Your home is one of the largest purchases you’ll ever make and you want to make sure it’s protected. With more catastrophic weather, aging municipal infrastructures and the likelihood you have a finished basement, now is the time to take preventative measures to help fortify your home. Your BrokerLink broker can help you examine your situation, identify the risks you face, offer guidance on home insurance and provide advice on protecting your property. Especially with recent flooding in Southern Alberta and the Greater Toronto Area, you may have heard a lot of talk about sump pumps or backwater valves. But what are they and how will they actually help protect your home?
A sump pump is used to remove any water building up in the basement of your home. Water can enter through the perimeter drains of a basement waterproofing system or, if your basement is below the water table, it can seep in as groundwater after a heavy rainfall. Sump pumps move the water away from the house to a place where it won’t be problematic. This can be a municipal storm drain or a dry well.
Usually hardwired into a home’s electrical system, some sump pumps may come with a battery backup. This is helpful in situations where the power may go out due to heavy storms or flooding. Other sump pumps are powered by your home’s pressurized water supply to eliminate the need for electricity. These pumps can be more expensive than electrical versions. Consider installing a sump pump with a built-in alarm so you’re notified if the pump ever fails.
Backwater valves help prevent sewage backup or waste water from entering your basement. Under normal circumstances, this water is allowed to drain out of your home through the pipes. In certain situations, however, the municipal sewage or storm water systems can become overloaded and force waste water back through your drains. When this reversal of flow occurs, the backwater valve is forced closed to protect your home from sewer backup. They are particularly useful in any home where fixtures or drainage openings have been installed below grade, such as in basements. In fact, some cities have made them mandatory in new homes.
Some other preventative measures to consider are water sensors and tankless water heaters. A water sensor detects the water levels in vulnerable areas of your home, notifying you if they rise above a normal level. Relatively inexpensive, it may be a good idea to install these around your home in areas where leaks may occur, such as basements, utility and laundry rooms. There is a wide variety of sensors on the market, such as ultrasonic sensors, pressure transducers, bubblers and float sensors. You can also get a sensor which will call your cell phone or send a text message to notify you when away from home.
If you’re going to be away from home during the heating season, we recommend turning off the water supply for your home. Power outages and furnace failure can cause your pipes to freeze and split. When power and heat are restored, your pipes thaw out and begin gushing enough water to fill a small swimming pool every 24 hours. If this happens, you may return to find serious water damage to your home. Take a few minutes to locate the valve on the main water supply from the municipal system and turn it off. Open a tap on an upper floor and watch the water flow. If it begins to dwindle, the valve has properly sealed. Leave a couple of taps open to allow the expanding water a way to escape if your pipes do freeze. It’s also important to have someone check on your property frequently while you’re away. This is required by insurance providers to keep your coverage valid, so be sure to check your individual policy for inspection requirements as these can vary. Don’t forget to show the person checking your home how to turn off the valve to the main water supply in the event of an emergency.
Tankless water heaters are energy-efficient devices which only provide hot water when needed. Without a reservoir tank like traditional water heaters, they remain “off” when hot water isn’t needed. They’re a lot like coffee makers: cold water goes in and is circulated through a heat exchanger to produce hot water very quickly. Without a storage tank, they never run out of hot water which is a relief for anyone who has ever had a nasty shock of cold water in the shower. Just as with the water sensors, there are different models available that run on natural gas, propane or electricity so you can find an option to work with your home and your budget.
Your home is an important financial asset and it only makes sense to protect it and take preventative measures against damage. We encourage all our customers to consider the risks facing their property and to call their BrokerLink broker to discuss their options.