Washing Machine Failure Risks

Washing Machine Failure Facts:

A multi-company and multi-region study of homeowners’ insurance claims from water damage caused by washing machines revealed:

  • Washing machine-related failures are one of the top 10 leading sources of residential water losses.

  • These failures cost an average of $5,308 per incident after the deductible was paid.

  • Failures of supply hoses accounted for more than half of all washing machine-related losses.

  • Of the water supply hose failures resulting in water loss claims, 78% involved washing machines that were less than 11 years old. Of these failures, 54% occurred in washing machines between eight and 10 years of old.

  • The proportion of washing machine related claims to total water loss claims was 67% higher in South Region states than in North Region states.

  • The average claim severity for South Region states was 28% higher than North Region states.

  • Although the affect of washing machine location on claim frequency could not be determined in this study, in the North Region, claims for units located in basements were 24% higher than claims for units located on the first floor.

  • Approximately 6% of all washing machine failures occurred in unoccupied homes.

  • Failures that occurred in unoccupied homes resulted in claims that were on average nearly two-and-a-half times more severe than those occurring in occupied homes.

Washing Machine Failure Mode Claim Frequency and Severity:

A review of 525 washing machine claims revealed that more than half of all claims occurred when the supply hose failed. Machine overflows and drain line failures caused another 28% of all washing machine related claims. (See Figure 1)

Figure 1: Washing Machine Failure Mode Claim Frequency

The average cost of a water loss related to a washing machine was $5,308. The average costs of claims associated with various types of washing machine related failures are shown in Figure 2. Due to the limited number of claim records and the variability in costs, it was not possible to show that the differences are statistically significant.

Figure 2: Washing Machine Failure Mode Claim Severity

Washing Machine Rate of Failure

Three failure modes are related to the life expectancy of the washing machine and its hoses: internal component failure, machine leaks, and leaking or bursting supply hoses. Combined, these failure modes represent nearly two thirds of all washing machine related claims.

The average age at failure for a washing machine supply hose was 8.7 years. (See Figure 3) The age of the washing machine supply hose is assumed to be equal to the age of the washing machine itself since they are rarely replaced until they fail. The age of the machine at the time of the supply hose failure was available for only 21% of the claims examined.

Figure 3: Washing Machine Supply Hose Failures by Age at Failure

Of those claims where the age of the washing machine was known, about one quarter of the supply hose failures occurred within the first five years, about half within eight years and more than three quarters of the supply hose failures occurred within the first 10 years. (See Figure 4)

The average age when the washing machine itself failed was 8.6 years. This type of failure was infrequent. Causes included washing machine leaks and failed internal components, such as the motor/pump assembly. The machine’s age, when this type of failure occurred, was available for 40% of claims examined.

Figure 4: Cumulative Distribution of Washing Machine Supply Line Failures by Age

Washing Machine Failures by Region:

In this study, washing machine related claims as a proportion of total water loss claims was 67% higher in South Region states than in North Region states, (See Figure 6), where other sources of water loss were relatively more common.

Figure 6: Percentage of Washing Machine Claims by Region

Additionally, the average payment for washing machine related claims was 28% (See Figure 7) higher in the South region. This figure increases to 44% higher in the South Region when we exclude claims for residences that were unoccupied at the time of failure. None of the factors such as failure mode, age of home, or the location of washing machine or damage could explain this difference in claim severity.

Figure 7: Average Claim Severity by Region

Though the cause could not be determined given the available data, it should be noted that a relatively small number of large claims are responsible for the discrepancy in North/South claim severity. In the South Region 19 of 168 (11%) claims were over $15,000 compared to only 11 of 234 (5%) in the North Region.

Washing Machine Locations in the Home:

The location of a washing machine can impact the frequency and severity of loss when failures occur. The frequent presence of floor drains and sump pumps in basements may assist in removing water before permanent damage occurs. Alternatively, the placement of a washing machine within a home potentially puts them closer to valuable electronics and home furnishings that could be damaged by a water loss.

When water loss claims in the South Region resulted from the failure of a washing machine or one of its components, the washing machine was almost always located on the first floor. This contrasts with the North Region where claims resulting from washing machines located in the basement were equally common. (See figure 8.)

Figure 8: Washing Machine Claim Distribution by Loss Story Location

For the reasons cited above, the placement of washing machines in basements may help to explain why washing machine related claims represent only 3% of all water loss claims in the North Region compared to 5% in the South Region. However, once a claim must be paid, the location of the washing machine in the basement does not mitigate claim payments. In this study, claims involving units located in the basement resulted in average claim severities that exceeded the average claim severities of units located on the first or upper floors once region is controlled for. (See Figure 9)

Figure 9: Washing Machine Severity by Loss Story Location

Occupied vs. Unoccupied Homes

Approximately 6% of all washing machine failures occurred in unoccupied homes. While these claims were not as common as those occurring in occupied homes, they were nearly two-and-a-half times more severe. (See Figure 10)

Figure 10: Severity of Washing Machine Failures in Occupied and Unoccupied Homes

IBHS’ Recommendations for Reducing Washing Machine-Related Water Damage

If possible, install a washing machine on an upper floor or in the basement. Washing machine failures on the first floor of a home resulted in 28% greater losses due to the proximity to valuable furnishings and electronics.

The failure of a water supply hose is the primary cause of loss. Conduct monthly inspections of the hot and cold washing machine supply lines:

  • Look for signs that the supply hose may be ready to fail. These include blisters in the hose, worn tubing, stress cracks or a loose connection.

  • Replace the supply hose with a reinforced steel braided hose if it shows any sign of wear.

  • Tighten the connection if it feels loose. The most common site of failure is near the connection where the hose bends.

  • Replace supply hoses every five years, even if there is no obvious deterioration or wear. Some signs of deterioration may occur from the inside out and may not be visible until it is too late. When replacing washing machine supply hoses, always choose a reinforced steel braided hose over the traditional un-reinforced rubber hose. These hoses will last longer and are far less likely to result in a catastrophic water loss.

To further reduce the risk of failure, turn off the hot and cold water supply valves when the machine is not in use. Always turn off the valves if you will be away for several days.

Screw type valves can be difficult to operate and may develop leaks around the shaft. If a valve is not operating properly or is leaking, replace it immediately. A better solution – and one that will make shutting off the water supply easier – is to install a dual ball valve lever operated valve. This type of valve is easier to operate than a traditional gate valve since it turns on both the hot and cold water supply with a single lever.

Finally, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to reduce the risk of other types of washing machine related water losses. Never overload a machine, always use a detergent designed for this type of use and try to operate washing machines when someone is home.

Important notes about this claim study:

  1. This study includes the analysis of 525 washing machine claims from a sample of 12,404 closed water claims. These claims occurred in 20 different states from five insurance companies

  2. Where analyses were conducted on the severity of washing machine claims, only 11,377 closed claims and 410 washing machine claims were considered. The remaining claims were removed from the sample because they had obvious upper and lower claim payment limits.

  3. All claim severity analyses excluded any claim payment values that were more than three standard deviations greater than the average claim payment. These claims were termed “outliers.”

For questions about this report and reprint opportunities, please contact Tiffany O’Shea at toshea@ibhs.org or call (813) 675-1047.