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Rooftop solar flare erupts in West Roxbury

Firefighters deal with solar-panel fire

The Boston Fire Department reports firefighters responded to 53 Birchland Ave. in West Roxbury for a fire that started in the house's roof panels, then extended into the attic.

There were no injuries, the department says, adding one resident was displaced.

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Comments

Make sure you can afford a scary specialty lawyer before you sign any contract for solar panels. Mother Nature vs. Roofing Company these days is risky. Insurance company reps out there....any input on the fine print language about solar roof panels????

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Solar panels are considered to be part of the house and its equipment.

Mine are owned solar panels, but I have had friends with contracted ones and the insurance polices do not view them as a separate thing requiring a rider or special insurance - they are part of the house, just like your stove or refrigerator is (and refrigerators are a big source of fires).

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I’ll need to tell him how many are installed so he can add it to the listing of the house with the underwriter. He said my policy probably wouldn’t go up but they need to be told.

I don’t know what would happen if I had a fire claim and had not previously disclosed they were added and I’m not going to take that risk.

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We got our new roof just before the panels went on and we were renewing our insurance anyway, so it was just a no brainer.

The main reason to disclose is that you have added value to your home and want the panels to be insured - just like a new shed, a new roof, renovated bathroom, etc. But it isn't like a pandemic insurance situation where its a novel special thing.

In our case, the system was still under warranty when the cable was damaged and it was replaced and reset by the installer for free.

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The fire didn't appear to be connected with the solar panels, though, correct?

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Anyone have any idea what the level of risk is with solar panels and what exactly might cause a fire? I have heard that firefighters have concerns due to panels being live when fighting a fire, but this is the first I've heard of them possibly being the cause of a fire.

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It’s rare but not unheard of. There was a house on Winchester St in Medford that lost its roof that way. Thankfully it’s normally just the roof and not the rest of the structure.

The panels output DC at high current depending on the sun. In a “string” inverter configuration the panels are joined and a few cables run down to an inverter on the ground. If a critter nibbles on the wire insulation or it otherwise gets nicked, there can be an arch with something metal, such as the panel frame or mounting. This can start the fire. (More common with a string vs microinverter config but both possible.). An even less common failure is a cell within the panel failing and overheating as a result of the other cells operating normally in bright sun.

Solar is very safe as these things go but not without a small degree of risk like anything electronic.

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Interesting perspective. I have done a fair amount of both property management and electrical work over the past 20 years. Weather (heat, water, UVs) + time + squirrels is not a good recipe for electrical equipment longevity. Workmanship also maters a great deal.

Most PV panels were installed within the past 10 years. As roof solar expends rapidly and starts aging, this type of incident will become more frequent over the coming decades; the big question is how much more frequent. A few high profile incidents could decimate the industry.

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As roof solar expends rapidly and starts aging, this type of incident will become more frequent over the coming decades; the big question is how much more frequent. A few high profile incidents could decimate the industry.

Counterpoint; Before any incidents color your opinion of Solar, just remember the alternative. Old electric panels or wiring are also a common cause of fires. I’m not saying to ignore any risks with solar. Just don’t forget that older systems weren’t and aren’t fail-safe either. (Same logic goes when a self driving car crashes. If they crash, but crash less than traditional cars, that’s an important consideration).

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So you have done illegal electrical work and think that qualifies you to comment on the safety of ev panels?

Lol.

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.

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Maybe we just missed the part where the poster was certified as an electrician, plumber, and HVAC tech.

It is possible to be licensed for all three, but not common in a building handyworker.

(p.s. the fire on Winthrop Street in Medford was from lightning surging the system - but the one in Newburyport earlier this year appears to have been a short circuit in a damaged cable)

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...where posters are required to disclose their credentials before posting. Nobody even knows what kind of work the poster did, whether there was someone with the proper licenses involved, yet people felt compelled to accuse him of doing something illegal.

Just my take on things.

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Best to not do that while describing your own behavior that may be legit hazardous.

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Yup, we should all get our expert solar array info from an epidemiologist.

Also, best not to speculate on what someone did or did not do.

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Tremendously low. And the 2020 NEC revision requires exterior disconnects for PV (as well as main services) helping reduce the risk to fire fighters.

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We checked with the installer and the insurance. Ours have breakers to cut the system if there is anything unusual.

Entirely possible if there is damage, but they should cut out. We had a branch hit the roof and a cable had to be replaced, but that circuit cut out as it should have.

I don't know if there is actuarial data, but most people trying to throw shade on panels here should toss out their 1992 "spare fridge" and get an actual electrician to review their cowboy wiring jobs before commenting.

A far more reasonable idea would be to require a lightning rod to be installed when panels are put in. It doesn't add much to the expense and protects against a very real threat.

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