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A Happy, Claim-Free Holiday Starts with Home Safety and Security

Posted by on Dec 19, 2017 in Personal Insurance | Comments Off on A Happy, Claim-Free Holiday Starts with Home Safety and Security

A Happy, Claim-Free Holiday Starts with Home Safety and Security

gingerbread house

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, or so the song goes. It promises “parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow.” But in the midst of such seasonal jubilation, don’t fall victim to hidden household dangers that lurk beyond the twinkling lights and perfectly wrapped packages. Filing insurance claims due to preventable property damage or theft is sure to put a damper on holiday cheer. Instead, be aware of common seasonal hazards and take proper measures to keep your home safe and your celebration merry, bright, and insurance-claim-free!

Holiday lighting

If you’ve seen the classic film National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, you may recall the scene in which Clark Griswold prepares to light 250 strands of outdoor lights.

Extension cords are plugged into extension cords plugged into power strip upon power strip. It’s an endless tangle of cords and wires and a home insurer’s nightmare! Holiday lighting, when not properly installed, poses a serious fire hazard. These simple steps can help ensure a safe and delightful display:

  • Before installing outdoor lights, inspect each strand for frayed cords, loose connections, or damaged bulb holders. Discard damaged strands.
  • When purchasing electrical decorations like light strands, lighted figurines, and extension cords, look for common certifications on the packaging to be certain the products fall within safety standards. These marks may include CSA International or Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
  • Check your lighting’s packaging to ensure it’s intended for outdoor use.
  • Don’t connect multiple extension cords together. A single extension cord should go from the outlet to the light source and should be long enough so it isn’t tightly stretched.
  • Be sure electrical connectors are off the ground and away from metal rain gutters. Instead of using metal nails or staples, secure stands with plastic hooks or insulated tape.
  • Turn light displays off before you go to bed or set a timer to automatically do it for you.

Taking these steps can be the difference between holiday cheers and tears.

Indoor trees

Nothing smells more like the holidays than fresh pine, which is why many people opt to display live trees in the hearts of their homes. But indoor live trees require special care and vigilance to remain part of a safe holiday tradition. The U.S. Fire Administration promotes these safety tips for indoor holiday trees:

  • Cut your live tree at a 45-degree angle at its base, and ensure your tree stand is always filled with water. Be sure to give the trunk a fresh cut before bringing it indoors to help it better absorb water.
  • Never set a tree up near a heat source like a radiator, fireplace, or portable heater. Heat sources too close to trees cause one in four tree fires. Don’t be a statistic!
  • Ensure your decorations are non-flammable.
  • Inspect light strands for damage. Never use strands with any damage.
  • Never leave lit lights unattended.
  • Properly dispose of your tree promptly when it becomes dry and easily sheds needles.

While artificial trees are a safer choice, only use those labeled “fire-resistant.”

Candles

Candles can be as dangerous as they are beautiful. They cause two of every five home decor structure fires, and “the top three days for home candle fires are Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.” Using flameless battery-operated candles is one way to eliminate fire risk. For those who prefer the real thing, consider a few important safety reminders.

  • Do not light candles near flammable or combustible materials — or near the holiday tree or other greenery.
  • Only use non-flammable candle holders intended for candles.
  • Don’t place candles in areas where they can be easily knocked down or where there’s a draft from a door, window, or air vent.
  • Never leave a candle unattended, and always blow out all candles before going to bed.

With the added fire risks that holiday lights, trees, and candles pose, the holidays are a good time to also test your home’s smoke alarms and change batteries as needed. Then, take a little time to review your homeowners insurance policy to be certain your home is adequately covered in the event of a fire. Do not assume fire insurance is part of your standard homeowners insurance policy. Fire insurance is typically an addition to a homeowners policy. If you aren’t sure, call a trusted insurance agent who can review your policy and answer your questions with confidence.

Home security

While most people are celebrating the season of giving, some Grinches are looking for opportunities to take. Home thefts spike during the holidays, which means your precautionary measures should, too. Use these simple tips to keep your house from becoming a target.

