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Best Practices to Protect Your Home While You’re Away

By September 14, 2023Insurance

Based on statistics published by the III, water damage and freezing are together the second-most common causes of property damage claims annually, following wind and hail. III data collected from 2016 to 2020 showed one in every 60 insured homes filed a property damage claim due to water damage or freezing each year. The average claim severity was $11,650.

Did you know that most water damage homeowners experience is the result of leaks in pipes and connections frequently due to maintenance issues? When this happens while you’re away or on vacation, it can be especially disastrous.

Here are some tips to consider to help you avoid damage to or loss of your property:

1. Only Run Your Appliances When You’re at Home – and Awake

Appliances, as well as their supply lines, can fail at any moment, and turning them on before leaving the house creates a significant risk.

Try thinking of your water-related appliances as you’d think about your stove or oven. Just like you wouldn’t leave your oven on when you walk out the door, don’t start your appliances before leaving the house, either – whether it’s your dishwasher, your washing machine or some other appliance.

2. Be Careful With DIY Repairs

Some small plumbing parts can be replaced without the help of a professional, but if you do go this route, follow the instructions carefully. You’d be surprised at how specific some of the installation requirements are for different fittings. Over-tightening or improper installation are common causes of water losses.

3. Set Up Automatic Shut-Offs

Some leak detection systems come with automatic shut-off capabilities, which are designed to shut down water flow when a leak is detected.

4. Know Where Your Shut-off Valves Are Located (and How to Shut Off Water to Your Individual Appliances)

It’s important to know where your main water shut-off is, as well as where the individual supply shut-offs are to your appliances and fixtures, including your washing machine, dishwasher, toilets and sinks. You’ll want to know where the shut-off valves are so you can isolate a leak when it occurs and help minimize the damage to your home.

5. Keep the Heat on if You’re Away in the Wintertime

In the colder months keep your heat on in the house ‒ even if you’ll be away for a while. Pipes in exterior walls can freeze if the heat is not properly maintained in your home. Set the temperature at 55°F or higher to help keep the interior of the floor and wall cavities, where the water piping is likely located, above freezing temperatures.

Pipes are under pressure, and when a frozen pipe thaws, water damage can occur very quickly. Leaks that occur on upper floors will damage floors below, as water follows the path of least resistance.

6. Consider Shutting Off All Water if You’ll Be Away for an Extended Period of Time

Many homeowners don’t think of this, but if you’re going to be away from your property for a long span of time, consider shutting off the main water valve before you leave. Just be sure to consult a professional about shutting off your main water valve, as well as any other steps you may wish to take if you’re planning to be away for an extended period of time. If you can’t shut off the main water valve, consider shutting off individual water valves to major appliances and fixtures.

7. Maintain Your Appliances and Fixtures

The older the house and plumbing system, the higher the probability of a water-related loss. Most water-related damage stems from general wear and tear. As an example, you should be diligent about replacing the supply lines and valves around your sinks and toilets.

Some supply lines are only designed for five or 10 years, but some people keep them until they fail, long after the designated life span. These components are relatively easy and inexpensive to replace.

8. Install Leak Detection Sensors

Leak detection sensors can be an easy, affordable way to get early warnings of potential water problems throughout your home to help you avoid major damage. Though more comprehensive models require professional installation, there are a number of products you can install yourself. These are placed in strategic locations where water releases may occur. Alerts can be sent to your smartphone for real-time updates.

How to Protect Your Home While on Vacation: A Home Water Safety Checklist

Planning to leave your house for an extended period of time? Here’s what Travelers specialists recommend doing before you travel to help prevent water-related damage:

  • Shut off your main water valve. Or, at the very least, shut off the valves to individual appliances, such as your washing machine and toilets. Before shutting off your main valve, always consult a professional.
  • Set your thermostat properly. If it’s cold, make sure your home will get continuous heat while you’re away (maintain a minimum temperature of 55°F).
  • Install smart leak detection sensors. These will alert you if a water leak occurs while you’re out. Make sure you have a neighbor or friend on call in case it happens.
  • Check that your sump pump pit is clean and clear. Test your sump pump before leaving, to make sure that it’s functioning properly.
  • Do a quick visual once-over of your exposed plumbing. If you spot any discoloration, cracking, deposits or other issues, immediately call a licensed professional.

*** Content provider by Travelers Insurance. Dove Insurance Agency is a proudly licensed independent insurance agency representing Travelers Insurance since 1963 ***