Solar 101 For Homeowners

How does solar work?

Shopping for solar can be a daunting process, and the terms that get thrown around can seem intimidating at first. The goal of this guide is to break the process down into layman’s terms. Your best bet is to schedule a personal evaluation with one of our highly trained consultants, but this guide is a good place to start.

Sunlight hits the solar panels, and the photons generate DC current. Inverters convert the current from DC to AC, which is what you use in your home. During peak sun hours, your system typically generates more electricity than what you are using in your home. You will sell this excess back to the grid, and the utility company will credit you for it. Most utility companies in the area net-meter (JEA is the exception), which means they pay you what they charge you for the excess power. At night, your panels are no longer generating electricity, so you will draw from the grid.

During the spring and early fall, a system designed for a full off-set will produce enough electricity to generate credits on your electric bill. The concept is similar to “roll-over minutes.” During the winter and summer, you’ll consume the credits you accrued during the spring and fall.

System components

  1. Solar panels. We offer a variety of panels, and make recommendations based upon your goals. We offer SunPower, LG, Mission Solar, Canadian Solar, and other brands.
  2. Inverters. Our standard inverter is the Enphase IQ7Plus microinverter. We do install other inverters depending on the system, but the vast majority of our installs utilize Enphase microinverters.
  3. Racking system. The racking system attaches your panels to the roof. We engineer for 140 mph winds
  4. Electrical work. Some systems will require an electric panel upgrade, dependent upon system size and your utility company. A1A Solar is an electrical contractor, and all work is performed by employees.

Benefits of going solar

  1. Saving Money! The average homeowner will save $30,000-$50,000 over the life of their system. This is money you keep in your pocket, rather than hand over to your utility company.
  2. Increased property value! Homes with solar sell four times faster, and for more money than homes without solar.
  3. Energy independence! With solar, you are no longer at their mercy of the utility company, which may increase rates at their sole direction. Add batteries to the system, for real independence.
  4. Saving the planet! By going solar, you embrace the cleanest energy available in our area. No fossil fuels burned, zero emissions.

Solar energy is not new

Solar energy has grown in popularity in recent years. Yet despite its popularity, we are not new to using solar energy. In fact, people have been using the power of the sun for generations, whether hanging clothes outside for the sun to dry and sanitize them or planting a garden to use the sun’s rays to grow food. But, solar energy has been used in other ways long before modern solar panels were invented.

As early as 7th century B.C. humans used sunlight to light fires with magnifying glass materials. In 3rd century B.C., the Greeks and Romans used mirrors to harness solar power to light torches for religious ceremonies. In the late 1700s and 1800s, sunlight was sometimes used to power ovens for long voyages.

While we have used solar for generations, the power of the sun was mostly ignored in recent centuries with other forms of energy: coal, oil, nuclear, predominating. But the future is in clean energy so A1A Solar was founded in 2010 to provide highly qualified services in the design and installation of solar power plants for homes and businesses.

Historians claim that Archimedes, a Greek inventor, put solar energy to use already in the 3rd Century BC. He destroyed enemy ships with fire during the Siege of Syracuse with a “heat ray”, which supposedly was a collection of mirrors that concentrated sunlight onto the ships. Whether or not Archimedes’ invention has any root in reality is uncertain.


The “what” is easy: A1A Solar makes happy customers  by delivering solar plus storage solutions to our clients.

The “why?” Is more complicated. Owner Pete Wilking founded this company after serving as a Naval officer. He worked for another solar company in Jacksonville in operations and sales, before deciding he could do it better himself.

Filling a need
Pete believes first and foremost in a business model that makes customers happy. By delivering quality workmanship, the best materials, and excellent customer service, Pete believed that he could establish a company in Jacksonville that met a need. For over ten years, A1A Solar has steadily built a stellar reputation for quality and service.


Pete Wilking, one of the founders of A1A Solar

We believe in the future of renewable energy, and that solar plus storage is an important step toward preserving the planet. The more companies and individuals takesteps to reduce their carbon imprint, the less fossil fuel is burned. Our local utility companies all use a mix of coal and natural gas. Florida Power and Light also uses nuclear energy. The less fossil fuel is burned, the better our environment will be.


