Are You Prepared for Another Cold Minnesota Winter??

Prepare for the Coldest Part of Winter

Bundled Up GirlIf you thought that November was cold…Welcome to January, the coldest month in Minnesota!  With average high temperatures in the 20’s and lows around 4 degrees, it is not surprising that nearly half of the home’s energy is used for heating this time of year.   During the winter season not only can energy costs skyrocket, but there is a greater risk for accidental fires in the home.  Alternative heating sources such as propane/space heaters, wood stoves, and fire places are a great way to reduce the fuel costs, but may be an accident waiting to happen if improperly used or maintained.  This type of negligence is the leading cause of fire related deaths during the season.   The cold weather in Minnesota sneaks up on us quickly.  When you get ready to use your furnace, be sure that the filters have been replaced, and it is working properly.  Also, change the batteries in your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors regularly. Taking the necessary precautions to prevent hazardous situations could decrease the risk of fire and prevent the loss of priceless possessions, your entire home, or even the life of a loved one.

If you own your home, Homeowner’s Insurance will protect you in case of a fire.  If you are a renter, some rental properties will be required to carry insurance that covers the dwelling, but you may want to research Renter’s insurance to protect your belongings and to ensure you have a place to stay in case you are displaced due to a fire.

To avoid accidents in the home and keep your family safe while trying to conserve energy, follow some of these tips below for the cooler months ahead:

Winterizing the Home

  • Cover the windows with plastic inside and out to prevent drafts
  • Seal off any air leaks with caulking
  • Check weather stripping around the doors
  • Turn off water valves outdoors and properly drain
  • Clean chimneys chutes, flues, and fire place interior prior to use

 Heating Alternatives

  • Keep flammables away from the heat source
  • Use a heavy duty screen around the fireplace to keep ashes and sparks contained.
  • Be sure to have a working carbon monoxide detector, smoke detectors
  • Never use your oven for heating purposes

Energy conservation

  • Monitor your thermostat
  • Turn space heaters off at bedtime or when you are not at home
  • Keep lights off in areas that are not in use
  • Use LED lights when possible
  • Close doors to rooms that are not in use

If you have any questions on your Home Insurance call (763) 536-8006 or visit DivingRates.com

Indoor/ Outdoor Fall Home Maintenance Tips

Here are some things you should be doing to your home and yard before the snow fly’s!  Doing home maintenance to your home can save you some cold hard cash and hopefully keep you from having to call a repair person this winter.

Indoor Fall Home Maintenance Tips

Smoke Alarms

Fall Home Maintenance Tips -  Minneapolis - Insurance Advisors

Replace smoke alarms and not just the batteries. You should always change the batteries in your smoke alarm twice a year, but did you know that after 10 years you should replace the entire smoke alarm unit? Like many devices, smoke alarms can stop working. Keep your family safe by following the manufacturer’s instructions on when to replace your smoke alarm.

Water Heater

Several times a year you should drain the sediment from your water heater. Calcium carbonate and other minerals are produced when the water is heated. This sediment falls to the bottom of the tan and builds up overtime. If the sediment accumulates it can harden, possibly causing the water heater to overheat and it may even explode.

Dryer Lint Vents and Ducts

Clean the lint from your dryer vents. Lint collects in more places than just the dryer vent. As it collects in the ducts and vents it can block air flow causing the motor to overheat and start a fire.

Furnace

Change your furnace filters. replacing your furnace filters monthly can help save you money on your heating and cooling bills. get a tune up for your furnace. yearly maintenance can reduce your energy use.

Lower your thermostat or install a programmable thermostat.  For every degree you lower your thermostat you can save 1 to 3% on heating bills.  Programmable thermostats cost as little as $50 and can save you on average $180 per year in heating costs.

Test run your furnace before heating season begins, you don’t want to find out it’s not working properly when the temperature hits -20 degrees outside.

Heating Vents

Make sure your vents are not blocked so heat can circulate freely and keep your home warm and cozy.  Consider having someone calk the seams and joints where the duct work is connected to prevent air from escaping out causing heat loss.

Check for Carbon Monoxide Leaks

You can purchase an inexpensive test badge or an alarm that will monitor for carbon monoxide on a regular basis.  (Having one may qualify you for a discount on your home owner’s insurance policy)

Air Conditioners

Clean the air conditioning condensing coils and fan blades of debris with a hose.  Covering the AC unit to protect it from the snow in the winter will prolong the life of the unit.

Remover your window air conditioning unit and store it for the winter.  If storing it is not an option, close the vents and cover the unit on the outside of the window to keep the condensing unit free of dirt, debris and snow.

Windows

Consider putting plastic on your windows to keep cold air out.  Put caulk around the window and door frames where the window frame meets the drywall to seal up air leaks.

