In general, water damage from a burst pipe inside your home will be covered by a standard homeowners' insurance policy. But, and this is a big but, during the winter (normal heating season) there are certain steps that you need to take in order to maintain the coverage. During this time if you leave the house for more than 96 consecutive hours you must either:
Shut off the water supply and drain all the water from the system including pipes and appliances
Make arrangements for a competent person to enter your home daily to ensure that the heat is being maintained.
If you have a fire sprinkler system the first option won’t work. In order to follow the fire code you must leave that system on. Therefore the only way to make sure that you have insurance coverage for frozen pipes is option two. Arrange for a competent person to enter into the home daily and check that the heat is on. A Waterloo couple found this out the hard way. Before spending the winter in Florida they had turned off their water, drained the pipes but left the fire sprinkler system on. While away the water pipe supplying the fire sprinklered system froze and burst causing $250,000 of damage. Unfortunately their claim was denied by their insurer as the result of not following the provisions of the policy. To read their story click here.
Tips to prevent your pipes from freezing
Insulate pipes that run along the exterior wall of your home or are located in unheated areas with insulation sleeves. This also includes drain lines. Look for vulnerable pipes in the basement, attic, garage, and crawl spaces. Beware that insulation alone does not always prevent freezing.
Use either heater tape, wrapped around pipes or in-pipe heating cable.
In extreme cold temperatures, or if the electrical power is lost, let water drip slowly from faucets connected to at risk pipes.
Always disconnect your water hose from the outside faucet before the temperature drops below freezing.