Solar fees

Understanding solar loan fees

If you’re looking to finance solar panels for your home, there are a few things you’ll need to be aware of to select the best option for you. A typical 10-kilowatt solar installation can cost anywhere from $20,500 to $25,800 and financing options are widely available. Several factors may impact the cost of your solar loan, including your credit score and current debt-to-income ratio (DTI), the loan’s interest rate, and any solar loan fees.  

Our team of Energy Advisors often receives questions about understanding solar loans and solar loan fees. So we’re breaking down some common terms, various fees, and questions to ask your potential lender so you can feel confident you’re making the right decision. Note: Energy Advisors are your dedicated, unbiased guide to answer questions and help navigate going solar. They’re a free resource available to you through your EnergySage account.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide an informational overview of the solar loan fees for interested homeowners. It is not intended to serve as official financial guidance. Readers interested in installing solar products should use their best judgment and seek advice from a licensed professional before making any purchase or investment.

Key takeaways

  • If you’re financing a solar system with a solar loan, you’ll want to be aware of any loan fees.
  • Common solar fees include an origination fee or dealer fee to cover the cost of administering your solar loan and incurring the risk associated with lending money.
  • We share a simple checklist with four questions to ask your lender to ensure you know the details of your solar loan.
  • Make sure to ask your solar installer and lender any questions you have so you can feel confident about going solar!
  • Sign up for a free account on the EnergySage Marketplace to compare solar quotes, including financing options from top lenders.

What’s in this article?

Common solar loan types: secured vs. unsecured

According to our Marketplace data, about two-thirds of EnergySage customers request solar loan information as part of their quotes when considering solar. Before diving into solar loan fees, it’s essential to understand the two main types of solar loans available if you choose to finance your solar investment: secured and unsecured loans

Each of these loans has different benefits to consider and will likely have different interest rates and fees associated with it. A secured solar loan usually requires collateral like your home, so if you fail to make payments the lender can place a lien on it. An unsecured loan usually won’t require collateral, so there’s more risk the lender is taking – thus, these loans typically have higher interest rates. 

Solar loans vs. solar leasing fees

Solar leases are another popular financing option involving monthly payments with the main difference being that the person paying their installer for the leased panels will not eventually own the panels. With a lease, you are unable to qualify for SRECs and other incentives. Solar leases also do involve some upfront costs and fees, though these are less than purchasing solar panels outright.

Why is my monthly payment higher for the first year of my solar loan?

About half of the solar loans quoted on the EnergySage Marketplace are reamortized loans, so you’ll notice on your solar loan quote that your monthly payments during the first year are higher. For example, if you have a 25-year reamortized loan, years 2 through 25 will have a lower monthly payment than year one. For example, if your monthly payment in year one is $52, it may be closer to $36 after year one. 

This payment structure is because lenders are taking into account your investment tax credit (ITC), also known as the federal solar tax credit, which allows you to deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing a solar energy system from your federal taxes. The lender assumes that you’ll receive a substantial tax refund, allowing you to pay off a higher portion of your loan during year one. It’s important to note that this isn’t the case for everyone depending on your tax liability. 

Depending on the type of solar loan you decide to go with, you may also have one where payments are equal over the lifetime of your loan — a standard loan. Talk with your lender about options to figure out the best one for you.

Solar financing tip: If you’re looking for more options on solar loans during your quoting process, just ask your installer or lender what other options they have available. They may present you with the most common or preferred option first, but they likely have other options to consider.

Common solar loan fees

It’s common for any loan you get to have fees associated with it — from mortgages to personal loans. Before making a decision on a loan, be sure to get fee information upfront such as how often it will be instituted and what type of fee it is. Solar loans are just like loans for any major purchase: you’ll want to understand what you’ll be paying each month as well as the total payment over the lifetime of the loan. 

Your solar loan may have fees, such as:

  • Origination fee 
  • Dealer fee 
  • Closing costs

Most solar loans will have one of the above fees, but they’re all essentially the same. For solar loans, the most common fee is an origination or dealer fee, which is similar to an origination fee on a home loan. Basically, this is the fee for administering the funds and covering the risk associated with the loan (since the lender is taking on some risk that you’ll pay the loan back). There’s no industry standard dealer fee, so it’ll vary.

