Unveiling the Synergy Between Solar and Roofing Companies - PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Unveiling the Synergy Between Solar and Roofing Companies - PODCAST TRANSCRIPT
March 14, 2024 at 2:02 p.m.

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of a live interview with Kyle Nurminen from Total Roofing Systems and Mark Swift of Solar Energy Systems. You can read the interview below or listen to the full podcast.

Megan Ellsworth: Welcome to the AskARoofer podcast where all your roofing questions find their answers. Your hosts, Megan Ellsworth and Lauren White. Peel back the layers of the roofing world to reveal the knowledge, tips and FAQs you've been curious about. From shingles to skylights, metal to asphalt, we are here to demystify the system above your head. So get ready to ask, learn and explore the fascinating world of roofing. One question at a time on the AskARoofer podcast. Hello everyone, my name's Megan Ellsworth.

Lauren White: And I'm Lauren White.

Megan Ellsworth: And this is the AskARoofer podcast. Welcome back. We are so excited to be chatting with Kyle Nurminen and Mark Swift today, all about the synergy between solar and roofing companies and how you as a home and building owner can help facilitate and make sure you're getting the best process you can on your roof. So hello gentlemen, how are you?

Kyle Nurminen: Great ladies. Good to see you.

Mark Swift: Doing great.

Megan Ellsworth: Amazing.

Mark Swift: Thank you very much for having us on.

Megan Ellsworth: Oh, thank you for joining us. Let's dive right in, Mark, and start with you, have you introduce yourself and a little bit about your company.

Mark Swift: Great. So my name is Mark Swift. I live here in the southeast side of Florida and I've been in the solar industry now for about 12 years. My journey started when I tried to buy a solar system about 15 years ago, and I saw how things worked and I said, "You know what? I'd like to be a part of that." I am working with Solar Energy Systems, that's here in Fort Pearson, Brevard and now nationwide as we expand out into another five or six states around the union and Solar Energy Systems has the distinct privilege of being around for 44 years here in Florida continuously with the same owners, so that's a pretty stellar legacy.

Megan Ellsworth: Wow, my gosh. Yeah, that's incredible. Kyle, how are you? Let's hear a little bit about you, even though you are one of our favorites and you're on all the time, so dive right in-

Kyle Nurminen: [inaudible 00:02:17] everybody though. No, that's great that he said the 44 year, same ownership, it's not exactly the same story for Total Roofing. Total Roofing Systems was under the original ownership of Richard McEwen and he had retired and Jesus Lara, owner of our sister company as well, Dynamic Metals bought Total Roofing from him when he was already retired and we just recently brought him back out of retirement. So we're technically still under the same, he's not under ownership, but it's like old school again. We did a lot of things commercially when Richard was originally Total Roofing. We went strictly metal with Jesus and now we're really combining both capabilities.

So when it comes to commercial and residential, we're starting to be able to provide more hybrid solutions for people that aren't so typical because we're diverse. So when it comes to solar systems and the diversity that they require and the flexibility for the customer, we have to talk to solar manufacturers and installers that understand that as well. So that's why we decided to sit down today and educate the building owners and homeowners a little bit on what we've seen in the industry between roofing, whether it's metal, shingle tile or any other flat roofing and how to go about maximizing your return on your investment.

Megan Ellsworth: Amazing. Great. So I think we're just going to dive right in though it was a great segue. So we're talking about solar and roofing companies and the relationship between them. So how do the differences in installation technique, equipment requirements or even project timelines impact that relationship between these different companies?

Kyle Nurminen: You want me to start with that?

Megan Ellsworth: Sure.

Mark Swift: Start away.
Kyle Nurminen: Okay. So in general I think that's the core of the relationship. I think people, homeowners, and that's the core of this conversation that we're having, is that roofing contractors and solar contractors on their own tend to get frustrated by one or the other that they're usually having to work side by side with. And that's why in the industry, professionals have learned to solidify relationships with like-minded companies with like-minded operations management and so on and so forth. I don't understand that we're not just there to make a sale, we're there to do what's best for the customer overall, and that's not just today, but in the long run. And when we're talking solar, you're talking 35 forty-year investments. Same thing with metal roofing, but you can take that much of an investment and put it on a 15, 20 year roof as well, and it doesn't pay off for the customer.

