Great Loans for Solar Installations

solar-on-pole-mountThere are two loan programs that are available to our customers to help offset the cost of installing solar panels.  One is a HIP loan and is available for Hamilton County residents and one is the EcoLink program which is available for Ohio residents.

1. HIP Loan (Hamilton County’s Property Improvement Program)

This program allows Hamilton County residents to borrow money to repair or remodel their homes or rental property at interest rates 3% below the lowest rate a bank would normally offer.

Solar panels qualify!

  • Loans at 3% below market rate, 5 year term – only one outstanding loan at any given time
  • Available in participating Hamilton County communities.  Milford City does not participate.
  • No Income Restrictions or limits (must be able to meet bank’s credit requirements)
  • Loans are capped at $50,000
  • For one-family, or two-family, and commercial properties valued up to $350,000 (based on Hamilton County Auditor’s appraisal)
  • All Property taxes must be current
  • Owner-occupied and investment dwellings qualify for the program
  • There is no property value limit on multi-family dwellings (three or more units)

Most types of permanent repairs or improvements are allowable. The HIP loan is structured as a home equity loan, secured by a second mortgage on the property.

Most of the banks are unwilling to approve the loan if they cannot obtain a secondary lien on the property. However, you should discuss your options with a participating lender.

Five banks participate in the program-Fifth Third, First Safety, Key Bank, North Side bank, and US Bank.  Rates vary from bank to bank.  Closing costs vary from bank to bank.  It is worth it to shop around.

Traditionally, the lowest interest rates have been given by Key Bank and US Bank.  Shelley Cummings(513-533-7716) at Key Bank is very knowledgeable about the program.

To find out more, check out the website at

Contact Information
Jay Springer, “HIP” Coordinator
Hamilton County Department of Planning and Development
138 East Court Street, Room 807
Cincinnati, OH 45202

Phone: 513.946.4459

Fax: 513.946.4475

2. EcoLink Program

ECO-Link offers a reduced interest rate on qualifying loans to homeowners completing energy-efficient upgrades, installing renewable energy products or weatherizing their homes

Solar panels qualify!

  • ECO-Link is a partnership between the State Treasurer of Ohio and participating state banks.  Find a list of the participating banks on the website
  • Provides a 3% interest rate reduction for five or seven years on  bank  loans
  • Must be used to complete energy-efficient upgrades in your home.
  • Must be an Ohio Resident
  • The maximum loan amount is $50,000.
  • There is no limit on property value to qualify for the loan
  • A homeowner can opt for a seven-year rate reduction if the loan is for more than $25,000.
  • The homeowner must use at least 50% of the loan proceeds for the installation of qualifying energy-efficient products; the other 50% of the loan can relate to other home improvement projects.
  • There are no fees for the preparation, processing, reporting or monitoring of any ECO-Link application to the Treasury.
  • Eligible products and projects include, but are not limited to:
    washing machines, dishwashers, furnaces, hot water heaters, freezers, refrigerators, heat pumps, air conditioners, windows, doors, roofing, insulation, septic tanks, boilers, programmable thermostats, geothermal units, solar panels and small scale wind turbines.

To find out more visit their website at

Contact the Ohio Treasury, Department of Economic Development via e-mail at call (614) 466-6546 or toll free at (800) 228-1102

PV Systems Increase your Home’s Value

solar-panel-on-farmBerkeley National Laboratory just released a report entitled “An Analysis of the Effects of Residential Photovoltaic Energy Systems on Home Sale Prices in California.”    The study was funded by the US Department of Energy.  The main focus of the study was to determine whether homes with installed PV systems sold for more money than comparable homes without PV.  The authors studied 72,000 homes in California of which 2000 had PV systems installed when they were sold.

The research found that homes with PV systems in California have sold for a premium compared to homes without PV.  When the sale prices were compared to the size of the PV systems installed, the average home sale price was $5.5/Watt with a range of $3.9 to $6.4/Watt.  This is higher than the homeowner’s original investment on the installation which averaged $5/Watt from 2001 to 2009 after all the state and federal incentives.

When the authors studied the relationship between new and existing homes sales prices they found an interesting result.  The new homes showed a premium of $2.3 to $2.6/Watt while the average premium for existing homes was $6/Watt.  The authors blamed this disparity on the fact that the homebuilders install photovoltaic systems on their new homes as a standard, and possibly accept a lower premium to sell the houses faster.

The last part of the study compared energy cost savings of the homeowners to the sales price of the homes.  When the results were expressed as a ratio of the sales price to the annual electricity cost savings associated with PV the average was around 20:1.  This means that for every $1000 saved in energy, the houseswith PV systems sold for $20,000 more than a house without a PV system.  This was the average for existing and new homes.  The averages for both ranged from 7:1 to 31:1.

The authors of the study showed that, in California, having a PV system installed on your house will increase your home’s sale price.

There is a 2-page summary located here:

Here is a link to the full report:

Rural Energy for America Program Grants and Loans

solar-panel-on-farmAlthough the grants from the state of Ohio have expired, there are still grants available for small business or farm owners in rural Ohio to install solar panels and offset their electrical costs.  These are called REAP grants.  REAP stands for Rural Energy for America Program and they are available from the USDA.  The following is taken directly from their grant brochure.  They are currently accepting applications for grants and loans for 2012.  The program is in effect until the end of 2012.


  • The Rural Energy for America Program is intended to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy development for rural small for-profit businesses and agricultural producers.
  • The grant will not exceed 25% of the total eligible project costs. Priority consideration will be given for requests of less than $20,000. ($80,000 project cost)
  • The loans are intended to provide “gap” financing for energy related projects. The guaranteed loan will not exceed 75% of the total eligible project costs.
  • Combined guaranteed loan and grant packages cannot exceed 75% of the total project costs.
  • Renewable energy systems or energy efficiency improvements cannot benefit a residence.

Eligible Applicants

  1. An applicant must be a rural small business or an agricultural producer.
  2. The size requirement for a small business is defined by SBA at the following website:
  3. An agricultural producer is defined as an individual or legal entity which receives 50% or more of their gross income from agricultural.
  4. Applicant must be a U.S. Citizen or have at least 51% U.S. citizen ownership.
  5. Applicant may not owe delinquent federal taxes or liens.
  6. Applicants must meet the demonstrated financial need requirements.

Eligible Areas

The project must be in a rural area or in an incorporated community under 50,000 population and not adjacent to an urban area. Project location eligibility can be found at:

Grant Request Limits

  • Renewable energy systems:
  • Maximum grant request is $500,000.
  • Minimum grant request is $2,500

There is a $500 fee for processing the grant application.  If the grant is awarded a fee of 1% of the project cost is due.  If you are interested in finding out more about this grant and loan, contact SunRock Solar at or give us a call at (513) 766-6025.