While the weather may still feel like summer, the chill of winter is just a few short months away. It’s time to think about winterizing your home. Getting your home ready for winter will not only keep you warmer but also put money in your pocket. The routine maintenance that makes your home cozier in the cold pays off year-round by boosting your home’s energy efficiency.
Start at your furnace. When was the last time you had it inspected? Some state utilities offer free yearly furnace check-ups. A well-maintained furnace will run more efficiently, pump out cleaner air, and save you money on heating oil or electricity.
Change or clean your furnace filters regularly. Disposable furnace filters are less efficient, but much more affordable, than new permanent electrostatic filters. Your budget and your furnace’s life-cycle are your best guides here on what to use.
Clean the ductwork. With the furnace taken care of, turn to your ductwork and vents. Keeping this system sealed and insulated in a big money-saver. Check for cracks and leaks in every part of the system. Patch and fill any gaps, especially in the common places where leaks tend to form, like connections at vents and registers. This is a great time to reassess the insulation in attics, too.
Does your home have a fireplace? They’re so cozy on a snowy winter night! But they aren’t exactly efficient. A wood-burning fireplace is lovely, but an energy-efficient wood stove or a gas fireplace insert might make more sense. In any case, keep your chimney clean! A sooty chimney is a common cause of house fires and easily avoided with preventive maintenance. If your fireplace isn’t used often, install glass doors and keep the flue shut – don’t let all that expensive warm air whoosh right up your chimney!
Check the plumbing. Now that you’ve seen to the furnace, ventilation system, and fireplace, turn to the plumbing. It’s easy to winterize your pipes – make sure they’re well-insulated with foam wrap or heating tape. Flush water from lawn sprinkler systems with compressed air. Turn off your water at the main and turn on all your outside faucets, allowing any water that has pooled in your pipes to drain. This will prevent expensive damage from frozen pipes. This is also a great time to address those annoying drips and leaks. A roll of Teflon tape and a pipe wrench will save you hundreds of dollars down the line.
Doors & windows. Congratulations! Now you’ve done the hard stuff! On to the detail work. Check your doors and windows, replacing weather stripping and caulking leaks as needed. A good tight seal keeps warm air in and cold air out. Consider upgrading to storm doors and better-insulating windows. If you have a gap beneath a door too wide to close with weather-stripping, simply rolling up a thick towel and wedging it in the gap will help keep the warm air where you want it. Plastic sheeting and sealing tape can be a great and inexpensive way to cover larger leaks until a permanent solution can be put in place.
One more thing: Next, turn down your thermostat and your hot water heater. You’ll never notice the few degrees difference, but your utility bills will sure reflect your thriftiness.
Speaking of thriftiness, making your home more energy-efficient might also qualify you for a tax credit! Check if any state incentives are available to you. There also are federal tax incentives available for upgrading to a more efficient heating system:
Winter, as they say, is coming. So take some preventative steps to stay warm, pocket the savings, grab a hot beverage, and then… maybe put on a sweater.
Great, you have a great new apartment. You’ve thought of everything – the mover, the new furnishings, the utilities. You’ve got everything covered. Or do you?
Too few people are taking advantage of one of the most affordable and practical forms of property insurance available: Renters insurance, or sometimes also called tenant’s insurance. According to a 2016 poll by the Insurance Information Institute, while some 95% of homes are covered by homeowners insurance, just over 40% of tenants carry renters insurance.
Homeowners insurance, is, of course, required for a mortgage. Banks want to protect their assets! It’s much less common for landlords to require a renter to have an insurance policy – it’s usually optional. In either case, having an insurance policy that covers the loss of your possessions just makes sense. Most renters insurance policies also offer liability protection and coverage of additional living expenses.
Who need renters insurance?
If you rent, you do! Your landlord’s insurance does not cover your possessions. Their insurance covers the building and grounds, not the contents of each unit. Tenant’s insurance covers your belongings in the event of fire or smoke damage, vandalism or theft, lightning, and some specific types of water damage (such as a burst pipe or a forgetful upstairs neighbor leaving the tub running).
A great way to help determine what coverage you need is to make a home inventory. This will help you get an accurate picture of the value of your belongings, and that, in turn, will inform your renters insurance policy choices. Having your possessions accurately and thoroughly documented will also be a huge help if you need to file a claim. For help with making a home inventory, check out how to create a home inventory.
What else does renters insurance cover?
Many policies also offer off-premise coverage. This means that belongings outside your home (such as items in your car or hotel room) are protected just like they were sitting in your living room.
Renters insurance also offers liability protection. This covers you from lawsuits should someone be injured on your property. Your policy will cover the cost of a court defense, up to the limits of the policy.
