As a homeowner, it can be easy to overlook important home maintenance, but with winter approaching, there’s one task in particular you’ll want to complete. And that’s getting your furnace in tip-top shape.
That bulky metal box in your basement (or crawl space, attic, or even hall closet, depending on where you live) is what produces the warm air that keeps your house cozy, making it possibly the most important piece of winter equipment in your home.
The good news is that furnace maintenance is relatively easy: a combination of simple do-it-yourself tasks and an annual tune-up by a professional. Here’s how to get it done.
Furnace Tasks You Can Do
Inspect the air filters. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program suggests doing a monthly check of your furnace’s air filter and replacing it when it looks dirty. Frequent changes prevent the accumulation of dirt and debris, which can reduce efficiency and lead to equipment failure. Changing the filter is especially important if you’re new to the home—who knows what dust and grime others left behind? Tip: To make sure you’re buying the right filter, check your existing one; the size is usually printed on the side.
Maintain a carbon monoxide detector. A failing furnace can leak carbon monoxide, so you’ll want to keep a battery-operated or battery-backup carbon monoxide detector in your basement (and every level of your home), according to the National Fire Protection Organization, placing it at least 15 feet away from the furnace to avoid a false alarm. Tip: Change detector batteries in the spring and fall, on daylight saving day, when you change your clocks.
Keep vents clean and clear. Before you turn on your system for the season, remove all the heating vent covers from the floors and ceilings around your home, and vacuum out the ducts. Dust, pet dander, and all those toy soldier pieces that seemingly go missing can collect there, causing your furnace to work harder. Tip: When cleaning ceiling vents spread a sheet on the floor and wearing goggles to shield your eyes from falling dust.
Tasks Best Left to the Professionals
Annual tune-up. A pre-season checkup by a professional is an absolute must to help prevent costly problems down the road. A heating contractor will make sure that your thermostat is working accurately and that your system is cycling on and off properly, and will typically go through a series of checks and tasks, including:
  •          Tightening loose electrical connections
  •          Oiling all the moving parts
  •          Inspecting all gas connections

There are many reasons you might want to rent out your home on either a short- or long-term basis. Depending on the rental scenario, your standard homeowners policy may not cover losses incurred while your home is rented out, and you may require a more specialized insurance policy.

Short-Term Rentals/Primary Residence

If you are planning to rent out all or part of your primary residence for a short period of time, for instance, a week or several weekends, there will likely be two insurance scenarios.

  1. Some insurance companies may allow a homeowners or renters policyholder  a short-term rental—assuming they have notified the company. Other insurers will require an endorsement (or rider) to the existing insurance policy in order to provide insurance coverage.
  2. If you plan to rent out your primary residence for short periods on a regular basis, to various “guests.” this would constitute a business. Standard homeowners insurance policies do not provide any coverage for business activities conducted in the home. To be properly covered you would need to purchase a business policy—specifically either a hotel or a bed and breakfast policy.

Long-Term Rentals/Second Home

If you are planning to lease your home to one person or a couple or family for a longer period of time, say six months or a year, you will likely need a landlord or rental dwelling policy. Landlord policies generally cost about 25 percent more than a standard homeowners policy to pay for increased protections. If you are regularly renting out a vacation home or investment property, this would also require a landlord or rental dwelling policy.
Landlord policies provide property insurance coverage for physical damage to the structure of the home caused by fire, lightning, wind, hail, ice, snow or other covered perils. It also offers coverage for any personal property you may leave on-site for maintenance or tenant use, like appliances, lawnmowers, and snow blowers.
The policy also includes liability coverage; if a tenant or one of their guests gets hurt on the property, it would cover legal fees and medical expenses.
Most landlord policies provide coverage for loss of rental income in the event you are not able to rent out the property while it is being repaired or rebuilt due to damage from a covered loss. This coverage is generally provided for a specific period of time.

Renters Insurance

As the landlord, your coverage is only on the structure itself and your financial interest in it. Your tenant’s personal possessions are not covered under your policy. In order to avoid disputes arising from damage to the renter’s belongings, many landlords require a tenant to buy renters insurance before signing a lease.

