You can buy solar pool heating panels online, but not here. Nonetheless, if you are looking to buy solar panels online, keep reading.Note: I’m not really going to try to talk you out of buying solar panels online.
I listened to a great podcast today from Nora Young called Spark. One segment was on the growing phenomenon of what’s called “webrooming.” In 2012 the term “showrooming” became the big buzz. Showrooming is the practice of going to a brick and mortar store to look at products in person, and then purchase those products online. This strategy works well if you want to try on a particular piece of clothing for fit, see the quality of an item firsthand, or seek out a better deal online. The opposite of showrooming is webrooming, also known as reverse showrooming. Webrooming is researching a product online, only to go buy it in a local store. The term came out in 2014, and research shows that the phenomenon is changing the way people buy things.
It got me thinking… Webrooming is exactly how many people buy solar pool heaters. They look online for the different solar pool heating options and dealers, research the reviews and performance of each option, and then contact an online or local dealer based on their research. The solar panels that are perceived to be the best have a leg up on the competition when buyers make a purchase decision.
There are two ways to buy solar panels:
- Buy solar pool heating panels online and install them yourself or have someone install them for you.
- Buy a turnkey solar pool heating system from a local dealer and have it professionally installed.
From my perspective, the only plausible reason that someone would buy solar panels online and have someone install them is they think they will save money. That’s probably the case if it is a do-it-yourself project, and probably not if hiring someone to do it for you. If hiring someone, the challenge then becomes finding a qualified person and ensuring the job is done right. If you are the do-it-yourself type, you can definitely learn everything you need to know through diligent research online, and if you have some basic roofing, plumbing, and electrical experience you can install a system safely and effectively. If hiring someone, your net cost will be similar to hiring a local licensed solar contractor.
Back to webrooming… If you have decided to go the other route and purchase a turnkey system from a professional dealer, you are probably in the position of comparing the options right now. The solar pool heating panels you can buy from local dealers are not available online. They may sound the same or look the same, but they are not. Many of the options you can buy online do not have the requisite state certifications or local wind resistance requirements. Some online sellers of solar panels offer to find you a “certified local installer,” which is often another way of referring to a handy person that has installed a few of these things. When performing your webrooming due diligence to select a solar panel dealer online, you should consider the following factors:
- The solar panels themselves. I recently wrote about the performance comparison of locally available brands. I have also compared panel types in another article.
- The local solar dealer. The Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples, Port Charlotte area has a few major players, and I have identified them in another article.
- The system. This is where things become a little gray. You can’t compare the total cost of solar panels or dealers without looking at the other system components including plumbing (size), valves, and automation options.
- The after-sale support. Where are you going to go when you need service, and how well does the manufacturer handle it’s warranty through it’s dealer network?
So webrooming is a really just a way of buying solar panels online. You get to see the way panels look, review their performance, and see what other have to say about the dealer. When you are ready to buy, you head into the “showroom,” which is often an in-home presentation made by an experienced solar professional. Your home effectively becomes your showroom. You could walk into a solar pool heating dealer’s office, and you are welcome to visit ours, but ultimately a solar professional needs to understand your needs and look at your roof and existing equipment to provide you with the best options and a firm price for a turnkey installed system.