Even though it’s still warm and nice out most days, I can’t help but have visions of blinding blizzards and wicked winds once autumn arrives. In my family, it’s no secret that winter isn’t exactly my favourite time of year, and I’m always finding new ways to grumble and complain about it. As it goes, I’ve been reading up on the many ways winter can affect our home insurance.
It’s no secret that winter is one of the riskiest times of year in terms of potential liabilities in and around the home. I decided to look in to some ways to make our home safer, not only for us, but also for visitors and passersby. It turns out that there are a lot of simple things we can do both inside and outside the home to reduce the chances of an unfortunate event that might result in a home insurance claim.
The Importance of Winterizing
We’ve always prepared our home for the cold weather, but up until now, I hadn’t realized just how important it is to formally winterize our home. The elements in Canada can be extremely harsh and unforgiving, and winterizing helps reduce heating and energy costs while keeping home occupants safer and more comfortable.
Severe winter storms can take a major toll on a home, and winterizing also helps prevent the risk of damage. With extreme weather events on the rise in Canada, we’re not taking any chances this year.
Stay Safe and Warm Indoors
When winterizing the interior of our home, my objective is simple: keep the warmth inside and banish the cold to the outdoors, where it belongs.
Key steps include:
- Applying weatherstripping and caulking around all windows and exterior doors; it’s also a good idea to seal off electrical outlets and baseboards
- Checking to make sure that all insulation is holding up, and that any under-insulated areas are improved before the first snowfall
- Adding insulation to all exposed pipes in basements and other areas of the home, as well as the water heater
- Change or clean the furnace air filter, and do so at least once a month all winter long
- Clean built-up dust away from vents and air registers, and vacuum them regularly throughout the winter
- Prevent pipes from freezing by keeping the heat on (at low levels) during extended absences
- Flushing out seldom-used pipes by running water through attached fixtures
- Testing smoke detectors and replacing the batteries, if necessary
- Installing a programmable thermostat to help reduce heating costs
One other important note: during the winter, the furnace works overtime and the windows are never open. As such, it is essential to ensure that the home’s carbon monoxide detectors are properly placed and in good working order, with fresh batteries.
Boost Home Exterior Safety
Outside the home, the key is to reduce the chances of a slip-and-fall accident while also reducing the chances of suffering damage to the building envelope. Typically, municipal bylaws require homeowners to remove snow from their premises (and adjoining city sidewalks) within 24 hours. While there may be some unofficial leeway, I still recommend clearing snow as quickly as possible. It’s also a good idea to spread salt on driveways, walkways and sidewalks to get rid of any leftover snow and ice that you can’t remove with your shovel .
Here are some further tips for winterizing the exterior of a home:
- Remove all debris from eaves and gutters during the autumn to reduce the possibility of ice dams forming when temperatures fall below zero
- Make sure that tree branches aren’t interfering with power lines
- Turn off the water that services garden hoses and outdoor spouts, and make sure the pipes are fully drained
- Check the roof to make sure there is no damage that could lead to problems down the road
- Reduce the clutter in your garage, especially if it’s necessary to make room for a parked vehicle
Home Insurance Tips: Switch to a Progressive Provider Who Really Listens
Specific to insurance, I would also recommend performing a thorough property assessment and adding umbrella insurance, just to cover any possible gaps or shortfalls in insurance protection. When it came time for us to switch to a new provider, I had a lot of questions, and I was happy to find InsureMy, a progressive new insurance broker working in Alberta and Ontario.
InsureMy is a different kind of insurance company, one that’s more responsive and progressive than the rest. I’ve been very happy with their service, their coverage and their prices, and I’m sure you will be too.