How to insulate your home from winter insurance claims

Jill Overmyer

The winter months carry a number of risks to homeowners and their home insurance -- holiday travel leaves homes empty and susceptible to holiday burglaries, freezing temperatures can lead to major pipe and roof disasters, and fireplaces and holiday lights and decorations increase the potential for fires.

Fortunately, homeowners can decrease these major risks substantially by taking the proper preventative measures:

  • Boost your home's security. According to the FBI, one-third of all residential burglaries in 2002 occurred during the winter months. Homeowners leave on vacation and stockpile their homes with expensive gifts, making their homes easy and enticing targets for burglars during the winter.

    You can help combat this by increasing your home's security. Security or alarm systems, deadbolt locks and motion sensors are some of the best ways. Not only do these measures help prevent break-ins, but some insurance companies offer discounts on homeowner's insurance for certain security devices. Additionally, be sure to have neighbors collect mail and check on your home while you're on vacation so newpapers don't pile up and make your home look like an easy target.

  • Prevent pipe disasters. When water freezes inside your pipes, the water expands and can cause your pipes to burst. Water damage from burst pipes can cause serious damage to your home and is one of the leading causes of insurance claims.

    In 2007, the Insurance Information Institute reported that 20 percent of all insurance claims were the result of frozen pipes and ensuing water damage. The best ways to prevent this are to keep your heat on if you go out of town a higher heating bill is much less expensive than water damage) and insulate pipes with fiberglass or foam sleeves. You also should know how to shut off your home's main water supply to minimize damage if a pipe does burst.

  • Pay attention to the roof. Your roof is particularly susceptible to damage during the winter. Falling snow and branches, loose shingles and weak spots in the roof can lead to leaking and an expensive insurance claim. The best time to prepare your roof for winter is during the fall. Trim back tree branches that could collect ice and snow and break, clean the gutters and secure any loose shingles with roofing cement.

  • Fireproof your home. During the winter, the risk for home fires goes up because of holiday decorations and lights, candles, fireplaces and space heaters. Space heaters in particular are an accident waiting to happen. A 2008 study from the National Fire Protection Association cited space heaters as the culprits in 51 percent of home heating fires and 82 percent of deaths. Keep your home safe from fire by never leaving candles unattended, turning off holiday decorations and lighting when you go to bed and opting for a sweater instead of a space heater.

Prevention is always the best step in lowering your risk for winter-related home insurance claims. Taking the time to winterize your home can save you money, time and hassles.

See how much you could save today on your home insurance. Get your free home insurance quotes today!