Joburg hail storm: An important reminder to insure your solar panels

Some of the damage caused by hailstones during the Joburg storm. Picture: X/ProTwoolz

Some of the damage caused by hailstones during the Joburg storm. Picture: X/ProTwoolz

Published Nov 14, 2023


A fierce hail storm caused massive damage to cars and homes in parts of Johannesburg on Monday night, and no doubt, expensive rooftop solar panels may have been victims of the cricket ball-sized hailstones that were unleashed.

The hailstones caused massive damage to cars and homes in Midrand, Sandton, and parts of the inner city.

With South Africa’s load shedding struggles ramping up in recent years, many who can afford to make the pricey investment of installing solar panels have done so at great cost.

Insurer DialDirect says the country's rooftop solar capacity increased by a massive 349%, but with hail season now kicked in, they have reminded residents to ensure they are adequately protected and insured.

DialDirect spokesperson Martin van Wyk said solar panels were typically covered under a building insurance policy and needed to be specified for the amount on the policy as they were susceptible to theft, fire, storm, or lightning damage.

He said the panels did not need to be specified separately, but the insurer had to be alerted about the cost to replace them, meaning the total sum insured had to be adjusted upward.

Infiniti Insurance said it had noted a rise in the theft of solar panels, particularly at night.

Debbie George, head of the Broker Division at Infiniti Insurance said the sum insured for the solar panels had to be noted to the insurer, and it was vital that a compliance certificate be issued after installation.

“Clients must know that their insurance premiums will increase after installing solar panels because this increases the value of the property. The usual place to cover solar systems is under the Homeowners or Buildings section, as they are normally fixtures to your home,” said George.

She said the solar panels were an easy target for criminals and said the panels should be insured against theft as well as natural events such as wind, hail, and lightning.

In a previous article with IOL Business, Marius Steyn, Underwriting Manager at Santam Insurance, said in the case of tenants who installed their own solar panels, they could insure their investment under their contents insurance, but for homeowners, it would be insured under the building insurance cover.

As a rule of thumb, he said that for any investment in the home, the insurer must be alerted about it in the event of any incident arising.

“If the insured value of the building is not equal to the current replacement value, under-insurance (principle of average) could be applicable in the event of a claim, and the claim will not be paid in full,” Steyn said.

Solar tips

According to Van Wyk at DialDirect:

– Invest in reputable brands and high-quality panels: Tier 1 panels are typically tested to withstand hail of up to 37mm in diameter (golf ball-sized hail), but Tier 2 and 3 panels tend to be more vulnerable to damage.

– Ask your installer about adjusting the angle of your panels to minimise the hail risk.

– Once the hailstorm has subsided, inspect your solar panels for damage from a distance. If you think they may have been damaged, do not climb on your roof. If there is damage, there could be leaking voltage.

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