Solar company powers through COVID-19 crisis

POWERHOME SOLAR now is waiting for permission to install equipment in Michigan.
POWERHOME SOLAR employees are given the option to work from home if they do not feel comfortable in an office setting. Courtesy POWERHOME SOLAR

Solar utilities continue to see positive growth across Michigan, even amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Since first expanding to Michigan in 2017, North Carolina-based POWERHOME SOLAR has reported a 30% year-over-year increase in statewide installations and continues to hire at all three of its Michigan locations, including Grand Rapids.

As a result of COVID-19, more families have had to cancel their summer vacation plans and are homebound, leading to higher power costs from local utilities and more strain on the grid.

Companywide, POWERHOME hired 160 people within the last month, 60 of which are in Michigan.

This does not mean solar has navigated the COVID-19 climate unscathed. Jayson Waller, POWERHOME CEO, said the company did suffer some cutbacks to ensure it could continue to service solar-curious customers.

Before the federal stimulus packages were issued, POWERHOME executives chose to take themselves off payroll to allow employees the opportunity to stay home if they didn’t feel safe working.

“We made a stance that if people were scared and wanted to stay home, we’d let them,” Waller said.

The executives took themselves off the payroll mid-March, and shortly after, the company sales staff volunteered a percentage of their payroll to keep the company afloat, as well.

Fortunately, 90% of POWERHOME employees chose to stay, and sales continued to grow by 25% each month, leading to two back-to-back, record-breaking sales months, Waller said.

“That doesn’t mean we were profitable,” he added, “because we’re not profitable until we install the solar arrays, and we can’t install them until we get our permits tooled.”

POWERHOME also negotiated with its vendors for a COVID-19 discount, assuring them the company still was operating at full capacity but was waiting to install.

Waller also attributed part of the company’s success to the uncertainty of the economic climate. Parts of Michigan suffered several power outages during COVID-19, so more consumers are looking to solar to give them more control over their power usage.

“In these times, it’s never been more important to protect your refrigeration and your medical supplies,” Waller said.

Additionally, while people were sheltered in place, they were more likely to view POWERHOME’s TV ads.

POWERHOME continues to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention social distancing and sanitation guidelines to protect workers and customers. Before sending anyone out to a job site, the company will call the customer to verify no one in the household has COVID-19 symptoms.

The only verified COVID-19 case involving a POWERHOME employee was in Chesterfield, Waller said. After he tested positive, POWERHOME quarantined the Chesterfield office for 14 days.

“He’s been in the hospital for a long time, and we’re pleased to announce he’s about to get out,” Waller added.

Additionally, POWERHOME offices are fully equipped with wipes, sanitizers, masks and gloves, and desks are separated 6 feet apart for additional protection. Anyone who is screened positive for COVID-19 is sent home, Waller said.

“We’ve given them choice: If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t come in, but if you do, let’s make it safe as possible,” Waller said. “We’ve had some people go out for a while, and they came right back. We won’t be upset about anyone’s fear and anxiety.”

According to previous Business Journal reports, POWERHOME has more than 50,000 customers through its nine-state footprint, and Michigan is home to its largest customer base.

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