Updated 1 month ago

Solar loans: Everything you need to know

Written by Ben Zientara , Edited by Catherine Lane

Solar loans: Everything you need to know

Find out how much a solar loan will cost you

If you’d like to get solar panels for your home, you have a few options on how to pay for them. One of the most popular financing options is a solar loan which allows homeowners to retain ownership of their system without needing to have all that cash upfront.

Loans can be a great way to pay for solar panels because they typically come with no upfront cost, and monthly loan payments are often lower than your pre-solar electricity bill. But, you have to be careful and choose the right loan provider.

Keep in mind that we are not professional financial or tax advisors but we are experts in home solar, and we can offer a bit more detail into how solar loans work. Consult with a financing professional before making your final solar financing decision. Read on for our full guide to solar loan providers, how solar loans work, common questions, and loan alternatives.

Key takeaways

  • Loans can be a great way to pay for a solar installation, with lower monthly payments than the electric bill savings provided by the solar installation.

  • Solar loans often come with dealer fees (aka finance charges) of between 20 and 40% of the cash price to install the solar system, which are passed along to the buyer and add cost to the principal of the loan.

  • Many solar loans require borrowers to pay back as much as 30% of the loan amount within 18 months of the origination date, an amount which is tied to the value of the federal solar tax credit.

  • The most popular lenders in the solar industry are Mosaic, Sunlight Financial, Goodleap, Dividend Financial, and the Energy Loan Network.

  • When considering a solar loan, it is important to be careful, compare quotes from multiple providers, and consult trusted financial advisors before making a final decision.

Top solar panel loan providers in 2024

According to the results from our Solar Industry survey, here are some of the most popular solar loan providers used by installers:

  • Mosaic

  • Sunlight Financial

  • Goodleap

  • Dividend Financial

  • Energy Loan Network

  • Clean Energy Credit Union

The Survey data also gave us a picture of the average loan rates and terms offered by the top lenders in the industry as of spring 2023. Note that this data is historical and does not necessarily reflect current rates.

Here’s a rundown of some of the data we gathered about the solar loans offered by these companies:


Average interest rates

Term length



20 years

Sunlight Financial


20 years



25 years

Dividend Finance


20 years

Energy Loan Network


15 years

Clean Energy Credit Union


15 years

Lightstream Financial

7.99% - 21.24%

2 - 12 years

In addition to the providers listed above, people in certain states can access solar panel financing from local credit unions like UMassFive and Puget Sound CCU and state programs like MichiganSaves. There's also other financial institutions worth looking into: such as Home Loan Investment Bank, EnFin, GreenSky Financing, and Renew Financial.

How solar loans work

Solar loans aren't as simple as other kinds of loans, so there's a lot to learn.

The key features and concepts to understand about solar loans include:

  • Secured vs. unsecured

  • Dealer fee (aka finance charge)

  • Interest rate

  • Term (length)

  • Balloon payments

  • Monthly payments

Let’s take a closer look at each of these features:

Secured vs. unsecured loans

Let’s start by saying that solar-specific loans are generally unsecured, meaning they are not backed by an asset (such as your home) as collateral. This differs from car loans, home equity loans, and HELOCs (home equity lines of credit).

A secured loan, on the other hand, is backed by a collateral asset. In most cases, secured loans will be backed by either your home or the solar panel equipment itself. Be careful with a secured loan – if you don’t pay it off in time, you can kiss your solar system, or even your house, goodbye!

Unsure how to choose between secured and unsecured loans for your solar project? Check out the pros and cons listed below:

Secured Loans

Unsecured loans





Lower interest rates

Risky for your credit score

No risk of losing collateral

Strict eligibility criteria

Relaxed eligibility requirements

Borrowers risk losing their collateral

Better flexibility

Higher interest rates

Larger loan amounts

Can come with restrictions on loan usage

Faster application process

Can come with hidden fees

Helps build credit score

Smaller loan amounts

Dealer fees

Let’s be real for a second – when banks lend money, they want to be reasonably certain they’ll get that money back.

Lending money requires accepting some risk that the loan won’t be paid in full, and the banks take care of that risk by requiring dealers (i.e., solar installers) to pay a fee to initiate the loan. That fee is passed directly on to the buyer (i.e., the homeowner) in a solar installation contract and becomes part of the principal of the loan.

To determine the size of the dealer fee, always ask for a cash quote from the installer alongside a quote with financing included. The difference between the cash price and the principal of the loan will reveal the size of the dealer fee. Each solar company will have its own dealer fees based on their agreements with their lending partners.

The dealer fee is also sometimes called a “finance charge” or “buy down” because it is designed to keep the interest rate low for the life of the loan.

Be careful: Dealer fees can add thousands of dollars to the cost of a solar system. Average dealer fees for solar loans in 2023 are around 25%, but we’ve seen them as high as 40-50%. These fees can reduce your return on investment in a solar purchase. Be sure to consult with a trusted financial advisor before choosing a solar loan with a dealer fee.

Interest rates

In 2023, interest rates on unsecured solar loans with dealer fees average between 2.99% and 5.99% APR. Interest rates for solar loans are typically lower than other financing options, such as personal loans, home improvement loans, and credit cards.

Financing companies keep the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) on their loans low by increasing the dealer fee. That guarantees that the bank makes a good return on the loan while keeping loan payments relatively low fixed rates for homeowners.