Origination/dealer fees

Most solar loans will have one of the above fees, but they’re all essentially the same. For solar loans, the most common fee is an origination or dealer fee, which is similar to an origination fee on a home loan. Basically, this is the fee for administering the funds and covering the risk associated with the loan (since the lender is taking on some risk that you’ll pay the loan back). There’s no industry standard dealer fee, so it’ll vary.

Closing costs

Occasionally your solar loan may have closing costs listed, which are similar to an origination fee in that they’re associated with closing on the loan. Fees can either be laid out as a specific flat amount (most common) or a percentage of your total solar loan amount (less common). Your lender can explain any details about your loan including the interest rate and fees.

Interest costs vs. solar loan fees

Separate from any loan fees is the interest charged on your solar loan. This varies depending on your credit score and current debt. Just as with other loans, lenders usually offer lower interest rates to you if you have an excellent credit score – a FICO Score of 800 – 850 is considered exceptional and usually earns you the lowest interest rates. It’s important to note that even if you have a lower credit score, you can often still qualify for a solar loan, it just may cost you a bit more in interest, so your monthly payment will be higher.

Determining your solar loan fees

Any loan documentation you get from your installer or lender should clearly lay out your interest rate and any fees. The best thing you can do is to ask questions if you’re unclear. Just as your installer helps explain the solar panel equipment, your lender can explain any details on solar panel financing and what options are available to you. After all, solar is an investment and it’s important that you know the details on your new investment.

How to find the best solar loan

The best way to avoid hidden solar loan fees is to carefully review any loan documents to make sure you understand the fees you’re paying upfront and any additional costs associated with your loan. You should also feel comfortable asking your potential installer or lender any questions to ensure you understand your fees, interest rate, and the overall cost of your solar loan. Our article on how to choose a solar loan provides an in-depth look at how to determine what type of solar loan is the best fit for you.

What are some benefits of solar loans?

Oftentimes, you can get a solar loan that lets you pay no money down. This enables you to go solar without a large upfront investment. While you’ll pay more overall (because of interest and fees), depending on your loan terms you can often save enough on your electric bills to cover monthly payments. Additionally, with the solar ITC and if your state has other incentives and net metering, you may decrease your overall costs even more and speed up your payback period.

Frequently asked questions about solar loans

Are solar loans worth it?

If you’re able to pay cash for going solar, you’ll avoid paying interest and any dealer or origination fees. However, buying and installing solar panels is costly (even though you save money over time and usually pay back your initial solar expenses in about 8 to 9 years). So, a solar loan is a good way to go solar with little or no money down. You can compare solar quotes on EnergySage and easily request financing options from the installers providing you with quotes to see what makes the most sense for you.

What is a finance charge on a solar loan?

Your finance charge or interest rate on a solar loan will vary depending on a few factors including the type of loan (secured or unsecured), your credit score and current debt, and the current U.S. Federal Reserve (the Fed) rate. Your annual percentage rate for solar may be approximately 4 – 5 percent.

Are solar loans tax deductible?

That depends. You can sometimes claim the interest of your solar loan as a “capital investment” to your home if you itemize deductions for your federal taxes. Of course, you’ll need to check with your CPA or a tax professional to confirm based on your individual situation and tax filing and confirm the most up-to-date IRS guidelines. Separately, adding solar panels to your home (whether you pay cash or with a loan) does qualify you for the investment tax credit (ITC), also known as the federal solar tax credit, which allows you to deduct 30 percent of your solar installation costs from your federal taxes.

How do I find trusted solar lenders?

You can easily join EnergySage today for free to get connected with installers in your area who offer financing options or work with trusted local solar lenders. Through your EnergySage account, you’ll be able to compare multiple quotes as well as financing options. Just curious who offers solar financing near you? You can also search for lenders in your area using our database! 

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About Ellen Sirull

Ellen covers clean energy finance, electric vehicles (EVs), and EV charging as part of EnergySage’s consumer education team. She brings twenty years of experience helping consumers navigate complex topics. Ellen’s writing and insights have been featured on sites such as Money Tips, Experian, and CNBC. She graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism and earned an MBA at Kennesaw State University. Ellen and her family are proud owners of both a solar system and an EV, with a $0 monthly electric bill being their favorite part of using clean energy.