With winter on the way, we’re heading into a busy time of year that includes several major holidays coming back-to-back.
Although it’s called “the most wonderful time of the year,” it can feel like the most stressful time of the year. And the last thing anyone wants to add to their to-do list is worrying about damage to their home and the accompanying insurance costs (if insurance even covers the damage)
Here are some common wintertime considerations to keep your home safe and reduce — or even prevent — possible insurance risks:
1. Install a home security system.
Although the rate of burglaries tends to be lower in winter, break-ins are always a risk. Porch theft is also a very real concern, especially during the holiday season. To help minimize these risks, consider installing a home security system.
The cameras and motion detectors that most of these systems include can help prevent burglaries and theft while also shaving off a chunk of your homeowner’s insurance — up to 15% in some cases.
If your gutters can’t drain properly, that excess water can soak through shingles and eventually start leaking into your home.
2. Keep drains and gutters clean.
Even though it’s not exactly easy, you are supposed to go on your roof and clean your gutters every once in a while. Exactly how frequently depends on where you live and how often they fill up, but a good rule of thumb is around twice a year.
Clogged gutters can cause a few issues, but the big one for most homeowners is roof leaks. If your gutters can’t drain properly, that excess water can soak through shingles and eventually start leaking into your home. This can cause mold to grow, along with the damage from the water itself. And don’t forget that melting snow can also fill up the gutters, causing similar issues.
Inspect your roof on a regular basis — at least twice a year.
3. Inspect your roof for damage and leaks.
While you’re up there cleaning those gutters, take a few minutes to inspect your roof. Look for obvious holes and damaged (or missing) shingles, but also take some time to really comb over the details.
Keep an eye out for cracks, leaks where different parts of your roof meet (called flashings), and general wear and tear. Issues with your roof can quickly spiral out of control and result in flooding, much like clogged gutters.
A good guideline is to plan to inspect your roof on a regular basis (usually at least twice a year).
Smart home devices sometimes come with insurance discounts.
4. Set up home automation features.
This can save you money on utilities, sometimes significant amounts. Smart thermostats like the Nest Learning Thermostat can save as much as 12% on heating costs, paying for themselves in just a couple of years. Plus, you get the convenience of having your home automatically set to the proper temperature just in time for you to arrive home from work.
In addition to carrying their own benefits, smart home devices sometimes come with insurance discounts. Check with your insurance company to see if they offer any incentives for getting your home connected.
Make sure you have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen.
5. Fireproof your home.
Believe it or not, winter is actually prime season for house fires — more fire deaths occur in December, January, February, and March than in any other months of the year. This is partly due to the increased use of heaters during the cold winter months and partly because of all the gatherings during the holiday season. (Ever heard of someone burning their house down trying to fry a turkey?)
There are several things you can do to help minimize fire risks in your home:
• Keep fire extinguishers handy. You can purchase them from home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot.
• Test your smoke alarms regularly, and always replace batteries when they start to chime.
• Make sure candles are kept away from flammable items like curtains, napkins, and furniture. Never leave them burning when you leave the house.
These tips should get you off to a great start with keeping your home safe and insurance costs down this winter. Stay safe out there and bundle up!
By Sage Singleton. Sage Singleton is a home and community safety expert for SafeWise. She has written for a variety of audiences ranging from government sites to lifestyle magazines. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.