Water Pipes and Water Heater

By insulating your water pipes and your water heater, you will lessen the chance of frozen pipes and pay less for hot water.  You can purchase foam pipe insulation at the local hardware store.  Putting a water heater blanket on the water heater tank will help keep the heat in the tank and make it work more efficiently.

Outdoor Fall Home Maintenance Tips

  • Turn off the water to exterior faucets.  Disconnect and drain garden hoses for winter storage.
  • Clean the gutters and downspouts of any wet leaves.  This will help prevent those dreaded ice dams!
  • Winterize your Sprinkler System:Turn off the water supply and blow compressed air through the lines to remove any water from them.  This will prevent the pipes from freezing and bu
  • Cover and put away patio furniture.
  • Put a fresh coat of sealer on the deck to protect it from the snow.
  • Drain the mower’s gas tank or let it run out of gas.
  • Drain water fountains, unplug the pumps and prepare them for winter per the instructions in the owners’ manual.
  • By being proactive on the maintenance of the mechanical systems in your home you are also preventing the chance of having to make a claim with your home owners’ policy and this can help keep your insurance rates down.

Contact your agent at Insurance Advisors, Inc to find out what you can do to keep your insurance rates down.

 

Lawn Work Safety Tips

Let’s Keep Our Lawns – and Ourselves – Safe in Minnesota

For many of our neighbors in Minnesota, summer means more than sunshine and vacations. It also means working in the yard – often with tools that can be dangerous if not used properly.

Child eating strawberries in the garden.Each year about 400,000 people are treated for injuries from lawn and garden tools, according to the U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Don’t let your landscaping efforts land you in the hospital. Follow these handy safety tips.

Lawn Tool Safety Tips from the U.S. CPSC

  • Dress appropriately. To protect yourself from debris when using lawn tools, wear eye protection, long pants, long-sleeved shirts, close-fitting clothes and no jewelry.  Sturdy shoes are recommended, and ear plugs may be appropriate depending on how loud the lawn equipment is.
  • Before starting, remove objects from your work area that could cause injury or damage, such as sticks, glass or stones.
  • Keep children indoors and supervised at all times when any outdoor power equipment is being used.  Never let a child ride or operate a garden tractor or riding mower, even if the child is supervised.  And never assume children will remain where you last saw them.
  • Use extreme caution when backing up or approaching corners, shrubs, and trees.
  • Teenagers using power equipment should always be supervised by an adult.
  • Handle gasoline carefully. Never fill tanks while machinery is on or when equipment is still hot.  Of course, you should never smoke or use any type of flame around gasoline or any gasoline-powered equipment.
  • Do not work with electric power tools in wet or damp conditions.  For protection against electrocution, use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)
  • Be sure that extension cords are in good condition, are rated for outdoor use, and are the proper gauge for the electrical current capacity of the tool.

Lawn Chemical Safety Tips from Texas A&M University

  • If you use chemicals to control seeds or pest in your lawn, read the product label carefully so you understand the potential effects on humans, animals and the environment.  Follow all instructions.
  • Keep children and animals away from the application area, and protect your skin, eyes and nose during and after application.
  • Remember, use only the recommended amount. Using more of the chemical will not do a better job.
  • Ask yourself if you truly need to use a general pesticide. Is there a product that will specifically treat only the problem you need to solve?

From all of us at Insurance Advisors, Inc. Here’s to keeping both you and your lawn healthy this summer!

Also See:
Garage Safety Tips

Roof Damage: Get Covered Before It Costs You

Roof Damage – Replacement Cost VS Actual Cost Value

Fallen tree on a roof of a house.If you are wondering what kind of coverage you will have in the event you have damage to your roof from a storm; you will be happy to know that most homeowner’s policies will cover roof damage caused by fire, vandalism, “Acts of God” like tornadoes and hail and wind storms. Review your policy or contact your insurance agent for specifics of your policy.

There are two different types of coverage possible for your roof. Replacement cost or Actual Cash Value.

Actual Cash Value coverage will take the value of your roof, minus depreciation and minus the deductible. This coverage is cheaper but will result in more out of pocket expense for you at the time of a claim.

Replacement Cost coverage will cover the total cost of repairs or replacement minus your deductible.

Contact Insurance Advisors with any questions you may have regarding coverage for your home or auto insurance.

By: Christine Gaffron, Insurance Advisors, Inc.

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How to Prepare for a Flood

March is Flood Awareness Month

flooded street with flood caution sign3/16-3/23 is Flood Awareness Week in Minnesota no matter where you live, spring time can bring the possibility of flooding to your area.  With that said, it is a good idea to be aware of the different types of terms used to describe flooding and to be prepared in case of a flood.