New Year’s Eve has always been a time for looking back to the past, and more importantly, forward to the coming year. It’s a time to reflect on the changes we want (or need) to make and resolve to follow through on those changes.
Unfortunately, while most New Year’s resolutions are made with vigor and hope, most people don’t make it past the first month with their resolutions.
With the following infographic, we wanted to take a look at the most common New Year’s resolutions, how likely they are to be abandoned, and what you can do to stick to your goals.
For example, did you know that happiness affects your ability to keep your resolutions?  Or that smaller, more manageable resolutions have a much higher chance for success?
Please take a few moments to explore the attached infographic to hopefully find a little insight and/or inspiration as you are setting your own goals for the New Year.

 

Coverage for Jewelry
A personal articles floater provides coverage for possessions with higher monetary values like:

  • Jewelry
  • Cameras
  • China and Crystal
  • Firearms
  • Golf Equipment
  • Personal Computers
  • Silverware
  • Works of Fine Art

Why should I consider a Personal Articles Floater?
Benefit 1: A Personal Articles Floater will provide higher limits on your valuable items. 
A Personal Articles Floater provides much higher limits than a standard homeowners policy.  Claims are usually handled one of two ways:

  1. The insurance company will pay the amount to repair or replace the item.
  2. The insurance company will use an “Agreed Value” limit for the item.  This means that, in the event of a covered claim, your insurance company will simply just pay you the amount listed on the policy.

An Agreed Value limit is great when you’re insuring items like jewelry and other unique items because it means if you suffer a loss on a covered item, you will not have to negotiate a settlement price with the insurance company.
Keep in mind, though, that in order to have an Agreed Value limit on your policy on valuable items like jewelry, you may need to provide a copy of a current appraisal on the item.
Benefit 2: A Personal Articles Floater can actually provide additional coverage.
A standard homeowners policy does not include some insurance coverages that are very important for rare or valuable items.
For example, a Personal Articles Floater may include coverage for “mysterious disappearance” or losses due to “breakage.”  This means if you misplace a valuable piece of jewelry or accidentally break a fragile piece of art you will have insurance coverage for both instances.
Benefit 3:  Coverage for a Personal Articles Floater can be expanded worldwide.   
Your homeowners policy will typically only cover items located on the premises listed on the policy.   However, with a Personal Articles Floater you can rest easy knowing your items are protected, wherever they may be.
For example. if you lost a piece of jewelry while on vacation, your Personal Articles Floater policy would pay for a replacement.
Benefit 4:  Most Personal Articles Floaters do not have a deductible.
A standard insurance policy will usually include a $500 to $1,000 deductible.  A Personal Articles Floater is different; many of them actually remove the deductible.
This a great feature because it means any claims filed won’t result in out-of-pocket expenses.
Some Tips when Adding this Coverage

  1. Make sure to keep a detailed list of the items listed on the policy, including copies of the appraisals.
  2. Photograph each piece of your collection and store the photos in a safe place.  This will make it easy to list each item on you claim report if your entire collection is stolen or damaged.
  3. If you have a number of high value items, it may be in your best interest to store them in a safe deposit box or install a security system in your home.   Doing so will help discount the premiums on your policy as well.
  4. If you have something rare or unique not listed in the standard items above it may still be eligible for coverage.   Speak with your agent to find out what coverage options are available to you.

How Much Does the Coverage Cost?
Now the big question, right?   How much is this type of policy going to set me back?
The fact is Personal Article Floaters are actually much cheaper than you think given the coverage they provide.  The increased cost can be anywhere from $20 to $2,000 annually, depending upon the type of items insured and their associated value.
*The above information is to be used as guidance only, and should not be considered as definite in any particular case.   Every policy is different and you need to read through your policy and consult with your agent to best determine how your coverage will respond.  Within this article we simply cannot analyze every possible loss exposure and exception to the general guidelines above.


