As a busy homeowner, it is easy to fall into the trap of pushing off tasks that maintain the long-term value of your home in favor of more pressing problems. That’s OK, to a point, as certain house-cleaning projects should be in the “long-term maintenance” category. But putting them on hold for too long can have disastrous results. As with so many things in life, preventive maintenance can save a lot of future effort and cost in your home, too.

We’ve put together the following checklist of cleaning projects that can save you headaches – and money – down the line. If it seems like more than you want to handle on your own, though, consider booking a professional cleaner with All Set, where finding a trusted provider is easy.* You can make the most of your free time, while they work through these tasks:

  1. Keep up with general cleaning: Giving the entire house a light cleaning every couple of weeks goes a long way toward preventing unwanted build-up. Dust and grime accumulate gradually and can permanently impact the sheen of hardwood and the sparkle of bathroom fixtures. Clutter and smaller messes also often disguise spills, leaks, and stains. Over time, these can set and become more difficult to remove.
  2. Replace air filters: If your heating or air-conditioning system relies on vents or an intake with an air filter, make sure you know the proper replacement schedule. Extending an air filter past its useful life not only lowers your air quality, it also can force your air conditioner or furnace to work harder, leading to more frequent breakdowns.
  3. Clean the dishwasher: The appliance we rely on so heavily to clean up after us needs to be cleaned itself every now and then! Its ability to operate effectively decreases between cleanings, and the longer you wait, the more likely it is to malfunction. A number of moving parts in dishwashers can easily get stuck when they are covered in food or soap residue, which can result in a less-than-appetizing smell that might even transfer to your dishes. For optimal results, periodically remove the filter system from the floor of your dishwasher and clean it off. Then run the dishwasher with white vinegar to remove build-up, stains, and odors.
  4. Make sure drains are clear: A visit from the plumber is guaranteed to be expensive, so we recommend doing everything you can to limit build-up in your drains and toilets. Avoid putting coffee grounds or grease down your sink drains, purchase a drain cover to catch hair in the shower and use a slightly less-luxurious toilet paper to avoid clogs. At the first sign of a clog, use baking soda, dish soap, or store-bought drain cleaner on trouble spots.
  5. Have your carpets cleaned: Heavily-trafficked areas should be professionally cleaned at least once or twice per year, depending on where you live and how conscientious you are about removing your shoes at the door. This will revitalize your carpets, and can prolong their lifespan, too. And whenever a spill occurs, react quickly! Just one noticeable stain can ruin a beautiful carpet. If you’re stumped, search online for a solution – there are an endless number of step-by-step guides to address every conceivable spill.
  6. Check for leaks: Water damage can be one of the most significant (and expensive) repairs a homeowner can face – and it’s tough to spot before it’s too late. Proactively checking areas around bathtubs and sinks will help along with keeping an eye on walls and ceilings for discolorations as well. If a ceiling becomes discolored, investigate what could be causing the stain before giving it a fresh coat of paint.

Think back to when you purchased your home. You probably visited an open house where the fixtures sparkled, the floors gleamed, and the paint looked fresh. Following the checklist above can help you get that new-home feel again, while maintaining your home’s value as well.

This article examines these smart home technologies, beginning with an overview of the Internet of Things (IoT). Included within this concept will be topics such as upcoming loss-control devices in the home, additional homeowners coverages we might see in the future, the pitfalls of smart homes, and overall housing risk management and insurance implications.

Our world is rapidly transforming due to the astonishing exponential growth in technology. This growth has myriad applications to the future of personal lines insurance. It is the driving and inexorable force behind the growth in smart or intelligent homes and autonomous or semiautonomous cars. While this lightning-fast technology is racing ahead, the legal and insurance issues are struggling to keep up.

The article will then pivot to smart auto technologies (i.e., semiautonomous and autonomous vehicles), looking at the approaches that various organizations and countries are taking in this revolutionary advancement, an overview of the different stages or generations of these vehicles, and a look at the societal, personnel, risk management, and insurance implications we will see down the road.

