STORY BY JANIE ROSMAN
“It just made sense, since we’ve known each other our whole lives and did everything together, to start working together,” Tzoulafis, 38, a licensed electrician, said of Panagioto, 35, a roofer by trade. After becoming interested in solar energy, he took a class offered by his electrician’s union, “and we went from there.”
Customer Service & Marketing Manager Maria Dimopoulos said they “tapped into their inner vision of an open-concept industrial yet functional space that had privacy with the doors but still had that open concept using glass inserts.”
The company, situated in a 6,000 square foot former warehouse storage space that was designed and decorated by Panagioto and Tzoulafis, recently changed its name to SunPower by Infinity Solar®.
“SunPower is a top-of-the-line California-based manufacturer, has been around the longest and has the highest efficiency,” he said. The two became successful dealers, after which the company “took us under their wing and made us the first master dealer” on the East Coast.
What is the process for changing a house to one that uses solar power?
“We would first schedule an initial consultation, where one of our consultants would come out to your house and explain to you how the process worked,” Panagiotou explained. Each customer is shown different options — leasing, financing and purchase — and would learn about the system’s 20-year life.
“We would also do all the electrical and structural engineering and file for all the permits for you,” he said. Once approvals are in order, the system is installed. “It’s a one-stop shop: you say yes, and we take care of the rest.”
Suppose it’s a cloudy day. Does solar power still come through?
The system works off UV light, which shakes the particles in the panels. “The more light, the better,” Panagiotou said. “Even if it’s overcast you’re still producing light, just less than you would on a perfectly sunny day.”
While many place panels on their homes or lawns, Tzoulafis said they were once asked to install panels in a mountain behind the customer’s house.
“We’ve done ground mounts when they’re out in a field, and then wires are trenched back to the home so it’s powering the home,” Tzoulafis said.
SunPower by Infinity Solar® currently has a special offer whereby anyone (doesn’t have to be a customer) who refers a friend, family member, neighbor or business associate that goes solar with the company will receive a $500 gift card.
Currently serving Westchester, Orange, Rockland and Dutchess Counties, parts of the New York City boroughs and northern New Jersey, Panagiotou and Tzoulafis are looking to expand.
“I just read an article that solar energy use in New York State has tripled,” Tzoulafis said. “It’s remarkable.”
How do solar panels work?
“Sun rays hit the panel and agitate the particles in it that create electricity, and it travels down the wire to your house,” Panagiotou said. “We backfeed the power in your home, and it works with the grid,” Tzoulafis said. “You’re still attached to Con Ed or Orange and Rockland so we’re not affecting that at all.”
The company has more than 50 employees and recently began a relationship with BJ’s Wholesale Club. “We’re in six of its locations, where sales reps talk with homeowners about solar energy. That’s the newest thing to happen here,” Tzoulafis said.
He and Panagiotou would market at various fairs and markets, then they’d visit the customers, install the panels, interconnect it, turn it on. All their reps are busy now that they have the BJ’s account, they said.
The future of solar energy is growing.
Panagiotou cited an article “that said solar has passed the point of no return, meaning that it’s now a viable option to compete against all other fossil fuels because the price for equipment, labor, all of it has come down significantly.”
In the next 20 years, he said, “It will be a significant energy source just like oil and coal are and may replace other fossil fuels because their costs have come down.”
SunPower by Infinity Solar® is attainable to anyone, Panagiotou said, “as long as they have a single-family home or qualify for one of our programs, although we do two-family homes.”
He stressed solar energy is available for everybody, everybody can benefit from it, and everybody has access to it. “Now they have a choice. Solar energy is changing the way they get their power.”
SunPower by Infinity Solar® is hiring for its Pearl River office. To learn more about the company call 845-200-3700.