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Don't Let Winter Cold Ruin Your Summer House

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The recent cold snap in the Hamptons is predictable. The possible failure of the Nest thermostat at your second home, not so much. Yesterday's New York Times reported about a systemic failure of the web-enabled Nest thermostat, which plunged homes into the cold:

Homeowners who installed a Nest in a weekend home, or who were on vacation, were also concerned that their pipes could freeze and burst, causing major damage. So what are homeowners to do? For tips on protecting your East End seasonal home from the perils of winter, we talked with Stephen Poux, Senior Vice President and Head of Risk Management Services and Loss Prevention for high net worth insurer AIG Private Client Group.

What's the biggest threat to an unoccupied house?
Water damage is the most frequent cause of homeowner's insurance claims. Install an automatic shut-off system designed to stop water flow when a leak occurs. There are companies, such as Water Security Solutions, that specialize in identifying and installing the most appropriate devices for your property. If feasible, shut off your water supply entirely while you're away.

If you'll be away for an extended period during cold weather months, have someone check your home at least once a day. Make sure he/she knows the location of the main water shut-off.
To prevent exterior faucets from freezing, shut them off from inside the home and drain remaining water from the pipes. Exterior irrigation systems should be blown out and winterized.

What about temperature settings?
During extended periods of sub-freezing temperatures, increase thermostat settings to at least 60° F throughout the home to help ensure adequate temperatures are maintained in colder spots. Open bathroom or kitchen cabinet doors that run along outside walls so that warmer room air can circulate through them. These measures can help lessen the chances of frozen (and burst) pipes.

Add several low temperature sensors to your central station alarm system. Place them in remote areas of your home.

Are generators a good idea?
Yes. Install a back-up electrical generator to maximize comfort and avoid depending on candles. If you must use candles, do not leave them burning in unoccupied rooms of the house.

How should security be handled in the winter?
Conduct a professional security assessment to ensure that the existing alarm system provides the most optimal protection against burglary, fire and low temperatures.

Advise family members to use social media wisely. Don't announce that the Hamptons home is vacant to friends and followers.

Any other tips?
Have your property manager check the home perimeter and seal any air leaks with caulk and weather-stripping. Add additional insulation in the attic—most homes need at least 12-15 inches.

And make sure to consider your current insurance coverage. If you had to rebuild your home in today's market, would you have enough homeowners' insurance to sufficiently cover the expense? Many properties are insured based on values that are vastly underestimated—especially those that have undergone extensive home improvements and renovations. An independent insurance agent can help you ensure that you are fully protected.
· Nest Thermostat Glitch Leaves Users in the Cold [NYT]
· AIG Private [Official]