Rooftop Solar Panel Installation Can Cancel Your Home Insurance [South Florida Sun-Sentinel] – InsuranceNewsNet | Business Insurance

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As electricity bills rise and the federal government offers generous tax incentives for investments in renewable energy, more and more Florida Homeowners are seriously considering rooftop solar systems.

But when calculating system costs versus electric bill savings, many potential solar homeowners don’t consider how a solar system will affect their home insurance bill, or how difficult it can be to find a company to insure them.

And with insurance premiums skyrocketing for everyone Florida Homeowners, solar customers who can get coverage could also find that the price increase will wipe out any energy cost savings they expected by going solar.

“It’s a big problem and a lot of people don’t realize that a lot of carriers don’t accept solar panels,” he says. Dulce Suarez-Resnickvice president of the miamiagency based on Acentria Insurance.

oakland park The home’s owner, Holy Strawbridge, learned this the hard way. She installed a modest 8,000-kilowatt system on the roof of her home about two years ago and recently signed up for coverage with Edison Insurance Company. After the insurance company sent an inspector to her home, she received a letter canceling her entire policy.

“I was surprised,” Strawbridge said. “I never filed an insurance claim and have lived in this house since 2001.”

The reasons cited in the cancellation letter sent by Edison: Your solar panels are not eligible for coverage due to the age of your roof (11 years) and because you have a tile roof.

Rooftop Solar Panel Installation Can Cancel Your Home Insurance [South Florida Sun-Sentinel] – InsuranceNewsNet | Business Insurance 2022 09 webinar web banner 1

Those aren’t the only reasons insurers won’t cover rooftop solar systems, according to interviews with solar installers, solar advocates and insurance agents. Insurers doing business in Florida They offer a wide variety of reasons for refusing to insure homes with them.

Net measurement marked by insurers

Increasingly, insurers are claiming that solar systems with net metering connections to utilities, which are virtually all of them in Florida — pose a unique risk of injury to line workers and damage to the power grid.

Florida Power & Light’s net metering contract requires homeowners to take responsibility for all potential damage, says ryan daddypresident of Palmetto Bay, headquartered key insurance. “So if there is a surge that goes through their panels and causes damage to the grid or other houses, the customer is responsible.”

Solar installers and advocates say that rationale is unfounded. They say all of the equipment used to connect the rooftop solar systems to the grid meets state building and electrical codes and is inspected by the utility companies before the new systems are activated. Utilities also have the authority to enter solar homeowners’ properties and turn them off if they suspect any safety issues, they say.

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Solar advocates wonder if concerns about net metering are just an excuse insurers are giving to justify losing customers.

Many insurers operating in Florida, faced with mounting losses, have canceled or not renewed policies to reduce the amount of overall risk they carry on their business books. In some cases, state insurance regulators have ordered insurers to unload policies in order to purchase reinsurance, insurance that insurers must carry in order to pay all claims after a catastrophe.

justin todaysradtPresident of Vinyasun, a solar installation company based in West Palm Beachsays the potential dangers of feedback are overblown.

Since 2006, all power-producing inverters have met an electrical standard called UL 1741, Hoysradt said. This standard requires solar system inverters to be able to detect power outages or any unusual voltage interruptions and automatically disconnect solar systems from the grid.

Hoysradt says he is not aware of any documented cases of injury or damage caused by a properly installed UL 1741-certified inverter.

The shutoff technology is so reliable that utilities recently removed the requirement that solar systems be equipped with separate redundant manual lockable disconnects, he said.

Until about a year ago, Hoysradt rarely heard customers complain that they couldn’t find or maintain insurance because of their solar systems. Now, at least one potential customer a day says their insurer can’t guarantee they won’t be abandoned if they install solar, she said.

Homeowners have been told by other insurers that net metering makes them commercial utilities and no longer eligible for homeowners insurance policies, said Heaven Campbell, Florida program directors for Solar United Neighbors, a national nonprofit organization that helps solar customers form cooperatives to secure better prices.

Campbell says her organization has documented about 60 homeowner complaints over the past year. They say they were canceled after installing solar panels or would no longer be eligible for coverage if they install panels, he said.

Insurer cites numerous concerns

olympus insurance presented an extensive list of concerns about property and liability exposures in a 2020 filing with the Office of Insurance Regulationwhile seeking approval to exclude solar systems from the risks it must cover.

