Frozen pipes are more common in homes in moderate climates than cold ones. Why? Because those of us in warmer regions are often lulled into complacency, whereas those in colder climes realize damage is imminent if they do not winterize. Each year, usually in January or February, a sudden drop in temperature brings a rush of claim calls to our offices. And although most of these claims are covered by insurance, for our clients who must repair the damage, they bring headache, inconvenience, and possible higher insurance prices. Winter is upon us, and now is the time to prepare.
Common Wintertime Issues
- Frozen Pipes
- Water Damage
- Damage to heating systems
- Collapsed roofs
- Limbs breaking and falling on homes or vehicles
- Vehicle collisions
Winterizing Your Home
Service the Heating System
Utility bills jump this time of year due to increased dark time hours and the cost to heat a home. But if a heater is fidgety or filters are clogged, you may soon be in for a breakdown. Dirty filters cause a heating system to work inefficiently and for longer hours, shortening its lifespan.
But air filters are not the only item needing attention. Have your heating system inspected and maintained by a qualified technician each year to ensure your home is ready for the next cold snap. Depending upon the type of heating system, they will clean injector nozzles, ensure vents are flowing properly, and clear drains and traps. Carbon monoxide poses an ongoing threat for homeowners who do not have furnaces regularly inspected and maintained.
Burst Water Pipes
However, even well-heated homes can experience frozen pipes. Before the cold settles in, take steps to ensure pipes are ready for it. Determine which ones are most likely to freeze in an extreme weather event. These are usually pipes in uninsulated areas such as attics and crawl spaces. Cover these pipes with insulation sleeves, wrapping, or use slip-on foam insulation. Don’t leave any gaps without insulation, as cold air can damage uncovered spots.
Even well-insulated pipes will eventually freeze if exposed to cold long enough. Thus, have a backup heating system should an extreme weather event cause a prolonged electrical outage or should the primary heating system fail. Backup heating sources can be a kerosene heater, gas heater, fireplace, or wood stove. However, these secondary heat sources pose their own risks of fire or carbon monoxide if improperly used, so ensure you operate them safely.
Insurance policies assume the homeowner will maintain heat in the home. In fact, to pay for frozen pipe damage, they require reasonable care to maintain heat. Frozen pipe claims are not often denied, but when they are it is because the homeowner neglected their responsibility to maintain heat. The lesson here is to ensure the heating system is properly maintained and the home is winterized.
Additional Winterization Tips
Homeowners can take extra steps to cut down on energy loss and reduce wintertime damage.
- Clean the Gutters: Clogged gutters will prevent melting ice from draining properly, causing water to backup beneath the ice on the roof and leak between shingles, damaging the interior of the home. Clean gutters each year after leaves are fallen.
- Maximize Insulation: Apart from wrapping your home’s pipes, properly insulate your attic and crawlspace to prevent further energy loss. Approximately one-quarter of a home’s heat is lost through the roof.
Advanced Tips from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety
Questions on your home insurance? Contact your Bankers Insurance agent. We will help determine your risks and advise how to best cover them. Not a client of ours? Let us earn your business! Each of our clients is assigned a personal insurance agent and provided a phone number that rings right on their desk.