What to know before installing solar panels

If you're considering solar panels for your home, the first step is to notify your home insurance representative, to avoid coverage complications.

Solar panels can provide year-round energy savings, and many provinces provide financial incentives to encourage reducing carbon emissions. Some provinces also offer net metering programs, which allow homeowners to transfer their surplus solar power to a public-utility power grid. This helps them offset future energy costs in the winter when they need to draw power fro m the grid.

Your insurance representative may need more information about your plans, to help assess how the solar panels may affect your home insurance policy.

If you plan to join a net metering program, here are a few things your insurance representative may ask about:

  • If the contractor you plan to hire is licensed and approved by your local net metering program administrator
  • If the solar-generating system will be able to detect a power surge and automatically disconnect from the distribution system
  • If the net metering administrator requires an assessment to determine how many panels will be installed. Your insurance representative may ask to see the assessment, which typically includes a structural engineer's report and the kilowatts required to power the home.

Requirements for roof- and ground-mounted panels

Where you decide to place your solar panels will change the level of risk for insurance purposes. Here's what you need to know: 

  • For roof-mounted panels, you will need to provide your insurance representative with information about your roof's age and material to determine if it is suitable for panels.
  • To obtain the required building permit, ask your contractor's structural engineer to provide a certificate confirming that the roof can withstand the weight of the solar panels.
  • Ground-mounted panels may be an option for you if your roof is not suitable for a solar installation. This may require that you build fencing or another form of protection around the panels, as they can pose a risk for children and animals.
  • The design, installation and use of a solar energy system must meet the Canadian Electrical Code, Public Utilities Act, Occupational Health and Safety Act, and National Building Code of Canada.

Other considerations

  • Off-grid homes (i.e., self-powered homes that are not connected to a public utility system) lack the built-in safety mechanisms that would be available from a power utility. If your home is off grid, you will likely need to provide your insurance representative with proof that the installation will be carried out by a professional, and information on the system's design, before the installation.
  • Homeowners may also choose to lease rather than purchase solar panels, which insurance companies generally treat in the same way as a leased hot water heater. Insurers may still wish to see the contract before installation as it adds another element to the claims process and settlement.
  • Like any improvement to your home, installing solar panels will increase your home's replacement cost, and your insurer will take the amount required to replace the panels into account when determining your insurance coverage. 

For more information about rebates, grants and requirements for solar energy programs, please visit the appropriate government website for your region: