How can Solar Panels affect my insurance coverage?
Solar panels are a great way to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels as well as a way to reduce your energy bill.
However, before you install solar panels there are some issues that deserve your consideration.
Businesses are turning to alternative power sources and there are risks associated with these emerging technologies and the exposures they create.
Whether you are installing a solar panel array, leasing space to a contractor installing an array for another customer, or already have an array, it is important to understand the risk exposure.
The top 5 risk exposures from roof mounted Photo Voltaic (PV) systems are:
- The blind spot
- Roof loading
- Severe weather
- Fire hazards
The blind spot is where a ground fault to the grounded current-carrying conductor occurs undetected. This then causes a second ground fault in the panel array and the ground fault detector/interrupter can not de-energize. This can cause serious electrical shock and a fire.
Roof Loading: A roof is designed to accommodate a predetermined load; if the road can not support the solar panels, it could lead to structural degradation or collapse over time.
Severe Weather: The weight of snow or ice on to of the load of the solar panels may be more than anticipated also it could crack the panels’ protective coating, exposing live electrical components.
Wind can cause damage to space below the panels can cause pressurization that cam damage the roof.
Fire: Whenever you have electrical components exposed to the elements, there is a chance that the components can become worn or deteriorated. When this happens, there is an increased chance of a fire. So please have your systems inspected on a regular basis.
Prior to installation of the solar panels, make sure to work with your insurance agent to discuss the risks and how you can minimize or mitigate these risks.
Consider installing the system on another structure or platform, rather than your roof. If you have to install on the roof, create and maintain clear exits and paths on the roof for maintenance.
Have a professional engineer evaluate the structural integrity and load on the roof to ensure it can not only sustain the solar panel array but also the added weight of a snow load.
Be sure that you hire fully qualified, experienced and insured solar panel contractors and make sure the panels are Underwriters Laboratories approved.
During the installation process make sure of the following:
- Have expansion joints are used on all long runs of conduit.
- Have disconnects for both the DC and AC sides of the panel array.
- Use correct installation techniques and wire management.
- Make sure to use additional ground-fault and PV array isolation sensing device
- Provide sufficient ventilation so air can circulate.
- Make sure that the panels are installed to minimize wind uplift
- Make sure that ground protection devices to de-energize the system when there’s a ground fault.
There are a number of challenges associated with installing solar panel arrays on your roof One is hindering firefighting. Regardless of where the fire breaks out in the building the PV arrays increases the risk of electrocutions, slips and falls and other serious injury. If the fire is on the roof, the concealed spaces between the panels make it very difficult to have them extinguished. Also, there is no way to turn off a single PV panel or array. Solar panels are always live and contact with them with them can cause shock or electrocution. And in some cases the entire roof can be electrified..
Damage to the solar panels due to weather could cause your business to be interrupted or if a fire is more severe because of the panels it may mean a longer downtime for your business to regain operations.
Some businesses may lease their roof space to contractors to install solar panels for others. Under this situation, there needs to be contracts and agreements in place regarding the following:
- Who is responsible for the maintenance of the panel
- Who is insuring the panels
- Who is responsible, and liable for damages, if a fire breaks out because of the panels
It is best to make sure that an attorney reviews these contracts and agreements before you sign and enter into them.
Solar panels are a relatively new technology. So who knows exactly how long the panels will last. More importantly will the contractor, manufacturer or vendor be around if they fail in a few years. It is very important that you make sure that everyone in the chain of providing these items is reputable and has been in business for a number of years.
Huff Insurance is a full service Independent Insurance Agent We have been dedicated to Protecting Lifestyles™ since 1960. We offer a full array of Personal Insurance, Commercial Insurance and Life Insurance & Health Insurance products. Call us at 410-647-111