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

Christmas Tree Safety

Before you deck the halls this holiday season, be fire smart. A small fire that spreads to a Christmas Tree can grow large very quickly.

Picking the tree

  • Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall of when touched

Placing the tree

  • Before placing the tree in the stand cut 2 inches from the base of the trunk.
  • Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.
  • Do not block any exits with your tree.
  • Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily.

Lighting the tree

  • Use lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory, some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use.
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of LED strands to connect.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
  • Always turn off the Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

Christmas Tree SafetyAfter Christmas

Get rid of the tree after Christmas or when it is dry. Dried out trees are a fire hazard, and should not be left in the home or garage, or leaning against your house. Check with your local community to find a recycling program.

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

Homeowners Insurance & Your Firearm

Owning a firearm is a major responsibility and requires significant insurance to go along with that responsibility.

Minnesota Homeowners Insurance, Minnesota Firearm SafetyIf you own a firearm, it’s a good idea to know what kind of coverage is available under the standard home insurance policy. You will need to consider both the personal property and the liability aspects of the policy. The property portion of your policy will cover your firearms if they are stolen or destroyed, whereas the liability coverage applies due to the accidental discharge of a firearm causing injury up to the limits of the policy; typically $100,000 to $500,000.

Like many items that are small, valuable and easily transportable, firearms are subject to a limit. In many cases, the firearm sub-limit is $1,000 – $2,500. If you need more coverage than is normally available on the home insurance, you’ll have to look for more specialized coverage. Your options will be to add a “rider” to your existing home policy; or you can purchase a separate, stand-alone policy. Riders are very common for items such as jewelry and antiques. In the case of firearms, you will need to ask your agent just how much coverage you would have. Because of the risk factors associated with firearms, it would be beneficial to purchase an Umbrella policy which provides additional liability protection.

A few tips for firearm storage and safety:

  • Store guns safely and securely to prevent unauthorized use.
  • Guns and ammunition should be stored separately.
  • Use a trigger or cable lock so it can’t be fired.
  • Store unloaded in a lockable container.
  • Don’t store firearms where visible.
  • Don’t store firearms with other valuables such as jewelry or cameras, etc.
  • If you have children, be EXTRA vigilant for obvious reasons.

On average, one Minnesotan dies every day by firearms while others suffer injuries. Firearms are the state’s second leading cause of traumatic brain injury deaths.

Minnesota Department of Health

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Travel Trailer Insurance

Travel Trailer Insurance by Insurance AdvisorsDon’t let your adventure be interrupted with worry. Your auto or homeowners policy may not adequately cover your travel trailer and surroundings. Lucky for you, your Insurance Advisors Agent can help you choose the right policy for your travel trailer, so you can go out and enjoy the outdoors while someone else takes care of the paperwork!

Comprehensive Coverage

This is included with our travel trailer policies and is not automatically included in your typical auto insurance policy. This provides protection from just about any direct, sudden, and accidental loss including collision, fire, smoke, floods, landslides, hail, windstorms, animals, vandalism, low branches or overhangs, theft and lightning. Foremost also includes coverage for attached accessories including awnings, satellite dishes, and TV antennas. Some c overages are optional and subject to company approval.

Total Loss Replacement Coverage

This option can save you literally thousands of dollars when compared to typical auto policies which pay only the Actual Cash Value of your travel trailer at the time it’s destroyed. You are protected from the effects of depreciation if your new-model travel trailer is destroyed within its first five model years and  you are the original owner.

Additionally your personal belongings are covered for replacement cost as well. Talk to your agent about details.

Emergency Expenses Coverage

Pays for lodging or travel home if your rig is damaged or destroyed by a covered loss more than 50 miles away from home.

Towing and Roadside Assistance

“TraveLine” eliminates the hassle of buying a separate towing plan. Towing, jump starts, roadside service etc. are just a toll-free phone call away.

Campsite/Vacation Liability Coverage

Provides liability coverage when you are parked and using your travel trailer as a residence, typically seasonally or weeks at a time.

Full-Timer Coverage

This is a coverage very similar to a homeowners insurance policy. This option also covers you when you are parked and using your fifth-wheel as a residence for extended periods of time.

Stationary Travel Trailer Program

This option gives you extensive comprehensive contents coverage if you use your travel trailer as a seasonal or permanent residence.

If you are a “snowbird” or just traveling to enjoy the fall colors – Contact Insurance Advisors if you have any questions.

Source: Foremost Insurance Group

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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The Truth About Renters Insurance

renters-insuranceRenters’ Insurance is an insurance policy which provides most of the benefits of homeowners’ insurance except it does not include coverage for the dwelling or structure. The owner of the building is responsible for insuring the building, but bears no responsibility for the tenant’s belongings.

