Survey Says: Good Prospects for Residential Solar

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Several surveys out this week report results that are favorable for residential solar. With Americans viewing solar more favorably than in the last few years and planning to spend money on home improvements, the stage is set for even more of a solar boom.

It’s been a great week for solar-related surveys. In addition to the national survey “Shining a Solar Marketing Light on Women,” two other surveys were released that are important for the residential solar industry.

American homeowners spending on home improvement projects

With consumer confidence and the real estate market on the rise, according to an online survey that Harris Poll conducted on behalf of SunTrust Banks, Inc. (NYSE: STI), 56% of American homeowners plan to spend money on home improvement projects this year. That includes adding solar.

“People may no longer be as nervous about investing in their homes,” said Gary Miller, business head of LightStream, a national online lending division of SunTrust Bank. “With the economy picking up and homes beginning to increase in value, the home improvement loan category has been energized.”

Also significant for the solar industry is that of those who plan to spend money on home improvements this year, 20% plan to spend $10,000 or more, according to the survey. And many will take out loans to do so, which is interesting in light of the many new solar loans coming on the scene.

“Although many people will use money from savings or from tax refunds, we’re seeing a strong market for home improvement loans. Customers are telling us they’re using loan proceeds to fund deferred maintenance projects as well as pool installations, solar energy systems, landscaping, and kitchen, bath and basement remodels,” said Miller.

American consumers favoring solar energy

Not only are Americans planning to spend on their homes — they’re also viewing solar more favorably.

Since 2009, Navigant Research has conducted an annual national consumer survey to gauge public perceptions of energy and environmental concepts. Between 2009 and 2012, there were steady declines in favorability for some of these, particularly the ones that had the most favorable rankings in the past, such as solar energy.

However, that’s changing. According to the most recent consumer survey from Navigant Research, positive overall impressions of solar energy have now climbed to 79% of Americans — a level close to the results of 2009, when 81% of respondents viewed solar favorably.

“Solar energy is one of the most popular and least controversial green technologies in the eyes of consumers,” says Clint Wheelock, managing director with Navigant Research.

Solar as a home improvement

Together, these survey results bode well for residential solar. Combine that with the rise in solar being offered as a standard feature on new homes, plus recent findings that solar increases a home’s value, and the outlook for residential solar looks good.

Now, if we can just find more ways to reach residential customers — especially women — we may see residential solar increasing beyond what anyone would have expected a couple years ago.