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How to ensure you are properly insured in the power crisis

How to ensure you are properly insured in the power crisis

The prolonged electricity crisis and Stage 6 load shedding has forced many South Africans to take responsibility for ensuring their own continuous power supply. Before you head off-grid, it’s worth taking a few beats to ensure your goods and your power supply are insured properly.

Retailers such as Game have reported a boom in the sale of generators, inverters and modular uninterruptible power supply (UPS) devices, while solar power suppliers say installations of solar panels have skyrocketed.

Game’s vice president of marketing, Katherine Madley, says the retailer continues to see interest in rolling blackout solutions such as generators, inverters and smaller UPS systems.

Ricardo Coetzee, head of Auto & General Insurance, says solar panels, and some generators, are fixed to the property and are therefore covered under your homeowner’s building’s insurance policy. This means these items do not need to be specified separately.

“Homeowners do need to inform their insurer and adjust their total sum insured accordingly,” notes Coetzee.

Solar supply systems

Outsurance warns that there is no stand-alone cover for solar supply systems.

The insurer advises that you contact the Home Owner’s Association (HOA) or the body corporate and request that solar systems are included as part of the existing building’s insurance. If you are renting the property, you will need to ask the owner to raise this with the HOA or body corporate.

Tarina Vlok, managing director at Elite Risk, a subsidiary of Old Mutual Insure, says solar geyser claims are often rejected because installations do not comply with regulations.

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She notes that a solar power generation and storage system sufficient to take a small household off the grid can cost more than R250,000, while hybrid solutions cost between R80,000 and R150,000, depending on the size of your home and how much power is needed.

Vlok says an engineer’s certificate must be issued for all solar geyser installations of 300 litres or more. The technical regulations when it comes to solar installations stipulate that:

  • Installers must ensure the roof structure can support the solar system;
  • Where it is not possible to comply, a professional engineer or registered technologist must design the installation in such a way that the safety and performance principles of the standard are incorporated;
  • Water heaters or storage tanks with a capacity of 200 litres or more may not be attached to a wall; and
  • The solar system must be installed in such a way that it does not accelerate the deterioration of the roof.

Inverters and UPS devices

If a device is not fixed — like an inverter or UPS for example — it would be insured under home contents cover. Coetzee says that, again, these devices do not need to be specified, but the overall total sum insured should be reviewed to ensure it is sufficient to cover the replacement of the items.

Generators

When it comes to generators, your insurance cover options vary depending on whether the generator is fixed, loose or portable.

Fixed generators that cannot be taken with you when you move house, will be covered under your buildings’ insurance. Generators that are large enough to stay outside the home, but can be moved if you relocate, are covered under contents insurance. Outsurance advises that you may be asked to ensure the generator is protected and not exposed to direct rain.

This would be one of the terms and conditions under which a claim could be rejected; for example, if the insurer finds that you left the generator exposed in heavy rainfall.

If you have a portable generator that, for example, you use when camping, you can cover this separately under what Outsurance calls “out-and-about” cover.

Read on Daily Maverick: ‘People are broken’ — Daily Maverick readers describe toll rolling blackouts take on their health and businesses

Gas accidents

Madley reports renewed interest in gas-related products as consumers look to tackle rolling blackouts and high costs head-on, with a 43% increase in sales of two-plate gas stoves and a 63% sales increase for 9kg gas cylinders between November and mid-January.

If you have a claim for an accident involving a gas appliance, your insurer can request proof that the appliance and its installation complied with safety standards. You need a Certificate of Conformity, confirming that the appliance was inspected by an authorised person who is registered with the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Safety Association of South Africa.

This certificate is accepted as proof that the appliance is safe, leak-free and installed in accordance with SABS regulations.

Burglaries during power cuts

Auto & General Insurance has also seen a spike in home break-ins, and load shedding contributes to this increase, with a 40% rise in burglaries in the first 16 days of January 2023 compared with the same period last year.

“When the lights go out, so do the alarm systems, gate motors and electric fencing, making it easier for criminals to gain access to your property and spend longer in it.

“Most insurance policies stipulate in their contracts that the house alarm should always be activated when the home is unoccupied. So, if your house is burgled during a power cut, then, theoretically, your theft-related cover would be moot,” Coetzee says.

“We believe that load shedding is beyond the control of our customers, and, therefore, they should, as a rule, not be penalised for it if they took all reasonable precautions. As such, each case will be considered based on its own merits.”

Power surge damage claims

Sumarie Greybe, founder of fintech insurer Naked, says one of the highest reasons for claims in the past year was for items damaged due to power surges after load shedding.

“While some of these risks will be covered by a home buildings and contents policy, maintenance-related issues and incidents related directly to frequent power cuts are often excluded,” says Greybe.

She offers the following tips:

  • Turn off and unplug all non-crucial electrical appliances and switch off geysers when away from home for long periods.
  • A surge protector plug can protect sensitive electronics from power surges and is worth the few hundred rands it may cost you.
  • Switch off and even unplug appliances and devices you aren’t using. It can help save your appliances and electronics when there are power cuts/surges. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.

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