DIY Home Safety Hacks Insurance Agents Don’t Want You to Know

February 12, 2024

The costs of home insurance premiums continue to rise year after year. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average annual premium for homeowners insurance in the United States is now over $1,200. That's a significant chunk of change for most households' budgets.

The costs of home insurance premiums continue to rise year after year. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average annual premium for homeowners insurance in the United States is now over $1,200. That’s a significant chunk of change for most households’ budgets.

Luckily, there are ways you can help lower your home insurance costs. Improving the safety and security features of your home can potentially result in discounts on your premiums. Insurance companies like to see homeowners take preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of accidents, fires, burglaries, and natural disasters damaging the home. This allows the insurer to pay out fewer claims. 

In this article, we’ll go over 10 DIY tips focused on home safety that you can implement yourself to make your home more secure. Taking these actions can demonstrate to your insurance provider that you’re serious about risk management. If you’re strategic and thorough, you may be able to lower your rates substantially. Let’s get started!

Check Your Policy

Take some time every year to review your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy and understand what is covered. Many insurance companies offer discounts for safety features like smoke detectors, security systems, and even deadbolts. Check with your agent or insurance provider’s website to see what discounts you may qualify for. 

For example, you may get 5-15% off your premiums just for installing smoke detectors. That could save you hundreds of dollars per year. Insurance companies want to reward homeowners who take proactive safety measures. So don’t leave potential savings on the table.

When reviewing your policy, also ensure you have adequate coverage limits, especially for expensive belongings. Standard policies may cap coverage for certain categories like jewelry, electronics or collectibles. You can get additional riders to increase limits if needed. But first check your policy to see where you stand. A little time reviewing your policy can pay big dividends.

Install a Home Security System

Installing a home security system is one of the best ways to lower your home insurance costs. Security systems deter burglars and allow you to monitor your home even when you’re away. The three main types of home security systems are wireless, wired, and hybrid systems. 

Wireless systems use radio frequencies to connect all the system components like sensors, control panel, and cameras. They are easy to install since there’s no wiring required. Wireless systems are better for renters or homeowners who move frequently. However, wireless signals can be intercepted more easily.

Wired systems have all the components hard-wired directly into your home’s electrical system. They require professional installation and may need rewiring if you remodel or renovate your home. But wired systems are more reliable with stronger signals that can’t be jammed.

Hybrid systems combine both wireless and wired technology for maximum flexibility and security. Sensors are installed wirelessly while the control panel uses wired ethernet. This balances ease of use with security against jamming.

You’ll also need to decide whether to use professional monitoring or self-monitoring. With professional monitoring, your security system is monitored 24/7 by an offsite security company that will dispatch police if an alarm is triggered. Self-monitoring means you monitor alerts yourself through an app and take action if needed. 

Professional monitoring costs $15-60 per month but provides extra security, especially when traveling. Self-monitoring is free but requires more effort on your part to respond to alerts. Basic home security systems start around $200-500 for equipment and installation. Adding cameras, fire monitoring, and other features increases the cost. Overall, a security system is a smart investment that can lower your home insurance premiums by up to 20 percent.

Add Smoke Detectors

Smoke detectors are one of the most important safety devices you can install in your home. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), having working smoke alarms cuts the risk of dying in a home fire in half. Here are some tips on where to install smoke detectors and how to interconnect them:

Install smoke detectors on every level of the home, including finished attics and basements. Smoke rises, so make sure to have detectors mounted high on walls or ceilings. 

Install smoke detectors inside every bedroom, especially if people sleep with doors closed. The NFPA recommends installing them at least 10 feet from cooking appliances to avoid false alarms.

Interconnect your smoke detectors so that if one sounds, they all sound. This ensures alarms will be heard throughout the home. Smoke detectors can usually be interconnected via wireless connection or by wiring them together.

For the best protection, install both ionization smoke alarms and photoelectric smoke alarms. Ionization alarms are quicker at detecting flaming fires, while photoelectric respond faster to smoldering fires.

Replace smoke detector batteries once a year. Pick a date like daylight savings and make it routine. 

Replace the entire smoke detector unit every 8-10 years or according to manufacturer recommendations. Technology improves over time, so newer models provide better protection.

Installing smoke detectors properly and maintaining them gives you and your family an early warning in case of fire. This small investment improves safety and could also lower your homeowners insurance rates.

Improve Outdoor Lighting

Outdoor lighting can act as a strong deterrent against burglars and intruders. Most burglars prefer to gain access in the cover of darkness, so improving lighting around the exterior of your home removes this advantage. 

Focus on lighting up entry points like doors and windows as well as vulnerable areas like walkways, driveways, garages, sheds, side gates, and even large trees that can be used for climbing. 

Install motion sensor security lights that automatically turn on when movement is detected. Position the lights so they fully illuminate the area with a bright light that leaves intruders exposed. The sudden light will likely startle an intruder and make them second guess their plans.

Solar powered lighting can be a convenient option for sheds, side gates, and other areas without direct access to power. Place the solar panel in a spot that receives daylight to charge the batteries. 

Make sure all lighting is well-maintained and replace any bulbs that burn out promptly. Keep trees and bushes trimmed so they don’t block security lighting.

Proper outdoor lighting removes hiding spots, increases visibility, improves natural surveillance, and acts as a highly effective deterrent to discourage break-ins. This simple upgrade can make your home a much harder target.

Reinforce Entry Points

Securing the entry points to your home is one of the most important things you can do to improve safety and lower insurance costs. Start with your doors – make sure all exterior doors have deadbolt locks. Deadbolts should have a minimum 1-inch throw length. Install four-screw strike plates with 3-inch screws to reinforce the door frames. 

