As winter brings its frigid temperatures to areas across the country, it’s important for property owners to remember to protect your pipes from freezing.
While this may seem obvious to most homeowners, the U.S. Department of Energy reports that a vast majority of U.S. homes have a 100% probability of at least one pipe freeze over the course of 20 years. We’d like to point out that these percentages apply to “Always Occupied” homes, not just a vacation home or vacant property!
Naturally, in homes that are only occasionally occupied or which may be vacant, the number of pipe freezes you will endure skyrockets exponentially.
Wheeler, DiUlio, & Barnabei has some useful tips to help protect your home as the temperatures continue to drop this winter.
Did You Know: You Can’t Always File A Claim
Most insurance policies have a specific exclusion for “water or other liquids that leaks or flows from plumbing, heating, air conditioning or other equipment caused by or resulting from freezing.”
Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to better your odds of receiving compensation for these damages. You may be able to file a claim if you can prove the following:
- That you have done your best to maintain heat in the building or structure, or
- That you have drained the equipment and shut off the supply (if the heat is not maintained.)
In most cases, homeowners will “do their best to maintain heat in the building” so that their building is livable. However, there are times, even when heat is maintained, that some well-intentioned homeowners may find themselves on the wrong end of an insurance company denial due to frozen pipes.
Helpful Tips For All Property Owners
As the old adage goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry. This couldn’t be more true when it comes to protecting your property from frozen pipes.
In order to give your home maximum protection, be sure to follow these important steps:
- Insulate (or wrap heat tape around) any exposed pipes, especially those in your home’s crawl spaces and attic
- Seal leaks that allow cold air inside near where pipes are located
- Disconnect garden hoses and shut off the water to your outdoor faucets
- Locate your main water shut-off valve (clear a path, if necessary) and make sure your it is is in good working order. This will come in handy in the event you need to turn off the water in a plumbing emergency
Helpful Tips For “Always Occupied” Properties
As mentioned above, even “Always Occupied” homes are at risk of suffering damages caused by frozen pipes. If If the property is occupied or consistently heated:
- Let warm water drip overnight, preferably from a faucet on an outside wall. A trickle of hot and cold water might be all it takes to keep your pipes from freezing.
- Leave your cabinet doors open, so your pipes will be warmed whenever your home’s heating system kicks on.
- Minimize the time your garage door is open. This will help to keep cold air out of your house and protect your hot water heater and any other plumbing that you may have in the garage.
- Use a hair dryer, heat lamp, electric heat tape, or a portable space heater to thaw frozen pipes that have not burst.
- Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
Helpful Tips For Vacant Properties
If you know you’re going to be away from your home for an extended vacation, own a rental/secondary property, or are out of your home for some other reason, follow these steps:
- Set the thermostat in the property to no lower than 55°F (12°C).
- Ask a friend or neighbor to check on the property daily to make sure it’s warm enough to prevent freezing.
- Shut off and drain the water system.
Legally, it has yet to be determined what constitutes “a homeowners best” to maintain heat. Must a homeowner maintain heat above 32 ̊F? 40 ̊F? Do space heaters provide enough heat to prevent frozen pipes?
Until these legal questions are sorted out, you’ll need our help. If you’ve had a pipe freeze and your claim has been denied by your insurance company, call Wheeler, DiUlio, & Barnabei.