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Updated: July 27, 2020

Schneider turns small lightbulb shop into thriving energy solutions/solar installation business


Category | Rising Star — Samuel Schneider, COO of Ellington-based Earthlight Technologies LLC

Photo | Contributed
Samuel Schneider is COO of Earthlight Technologies.

Sam Schneider was a freshman at Central Connecticut State University when he first opened a small lightbulb shop on Route 83 in his hometown of Ellington.

Inspired by his electrician father, Schneider launched Earthlight Technologies in 2008, seeing a business opportunity in the rising popularity of money-saving, energy-efficient products.

With his mother, Dana, the student-turned-entrepreneur sold compact fluorescent bulbs and other energy-efficient lighting out of a “couple of small rooms with some shelving.”

At the time, he thought of it as little more than a side gig to help pay tuition.

But 12 years later, he has parlayed the venture he now runs with his father, Tim, into a thriving family owned and operated energy solutions and solar installation business, with 77 employees in three states.

Schneider, now 31, has expanded and diversified the business over the years by seizing opportunities among the latest green energy trends.

For example, soon after opening the retail store, the company began offering home energy audits and installations. That side of the business took off in 2010 when Earthlight became a preferred contractor for Eversource Energy’s Small Business Energy Advantage Program, which helps companies upgrade to LED lighting or energy-efficient building controls and equipment.

The company expanded into western Massachusetts the following year and added 2,000 square feet to the Ellington shop in 2012. Four years ago, it opened a West Coast branch in Silverton, Oregon.

Schneider attributes most of Earthlight’s recent growth to its flourishing residential and commercial solar installation division, which it added in 2013. It now accounts for two-thirds of the company’s business.

And he’s still looking ahead. The company has begun installing electric vehicle charging stations and just became a certified Tesla Powerwall dealer. The solar-charged home battery can serve as backup power during a grid outage.

Meanwhile, a new 18,000-square-foot office and warehouse facility, about a quarter-mile from the original location, is being planned.

The one-time side job has become Schneider’s life passion.

“I started to really appreciate and enjoy how much we could help a business owner save energy and money with energy efficiency,” he said.

Throughout its evolution, Earthlight has remained a close-knit family enterprise. Four of his five siblings work for the company: brother Jake, 26, as project manager; Christian, 24, and Jonathan, 19, as electricians; and recent high school graduate Nathan, 17, as the newest solar installation crew member. His mother still works behind the scenes.

Schneider counts Earthlight’s employees — and use of quality manufacturers — as key to its success.

“Our family values that we’ve learned over the years from our parents and grandparents carry over to our group of 77 employees,” Schneider said. “We’re all a big team working together for the same goals.”

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