Men may be from Mars, and Women may be from Venus, but both share an interest in Solar Energy. What’s interesting is the products each gender tends to buy.
At risk of sounding stereotypical and seriously impacting my home life, I decided to write this post anyway. I have fairly hard data behind my opinion, so I figure I can get away with it. I have found that men are the primary buyers of Solar Electric (Photovoltaic) Systems in Southwest Florida. On the other hand, women and men equally or collectively tend to drive the decision to buy solar pool heating systems.
The last 10 Photovoltaic (PV) systems we installed were purchased by:
- Mr. A
- Mr. Z
- Mr. R
- Mr. T
- Mrs. A
- Mr. Y
- Mr. N
- Mr. T
- Mr. A
- Mr. T
Do you notice a trend? Nine of the last ten buying decisions for PV were driven by male home or business owners.
On the other hand, Solar Pool Heating decisions tend to be a family decision. People enjoy their pool together. Solar pool heaters are typically a quality of life decision more than a straight-up investment decision (although solar pool heating is clearly the most cost effective way to heat a pool in Florida). I like to think of a solar pool heat buying decision similar to the decision to install a pool in the first place. It’s something that adds value to your home, will be part of your home for many years to come, and creates a new opportunity for enjoyment at your home.
Sure, there are cases where one spouse is the driving force behind a solar product and the other is either skeptical or dead-set against it. Mrs. R. recently came into the office to express a strong interest in Solar Pool Heating. We thought we would be out any day to install the system, but she called back to let us know that her husband had vetoed the decision. As it often happens in my home, the wife got her way, and she called back to say that she had convinced her husband to proceed! Other times we find that men want to heat their pools for the enjoyment of their family – it becomes a gift to the family. But more often than not, it is a joint decision between a husband and wife to purchase a solar pool heating system. In fact, our solar advisors recommend that couples sit down with them together to learn about solar energy to make sure both are on board. There is definitely an educational aspect to solar pool heating sales. Solar pool heating is only popular on a large scale in a handful of states, so new and part-time residents usually need additional education on how it works. The vast majority of solar pool heating systems we sell have a couple making the buying decision and showing mutual interest.
I would be speculating as to why this phenomenon exists, but thinking back to the last three years of solar electric customers, I do not remember personally having any significant interaction with female buyers of PV systems. Of course, I can name a few… Mrs. P comes to mind… but they are not nearly as engaged in the ongoing performance and benefits from the system. Off the top of my head I can easily write down a dozen names of male customers who actively review their system performance and revel over the energy savings that their systems deliver. I just don’t see that kind of engagement from female buyers. My best guess is just that guys like stats and specs. That’s why we like sports, cars, and stocks. There isn’t the same kind of quantifiable monitoring or investment return from a warm pool. A warm pool is a much more subjective benefit.
[I can feel my wife, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law glaring at me at this point.]
While I don’t have as much hard data on other solar products, I can offer some subjective observations. Solar water heating decisions seem to be joint decisions that are strictly based on economic reasons. Solar tubular skylights seem to be joint decisions that are strictly a quality of life choice. Brightening a dark kitchen makes everyone happy. Solar attic fans are economic decisions that seem to be instigated by men.
There has to be more to it than “guys like numbers and girls like luxury.” In fact, there is a marketing rule-of-thumb that says women handle 80% of spending and purchasing for the household. Why is it that most solar electric spending seems to be done by men? Perhaps there are great women behind all of those great men. Maybe women are controlling the purse strings (or puppet strings – haha) behind the scenes. A possible factor is that the husband’s name just happens to show up on the contract – it’s a control thing – we can be like that. Usually the husband’s name shows up first on the title to the property, so it stands to reason that the contract is written in his name, right?
Whatever the reason, there is clear evidence that men are driving the purchasing interest and decisions to invest in solar electric systems. I find that odd given that solar electric systems are both an economic and an environmental decision, two areas in which women generally take great interest. While the up-front costs of a solar electric system are higher than that of other solar products, there are other home renovations like kitchen and bath remodels that are equally or more expensive and that are likely to be shared decisions.
While my observations may sound stereotypical, I believe there is enough hard data to back them up. I would love to hear your perspective. Learning how people perceive and gain interest in solar energy products is critical to understanding how to best satisfy our market. Please feel free to comment below!