So China, I know that Mark has some really cool attachments. We have our preferred panels for method of attachment for longevity for the customer, but that's not always feasible for the customer. It's not always feasible for the budget. And so we have to talk, get with Mark and get with our team and talk about, hey, what's the best specification for this particular instance in this architecture for this specific customer? So there's a lot of boxes that check. It's not a simple clear-cut answer. It's a case-by-case basis. And that's why the relationship between the solar contractor and the roofing contractor is still very important.

Mark Swift: Well said. The roof is the home for the solar system. So when the roof is done properly, and especially when it's done by somebody like Kyle and his team who care, who are doing the right thing for the customer, I don't have to worry about building my house on sand to use an ancient reference. I often get into a situation where I'm being asked by a homeowner, "Well, hey, what do you think of my roof?" This has been happening since day one of me being in this role and I've had to learn over the years of how to evaluate a roof and say, "Hey, you know what? I think we better call somebody for a second opinion to see if this roof needs to be replaced before I go ahead and build a solar system over top of it." And then as Kyle alluded, there's always the risk that the roofer will feel like we did something to change the value of the roof or vice versa.

The customer has to then decide which person that they're going to reach out to. It is so superior when we have a relationship where we're working closely together, where I know exactly what kind of quality I'm walking into because there are layers of things that happen underneath the roof surface from what you see. And that means that when I attach a solar system for a customer, that system is then on a good foundation to start, Kyle and his team know exactly what we've done every step of the way to attach our equipment to the roof. And now the homeowner has one answer from one team saying, "Hey, we'll get to the bottom of that. We'll make sure that everything is taken care of," whether that's after 15 or 20 years when they need a new shingle roof or it's after 40 years when it's time to look at a new roof and a new solar system again. Either way.

Megan Ellsworth: Yeah. Wow. That's takeaway number one is if you're a home or building owner out there listening to this, find a roofing company and a solar company that worked together, one team, that's such a good tip. What are some common misconceptions or myths surrounding solar roofing and how would you address them to educate consumers effectively?

Mark Swift: Do you mind if I take this one first Kyle?

Kyle Nurminen: That's for you, Mark?

Mark Swift: Yeah, I hear these all the time. There's three main concerns. The first is, "Hey, I don't want you to penetrate my roof," or "I'm concerned about the roof penetrations." And the truth is, every single type of roofing, whether we're talking shingle or exposed fastener or even standing scene roofing or tile, every single roof has penetrations. That's how the roofing materials themselves have been attached to the home in order to keep them there and meet the standard, which is the wind mitigation. We got to make sure we can mitigate or withstand a certain amount of wind so that that roof is going to stay into place through whatever mother nature has to offer. When we're talking about every roof system, our penetrations are very, very few compared to the roof system itself. And we take care to make sure that they're attached in a similar or in some cases an even stronger fashion because they're serving a different function.

So that's the first myth is, "Hey, I'm concerned about the penetrations." I understand rightfully so. I wouldn't want just anybody to penetrate. And we've done a lot of work to make sure that the way we attach the solar to the roof is second to none, it's self-sealing, self-healing, low profile, incredibly strong and it'll last a lifetime so that we're not having to go back and refresh that over, and over, and over again. I sometimes say, and this is one that you can speak to, Kyle, with an exposed fastener metal roof, which is a very common type of metal roof for a lot of people, you're penetrating that roof hundreds of times with a screw that's meant to hold it tight and it's being sealed by a mechanism, often it's a washer.

And when we penetrate the roof to attach, we take a lot more care and rigor than just one screw out of hundreds. We go and attach that very, very deliberately. Very carefully, and we don't create new problems. And again, when you have companies like Kyle's and mine that work together routinely, we're not finger pointing. If there ever is a question of something that needs to be repaired because that happens with everybody's installation, sooner or later, somebody is going to find a need for service. We don't point fingers, we just take care of the customer and make sure the home is restored exactly the way it should be.

Megan Ellsworth: Love that.

Lauren White: Great. So continuing off of that, how do roofing companies, Kyle, like yourself, benefit from partnering or even integrating with solar companies?

Kyle Nurminen: Yeah. Well, we've learned a lot through dealing with Matt and Mark and down in the West Palm Beach area. We get a lot more financing opportunities. Roofers, yes, a lot of roofing companies do a lot of financing. It's not usually roofers like ours that we don't really, we're word of mouth. We build our reputation internally. Our existing customers aren't usually the type that finance, but when we come across a company or a household that says when financing starts coming in the loop, it's actually helps us to say, "Well, have you thought about solar?"

