How to Protect Your Home’s Solar Panels
By Dawn Papandrea
Investing in solar panels is not only a fantastic way to increase the value of your home, but you'll be doing your part to help the environment. Even better, over time, you'll begin to save money by lowering your energy bills. But what happens if your solar panels are damaged?
Solar panel installation is a significant investment that homeowners like you will want to protect. The good news is that your home insurance policy can provide the peace of mind you need to protect your "greener" home, says Bill Eberle, national product staff underwriting senior specialist at American Family Insurance.
Here's what he says you need to know in about protecting your investment in solar panels:
Connect With Your Insurance Agent
"As soon as your installation is underway, let your agent know what the cost of the panels is, and where they're being installed so that he or she can make sure you're properly covered," says Bill. If they are installed on your roof, it's simple: they are considered part of the home, and will be covered under your regular homeowner's insurance. However, you want to make sure that your policy reflects the new, increased value of your home.
If your solar panels are not on your home's roof — for instance, if they are installed on top of a detached garage or if they are free standing on a post in your yard — you may have to insure them as a scheduled structure, Bill says. Either way, your insurance agent can help.
Understand Your Coverage
Solar panels are covered for the same events that may effect the rest of your home. So whether your panels are damaged by wind, hail, fire, or lightning, or even if they're stolen, you can make a claim, says Bill. That also means that any policy deductible that is standard will apply to any loss involving your panels.
As for the new technologies coming on the market everyday, including aesthetically pleasing solar roofs designed by Tesla, you can insure those, too. "Any of those tile-look solar panels are eligible under homeowner's policies," says Bill.
There’s one caveat: Insurance policies only cover solar panels that are installed for your home's energy needs. The average size system needed to provide power for a normal home is between a 4Kw to 10 Kw system, notes Bill, and it’s OK to have your electrical bill reduced or even receive a small credit from the electrical company from time to time. "However, most insurers do not allow any profit-motivated use of PV (photovoltaic) panels," Bill explains. "If you install an unusually large system to provide power and are receiving regular checks from the energy companies, that could be considered a business."
Also worth noting is that if you choose to lease your solar panels, you will have to buy insurance coverage through the leasing company.
Avoid Claims With Smart Installation and Regular Maintenance
Before installing solar panels, have your roof inspected to make sure that it has the structural integrity to sustain the solar panels, especially if you're in a climate that is prone to snow, which can add even more weight on top. Then, be sure to choose a reputable installer that’s certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).
Once installed, solar panels require very little maintenance. You may consider hosing them down or squeegeeing them a couple of times per year to remove dirt and debris, or scheduling professional cleanings if they’re difficult to access. It’s also a good practice to have the system inspected annually to see if any repairs are needed.
As for theft protection, your solar company should provide you with a list of serial numbers for your panels. Should they ever be stolen, you’ll need to supply that information to your insurance company and when you file a police report. For freestanding solar panels, which are easier to access, consider putting up fencing, or installing a security camera to deter thieves.
Installing solar panels is more affordable than ever before, with the price dropping more than 60% over the last 10 years. If you aspire to have a positive impact on the environment by investing in solar power, and the conditions are right for your home and budget, go for it! With proper maintenance and the right coverage, you can reduce your family's carbon footprint, and enjoy the benefits of solar energy.
Ready to upgrade your home with solar panel energy? Speak with your American Family agent to make sure you're investment is fully protected.