Homeowner's Insurance

How going off-grid can affect your homeowner's insurance in Virginia

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October 28, 2021

Did you know alternative systems for your off-grid property can affect your home insurance premium? There's plenty to get right when considering an off-grid system, and the likelihood is you'll be making a considerable investment to achieve your goals. You want to make sure that investment is protected.

Virginia is a popular choice for off-grid homes due to its abundance of natural resources, land, and water. So, to ensure your investment is safe, it's essential to understand your insurance coverage and how it can change with alternative systems.

Why do alternative systems affect homeowners insurance?

The fact is that most off-grid homes will opt for alternative systems that have an increased risk factor compared to traditional systems, such as wood stoves. As a result, insurance companies will hike up premiums to handle this risk differentiation. To help you better understand the costs involved, we take a look at some common alternative systems and how they can affect premiums.

Septic systems and outhouses

Outhouse

Outhouses can be simple to build, especially if you're a skilled carpenter. However, holes aren't contained and won't stop waste from potentially contaminating soil and nearby water. If your primary water source is contaminated, you and your family might need to be put up in temporary accommodation while the issue is fixed. Alternatively, you might need your insurance provider to cover the cost of buying bottled water. This is a common issue with off-grid properties that can push up your insurance premium.

Septic Systems

If your off-grid home has a reliable energy system, you might have suitable power to install a septic tank on your property. However, installing your own could increase your insurance premium for a variety of reasons. Firstly, if the power system fails and you are left with no proper toilet sanitation, you might need to claim temporary accommodation. That risk might be taken into account by your insurance provider when putting together your premium.

Secondly, the location of your septic tank is crucial. If your property is located in a rural area or even the wilderness, there are plenty of pests and wildlife in Virginia that can cause damage or destroy your tank. This further adds to the increased risk to your insurance provider over a typical sanitation system connected to the main grid.

Solar panels are typically included in a standard homeowners insurance policy, but only up to your policy dollar limits.
Solar panels and other renewable energy systems

A standard homeowners insurance policy usually covers solar panels and other renewable energy systems. They could, however, increase the cost of your premium if your property relies solely on a renewable energy system for power.

Solar panels and other renewable energy systems usually require a significant investment. A standard roof solar panel system can cost around $20,000, making it an expensive liability for insurance companies if something goes wrong. Make sure to check with your insurance provider if your standard policy covers solar panels and renewable energy systems. They might be covered up to a certain dollar limit, but if it’s not fully covered you might look into taking out a separate policy to fully protect your investment.

Greywater & stormwater collection

Installing a system to harvest greywater and stormwater is unlikely to impact your homeowner's insurance premium. However, if the system you plan to install is costly, a provider might consider it a more significant liability. A way to counter a potential increase in costs is to take advantage of the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program, through which the state can provide financial assistance to install a rainwater harvesting system in your off-grid property.

Installing a storm water or grey water collection system isn't likely to change your insurance needs.
Geothermal heating

Geothermal heating is a fantastic off-grid solution to your heating and cooling systems. It is an excellent way to reduce your carbon footprint and heating costs compared with traditional systems. You should also note that the cost of installing a geothermal heating system is very high.

Many insurance providers in Virginia include the system under their standard homeowner's insurance policy. If you'd like to protect your investment, get in touch with an insurance agent to discuss your options. If you already have a homeowners insurance policy, you can always call your agent to see what kind of coverage you may currently have for your geothermal heating system.

Wood Stoves

Some insurance companies do cover wood stoves in their homeowners insurance policy. However, for many providers, wood stoves represent a considerable fire hazard and, as a result, will increase your premium. To help keep costs down you should ensure you have installed appropriate safety measures to show insurance companies that you are prepared to handle potential accidents, such as a fire extinguisher.

You'll also find that some insurance companies in Virginia will only cover your wood stove if it's been installed by a professional. So make sure to factor in that extra cost before opting for this type of system.

Wells

Whether your homeowner's insurance policy covers well pumps will depend on the agreement with your insurance provider. You might find that to include this system in your policy, you’ll have to pay a higher premium. However, this will ensure that your well pump is protected should it be damaged or break down.

This type of insurance coverage is essential if your well is (or will be) the primary water source for your home. If the worst was to happen, would you be in a position to repair/replace your water pump? Also, if you're planning to dig a well on your property, you should note that you'll need a permit to do so in Virginia. Once you've gone through the proper channels, in most areas, you'll have complete control over your well, including the amount of water you can withdraw.

You may want to double check that your well is covered in your homeowner's policy, especially if it's an older one and may be more likely to sustain damage.

FAQs about insuring off-grid homes in Virginia

Do I risk being denied homeowner's insurance if I convert my home to off-grid?

Although there are no homeowners insurance policies aimed at off-grid homes, coverage is still available. Most insurance companies will provide this service. However, since some off-grid systems can increase the risk of something going wrong, you might find your premiums a bit higher. This will, of course, depend on the provider you choose as well as a few other factors, such as the amount of coverage you purchase and your deductible. A great way to manage the coverages and costs is to employ the services of an insurance agent that will work to find you the best deal on the market.

