With more and more homeowners insurance companies making policy holders pay in one way or another for water-related claims, it behooves policy holders to avoid conditions that can result in such claims.

Insurers are canceling policies, curtailing coverage and raising rates to beat back the growing numbers of claims paid for water damage related insurance claims.

The mold epidemic and related complaints, disputes and court suits are behind the insurance industry's reexamination of how it covers and handles water and moisture related claims.

It's no surprise the industry is encouraging policy holders of avoid making such claims.

The trade group Insurance Institute of Northern California (IINC) has teamed up with another trade partner, the Institute For Business and Home Safety (IBHS) and a purveyor of home improvement products, Lowe's Warehouse, to encourage homeowners to "Take 10 Minutes for Water".

Some of the same steps used to avoid water-related insurance claims are the same techniques that can help conserve water -- an important issue in communities facing prolonged drought.

In California, single-family homes account for 55 percent of the states water use. Six percent of that is caused by leaks. A household water leak of only 10 drips per minute can result in a water loss of 525 gallons per year, according to the IINC.

"Californians meticulously maintain their cars, yet we often treat our homes as if they're maintenance-free," says IINC director Candysse Miller. "If we took a few minutes each year to inspect our household water fittings and water pressure, we could save millions of dollars in water damage statewide every year," said said, offering tips not only for Californians but households everywhere.

Miller says to prevent problems, households should know the location of their water supply controls, how to shut off the supply and how to check water pressure.

Water pressure should be set no higher than 80 psi (pounds per square inch) and a water pressure meter costing about $6 can quickly tell a homeowner if their water pressure is set at a safe level. Hook the pressure meter up to an outdoor faucet and turn the water on high for a quick measure.

Homeowners should also inspect and replace other inexpensive water fittings on a regular basis to prevent water loss.

  • Inspect hoses at indoor faucets, water heaters, dishwashers, washing machines and refrigerator ice makers every year, and replace them every five-to-seven years.
  • Check the seal and caulking around the showers and tubs to make sure they have a watertight seal.
  • Caulk and seal windows periodically to prevent water seepage.
  • Inspect roofs annually and remove debris that may have accumulated in downspouts and rain gutters. Maintain an apron of sloped ground around homes and fit downspouts with directional extensions, both to direct water away from structures.
  • Shut off the water supply to the washing machine while you are away on vacation, and never leave the house while the washer is operating. Some experts recommend metal mesh hoses for washing machines that begin to leak, rather than burst when they wear. Rubber hoses give little warning before they burst at the end of their life cycle.
  • A sudden, unexplained increase in your monthly water bill could be a sign of a water leak.

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