Insurance for power outages
What's covered by your homeowners insurance -- and what's not -- when the power goes out.
Updated Oct. 26, 2012, at 3:08 p.m. ET
This post comes from Barbara Marquand at partner site Insure.com.
The issue sparks lots of questions, and the answers are all over the grid, depending on your insurance company, your home insurance policy and the state you live in.
Coverage also varies depending on the damage you suffer and the cause of the outage.
Here's how insurance generally applies in the following situations:
Lightning strikes your home and fries your electronics.
Standard home insurance typically covers damage from lightning, and some home insurance policies cover electronics damaged by power surges that are the result of lightning strikes, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Some home insurance policies also cover damage due to other power surges. Keep in mind there may be a limit on the payment per damaged item.
You opt for a hotel room.
Home insurance pays for the costs of temporarily relocating if your home is damaged by a "covered loss," such as a fire, and is uninhabitable while repairs are made. Generally a standard policy will not pay for a hotel stay simply because the power was out. Although your home might feel uninhabitable without air conditioning during an August heat wave, it technically is livable. The same goes for the winter when temperatures drop and the heat goes out.
Water water everywhere.
If a power outage causes your pipes to freeze and burst, then home insurance would come to the rescue. However, if you purposely left your home without power and the pipes burst as a result, then you probably would have trouble getting your claim paid. Keeping your home heated is part of your responsibility to maintain the property.
Food spoils when the fridge is off.
Standard home insurance policies typically cover food spoilage if the power was out due to some other covered loss -- such as a fallen tree that damaged your house and knocked out electricity.
But some insurance companies offer coverage for food spoilage from any type of power outage. This coverage sometimes is included in the policies or offered as an endorsement, which is a policy add-on you can purchase by paying a higher premium. The deductible for food spoilage is sometimes waived or lower than the deductible for other damage. For more information on spoiled food, see The Boston Globe's report on food safety following power outages.
Your best bet for deciphering coverage for power outages is to contact your insurance company or agent. In addition, do what you can to prevent disasters that could result from outages.
Invest in surge protectors to safeguard electronics and figure out how to turn off the water, in case the pipes freeze. Shutting off the water quickly helps prevent the pipes from bursting. The Insurance Information Institute also recommends installing an emergency release valve, which protects the plumbing from the pressure caused by frozen pipes.
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