Energy News For The Smart Homeowner

How to get a solar system for zero money and still own it

From inside the solar industry bubble it is easy to think that most homeowners understand the surprising power of PACE Financing. PACE, or Property Assessed Clean Energy Financing, allows you to make all sorts of home improvements, while simplifying the process down to a single online application form.

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Renew Financial (often doing business as CalFirst) and Ygrene are the leading PACE lenders in the Bay Area. Another company making inroads is HERO, which has its customer base in Southern California. Sonoma County has a public program named SCEIP (Sonoma Clean Energy Program).

Until a couple years ago, your choices for financing solar usually consisted of two inconvenient choices. One, you could use your home equity, or get a solar loan from your bank. The approach involved trips to the loan officer, and in some cases assessments and waiting periods.

The other option was to lease a system from one of the major leasing companies, such as Solar City, Sungevity, or SunRun. The problem with that solution was that you were not the owner of the system, and therefore did not get to enjoy the 30% Federal Tax Credit. It went to the leasing company. On top of that, your electricity got more expensive every year, just like with the power company.

PACE is different. You pay nothing upfront. You own the panels, and you get the 30% Federal Tax Credit.

All you do is go to or Type in your address, and the site will return whether they cover your area, and how much your house is eligible for. In most cases, you will find that you have upwards of $100,000 available for energy-saving home improvements. (Maybe that dual-door Energy Star fridge is in your future too). 

You may need to try both companies to find which of them covers your area. The terms and conditions for both are quite similar. Both deliver the opportunity of stepping down the loan several times, and both allow you to pay off the loan early without penalty. The Federal Tax Credit and Federal and State tax deductions apply in the same way for both loans.

Although using home equity is usually cheaper than using PACE, the program has other advantages. If you plan on selling your house within the term period of the loan, PACE transfers the solar payments automatically, as you pay over your property tax.

Interest rates vary relative to the loan term, with the usual lower rates for shorter-term loans and higher for longer-term loans. 

To pay less for energy than you do today, you will likely choose a loan term of 15 years, in some cases as little as ten. As PG&E rate hikes continue, your savings grow, often by double digits compared to PG&E rates. See our recent article on how quickly PG&E rates increase here, and here.

For a free consultation on how to use PACE and save tens of thousands of dollars over the next decade, and often over six figures over the next two decades, all you have to do is to get in touch:


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