They included increased exposure to damage due to wind lift when solar panels are attached to a roof, increased exposure to wind or hail damage to the solar system itself, fire hazards from loose or poorly connected parts or cables, increased risk of electrocution, presence of toxic materials and by-products from the panels themselves, and potential liability associated with backfeeding into the grid.

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Without commenting on the validity of the concerns, the Office of Insurance Regulation told Olympus that it could not allow a broad mandatory exclusion for solar coverage unless the company offered an option for solar owners to “buy back” coverage at a higher price. Olympus withdrew the presentation. It could not be immediately determined from the office’s file database if the company re-introduced it with the option to buy back.

Campbell disputes claims that rooftop solar systems make roofs more susceptible to wind uplift during hurricanes. He said that after Hurricane Michael hit the Beg in October 2018many roofs with solar panels were left intact amidst roofs without solar panels that were destroyed.

Solar United Neighbors’ website contains numerous photos of facilities that withstood the storms that damaged the roofs of surrounding homes. Campbell says that modern building codes actually make solar panel roofs more able to withstand winds.

Paul Handerhampresident of the consumer focused Federal Association for Insurance ReformHe said concerns about wind lift stem from the potential for further damage if solar panels and roofs are ripped off homes together.

Suarez-Resnick agrees: “With stronger winds like a Category 3 hurricane, you’re likely to take a lot more damage if the panels fly off and land on your neighbor’s roof or car.”

Companies that insure rooftop solar systems can set strict conditions for that coverage, the documents show.

Edison, the company that canceled Strawbridge’s policy, will only cover homes with solar systems that were installed after 2016, on tile or metal roofs that are no more than 10 years old, on flat roofs that are no more than five years old, and that do not produce more than 10 kilowatts of electricity. , which is more or less the typical capacity of the roof system.

As Strawbridge discovered, Edison will not insure solar systems mounted on clay or tile roofs. Stacey Giuliantilegal director of Florida Peninsula Insurance Company, parent company of Edison, said, “We chose not to secure solar panels on tile-roofed homes due to the challenges of attaching the panels to roofs. Most tile roof installations require fixing brackets that must be drilled through the tile roofs.”

Solar panels are routinely installed without drilling into the tiles, Hoysradt said. Many installers remove the clay tiles at the point where the solar posts attach to the roof and replace them with aluminum tiles that won’t chip or crack when drilled.

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Hoysradt noted that state licensing requirements for solar installers require roofing, electrical and plumbing skills.

“We’re not just a bunch of people taking down roofs with no experience,” he said. “There’s no reason insurance companies shouldn’t cover solar on a tile roof.”

However, rooftop solar consumers can expect to find a hodgepodge of insurance rules unless and until the state legislature decides to enact common coverage standards.

Common standards to secure solar energy?

the national trade organization Solar Energy Industries Association is working with other solar advocacy groups Florida SEIA, Solar United Neighbors and Vote Solar to reach out to insurers and try to develop legislation to eliminate confusion about insurance practices, he said. will giseregional director of the Southeast of the association.

The good news for Strawbridge and other solar homeowners is that there are insurers that do not prohibit coverage of solar homes or impose a long list of restrictions on coverage. They include state-owned Citizens Property Insurance Corporation.the so-called “insurer of last resort”.

Citizens covers solar systems as part of the structure. No special endorsements or add-ons required, spokesperson Michael Peltier said. “They would just add to the replacement value of the house,” she said. Of course, adding solar panels increases a home’s value, so homeowners can expect to pay a higher premium when adding solar.

One mistake a homeowner should never make: installing a solar system without checking insurance options, Suarez-Resnick said. An agent can tell you if your roof is nearing the end of its useful life and needs to be replaced first. It’s a hassle to find new insurance, and it’s expensive to remove and replace solar panels because Citizens or another insurer requires you to get a new roof.

Or you can search for a solar installer, such as Universal Hiring and Solar, which specializes in bundling roof replacements and solar installations. You can get long-term financing and qualify for the 30% federal tax credit to offset the cost of the combined job, says Jenifer Kempkathe company’s director of business development.

“Right now is the best time to go solar,” he said.

rum hurtibise covers business and consumer matters for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. He can be reached by phone at 954-356-4071, on Twitter @ronhurtibise, or by email at [email protected].

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