Winterizing The Inside Of A Home: 4 Tips For Insurance Customers
Winter weather can be fun and cozy as long as you have a warm place to call home. But like anything, a home needs to stay updated and prepared for the harsh conditions that Mother Nature can throw its way. That’s where winterizing a home comes in handy. Many first-time homeowners aren’t ready for the responsibilities of winterizing because they’re fresh from apartment life, where everything was done for them and where most energy was probably derived from electric. When buying a home, especially an older home, gas may be a factor, and that must be handled differently. To assist, you may want to pass along these tips for your homeowners insurance customers, who are fresh from renting.
Tip One: Learn to program the thermostat.
Allstate reports that using a programmable thermostat to maintain temps throughout the day can save money and keep a more comfortable house. The insurer suggests customers set theirs “to a cooler temperature during the hours you’re out of the house or asleep, and program the temperature to rise during the hours you’re typically home and awake.”
The most common cause of skyrocketing utility bills is inconsistency with the thermostat, as Energy.gov points out, noting that the simple act of programming “can also help you avoid wasting money by heating your home unnecessarily.”
Programmable thermostats are recommended for homes with furnaces and not heating pumps, the website notes. What temperature is the best to keep pipes from freezing? 65 degrees or higher, the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) suggests.
Tip Two: Get heating equipment inspected.
Furnaces and chimneys may give off an old-school charm that makes every homeowner want to have them, but they also come with significant responsibilities. For instance, each should be checked out by a HVAC professional every year for reasons that range from comfort to life-threatening.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) says homeowners should “be sure that furnaces’ thermostats and pilot lights are functioning and that their filters are clean” and “that any furnace older than 15 years should be replaced.”
If using a fossil fuel-fired furnace system, Allstate urges customers to check supply and return registers, chimney flue and the burner compartment for dust, rust and other signs of breakdown, noting that even humidifiers “need to be replaced or cleaned regularly according to the factory specs listed on the filters.”
Adding to these recommendations, Energy.gov urges homeowners to run “ceiling fans in the clockwise position during the winter, opening curtains during the day to let heat from the sun inside and drawing curtains after sundown to trap the heat inside, and blocking unwanted cold in your home by keeping chimney flues closed when they are not in use.”
One last note as far as this is concerned: make sure the heat exchanges on furnaces are not cracked and that chimney flues are always opened when both items are in use. With a chimney flue, you’ll probably be able to tell right away that something is wrong, but when you’re dealing with an old and worn out furnace, the escape of carbon monoxide into the home could be the difference between life and death. (More on CO and fire hazards in a moment.)
Tip Three: Safe Space Heater Use
Allstate reports that approximately 900 fires involve portable heaters each year “and cause an estimated $53 million in property loss.”
The U.S. Fire Administration says to turn off heaters before leaving the room or going to bed; keeping clothes, curtains or other flammables at least 3 feet away; using a heater with an automatic shutoff to turn off the device if it tips over; and plugging heaters into outlets rather than a power strip or extension cord.
Tip Four: Do not go without smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors.
Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors can save one’s life if there is ever a fire or furnace leak. Checking expiration dates, keeping devices equipped with fresh batteries, and proper placement throughout the home, will be essential no matter what season of the year it is.
New homeowners have a lot on their plate already without having to worry about whether they’ve properly winterized. As their insurance agent, you can guide them through the essentials of the season by sharing the above information.