Flood Watch:

This is issued when flooding is possible in the area that you live.  Stay tuned to your local news via TV, Radio or a NOAA radio for further information.

Flood Warning:

This is issued when flooding is actually happening or will occur soon in your area.  Evacuate the area immediately if you are advised to do so.

Flash Flood Warning:

Issued when a flash flood is occurring or will occur soon.  Walk to higher ground immediately.

Urban and Small Stream Advisory:

Issued when small streams, streets and low-lying areas are flooding.

Preparing for a Possible Flood

  1. Purchase a NOAA weather radio with battery backup.
  2. Find out what your communities official flood warning signals are.
  3. Know the elevation level of your property and how flooding may affect it.
  4. Identify any dams in the area and find out if they pose a hazard.
  5. Check with your city in regards to flood evacuation routes and where to find higher ground.
  6. Put together a disaster kit, include flash lights, a battery operated radio or NOAA weather radio and extra batteries.  Pack a first aid kit, sleeping supplies and clothing.  Stock up on shelf stable food and bottled water. Include rubber gloves and rubber boots.  If you have pets, include food and pet carriers.
  7. Place important documents such as insurance policies, deeds, property documents and personal documents (i.e. social security cards and birth certificates) in a safe place offsite.  You can also keep these documents in a fire proof portable file box that you can take with you in an emergency.
  8. Have a predetermined meeting location for family members to go to in case you get separated due to an evacuation.  Ask an out of town relative to be a point of contact for family members.  Family members can call this person and report to them that they are safe.

Prepare your home

  1. Familiarize yourself with how to shut off you water, gas and electricity at the main switches and valves.  Learn how your heating system works and where gas pilots are located on your gas appliances. Before you leave turn the electricity off at the main breaker if you think your electrical outlets will be under water.  If time allows place sandbags around the outside of your home to help keep the flood waters out.
  2. If you live in an area that has a high potential for flooding consider having a licensed plumber install an interior or exterior backflow valve.  Have your electrical outlets, switches and circuit breaker panel installed 12 inches above the expected flood levels for the area.
  3. Consider purchasing flood insurance. Regular homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage. You must purchase separate flood insurance to be covered in case of a flood.  First check to make sure your community is registered for the national flood program, then check with your insurance agent for pricing.  In some cases, you may need a certificate of elevation to get the best rate.  Flood insurance policies take a minimum of 30 days to go into effect from the time of submission, unless mandatory coverage is requested for a loan.  Insurance companies may not issue you a policy if there is a threat of flooding in your area due to an impending storm (like a hurricane).

By: Christine Gaffron, Insurance Advisors

Alternative Heat Sources for Your Home

Wood and Pellet Burning Stove Safety| Space Heater Safety.3 Types of Alternative Heat Sources for Your Home

These past few winters seemed to have been colder than normal, forcing people to look for alternative heat sources for their homes.  Most people are looking for alternative ways to heat the rooms they occupy the most while turning down the thermostat in rooms not used as much such as bedrooms, laundry rooms and basements.

Three types of alternative heat sources are wood burning stoves, pellet burning stoves and portable space heaters.  All are good ways to heat the rooms used most in the home and reducing the monthly heating bill.

Wood Burning Stoves

These stoves are not set into a wall like a fireplace so a person can walk completely around the stove.  It includes a fire chamber, a stove pipe connected to a chimney for venting out the smoke it produces from burning wood.  It uses chopped wood for fuel.

Pellet Stoves

This kind of stove is similar to a wood burning stove except for two things.  It uses wood or corn pellets for fuel and it is vented out from an exhaust vent on the stove out to a vent through the wall.

Portable Space Heater

The most common type of portable space heater is run on electricity.  It usually has a fan to distribute the heat it produces and a control for regulating the temperature of the heat.

Safety Tips for Wood/Pellet Burning Stoves and Portable Space Heaters

  • Never leave stoves or heaters unattended
  • Always have a Fire Extinguisher nearby
  •  Don’t build too big of a fire
  • Make sure your home is equipped with both a Smoke Detector and a Carbon Monoxide Detector
  • Don’t burn trash in wood or pellet burning stoves
  • Always supervise children near stoves or space heaters
  • Keep furniture, fuel sources, books and other items 3 feet from stoves and space heaters
  • Clean out ashes from stoves on a regular basis
  • Make sure the space heater has an automatic shut off if tipped over
  • Keep your pets away from the stove or space heater

Whether you are considering a wood/pellet burning stove or a space heater for your home it is a good idea to do some research to ensure you choose what fits best for you and your family. Once you have made your decision make sure you check your homeowner’s insurance policy. Some insurance companies require additional coverage on wood or pellet burning stoves.

