When the weather takes a turn for the worse, there’s nothing better than escaping the 20F icy misery and hopping on a plane for some winter sunshine. But while homeowners soak up the sun on vacation, their valuable assets are sat shivering at home.
The advent of smart home technology has provided a solution to that monitoring conundrum. When homeowners are away from their homes, they can now use Internet of Things (IoT)-connected devices to control the heating, plumbing, security and so on. As smart systems become more commonplace in homes, insurance carriers and brokers are also starting to use them as risk mitigation devices and data collection tools.
“A lot of this smart home technology is really neat,” said Jason Metzger, senior vice president and head of risk management at PURE Insurance, a member-owned property and casualty insurer for high net worth individuals. “As an industry, I don’t think insurance is there just yet, but we’re rapidly moving in the right direction. Connected technology is awfully buzzy right now, but there are certainly advantages for our members in having smart-connected homes.”
Metzger told the story of a PURE member who went away on vacation during a cold snap, and, while away, was alerted by their connected smart alarm that there was movement within their home. The smart alarm was central station, so the local police visited the property and carried out external checks, but they found no evidence of forced entry and nothing else out of the ordinary. After the police visit, the PURE member continued to get internal movement alerts from their smart alarm and so asked a family member to go inside their home and see what was going on. Upon entry, the family member immediately discovered a water leak, which had come from a burst pipe due to the cold weather.
“The smart alarm had picked up water intrusion that had come from four burst pipes in the attic,” Metzger added. “That’s perhaps the worst place for this to happen because by the time the family member found the leak, the water had been running for over 24-hours from the attic down through the entire home. Each floor of the home sustained significant damages. This is one of the interesting examples of where smart home technology provides you with the alert, but the response wasn’t exactly what was needed. There’s a ton of work going on in this space in the insurance industry right now.”
As smart as some of these new IoT devices are, they cannot mitigate all cold weather-related exposures to the home. Good old-fashioned cold weather hygiene is just as important, according to Metzger. He said doing things like maintaining and pruning trees, winterizing your swimming pool, clearing your drains and preparing your roof are really important during frigid spells and periods of heavy snowfall.
“Insurance brokers have an opportunity to differentiate themselves from their competitors by providing winterization advice and going beyond just placing coverage at a competitive price,” Metzger told Insurance Business. “Those who are really in tune to the risks are advising homeowners with a second unoccupied property somewhere cold like New England to consider installing a power generator or a water shut-off device that they can control from their primary residence. Giving that sort of advice can separate a broker from the competition, which is why it’s so important for brokers to stay up to speed on all the latest technology and risk mitigation services.”