Traveling this holiday season? Here’s a quick list of dos and don’ts before you go …

✔️ Do … 🚫 Don’t …
Ask a friend or neighbor to collect your mail and newspaper daily while you are gone. You can also put a hold on such services, but this alerts postal workers and newspaper carriers that you are away. The fewer people who know you are out of town the better. Mention your travel plans to strangers or even casual acquaintances. No one except a trusted friend, family member, or neighbor should know your home is empty.
Hire someone to clear snow from your driveway and steps while you’re gone. Share your vacation on social media. Saying “Look where we are!” on Facebook, Instagram, or another platform is the same as shouting “We aren’t home!”
Use indoor light timers, but set up a few so various lights are on at different times on different days. The same lights turning on at the same time each day gives potential thieves a clue that you’re away. Leave house keys “hidden” in obvious spots like under door mats, in landscaping rocks, or near porch railings.

While much of this seems like common sense, these simple preventive steps can help ensure your home and property is protected this holiday season. And it’s always a good idea to review your homeowners or renters insurance policy from time to time to make sure you have adequate coverage in the event of fire or theft.

Contact a Concklin Insurance expert today to better understand your policies and ensure you have the insurance coverage you need.

Don’t Leave Homeowners Insurance Behind on Life’s Journey

Posted by on Nov 28, 2017 in Personal Insurance | Comments Off on Don’t Leave Homeowners Insurance Behind on Life’s Journey

Don’t Leave Homeowners Insurance Behind on Life’s Journey

Couple New Home Moving Day House Concept

Homes often mirror changes in homeowners’ lives. As families grow or careers takes new paths, homeowners adapt their spaces to accommodate such life events. When they need more space, they make additions or finish basements. And when homeowners found home-based businesses, their homes double as offices.

When navigating life’s twists and turns, it’s important to remember that as our homes change, our homeowners insurance policies likely should, too. When we modify our homes’ sizes, living areas, uses, and even contents or amenities, we may need to modify policies so our homes in their current states are fully covered.

Some changes that may prompt a homeowners insurance policy change include:

  • Doing a home addition or major remodel — Home improvements like additions or major remodels can increase value, which often requires more insurance coverage. Why? A home that is worth more should be insured for a higher replacement cost. To prepare in case disaster strikes and a home requires a complete rebuild, the insurance policy should reflect the value of the home after the add-on investment or remodel.
  • Making certain lifestyle changes — It may seem odd, but there are personal lifestyle changes that can affect homeowners insurance, including retiring and giving up smoking. Smokers are riskier to cover because of the link between cigarettes and house fires, so their homeowners insurance premiums are often higher. Retirees typically spend more time at home, which can mean less risk of unattended hazards causing house fires, less risk of burglary, and more time to maintain the property. According to the Insurance Information Institute, those who are 55 or older and retired may qualify for a 10% discount with some insurance companies.
  • Starting an at-home business — Running a business out of your home may require significant technology or equipment investments. Don’t assume these items are covered under your homeowners insurance just because of where they’re housed. Also, if your business involves people coming to your home, are you protected if a client or customer sustains an injury? For example, if a client slips and falls on the steps while leaving your home office, will your homeowners insurance automatically cover any liability? Make appropriate adjustments to ensure protection of your business assets and all related activities.
  • Acquiring high-value items — If you’ve acquired certain high-priced valuables like art, antiques, or jewelry since your last homeowners insurance policy review, you should review anew and make necessary modifications so they’re covered in the event of theft. If you don’t have these items listed on your policy, they are likely not protected.
  • Purchasing high-risk items for the home — Some home additions like swimming pools or outdoor trampolines can increase the risk of injury at home. This means liability insurance must be adequate to safeguard homeowners if an accident — and potential lawsuit — occurs.

Renovation

If this discussion has prompted you to review your homeowners policy, you may be thinking, “But when … and how?” Simply reviewing a policy doesn’t mean your policy will change — but a thorough review may uncover some areas that are lacking in coverage and could sneak up on you later. Always review your homeowners policy in conjunction with making a major life or home change. If no obvious changes occur, experts recommend reviewing your policy annually around the same time each year. Consider a few guidelines as you sift through your policy.