Many rental properties include a requirement in their lease that tenants hold renters’ insurance (1) if the tenant damages the premises, (2) the landlord and other tenants can recover against the perpetrator’s insurance.  It is important to know what type of damage your Renters’ Policy covers. Basically, there are three types of coverage available:

  1. Loss of use, or Additional Living Expense
  2. Personal Property
  3. Liability

Additional Living Expense

Covers you and members of your immediate family living with you for living expenses over your usual expenses, when your home is uninhabitable because of a covered loss.

Personal Property

protection against loss caused by these perils:

  • Fire, smoke, explosion
  • Lightning, wind, hail
  • Riot, vandalism, civil commotion
  • Theft, burglary, robbery
  • Weight of snow, sleet, and ice, debris removal
  • Water damage from pluming and heating systems
  • Freezing of plumbing and heating systems
  • Bursting of heating or hot water systems

Personal Liability

Covers you and members of your immediate family living with you against lawsuits arising from bodily injury and property damage as well as the cost of legal defense. Watercraft liability for many boats is included at no additional premium.

Optional Coverage

Special personal property coverage adds coverage for additional risks of loss subject to certain exclusions.  Contact your Insurance Advisors Representative for  details on these and Scheduled Personal Property items.

Personal Property Replacement Cost

Provides “new for old” coverage.

Source:  Auto Owners Insurance Company

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.

Travelers maintenance

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Garage Safety

Is Your Garage Safe?

Garage Safety| Insurance AdvisorsAmericans suffer nearly 21 million preventable household injuries each year, and many of them occur in the garage. That’s because most of the 65 million U.S. garages are cluttered, disorganized and potentially unsafe!

Nearly all homeowners have at least one potentially dangerous item in the garage, including sharp tools and chemicals. What you may not know is that many of the chemicals stored in the garage are highly flammable – and may even be susceptible to spontaneous combustion. If not stored properly, gasoline and oily rags containing linseed oil or turpentine oil can be fire hazards.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, the garage is the most common area of origin for home structure fires (20 percent of fires), and oily rags were the most common item to ignite first.

To help you safely store household items that may be flammable or combustible, here are some important safety tips from the NFPA


  • Store gasoline in a tightly sealed metal or plastic container that has been approved by local or state fire authorities or an independent testing laboratory. Never store it in glass jars or non-reusable plastic containers such as milk jugs.
  • Do not use or store gasoline near possible sources of ignition.
  • Fill portable gasoline containers outdoors only, and place the container on the ground before filling.

Oily Rags

  • Keep rags that have absorbed oils, such as linseed oil or turpentine, in a covered. metal can with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Be sure the oily rags are thoroughly dried before collection or transport.


  • Make sure pesticides, paint thinner, antifreeze and poisonous products are stored on high shelves out of reach or in locked cabinets.
  • Mount a fire extinguisher & first aid in the garage.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector rated for the garage.
  • Install a smoke alarm.

Sources: MN Safety Council

College Insurance

Insurance Coverage for Your College Student

College InsuranceWhen preparing to send your child to college, be sure to review their insurance coverage. It’s a good idea to take an inventory of your student’s property that will be moved to a dorm or an apartment.

Insurance companies consider college students to be residents of their parents’ home, temporarily residing elsewhere. Your homeowners insurance will generally cover your student if living in a dorm. They consider dorm-room contents to be “personal property, located off premises”. The liability limits will be the same as your homeowners policy, but coverage for personal belongings may be limited to 10% of your total possessions coverage (rules vary by insurer). Add up the value of your student’s property and make sure you have enough coverage…you may want to buy some extra coverage if this includes an expensive computer system and other valuable electronics.

Your home insurance policy may not cover your student if living in an off-campus apartment with a 12-month lease. In this situation, check with your Insurance Advisors Representative regarding how to handle the insurance coverage. Also, ask about any coverage limits if your student is traveling abroad…some companies, such as Chubb and West Bend provide worldwide coverage, but some others do not.

Let your auto insurer know that your child is going away to college even if without taking a car. If your student goes to school more than 100 or 150 miles away from your home and doesn’t take a car, you could get a big discount on your auto insurance premiums but still have coverage when your child comes home for holidays and vacations. If a car is taken to school, the premiums may rise or fall depending on the location of the college, where the vehicle is parked, and how many claims the insurer has had to pay in that area. Either way, many insurance companies continue to offer discounts on car insurance if your student maintains at least a B average.