SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2016
When the Weather Changes – Clean, Inspect, and Be Safe!
The weather is changing fast! The three main things to remember is to clean, inspect, and follow these basic common-sense safety precautions. These will help ensure that your home is warm and cozy for the chilly nights coming up! These tips will help make your home safer and more energy-efficient, as well as help prevent mold and water damage during the cold weather months coming up!
A very easy first step to getting ready for the cold seasons is to clean all of your household humidifiers and dehumidifiers. These are easily cleaned with vinegar and water. Be sure to replace or wash the filters as well. As the air inside and outside your home gets colder and dryer, you may want to put a humidifier in. The down side of using a humidifier is the possibility of too much humidity. This may cause mold growth. To avoid this possibility, the humidity in your home should not exceed more than 45%. On the opposite end of the spectrum are dehumidifiers. As this time of the year is also hurrricane season, your basement may become cold and damp. A good way to stop or slow mold growth is to have a dehumidifier drying out those damp areas.
When was the last time you cleaned your furnace? Check with your local HVAC company for cleaning guidelines. If you don’t, you could get a buildup of dust or sediment (depending on if your basement is finished or not) and it could become a fire hazard! It’s a good idea to change the furnace filter at this time of the year also. Be sure to stock up on filters so that you can change them as necessary! When considering cleaning your heating system, don’t forget the ductwork. When was the last time your ductwork was cleaned? Think of all the dust and debris that has built up in you ductwork. Once the heat goes on, that dust and debris begins to circulate as well. If you have pets, it is recommended that you have your ducts cleaned at least one every 4-5 years.
Doors & Windows: While some items may require professionals, there are many things homeowners can do themselves to get ready for the winter. The first such is to inspect your property’s doors and windows. They are a homeowner’s first line of defense against the cold and elements. Check for any drafts. Caulk inside and out, where necessary, to keep heat from escaping. Inspect all weather stripping around windows and doorframes for leaks. Replace weather stripping, if necessary. Further, examine wooden window frames for signs of rot or decay. Repair or replace framing to maintain structural integrity as needed. A little maintenance now can help save on big repairs later! In older homes, with single pane windows, hang insulated curtains or seal the windows with 6 millimeter plastic. Installing storm windows on the outside gives homeowners a more permanent fix. All of these suggestions could help with savings to your cold-weather heating costs.
Heating Systems: Some inspections should be handled by professionals only. The fall is the time when it is a good idea to have your furnace inspected by a qualified HVAC company. It is always a good idea to make sure it is in good running order for the cold weather ahead. Hire an HVAC professional to test for leaks, check heating efficiency, and change the filter. They can also do a carbon monoxide check to ensure air safety.
Hot Water Heater: Hot water heaters require maintenance too. This is the time of the year when homeowners should flush hot water heater tanks to remove sediment. Check the pressure relief valve to make sure it’s in proper working order. Consider an insulated blanket for your hot water heater. Insulated hot water heaters are more energy efficient! If your hot water heater is part of your heating system, this is the time of year to bleed valves on the radiators to increase heating efficiency by releasing air that may be trapped inside from the months of non-use.
Fireplaces & Chimneys: Check your chimney and fireplace before you burn anything in it. It has been several months since it has been used, so make sure they are safe to use this season. If you are doing it yourself, you’ll need to inspect the firebox and flue system to ensure that they’re clean of any soot or creosote and that there aren’t any cracks or voids that could cause a fire hazard. Check your firplace for drafts. It it’s cold despite the damper being closed, the damper itself may be warped, worn, or rusted. Consider installing a Chimney Balloon into the flue to air seal the area tightly (for your safety, consult a professional before you undertake this option!). Clean out any ash or soot in your fireplace. If you aren’t comfortable doing this yourself, hire a professional. They will be able to inspect and clean it the right way!
Outside Faucets: A big thing that many people forget about is their outside hoses. Be sure to turn off any spigots and remove any hoses from outside your home. Interior pipes close to your outisde walls can burst and then your basement can fill with water. Some older homes even have a shut off valve in the basement that will turn off all your outside water. Depending on your climate, you irrigation system may need to be drained and checked as well. Have a professional perform any necessary repairs and mark sprinkler heads near snow removal areas.
Programmable thermostats: If you have one, program it to make your home more efficient by automatically raising and lowering the temperature as your schedule allows. You can even program it for vacations to be at a low temperature that is still high enough that none of your pipes or windows freeze while you are gone, but return to a warm home.