  • Know your home’s current replacement value. Don’t use the appraised value of your home since appraised values also factor in the value of the land homes sit on. Calculate using replacement costs per square foot in your area, which you can obtain from your area homebuilder’s association.
  • Consider the risks associated with your geographical area. If you live in an area prone to certain natural disasters like hurricanes or wildfires, don’t assume your home is protected. Flooding and fire insurance are most often supplemental policies. Too often, homeowners don’t realize they aren’t protected from fire and flood until they file claims for such damage. Know in advance what inherent risks your home faces — and get the necessary coverage specific to those risks.
  • Review your deductible and compare it to previous years. A year-to-year review of your deductible may reveal that you’re suddenly not comparing apples to apples. Some insurers change deductibles from set dollar amounts to percentages of insured home values. These changes can be dramatic and may prompt you to change your policy. Ideally, you want the highest deductible you can afford to lower your premiums, but you certainly don’t want the sticker shock of a high-priced deductible you weren’t expecting. So, review your deductible and make sure you fully understand how your insurer calculates it and what your options are.

Perhaps the best advice to navigating your homeowners insurance coverage is to have an expert on your side who can guide you through the review process. A knowledgeable insurance agent who understands the intricacies of the business — pitfalls to avoid, industry trends to watch, opportunities for discounts, and more — can make the difference between a homeowners policy full of valuable protection and one full of costly holes.

icon_document-reviewContact a Concklin Insurance expert today to better understand the policy review process and get on track to ensuring you have the homeowners insurance coverage you need.

Avoid Potential Home Dehumidifier Risks

Posted by on Nov 16, 2017 in Personal Insurance | Comments Off on Avoid Potential Home Dehumidifier Risks

Avoid Potential Home Dehumidifier Risks

Dehumidifier in roomDehumidifiers can mitigate moist conditions that cause condensation on windows as well as musty smells, mold, and mildew. Mold flourishes in areas above 65% humidity and can cause breathing problems, skin conditions, and other illnesses. Over time, humidity can also wreak havoc on furniture, appliances, fixtures, and structures. Thus, maintaining proper humidity levels is important for healthy, comfortable living — and a dehumidifier is often the go-to small appliance for handling it.

Dehumidifier risks

Like refrigerators and furnaces, dehumidifiers are designed to automatically run as needed around-the-clock without supervision. This introduces a potential hazard worse than the humidity itself: house fire. A spike in house fire incidents linked to dehumidifiers is bringing heightened awareness to dehumidifier safety, use, and maintenance.

There are two risk categories related to dehumidifier-caused fires:

  • Manufacturer risks involve defective units, which typically means bad wiring or poor construction. Though rare, these risks do arise and cause manufacturers to issue recalls. When investigated, these manufacturer-related fires have most often been linked to defective parts that overheat and ignite dehumidifiers’ plastic housings.[br][br]Among the most recent major recalls was one in November 2016 in which manufacturer Gree issued a recall on dehumidifiers sold under recognizable brands like Frigidaire, General Electric, and Kenmore. These particular units caused 450 fires and $19 million in property damage.[br][br]If you’re looking to purchase a new dehumidifier, you may consider starting by researching recalled brands via Saferproducts.gov.
  • End-user risks, on the other hand, are typically attributed to incorrect use or poor maintenance. Never place a dehumidifier in a tight space as they need airflow around them. Lack of airflow can cause overheating, which can lead to a fire. Also, never block a unit’s grill area. Placing clothing or laundry items on a dehumidifier can impede airflow and lead to overheating.

Dehumidifiers require simple yet regular maintenance to work well and operate safely. Depending on how much you use it, clean or replace dehumidifier filters monthly or even more frequently. Lightly vacuum grills to ensure airflow isn’t restricted by dust or lint buildup. A more thorough cleaning involves wiping fan blades and, for the types of units that have coils, removing the unit’s outer casing to wipe off the inner coils. Dehumidifiers can be professionally serviced, too, which is a good idea from time to time as it often includes motor service.

A fire-free future?

Fortunately, dehumidifier technology is advancing to prevent fire risk. Compressor dehumidifiers, those with coils as opposed to desiccant dehumidifiers, now come with a feature called Auto Defrost that stops the unit from working when the coils get too cold and can’t extract any moisture. If the units keep running while not extracting moisture, they can overheat and spark a fire.

