The Ideology of Solar: An Interview with Wayne Phillips

Wayne Phillips is the founder and owner of Wayne's Solar, an Ormond Beach-based full service green energy solutions provider.  

Wayne has been in the solar business since 1983.  His company currently serves customers in Duval, Volusia, Flagler, St. Johns, Putnam, and Clay Counties, Florida.

1) You celebrated 30 years in the solar industry last year - what was your occupation before you got into solar? 

Previous to my solar career I spent many years as a land surveyor.

2) How did you get into solar thermal pool heating and what was the business like in those early days?

While living in Ormond Beach I met a neighbor who had just moved into his home; he was already established in the solar industry and I started to talk to him about heating my swimming pool. After learning about the process and purchasing my own heater I was convinced that solar had a tremendous future. The ideology of solar heating is the same back then as it is now, but in today's market the products and materials are much better and the amount of residential solar products available has expanded.

3) Did you have any idea that solar energy solutions would become so popular?

Back when I entered the market I just had a gut feeling that solar products and systems were going to expand. It was a money saving system that fit a need. With that said I had no idea to the extent solar solutions would become.

4) You and Pat have a highly energy efficient home yourself - what all do you have installed at this point?

For my house I have in place every solar product that we offer our customers. That includes a solar electric (or photovoltaic) system for electric power, a solar hot water system for everyday house hot water, solar pool heating for the swimming pool, solar attic ventilation to help cool the attic of my home, as well as solar lighting to brighten up some of my darker rooms without having to turn on energy consuming lights.

5) What's the size of your home and the lowest energy bill you have had so far?

My home has a foot print of 2,100 square feet and my lowest energy bill to date has been $18.00

6) What in your opinion is the perfect temperature for a heated pool and a spa?

The "perfect" temperature for a swimming pool or spa is very subjective. My personal comfort level is around 86 degrees for the pool and 101 degrees for the spa.

7) What do you plan to install next in your green powered home?

I already have every solar product available on my home, but I have always been intrigued with wind production. Currently in Florida we have an obstacle for wind systems due to the hurricane wind factors that we must account for. We are working on a solution for this now.

8) Do you have any new products you are excited about offering to your customers?

There are two new products that we have had a lot of success with already. The first is the new variable speed pool pump that simply slows the flow of water down and in return uses less power, and the other is a high efficiency pool/spa pump that can capture free heat from the pump motor and transfer that heat it to the water.

9) What do you think is coming up next for the solar industry - any surprises in store?

New solar products on the horizon include an increase in the power potential of the solar electric panels. The panels keep adding more efficiency where we can produce double the power with that same size panel from a few years ago. We are also seeing a lot of effort to make solar products easier to monitor and manipulate. Some software is already available, and some will be out soon, which allows home owners to control the temperatures of the pool with smart phones and laptops. Right now you can monitor any of our solar electric systems to see exactly how much power it is producing at any given moment.

10) All of your solar products are made in the USA - what is your opinion of the solar panels made in China we keep hearing about?

China is a large producer of solar electric panels and those panel do perform out of the box. They use cheaper materials and package a panel for less money. It is no different then the other products China builds and imports to our country. The problems come with the panels longevity and break down. If you use cheaper internal materials to build the panel, as those materials prematurely break down, the panel loses it power potential. Internal components such as the ingots, the silicone chips, the resin, glass, and the semiconductors used have to be of top quality standards or the panel will fail in Florida's climate.

11) Your company has virtually no employee turnover - what is your secret to finding great workers and keeping them?

One underrated strategy we utilize for our staff and hiring procedures is input from our current employees. We find that good quality people tend to stick together. When we need to expand our staff, we talk to our qualified employees first to see if they know a good candidate to join our team. Of all our hiring strategies, this one by far has given us the best results. The reason we have such great employee retention is that we treat every employee with tremendous respect, we teach them a valuable skill set, and we try to add the element of fun which often gets lost when work is so busy. We want them to genuinely appreciate the job they were given as much as I appreciate their efforts.

12) Where do you see yourself and your company 30 years from now?

In 30 years obviously I see myself retired. If the company continues to grow like it has previously I can only imagine how large we will be. My plan is to turn this corporation over to the employees that helped us grow and become what we are. Although I think it will be hard to let go completely of something that I created, I feel that I will always be a part of this, even if its in the background of the operation.

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