Some tenant’s insurance policy also cover the costs associated with the aftermath of a home-destroying disaster: hotel rooms, rental cars, meals, and other expenses incurred while you home is rebuilt or you are able to relocate.
Determine your policy needs in consultation with your independent insurance agent. She can recommend additional policy provisions such as extra coverage for valuables like jewelry, art, or firearm collections; a policy deductible that suits your circumstances; and umbrella liability protection beyond the scope of your renter’s policy.
What isn’t covered?
While renters insurance offers significant protection from many common disasters, there are a couple of big exceptions. Most tenant’s insurance policies do NOT cover flood damage. Insurance for flood damage is available from the National Flood Insurance Program. Most rental insurance won’t cover earthquake damage. Policies specifically covering earthquake can be purchased separately or added as an endorsement to your renters insurance policy. You should also talk to your agent if you have any valuable collections that may need additional coverage.
How much does renters insurance cost?
The short answer is: not much, compared to the cost of replacing all your stuff. Your independent insurance agent can help you find a policy with the coverage that suits your needs. She’ll help you decide whether you need “actual cash value” or “replacement cost” coverage. Actual cash value pays out what your possessions are actually worth, including depreciation. It’s more affordable, but pays out less than a replacement cost policy, which would pay what it would take to replace the items if you bought them today.
Your independent insurance agent will also steer you toward any available discounts, too. Policies bundled with car or business policies are often discounted. Discounts are also sometimes available for having a security system, proper smoke detectors, and deadbolt locks. Your age, credit history, and length of time with the same insurer can also trigger significant policy savings.
Ask your independent insurance agent
If you have renters insurance already, it’s still a good idea to go over the policy once a year in consultation with your independent insurance agent. Your circumstances may have changed. Your insurance should reflect those changes. If you don’t have rental insurance, ask your insurance advisor for more information, make a detailed home inventory, and get some quotes. You may be surprised at how affordable tenant’s insurance policies are. And if the worst happens and you are a victim of theft, vandalism, or natural disaster, you’ll rest easy knowing that you were properly prepared.
Garage doors can be pretty expensive. According to Home Advisor, the average installation cost is $1,072. Depending on factors like door size, type and material, costs can range considerably higher. Plus, there is the cost of garage door openers. If you are thinking of installing a new garage door, it will involve electrical wiring, removing and disposing your old door and new door installation – a pretty big job. Home Advisor offers good tips on garage door installation cost factors. Unless you are pretty experienced at complex home maintenance and renovation tasks, it should probably be a job that you leave to the pros.
Given the cost and complexity, if you already have a garage door, it makes good sense to include that in your annual spring and fall home maintenance checklist. The article above offers some maintenance tips, and we like the Guide to Garage Door Maintenance, Upkeep, and Safety infographic from The Fix. It offers a pictorial of the different types of doors along with pros and cons of each. It also offers garage door maintenance tips.
While thinking about garage doors, you might also check out our prior post on two ways your garage door makes you vulnerable to burglaries. If you are thinking of getting new door, it might offers some food for thought on the type and style. It features an unsettling video showing burglars breaking into garages in just 6 seconds using a wire hanger. It also offers security tips to prevent break ins.
Source: Fix.com Blog
Smartphones are more and more essential to daily life, but as the features and technology improve, the costs continue rising. While there are some decent bargain phones for under $300 on the market, so-called flagship models range from $800 to $1000 – and even more with some add-ons and options. When you buy a pricey new phone or replace an old one, one of the first questions you’ll be asked is if you want a coverage plan. It pays to research these things in advance and to understand the pros and cons so you don’t wind up making a quick decision on the spot. You want to weigh the cost of your phone and potential repairs against the cost of coverage. That entails checking with your insurance agent to see what coverage you have on existing policies and what the limits are. Once you know that, research coverage available from the phone manufacturer and your phone provider.
Does your homeowners insurance cover a smart phone?
One question that many people have is “doesn’t my homeowners policy already cover me if my phone is stolen or damaged?” That depends. If your phone is stolen or if it destroyed by a fire or some other covered peril, your homeowners or renters policy would generally cover that – check with your insurance agent to be sure. If it isn’t covered on your existing policy, you could probably have the phone and any other electronics added to your coverage for a small fee. Of course, any claim would be subject to a deductible.
Learn what the coverage limits are. Most homeowners or renters policies will not cover mishaps like screen breaks, technology failures or lost phones. If you feel you need coverage for those types of problems, there are plans available from phone manufacturers and providers so check in advance to see what coverage plans they offer, what they cover and what the cost is.
Here’s a handy article that offers some guidance to help you think things through: Consumer Reports: is insurance for your smartphone a smart idea?
