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Go Green And Add Value To Your Home

By Lisa Scontras

It’s a well-known fact that renovating is a great way to boost your home’s value, even though the upgrades could be a costly propo- sition. But thanks to an innovative loan program available at First Hawaiian Bank, there is one project that may be accomplished easily, and without emptying your pocketbook. Even better, this green renovation will end up paying for itself over time.

First Hawaiian Bank introduced its EnergySmart financing programs late last year to give con- sumers 0-percent financ- ing on the purchase and installations of a solar hot water heating and photovoltaic panel sys- tems.

These green home improvements not only appeal to homeowners because the initial costs can be recovered in ener- gy savings after a period of time, but also because going solar is a good way to boost home values.

The purpose of First Hawaiian Bank’s new “green” financing program is to support homeowners who want to convert Hawaii’s abundant sun- shine into huge savings.

“Hawaii has all the characteristics of a fan- tastic solar market – year-round sunshine, high electricity costs, public support and sup- portive public policy,” says Mark Duda, founder/principal at RevoluSun. “The rate of adoption of photo- voltaics in Hawaii has doubled every year for the past several years.”

The long-term savings are appealing, especial- ly when you consider increasing utility costs. But in the past, the ini- tial cost to install a resi- dential solar system might have been a deal breaker. First Hawaiian’s loan now makes going green affordable.

“Like any major pur- chase, the quality and range of financing options are a big deter- minant of the success of the product,” says Duda. “If you had to buy cars with cash, we’d see a lot fewer of them on the road. Our cus- tomers are comfortable with a local lender like First Hawaiian Bank.”

“Financing is a really big issue for most peo- ple,” says Myron Thompson, president of Smart Energy Hawaii, a division of 21st Century Technologies. “The cost of solar, especially PV, although it pays for itself in a relatively short period of time, is a sizable number for most families. When polling people, we find that the upfront cost is a barrier.”

First Hawaiian Bank’s EnergySmart loan pro- gram helps homeown- ers with the initial cost.

According to Derek Wong, vice president of credit products at First Hawaiian Bank, “Our 0- percent program makes good economic sense.”

“The timing has never been better,” says Thompson. “All the components necessary to be economically and environmentally suc- cessful are in place – very strong state and federal tax credits, great financing options with the new First Hawaiian Bank pro- gram, and PV prices the lowest it has ever been.”

Alex Tiller, CEO at Sunetric, says that pho- tovoltaics simply makes sense for Hawaii – reli- able sunshine com- bined with the nation’s highest energy rates.

“A typical residential solar array can generate nearly $100,000 in sav- ings over the lifetime of the system, sometimes more,” says Tiller.

“With generous state and federal tax incen- tives, Hawaii is at the forefront of solar adop- tion. In terms of PV

installed per capi- ta, Oahu is in the top five nation- wide. But still, only 2 percent of Hawaii homes have PV cur- rently, so there is significant room to grow.”

Improving home values, a concern for the environ- ment, and saving money on future electric bills are the biggest motivators when considering solar and photo- voltaic systems. “Most of our cus- tomers have multiple motivations – they want to do something that they feel good about, to take a concrete step toward a better future for their family and for Hawaii; and at the same time, they like the fact that solar power costs a lot less than utility power,” says Duda.

“Once they see the long-term financial return on the investment, most find this to be a decision they almost can’t afford not to make,” says Tiller.

“Our Hawaii communi- ty now understands that it is the right thing to do, because it is good for their pocketbooks and good for the environ- ment,” Thompson adds.

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