Dec 11 2017

Are Smart Homes Safer Homes….Or Not? The Answer To This Question Might Affect What You Pay For Homeowners Insurance – Part II

In Part I of this three-part blog series on smart technology for the home, we posed the question, “Are You Smarter Than Your House?” By the end of 2017, nearly 12% of homeowners may not be – as that is the number of households that HIS Markit estimates will be laden with connected home devices such as thermostats lighting, security and entertainment, with an average of six devices per home.

At Bearingstar Insurance, we have seen this trend among our own personal insurance clients – more people are buying homes or renting apartments already loaded with smart technology or they are taking steps on their own to turn their home into a partially, or totally, connected living space. That’s why we wanted to explore the smart home phenomenon with you in a three-part blog series that will discuss what makes a home “smart”, key details about some of the most popular gadgets in the marketplace today, downsides of this smart technology, and how having a smarter home may – or may not – affect your home insurance.

(Take a look back at Part I for an introduction to smart homes as well as information about the new, common language that is enabling most smart devices to work together to make your home more comfortable, secure, energy efficient, and intelligent.)

Part II of this blog series, below, is dedicated to sharing key details about some of the most popular smart gadgets in the marketplace today; not just their “cool” or fun factors, but also their truly life-saving features. In addition, the team at Bearingstar wanted to provide you with insurance insights related to each device that you may not have considered.

Where do you start if you want a smarter home?

With smart home automation hubs, such as Iris Smart Home Management System and SmartThings , you can control everything – security, heating, lights, cooling and more – with just a few finger taps on your smartphone, PC, or tablet. These systems can be programmed to do many useful things, like turn lights on and off, send you alerts from your security system, and stream live video feeds, whether you are in your home or on the go. Also, with this technology, you can automate things to make your life easier, like having the lights turn on when you walk into a room or asking to be notified when your kids get home.

However, many of us are not quite ready to invest the thousands of dollars it could take to make our home the smartest one in the neighborhood. If you’re like the majority of Bearingstar clients, you just want to stick your toe in the water to see how it feels to have a smart home. To aid you in deciding what innovation you might want to trial first, we have provided some high-level information about six very popular – and practical – home smart devices available today.

Unlike a Wi-Fi enabled slow cooker that shares your creations on social media or a smart fridge that suggests menus and healthy choices – which are novel to have but not necessarily a need to have – some of the following technology, and insurance tips, might just save your home and your loved ones in case of a disastrous event.

Below is information about three of the six smart devices that we will discuss in this three-part blog series. Please come back to read Part III to learn about the other three as well as to get more smart insurance tips.

Smart Gadget #1: Monitor Your Home From Just About Anywhere, Anytime

Today’s smart security systems are probably much simpler to install and more affordable than you think, according to a review by PCmag.com . The top products in this category are highly customizable and available as do-it-yourself kits or as full-blown setups that include professional installation and monitoring. You can choose a system that you monitor yourself and that sends alerts directly to you whenever an alarm is triggered. Or, you may want to pay more, for more coverage, and select a system that connects to 24/7 surveillance by professionals who will contact your local fire and police departments when alarms go off. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a system that might be right for you, your family, and your home:

  • How many sensors and motion detectors does the system come with? Most include a couple of door and window sensors, one motion detector and the hub that communicates with these devices and your Wi-Fi.
  • Will you need extra equipment beyond the entry-level system? Depending on the layout and size of your home, you may find that you need extra door, motion or window sensors to provide complete coverage.
  • Do you want to leave room to grow? You may not want a fully comprehensive system today, but perhaps down the line you’d like to easily add indoor and outdoor surveillance cameras, garage door openers, lights, and more.
  • Is the system easy to control from any smart device? You should be able to use your smartphone, tablet or laptop as command central to arm and disarm the system, create rules, add and delete components, and receive push notifications when alarms are triggered. More sophisticated systems will even have an option for arming and disarming according to your phone’s physical location, which can greatly reduce the number of false alarms per family member!

While you’re researching a security system for your primary home, don’t forget about safeguarding any vacation homes or rental properties. These types of residences are an extremely attractive target for burglars because they are frequently unoccupied. So, aside from making your home look lived in by keeping up lawn and house maintenance and asking year-round neighbors to keep an eye on your place, having a home security system can be a significant deterrent to any foul play.

Bearingstar Insurance Tip #1:

If you install a security system in your home – smart or traditional – you may qualify for money-saving discounts on your insurance. However, the type of system you install is going to impact how big of a savings you might get. If you decide to go the DIY route and only have your alarm system notify you when there is trouble – leaving it up to you to call the authorities – then you may not get any credit at all. If you have a system that when triggered emits a local, loud beeping alarm sound, then you may receive a small credit. Your largest discount by far will come from having a unit that is connected to a central station alarm which alerts authorities automatically when your home alarm system is triggered. Whichever security system you are considering, it’s a good idea to talk to your Bearingstar insurance agent first about any potential impact to your home insurance rates.