 
Given the current economy many of us are looking to save money wherever we can. Did you know your utility bills typically account for 15% of your take-home pay? Knowing those bills can consume such a large part of your paycheck, wouldn’t it be nice to cut 25 -50% off of those bills?
We like to share money-saving tips with anytime we can, even if they’re not insurance related. To that end we have put together a list of our top 20 energy and money-saving tips and tricks. You can find the complete list below.
1. Do your chores at night. Limit the use of heat-generating appliances such as the oven, dishwasher and clothes dryer during the daytime hours when temperatures are hottest. That way you won’t make your air conditioner work harder than it has to during the day.

2. Water in the early morning. If you water your lawn on a regular basis, do so in the early morning hours. By doing so you reduce the amount of water that evaporates.FYI: It’s not recommended to water in the late evening because having damp grass overnight provides a good environment for parasites that can harm your lawn.
3. Change your light bulbs. Compact florescent bulbs use about 25% of the electricity of standard incandescent bulbs and will last for years. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, replacing a standard 60-watt incandescent bulb with a comparable 15-watt fluorescent light bulb could save you $69 over the life of the new bulb.
4. Seal up the house. Did you know that a properly sealed and insulated home improves energy efficiency by up to 20%? Invest in caulk and weather stripping to plug up any drafts around the edges of you doors and windows.
5. Stop gushing. Turn the valves under the kitchen and bathroom sinks halfway off. When you open a faucet water won’t come gushing out, but there will be plenty to wash dishes or brush teeth.

6. Check your insulation. Having a well-insulated house will save you a significant amount on your heating and cooling bills and is well worth the cost. It is also the kind of project average homeowners can do themselves.7. Use fans. Using a fan is a lot cheaper than running your air-conditioning unit. By doing so you can also turn your thermostat up a few degrees and still be comfortable
8. Don’t vent. Use bathroom and kitchen vent fans sparingly in summer and winter. These fans cost money to run and blow your cooled or heated air outside, forcing your furnace or air conditioner to make up the difference.
9. Hang ’em out to dry. Besides your refrigerator, your electric clothes dryer is the biggest energy-gobbling appliance in your home. So if it’s nice outside, simply hang your clothes out to dry.
10. Change your showerheads. You can switch to a low flow head without having to settle for a wimpy shower. Newer showerheads can generate high pressure while using less water. These heads cost around $20, have multiple settings, and can save a lot of water.
11. Keep it clean. Clean air filters monthly for central air, window and wall units. Dirt and dust hinder airflow, reducing efficiency.
12. Close the blinds. Rooms get hotter without shades or curtains to block the sunlight, especially with south-facing and west-facing windows. Insulated window treatments can help further reduce energy consumption as well.
13. Consider time-of-use plans. A growing number of electric companies are offering time-of-use plans, which offer lower rates for energy consumption during off-peak hours (usually from midevening to early morning). The catch is users often pay more for peak-hours use, so consider your daily schedule before signing up.
14. Have a free energy audit. Many power companies provide energy audits free of charge to help you find inefficiencies you may not be able to find on your own. Contact your power company to see if they offer this service.
15. Unplug. Disconnect your electronic gadgets when they are fully charged or you’re just wasting energy. They draw power when they are plugged in, so don’t let them soak up juice all night. Standby power for appliances not in use typically accounts for 5% to 10% of residential electricity use, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
16. Keep the dust out. Keeping your refrigerator’s coils dust-free can save about 6 percent on its power consumption. Just make sure to unplug the fridge before you do anything.
17. Power down. If you have an electric water heater, install a switch so it is on only when you need hot water. You can also buy a timer to do the job automatically. Turning down the temperature on an electric or gas water heater will also save you money year-round.
18. Install a programmable thermostat. As simple as this sounds, do you know that a programmable thermostat saves homeowners $300 annually on their heating and cooling bills. =
19. Check it. Hire a certified technician for an annual check on your home’s heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems to ensure they are operating at peak efficiency. Leaking ducts, for example, could reduce energy efficiency by up to 20%.
20. Heat health. To conserve energy, turn off radiators or close heating and cooling vents in vacant rooms. Heavy drapes also lower energy bills.

