This article was written for the Winter 2021 edition of the Clear Risk Solutions (CRS) risk management newsletter by Claire Hanberg. It may contain specific references to CRS clients or services which may need to be removed or altered prior to being redistributed. If you utilize material from this article, in whole or in part, please confirm that links to any sources or references are still active. If links are broken, or more current information or data is available, please update the article accordingly before redistributing.
Put Water Damage on Ice
When temperatures reach freezing point, a wide variety of opportunities open up: ice skating, hockey, skiing…and water damage. The last thing anyone wants to deal with is a burst pipe or flooded basement, and cold winter conditions can make it particularly difficult to effect repairs once damage has been sustained. Fight the freeze and prevent winter water damage through maintenance, facility winterization, emerging technologies, and more.
Common Types of Winter Water Damage
Water is among the few substances on earth that expand when it is frozen. As many who use freezing as a method of food preservation know, enough space must be left in a jar in order to prevent it from being shattered as the liquids within freeze. All water containers and systems are vulnerable to being damaged if their contents freeze, from a five gallon bucket to a plumbing system. Pipes are particularly susceptible to freezing at night, when temperatures are at their coldest, and the flow of water from regular usage is at its lowest. Unfortunately, this is also usually a time when facilities are not occupied or regularly monitored.
Roof Damage and Gutter Damage
Snow and ice accumulation on roofs and in gutters can also be a troublesome byproduct of winter. In addition to standard concerns regarding the weight of snow and ice, fluctuating temperatures can cause these buildups to thaw and re-freeze repeatedly over the course of the season. If there are any pre-existing flaws in the roof ’s integrity, melted water will be able to seep in, potentially ruining building materials and also potentially forcing the existing flaw to expand when the invasive water refreezes. In addition, gutters that have not been cleared may become blocked with ice, causing the formation of ice dams at the susceptible point where the roof meets the eave.
Outdoor Water Fixtures
Hoses, spigots, and other outdoor water fixtures are susceptible to freezing as well if they are not properly winterized. Hoses should be drained, coiled up, and stored somewhere out of the elements until they are needed again in the spring. Spigots should be checked for any damage and then fitted with insulated covers before temperatures get too cold.
Water Damage Prevention Methods
Maintenance and Winterization
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Completing the following tasks before winter weather sets in is a great way to safeguard against winter water damage:
- Inspect roof, make repairs as necessary
- Clean gutters, make repairs as necessary
- Clear outdoor irrigation systems of water
- Unfasten, coil, and store hoses and irrigation fixtures
- Insulate all outdoor water spigots
- To safeguard pipes from freezing:
- Ensure the thermostat of every building, especially those that will be vacant during winter, never falls below a minimum of 60 degrees Fahrenheit
- Ensure all pipes are exposed to as much warm, circulating air as possible, and consider either insulating them or installing a heat tracing tape system to prevent freezing
Invest in Sensor Systems
Billions of dollars of water damage could be prevented each year if there was simply a way to detect a leak or an imminent system failure before it got out of hand. Fortunately, in today’s modern age, the technology for water detection and temperature monitoring sensor systems is more sophisticated than it has ever been. These cutting-edge IoT (Internet of Things) sensors can continuously monitor facilities when regular maintenance staff is not on site, which tends to be when facilities are most vulnerable to sustaining damage. When the sensors detect the presence of water or abnormal temperature fluctuations, they send cellular alerts to designated personnel. This means that no matter the time or day, your maintenance staff are one notification away from being able to respond to a leak or a failing refrigeration system before it devolves into a costly crisis.
Don’t leave your facilities unprotected – put water damage on ice by addressing common maintenance and winterization practices, and consider installing systems to help you get the upper hand on water leaks and system failures. For more information regarding winter facility preparation or water sensors, please contact your broker or risk manager today.