At HeatSpring, we’re all about you, the contractors, making more money on your jobs, so we’re constantly on the lookout for products (and trainings!) that will help you in your business. We spend a lot of time with solar pv and geothermal products but want to give our solar hot water readers and alumni some love, too. If you’re in the solar hot water (SHW) business, you need to check out this product. In an effort to be 100% transparent, Sunnovtions did not pay us anything to write this post. We interviewed them because we feel the product is so useful that you should know about it.
Last week I spoke with Matt Carlson, CEO of Sunnovations, a company we discovered at the NESEA Conference that has invented an AMAZING new product, which will help you sell more jobs and make more money.
NOTE: If you’re a contractor and are interested in getting more information about the product or working with Sunnovations, fill out the simple form below and we’ll provide you with information.
Here’s my discussion with Matt.
Q: What is the pitch of the product?
A: Sunnovations is a passive pump mechanism that eliminates the needs for a pump, controller, wiring, and expansion tank. It’s faster and cheaper to install, and it is also more reliable.
We feel that SHW is a wildly underexploited technology in this country. There are technical reasons and market reasons why this is the case. We’re trying to solve both. On the technical side, systems still tend to be too expensive and too time-consuming to install, and so the economics are tough for the homeowner and the installer. Also, most are not as reliable as they should be. Our system addresses all three complications in that it is more cost effective, less expensive and more reliable .
It’s less expensive because our system removes all of the electro-mechanical controls and pumping that is typically in a normal SHW system. So first, it’s more cost effective than other systems in terms of parts. Second, on the installation side, we’re hearing from the field that normal systems are typically a two-day installation process. Labor is one of the major costs of the process–if you’re able to streamline that and make the installer’s job more predictable, you can install more systems. Furthermore, because the system is not pressurized and runs at a lower temperature, you can use PEX tubing for the runs. No more copper runs and soldering again means less expensive materials and a huge time savings. Because of these reasons our installers are putting in systems in one day.
Lastly, our system is more reliable. Sandia labs just put out a study that looked at the failure rate of actively pumped systems and found that half of them fail in a ten-year period. When they looked at the most common failure points, they found it was pumps, controllers, valves and wiring. Our system does not have two-thirds of the points that typically cause failure. You end up with a system that is much more reliable, and on maintenance, you don’t event need to change out the glycol every 3-5 years.
Q: What’s the story of the product? How was it developed?
A: This is a classic entrepreneurial story. Arnoud van Houten, the founder of the company, is an inventor and engineer by background, and when he went to buy a SHW system many years ago, he thought it was way to expensive. He found that there must be a faster, better, cheaper way to do it. He’s originally from the Netherlands, so he partnered with an Angel investment firm and got some research and development funding for his concept. Two and a half years later, he had a prototype ready for field trial. He did nine months of field training in the mid-Atlantic, and now we have installer partners all through the mid-Atlantic. We’re also looking to expand into the northeast, we’re moving into Colorado, and we’re planning to select other markets in the US as well.
Q: From the contractors perspective, is there a learning curve? Do contractors need to get new training to use your system?
A: That’s one of the benefits of our systems; there are no new skills that need to be learned. Our system is compatible with the same technology that they are comfortable with. We can use most solar thermal collectors that are OG 100 rated, and we can use most tanks that have an internal heat exchanger. There aren’t a whole lot of new skill sets needed, but the contractors will require a bit of special knowledge about how our system works. On the flip side, we provide a lot of support for our installer partners. We sell directly to our installers, which gives us a lot of contact and support to them. We have a classroom training program for all of our new installers, and we also come and support the first job or two that they do to ensure that their first installation is completed correctly.
Q: What type of contractors are you looking to work with?
A: Our strategy is to work with the leading installers in a region. We’re not working with installers who have not installed SHW in the past. This means that we’re very selective of the installers we work with, and they must show an existing background and level of experience installing SHW before we will work with them. This is because we only want our brand and product to be associated with the highest quality to try and overcome some of the issues that the SHW industry had in the late 70’s.
We’re bring a different approach to the market both in terms of a technology but also how we interact with other partners, from both an operational standpoint and a marketing perspective. We want to make it easier for their customers to understand the product and say yes, because it’s simpler and cheaper. That means bringing a different approach to how it’s marketed and explaining the message in non-technical terms that the non-technical homeowner can understand.
Q: Do you sell directly to installers or go through distribution.
A: We work directly with installers and call them our installer partners. We do not go through traditional distribution or rep channels.
Q: Do you help installers get leads if a homeowner comes to you?
A: Yes, if homeowners come to us, which they do frequently, we point them int he direction of our installer partners in their region.
Q: What is the perfect installer partner for you?
A: The perfect installer partners are firms that have deep experience and/or are NABCEP certified for solar thermal. Also, they’ve made solar thermal a large part, if not a primary part of their business. We want to see that they’ve made a commitment to selling and marketing solar thermal and are serious about it because we’re going to put resources behind them as well.
Q: Are you looking toward international expansion?
A: Yes, very much so. The company was started with international roots, and we already have systems that are being field trained in Chile, Austria and the Netherlands. We are absolutely looking at the international market.
Sunnovations has developed an awesome product that removes a lot of the time and cost from a SHW installation. Though I’ve never seen an installation personally, I don’t think that they’re lying about a one day installation and can believe their system will allow for this. If SHW is a main part of your business and you’d like to incorporate their product into your installation or you’d like more information, please fill out the form below so we can put your in direct contact with their team