Mr. Sunshine Solar empowers clients to take charge of their energy
While many contractors struggled to keep the lights on in 2020, Mr. Sunshine Solar was powering substantial portions of California, expanding into Texas and generating momentum for continued growth.
Mr. Sunshine Solar was established in 2013 by Owner Phil Horton, and his father, the late Joe Horton. Together they created a company that could provide the community with renewable energy, built upon the ideas of transparency and customer education.
“My father was a general contractor with 40 years of experience. He came to me one day and said, ‘Boy, let’s start ourselves a company and do right by our community.’ He was from Texas and always went right to the heart of an issue and, thus, Mr. Sunshine was born,” Phil says.
During the company’s formation, Phil was working as an electric vehicle specialist in the car industry while simultaneously assisting in legislation approvals for renewable energy. “They were long grueling hours, and I was absolutely worn-out, but it was rewarding to see my efforts assist this renewable energy legislation come to fruition,” he says.
Phil spent the first year of Mr. Sunshine Solar’s formation working for one of the largest distributors of solar wholesale products in the United States. He wanted to further educate himself about the solar industry, including but not limited to the engineering and primary components of the products themselves.
“We did not want to just sell solar. We wanted to be so well-versed that we could tackle any issue we encountered, leaving our customers with no surprises,” Phil explains. “It is vitally important that we are truly subject matter experts and that our clients, no matter how big or small, could trust us. After the first year, we were firmly established and have been up and running ever since.”
It was important to Phil and his father to create a company that could stand by its work from a quality perspective, building a dependable company with the ability to commit to bids, whether residential and commercial. “We wanted to be a company that understood the difficulties of long-term commercial projects with the capability to support them. Integrity, transparency and service were our building blocks and remain our guiding light,” he says.
His father died in December 2014.
“I want to continue to build this company to honor his legacy and fulfill the commitment we made to ourselves and our customers,” he says.
Just as his father wanted to “do right” by their customers, Phil says much of what he does is to educate customers on how solar can work for them. Unfortunately, there are some companies in the solar industry that are not completely forthcoming with their customers.
Residential and commercial customers should expect 100% offset from their energy expenses when switching to solar energy, he says. Other companies are leasing solar components or setting up purchase power agreements. So, while the initial installation with other companies may seem like a great deal, their customers are only acquiring partial energy conversions, Phil explains. Therefore, they are still receiving large bills for their energy consumption.
Mr. Solar Sunshine focuses on education as a major part of its customer service to remove the surprises for customers. Once a team member meets with a customer, a utility bill is collected to create a proposal that covers a customer’s return on their investment for a solar system. Consequently, every proposal is custom-tailored to each consumer, he says.
A recent customer seeking a solar system for his home received a bargain price for a system from a competitor. Once Phil and his team reviewed the estimate and current energy usage, it was discovered that the customer needed a system three times the size he was originally quoted. Additionally, the price point that Mr. Sunshine Solar was able to offer this customer was similar to the competitor’s price, Phil says.
“By using the system we recommended, this customer ended up saving money because his energy was being offset at 100%, Phil says. “The customer was so satisfied, he hired us to come out and do a 100-kilowatt system for his gas station as well. That job was the result of our honesty and following through with meeting our customer’s needs.”
Sunny Days Ahead
Like the gas station project, Mr. Sunshine Solar has been expanding more into the commercial side of the industry. “The Blue Book Building and Construction Network (The Blue Book Network) has also been integral in getting the company in front of commercial contractors and assisting with networking,” says Samantha Pantaleo, the company’s Director of Sales and Marketing.
One way that Mr. Sunshine Solar adds value to commercial ventures is its thorough knowledge of the state of California’s Title 24 mandates. California’s Title 24 energy code is designed to reduce wasteful and unnecessary energy consumption in newly constructed and existing buildings; the standards are updated every three years, according to the California Energy Commission.
“As of 2020, all new construction, both residential or commercial, is required to meet a minimum standard of solar under the Title 24 guidelines,” Samantha says.
“We have become subject matter experts and can streamline large projects’ solar needs,” Phil adds. “We are equipped to quickly educate developers and make sense of what can sometimes be a murky area in this industry as building requirements change.”
The company is currently bidding for an auto parts company at two of its locations as well as bidding for a retirement community. Both of these bids are to help satisfy the firms’ current solar energy Title 24 regulations, he adds. Currently, the company has 300 commercial projects in the works.
With a team of two regional managers, several sales managers, a marketing team of six and an installation team of about 20 in California, Mr. Sunshine Solar branched out into Texas this year.
A regional leader, sales team and an installation team were added in Houston, Dallas and Austin. The company has joined HomeAdvisor in those regions in Texas and is currently rated in the top 20 for HomeAdvisor because of its positive reviews and overall customer satisfaction, Samantha says.
“Texas is where California was a few years ago, just dipping their toes into green energy,” Phil says. “There are a lot of utility providers already there. But, we are able to offer the same transparency and education process that we do in California to the Texas clients. Our company is about people helping people in a real way to improve their lives. We have the right people in place to make this happen.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic has caused Americans to spend more time at home, their electric bills are increasing, and some are left in the dark, literally, due to rolling brownouts. “If we can get them on solar energy, they can keep their lights on and save 50% on their monthly electric bills simultaneously,” Phil says. “Homeowners and business owners are taking their power back, becoming more independent and doing it without spending additional money.”
Phil says that a solar system can pay for itself over time. Utility bills often have interest rates that can increase 5% to 9% over the life of a home. If an average utility bill is $300 a month, a homeowner could end up paying more than $100,000 in interest over 30 years. For example, if a solar energy system costs $20,000, the payments made on that are significantly lower than the utility bill. So, money is ultimately saved each year, he says.
After the Texas markets are solidified, Mr. Sunshine Solar anticipates expansion across more of California and into North Carolina with the ultimate goal of being a national provider of solar services, both residential and commercial.
Integrity is an important part of Mr. Sunshine Solar’s culture. One of the biggest traits that separates the company from its competitors is “that in every action we take we are looking for ways to give back and support others. We want to not only give back from a charitable perspective to organizations like the Shriners International or to the Native American community, but we also want to create lasting partnerships with the people we interact with, whether that is from a residential or commercial perspective,” Phil explains.
“Last year, we established a means through our solar sales to allow each and every one of our customers to be a part of our donations without ever having to do anything but invest in their own solar. We take a portion of our sales and donate it directly to a family benefiting from the Shriners,” he says.
This year, the company designed a new program in which the community can nominate a Shriners family in need and Mr. Sunshine Solar will install solar panels on their home for free. This alleviates the burden of ever increasing utility bills and affords the family the opportunity to spend that money on the things they truly need, like medical care for their children, Phil says.
“We couldn’t be more excited or proud of this latest installation; these are the moments that truly make a difference for us. This is what my business is all about,” Phil says. “This first family is very special. The dad is a firefighter and the mom is a nurse. We want to make sure that they never have to worry about that utility bill. We are excited to make this an annual tradition,” he says.
“Everything we do as a company is based upon trust and integrity. We want to be the people you can trust and know you’re going to come out of your solar experience better than before and you won’t be confused.
“We want our customers to enjoy the process. We often have customers pull us aside and tell us that we made them feel like they were part of our family because we answered all of their questions and didn’t pressure them. They understand and trust us. That’s what it is all about,” Phil says.