Polar vortex insurance: How to protect your property from the cold

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Polar vortex insurance: How to protect your property from the cold

Chicago was as cold as Antarctica this January, thanks to the polar vortex. This swirling stretch of frigid air is normally hemmed in near the North Pole but it can expand in the winter, sending temperatures plummeting farther down south. The sudden chill can lead to burst pipes, icy roads and other perils.

In the event of cold-related damage, here's how to cover your property.

Homeowners insurance

Homeowners insurance should cover damage from the cold, said Fabio Faschi, property and casualty team lead for Policygenius. While wildfire or hurricane damage are excluded from coverage in some areas, most policies will cover claims related to a polar vortex. Only damage stemming from neglect is at risk of not being covered, Faschi said.

So if, for example, the cold freezes your pipes and they burst, insurance should cover the damage as long as you're not the cause. (Policygenius can help you compare prices for homeowners insurance.)

Auto insurance

Auto insurance will also cover claims during a polar vortex. In fact, your policy should cover damage no matter the weather, Faschi said. Collision insurance will cover damage if you skid off an icy road, while comprehensive coverage can pay for damage caused by incidents other than collisions, like if a snow-covered branch falls on your hood.

Be proactive

Now that the weather has warmed up a little, now is the time to do your due diligence and make sure your home is protected against future cold-weather events. For example, you may want to get your pipes insulated to protect them from freezing in future icy weather.

"It's not just a matter of, 'Hey, am I covered?' It's, 'Hey, can I actually prevent the damage?'" Faschi said.

Taking proactive steps to prevent damage to your house could also lower your rate, Faschi said. If you're not sure whether your policy will cover something, talk to an insurance agent, Faschi said.

Polar vortex insurance?

Most carriers don't exclude damage resulting from cold weather. But could that change if extreme cold weather becomes a regular occurrence? Homeowners insurance policies in some hurricane-prone areas have separate deductibles for wind damage because of the systemic damage such storms cause. Here's a primer on homeowners insurance and hurricanes.

If future polar vortexes lead to enough widespread damage that insurers' finances are threatened, homeowners policies might start including a separate cold weather deductible, Faschi said.

"It's possible," Faschi said. "I think it would be a bleak future. Hopefully it doesn't trend that way."

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Image: Melanie DeFazio