The concept of stewardship is integral to the “why.” At A1A Solar, we believe in leaving the world a better place. Our ability to impact the world entire is limited, but we’re working to save it one rooftop at a time.

The ideas of liberty and freedom are wrapped into solar. In Florida, homeowners have no choice in utility companies. This means that depending on where you live, you will pay what the utility company tells you to pay. If the company pushes a rate hike on you, you have no recourse, no freedom to choose another company. The utilities act as monopolies.

The only way to have control over your electric bill is to go solar. We believe that this is a fundamental choice, and an innately American choice to make. We are a nation founded upon the ideals of personal liberty, and self-reliance. Going solar is as American as apple pie, sweet tea, and hot-dogs.

Solar Power = Freedom from Utility Electric

We enjoy providing back-up power for customers who worry what will happen when the grid goes down. We believe that security is important to happiness, and that having solar plus storage is a great way to make people happy.

A1A Solar is very much a part of the Northeast Florida community, creating good jobs for over twenty employees, donating to local charities, and actively engaging with other businesses through the Chamber of Commerce and many other local organizations.

As a small business, we have changed the lives of many for the better, and this, too, is a reason we exist as a company.

Hurricane Fast Facts

Hurricane Season

Hurricane weather

Hurricane season begins on June 1st and ends on November 30th. Summer’s hotter climate leads to warmer water which in turn forms hurricanes. Hurricane season , after cooler weather has started to roll in.   

How Hurricanes Form

Hurricane Florence eye as viewed from the International Space Station.

Hurricanes develop during interactions between warm air and warm water and can become the most violent storms on Earth. Also called typhoons or cyclones, the scientific term for all these storms is tropical cyclone. Only tropical cyclones that form over the Atlantic Ocean or eastern Pacific Ocean are called “hurricanes.” When the winds in the rotating storm reach 39 mph, the storm is called a “tropical storm.” And when the wind speeds reach 74 mph, the storm is officially a “tropical cyclone,” or hurricane.

Hurricane Categories

Evacuate if you need to. Don’t take the chance.

Hurricanes are measured according to a scale known as the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. This scale gives hurricanes a classification based on the average wind speed of the hurricane:

  • Category 1 hurricanes have a wind speed of 74-95 mph
    Category 1 hurricanes may be the weakest on the scale, but there is still a need for extreme caution. The winds are powerful enough to pound through a city and lightly pull apart buildings. This can form debris which is dangerous if it lands on people, pets or buildings. Power outages can also happen.    
  • Category 2 hurricanes have a wind speed of 96-110 mph
    The stronger the storm means greater potential for damage and danger. Hurricanes of this strength will bring flying debris, break windows and even uproot trees. Homes and buildings can fall victim to roof or siding damage while power outages lasting up to two weeks may follow.  
  • Category 3 hurricanes have a wind speed of 111-129 mph
    Category 3 hurricanes are beastly and strong enough to bulldoze past cities. Frame homes, mobile homes, apartment complexes and office buildings are at risk of major damage when a category 3 storm is on its way. You can prepare in advance by boarding up for protection. Destruction from flying debris is likely. Similar to category 2 storms, hurricanes of this strength can easily uproot trees and cause power outages lasting up to weeks after the storm.    
  • Category 4 hurricanes have a wind speed of 130-156 mph
    It’s important to plan an evacuation before a category 4 storm because it is strong enough to uplift roofs and trees, destroy mobile homes, frame homes, apartment complexes and other buildings. Power outages are extremely likely and can last months.
  • Category 5 hurricanes have a wind speed of over 157 mph!
    As the highest level on the scale, category 5 hurricanes are, in simplest terms, devastating. They can level houses and destroy buildings of all sizes. Cities or islands on a category 5 hurricane’s path are likely to be uninhabitable for weeks to months due to the level of devastation.  

How deadly are hurricanes?

