Could your solar energy system cause you to lose your home insurance?

Recent news reports are surfacing, telling the story of homeowners with solar energy systems whose insurance costs are being jacked up – or whose policies are being canceled altogether. While we have only heard from a few of our clients affected in this manner, we wanted to share what we know and what our state association is doing to help homeowners impacted by the situation.

(In case you are interested in reading a couple of the stories, click HERE or HERE.)

From what we can determine at this time, the situation appears to be affecting homeowners insured by smaller companies – not major carriers. But, as fewer and fewer insurance companies are willing to take bets on Florida, with its active hurricane seasons, it is becoming more difficult and more expensive to find homeowners insurance each year, whether or not your home features a solar energy system.

From reports we have seen, insurers are making the following false/misleading claims to justify solar-unfriendly policies:

Concerns about wind uplift and hurricanes on solar panels installed on rooftops.
We KNOW that a solar array actually makes your roof stronger.

Issues with covering systems that are larger than 10 kW.
There is almost no difference, in terms of safety, between a system smaller or larger than 10kW – both are exceptionally safe.

Allegations of “backfeeding” (electrical surges causing damage to the grid) by solar systems.
With few exceptions (known as “zero export” markets, typically where rooftop solar penetration is very high), all grid tied solar PV systems worldwide backfeed their power into the grid, and do so safely and regularly (literally every day). The grid experiences surges constantly, from lightning and other sources. On the contrary, solar is required to work in harmony with the grid.

Fears that solar systems pose a risk of injury to line workers.
Modern solar inverters are some of the safest electrical equipment in your home, and subject to some of the toughest testing by Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Since 1999, UL 1741-listed inverters are required to detect utility outages or any grid voltage disruption and automatically disconnect the system from the grid, thus protecting line workers. Rapid Shutdown requirements also require all rooftop wiring to go to safe voltage whenever the system is turned off (all Enphase and SolarEdge systems are natively NEC 2017 rapid shutdown compliant). These are just a few of the many UL listings and NEC requirements that inverter manufacturers need to secure and comply with to be sold in the U.S.

Concerns about the presence of toxic materials and other byproducts of solar panels.
Essentially 100% of rooftop solar installed in the United States use silicon solar panels, which are safe and contain no toxic materials.

Claims that there is increased exposure for wind or hail damage.
Solar panels installed in the U.S. must survive the impact of 1” hail stones at 60 mph, which is far stronger than regular roofing materials. We like to say that if a storm is strong enough to damage a solar panel, the damage to the roof (and rest of the house) will likely be much worse.

Asserting an increased risk of electrocution.
As mentioned above, UL listing is a requirement for any solar inverter to be installed on a home in the United States – it is the global gold standard for electrical and fire safety. However, as with any piece of electrical equipment, we do not recommend opening any enclosure or touching exposed wiring (i.e., don’t stick your finger in an electrical outlet!)

Labeling net metering as a commercial activity, thus stating that these homeowners are engaged in operating a commercial business out of their home and require much costlier insurance.
To call a net metering agreement – which, effectively, all solar adopters in Florida must enter into – a commercial endeavor is ludicrous. Most of us have credit cards that offer benefit programs (such as cash back) to users; does that make users a financial services company? It’s silly.

All we can say is that each and every of the above claims are fed and spread by misinformation – whether intentionally or due to a severe lack of knowledge about solar energy. We have ample data to prove that solar energy systems are safe.

As concerns rise about the ability of solar adopters to secure insurance on their homes, our statewide association, the Florida Solar Energy Industry Association (FlaSEIA), is monitoring the situation closely and working on creating a list of solar-friendly insurers. Additionally, the national Solar Energy Industries Association is working with FlaSEIA and fellow solar advocacy groups, Solar United Neighbors and Vote Solar, to reach out to insurers and try to develop legislation to eliminate confusion regarding insurance practices.

We state unequivocally that those claiming that there are safety issues with solar energy systems are either woefully misinformed or are being directed, perhaps by other powerful entities such as Florida’s monopoly utility companies, to throw up roadblocks to rooftop solar adoption. Sadly, Florida’s utility industry has a history of these kinds of tactics but, whatever the case, we are working to provide accurate information to the insurance industry, and to develop a list of pro-solar insurance companies.

If you are running into any issues with your insurer, we strongly encourage you to shop your policy (actually, we recommend this regardless: my wife and I ended up saving thousands this year by shopping our policy). You are NOT stuck – there are plenty of companies that love solar and who will quote a fair price for covering your home.

We would also suggest that, before you install a solar energy system, you check with your insurance company/check on your insurance options. And if your roof is old, it’s advisable that you replace it before installing your solar energy system.

We’ll be keeping an eye on this situation and will provide updates as available. Please don’t hesitate to call us with any questions you may have!

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