Spreading Sunshine: Are Solar Referral Programs Worth Your Time?

Have you ever asked your friends or family to recommend a great physician in the area? How about scanning Yelp! for that hidden gem of a restaurant? Chances are, you have. Why? Because 74% of consumers identify word-of-mouth as a key influencer in their purchasing decision, according to Ogilvy/Google/TNS. And 92% of consumers trust referrals from people they know, according to Nielsen market research.

Given the way we value word-of-mouth endorsements, it’s no surprise that more and more solar companies are offering incentives to those who are willing to expose their personal network to the power of clean, reliable solar energy. The question is: are these programs really worth your time?

Solar is Contagious

Call it the “Keeping Up With the Joneses” Effect, but research has shown that with just a 10% increase in the number of people within a zip code to have solar installations, there will be a 54% increase in the number of those going solar. And that number is even higher street by street. “If my neighbor installs a solar panel and tells me he’s saving money and he’s really excited about it, it’s likely I’ll go ahead and do the same thing,” said Kenneth Gillingham, the study’s co-author and assistant professor of economics at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. “Then there are others who’ll install because they don’t want to be one-upped by their neighbors.” So, before you make the time to shout about the benefits of rooftop solar, well…from the rooftops – know that it is likely to make an impact.

Know Your Target ROI

ROI is shorthand for return on investment, a business term that helps evaluate whether the resources going in to something are justified by the value coming out. Knowing your target ROI when it comes to solar referrals can help you decide whether to “spread the sunshine.”

On the return side of the equation, it’s common to see referral bonuses of anywhere from $200 to $500 from well-known solar companies. Some programs, such as Crius Solar’s ShineOn! Referral Program, give you the option of doubling your referral bonus when you purchase energy-efficient products. Perks like these can add up to a lot more value than a referral reward alone so be sure you thoroughly understand the terms and conditions of any program before you open that Address Book. Most programs won’t compensate you until your contact has actually gone solar with them, i.e. his or her system is installed – so be prepared to wait a few months or more to see the fruits of your referral labor. And of course, be sure to consult your tax professional in advance to make certain that this additional – and likely taxable income – won’t have a negative impact on your taxes.

On the investment side of the equation, only you know what you are comfortable doing when it comes to promoting solar energy. If you regularly host a summer BBQ or take part in a larger scale social event like a neighborhood block party, you could easily turn that outing into cash by steering the conversation to how solar helps the environment and/or has slashed your utility bill. And if you are social media-savvy, all you need to do is post that first, shockingly lower electric bill thanks to solar (just be sure to crop out any sensitive information like your account number) with instructions to direct message (DM) you and it’s possible a few seconds of “work” could yield hundreds of dollars in referrals!

Of course if you are a born salesperson or solar advocate, know that some solar companies will happily arm you with referral tools at their expense such as: brochures, wallet cards, magnets, solar party kits and more. Others don’t require you to actually be their customer in order to earn referral rewards. Again, it’s all about what feels right for you and your friends and family.

Hidden Benefits

You may already know that generating electricity with solar power instead of fossil fuels can dramatically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming and climate change. But did you know that solar energy also reduces respiratory and cardio health issues? A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that widespread solar adoption would significantly reduce nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, and other air pollutants, all of which can cause health problems. NREL found that, among other health benefits, solar power results in fewer cases of chronic bronchitis, respiratory and cardiovascular problems, as well as lost workdays related to health issues. So, the more solar – the better, for all of us!

For these reasons and more, it’s important to share your solar knowledge with anyone you know who is sitting on the sidelines because they think going solar means going off-grid or is a hassle when you move. Try to remember it’s not about “selling” to your friends and family. Instead, referring people to solar is a way to share what you know to potentially improve their energy spend, health, and the health of our planet for future generations.

If You Can’t Refer, Review!

And, if in the end you decide that gift cards or solar referral checks aren’t for you – consider writing an online review of your solar provider. People want to know about your experience! Plus, the research you’ve already done can save thousands of American homeowners time and money.

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