Debris blocking road during a hurricane

How deadly a hurricane isn’t necessarily dependent on what category hurricane it is. Sometimes a Category 1 hurricane can be more deadly than a Category 3. It depends on how wide the storm is, how many storm surges it causes, and how much rainfall it gives off. Hurricanes cause most of their damage and death by means of flooding, high winds, high tides, and rip currents. If a lower-category hurricane is very wide, it might bring dangerous flooding to a huge swath of the country it hits, causing much more death than a smaller, higher-category storm.

Hurricane Terminology

Here are some common terms related to hurricanes. 

  • Eye — The eye of a hurricane is at the center of the storm and it’s also the storm’s most peaceful section due to the low air pressure and calm winds. Clouds are not present here either.
  • Eye Wall — The hurricane eye wall is opposite of the storm’s eye because it’s the most dangerous part of the hurricane. This is where the heavy clouds and high-speed winds live. 
  • Rainband — The hurricane’s rainbands are spirals responsible for the storm’s heavy rainfall and flooding. 
  • Diameter — A hurricane’s diameter is measured from one side to the other.  
  • Storm Surge — A hurricane’s storm surge can have the most devastating impact on a city located along its path. They form when severe winds push toward the ocean’s shore, causing sea levels to rise significantly. This sends a catastrophic wave of water over any surrounding land. A storm surge is dangerous because they can produce waves reaching up to 20 feet. Storm surges can also extend for miles and miles, flooding cities 
  • Watch — A hurricane watch is slightly less severe than a hurricane warning because it means there is a chance hurricane conditions may occur within a certain area. You can expect to receive warning of a hurricane watch 48 hours in advance.
  • Warning — A hurricane warning is put in place when certain areas are expected to experience hurricane conditions, such as winds of 74 mph or higher. Officials typically send out hurricane warnings 36 hours before winds strike.

Top States for Hurricanes

Huge hurricane near Florida

Florida, Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina. These are the top 5 states most likely to be on a hurricane’s path and it has everything to do with their proximity to all of the warm water found in the Gulf of Mexico or within the Atlantic Coast. 

How To Prepare For A Hurricane?

Now that you know all about hurricanes, it’s time to prepare your family for the days leading up to the hurricane’s landfall. A great first step would to shop for non-perishables, organize a hurricane kit and board the exterior of your home. 

Whether you are going to ride out a hurricane or evacuate, the damages as well as the power outages from a hurricane can last for weeks or more. A1A Solar has a range of power back up options including a combination of solar panels and Tesla Powerwall batteries which will help keep your home running smoothly even in long power outages.

We can help you stay powered up until sunny skies are out again…

Concerned About Power Outages?

As we head into hurricane season, power outages become a concern. Power outages can be caused by many circumstances. An outage, or “blackout,” occurs when something interrupts the flow of electricity to the end-user, and an outage can affect a few homes or an entire city —sometimes lasting for days. 

Here are some of the things that can cause your power to go out:

LIGHTNING Lightning looks for the quickest path to the ground. It generally searches for the tallest object to serve as a conductor. Utility poles, wires, transformers and other electrical equipment are easy targets for lightning strikes, causing severe damage and loss of power. Lightning also frequently strikes trees causing tree limbs or even large trees to fall onto utility lines.
WIND Wind may cause power lines to swing together resulting in a fault or short circuit that interrupts service. Strong wind can blow tree limbs or entire trees into power lines causing them to fall to the ground. Severe winds can even break power lines and utility poles, bringing down extensive portions of the infrastructure that delivers power.
RAIN & FLOODING Heavy rain and melting snow can cause flooding in some areas. Flooding can damage both overhead and underground electrical equipment. If high waters flood an electrical sub-stations (where electricity is distributed to various neighborhoods), the utility company will shut down the power to prevent damage to their equipment, and if the electricity to your home runs through that substation, you’ll be out of luck until the utility company can safely restore service.