Last week we mentioned how when the temperature drops, the number of claims associated with fires and frozen pipes skyrockets.   We also provided some tips on avoiding fire claims inside of your home.   This week our focus in avoiding the dreaded frozen pipes.
Before the Cold Hits:

  • Check for small holes or cracks in the exterior of your home and ensure they are insulated.
  • Cover around any water pipes that are on the inside of exterior walls.

 
If your House is Occupied During the Winter:

  • Maintain temperature settings at 3-4 degrees higher than normal.
  • Turn on any faucets and allow a constant trickle.
  • Open any cabinet doors under sinks to allow heat to warm the pipes.
  • Insulate your pipes.
  • Shut off exterior faucets used for garden hoses from inside your basement and leave the exterior faucets open outside.

 
If your House is Unoccupied During the Winter:

  • Set the thermostat no lower than 60 degrees and install a low heat alarm.
  • Have a plumber install a low water cutoff switch on a forced hot water boiler.
  • Have the water service shut off all to your house.
  • Drain all waterlines leaving drain valves open.
  • Shut off gas to the home.
  • Have the house checked weekly.

 
If you are interested in any additional tips for your home or you would like a quote on your homeowners insurance, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.

Flood vs. Water Damage

There are two insurance policies that deal with a homeowner’s damage due to water — a flood insurance policy and a homeowners insurance policy. Losses not covered by one of these policies may be covered by the other. Knowing the losses to which your home could be exposed will help you decide whether to buy one or both of these insurance coverage.
While insurance policies may differ in the coverage provided from homeowner to homeowner, there often are basic features common to all policies.
FLOOD INSURANCE
As the name implies, a standard flood insurance policy, which is written by the National Flood Insurance Program, provides coverage up to the policy limit for damage caused by flood. The dictionary defines “flood” as a rising and overflowing of a body of water onto normally dry land. For insurance purposes, the word “rising” in this definition is the key to distinguishing flood damage from water damage. Generally, damage caused by water that has been on the ground at some point before damaging your home is considered to be flood damage. A handful of examples of flood damage include:

  • A nearby river overflows its banks and washes into your home.
  • A heavy rain seeps into your basement because the soil can’t absorb the water quickly enough
  • A heavy rain or flash flood causes the hill behind your house to collapse into a mud slide that oozes into your home.

Flood damage to your home can be insured only with a flood insurance policy — no other insurance will cover flood damage.  To determine if your home is located in a flood plain, contact your county planning office. If you are living in a flood plain, flood insurance may be an excellent purchase.
HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE
A homeowners insurance policy doesn’t provide coverage for flood damage, but it does provide coverage for many types of water damage to your home. Just the opposite from flood damage, for insurance purposes, water damage is considered to occur when water damages your home before the water comes in contact with the ground. A few examples of water damage include:

  • A hailstorm smashes your window, permitting hail and rain free access into your home.
  • A heavy rain soaks through the roof, allowing water to drip through your attic or ceiling.
  • A broken water pipe spews water into your home.

Even if flood or water damage is not covered by your homeowners insurance policy, losses from theft, fire or explosion resulting from water damage is covered. For example, if a nearby creek overflows and floods your home, and looters steal some of your furnishings after you evacuate, the theft would be covered by your homeowners insurance because it is a direct result of the water damage. However, the flood damage would be covered only if you have flood insurance.
It’s important to note that flood insurance and homeowners insurance do not duplicate coverage for water damage. Instead, they complement each other.

Thanksgiving is one of the biggest holidays of the year in the United States. It’s an opportunity to gather with family and friends to celebrate, give thanks, and even watch a little football.
The Thanksgiving holiday has an interesting history and several intriguing facts surrounding it. For example, did you know that the government officials tried to make Thanksgiving an official holiday in both 1630 and 1789, but that it didn’t catch on as a holiday until President Lincoln officially made it one in 1863?
Please take a look at the attached infographic that provides a great breakdown on the history of this holiday, including food consumption, parade attendance, and the real reason why we play so much football on Thanksgiving.
We hope that you have a fantastic Thanksgiving with friends and family.

