What’s the top cause of loss on Homeowner’s insurance? You probably didn’t guess interior water leaks but it’s true, and it’s getting worse every year. Why? Our housing stock is getting older making plumbing and water heaters more likely to crack. There are more water-connected appliances. And unoccupied vacation homes can spring small leaks that go undetected for days, weeks or months resulting in large claims.
Average water damage claims for higher end homes exceed $50k. And displacement/repair times average 100 days. So even if your insurance makes you whole financially, water damage is a big messy hassle. Here are 10 ways to avoid it:
- Automatic water shut off systems. These systems detect abnormalities in your water pressure and if one is found they will turn off your water and notify your alarm company. Cost $700-$3,600.
- Low temperature alarms. These systems monitor interior temperature and alert you and your alarm company if temperatures drop enough to freeze a pipe. Recommended for clients with cold winter climates. Cost $250-$350.
- Smart Home Thermostats. Allow you to monitor and manage your home’s temperature from anywhere. Heat should be set at a minimum of 65 degrees to ensure against pipe freezing. Cost $200-$700.
- Generators. Whole house generators will keep critical electrical and heating/cooling systems operating during a power outage. Cost $7,000-$30,000.
- Backflow Preventer. These devices are installed on the main sewage outflow pipe to prevent waste from moving in the wrong direction and contaminating your home and water supply. Cost $1,000-$1,500.
- Leak Detection Sensors. These sensors can be installed near any water connected appliance prone to leaks like washing machines, dishwashers, toilets and water heaters. They detect leaks then notify you via mobile app and/or your alarm company. Easy. Cost $200-$500.
- Pipe Insulation. For those in cold climates, try to avoid installing pipes in unheated areas like attics. If they are already there, install pipe insulation to keep them from freezing. Cost $3-$5/sq. ft. insulation.
- HVAC Float Switch. HVAC units are typically equipped with a drain line to help protect from leaks, but these frequently get clogged. Have your drain lines inspected annually and see if your unit has a drip pan float switch which will automatically turn off the unit if a leak occurs. Cost $400-$500.
- Toilet Nuts and Hoses. Replace plastic toilet nuts that connect to water with metal corrosion-free nuts. Similar to washing machines, water hoses should be braided stainless steel. Cost $4-$30 and $150 for installation.
- Inspections. Think about your house as a patient that needs a physical even if it looks healthy. Some devices like sump pumps are rarely used so need to be tested. Other items like roofs, washers, water heaters and automatic ice makers are used daily and may have maintenance issues that can be nipped in the bud. If you need a referral for a roof, plumbing or appliance expert, send me an e-mail.
In my experience, the biggest water problems occur when a leak is undetected for an extended period. This happens because you don’t see it, or because your home is unoccupied. Two suggestions:
- Periodically walk around your entire house with a flashlight. Look behind appliances, behind water heaters, under sinks, at walls behind beds and at ceiling corners. You’re looking for any signs of wetness, bubbling of wallboard or signs of mold. If you don’t find any at least you’ll have peace of mind and you’ll probably find a few lost socks and coins.
- If your home will be unoccupied for an extended period, turn the water off to the house (but leave it on at the street if you have in-ground irrigation). Alternatively, have a trusted caretaker or friend check on your house regularly while you’re gone. Trust me, you do not want to come home to a toilet that has been leaking for several months.
As I wrote about in my last newsletter, the insurance market in California is undergoing major changes as a result of catastrophic fire losses and these increasing water damage claims. Carriers there may ask clients to install some reasonably priced water detection devices as a condition of renewal. If you are asked, I suggest you take it seriously and promptly comply. Non-renewal of a homeowner’s policy is always seen as a negative yellow flag to other prospective carriers.
As a leading-edge agency, Desert Insurance Solutions continues to be successful finding solutions for both personal and commercial lines clients in this challenging market environment. I want to thank you for being my client, and thank you to all who have sent your family, friends and business colleagues my way.