Other Causes of Outages

  • Vehicle Accidents — If an automobile accident to involve a pole, knocking it over or damaging the power line. 
  • Small Animals — Squirrels and other small animals have been known to chew through power lines, which can result in the electrocution of the animal and a quick surge of electrical power that damages the power line and causes an outage.
  • Falling Trees & Branches — Falling trees and branches which land on power lines are a recurring cause of power outages. Trees can also trigger outages if they’re growing directly below a power line.
  • Snow & Ice –– Fortunately in the Southeastern U.S. this is not that much of an issue
Whatever the reason for losing power, A1A Solar has a range of solutions to meet your needs from solar panels to back up batteries, we offer whole home power solutions. Plan ahead! Contact us today to discuss what is best for you.

Are You Prepared?

When the Grid Goes Down… Are You Prepared?

Hurricanes can leave a path of damage.
The world these days is a scary place. Global pandemic, potential nuclear conflicts with Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, wildfires in California and Australia, and talk of civil unrest in the wake of upcoming elections are in the news every day. On top of that, here in Northeast Florida, we are under threat every year from hurricanes that seem to intensify every year. What happens when the grid goes down? Most Floridians have weathered hurricanes and endured a few days without electricity. It’s hot, sweaty, and smelly. The food in the refrigerator goes bad. The air hangs stale and damp and the fans don’t spin, the lights don’t shine, and the internet is off. No television, no radio, often no water. Gas stations can’t pump gasoline, stores can’t take credit cards and most of them are closed anyway. The roads are snarled with downed trees and power lines.
An outage lasting longer than a few days would be almost unbearable.
A lightning strike can knock out power for hours, even days.
Residents would be forced to leave the area, leaving their homes and belongings susceptible to the inevitable looting that would follow, a veritable all you can steal buffet for the desperate and the deadly.
If you already have a solar system installed, the next step is to add battery storage. If you don’t have solar on your home yet, you can add a PV system and a battery together, or you may opt for a whole-house generator.

A1A Solar Can Help

A1A Solar can help you keep the power on when it is out in your area.
Battery storage technology has improved exponentially over recent years, resulting in lower prices and increased storage capacity. During the peak sun hours, your solar array typically produces more electricity than you consume. That excess power will flow to the battery first, and then once the battery is fully charged, further power flows back to the grid. At night, when your solar array is no longer producing power, you will draw from the battery first, and when it has fully discharged, pull from the grid.
When the grid goes down, if you have a battery backup system and solar, your home has power. During the daytime, your solar array meets the energy needs of the house, with the excess stored in the battery. At night, you draw from the battery, and the next morning when the sun comes up, the process starts all over again.
A1A Solar currently offers several battery options, and will customize a system for your individual needs and goals. Currently, the following are the most popular battery options:
Tesla Powerwall 2.0: The Tesla Powerwall 2.0 is sleek, smart, and strong. The Powerwall is designed to be stacked; Tesla recommends a minimum of two be installed. Two Tesla Powerwalls provide 27kWh of storage, 10,000 Watts of continuous power, 14,000 Watts of peak power. The battery is lithium-ion, and liquid cooled. This is an AC battery and will work with either string inverters or micro-inverters. The software, hardware, and monitoring are state of the art, and the interface is user-friendly. The Powerwall is compatible with SunPower panels and is inverter-agnostic. Following Tesla’s recommendations, A1A Solar installs a minimum of two Powerwalls, which for most homes, will allow the air conditioner to run during the daytime. With two Powerwalls, a protected load panel is usually not necessary. Two Powerwalls offer the most power and storage for the best price, when compared to other batteries currently on the market.
Generac PWRcell: Generac is a venerated brand, with 75% of standby power generation in the United States, based on their line of generators. Generac is challenging Tesla and other battery manufacturers with the introduction of the PWRcell. Generac bought out PIKA and has reengineered the battery based upon that platform. The PWRcell is a DC-coupled battery. This means that there is less loss of efficiency, as the battery utilizes an internal inverter with optimizers. It’s not advisable to retrofit a Generac PWRcell to and existing PV array for this reason. In the coming months, Generac intends to upgrade the software in the battery to allow a Generac generator to work in conjunction with the solar array and the battery. For new PV clients who want robust, extended off-grid capability, this will be a good option. LG Chem: This battery comes in at a slightly lower price-point but is significantly limited in its power and performance. This battery is limited to three circuits and requires a critical load panel. The reduced power and storage when compared to the Tesla Powerwall eliminate this battery from our list.
A1A Solar has systems to keep your lights on and much more.
Sonnen: If you want the Cadillac of whole-home battery systems, you’ll want sonnenBatterie, a German company, which helped to forge the market for lithium-ion batteries. The Sonnen is a robust system that can back up almost any home. You’ll still need to stack multiple Tesla Powerwalls for the largest of homes, but sonnenBatterie is a great fit for most homes. Unfortunately, they’re very expensive and have priced them out of the market, in most situations. The Sonnen ECO-16 is an AC coupled system with built in inverter, designed for interior use. 8kW of continuous power 10KW peak power. The third generation of Sonnen batterie includes an EC0 20, but it still has only an 8kW inverter. Enphase Ensemble: Enphase manufactures the industry-standard micro-inverter. Their current offerings for battery-storage are focused on grid-up batteries. In Northeast Florida, these batteries do not make sense because they have limited storage and power. The new Enphase Encharge battery is a scalable system. The Encharge 10 contains three batteries, each able to store 3.36kWh, and twelve IQ-8 inverters. 3.84 W of continuous total power, 5.76 peak power. 10 kWh total storage.

