When we leave our homes at night, we turn off our lights inside because electricity is not free. Similar to electricity, heat is also not free.
During the cold winter months, some homeowners decide to shut off their heat to save some money while they are out of town. However, saving a few bucks on heat could end up costing you thousands in property damage. Failing to maintain heat can cause pipes to freeze and subsequently burst from the frigid temperature. A frozen pipe can cause significant damage to both your home and your personal belongings. To make matters worse, your insurance company may deny your insurance claim making you responsible for repairing all of the damage out of pocket.
Under a typical homeowner’s insurance policy (HO-3), the insurance policyholder is required to use reasonable care to maintain heat in the home to prevent frozen pipes from bursting. If the policyholder fails to use reasonable care to maintain heat, then the insurance company may deny the insurance claim, which could cost the policyholder tens of thousands of dollars.
What does it mean to use “reasonable care” to maintain heat? There is no written requirement in your homeowner’s insurance policy that specifically states what degree of heat is acceptable to meet this requirement. However, The Institute of Business and Home Safety suggests that homeowners keep their heat at or above 55 degrees Fahrenheit in their homes while they are away for an extended period of time.
In addition to maintaining heat at or above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, homeowners should drain their plumbing system and turn off their water at the water meter. Doing so ensures that if a pipe break occurs, there will be no pressure to pump water throughout your home while you are away. Shutting off your water supply is the only foolproof way to prevent extensive damage to your home from a pipe break.
As long as a homeowner can show their insurance company that they have acted reasonably and attempted to maintain heat while they were away, then the insurance company will most likely pay their insurance claim.