As an Arvada resident, if you have ever been in an auto accident you know it can be a stressful situation.  We hope you will find the following list of of steps to take if you are ever involved in an auto accident useful:

Be Prepared

  • Carry a set of warning triangles or emergency flares in your trunk to help alert traffic.
  • Carry a card in your glove compartment that contains emergency contact information and any necessary medical information.
  • Also, it’s not a bad idea to keep a pen and paper along with a disposable camera in the car.

Immediately After an Accident

  • Check for injuries; call an ambulance when in doubt.
  • If accident is minor, move cars out of traffic.
  • Turn on your vehicle’s hazard lights and use warning triangles or flares for safety.
  • Call the police.
  • Notify your insurance agent immediately.

Other Important Tips

  • Do not sign any document unless it’s for the police.
  • Make immediate notes about the accident, including specific damages to all vehicles involved, witness information.  If possible use a disposable camera or camera in your cell phone to document everything.
  • If the name on an auto registration is different than the driver, jot down the relationship.
  • State only the facts, and limit your discussion of the accident to the police.
  • If possible, don’t leave the accident scene before the police and other drivers do.

 

Here are 5 tips and tricks that will help Arvada residents save money on their insurance premiums while avoiding some of the most common pitfalls consumers have when it comes to purchasing insurance:

1. Insuring a home for its real estate value not rebuilding cost.  Insurance is designed to cover the cost it would take to rebuild your home rather than its market value.  For many this means that you may actually be able to decrease the current limit on your homeowners insurance coverage.   However, before you do that, be sure to speak with a qualified insurance agent that can provide you with some direction on the proper limit for your home.
A better way to save on homeowners premium: Raising your deductible is a much easier to save some money on your homeowners insurance.  Just raising your deductible from $500 to $1,000 can save you up to 25 percent on your insurance premiums.
2. Selecting an insurance company by price alone.  While most consumers are always seeking to save money on their insurance premiums, it’s important to take careful consideration of the insurance company you are placing your coverage with.   Do you know if they are financially sound?   Have they had issues with peacefully resolving claims in the past? Do they provide the proper coverages without obscure exclusions that may actually eliminate coverage on your policy?
A savvier way to pick an insurer: Work with an independent insurance agent.   An independent insurance agent can provide you with multiple insurance quotes from a variety of top-rated insurance companies.   They can provide valuable insight into the coverages each company provides and will be there as your advocate in the event of a claim.
3. Dropping flood insurance.  While dropping flood insurance may be an easy options to consider as you are trying to save money on your insurance, keep in mind that flood is one of the most common claims homeowners experience (90 percent of all disasters involve flooding) and the damages from a flood can be devastating.   Homeowners insurance doesn’t provide flood insurance coverage.   Rather, flood insurance must be purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program.
A smarter way to lower flood insurance costs: Before purchasing any new home, we recommend checking what kind of flood plain the home is in so you have a good idea of the associated insurance costs.
If you already own a home and it is in a flood zone, you still have some options: you can increase your deductible or help flood-proof by elevating the structure or other means.
4. Purchasing only the legally required amount of liability for your vehicle.  Some consumers, in an effort to decrease their premiums, will lower the limits carried on their auto insurance to state’s minimum required limits.  As many states require limits of only $10,000 or $15,000, we strongly advise against doing this.   One significant claim will immediately wipe out any limits and you will be personally liable for the difference.
A less risky way to cut auto insurance costs: If you are looking for ways to decrease your auto premiums, we recommend increasing your deductibles or taking a defense driving course.
5. Neglecting to buy renters insurance.  If you renting a home or apartment you should never skip on purchasing homeowners or renters insurance.   Most policies cost less than $200 annually and will provide coverage for all of your property located inside the residence.  In addition to coverage for your contents, renters insurance policies also provide liability protection as well.
A good way to cut the cost of renters insurance: Look into multi-policy discounts. Buying several policies with the same insurer, such as renters, auto and/or life insurance, will generally provide savings.
If you are looking for additional ways to save money on your insurance, please don’t hesitate to contact our office and one of our representatives will be more than happy to assist.