Most covered property losses due to hurricanes are wind related – rather than due to flooding – and many Florida residents might be wondering if damage to extraneous structures or solar panels is covered by their homeowners insurance.
Concerns about solar panels feel scant considering the disaster as a whole. Matthew was the costliest hurricane to hit the Atlantic since Sandy, killing at least 522 people and resulting in more than half a million insurance claims across the Caribbean and the southeast U.S.
But the solar energy industry is growing in Florida, even as legislative opinions flare on its regulation. The “Sunshine State” ranks 15th in installed solar capacity but third in rooftop solar panel potential in the county, according to Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). It currently has enough solar energy installed to power 36,000 homes. California has the leading solar energy market, with enough energy installed to power more than 3.7 million homes.
While Florida did not experience the flood damage that Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina did, the panhandle was subject powerful winds over 100 mph in some areas. Roofs are especially vulnerable to hurricane winds and anything attached to them is also at a heightened risk, including solar panels.
Whether someone’s homeowners insurance policy will cover damage to their solar paneling or energy system is a common concern. Most solar energy systems cost between $25,000 and $35,000 to install and replacing a system out of pocket would be a enormous financial burden, if not impossible, for most homeowners.
Luckily for those with solar panels, most homeowners insurance policies cover solar energy systems.
Most solar energy systems, including the paneling on the roof, are considered a permanent attachment. Like a security system or a deck, solar panels are considered part of the home and therefore are protected by a homeowners policy.
There are a couple things homeowners with solar energy systems should keep in mind though.
Unlike true extraneous structures, such as a detached tool shed, solar energy systems do not fall under any category with a claim limit. Regardless of the replacement cost value purchased, homeowners insurance policies generally cover only 10% of detached structures.
That’s good news for those with solar energy systems but homeowners still need to be conscious of the amount of coverage they purchase. The claim limit of their insurance policy’s replacement cost coverage should reflect the amount need to repair of purchase a new solar energy system and panels, if needed.
Remember that homeowners insurance also protects against more than wind damage. It will pay to repair or replace a home and personal property (including solar energy systems) in the event of a fire or a number of other perils.
Just because a solar energy system is damaged by hurricane winds, doesn’t mean a homeowners will need or be able to file an insurance claim. Many homeowners insurance policies have two deductibles: a standard one for all claims and then a separate deductible for hurricanes and named tropical storms.
Hurricane deductibles are higher than standard ones and typically are about 5% of the replacement cost value of a home but they can be as high as 10%.