Because hard to push financing on just roofing, it's just one more bill on top of every other bill. But when you combine it with the solar, it's paying itself off. So if you ask them, "Hey, how much are you paying in your electric bill right now? What if you could get a whole new solar system, be off grid and have your own energy and never have to worry about losing power and pay for your roof all for that same price, or maybe even with a 30% rebate on top of that, would you be interested in taking a look at those numbers?" And that usually puts us right into the relationship to where we're really the only one that they're talking to. And that's the thing is, I admit most of my career I've been against solar on the roof from what I've seen, I've sworn that I'll never put it on my house, unless there's certain circumstances and those fasteners and that underlayment are a huge part of it.

So a 5V, a lot of people don't realize that's a mill [inaudible 00:12:57] that's a Key West style 5V exposed fastener roof that he's describing. There's really no warranty on that metal. There's warranty on the metal until you fill the through full of all those holes. So you're really dependent on the underlayment that's underneath that panel. So by code, I can still put a traditional 30 pound felt under a 5V roof. It's going to be cooked out in five years. Under that metal it's not high temperature. It will shred, it will fall apart. And your roof systems are designed, even the washers, they're not supposed to be 100%, it's okay for water to get up under the ridge caps and the hips caps and not the details and run out from under those panels. It's just like any other type of slope, roofing, shingles and tile where your primary surface is there to protect your underlayment and that's your waterproofing.

So whatever you're putting on top of it is only as good as what you have underneath of it. So the quality is basically undercover, and that's why you have to have this relationship from the start. So that's how the solar conversation has really helped us, and that's why we've grown a lot and done a lot of projects with them, and we just signed another big one down there in Palm Beach County, six figure roofing contract on top of the solar as well. So it's no joke. When you don't handle those projects just by being the cheapest solar guy and then the cheapest roofer, and that's why we connected so good too is Matt wasn't able to make it today, but he has a really strong background in roofing.

He was a roofer, so he has that knowledge, but still the homeowner, and so he knows how to lead into the conversation and then he brings us in as the expert say, "Okay, don't take my word for it, let me bring in my roofer." So that's how the whole dynamic really helps us because we're all about creating relationships and building trust, and we're tired of seeing the homeowner stuck in the middle of, "Okay, let me get five bids for solar and then get five bids for roofing and four out of our five guys for solar said, I didn't even have to replace my roof and only one guy did, so I'm not going to listen to him. I don't want to spend that money." Well, he's the one who was telling you the truth. So that relationship on both sides of the fence is very important for us.

Megan Ellsworth: That is so true, so true. And really as a home or building owner listening to that one guy sometimes or one person, how do solar and roofing companies, how do you all ensure seamless communication and coordination during joint projects on a house or building?

Mark Swift: Have you ever looked at a project management style tool like a Gantt chart and you've seen these different tracks flowing across the project management from day one? What's going to happen in week three? What's going to happen in week seven? And all of these things are happening side by side by side. Have you ever seen that? Well, if you're not lawyers-

Kyle Nurminen: [inaudible 00:16:06].

Megan Ellsworth: I'm not sure

Mark Swift: We've all seen that. But if you're not familiar with a Gantt chart, the purpose of a Gantt chart for project management is to tell us what can happen at the same time and what is dependent on one thing, finishing before that thing can get started. And when it comes to roofing, the cycle can sometimes be a lot shorter. And as we already said earlier, it is the foundation. It is what is underneath the solar system, so it has to be done first. So we have a cycle in our solar installation, normal project management that typically takes between two and six months, depending on the project, depending on the building department, the AHJ authority having jurisdiction, the county you're working in, two to six months. And often roofing can function within two to eight weeks depending on those same elements. So what we do is we treat the project as one project.

Kyle mentioned it earlier, when you can finance your roof and your solar system together in order to create a very affordable, low monthly payment, often very similar to what your electric payment was before, but now you have all of your energy being created at your home, you own your power and the cost of the roof is in there as well, and you're able to pay it in a very affordable way. Those financing options are great. So we treat them as one project. We allow the roofing company to take the lead on all things roofing, but just like they have dedicated project managers who are constantly touching that project, we have dedicated project managers who are constantly touching that project and we're doing everything that we can do at the same time that they're moving the roof forward. And then we have a natural pause button in there waiting for that completion of the roof.

