More and more South Africans are responding to the energy crisis by investing in alternative energy solutions to keep the lights on and their electronic devices powered. Given that these solutions aren’t cheap, many consumers wonder about whether and how they should get them insured.
“Solutions to loadshedding range from power trolleys, mini-UPS units and lightbulbs with battery backup, through to generators, solar panels and inverters. Whether to insure them under your building insurance or your home contents insurance comes down to whether they are permanent fixtures to your home or not. Anything that becomes a permanent fixture in your home is generally insured under building insurance “Insurers often say that anything that will not fall out of your house if you could turn it upside down is a part of the home, and should thus be added to building insurance.”
Home power solutions that would thus fall under building cover include:
- Solar panels fixed to your roof or other parts of your property;
- A battery system and inverter that is connected to your DB board or solar panels; and
- A generator enclosed in a shed or cage affixed to your home, or integrated with your DB board.
“Anything you can take with you when you move without using a screwdriver or a sledgehammer to separate it from your home is generally insured under your home contents insurance. This includes portable generators, inverters and batteries as well as uninterrupted power supply (UPS) units,”
It’s wise to insure your alternative power sources for what it would cost to replace them with new equipment, “If your inverter is three years old, it will cost more to replace it today than it cost you to purchase it back then. In insurance jargon, this is called replacement value. Remember to also factor in the cost of installation in your insured value.”
If you live in a sectional title unit, your body corporate or managing agent usually buys an insurance policy on behalf of all owners to cover the buildings. In such a case, Greybe suggests asking them to increase the sum insured for your unit’s building cover to explicitly cover your alternative energy valuables.
If you are renting a renewable energy solution, you should check with your provider whether they will insure the equipment as part of the all-inclusive cost, or whether you are required to cover it under your own policy.
“Bear in mind that insurance won’t cover you for loss and damage due to wear and tear over the years,” says Greybe. “Be sure to buy a high-quality solution backed up by a five to ten year warranty to get extra peace of mind. It’s also important to maintain your expensive system to keep it in proper working order and prolong its lifespan.”
“With loadshedding likely to remain part of our lives for years to come, alternative energy sources will become a more common purchase for many households,” says Greybe. “Given that they represent capital investments of tens or even hundreds of thousands of rand, insurance against natural disasters and theft can help put your mind at ease and mitigate your losses if something goes wrong.”
“Batteries play a big part in your home’s security system which includes your electric fence and the gate motor. Wireless security systems have batteries in the detectors that are not affected by load shedding, but the main control box still contains a backup battery that should not be neglected.
“When you check your backup batteries, make sure you look at everything. Preventative maintenance action today can help ensure that your security system still operates the way it should tomorrow.”
Batteries have a finite lifespan which is affected by the number of times it discharges and charges up again. Batteries that have gone through too many of these cycles deteriorate and may not be able to charge sufficiently in the periods between load shedding times. This compromises the backup time the battery provides in the event of a power failure.
Hattingh says load shedding stage one can give batteries enough recharging time, while any higher stage will start cutting into this time needed. Keep in mind though that there can be other unrelated technical issues affecting a battery, which is why regular testing is critical. No battery will last forever, and at some point, it will need to be replaced.