Oct. 2 is the date for the 2010National Solar Tour, coordinated by theAmerican Solar Energy Society.  The group states that, as of Sept. 7, 658 home and building tours have been registered in 48 states, offering consumers real-world examples of solar energy (thermal and photovoltaic), energy efficiency and sustainable technologies in their own communities.

(Note: Regional tours affiliated with the NST run from May through October, with the bulk of tours taking place on or about Oct 2.  Some tours, such as Alaska’s, take place earlier in the year to avoid inclement weather. Others are scheduled on different dates so as not to conflict with perennial local events. To find a tour, click here.)

The tour, now in its 15th year, has branched out from exposing the public to solar technology. The focus has shifted to include energy-saving techniques and sustainability practices such as green building design, installation of energy-saving appliances and the use of green materials during remodeling. Consumers also can find real-world information regarding costs and federal, state and local incentives.

If your company installs solar thermal systems, get involved in a local or state tour. This is a fantastic marketing avenue to get your name and solar services in front of potential customers - people who are extremely interested in renewable energy technology. If there isn’t a tour schedule in your area, see if you can start a tour. Or set up a solar education program in your community - partner with your solar hot water manufacturers. Many have brochures or educational materials available for home and business owners that explain the technology.

If you don’t install solar hot water systems, what’s stopping you? This is the time to start. Have you had to lay-off employees because you don’t have enough work? Diversify into renewable energy technologies such as solar and geothermal or energy-efficient technologies such as radiant floor heating. Attend a solar tour in your area to learn about the technology, and then start on obtaining the necessary training to become a certified solar installer.

ASES expects more than 160,000 visitors to tour 5,500 buildings in 3,200 communities on Oct. 2. From its Web site: “Seventy-six percent of tour attendees surveyed confirm they are definitely or very likely to purchase and install solar or energy-efficient systems after attending the solar tour. Thirty-three percent of tour attendees state that they plan to invest in these technologies within the next year and 51 percent within two years.”

Also, October is National Energy Awareness Month. If you are unable to take advantage of the Oct. 2 tour date, plan events throughout the month to educate customers and potential customers about renewable energy and energy-efficiency products.