When that roof is totally complete, it's been signed off on, we get word right away. We are able to make sure that the roofing company is compensated if those two things have been financed together, they're compensated so that their operations are not interrupted at all. And we go through the last phase of the installation process to go through the power installation and then connection and interconnection with the utility. And then we close out our project and it's only then that the customer is going to start seeing that monthly expense show up. So they've got a brand new roof, they've got a beautiful solar system and everything is completed. And we work together very well because we have a history. And I also need to give a shout-out to Matt Holloway. He was meaning to be on this call. He's been working with Kyle. He's the one that invited me to attend today, and we've split up this territory. He works south and I tend to work north and we meet in the middle somewhere. Matt's got a great body of experience with roofing and so do I.

Kyle Nurminen: Yeah, and I'd like to add just segue directly off of that because we talked about it in our pre-discussion for this podcast, and this is something for the owner to think about. Anytime you buy into this whole two-part, this is one of the reasons we don't like the subcontract, it's communication. And if you buy into the contract where there's two major aspects of it, even the pre-construction meeting, we're going to want Matt or Mark there for the pre-construction on the roofing project in person. I'm not talking about, "Oh, Mr. Owner, let me know your questions and I'll get with a solar company." They don't know what's being sorted back and forth. And anybody, any homeowner who's listening to this should understand the, "Heck, yeah, well, I trust that guy and he'll go find out." But you know what? As soon as there is something that doesn't add up or there's a doubt or there's an insecurity, this is stressful.

This is major construction to your home, your pride and joy, your household for life some in many cases that passing on to your children and so on and so forth, it's a big investment and it's serious construction. And so many contractors just say, "Oh, well, we'll take care of it and we'll just call everything they think that's customer service." No customer service is getting everybody out there right in front of the customer. So if you have a question, you can answer it right there and right then, and there's no hiding. There's nowhere to hide. There's no way to spin it. That's why I tell people from the roofing construction or from the very [inaudible 00:20:30], it's like my upfront contract. "You know what anybody's telling you, this is going to go smoothly, they're blowing smoke." I say, "I'm going to tell you right now, something's going to happen." But then that'll always, depending on the customer, I'll say it a little more aggressively, but it's going to happen.

Mark Swift: The most bitter mistress is miscommunication. She is terrible. I agree with Kyle. When you stand there on the property, walk through and talk through the entire project with the customer involved, anything that might have been overlooked doesn't get overlooked. And it's a key to the project management coordination is that physical touch.

Kyle Nurminen: And when things pop up, we can say, "Hey, remember when we said that things are going to happen? This is one of those situations. Just give us a chance to work through it. Let's discuss our options. Let's see how we move through this thing." And that's the key to customer satisfaction, not just promising the world and under delivering. It's under promising and over delivering.

Lauren White: I like that. I like the in-person aspect feels more personal.

Kyle Nurminen: Absolutely. And I think that's why I like commercial projects so much in my career over 20 years is it's more of a business. There's site supervisors and it's a relationship on several different levels. The homeowner, it's such a fast turnaround in roofing industry, and it's like you may never see these people ever again, but it's so valuable and so important to them. And I think that's why at this point in my career, I'm almost circling back now, taking what I've learned from corporate and portfolio management and bringing my knowledge back to the residential area so that homeowners don't get stuck holding a bill between the manufacturer and the installer or the solar guy and the roofer. This is why we're having these discussions and this is what our industry needs. It needs to have these frank, upfront candid conversations.

Lauren White: So for home and building owners, what should they know about warranty and maintenance agreements and how they differ for solar roofing systems compared to traditional roofing materials?

Kyle Nurminen: Oh, I'm not sure where to start because I'm not really familiar with the solar maintenance and warranty systems. So I can start from the roofing perspective. I've actually been in front of boards and brought in a manufacturer's rep who told them that if you attach your solar to this particular panel, it will not void your warranty. Once the winds go a certain amount, everybody's warranty is void. Okay. So as a homeowner, I see so many people, "Oh, I get this for a TPO," or "I get a 25-year warranty." But in this situation, it's a 15-year roof, and there's something that's going to void that warranty within that amount of time. So you're making decisions on costs on a warranty that is no better than the paper it's written on. So warranties are more of a guideline for specification in the roofing industry.

It's a shame that our products have gotten worse. When I started roofing 20 years ago, we were putting down 30 year roof systems with 20 year warranties. Now we're putting down 20, 25 year warranties on 15 year roofs knowing that something's going to happen, that's going to void that warranty over time. So ongoing maintenance is a part of every single roof system. A lot of people don't realize that every single manufacturer, every metal manufacturer, if there's a storm that comes through and it blows up salt water, you have to know how pressure wash, but you have to fresh water rinse that roof within a certain amount of time. You're avoiding not just finish warranties, but material warranties as well, not just on the metal, but the things that are connecting it, not just on that, but the things that are underneath of it. There's so many different levels of warranty that it's not just one big picture, I got a 40-year roof because it's almost impossible [inaudible 00:24:38] apples to apples in what we do anymore.