Smart Home Technologies

A smart home is one that is “equipped with lighting, heating, and electronic devices that can be controlled remotely by smart phone or computer.”1 An individual could thus contact his smart home on a cold and wintry day via his smart phone before leaving work to verify that his home’s indoor temperature is 72 degrees, the curtains are closed, the dinner is piping hot upon his return, and a healthy gas fire is roaring.

A smart home is inextricably linked to the IoT. This term deals with the concept of “basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other).”2 Each object would have its own IP address and embedded computer chips. These chips will be ubiquitous in the home and perhaps as cheap as a sheet of paper (1 cent each) in the coming years.

Cisco projects that there will be over 50 billion connected devices in the world by the year 2020, which is about 6.6 connected devices per person (world population projected to be 7.6 billion that year).3 So, connected items will abound in the home of the future.

Home owners will need to properly anticipate and evaluate the profound implications from the IoT in the future. One key trend will likely be a reduction in loss frequency for homeowners policies. If houses are full of sensors and online devices, the communication between the house and the home owner will multiply. And this communication will reap huge dividends in the form of effective loss-control devices in homes, as illustrated below.

LOSS-CONTROL DEVICES IN FUTURE HOMES
Device Description
Water Leak Protection Water sensors that can detect water leaks in the home and immediately contact the owner and any predesignated plumber; these devices will be able to also shut off the main water supply.
Theft Protection Biometrics (e.g., fingerprints) and sophisticated motion sensors can immediately stymie or detect a would-be burglar.4
Fire Protection State-of-the-art smoke and fire detectors automatically alert the owner via smart phone that something is amiss at home.5
Ground Sensors A community exposed to mudslides may have ground sensors embedded in the surrounding landscape, providing smart phone alerts to individual community members.6
Nanotech Roofing Materials Carbon nanotube composite materials (still in early development) are over a hundred times stronger than steel and much lighter than traditional roofing materials; they could be nearly impervious to hail.7
Fortified Homes Utilizing superior and advanced engineering, building materials, and standards, future homes will be extremely resistant to hail, high winds, and hurricanes. 8

Another expected trend will be the growing prominence of various tech gadgets, such as domestic robots (dobots) and 3D printing. In addition, more energy efficient homes (think solar panels that interact with a smart grid) will be more prevalent in the next 20 years.

Note, however, that the decrease in loss frequency will be partially offset by an increase in loss severity (particularly in the early years of this transformation) due to the high cost of smart features in the home.

As a result of these trends, homeowners insurers will need to offer a host of new coverages, including the following.

  • Cyber-coverage for automated homes with more extensive loss of use coverage
  • Products liability insurance for 3D printing operations gone awry
  • Specialty inland marine endorsements for dobots
  • Various smart home and green home upgrade endorsements

In addition, homeowners insurers of the future, with this type of high-tech monitoring, will be able to constantly observe their risks with ubiquitous sensors rather than the traditional one-time initial inspection.

Yet these fully Web-connected homes are not without their pitfalls. The law of unintended consequences is alive and well when it comes to technology advancements. With this complex technology comes the risk of hacking, bugs, and incompatibility problems. There are fire dangers associated with state-of-the-art solar panels. Yet many experts believe the pros (e.g., reduced claim frequency) of this exciting and dynamic technology will outweigh the cons.

Smart Auto Technologies

Semiautonomous autos and autonomous autos are now on the scene, although many of the features are in the embryonic stage. Many countries are working on this technology, including the following.

