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Will solar panels affect the warranty on my new build home?

Posted by Tasha Kosviner on 8 October 2013 at 9:10 am

Q: I have a question relating to solar panels and the NHBC warranty on our new build property. We have recently moved in to a new, two bedroom bungalow in Scarborough and thought that we would get a few quotes for solar panels on the roof. On contacting NHBC regarding the 10-year warranty provided by them it seems that nobody can give me a definitive answer as to whether solar panels would affect the warranty cover. The same applies from solar panel installers. From reading between the lines it seems like it’s a case of 'buyer beware' Can you help on this matter? 

A: If you are buying, or have recently bought, a brand new home, the chances are, as in this case, it wll have a 10-year warranty and insurance cover from the NHBC.

The cover is split into two periods:

1. Damage or defects to your home which occur during the first two years from the date of legal completion

2. Damage to specificed parts of your home (essentially the structural elements) in years three to 10.

We contacted the NHBC on your behalf to ask how solar panel installation would affect this warranty.

The short answer is that so long as the installation does not damage the building, the warranty will remain valid. If your roof does develop a problem after the installation, then the NHBC would have to reassure themselves that the problem is not linked to the solar panels - either caused during installation or by any subsequent stress the installation might place on the roof. If they can be sure that the problem would have developed anyway and was not caused by your installation, your warranty will still be valid.

If it is found that the damage was caused through the installation then your installer is liable for the repairs. Make sure that the installer you choose is is accredited by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) and a signatory of the Renewable Energy Consumer Code (RECC) so that if something does go wrong, you have recourse to get it fixed. A condition of membership of the RECC is that installers issue warranties that are insurance-backed so that even if they go out of business, your warranty will still be valid. 

Potential structural problems associated with fitting schemes such as solar panels onto roofs is something that the NHBC looked at in detail last year, in their guide to the installation of renewable energy systems on roofs.  

The research found that while there are a range of British and European standards to ensure installations are fit for purpose, there are currently no standards that regulate the mechanical installation on buildings. It also found that the growing popularity of solar pv, solar thermal and microwind turbines on building had let to an increase in roof damage caused by wind and rain. 

In the absence of such standards, the guide offers detailed advice on best practise for installing a roof-mounted microgeneration system. While it is aimed at the construction and installation industry, it is worth doing a bit of reading yourself, so you can satisfy yourself that your contractor is well informed enough to do a good job.

More information

The YouGen guide to solar electricty

The YouGen guide to solar heat and hot water

From the blog

Solar hot water: seven things to check before you install (Oct 2010)

Why using a solar quote site may end up costing you more (Jan 2011)

10 tips for avoiding the solar thermal cowboys (Dec 2010)

Photo Credit: jasminejennyjen via Compfight cc

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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