There's always some competitive advantage that some contractors are taking that others refuse to take. And there are some where you can meet a middle ground, but you have to be open with the customer. "Hey, yeah, we can take that away too. This is our recommendation, but if we take this away, this is going to be the consequence." So again, it's that trust factor. It's being candid and being straightforward with the customer as what this specific solution is going to be for your specific case. Even in a community that was re-roofed 22 years ago, they were built in a certain order over a period of two or three years. That doesn't mean they're all in the same condition in accordance to the way they were built. Different storms came in at different angles, at different heights. They leveled two buildings and didn't even touch the rest of them.

You never know. So the assessment process and every single instance is different. So my thing is it affects it in a way, and from a roofing standpoint, warranties misconstrued things for the customer. I think they jade the customer, they blind the customer to what was actually going on with the specification of the system, which is precisely why they need a contractor who's going to educate them in all aspects of their options and the pros and cons to all of them because there's advantages and disadvantages to every single roofing option for any case. So that was a mouthful, I understand. But now I'll let you get into the solar side of things there, Mark.

Mark Swift: Well, I agree with Kyle on so many fronts. When you talk about roofing warranties, it's like warrantying a tire. A tire, if you get a really good tire for your vehicle, it's meant to go 80,000 miles. That doesn't mean that if it falls apart at 70,000 that the warranty is going to give you free tires. The warranty is there to try to give you a sense of what that lifespan is, what it's expected to be. And then a lot of purchases, again with this analogy between tires and roofing, if something unusual happens to your tire in those first year or first five years, there are often protections. The manufacturer will step in and say, "Hey, yeah, that should never have happened, and they will help you replace your tire." Similarly, with roofing, if there's something unusual, if there's a material failure, then there's going to be help there.

But by the time your roof gets to a certain age, that's why the insurance industry is so important and so messed up, is because they have to shoulder the burden of a lot of these roofs that get damaged after a long period of time. Some things that I like to highlight for solar is this. Every square foot that is covered by solar panels is a square foot that will take less abuse from the sun and from the wind and possibly even from certain types of water damage. Solar helps to protect many types of roofing. When solar is attached to a roof, it's attached once every six feet if it's being attached in a truss system. So if it's going into penetrating the roof and locking to the trusses of your homes, it's going to tie those trusses in horizontally.

So instead of just the strength of your roof being able to hold that roof onto the structure of your home, you're now tying those trusses horizontally, strengthening that whole area of your home, which is really counterintuitive but true, and you're covering the roof's surface, so it's going to take a little less beating in that respect.

Having said all of that, every warranty is made up of three things, performance, materials and service. All of the performance and material warranties hover around the 25-year mark in solar and they mean it. If this device that is causing your power to be inverted from DC power like a battery to AC, to power your home, if that device fails within 25 years, that is a warranty replacement part that the manufacturer is going to send us for free. If this solar panel does not produce energy according to this schedule that it's going to produce energy for 25 years, that is a warranty issue, and we will get a replacement panel from that manufacturer for you, provided the manufacturer is still in business, which good news, most of the manufacturers we deal with are more than 20 years old. So there's enough evidence there to think that they will.

And then here comes the big problem. Your service warranty is only valid as long as the company that installed your system is going to be there to take care of you in the future. So when you have a company like Kyle's that's been around for 40 years and you have a company like mine that's been around for 40 years, you start to have a sense that, "Hey, maybe these guys know what they're doing." We do not have a problem warranting our equipment and providing service to our customers. We've done it for four decades. And if you look at the reviews online, you'll see that we have a lot of people giving us praise for how we serve them after we install. It's not a, "Thank you very much for your money, don't ever call us again." That's not how the warranty works. The other thing I'd like to point out, and I think this is for Kyle's benefit, and people in his industry, we chose, we didn't have to, but we chose to warranty for 25 years, our attachments to the roof, what we call our penetrations.

