Top 10 prevention devices to protect your home this winter

A couple setting up their smart thermostat.

Whether you’ve been a Canadian homeowner for 6 months or 60 years, you know how hard a typical winter can be on a house. The combination of frigid temperatures, gusty winds, heavy snow and dangerous ice can pose all kinds of risks.

You can help ensure you have an uneventful winter by investing in some prevention devices. Here are some of the best home protection devices to consider.

1. Water leak detector

Water is one of the most damaging elements to a home. A simple, undetected leak in a pipe or faucet can soak through carpets, seep into drywall and destroy furniture and electronics. In 2021 alone, water was the cause of more than $200,000,000 in losses for Aviva customers across Canada.

One solution is to invest in a smart leak detector, which can detect the presence of water, moisture or high humidity outside of pipes and alert you immediately. You can place the sensor in hard-to-reach areas like laundry rooms, basements or attics where you might not notice a leak right away. Many can be connected to an app on your phone so you can receive notifications even when you’re not at home.

2. Water monitor and shutoff device

Another solution is a preventative detector that is professionally installed on your home’s main water supply line. For example, a smart water monitor and shutoff device will continuously monitor for leaks, water pressure and flow rate and notify you via an app if it detects any abnormalities.

Often, these types of devices help homeowners discover small leaks they weren’t aware of and give them time to take action before there is significant damage. They also offer peace of mind if you travel during the winter. You can shut off your water remotely or program the device to turn your water supply off automatically if you don’t respond to notifications.

3. Sump pump with back-up battery

If you have a finished basement, you may want to consider having a sump pump. If heavy rain causes water to gush or seep into your basement, this device will detect elevating water levels and direct it into a discharge pipe and away from your home’s foundation.

Sump pumps are typically wired into your electrical system, but it’s important to have a backup pump that’s powered by battery in case there’s a power outage.

4. Smart thermostat

One of the bigger risks to property during the winter is a steep drop in temperature. In some regions of Canada, it’s not unusual for there to be a huge difference in temperature from one day to the next. Keeping your home at a steady heat not only allows for more comfort when you’re there, it also protects against risks like frozen pipes which can burst if the temperature dips to even 5 degrees below zero.

A smart thermostat allows you to program a consistent temperature throughout the day and night. Many homeowners use it to save on energy bills by reducing the heat at night or when they are away. Its sensors ensure an even temperature that doesn’t dip below the set point, reducing the risk of damage due to cold. Many devices allow you to control them remotely through an app so if the weather changes or you need to be away for an extended period, your home is protected.

5. Backup generator

With the increasing number of unpredictable storms and weather systems, many Canadians are investing in a backup generator to ensure steady power to their homes. Standby generators are typically powered by natural gas and are connected to a home’s electrical system. They automatically turn on when the electrical supply from the utility grid fails.

Having a generator ensures that your home will not experience a dramatic change in temperature if the power fails, reducing the risk of frozen pipes. It also means homeowners can stay put during a dangerous storm and tend to their home rather than venture outside and risk their safety.

6. Smart fire alarm/smoke detector

In most, if not all regions in Canada, the law requires every home to have at least one working fire alarm/smoke detector to alert and protect all occupants from the effects of an unexpected fire. However, smart smoke detectors go beyond the basic functionality of a basic battery-operated device by incorporating technology and connectivity.

This means that you can be alerted of smoke or fire via an app on your phone, even when you’re not home. Smart devices also typically have a longer battery life - you’ll even be notified when batteries are low, saving you from remembering to replace them every year or hunting down the “chirp” of a more traditional alarm.

7. A monitored security alarm

In winter, there tends to be more home burglaries. A monitored security alarm can help prevent break-ins and notify authorities immediately. Like other smart devices, most security alarms have an app that allows you to personally monitor your home, even when you’re away.

An alarm system monitored by a security company adds an extra layer of assurance. Would-be thieves are more likely to be deterred by alarm systems that are connected to a third party. These devices are usually more comprehensive with motion detectors at doors, windows and any sensored areas in the home. They may also qualify for a discount on home insurance.

8. Sewer back-up valve

Thanks to the increased precipitation in winter, sewer back-ups are a common insurance claim in the colder months. When snow melts rapidly, pipes can get clogged and sewage can flow back into nearby homes via sink drains, toilets, bathtubs or showers.

A sewer back-up valve - also known as a backwater valve, backflow valve or sewer backflow preventer - forces the flow of sewage away from homes and into the municipal sewer system. The small valve has a flap that allows waste matter to leave your home but not come back. If sewage starts to flow backward, the float ball inside senses the backflow and automatically closes the flap. Most newer homes have sewer back-up valves but it’s important to check if you’re not sure. Sewer backup valves are usually found in the basement or garage.

9. Fire extinguisher

According to the Canada Safety Council, every home should have at least one fire extinguisher. Some fire protection experts say you need three - one for the kitchen, one for the basement and one for the garage. And, just as important, you need to know how to use them.

A multi-purpose dry chemical extinguisher labelled ABC will put out most fires involving wood, paper, cloth, flammable liquids and electrical equipment. Make sure that every member of the household reads the instructions and knows how to use it. Disposable fire extinguishers should be replaced every 10 years.

10. Insulated pipes

Another way to help prevent frozen pipes, particularly in cottages or other secondary properties, is to install insulation on exposed pipes. Most weekend DIYers can pick up foam tubing at your local hardware store and easily cut it to fit pipes that are open to the air.

Exposed pipes in need of protection from cold temperatures or condensation typically run through unheated spaces such as mechanical or unheated storage rooms, exterior walls or unheated crawl spaces, basements or attics.

If you want to ensure your home is as protected as possible from the risks of winter weather, consider which prevention devices make the most sense for you. 

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