Winterizing Your Home: A Public Adjuster’s Guide to Preventing Frozen Pipes and Costly Damages
As the winter chill sets in, homeowners and business property owners must focus on safeguarding their properties against the potential havoc caused by frozen pipes. As experienced public adjusters, we have witnessed firsthand the aftermath of burst pipes during the winter months – a disaster that can lead to extensive property damage and insurance complications.
The Insurance Implications
Before delving into preventative measures, it’s crucial to address a critical point that often catches property owners off guard. If you decide to turn off the heat and leave your property unattended, the resulting damages from burst pipes may not be covered by your insurance policy. Many policies explicitly state that damages caused by negligence, such as failing to maintain a minimum thermostat temperature, may lead to claim denials.
This revelation underscores the importance of winterizing your home or property and being aware of the conditions under which your insurance policy remains valid. Let’s explore practical steps to protect your property from frozen pipes and the ensuing water damage.
Insulating pipes is one of the most effective ways to prevent freezing pipes. Utilize foam sleeves, pipe tape, batt insulation, or expanding foam to create a protective barrier around your pipes and meters. This added insulation helps maintain a stable temperature within the pipes, reducing the risk of freezing.
Address Leaks Promptly
Even minor leaks can escalate into major problems during the winter months. Inspect your property for any signs of leaks and address them promptly. This may involve installing new washers, changing piping, or applying caulking to seal gaps. Ensuring your plumbing is in good condition reduces the likelihood of cold air penetrating and causing pipes to freeze.
Stock Up on Drinking Water
In the event of frozen pipes, having a supply of drinking water is essential. Having a drinking water supply covers your basic needs during a potential water outage and minimizes the impact on your daily life while the issue is being resolved.
Allow Faucets to Drip
In unheated and uninsulated areas of your property, especially during extreme cold weather, allow a faucet to drip slowly. This constant flow of water, even at a minimal rate, can prevent pipes from freezing. While it may lead to a slightly higher water bill, the cost is negligible compared to the potential damage caused by burst pipes.
Maintain Adequate Room Temperature
Keep the interior of your property warm during the winter months. Set the thermostat to at least 69 degrees, or no lower than 55 degrees in all areas of the property. Extreme caution should be exercised when using space heaters, kerosene heaters, or other alternative heating sources to avoid the risk of fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.
Prepare Outdoor Faucets
Outdoor faucets are particularly susceptible to freezing temperatures. Remove garden hoses from outdoor water faucets and cover them securely. Inquire at your local hardware store about insulation options for exterior faucets to provide extra protection against the cold.
Utilize Shut-off Valves
Turning off the water supply to exterior faucets can be an added precaution to prevent freezing.
Thawing Frozen Pipes Safely
In the unfortunate event that your pipes do freeze, take immediate action. Open the cold-water faucet closest to the freezing pipe to relieve pressure. Never try to thaw a frozen pipe with a blow torch or direct fire, as this can cause more harm than good. Instead, use a hair dryer on a low setting to gradually thaw the pipe and restore water flow.
Securing Vacant or Unoccupied Properties
For properties that are vacant or unoccupied during the winter, extra precautions are necessary when winterizing your home. Shut off the water supply and drain the system and appliances to avoid freezing pipes. You can also utilize a plumbing professional to winterize your home. Have a trusted neighbor or property manager check the property periodically to ensure everything is in order.
Winterizing your home or business is not only a matter of comfort but also a crucial step in safeguarding against the costly repercussions of frozen pipes. Clarke & Cohen, Property Loss Consultants strongly encourage you to take the proactive measures outlined in this guide to prevent water damage and mitigate potential insurance complications. By taking these steps, you protect your property and ensure that your insurance coverage remains intact, providing peace of mind throughout the winter months.