So when we do take the time to find the right place to mount that solar attachment and we drill and we screw it down and we seal it and caulk it and do all the stuff that goes with it, that is a 25-year service item that we are responsible for. So we are not going to be pointing fingers and saying, "Well, hey, I don't know what happened here because it's his responsibility, not ours." We are the first ones to go and take a look, and if we need additional help, then we're reaching out to our trusted partners to take a look. And if it's something that's beyond the warranty, it might be in the year 25 or 30, when it's time to really start looking at a new roof and possibly a new solar system. But within that first 20 years, Kyle and I should both have really good news for you, barring any extreme weather event, which again is what insurance is for.

Kyle Nurminen: And like we had previously discussed about onsite and upfront pre-construction meetings as a roofer, even though we're done with the roof, say this several months before the solar comes in, we're still going to be there. They have their way of, but we might need some input on, "Okay, this bracket is going to be a little bit close to this detail. Is there a better way to handle this? Or is there something we can do with our system in that area to make this more watertight and less of a risk of any type of penetration?" So we're going to be there as well, even after our job, our roof's done. So once again-

Mark Swift: I really love the standing seam metal, not because it's vastly different than every other roofing option, but standing seam provides an attachment point that requires no penetration. This is a zero penetration attachment. We clamp to that seam twice as often, so every three feet instead of every six feet for a normal truss attachment to get the same wind mitigation. But now you're at a very high wind mitigation, higher than the roof itself, so that those solar panels are safe and secure, and we never have to compromise the roof in any way. We're not creating any questions. We're just simply clamping to the seam, which is nice and strong because of the way the roof was constructed in the first place. So that's one thing I like very much.

Kyle Nurminen: I'm glad Mark brought that up because people think standing seam is standing seam. The homeowner for purposes of this discussion need to realize that there are several different variations of the standing seam. There are ones are better suitable for solar attachment, even though Mark's company does have a variance of different attachments. When you're getting ready to do this, consult with Mark and I or Matt, Matt and Gabriel down south, any of our team members. Give us a call and we'll go over what those pros and cons are. People want a specific look that goes with the standing seam. There are different types of standing seams and they give different looks. There's different affordable options and not, but there's also additional risk to that point of attachment by the way the clamp is attached, that may not pertain to some other profiles, so don't need to get in those specifics right now for purposes of this conversation, but consult with us. Just one more reason to reach out to us when you're considering your solar and roofing needs.

Mark Swift: It's one of the reasons why I value this relationship so much. I'm sorry to keep dwelling on this, but I love this.

Megan Ellsworth: No, it's great.

Mark Swift: Because Kyle and his team are proactively saying, "Listen, we'd love to show you what this looks like, and we know who we can count on." We're doing the same thing. "Listen, we know exactly who to call and they're going to give us a straight answer so we can design this properly from the front." That's all I wanted to add to that.

Megan Ellsworth: Absolutely. I think there's so many good tips to take away there, like standing seam metal, we're big metal fans over here on AskARoofer, so we love-

Kyle Nurminen: Got a whole coffee shop for it.

Megan Ellsworth: Yeah, I got a whole coffee shop for it. And then also another takeaway that I got from what you were saying, Mark, is making sure that you're communicating as a homeowner, you're asking questions about your warranties, asking questions to your roofing contractor, what is the best choice if I do want to go with solar? And so lots of great takeaways from that. So great job.

Mark Swift: Thank you.

Megan Ellsworth: Next, so you mentioned financing options earlier in the episode, but how should, or let me ask what advice would you give home and building owners when they're trying to navigate working with a solar company and a roofing company and the financing options that are available for a solar roofing project, and how do you all collaborate on that?

Mark Swift: So again, one of the reasons why working with roofing partners became such an urgency in the last five years or so is because the financing options, listen, we set as a country more than 20 years ago, we set this goal that by this arbitrary date in the future, we were going to have all this amazing stuff accomplished. We didn't do much of anything for about 10 years. And the next five years was pretty sad. And it has only been in the last five or eight years when things have really been moving full steam ahead. There are about nine big financing companies, large, large banks that set aside hundreds of millions of dollars a year to finance new solar projects because it's a good investment. Essentially, if you're already paying your electric company and somebody says, "Hey, I can install an appliance on your roof that's going to produce that same electricity for a lot less money." Solar can often save people 50 to 70% of their electric bill in its lifespan.

And if I'm erasing 50 or 70% of your electric bill, first of all, that's the cost of a roof. And second of all, you're happy to pay that monthly payment because instead of sending it to the electric company, you're just sending it to your finance company for your solar system. And it doesn't feel that big of a difference until you get to year three, year five, year seven and your neighbors are complaining about their electric bill, which is a hundred dollars more than you remember yours being, and your solar payment hasn't gone up. And there's all of this stuff. So with this investment in the solar industry, it quickly became obvious that it wasn't enough to simply invest in solar. If you need work done to your home, there's certain work that is approved. And roofing has always been that one thing that's so approved.