  • China
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Japan
  • Netherlands
  • Singapore
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • United States 9

So, what are driverless cars, and what is the difference between an autonomous car and a semiautonomous car? The best way to explain the technology and to differentiate the two is by reviewing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration autonomous vehicle classification system. 10

  • Level 0: The driver completely controls the vehicle at all times.
  • Level 1: Individual vehicle controls are automated, such as electronic stability control.
  • Level 2: At least two controls can be automated in unison, such as adaptive cruise control in combination with lane keeping.
  • Level 3: The driver can fully cede control of all safety-critical functions in certain conditions (bright, sunny day). The car senses when conditions require the driver to retake control (e.g., powerful thunderstorm or large canopy of trees) and provides a short transition time for the driver to do so.
  • Level 4: The vehicle performs all safety-critical functions for the entire trip, with the driver not expected to control the vehicle at any time. There is no option for human driving; thus, this level could include unoccupied cars.

The incremental approach (e.g., evolving from level 0 to level 2 to level 3) is favored by traditional auto manufacturers, such as Ford, whereas the “ground up to fully autonomous” approach (going directly from level 0 to level 4) is favored by Google.11

The early research indicates that semiautonomous cars are significantly safer than standard autos and that autonomous cars are safer than semiautonomous cars since the autonomous components eliminate driver errors, the cause of over 95 percent of automobile accidents. A variety of auto manufacturers and high-tech companies believe that fully autonomous cars will be available anywhere from 2018 to 2025.

What are the possible implications for society and for personal lines auto insurers in the next 5 to 20 years? The Eno Center for Transportation reports that if 90 percent of the cars in the United States were autonomous, over 4.2 million accidents could be avoided. This scenario could possibly save nearly 22,000 lives per year in the United States alone.12 Barclays PLC predicts that driverless cars could reduce vehicle ownership by 40 percent by the year 2025.13 ABI Research projects that 400 million people in the world will rely on robotic car sharing by 2030.14

With these possible societal changes and safety improvement projects, how will the legal, insurance, and liability issues evolve? Currently, Google and Volvo are assuming the liability for accidents caused by their autonomous cars.15 But, if the accident was caused by a faulty software algorithm (written by one of the auto manufacturers contractors), a multitude of lawsuits could easily ensue.

The implications for personal auto insurers arising from these trends is hazy. They do suggest, however, a dramatic decrease in auto insurance premiums and losses in the next 10 to 20 years. The auto insurance underwriter (likely to be an expert system powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning) will focus on insuring the software and hardware of the automobile, rather than the driver. Indeed, in the year 2030 for example, there may be an extra premium if you want your teenage son or daughter to drive your Porsche, as opposed to letting the autonomous features operate the vehicle. And advances in technology will likely reduce the need for underwriters and claims personnel as well, putting further pressure on lower premiums.

Conclusion

The smart homes and the autonomous automobiles on the horizon promise transformative upheavals to the future of personal lines insurance in the area of loss frequency, loss severity, property monitoring, reduced auto ownership, increased car sharing, reduced premium, and human resources/technology shifts. Can personal lines insurers keep up with the unstoppable and inexorable technology curve? How personal lines insurers ultimately deal with these inevitable forces will be fascinating to behold. And it reminds us of Albert Einstein’s captivating quote regarding the future: “I never think of the future—it comes soon enough.”


Oxford Dictionary Online, s.v. “smart home,” accessed January 27, 2017, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/smart_home.

2 Jacob Morgan, “A Simple Explanation of ‘The Internet of Things,’” Forbes, May 13, 2014.

3 Dave Evans, The Internet of Things: How the Next Evolution of the Internet Is Changing Everything, Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group, April 2011.

4 Stephen Mayhew, “Incorporating Biometrics into Your Home Security System,” Biometric Update, May 14, 2012.

5 Product page for Nest Protect, Nest, 2017, https://nest.com/smoke-co-alarm/meet-nest-protect/.

6 Janna Anderson and Lee Raine, “The Future of Smart Systems,” Pew Research Center, June 29, 2012.

7 “Carbon Nanotubes Twice as Strong as Once Thought,” American Chemical Society, September 15, 2010.

8 Product page for FORTIFIED Home program, Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, 2017,https://disastersafety.org/fortified/fortified-home/.

