’The government and industry should monitor whether the trend in fires grows,’ says major loss manager

Zurich is urging the government to introduce a single accreditation scheme for solar panels after a freedom of information (FOI) request revealed that fire crews battled an average of 10 solar panel-related fires each month this year across the UK.

The FOI request also revealed that the number of fires rose from an average of seven a month in 2021.

Zurich has warned homeowners about the dangers of poorly fitted solar panels and urged consumers to check that they are installed by those on an accredited scheme. 

Gillian Perry, a major loss manager for Zurich, said: “We’re seeing a small but growing number of claims for solar panels, the most worrying of which are electrical fires.

“While the vast majority of installers follow good practice, poorly or incorrectly fitted solar panels can increase the risk of blazes.

“Solar panel fires are rare, but incidents are rising. Homeowners should check installers belong to a nationally accredited scheme, which shows they are competent and qualified.

“With more households and businesses installing rooftop solar to cut their energy bills, the government and industry should monitor whether the trend in fires grows.”

The rise in solar panel fires follows gas and electricity prices escalating and the demand for solar panels tripling – currently more than 3,000 are being installed each week, up from 1,000 per week in July 2022.

Single accreditation body 

Analysis by Citizens Advice from October 2021 found at least 12 different accreditation schemes for green technologies, such as heat pumps, home insulation and solar panels.

Zurich has backed calls from Citizens Advice for reforms to make it easier for people to identify trustworthy and reliable installers.

While multiple accreditation schemes exist to help people find reputable installers, experts say this is leading to confusion for consumers.

Perry added: “Introducing a single accreditation body for green technologies would make it easier for people to find trusted installers and give consumers the confidence to invest in carbon saving improvements to their home.”

Zurich has urged that solar panels are fitted with accessible isolator switches, making it easier for the power to be cut off.

This is because panels continue to generate power even when they are not alight, fuelling blazes.

Overall, an average solar panel claim can cost around £8,000.

One claim in 2020 caused by a solar panel blaze at a block of flats in Kent left 30 people temporarily homeless and caused £1.5m worth of damage.