So if Kyle and I are working together and the terms for the solar loan is maybe longer instead of 10 or 15 years, people can stretch that out over 20, 25 years, if the interest rate is slightly lower, because again, it's an energy product that's paying you back. People are willing to offer slightly lower interest rates with slightly lower fees to lending, and suddenly we can do this project together financially, make sure each company is taken care of. I started using a word at first, it was just a green tree huggy word, and now it's become a word that really informs my business sense. And that word is sustainability. You can't sustain a company if you're charging customers less than it costs you to do the work. You have to find that right price point. You can't be the most expensive option out there just for the sake of being expensive or else that's not going to be sustainable either.

People will not choose your business, you're overpriced. But if you're trying to be the cheapest option out there, that can often cause a different problem and make sure that you can't make your books work. So you find well-priced options with good service providers, that is a sustainable model that these companies will be in business to serve you for years to come. And if that monthly payment is something that is advantageous. Here's one more detail that you need to know as a listener of this podcast. Solar financiers are incredibly open. They create loans that do not put a lien against your home or your property. They put a UCC mechanics lien against the equipment itself as collateral for the loan. So you're free to refinance or sell your home, and you can deal with the transfer or the closing of the solar loan later. That's one thing.

Second, they invite you to pay any amount anytime or to close that loan note without penalties. So I often see people take note of what portion of the project was roofing and what portion of it was energy related to solar. And they start making different plans for how they want to go ahead and attack that loan. Most solar lenders will even allow you to re-amortize your monthly payment. So if you start with a payment that looks like a roof and an energy payment together, you can re-amortize that in year two, three or five and have it get down to the magic number. Everybody has a magic number. They're like, "If I could pay $150 a month forever for energy, I would love that. It'd be so cheap." Whatever your magic number is, you can set your payment to that number by just flexing the flexibility that they offer all of their customers to pay any amount any way they want. And I think that that makes us really, really strong partners because our financing does have a bigger umbrella. That's my 2 cents.

Lauren White: Okay. So I think in all of your years of experience, would you share some successful examples of collaboration between your solar and roofing companies?

Kyle Nurminen: I didn't have any specific instance. I did mention a large project that we just sealed, just signed recently down in Palm Beach between Gabriel and Matt, and it's really exciting. I think that's, I don't know, because Mark might have something more specific, but in a nutshell, ours is pretty vague, and it's really a conservative feeling of satisfaction really. When you start growing your customer base and now when it comes to these larger projects and people are blatantly reaching out to either Mark or us and knowing that that's a link to a trusted team, that's a success story. I don't care. We're never the cheapest, but we're not the most expensive either. And in any type of sales organization that conservative reliability for the growing of your continuous expansion of your pipeline without really having to do anything different than you already do is a lot less stressful than most companies have it.

So that's our success story. I think just the fact that we've had the courage stand up to [inaudible 00:41:35] or picky or stubborn property owners or homeowners and say, "Listen, we're going to do it this way or we're not going to do it at all." Or, "It's not in my best interest." You can go ahead and shop these three other solar companies because they're cheaper and you know what? And then they tell you, you can wait two or three years and then you're going to want to come back in two or three years and replace your roof. Are they even going to remove that or they're going to charge you now to remove that? And then they're going to charge you to reinstall it and then what's that going to do to your warranty that they originally put down? How's that going to affect your warranty? Are you still going to have the same warranty?

So there's all these factors that come into play that I'm proud to say we don't have to deal with. We just eliminated it, just like we had a recent conversation. Our influencers talk last month was about subcontracting. We just don't do it. We avoid those issues by not doing it. We don't subcontract or all of our employees, our crews are our crews. So we don't have those issues. So same thing with solar. Technically it's not a subcontract. We are working contract by contract. There's no markups for my roof for Mark to put the solar on it. We are strictly referral business for one another. We work with each other because that makes our jobs easier. We don't have to worry about getting beat up on a project and doing jobs for free, because we know our customers are coming to us because they understand the value of the two of us together. And that we're not going to rake them over the coals, but we're not going to be the cheapest either.

