Your home’s plumbing and electrical systems are two of the most important systems that allow you to live safely and comfortably. Unfortunately, these two systems are also key sources of damage to your home that will put your home insurance policy to work. Even more concerning is the possibility that some damage caused may not be covered by your policy. To understand what is covered and not covered, it is helpful to also understand your home’s routine maintenance needs. By taking care of these two systems on a regular basis, you will eliminate most of the potential damage and avoid uninsured claims.
When approaching home maintenance, you should view your house as a complex piece of machinery, not unlike your car. Most people would not think of deferring maintenance on their vehicle, having a relatively good understanding of the benefits of regular inspections. Your home is really no different and you should approach it in the same fashion with the same desired outcomes.
Problems with your home’s plumbing can lead to all sorts of damage and not always issues that are obvious and insured. For example, an undetected, slow leak over time can result in rotted wood and moldy drywall. The home insurance policy is clear on its refusal to cover any damage caused by repeated or continuous seepage of water from any plumbing system or fixture. It will also exclude any damage associated with mold, fungus, or rot. However, sudden and accidental water damage is generally covered by the policy. Regardless of insurance coverage, it is still best to do everything you can to prevent damage from occurring in the first place. Here are some simple maintenance tips you can follow to help prevent problems.
- Monitor your water bill and usage for any abnormalities. If your water all of a sudden increases but you don’t think you’ve changed your usage patterns, there’s most likely a leak somewhere.
- Replace angle stops before they fail. These are the connections under your sink or behind your toilet that connect to the home’s main water source. Older stops can burst and cause water damage. Replacing them before anything happens is inexpensive and a much better proposition than a major water leak that goes on unchecked while you’re not at home.
- Immediately repair any leaks. This might seem obvious, but many people will allow a small leak at a faucet to go on for some time before repairing it. Leaks generally don’t fix themselves. Instead, they tend to get worse over time so it’s best to fix them as soon as you notice them.
- Regularly inspect your water heater for any leaks or inefficiencies in operating. Especially important is the anode rod that helps prevent rust to the water heater tank, thereby prolonging its life. The rod should be inspected regularly and the City of Scottsdale, Ariz., has provided a helpful document for its citizens to use in inspecting their own heaters.
Unlike water, electricity is not visible or generally tangible and, as a result, tends to be overlooked when it comes to home maintenance. So long as the power is on and the myriad electrical appliances and devices are operating, most people don’t give it a second thought. However, electrical problems are a significant source of fires in the home and poor wiring can also become liability when it causes injury to others. Electrical Safety Foundation International produces an electrical safety workbook with some tips to keep your home’s electrical system in top working order. Some of the things you can easily do on a regular basis are listed below.
- Test your ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) to ensure they are working properly. These outlets have a button for you to push that will tell you if their protection is still valid. You will commonly find these types of outlets in your kitchen and bathroom.
- Inspect your outlets and plugs to make sure they aren’t overloaded. When you buy a new electrical device, it’s common to plug it in immediately to start using it. This cumulative effect means you sometimes have too many devices plugged into one outlet. Regularly take the opportunity to unplug unnecessary devices or redistribute them around the house.
- Do you have outlets that regularly spark when you plug something in? Or do you have outlets that no longer have enough tension to securely hold a plug? If so, don’t delay; immediately have an electrician replace these potential dangers.
- Inspect your electrical panel for anything that seems out of place. If there’s anything loose or buzzing, those are signs you may need repairs or replacement.
By taking the time to regularly inspect and maintain your plumbing and electrical systems, you can avoid costly repairs and damages to your home. In many cases, preventative maintenance will not only help you avoid damage, but it will also help you avoid damages that are uninsured, which are an even costlier proposition.