From October 2005 through March 2006, more than 107,000 unique visitors clicked on FindSolar.com, the online directory that links home and small business owners to qualified solar energy system installers. Visitors to the site can review estimates on system installation costs and size of solar systems for hot water, electricity, and pool or spa heating, as well as request bids from qualified installers in their area. Already, more than 1,000 visitors to the site — a joint partnership between the American Solar Energy Society, Solar Electric Power Association, Energy Matters LLC, and the U.S. Department of Energy — have generated at least 2,700 such leads.
Qualified installers can be listed for free on the site by providing their contact information and experience. “Essentially, anyone that currently sells or installs systems can be listed in the database,” says Julia Judd, executive director, Solar Electric Power Association.
For an enhanced listing, installers may request to have their information pre-screened. If certain criteria concerning the company's experience and customer reviews are met, their listing appears at the top of the list.
“The qualifications for pre-screening are that they've been in business three years, a minimum of three customer references, and are at a minimum of our ‘ok’ rating, which means they can't have any negative customer reviews,” Judd says.
The staff at FindSolar.com will also check the company's Dunn & Bradstreet PAYDEX score, which must rate at 50 or better — and the company must provide proof of its general liability insurance.
Once listed, installers can also sign up to receive free instant e-mail notification of sales leads that are targeted to match their company's capabilities and geographic area. They may also copy the HTML code for FindSolar's estimator and paste it on their own Web site. “Instead of just directing customers to FindSolar.com, they can get the HTML code right off our Web site,” Judd says. “It's customized for their location so that customers can then get an estimate directly off each contractor's site.”
Currently, the energy calculators on the site encompass solar electric (PV), solar domestic hot water and pool/spa heating, but additional capabilities are in the works.