Vivint Bets Its Solar Offering Will Shine

Vivint, a national provider of residential security, energy management and automation solutions, thought so much about the potential for solar power to significantly impact its bottom line that it created an entirely new business during 2011.

The Provo, Utah-based company, formerly APX Alarm, ramped up Vivint Solar in October after it received $75 million in financing from U.S. Bancorp in support of its plan to offer solar installations for homes in New Jersey, Utah, Hawaii and New York.

Namely marketed through door-to-door sales, the company installs, monitors and maintains residential solar panels with no upfront costs. Customers agree to a 20-year contract during which they purchase the power generated by the solar panels for a lower rate than utilities charge.

“We approach homeowners who never thought they could get solar and improve their carbon footprint and feel proud about the generation of the power they use,” says Vivint Solar COO Brendon Merkley. “They may not be super familiar with the product, but that is the beauty of the consultative sale. We can present it to them as something that maybe they have not formerly considered but is now obtainable and available to them.”

The solar panels, which are installed on rooftops by Vivint Solar technicians, are designed to generate about 80 percent of a residence’s overall electricity use. The company first marketed its solar platform in New Jersey during the summer and so far has completed about 200 installations. The company’s initial tax-equity fund will finance about 2,400 installations.

“For the time being we are focused mostly on New Jersey, but we are eager to expand to other states that the fund allows,” Merkley says. “This isn’t a product offering we can offer universally nationwide. It is a lot more dependent on local economics.”

Vivint began adding home automation and energy management solutions to its portfolio in 2010, allowing customers to monitor and adjust their homes’ thermostats, lighting and small appliances remotely. Vivint has signed up about 77,000 customers for its home energy management platform. And while solar complements Vivint’s core competencies in providing home services, Merkely says, there currently is no integration between the home automation platform and Vivint Solar’s offering.

“In the future it will be more of a holistic sale that could include complementary products such as an energy management platform integrated with the solar installation,” he says. “That is a product we have not yet developed but we are keen to do so and think it will be very powerful. We wanted to first assure ourselves that the business could stand on its own as a product offering and so we have marketed it almost exclusively independent of home automation.”

Merkley says the company has “toyed around” with a couple of use cases that integrate the security panel with the firm’s other platforms.

“The panel is this beautiful real estate in the home that functions as an in-home display for energy management. It is a perfect opportunity to display the solar power production on that alarm control panel,” he says. “Additionally you can go beyond an information presentation analytics into to more energy automation and efficiencies where you might choose which appliances to run according to different times of the day where the solar array may be producing power opposed to when it’s not.”

Rodney Bosch is managing editor of SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION. He can be reached at (310) 533-2426.

About the Author

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Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for latimes.com. Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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