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SolarCity launches loan program for energy efficiency upgrades

March 26, 2012 |  7:22 pm

An installer applies solar film insulation to windows at a Culver City houseOwners who want to make their homes more energy efficient but can't pay for improvements up front have a new option: The Home Energy Loan program from SolarCity introduced Monday allows homeowners to finance energy efficiency upgrades through 10-, three- or one-year loans, the last of which comes with no interest.

An average U.S. homeowner spends about $1,900 annually on utilities, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. SolarCity estimates that 40% of the money homeowners spend to heat and cool their homes is wasted through duct and air leakage.

The San Mateo-based company can audit home energy consumption, recommend ways to reduce usage and identify rebates. The evaluation uses 3-D software with detailed information about window types, insulation, water heaters, even light bulbs. Energy use is modeled for a calendar year, the recommendations can be as specific as changing a 100-watt incandescent bulb.

"If you replace it with a CFL," said Levi Blankenship, SolarCity's energy efficiency manager, "the software not only knows the light bulb will consume less energy but it will also know how many more BTUs the furnace needs to produce to account for the fact that the new light bulb puts off less heat."

Comprehensive energy efficiency upgrades cost between $4,000 and $12,000 on average, according to SolarCity. The Home Energy Loan program, like leasing programs for solar panels, gives homeowners the option of making upgrades without paying anything up front.

"Some solar companies have been reluctant to pursue energy efficiency because if you do, you end up selling a smaller solar system," said Jonathan Bass, director of communications for SolarCity. "If you can address gas and electricity with energy efficiency, even if it results in a smaller solar system, that's great for the customer. We think they go really well hand in hand."


61% of Americans unaware of energy incentives

Four is the magic number for energy improvements

After two years of eco-living, what works and what doesn't

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: An installer applies solar film insulation to windows at a Culver City house. Credit: Los Angeles Times.