A1A Solar answers your commercial solar questions

You may have heard that many Fortune 500 companies are going solar. The benefits to clean energy are certainly numerous; however, taking your company solar may seem overwhelming. A1A Solar is ready to help you invest in your company and begin reaping the rewards of a commercial solar energy system. Here are some frequently asked questions to help you understand the process of going solar. How do solar panels work? Solar panels absorb sunlight with photovoltaic cells and use an inverter to change direct current power to alternating current power. This conversion creates electricity for commercial use. How long do solar panels last? Standard solar panel warranties last 25 years. A typical central inverter will last between 10 and 15 years, meaning you’ll have to replace it at some point during the lifetime of your solar panels. What is commercial solar and why should I have it? Commercial solar is a solar power system for companies. It’s different from residential solar in that residential applies to individual homes. The benefits of commercial solar occur on a much larger scale than residential solar. The main reason companies invest in commercial solar is to save money in the long run. The annual energy cost for a business grows by about 3% each year. When you no longer have to pay that fee, you end up saving a great deal of money. It typically takes six to seven years to begin to see a return on your investment. In addition to the money your company saves on energy bills, with a solar energy system, you receive a 30% tax credit with accelerated depreciation. Another important reason companies invest in commercial solar is to show their customers their commitment to helping the environment. Solar panels do not emit pollution into the atmosphere. Is going solar feasible for small and medium companies? Most definitely. More and more small- and medium-business owners are going solar as they realize the financial opportunities that come with it. Don’t let the size of your company be the deciding factor. There’s always an opportunity to save money for your business in the long run, no matter the size. How do I know what size system to select for my company? First, decide how much electricity your company uses. Having a 12-month usage history and an idea of when you use your energy can help you figure this out. Assess your budget for the solar panel system and the remaining electricity bill. One of our solar professionals can help you pick a system that fits your company’s needs. What is net metering? Net metering allows you to use generated electricity anytime you want, instead of right when your system generates it.

Solar panels vs. solar water heaters

What is the difference between solar panels and solar water heaters?

While most people know what solar panels look like, they might not know their exact purpose. Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity through the photovoltaic effect. This process happens when panels absorb photons, which creates an electric current. When photons hit the crystalline photovoltaic cells, it generates DC energy. Below is a diagram that shows how the panels absorb sunlight and how it becomes energy. DC and AC conversions meet the power needs of a home or company, creating a seamless connection between solar and utility. Net-zero is when the total amount of energy a building uses is roughly the same as the amount of energy its solar system creates. Being net-zero can help to reduce your energy bill up to 90%. Solar water heaters use a different process to create energy. Solar panels heat water that then flows to a tank that stores it until you use it. In order to keep your solar water heater clean, you must flush it once a year. The difference between solar panels and solar water heaters is simply the purpose of each. Solar panels create electricity and solar water heaters use the sun to heat up water, which is then pumped into your home.

