Solar panels help homeowners save energy, add value


If there is one thing Florida has plenty of, it’s sunshine.

There’s also something else Florida is seeing a lot of these days – solar panels. With homeowners looking to make investments in their homes, save money or live a greener life, solar panels may be an enticing option, but are they worth it?

“Essentially [solar] is a very cost effective way to use green renewable energy, offset pollution and save a lot of money at the same time,” said Pete Wilking, owner of A1A Solar Contracting, a Jacksonville-based company that designs and installs residential and commercial solar power plants in Northeast Florida.

“The great thing is, there are a number of financing programs so you can use your drop in your electric bill to pay the bank for the financing of it, so there’s no money out of pocket, and the solar basically pays for itself,” Wilking said.

A1A Solar installs both residential and commercial units all over Northeast Florida, with the bulk of their business coming from Duval, St. Johns and Nassau counties. “Solar Power World” magazine ranked A1A Solar Contracting number five in the magazine’s 2015 list of top Florida solar contractors.

New homes are particularly well suited for solar panel systems, Wilking said, because the houses are already energy efficient. The company has installed a number of systems in Nocatee, he noted, including an 18-panel, 4.83 kilowatt system to Dave Berkhousen’s 1,440 square-foot Nocatee home last June.

“I saw an opportunity for a long-term cost-savings,” said Berkhousen, who was also motivated by his interest in clean energy technologies.

Berkhousen acknowledged there is a bit of an upfront cost when it comes to going solar and that he’s paying a bit more per month. But in the long run, he says, he sees the solar panel system paying for itself.

“I enjoy being part of the initiative,” he said. “I definitely think it’s a step in the right direction for clean energy.”

Berkhousen is also excited about adding value to his home. He recently had an appraisal done on and said that the system has added significant value to his home.

A study released in January 2015 revealed that home buyers have consistently been willing to pay more for homes with host-owned solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems. In addition, the study concluded that more than half a million U.S. homes had PV as of 2014, and the number is growing rapidly.

Interested in finding out more about solar? Solar-Estimate has a solar calculator on its website ( developed with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy. The calculator shows homeowners what rebates are available, the returns and payback period, the best installers in the area, what size system is needed and more. The site also offers a free solar installation checklist with a list of questions to ask the installer when speaking to a solar company.