Texans are embracing solar energy at a rapid rate. The Solar Energy Industries Association reports that 1.8 million homes in the state are solar-powered and Texas is projected to be the number one producer of solar energy within the next five years, but there are some safety concerns you may want to consider before jumping into the solar trend.
QUICK-THINKING NEIGHBOR HELPS SAVE HOME
"The fire department told me that we were minutes away from losing our house," said Austin, a homeowner in Melissa who asked us not to use his last name.
His home caught fire, but a quick-thinking neighbor grabbed a hose and jumped on Austin's roof.
"He grabbed the hose, jumped on my roof. And yeah, this is pretty incredible, and he was able to put the fire out before the fire department even got there," said Austin.
He said investigators told him the home's rooftop solar panels were the source of the fire.
"And they had said that … if my neighbor hadn't got up there, it probably would have got through to the attic. And once that would have happened, once all that oxygen gets to that exit point where probably our house probably would have burned down," Austin said.
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RISK OF FIRE FROM SOLAR PANELS IS SMALL
The Solar Energy Industries Association said the risk of fire is very low.
"There are more than three million solar installations in the U.S. today, and properly installed systems very rarely result in fires. While there is a small risk associated with any electrical equipment, these can be dramatically minimized with proper installation and monitoring of system performance." SEIA said in a statement. "The solar industry works with various code development organizations, such as the International Code Council and National Fire Protection Association, to enhance installation guidelines that allow for necessary roof access for firefighters and to reduce or eliminate electric shock hazards."
The Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy suggested homeowners choose a qualified, certified and experienced solar installer who uses high-quality solar panels.
CONSIDER HAVING THE SYSTEM INSPECTED DURING INSTALLATION
"It's often a grounding issue. So, you get an arc flash that lights up something that's flammable on the roof, an asphalt shingle for example, or maybe the wooden frames that are holding the solar panel," said Nick Gromicko founder of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.
Gromicko suggested having a certified home inspector with solar panel experience inspect your system while it's being installed.
"Tell the installer in the beginning that you're going to do this and you know, we're all human beings. So, this puts a little psychological pressure on the installer to do [their] very best work," said Gromicko. "It doesn't happen often. But a fire on the roof is something that I would sleep better knowing that a third-party home inspector went up on that roof, came back down off the ladder and told me that everything was great."
Austin said he was careful and used the same installer a neighbor used. He said he even waited a bit before buying solar panels and the system was starting to pay for itself.
"When you start seeing that pay for itself, that is a good feeling," said Austin. "And everyone that I know, that has it, does like it. It’s just not everyone's catches on fire."
Austin said his installation company is helping him work through repairs and replacement of his panels.