Summertime, and the living is... hazardous? For those of us in the insurance industry, summer is a season of risks, from weather-related disasters to activities connected to recreation. You can't remove all the risks of life, but by following these tips, homeowners can head off a loss before it happens.
The arrival of the summer means it’s cookout season. But the role of grillmaster comes with serious responsibilities. The Insurance Information Institute estimates that there are roughly 5,700 grill fires in the United States every year, causing roughly $37 million in damage, 100 injuries and 10 fatalities.
When you’re barbecuing, make sure you keep a fire extinguisher nearby. Never grill in enclosed areas and always keep children away from open flames. It’s also important to clean and properly store your grill. Wait until a grill cools off before putting it away and check regularly to ensure that there aren’t any leaks or blockages.
Summer also brings celebratory fireworks on the Fourth of July. If you're going to indulge in pyrotechnics, please follow these safety guidelines:
Naturally, more people go swimming in the summer. Unfortunately, that means there’s a greater chance that there will be pool-related injuries and drownings. That’s what makes pools a nightmare for insurance companies. The Insurance Information Institute recommends that homeowners with pools raise the limits of their liability coverage to $300,000 or $500,000.
There are steps you can take to prevent pool accidents. Consider installing a self-closing gate around the pool in your backyard. Supervise children whenever they’re near the pool and set rules that keep them from running or fooling around and hurting themselves. Adults should limit their alcohol intake by the pool, since drinking and swimming can be dangerous. Ensuring that safety equipment (such as a first aid kit or flotation device) is available is also a good idea.
Seasonal changes often take a toll on HVAC and plumbing systems. As spring gives way to summer, you’ll want to be on the lookout for leaks and conditions that could cause mold or mildew to appear. Mold-related damages are usually only covered by homeowners insurance if they’re tied to a covered peril. If the damage is the result of poor ventilation, neglect or an issue that could have been prevented, your insurance company may reject your claim.
One way to keep mold and mildew from growing inside of your home is to reduce the amount of moisture in your house. Use air conditioners, fans and dehumidifiers to keep your home dry. Clean air conditioning filters and install leak detectors in your kitchen, laundry room and bathroom at the beginning of the summer. Check faucets to ensure that none of them are dripping. If you’re going on a trip, consider changing the setting on your water heater to vacation mode or dial it down a few degrees. If there are any plumbing problems, get them fixed right away
Summertime is bug season. Mosquitoes, spiders and stink bugs all thrive and breed when it’s warm and humid. Look for signs of a termite infestation and damage from other pests this summer. Spraying insect repellent is the easiest way to protect your home from these tiny troublemakers. You can hire a professional or purchase over-the-counter insecticides from a home improvement store.
In order to keep bugs out of your house, you’ll also want to keep your home clean. Vacuum thoroughly every few days. Minimize clutter and wash linens every two weeks. Check window screens for holes or tears. For outdoor areas, consider buying citronella candles. Keep firewood, leaf piles and standing water away from your home. Those are places where you’ll likely find bugs.
Warmth and sunshine may come to mind when we think of summer. But rising temperatures are also a sign of the start of hurricane season. While severe rainfall and intense wind can cool us off, they can also cause a substantial amount of damage (think: fallen trees, roof damage and flooding). Homeowners can’t control the weather, but they can take some precautions.
Summer is a great time to assess the condition of your home. Seal cracks in foundations and walls near windows, doors and vent pipes. Take a look at the roof to make sure all shingles and light fixtures are secure. Clean gutters and look for spots that could potentially overflow. You’ll also want to keep tall shrubs and trees trimmed. If any trees seem to be too close to your home, consider hiring someone to remove them. If a storm with high winds is headed your way, secure furniture and other items that could become projectiles.
Plumbing facilities may be used more frequently during the summer. School-aged kids are home more often and people may host more events. That means you’re more likely to end up with clogged sewer lines, which home insurance companies typically don’t cover. If you’re worried about dealing with a sewage drain backup this summer, you may want to choose a provider like Hippo that covers damage to service lines.
Making sure there aren’t any issues with your pipes is also important. Keep grease, cooking oils, coffee grounds and eggshells out of your drains. You’ll also want to avoid flushing anything but toilet paper down the toilet. Consider replacing metal lines with plastic pipes that won’t corrode over time. And if you don’t have a backwater prevention valve in your basement, you might want to look into getting one.
Mike Gulla is the Senior Director of Underwriting at Hippo Insurance, an insurtech company that’s on a mission to transform home insurance for the modern household. Among its many innovations, Hippo allows homeowners to get a quote and purchase home insurance online in 60 seconds or less, save up to 25 percent compared with traditional insurers, and obtain smarter coverage for modern households. This includes protection for possessions like appliances, consumer electronics, and home offices.
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