Solar panel accidents are incredibly rare. With no moving parts, a standard installation can last 40+ years with minimal upkeep and repairs. And unlike with other energy generation technologies, there has never been a “solar spill” in recorded history.
But solar energy is not 100% risk-free. Though extremely uncommon — fires can and do occur. The usual culprits are faulty wiring or poorly manufactured panels.
So how can you minimize the risk of fires while maximizing your solar returns?
How to Protect Your Solar Installation from Fire Risks
Solar panel fires are rare to begin with. And today’s solar photovoltaic (PV) systems come equipped with numerous safeguards to help further reduce the likelihood of potential blazes. For example, if one panel malfunctions, the entire system shuts down to limit spreading.
These protections reduce your risk to nearly zero.
But there are additional steps you can take to make your installation even safer:
1. Only Hire Licensed Solar Contractors
This goes without saying. But anytime you’re working with high voltage electrical equipment, it’s best to hire a licensed professional. Look for solar installers who are certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).
2. Only Buy High Quality Equipment
Solar technology comes in all shapes and sizes. For minimal fire risk (and for optimal energy output) stick with panels that have been tested and approved by Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
3. Grounded vs. Ungrounded DC Systems
This is a bit technical, but if you have the choice between ground fault protection vs. ungrounded fault protection, choose the latter. In truth, you probably won’t have to make any choice at all. New safety standards set forth by UL and the National Electrical Code are making ungrounded DC systems the standard.
4. Use Proper Isolator Switches
This is also a slightly technical point, but always make sure your system has the proper DC isolator switch between the inverter and panels. Any NABCEP-certified installer will understand what this means.
5. Upgrading Your Roof
This is a drastic measure and usually unnecessary. But you can reduce potential blazes by using fire-resistant roofing materials like metal, composite, or cement tiles instead of wood or tar alternatives.
Some Maryland, DC homeowners and businesses go one step further by outfitting their rooftops with Energy Star-qualified materials. These eco-friendly tiles reflect sunrays and lower rooftop temperatures by up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Does Insurance Cover Solar Panel Fire Risks?
Many Maryland, DC home insurance policies already cover solar installations. In fact, you may even enjoy lower premiums than homeowners who don’t outfit their properties with solar panels.
But if your policy doesn’t already cover solar installations, should you purchase separate insurance?
For legal reasons, we can’t and won’t say “no.” There are still risks, and you should always consider your options. But, the likelihood of fire is so low that most solar system owners don’t bother purchasing additional insurance.
Still have questions about solar panels, fire risks, and safety precautions? Contact us to learn more.