Differentiating Solar Industry Class Codes

Author, Kevin Howard, Account Executive, Rancho Mesa Insurance Services, Inc.

Man installing a solar panel on a roof.

Research conducted by the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) shows that California benefits from roughly 3,000 solar contractors conducting business in the state. Panels are being installed at a rapid rate. In fact, statistics show that as of January 2018, over 5 million California homes have “gone solar” and that number continues to grow. Not only are solar panels used to generating electricity, they can also be used to heat water in pools, spas, storage tanks and other plumbing systems using hot water solar panels. 

With solar installation of all kinds becoming more prevalent throughout California, contractors must understand which workers' compensation classification is most applicable for their specialty. 

California’s Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau (WCIRB) breaks down solar installation into two categories: (1) Hot water solar collection panel install, service and repair, and (2) Photovoltaic (PV) solar panel install, service and repair.

Hot Water Solar Collection Panel Install, Service and Repair

Hot water solar collection panels absorb solar energy to heat water or to transfer fluid that circulates through panels. This hot water is then routed through pipes to pools, spas, storage tanks or hydraulic heating systems. The installation, service or repair of solar water panels is assigned to workers' compensation class code 5183/5187 for plumbing.

PV Solar Panel Install, Service, and Repair

This classification applies to the outside installation, service or repair of electrical machinery or auxiliary apparatus, including but not limited to automated security gates, transformers, generators, control panels, temporary power poles at construction sites, industrial fans or blowers, photovoltaic solar panels, wind powered generators and industrial x-ray machines. Contractors who are installing, servicing or repairing PV solar panels will be assigned to the class code 3724(2) in electrical machinery or auxiliary apparatus. 

The workers compensation base rates for each of these two class codes can vary widely from one carrier to another. Solar installation exposures, a detailed description of operations, and appropriate safety measures utilized must be clarified with your insurance broker so that your firm is properly placed in the appropriate code. The difference can often represent significant savings.

Rancho Mesa Insurance Services, Inc. has expertise in the solar contracting arena, representing clients that cross into both categories. Consider Rancho Mesa for a policy review and audit in advance of your next insurance renewal.