And they have that open expectation, and I think that's the way people purchase nowadays. They don't want the cheapest and they don't want the most expensive anyway. So that's my success story. I think it's been this relationship because I've tried others with other solar companies, and I always thought that the smaller solar companies were the ones to go to. It's really not. It's the larger ones that are the ones with longer term and more experience that have the diversity and develop the technical skill set and knowledge of what they do and how it affects what we do. And some of your younger companies just don't get that. And I'm sorry, but a lot of these solar sales guys been knocking on doors today are car salesmen. They [inaudible 00:43:48] nothing about roofing or construction. They're just out there banging on doors in their sales machines. So the homeowner beware.

Mark Swift: Yeah, I swung a hammer in my 20s installing roofs. Then I didn't look at a roof for, I won't name the number of years, but it's been a number of years. And then I started hearing from my friends in the roofing industry, those in Kyle's seat that I knew needed advice, help, projects. They started saying, "You know Mark, something's changed. I used to be I would sell a roof. And the first question was, 'When can you get started?' Now the first question is, 'Hey, now that we've selected the roof material and we've got all the color selection done, and now they've made that decision, do you think it's a good time to put solar on the roof?'" Everybody wants to talk about solar, but they don't know who to trust. They don't know when. And they're thinking, "Well, I don't want to put on the roof until I get a new roof."

And so they're waiting for this milestone to get a new roof to then give themselves permission to put a solar system on the roof. Not everybody, but a lot of people. So over the past five years, I've done countless roofing solar jobs side by side together. It has completely re-immersed me in the world of roofing. I still turn to our expert partners all the time to ask questions and make sure we're doing the right thing and for them to take care of that side of the job. But I often can go out, take a photo package, walk the roof and come back with some really good numbers so that it reduces the amount of effort on their part. But more often I find people like Kyle who are reaching out to Matt and I or Gabriel reaching out to Matt and I and saying, "Hey, I've got a customer. I suggested that they talk to you because we trust you. They were asking about solar. Can you please design a system for them?" And then we're going into a beautiful, warm relationship.

And here's the success stories. When a customer has a really great experience with their roof, and then they follow it up with a strong experience getting their solar system completed and activated, and then we follow up with them in three to six months and say, "Hey, how's everything going?" They're saying all of these really wonderful things about how their bill went away and they love what it does, and they forget that it's even there because it just works. And they're saying nice things about the roofers, and they're saying how much their neighbors and their family and friends are commenting. These are the kinds of things that are deposits, if you will, in my emotional bank account that make me think, "I must be doing the right thing," because what I keep hearing from my customers is, "I'm so glad I did this," instead of the myriad of horror stories that are out there on the internet for people saying, "Oh, I got screwed. This is the worst thing I ever did. I trusted this guy who came and knocked on my door, and now this happened."

The success stories is happy customers. I've got a customer list right here on my screen, number one and as I scroll down through it, I wouldn't hesitate to reach out to almost every one of them and just say, "Hey, I'm running a special promotion. I would love you to give me the name of a friend or a family member who thinks that what you did is an awesome idea. I would love to approach them." And they all respond with, "Yeah, Mark totally. Here, call my sister or call my friend." They don't feel guarded because they had a good experience along the way. That's success.

Lauren White: Definitely.

Megan Ellsworth: Wow. Well, gentlemen, thank you so much for chatting with us today. I think people out there should have been taking notes, listening all you homeowners, great advice for approaching your re-roof and solar installation in the future. So thank you both so much for chatting.

Mark Swift: Thank you, Megan.

Kyle Nurminen: Pleasure. Thanks for having us.

Mark Swift: Thanks for having us, Kyle. It's great to see you.

Kyle Nurminen: You as well, Mark. We'll see you out there in field, buddy. Take care.

Megan Ellsworth: Well, Lauren, this has been a successful AskARoofer podcast.

Lauren White: It has another one.

Megan Ellsworth: Another one in the bucket. Everyone, make sure you are subscribed and follow and ring the bell so you get notifications for the next AskARoofer podcast that comes out every month. We're also going to start releasing mini episodes where Roofer's Coffee Shop, our club members will be answering your questions that you send in Roofing 101, Ventilation 101, small, easy to digest mini episodes, mini-sodes if you will, to buff up your knowledge on your roof and how to maintain it. So everyone, keep listening. Thank you for listening, and we'll see you on the next AskARoofer.

If your roof needs answers subscribe now to the AskARoofer podcast. We've got your questions covered. One episode at a time. Go to askaroofer.com to submit your questions and learn more. Stay tuned and keep those questions coming.

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