9 Charlie Kingdollar, Emerging Issues, General Reinsurance Corp., November 2015.

10 “U.S. Department of Transportation Releases Policy on Automated Vehicle Development,” US Department of Transportation, May 30, 2013.

11 Kingdollar.

12 Daniel Fagnant and Kara M. Kockelman, Preparing a Nation for Autonomous Vehicles, Eno Center for Transportation, October 2013.

13 Keith Naughton, “Driverless Cars May Cut U.S. Auto Sales 40%, Barclays Says,” Bloomberg Technology, May 19, 2015.

14 “New Car Sharing Economy Disrupts Automotive Industry: ABI Research Predicts 400 Million People To Rely on Robotic Car Sharing by 2030,” ABI Research, March 14, 2016.

15 “Who Is Responsible for a Driverless Car Accident?,” BBC News, October 8, 2015.


Opinions expressed in Expert Commentary articles are those of the author and are not necessarily held by the author’s employer or IRMI. Expert Commentary articles and other IRMI Online content do not purport to provide legal, accounting, or other professional advice or opinion. If such advice is needed, consult with your attorney, accountant, or other qualified adviser.

Written by:  Robin Olson, CPCU, CRIS, ARM
Personal Lines Insurance
February 2017

 

Home improvement: It’s a never-ending process for many people, and for those of us who aren’t necessarily handy, it can be a hassle, too.

But there are plenty of simple maintenance tasks and other improvements you can handle to make your home safer – whether you’re handy or not. And you won’t have to break out the power tools (or any tools at all in some instances) or worry about getting in over your head.

Water Works
You need running water in your home – but not water running in your home, if you know what we mean. Even minor leaks can cause major problems, from higher water bills to damage requiring costly repairs (maybe even the kind you can’t tackle yourself). Here are some easy ways to make sure your water stays where it should:

  • Check your appliances. They’re the most common source of water leaks in homes, so it’s worth taking a look at least once a year to check for problems. And the hoses that come with your washer and dishwasher can mean big trouble – they break down over time. Look for kinks and cracks, and replace if needed. Consider using reinforced hoses, too; those with steel braiding or mesh won’t hold up forever, but they’re stronger than rubber or plastic.
  • Watch the pressure. Water pressure that is set too high can cause pipes, hoses and water lines to leak or burst. Inexpensive gauges are available at home-improvement stores to test your pressure.
  • Consider installing water sensors. These can alert you to a leak or other problem soon after it occurs – some can even send messages to your smartphone.

Keep Your Family (and Your Guests) On Their Feet
Millions of Americans – many of them older adults – are injured in falls each year. About 2.5 million were hurt in 2013 alone, according to the National Safety Council and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Look around your home. Should you make some of these fixes?

  • Reduce clutter. Everything from small pieces of furniture to area rugs can pose a hazard, so make sure they’re in appropriate places and out of the way if possible.
  • Add stability to stairs. Make sure stairways have sturdy rails, and maybe even non-slip strips, particularly outdoors.
  • Let there be light. It’s hard to walk safely when you can’t see obstacles or potential trouble spots. Make sure your home is well-lit, and don’t forget night lights, too.

Give Everyone Some Air
Pollution isn’t just an outside thing – the air in your home can be unhealthy, too. But helping people breathe a little easier isn’t hard when you follow these steps:

  • Test the air (and your detectors). Make sure you have working carbon-monoxide and smoke detectors and test them regularly. Also, consider testing your home for radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can be dangerous over time.
  • Check your filters and ducts. Keeping your furnace filter and air ducts clean will keep your air cleaner as well. And consider adding some of nature’s air filters: plants.
  • Keep your home clean. Dust doesn’t just build up on the furniture – it ends up in the air as well. Regular cleaning means cleaner air (just be sure to use safe products).

Home improvement doesn’t have to mean a kitchen remodel or finishing the basement. Making your home safer, in fact, just might be the best improvement of all.

For a no-cost, no-obligation quote, contact us here.