Ceiling Fans: Make sure fans are switched to the reverse or clockwise position, which will blow warm air down to the floor for enhanced energy efficiency and comfort. During cold spells, keep cabinet doors open to allow warm air to circulate around pipes, particularly those in the kitchen and bathroom.
Make sure you also test all your home safety devices! Test all your smoke detectors, fire alarms, and carbon monoxide detectors. These are a homeowner’s first line of defense against potentially life-threatening situations! Since you will be spending much more time in the house, you will need to make sure these are all in excellent working order.
Always have a fully-stocked emergency kit at hand. Include batteries, a flashlight, candles, matches, and a lighter; warm clothes and blankets; a battery-powered radio; non-perishable food items and water (two liters per adult per day); a first-aid kit and specialty products like medicine, baby formula and pet food (if necessary). Try to store at least three days worth of supplies for everyone in your household.
--Content used in this post was originally published by Major Restoration Services and is used with their permission.
Posted 4:36 PM
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2016
A recent study concluded that 69 percent of home owners are under-insured. Unfortunately, many home owners think they are fully protected and are stunned to find out at the time of loss that their coverage is inadequate.
Getting the right homeowners insurance coverage for your home and belongings depends on many things, from crime rates, tornado risk and wildfire hazards in your area to the specific personal property coverage and deductibles that make the most sense for your household.
Here are a few key strategies you may want to consider to make sure you have adequate home insurance:
- Increase your liability insurance with an umbrella liability policy, which will provide liability coverage up to $1 million or more.
- Get replacement cost home insurance to cover what it would cost to replace your home and personal property, instead of “actual cash value” coverage, which will only cover the current depreciated value.
- Be sure to read over the policy's exclusions carefully and ask your agent if any of these items are a risk, and if you can purchase additional insurance to cover them.
- Add coverage for specific items of value, such as jewelry, art and collectibles, through “endorsements” or “riders” on the policy.
While you may be able to buy online homeowners insurance, consider working directly through an agent who can provide in-depth explanations of each aspect of your policy. When you buy home insurance, you are protecting your financial future. Take time to seek good advice from a knowledgeable independent agent.
Posted 4:55 PM
MONDAY, AUGUST 1, 2016
Driving can open up new opportunities for teens but with those opportunities comes responsibility. It’s important for teens to understand those responsibilities and for parents to set appropriate expectations. Here are five subjects you’ll want to cover with your teenager when it comes to driving.
1) Distracted Driving
According to the FCC, distracted driving accounted for 16% of all fatal crashes in 2008 and 21% of accidents involving injuries. Distractions can include texting, talking on the phone and even scrolling through a playlist on your phone. When you’re in a car, remember that no text or phone call is worth injuring or killing yourself, your passengers and others on the road. If you need to call or text someone for directions or to let them know you’re on your way, pull into a parking lot or a safe area along the road with plenty of room between your vehicle and moving traffic
2) Driving under the influence
Automobile accidents are the leading cause of death among teens, with one third of those deaths being alcohol related, according to the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Avoiding situations with alcohol and drug use is the best way to avoid driving under the influence or riding with someone who is under the influence. If necessary make arrangements to have a designated driver or call someone else for a ride. There are no consequences that are worse than injuring or killing yourself or others.
3) Passenger Safety
As a driver, you have a responsibility for the passengers in your vehicle. Make sure you and your passengers all have their seatbelts on before leaving and during all trips- whether down the street or outside town. A driver should make sure that passengers don’t lean out of windows, throw things from a moving vehicle or engage in other horseplay.
4) Obeying traffic laws
While this seems obvious, making an effort to follow all the laws as a new driver will help establish good driving habits and avoid bad ones like excessive speeding and rolling through stop signs.
5) Protecting the vehicle and its contents
Whether going to the mall or driving to school, remember to lock the car doors. Thieves look for easy targets, and if they see a GPS unit, a phone, tablets, etc. in an unlocked car you’ve made their job easy. Remember to do a quick scan for anything that might be tempting to a thief and either take it with you or stow it in the glove box, or under a seat.
Posted 5:51 PM
MONDAY, AUGUST 1, 2016
Thinking of getting a “Lyft” from a ridesharing service? Make sure you’re covered if you get hurt as a passenger.