Automated dehumidifiers tend to cost more but offer safety and energy efficiency that older models do not. These units change settings automatically when a set humidity level is reached. The units go into sleep mode for a set period and then “wake up” for five minutes to sense whether humidity levels have changed. If not, the dehumidifiers will go back to sleep for 30 minutes and repeat this cycle until sensing enough humidity to turn back on. This means the units are never on full power long enough to overheat.

The lesson with dehumidifiers is threefold. When buying dehumidifiers:

  1. Do your homework by researching recalled brands and models.
  2. Pay more for automated units that don’t run constantly.
  3. Regularly maintain your dehumidifiers by following manufacturer guidelines.

A final lesson for homeowners is to review their homeowners insurance policies and understand what is covered in the event of a fire. Do not assume that fire insurance is part of a standard homeowners insurance policy. Fire insurance typically is an addition to a homeowners policy. Fire insurance covers the replacement and repair costs beyond what property insurance policies cover. They may also cover damage to nearby structures, personal property, and costs associated with being displaced from home during reconstruction. As their homes increase in value, homeowners should be diligent in ensuring their fire insurance policies are sufficient to cover current value of their homes.

Be proactive and review your homeowners insurance policy with an expert who understands the various levels of coverage available. Contact Concklin Insurance today for a thorough policy review and to ensure you have the insurance coverage that’s right for you and your property.

Get Ahead of the Storm: Simple Steps to Winterize Your Home

Posted by on Oct 31, 2017 in Personal Insurance | Comments Off on Get Ahead of the Storm: Simple Steps to Winterize Your Home

Get Ahead of the Storm: Simple Steps to Winterize Your Home

Snow covered.

As the hustle and bustle of the holiday season approaches, it’s easy to get caught up in party planning, shopping, gift wrapping, and home decorating … while forgetting about home winterization. But skipping some simple winter prep steps can lead to high utility bills, costly home repairs, insurance claims, and more. Get your home ready now so you can spend your time and money on the more enjoyable things winter brings.

Protect your plumbing

Frozen Cracked PipeFrozen pipes can burst and lead to water damage and other expensive home repairs. Before temperatures drop below freezing, you should:

  • Disconnect all water hoses from exterior faucets. Be sure all water is drained from the hoses, then coil and store them.
  • Insulate exterior pipes and faucets using foam covers.
  • Use an air compressor or hire a professional to do a “blow out” if you have an in-ground sprinkler system. This will remove standing water and prevent underground pipes from freezing and bursting.
  • Be sure everyone in your household knows how to turn off your home’s main water source in case a pipe does burst. Quickly turning off the water can make a big difference in the amount of water damage a leaky pipe can cause.

Check your heat sources

Fireplaces and furnaces keep homes toasty on cold winter days, but they can be hazardous if not properly maintained. In advance of wintery weather, be sure to:

  • Check your chimney if you have a wood-burning fireplace. Debris and birds’ nests can block chimneys, and creosote can build up inside chimneys, which can lead to fires. Properly reducing creosote buildup by hiring a certified chimney sweep can help your fireplace burn hot, clean fires.
  • Change your furnace filter. You should perform this task every two to three months during the year, but it is especially important before peak furnace season because dirty filters can damage your furnace fan and cause utility bills to soar.
  • Keep hot air in and your heating bill down by making sure doors and windows are properly sealed. You can best detect air leaks on a windy day when you can feel drafts along window and door perimeters. Fix window leaks using inexpensive rope caulk from a home improvement store, and easily seal doors by applying weatherstripping on the sides and bottoms.

Don’t forget roofs and gutters

Man Cleaning GuttersImagine thawing out from a winter storm and hearing a “drip, drip, drip” sound inside your home — only to realize you have a leaky roof. Roofs must be in good condition to stand up to the weight and excessive moisture that accompanies snow and ice accumulation. Avoid disaster by carefully inspecting or hiring a professional to inspect your roofing for missing shingles before winter hits. Be sure to also check areas around vent stacks and chimneys — other major sources of leaks — and have any repairs made well in advance of cold or snow.

Also check gutters and downspouts and clean them thoroughly. Debris such as wet leaves and pine needles can add substantial weight inside gutters, which can lead to damage when it freezes.