Smart Gadget #2: A Smarter & Safer Smoke Alarm

As insurance professionals, we are always talking to our homeowners about the importance of having functioning smoke alarms to prevent a fire event in your home. We’ve stressed how critical it is to have multiple smoke alarms around your home, to replace them every 10 years, to clean them with a vacuum cleaner once a year, and to test the battery and alarm sounder at least monthly. While taking all of these steps should ensure that you and others in your home are alerted to smoke and a potential fire in your home, there are now next generation smoke alarms that can do that and so much more. Look for smart smoke alarms that have:

  • Multiple sensors to quickly detect both fast moving and slow-burning fires
  • The ability to detect carbon monoxide as well
  • Technology that reduces false alarms
  • Customizable features, like keeping your family informed during any weather disaster such as tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, and floods
  • A 10-year back-up battery
  • A remote feature that can hush false alarms quickly (so no more dishtowel waving required!)

There is even one smart smoke alarm that has a voice-controlled light that can transform your device into – get this – an accent light to suit your mood. How will you know that something is wrong? In addition to the alarm sounding, you can connect these detectors to any smart device to get alerts.

Bearingstar Insurance Tip #2:

Whether you upgrade to the new wave of smoke alarms or stay with what you have, we want to remind you to check with your Bearingstar insurance agent to make sure you are getting any related homeowners, condo, or renters insurance policy discounts for having these life-saving devices in your home.

Smart Gadget #3: Get A Better View Of Things With A SmartPhone Front-Door Peephole.

Wi-Fi connected door viewers are the new age way to see who is at your front door and, more important, if you want to invite them in. These smart devices can be installed within minutes and allow you to see – and speak – to a visitor to your home, no matter where you are.

How does this smart technology work? Door viewers have a motion detector and doorbell so you’ll receive an alert on your smartphone when someone is at the front door. If you’re not home, and it’s either someone you know or perhaps a delivery man who needs a signature for an important package you’ve been waiting for, you can use the two-way communication option to let the person know when you will be home. Also, you can view a timeline history with photos and video of recent activity at your door to see whose come by – which can come in handy if you have a teenager in the house.

Along with a door viewer, you may want to consider a connected door lock as well, which uses digital keys, rather than any hardware, to open your door. No more harried runs to the hardware store to make copies of your keys for the kids, babysitter, neighbor or whoever else you want to have access to your home. You can securely share digital keys through an app and never have to spend another sleepless night worrying where you lost that house key that you labeled “front door key” and with your address. In addition, many of these smart locks can be programmed to automatically unlock your door when you (and your phone) get within a certain distance. Whether you’re carrying bundles of groceries, coming back from a vacation with more bags than you left home with, or holding two sleeping children in your arms, you can appreciate how this feature could come in handy.

Bearingstar Insurance Tip #3:

As of today, national insurance carriers haven’t quite caught up with the fast-moving world of smart technology. For example, in general, there are no discounts on your home insurance for installing a Wi-Fi connected door viewer or replacing your old locks with an intelligent lock. In fact, since you may currently be getting a credit on your policy for having deadbolt locks on your doors, it’s important to speak with your Bearingstar agent if you are considering a change to your door lock system.

Choose a smart insurance partner to protect your smarter home

At Bearingstar Insurance, we understand that some Massachusetts and Connecticut homeowners, condo owners and renters are enamored with smart technology and partial or complete automation of their homes, while others are hesitant to connect to anything. Then, there is everyone else in between that is interested in testing the waters by trying one smart device out at a time.

Whether you’re thinking you’d like to go in “whole hog” on smart technology for your home or you’d rather just test out one device at a time, in Part III of this blog series, we will talk about three more popular smart gadgets for the home as well as discuss what could happen when your house is too smart!

Whatever your level of enthusiasm is towards intelligent devices in the home, our knowledgeable team is here to provide you with the right insurance options to protect the smart technology, as well as the other personal belongings, you bring into your home. We are also ready to assist you with identifying any discounts you might be eligible for since adding or enhancing your home security with smart technology products. Finally, our team works hard to stay updated on the exciting innovations – as well as the shortcomings – of this growing industry to ensure your insurance options are keeping up with the technology of today and the future.

For more insurance tips related to smart technology in the home and/or assistance with all of your home insurance needs, contact a friendly agent near you at any one of our many convenient locations across Massachusetts and Connecticut. We look forward to sharing more information with you so you can make smart decisions about technology and insurance for your home.

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