Ridesharing is becoming more common around the state and the nation, particularly in large cities. Capitalizing on the new “sharing economy” and to a certain extent the coolness factor, this simple concept is thriving. Passengers, however, are generally not aware of the insurance implications, and that their driver’s insurance may not properly cover them. If you’re thinking of becoming a driver for a Transportation Network Company (TNC), also read our companion flyer.
Q: What is ridesharing?
A: In the new sharing economy, ridesharing allows vehicle owners to transport passengers in their own cars for a fee or a “donation.”
Drivers sign up with a service that charges a fee to connect passengers with drivers via a website or smartphone app.
Passengers arrange rides and pay with a credit card using the app.
Q: Why is ridesharing an issue?
A: Ridesharing is not the same as riding in a taxi or limousine. Taxis are licensed by the state or a local authority and subject to strict standards, from vehicle inspection and driver licensing to insurance that protects passengers and others who could be hurt in an accident.
Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) such as Uber or Lyft are not subject to the same requirements. However, they have drawn increasing attention from state regulators and legislators concerned that the public may not be properly protected. In fact, various state regulators have issued consumer alerts to warn the public about possible risks of using a ridesharing app when riding as a passenger.
Q: How is the ridesharing company insured?
A: Insurance is the crux of the issue. Drivers are using their personal vehicles. Personal auto insurance generally excludes coverage when transporting passengers for a fee.
An increasing number of TNCs are indicating that they are going to provide some protection by covering the driver’s commercial exposure for liability and collision coverage. The nature and scope of coverage provided by the TNC varies from company to company, and its coordination with the driver’s personal auto policy can leave uninsured gaps, in some cases significant.
Q: How do I know if I’m covered as a passenger?
A: If you are considering using a ridesharing service, you should:
Research the companies that operate in your city
Find out how these companies protect their drivers and passengers, including their liability limits
If you have a personal auto policy yourself, you may be able to claim some coverage under your policy if you are hurt in an accident as a passenger. If you do not own a car, you will not have that option, unless you purchased a “named non-owner” policy. We can tell you more about this if you’d like.
Q: Why should I worry? How likely is it that a bad claim will occur?
A: There is no way of knowing what kind of accident will occur. Hopefully, none. However, many of the insurance issues that have come to light have stemmed from catastrophic claims. One in California where a six-year old girl was killed in a collision with a rideshare car.
While often downplayed by those who have an interest in the ridesharing business, coordination between the commercial and personal auto policies can pose challenges. The timing and circumstances of any accident will have a bearing on whether coverage extends to the driver and the passenger. At this time, coverage gaps still exist in a number of circumstances.
Q: Is this insurance issue settled?
A: No. A number of state legislatures have passed laws to address proper insurance coverage (amongst other things), but the issue is not fully settled. Some personal auto insurers are revisiting the issue and considering new ways to close those gaps in insurance.
-Content used by permission of Trusted Choice www.trustedchoice.com/
Posted 1:00 PM
FRIDAY, JULY 1, 2016
Here are a few tips to help you protect your home while you're away.
Step 1: Find Someone To Check In
The first and most important thing is to have someone you know and trust check your home regularly. Start looking for this person as soon as your travel is scheduled. This isn’t something to scramble for at the last minute.
Make sure the home is checked at least once every few days. If the person can stay in your house, even better!
Have your mail/newspapers collected (a neighbor can do this too if your check in person can’t make it every day)
Arrange checks for leaks or other maintenance issues.
Bring a gift for the caretaker! Checking in on a property is a lot of work; they will appreciate the thanks.
Step 2: Travel-Proof Your Home
Go down this list before you leave.
- Connect a few lights to a timer and set them to go on every day after dark. This will keep your house from being totally dark – a sure giveaway that no one is home.
- Don’t close all your blinds and shutters, unless this is something you normally do.
- Don't post your out of town status on social media.
- As you’re walking out of the house, follow these steps to cover your last-minute safety needs.
- Don't turn the heat down below 55 degrees. Never turn the heat completely off during the winter; if the temperature drops, you risk frozen pipes.
- Lock the house. That includes pet doors, garage doors, and windows that might normally be left open.
- Throw away any perishables if you’re going to be gone more than 3 days or so. You don’t want to come home to a rotting mess in the fridge!
--Content used in this post was originally published by Mamoth Restoration & Construction and is used with their permission.
Posted 12:59 PM