Know what’s covered in your insurance policy

With all the home hazards the season poses, it’s good to know what your homeowners or renters insurance policy covers in advance of winter’s arrival. Homeowners and renters alike should review their policies with an experienced agent to ensure they have sufficient coverage to protect against winter dangers. Know in advance what is — and is not — covered so you can add any additional coverage that makes financial sense to protect you and your home against winter’s wrath.

What if a visitor slips and falls on ice outside your doorstep? Does your homeowners insurance policy cover you for injury liability? Contact a Concklin Insurance expert today to better understand your policies and ensure you have the insurance coverage you need.

Maintain Your Sump Pump Today to Avoid Water Damage Tomorrow

Posted by on Oct 24, 2017 in Personal Insurance | Comments Off on Maintain Your Sump Pump Today to Avoid Water Damage Tomorrow

Maintain Your Sump Pump Today to Avoid Water Damage Tomorrow

hand drawn cartoon character - man with house & floodImages of Florida, Houston, Puerto Rico, and other hurricane-riddled areas serve as powerful reminders that flooding can wreak devastating havoc on property. While water damage from historic weather events like hurricanes may be impossible to prevent, there are proactive measures homeowners can take to protect their homes from isolated water damage that typical seasonal rainfall or snowmelt can cause. And proper insurance coverage can add an additional layer of protection.

Understanding sump systems

Located in the depths of many basements, typically in inconspicuous corners, are one of the most important home safeguards against water damage: sump pumps. They’re rarely seen or heard, which makes them easy to neglect. But when sump pumps fail, the consequences can be disastrous. So, what exactly are sump pumps, what do they do, and how can you ensure yours is working appropriately?

A sump pump is a small pump installed at the lowest part of a basement or crawlspace in a specially constructed hole called a sump pit. When the water table is above a home foundation, rain water or natural ground water can easily seep in and flood below-ground living and storage spaces. To mitigate flooding, perimeter drains are often installed in addition to the sump pump to funnel excess water into the sump pit. While a manual sump pump requires a user to turn it on and off, an automatic sump pump’s water sensor detects moisture, which activates the pump. In both cases, the sump pumps the water out and away from the home’s foundation. A properly running sump pump is vital to flood-free basements and crawl spaces.

Homeowners must maintain both their sump pumps and pits to ensure proper functionality. Professionals recommend sump pump and pit checks at least once a year prior to your area’s wettest season, and a plumber can inspect your sump pump and perform any needed repairs. If you’re a do-it-yourself type, carefully follow the maintenance guide that came with your sump pump and consider some basic tips to keeping your sump system running smoothly.

  • Ensure the sump pit is clear of all debris.
  • For automatic pumps, fill the sump pit with water to make sure the pump detects the water and turns on. If your sump is manual, fill the sump pit with water and switch the pump on to ensure it works properly.
  • Go outside to check that the pump is discharging water, and ensure the weep hole is clean and free from debris.
  • Check that the float is operating and hasn’t burned out.
  • Listen to the motor for any strange noises.
  • Install a back-up sump pump and replace its battery regularly.

Most sump pumps have a life span of about 10 years, but regular maintenance can extend your pump’s life.

What if your sump system fails?

What if, despite proper maintenance, your sump system still fails and flooding occurs? It seems logical to assume homeowners insurance would cover the cost of repairs, but that is a dangerous assumption. Sump pump failure coverage does not come standard on homeowners insurance policies. Rather, it is available as a rider or endorsement attached to the policy. Premiums are relatively inexpensive, and homeowners with sump pump failure insurance can obtain the coverage they need to repair or replace damaged property caused by water damage due to a failed sump system.

Upon filing such a claim, a sump pump inspection is often required. If it’s deemed that the sump system was neglected or improperly maintained, the claim can be denied — and homeowners insurance premiums can even rise. Thus, keeping a sump system in working order is a homeowner’s first line of defense against water damage. Sump pump failure coverage, however, can be a saving grace if the equipment fails despite a homeowner’s best efforts.

If you have a basement in your home, you should likely have a sump system, too. And if you have a sump system, talk to an experienced insurance agent about your sump system failure coverage options. A few more dollars could add a lot of coverage to fully protect the investment you call home.

Is your home protected? Contact a Concklin Insurance expert today to better understand your policies and ensure you have the insurance coverage you need.