Most insurance agents also have previous experience dealing with insurance for off-grid systems and will be able to guide you through the daunting process.

How much does it cost to insure an off-grid home in Virginia?

Your premium will depend on various factors, including where you live, the value of your property, the condition of your home, home security and protection, and the level of coverage you're looking for. As of the writing of this article in 2021, the average Virginia homeowners insurance cost totals around $1,013 per year. Since a property with off-grid systems will fetch a higher premium, you should expect prices a little over that.

Note that there is no way to give an exact average cost and that the best way to find out is to get in touch with an insurance agent who can calculate and get the best premiums for you. If you’d like to learn more about what features of a home can make your homeowners insurance premiums higher, take a look at this article.

Does homeowners insurance offer full coverage of alternative systems?

Like with any other home insurance policy, your insurance provider will have a list of situations that are not covered. When it comes to alternative systems, this can be general wear and tear or neglect on your part. It's always best to check with insurance providers and be thorough when looking through the small print of your policy. This will help you avoid any unwelcome surprises in the future should the worst-case scenario happen.

It's perfectly legal to go off-grid in Virginia, but it may be easier in rural areas due to relaxed regulations.
Does Virginia have any laws restricting off-grid/alternative home modifications?

It's entirely legal to modify your home with alternative systems for off-grid living in Virginia. However, there are some instances where you should get in touch with local authorities to ensure that you're complying with local laws.

Land in Virginia is mainly divided into cities and suburbs and rural and agricultural land. It might be challenging to set up an off-grid property in a city or suburb, while most that allow it will require you to connect to the local municipal sewage system. However, in rural and agricultural areas, the laws are often more relaxed making it easier to implement alternative systems. Ensure that you've done proper research and are complying with the laws of your specific area. This is especially important if you haven't bought your property yet.

For the most part, most of the state allows you to set up an off-grid energy system. There are even laws in some areas that protect your right to install solar panels. However, be aware of the extra cost solar panels might add to your premium.

How can I reduce the cost of my off-grid homeowner's insurance?

If you find that your premium is high, there are specific steps you can take to help reduce your insurance costs. The first and most logical step is to improve security. If you can install the latest security systems and protection technology for your alternative systems, your risk factor will naturally decrease. Be sure to check with your insurance carrier before you do this, because most of them require a certain type of home security system in order to qualify for the discount.

Another fantastic way is to go through a trusted insurance agent to scan the market for a deal that matches your needs. Insurance companies can be flexible on their prices, so shopping around will help land you a more attractive premium. Even better, independent insurance agents are experienced in understanding the many quotes you might get from various carriers to help you choose the best one.

In Virginia, you aren't legally required to have homeowner's insurance. That doesn't mean it's a good idea to go without it.
Do I need homeowners insurance for my off-grid property in Virginia?

Under current state laws, you are not legally required to have homeowners insurance. However, if you have a family or a considerable investment attached to your property, it's always a good idea to get coverage to protect you from situations out of your control.

If disaster strikes and you are left out of your home, do you have the means to ensure that you and your family can enter into temporary accommodation and continue with everyday living? Or will you be able to replace a broken alternative system, such as a well pump or septic tank? These are important questions you should think about while considering taking out an insurance policy.

Can I get insurance discounts for installing alternative systems?

Many people opt to install off-grid systems on their properties to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a greener planet. So, you'll be glad to know that some insurance companies offer discounts to customers that implement green solutions. It's worth looking around to check if a provider is offering a homeowners insurance product with such a policy.

The discount gained from green alternative solutions such as solar panels might even offset the increased cost of riskier systems such as wood stoves.

You can learn more about how to get discounts on your homeowners insurance here.

What should I do if I get refused coverage?

If a company has declined your insurance coverage request, you should know that this might not be the case for all companies. This is why it's so important to shop around and talk with multiple providers. By getting multiple quotes, not only are you increasing your chances of getting coverage, but you are also increasing your chances of getting a better deal.

An independent insurance agent with experience in delivering excellent insurance premiums is always a great way to find a policy that suits you and your requirements.

The best way to ensure that you are eligible for homeowners insurance is to meet all local building regulations, hire professionals to install your alternative systems and implement safety features.

Are you thinking of living off-grid in Virginia? Look to Ronnie Shriner Insurance Agency to find the best coverage.

It's important to know that you aren't alone in this process. As evidenced by this article, there's a lot to know and understand about Virginia homeowners insurance for off-grid properties and systems. So much so that it can all feel overwhelming.

The good news is that you won't have to remember all this information or even look out for it. Ronnie Shriner Insurance Agency will ensure that you receive the correct coverage for your property and talk you through your options.

Click here to contact us online, or email info@shrinerinsurance.com. You can also call our office at 804-270-0406.

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