A Consumer Reports survey found that over the last two years, half those who were surveyed reported a major incident with a phone in their household. The incidence rose to 81% if there were kids in the house. Cracked screens are the most common problem reported. The article notes that repairs for a cracked screen can range from $145 on an Apple iPhone 8 to $277 on a Samsung Galaxy S8+. AppleCare+ currently costs $129 for a 2-year plan; Samsung Premium Care is $11.99 a month. Other phone models can have different pricing. Many describe the manufacturers’ plans as more extended warranties than insurance. Major phone service providers also offer plans that offer various coverage options. Some plans include repairs, loss and theft. With any plan, find out about what the plans do and don’t cover, what the deductibles are for any claims and what the coverage limits are.
So should you get a smartphone insurance plan?
First, check with your agent to learn what insurance coverage, if any, you already have. Learn the limits to your coverage, such as repairs or screen breaks. Then, weigh the cost of your phone and the cost or repairs/replacement with any available plans. You might want to factor in your past experience with phones. Have you had expensive repairs or frequent screen breaks with prior phones? Consumer Reports offers this rule of thumb: if you feel like within a two year period you’re likely to have two or more incidents occur to your phone, you may want to get a coverage plan.
What’s a piece of kitchen equipment that every cook should have handy and know how to use, but hopes to never need?
A fire extinguisher.
There are a few different types of fire extinguishers. Some are meant for specialized situations, others for more general use. All are classified by two criteria: their mechanism of action, and the types of fires they are meant to extinguish. So first we’ll look at how fires themselves are classified.
According to the Fire Equipment Manufacturers’ Association, there are five types of fires, broken down by fuel source:
- Class A fires are your regular old fires, started by heat hitting a combustible solid material such as wood, cloth, paper, trash, or plastic.
- Class B fires spark from flammable liquids or gases, like gasoline,paint, butane,and propane.
- Class C fires involve powered electrical equipment such as appliances, motors, and transformers. When the electrical power is shut off, these fires become one of the other types of fires.
- Class D fires are a special group of conflagrations caused by combustible metals like sodium, potassium, magnesium, and aluminum.
- Class K fires (why K? Because K is for Kitchen!) are fueled by cooking oils and grease from animal or vegetable fats.
Some fire extinguishers are useful in putting out more than one type of fire. Others are more specialized and will have warning labels advising of their proper use.
A fire needs four elements: heat, oxygen, a fuel source, and a chemical reaction. Remove any one of those four and you’ve snuffed that fire. That’s what different fire extinguishers do. Some remove heat. Others take away oxygen. Still others are best at interrupting the chemical reaction causing the blaze.
These are the basic types of fire extinguishers:
- Water and Foam: these fire extinguishers work by removing heat. Foam-based extinguishers also inhibit the fire’s access to oxygen. Water extinguishers are for Class A fires only. They are NOT for use on Class B or Class C fires – spraying a water extinguisher on a fire caused by a flammable liquid could cause the fire to spread, or in the case of a Class C fire, create the risk of electrical shock.
- Carbon Dioxide: these extinguishers put out fires by taking away the blaze’s source of oxygen. Their very cold discharge also removes heat.
- Dry Chemical: these multi-purpose extinguishers are effective on Class A, Class B, and Class C fires. They work by interrupting the chemical reaction creating the fire. They’re the most common type of fire extinguisher found in the home. Some ordinary dry chemical fire extinguishers are designed to put out Class B and Class C fires only; always read the warning label and recommendations before deciding on the right fire extinguisher for your needs.
- Wet Chemical: by removing heat and creating a barrier between the oxygen and fuel sources feeding the fire, wet chemical fire extinguishers are highly effective against Class K fires, specifically the fires caused by modern,high-efficiency deep-fat fryers found in commercial systems. This is the type of fire-suppression system installed beneath the hoods in many restaurants and commercial kitchens. While also effective in fighting Class A fires, wet chemical fire-extinguishing are generally only used in commercial and industrial applications.
- Halogenated or Clean Agent: these extinguishers interrupt the chemical processes causing the fire. They’re effective versus Class B and Class C fires.
- Dry Powder: a specialized type of fire extinguisher used only for putting out Class D fires. Similar to dry chemical extinguishers, but designed only for putting out combustible metal fires. Not for home use.
- Water Mist: these relatively new fire extinguishers are designed to replace halogenated extinguishers in situations where contamination is a pressing concern. They remove heat and are most effective against Class A fires.
- Cartridge-Operated Dry Chemical: like their dry chemical cousins,these fire extinguishers work by interrupting the chemical reaction causing the fire. They can be effective against Class A, Class B, and Class C fires, though ordinary cartridge-operated dry chemical fire extinguishers are most effective in staunching Class B and Class C blazes. Again, always reads the warming labels and buy the fire extinguisher best-suited for your situation.
To learn more about fire extinguishers, check out the Fire Equipment Manufacturers’ Association.