can tell you I have worked very hard to get the cost down to where it is at, and I will continue to source the best prices, but I’m also not willing to sacrifice the quality. I’m not willing to sell you a Harbor Freight tool that you’re gonna have to buy 10 times. I’d rather make something quality that you’re able to use over and over again.

As I said before, you might not see or agree with the advantages of the Solar Panel Hanger and that’s okay. But one thing is for certain, the solar industry is continually changing and it’s not going anywhere. As the industry continues to evolve, solar installers are going to have to install faster, for cheaper or they’re going to get pushed out. I hope that tools like the Solar Panel Hanger can assist solar businesses of any size to help survive these changing and challenging times.