For sliding doors, install high-security patio door locks that secure the door to the frame at multiple points. You can also install a dowel or pipe in the door track to prevent it from being opened. 

For windows, install high-quality keyed window locks. Make sure all ground floor windows and any windows accessible from decks or porches have locks. You may also want to replace standard double-hung window locks with reinforced, tamper-proof locks.

Installing solid core or steel doors can also improve security. If your budget doesn’t allow that, consider reinforcing existing doors with steel skins or polycarbonate sheeting. 

By securing doors and windows – the main entry points for intruders – you significantly lower the risk of break-ins. And that can lead directly to lower homeowners insurance premiums over time.

Create a Fire Escape Plan

Having a fire escape plan is crucial for getting your family out safely in the event of a fire. Take time to make a detailed plan and practice it regularly.

Map out escape routes from each room. Draw a floor plan of your home and map two ways out of every room, if possible. Make sure escape routes are clearly marked and free of clutter that could hinder your exit. Choose escape routes that avoid dangers like trapped spaces, exits through garages that could be blocked by a burning car, and upper story windows lacking safe landing spots.

Pick a family meeting place outdoors. Choose a spot a safe distance from your home that everyone will meet at after escaping, like a neighbor’s house, mailbox, or tree. Make sure it’s in a location that’s easy to find but won’t obstruct firefighters. It should be far enough to avoid the spread of smoke and flames.

Practice regularly during the day and night.

Conduct fire drills at least twice a year with everyone in your household. Make some practice middle-of-the-night surprises to mimic a real emergency wakeup. Prepare young children by making drills like games to avoid traumatizing them. Time your exit pace to ensure your escape plans are feasible.

Plan for those needing assistance. Determine who will help young children, older adults, and anyone who requires mobility assistance like wheelchairs or walkers. Assign who will be responsible for getting them out safely. Make any necessary accommodations like escape slides or rope ladders.

Prepare an emergency supply kit. Keep go-bags by exit doors filled with essentials like flashlights, whistles, dust masks, bottled water, and snacks. Have everyone in your family practice grabbing their go-bag on the way out.

Update your plan as needed. Review and revise your escape plan whenever anything changes, like family members moving into different rooms or home renovations altering floor plans and exits. Make sure new occupants are familiar with the routines.

Having and practicing a well-developed fire escape plan can help your family exit swiftly and safely when every second counts. It shows your home insurance provider you’re serious about emergency preparedness too.

Upgrade Electrical  

Outdated electrical systems and wiring can present serious fire and shock hazards. Upgrading your home’s electrical infrastructure should be a top priority. 

Install ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets in wet areas like kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and outdoors. GFCI outlets have built-in circuit breakers that shut off power when a current imbalance is detected, preventing shocks. Replace any outlets within 6 feet of a water source with GFCI outlets.

Inspect your electrical panel and replace any damaged breakers. Make sure the amperage rating on each circuit breaker matches the capacity of the wiring it controls. Using higher amp breakers than wire gauges can support a fire risk.

Have an electrician evaluate your home’s wiring. Upgrading from 60 amp to 100 amp or 200 amp service allows more circuits and outlets. Replace any knob-and-tube wiring still in use with modern NM electrical cable with ground wires. Rewiring with copper wiring and grounded outlets provides much better safety.

Proper electrical grounding, GFCI protection, adequate amperage, and modern wiring materials are essential upgrades to significantly improve home safety. The costs pale in comparison to the risks of outdated electrical systems. A licensed electrician can advise you on necessary upgrades during an evaluation.

Maintain Your House  

Keeping up with maintenance and repairs around your home is one of the best ways to avoid large losses from weather damage or system failures. This prevents small issues from becoming big problems down the line.  

Clean gutters regularly: Clogged gutters can lead to water intrusion during heavy storms. Inspect your gutters seasonally and after major weather events. Remove debris so water can flow freely.

Trim trees around your home: Overhanging branches can break off and damage your roof during high winds. Hire an arborist to assess trees near your house and trim any limbs that look questionable.

Stay on top of repairs: Fix any leaks, cracks, or damage right away before they worsen. Watch for signs of water intrusion, mold growth, foundation issues, or anything else that could turn into a major repair if left unaddressed.

Inspect exterior materials: Make sure siding, roofing, windows, and doors are all in good condition. Look for damage, rot, cracks, or other signs they need replacement.

Following a regular maintenance schedule protects your home’s structural integrity. It also shows your insurance provider that you care about home safety and prevents avoidable claims.

Review Annually

It’s important to review your homeowners insurance policy annually to make sure you’re getting the best coverage and rates for your needs. Here are some tips for your annual review:

Check for new discounts you may qualify for. Insurance companies frequently add new discounts, so it’s important to ask your agent what’s currently available. Some common new discounts are for smart home devices, security systems, hybrid/electric cars, and storm-resistant roofing materials. Even minor changes like installing a fence, removing a trampoline, or updating your plumbing may qualify you. 

Shop around for better rates. Get quotes from multiple insurers every 1-2 years. Rates and discount offers can vary significantly between companies. You may find a much better deal, potentially saving hundreds of dollars per year.  

Update your coverage limits. If you’ve made significant home improvements like finishing a basement or building an addition, increase your dwelling coverage. Also account for inflation pushing up rebuilding costs. But avoid over-insuring.

Review your deductibles. Consider raising deductibles to lower premiums, but don’t go so high it would be difficult to pay out-of-pocket if a claim occurred. Also review multi-policy and claim-free discounts.

Add endorsements if needed. As your housing situation changes, consider flood insurance, sewer/drain backup protection, earthquake coverage, and other endorsements. Also review your liability coverage.

Taking time annually to reassess your policy, discounts, limits, deductibles, and endorsements ensures you get the best home insurance protection and savings over time. An hour reviewing could save you hundreds!

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