Best ways to protect your home from solar panel thieves

Solar panel theft is an emerging trend in South Africa, and Auto & General Insurance’s Johanni Jennings says it’s best to install them far out of reach and behind robust security barriers.

These barriers include a sturdy perimeter wall or fence, secure access gates, electric fences, and several other security interventions.

Jennings explained the ideal security setup to keep your solar power investment as secure as possible.

“Secure and sturdy access gates. Ideally, these should be operated remotely and opened and closed quickly to limit the window of opportunity for criminals,” she said.

“Ensure that gates can’t be lifted off their rails with a crowbar and that gate motors are well hidden and can’t be accessed easily.”

Jennings added that electric fences are an effective way to deter criminals. However, they must be professionally installed.

“An electric fence offers an extra security barrier and serves as a further deterrent to criminals,” she said.

“Make sure yours is installed by a certified professional, in accordance with electric fence compliance regulations.”

“Be sure to check for vulnerable spots where the fence can be bypassed by, for example, stepping on part of the wall, or using a nearby tree for leverage,” Jennings added.

If criminals can get past your electric fence, your next line of defence should be security beams around and inside your home linked to an alarm system.

Auto & General’s Johanni Jennings explained that solar and battery installations can present a fire risk if not installed professionally.

Jennings said these act as an early warning system, giving homeowners and security companies a bit more time to react to threats.

“CCTV systems are becoming increasingly affordable and offer an easy way for you to keep an eye on your property,” she added.

“You can even monitor your home remotely via a smartphone app. This can provide valuable footage if your home is broken into.”

Jennings explained that some homeowners don’t have enough space on their roofs to install sufficient solar panels to meet their requirements.

In cases where solar panels are installed at ground level, she advised that security measures like those above are installed around them.

Regarding insurance, Jennings noted that solar panels and some generators are fixed to the property and therefore, covered under a building insurance policy and don’t need to be specified separately.

However, homeowners must inform their insurer to adjust their insured sum accordingly.

“If a device is not fixed — like an inverter or UPS for example, it would be insured under home contents cover,” said Jennings.

“These devices do not need to be specified, but the overall sum insured should be reviewed to ensure it is sufficient to cover the replacement of the items.”

Solar system risks

Jennings explained that homeowners should know that solar and battery setups can present a fire hazard if installed incorrectly.

She said it is essential that homeowners use experienced installers and maintain their solar systems regularly.

She listed several guidelines that should be followed when installing a solar and battery system:

  • Ensure that the area surrounding the system is free from fire and flammable materials
  • Store batteries in a designated, well-ventilated area away from potential ignition sources
  • Install fire alarms in the system’s vicinity for an early warning system for potential incidents
  • Ensure you have fire extinguishers that are easily accessible
  • Schedule regular inspections and maintenance by a qualified electrician
  • Keep up-to-date on safety guidelines and best practices to reduce risks proactively

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Best ways to protect your home from solar panel thieves