Secured solar loan providers like the credit unions mentioned above often don’t require a dealer fee but have higher APRs. For example, Clean Energy Credit Union offers solar loans with APRs of between 7.49% and 8.24% (as of mid-2023).

Solar loan term length

Most solar loans range between 15 to 20 years, but 25-year loans are becoming more common.

In general, it can be wise to spread payments out over as many years as it takes to make the monthly payment closely match the average energy bill savings provided by the solar installation. That way, you can “break even” in the initial years of the loan and save money each year as electricity rates increase.

Many large solar energy companies like Sunrun, SunPower, and Sunnova now offer 25-year solar loans that also come with 25-year labor and workmanship warranties. Essentially, these are long-term service agreements where you end up owning the solar panels at the end.

For some people, these very long loans work out okay. There can be value in choosing a long-term relationship with a company that is built to last for 25 years. Others will prefer to take shorter loan terms in order to more quickly take ownership of their solar panels. What works best for you is your decision to make.

Balloon payments and how solar loans work with the federal tax credit

The concept of a balloon payment is very important when it comes to solar loans. Nearly all lenders calculate the monthly payments for the loan based on the idea that the homeowner will pay off up to 30% of the loan value within 12-18 months after loan origination.

That 30% amount is equal to the value of the federal solar tax credit, and this payment is often referred to as the “Incentive Payment”.

This is such an important concept to understand because the tax credit can often be worth thousands of dollars, and it is not a sure bet that everyone will be able to claim it, at least not the entire value before 18 months. The tax credit is “non-refundable,” which means the taxpayer’s tax liability limits it.

In plain English, that means if you don’t owe at least as much money as the value of your tax credit, you will have to carry over the extra portion to the next tax year, but you will still owe the full amount of the credit as the balloon payment.

There are several ways this payment is structured with the loan. Some solar loans include the value of the tax credit and re-amortize after 16 to 18 months. In this case, the monthly payment will simply increase if you don’t make the balloon payment.

Some lenders actually offer a separate, low or no-interest loan for 30% of the system cost, with a term of only 12-18 months.

If you take a solar loan, it is important to understand whether your lender requires a balloon payment, whether you’re eligible for the full amount of the solar tax credit, and what will happen if you cannot make the full payment.

Speak with a trusted financial advisor when considering a solar loan to make sure you understand how it will affect you.

How much can you save with the solar tax credit?

Solar loan alternatives

There are a few alternatives to a traditional solar loan for homeowners to explore, including home equity loans or lines of credit (HELOCs) and solar leases and PPAs.


A HELOC is a line of credit available to homeowners with equity available in their homes.

Advantages of HELOCs include the lack of a dealer fee, no requirement to pay the amount of the federal tax credit within a certain period, and low-interest rates at or near current mortgage rates. Another plus for a HELOC is that it is a flexible way to pay for more than just a solar panel installation.

The disadvantages of using HELOCs for solar panels are their relative difficulty to obtain. They have stricter credit score requirements, require equity in the home, result in more paperwork for the borrower, and sometimes include closing costs and other fees.

PACE loans

PACE, which stands for Property-Assessed Clean Energy Financing, is a newer kind of loan that offers some flexibility to low-income borrowers, requires no minimum credit score, and is paid back through the homeowner’s property tax bills.

Be extra careful with PACE loans, as there has been some controversy surrounding them. Plenty of homeowners who have financed through a PACE loan have landed themselves in financial hot water with reports of insanely high property tax payments they can’t afford. Be sure to do extensive research on them beforehand.

PACE programs exist in a handful of states, including Florida, California, and Missouri.

Solar leases/PPAs

Also known as third-party-owned systems, solar leases and power-purchase agreements (PPAs) work almost the same way as leasing a car. With a solar lease or PPA, you do not have ownership over the solar panels on your roof; your installer does.

You pay a certain monthly amount to the company to use their solar panels for a set period of time. Essentially, swapping your utility bill for a lower monthly lease payment all while investing in that good, clean solar power.

The only difference between a lease and a solar PPA is that a lease is a set monthly payment that does not change, a PPA has monthly payments that can change based on how much your solar panels produce.

Solar loan FAQ

Here are some of the most important questions people ask about solar loans:

Bottom line: are solar loans a good idea?

Loans can be a great way to pay for solar panels. If you can design a loan with a monthly payment less than or equal to the average monthly savings the solar installation will generate, you can essentially be cash flow positive from day one.

But it’s still important to be careful when it comes to money. Some unscrupulous solar installers and/or lenders target the cost of the systems they sell so that the monthly payment on the loan is close to the energy bill savings the solar installation will provide. This can mean the price of the system is much higher than it would be if the homeowner paid cash or purchased the system somewhere with lower electricity rates.

In a perfect scenario,  find a solar loan with a reasonable interest rate and dealer fee. It’s important to understand that the higher the dealer fee – the lower the interest rate, and vice versa. This might require you to shop around for financing options. SolarReviews always recommends getting at least three quotes from different companies so you can find the best deal possible.

Compare solar loan quotes from installers near you
Written by Ben Zientara Solar Policy Analyst

Ben Zientara is a writer, researcher, and solar policy analyst who has written about the residential solar industry, the electric grid, and state utility policy since 2013. His early work included leading the team that produced the annual State Solar Power Rankings Report for the Solar Power Rocks website from 2015 to 2020. The rankings were utilized and referenced by a diverse mix of policymakers, advocacy groups, and media including The Center...

Learn more about Ben Zientara