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Home automation: what claims adjusters need to know

By Isabelle Ladouceur-Séguin|6 min|September 2021

More and more people are using gadgets to control their homes remotely. But what does this mean for the insurer when a claim arises? Here's what you need to know.

Home automation devices are a big hit with insurance companies. Many offer discounts to their clients as an incentive to install them. The goal? Prevent damage and reduce the number of claims.

However, home automation systems can be complicated to repair or replace after a disaster. To save you the headache, we've put together the answers to your questions.

What are the most common home automation devices?

A basic home automation system may include the following devices:

  • Smoke detector
  • Water leak detector
  • Alarm system
  • Lighting control
  • Temperature control

Let's look at each of these in more detail.

Smoke detector

Smart devices can quickly detect the presence of:

  • Smoke
  • Flame
  • Carbon monoxide

They then notify the insured and/or a central station before it's too late. The device can also communicate with a smartphone over the cellular network. This means it can send alerts to the customer over long distances.

Water leak detector

Placed strategically, it can detect water infiltration from:

  • outside the home
  • a floor drain
  • plumbing pipes
  • household appliances

For plumbing pipes and household appliances, the system can even shut off the main water supply. It then notifies the homeowner of the leak. This can be done by email or via a smartphone.

Alarm system

It consists of smart sensors and connected surveillance cameras. They can alert the client and/or a control centre in the event of a break-in. Again, the client can receive alerts on their mobile phone or by email.

Lighting control

Smart switches can be used to change the lighting remotely, either via a remote control unit or a mobile phone.

Some systems also offer the option of setting an automatic timer. It allows certain rooms to be lit at specific times and for set periods of time. This can be useful to simulate one's presence during long absences for example.

Temperature control

Thanks to intelligent thermostats, the homeowner can control the heating and air-conditioning of rooms remotely. All of this is done via a smartphone app.

What are the components of home automation systems?

These systems have several components. The main one is the central panel, which controls everything else. It is the "brain" of the system.

In many cases, you can adjust the settings via a mobile app. But home automation systems also come with control devices for each room in the house:

  • screens or keyboards
  • switches
  • thermostats
  • motion or glass breakage detectors

These devices communicate with the central panel using a wired or wireless connection. Usually, wireless connections use frequencies other than Wi-Fi or the cellular network. This is to prevent interference between devices.

Be aware that a single home can have several different home automation systems. Some can be wired and others, wireless.

Who installs them?

In Quebec, only a qualified electrician can install a home automation system. He or she must:

  • be a member in good standing of the Corporation des maîtres électriciens du Québec
  • have a licence from the Régie du bâtiment du Québec in sub-category 16 (electrical contractor)

Since home automation companies are not licensed, they rely on electricians to install their systems. Once the installation is done, the companies can program the systems themselves.

However, this can lead to problems in the event of damage. On one hand, the home automation company is not qualified to change a switch. On the other hand, the electrician can’t program the system. If you have to change or replace components, you could be facing a hefty bill.

How to choose an installer?

Not all electricians are trained in home automation systems. In fact, there is no professional training in this area, so electricians who wish to offer this service must be trained by the manufacturer.

To avoid unpleasant surprises, it is best to hire an installer who is certified by the manufacturer. In particular, someone who is well established and has a good distribution network. Most installers order replacement parts from the US and do not keep them in stock. As a result, you may have to wait several weeks for delivery.

How much do home automation systems cost?

Taking into account the devices and installation, a complete home automation system for a bungalow can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $15,000. It all depends on the size of the house, the complexity of the chosen system and its quality.

You should also be aware that home automation systems often become obsolete after a year or two. These technologies evolve very quickly and so can be less durable.

How can policyholders prove the existence of their home automation system?

Many home automation companies offer an insurance certificate that lists the customer's devices. This certificate is usually used to get a discount on the price of the home insurance. But it can also be useful in the event of a claim.

If your policyholder is with Rogers, they can access it by following these steps.

What to remember

Many insurers encourage their clients to purchase home automation devices. Yet, these can cause headaches when a claim occurs. To make things easier :

  • Check whether the connection of the devices to the central panel is wired or wireless.
  • Have a qualified electrician repair or install the devices.
  • Have the manufacturer program them.

Finally, if your policyholder needs to prove the existence of their home automation system, let them know that they can get an insurance certificate from their provider.

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