By: Christine Gaffron

Fireplace Safety

Fireplace and Home Fire Safety

Fireplace Safety TipsWarm, cozy fires are very inviting, especially around the Holidays. We decorate our fireplaces with beautiful ornaments and fragrant pine and of course the stockings that are filled with goodies. Keep in mind, however, you will want to be vigilant about keeping it clean and safe.

The U.S. Fire administration (USFA) encourages you to practice the following fire safety steps to keep those home fires safely burning. Remember, fire safety is your personal responsibility.

• Keep Fireplaces clean.
• Have your chimney inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist.
• Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations and flammable materials.
• Leave glass doors open while burning a fire. Leaving the doors open ensures the fire receives enough combustion and keeps creosote from building up in the chimney.
• Close glass doors when the fire is out to keep air from getting into the room.
• Always use a metal mesh screen if you do not have a glass door. This keeps embers from getting in the fireplace area.
• Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.
• Use only seasoned, dry wood.
• When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace on an adequate supporting grate.
• Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.
• Allow ashes to cool before disposing of them. Place ashes in a tightly covered metal container at least 10 feet away from your home and other buildings. Douse and saturate the ashes with water.

Source:  U.S. Fire Administration

By: Jane Williamson

Closing Your Summer Home

Summer Home| Cabin10 Things To Do When Closing Your Summer Home

If you own a cabin or summer home, this is the time of year to close the property for the season. The list below offers a number of things to consider when shutting down your vacation home for the winter:

  1. Inspect your property. Take a walk around the inside and outside of your property to see if anything has been damaged. Create a checklist based of what you find and decide if it’s something that should be fixed now or when you open your home next spring. Items to inspect include your roof, chimney, eaves troughs, siding, foundation, trees that are leaning over your property, and out buildings.
  2. Turn off the water. Turn off the water at the main supply point to prevent freezing pipes. Even if you keep your home heated during the winter, this is important in case your furnace fails or the power goes out.
  3. Open your faucets and drain all water lines, including your appliances. Even if you turn off the main water supply into the home. It’s also important to drain the excess water from the water lines that run your appliances, sinks, and toilets.
  4. Temperature monitoring system. If you heat your home during the winter, consider purchasing a temperature-monitoring system.  Some of them send e-mail alerts if the temperature in the home drops below 55 degrees.
  5. Water flow monitoring systems. If you choose to leave your water on during the winter, consider purchasing a water flow monitoring system. This attaches to your water main and protects your entire house. The system works by measuring water flow into your house, and detects continuous water flow beyond the normal starting and stopping of your every day appliances, it stops the water flow automatically.
  6. Empty and clean your appliances.  Remove all food from the refrigerator and leave freezer doors slightly ajar to prevent mold and mildew growth. Clean your oven and wipe it down with disinfectant. If you have a washer and dryer, disconnect the hoses and unplug them. Consider running a normal cycle of vinegar or whatever is recommended by the manufacturer of the washer. Drain your water heater.
  7. Store outdoor furniture in a locked garage or shed.
  8. Create a home inventory.  You may want to consider installing a security system.
  9. Inspect your fireplace and have the chimney cleaned.
  10. Partner with your neighbors or local police. If you have neighbors or friends who live near your summer home all year round, consider asking them to check on your home periodically.

 Source:  West Bend Cares Blog 9/13

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Fall Home Maintenance Tips

Fall Home Maintenance TipsPrepare your home for cooler days ahead!

Fall foliage is beautiful, but not when it builds up in your gutters! Take these tips into account during the cool autumn months.

  • Have your furnace cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified technician. Keep flammable materials, including all lawn and power equipment, away from water heaters and wiring in the basement.
  • Insulate water pipes in areas exposed to cold temperatures, and turn up the thermostat during extra cold periods.
  • Check for damage to your roof, and clean gutters and downspouts to keep debris from accumulating. This is especially important during the fall season to keep leaves from building up in gutters.
  • Check and repair caulking around doors and windows that show signs of deterioration.
  • Check caulking around showers, bathtubs, sinks and toilet bases; and make repairs as needed.
  • Have your chimney cleaned and maintained annually by a professional.
  • Clean and/or replace your furnace filter.
  • Clean the clothes dryer exhaust duct and space under the dryer. Remove all lint, dust, and pieces of material.
  • Check your electrical outlets for potential fire hazards such as frayed wires or loose-fitting plugs. Be sure not to overload electrical outlets, fuse boxes, extension cords or any other power service.
  • Keep a multi-purpose fire extinguisher accessible, filled and ready for operation.
  • Inspect your smoke detectors. Make sure there is one on each floor of your home. Test them monthly, and change the battery annually or as needed.

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