According to the Insurance Information Institute, severe winter weather is one of the largest causes of catastrophic losses. Just like taking careful steps on the snow and ice can help prevent slips and falls, taking careful steps to protect your home from winter weather can help prevent expensive property damage. One of the first steps you should take to protect your home is to review your property insurance policy and make sure it meets your needs. Pay particular attention to deductibles, limitations or exclusions to coverage.
Farm Bureau Insurance policies cover damage to homes caused by windstorm, falling trees or other falling objects, and damage to your home due to the weight of ice and snow. Your policy also provides coverage for damage to your home caused by freezing of a plumbing, heating or air conditioning system, or of a household appliance. Outbuildings, however, are not normally covered for all of these perils. Outbuilding coverage for collapse due to the weight of ice and snow is available on certain structures at an additional cost.
Here are a few more steps you can take to protect your home from winter’s icy grip.
- Prune dead and heavy branches overhanging your house (or your neighbor’s house if your trees are encroaching) and outbuildings. Ice and snow, combined with winter winds, can cause limbs to snap.
- Be sure to winterize/drain any sprinklers or irrigation lines
- Clean your rain gutters. A dam can form when water runs into your gutters and freezes. When more snow melts, the water can back up under your shingles. The water can then seep into your house, damaging ceilings and walls.
- Keep your attic ventilated. Warm attics melt the snow gathered on the roof. The melted snow will then drip and can re-freeze and build up at the roof’s edge. This is known as an ice dam and can prevent snow and ice from draining properly.
- Watch for excess snow accumulation on the leeward (downwind) side of a higher-level roof, where blowing snow will collect.
- Drain outside faucets and disconnect outside hoses. Turn off the water at the inside shut-off valves. Then open the faucets, drain, and leave stems in the open position.
- Install backup power. With a generator, you can operate your refrigerator, freezer, sump pump and lights if your electricity is interrupted.
- If you do lose power or you plan an extended stay away from home, drain your pipes. To drain, turn off the water heater and main water supply, open all faucets in the house and drain the system by keeping the valves open. Drain all toilets by holding the lever down until the tank empties.
- Have your furnace checked by a licensed professional. Filters may need to be changed as well. Failing to do so can be a fire hazard.
- Consider a home automation system which can alert you to leaks or other circumstances that can indicate a flood is possible. Automation systems are also great for keeping an eye on a home when you are away for the holidays. Many security system companies offer water detection devices that work similarly to a home alarm or glass break sensor.
- If you will be away from your home for a day or so during very cold temperatures, open your sink cabinets to let warm air surround the pipes underneath and keep them from freezing. Or you can leave a trickle of water dripping from one of your faucets to reduce the chances of frozen pipes.
- Finally, keep your house warm. The temperature inside your home should be at least 65 degrees. The temperature inside the walls where the pipes are located is substantially colder than the walls themselves. A temperature lower than 65 degrees will not keep the pipes from freezing. The Farm Bureau policy does not cover a freezing loss if your house is vacant or unoccupied and you fail to maintain heat or drain your pipes.
Farm Bureau offers additional protection by endorsement on some of the items mentioned above. If you’re not sure you have enough coverage for Idaho’s winter weather, call your Farm Bureau Insurance agent for a winter checkup.