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  • Writer's pictureBob Newland

Old Man Winter is back! Are your home and valuables covered?

Winter storms cause billions of dollars in damages each year. Are you covered properly? There is never a wrong time to review your insurance protection for your most valuable assets. Contact McPherson & Newland Insurance at (908) 782-3710 for a review of your current insurance policies and to see if there might be a better fit for you. We have access to a dozen or more companies and can tailor a program to fit your needs and budget.

Here are some facts and tips from Money Geek about winter weather and the proper coverage:

Fast Facts About Winter Weather

  • Some of the most costly home insurance claims occur during the winter months.

  • Winter’s high winds, heavy snow and deep freezes caused more than $1 billion in insured losses in 2020.

  • In the first half of 2021, winter storms caused a record $15.1 billion in insured losses.

  • Previously, 1993 held the record for most winter-related damages, with $3.6 billion in damages after a March blizzard impacted 24 states.

  • Wind and hail accounted for 34% of homeowners insurance losses in 2019; water damage and freezing accounted for 29%.

Since many homeowners are underinsured or even uninsured, and because even the insured ones have deductibles to meet, actual annual losses due to winter weather are likely higher than the figures above. What’s more, standard homeowners insurance policies may not cover every possible hazard.

Common Winter Hazards

Some of the most common winter-related homeowners insurance claims involve ice buildup, frozen pipes, wind and hail damage and house fires.

  • Ice Buildup

The most severe roof damage usually occurs when a rapid thaw follows a rapid freeze. This freeze/thaw cycle causes ice to build up, adding weight and putting strain on your roof structure and components. The average claim from water damage and freezing from 2015–2019 was $11,098, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

  • Frozen Pipes

When the water inside pipes freezes, your plumbing may burst, releasing water into the property and damaging carpets, floorboards, drywall, appliances and other belongings. Be especially vigilant once the outdoor temperature dips below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, as burst pipe incidents begin to spike below this temperature.

  • Wind and Hail Damage

Hail damage represents 2.1% of all homeowners insurance claims. The average wind and hail claim from 2015–2019 totaled $10,801 per incident, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Check your insurance policy for any hail and wind exclusions that may apply.

  • House Fires

The holidays are a hazardous time of year when it comes to house fires.

More generally, heating is another leading cause of house fires, according to the NFPA. Naturally, the peak months for heating-related house fires are December through February. Space heaters are a frequent culprit, accounting for 40% of all heating equipment-related fires.

Fires generate the highest homeowners insurance average claim out of all common hazards, according the Insurance Information Institute, with an average insured loss of $78,838 from 2015–2019.

Winter Damage Prevention Checklist

  • Ensure your pipes are well insulated.

    • Have a plumber do a preventive check for you before freezing temperatures arrive.

  • Inspect your attic, basement and crawl-space pipes.

    • These areas frequently have less insulation than other areas of homes and are therefore more prone to freezing.

  • Set your thermostat to at least 55 degrees.

    • This measure is particularly important if you have to leave your property vacant for an extended period.

  • Weatherproof your home.

    • Ensure windows, doors, vents and other gaps in your building envelope are weather tight.

  • Install low-temperature alarms.

    • These are most useful when installed in remote, exposed or vulnerable areas with plumbing.

  • Blow out ground and sprinkler plumbing.

    • This action is particularly critical before freezing weather.

  • Walk around your house and look for cracks in the exterior walls.

    • Cold air can enter these cracks and cause your pipes to freeze and burst. Use caulk or spray foam sealant to seal any cracks, or call a trusted contractor to fix them for you.

  • Invest in leak detection and water flow monitoring technology.

    • You can purchase basic leak sensors for about $50. These will send an alert to your phone or computer if they detect a leak, so you can take immediate action to prevent further damage. Some more expensive systems shut off your water automatically if they detect a leak.

  • Open cabinet doors.

    • Keep kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors open during cold weather when you’re heating the property.

  • Run your water.

    • If weather gets severely cold, keep a little water running through both your cold and hot water lines.

  • Inspect heating appliances yearly.

    • Have boilers, furnaces and water heaters inspected at least annually, but preferably in the fall.

  • Trim any trees near your home.

    • Taking this precaution before snow and ice weigh down branches — causing them to break — is crucial.

  • Clean sidewalks and other outdoor walkways.

    • Keep sidewalks, walkways and stairs free of snow and ice to reduce the risk of injury and liability.


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