Commercial Solar System

Power plant using renewable solar energy with sun

Getting a commercial solar system set up in Northeast Florida

6 steps to ensure your company’s solar system installation is a success

Your company is ready to go solar. That’s great! However, you might feel overwhelmed by what to do to get started. Read on to learn how to get a solar energy system installed for your company.

1. Make sure your company owns the property. This step is essential. You won’t be able to add a solar energy system if you don’t own the property.

2. Select a solar energy company. Ensure the company you choose is certified and licensed, so you receive a quality installation.

3. Meet with representatives from the company. The solar system contractor will set a meeting to evaluate your company’s property and find the best spot to install the solar energy system. Then, the company will work with you to develop a plan for your system.

4. Dealing with bureaucracy. After the plan is complete, the solar energy company will contact your electricity provider to seek approval. Your solar energy system essentially adds to existing systems on the grid, so the electricity provider needs to be aware of how your plan works. Be prepared to alter your plan to suit the electricity provider’s requirements.

Your solar system contractor will also contact your local government representatives to get the required permits and inspections.

5. Begin the process. Once your electricity provider approves the plan, your solar energy company will begin implementing your system. It usually takes a few months to get your solar energy system online, so make sure you’re allocating enough time for this step.

6. Another inspection. Once the process is complete, the local government will send another inspector to make sure the system is up to code and meets plan specifications.

Getting your company set up with a solar energy system isn’t hard. Your solar energy company will handle most of the heavy work, including dealing with bureaucracy. The only truly difficult part is having to wait for your system to be complete so you can enjoy it. Once it’s done, your company will reap the benefits.

Do solar panels work in the rain?

How does the weather affect your solar energy system?

drop of rain on solar cells, technology
One of the facts of life in northeast Florida is that it rains quite a bit during the year, especially during the summer. Because of this, prospective solar energy system owners in the area tend to worry that rain will have a negative effect on their solar energy system, such as damaging it or decreasing its output. Rain itself will have no effect on your solar energy system. Solar panels are waterproof, so moisture won’t damage them. And, in fact, rain is helpful in that it will wash off some of the dirt and debris that accumulates on the panels over time. What about severe storms or a hurricane? Solar companies in Florida must abide by strict building codes when they install solar energy systems. They securely attach solar panels to a building with ample attachment points to resist wind uplift. This makes Florida solar panels less susceptible to damage from blowing debris in a storm. In case you do have damage to your panels from a storm, solar panel manufacturers have an equipment warranty that covers any damage to the solar panels. Check with your solar contractor before purchasing a solar energy system to fully understand the warranty. Unfortunately, rain clouds do affect your solar energy output, often drastically. It’s best to move essential devices running on solar energy to a non-solar energy system when clouds start to form, so everything continues to run uninterrupted.

How to prepare your solar energy system for winter in Florida

Get your solar energy system ready for winter

Winter is the most difficult time of the year for solar energy production. In some areas, snow covers solar panels and clouds hide the sun, both of which reduce energy output. While solar energy system owners in northeast Florida typically don’t have to worry about snow, they should make preparations to deal with the decreased amount of sunlight during the day and for cloudy days that are common during winter. Making these adjustments is important for your solar energy system to continue working optimally.

During the winter months, the days are shorter, which means that energy production will be less. In order to compensate for this problem, you should change the angle of your solar panels. The way you should angle your panels depends on your location. Check out this website and put in the country, state, and city you’re in to get the best angles for your system for each month in winter.

When clouds cover the sky, it reduces your solar energy system’s production significantly. Your system makes up to 25 percent less energy on an overcast day than on a sunny one. Unfortunately, there’s no way to swat clouds out of the sky or increase the system’s production rate to compensate. You’ll have to wait it out.

If you depend on your solar energy system to power appliances or electronics that run continuously, such as your refrigerator and computer equipment, it’s a good idea to invest in a solar energy battery. This way you can ensure that even on cloudy days, you have uninterrupted power.Because Florida winters are usually mild, taking a few precautions should ensure that your solar system performs well during the winter. If you need help adjusting the angle of your solar panels for winter or would like to buy a solar energy battery, we’ll be happy to help you.