Editors Blog

Walking the Builder Show

February 25, 2010
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When I was walking the aisles of the International Builders Show in Las Vegas I noticed two things. First, I toured the show in a lot less time than in past years. Secondly, there was one exhibitor product category that was on the rise.

The IBS show was a “mad house” when it was in Orlando a few years ago. Aisles were jammed. Traffic around the convention center was snarled and waits of an hour for a shuttle bus was the norm. Not the case in Vegas this year. Exhibitors and visitors were down significantly. The flashy booths and mega displays were all but missing. Sure Kohler had huge booth space but it was merely hundreds of yards of custom drape with the Kohler logo and inside there were several product displays that were tasteful but it didn’t have the wow factor of previous years. We all know that the housing market is hurting and this year’s show was a graphic reminder.

I did notice a growing product category at the show. I kept running into companies that were now offering solar products. I checked the Official Exhibit Guide and found 38 companies that were exhibiting solar products and very few of them were just solar assisted water heaters or pool heaters. Lennox unveiled the SunSource Home Energy System that not only reduces the electricity consumed by a heat pump or condensing unit but also uses solar power to operate other devices in the home like lighting and appliances. 

Other unlikely candidates came from the roofing market. Certainteed introduced EnerGen Photovoltaic Solar Power Roofing System that the company claims is easily integrated into traditional asphalt-shingle rooftops. Maybe it’s time to start having coffee with some of your local roofing contractors. Another potential business partner is in the window market. Velux America also had their new solar panel on display. Do you know the Velux dealer in your town??

If you read the literature from all of these companies there is a unifying theme … incentives from utilities along with federal and state solar tax credits. That’s what is creating the buzz about solar. So does that mean that the solar market is booming? Yes. Is it here to stay? It is as long as the utilities and Uncle Sam keep pouring money into it. 

It was ironic. The mood of the International Builders show was gloomy, but the prospects for solar in home building and remodeling looks pretty bright.

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