Winterize Now, Prevent Cold-Weather Problems Later

While you are enjoying the beauty of autumn, don’t forget to set aside time to winterize your home. Properly preparing your home for winter can help minimize insurance claims that are common during colder months – saving you time and money in the long run. Not sure where to begin? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Winterize the Outside

One of the first lines of defense against cold temperatures and winter storms is a strong home exterior. While the weather is still nice, winterize your yard and the outside of your home by doing the following:

  • Survey your landscaping. Trim trees with overhanging limbs that could block your walkways or endanger your home or vehicles during heavy snowfall and ice storms.
  • Check your driveway, sidewalks, porch, deck, steps, and handrails to make sure they are in good repair.
  • Examine your roof closely. Remove moss, clear debris, and make any necessary repairs.
  • Remove debris from gutters so heavy winter rains and melting snow can flow freely and not damage your roof or walls. Consider installing gutter guards to keep gutters clear from additional debris.
  • Inspect and clean the openings of attic vents, exhaust ducts, and the dryer vent.
  • Seal cracks and gaps around windows and doors. Seal around windows and walls where air-conditioning units are installed.
  • Make sure your snow blower and other snow removal equipment are in working order. Having cleared walkways will help ensure no one is seriously injured on your property.

Keep Things Cozy on the Inside

When the weather outside is less than enjoyable, your home can be a cozy retreat. After you winterize the exterior of your home, here are some items to inspect on the inside:

  • Replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide alarms once or twice per year. Test the alarms to ensure they are working properly once a month.
  • Inspect your fire extinguishers to ensure they are ready for use. For safety tips, visit https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Staying-safe/Safety-equipment/Fire-extinguishers.
  • Before turning on your heating system, replace the filter and have the system professionally serviced. Replace the filter regularly throughout the season.
  • If you use a fireplace or wood-burning stove, have the chimney or flue inspected each year.
  • Check the insulation in attics, basements, and crawl spaces. Improper insulation can cause a variety of problems ranging from bursting pipes to snow melting too fast to be carried away efficiently.
  • Keep things warm. Use caulk and weather stripping to seal up drafty areas around doors and windows.
  • Maintain an interior temperature of at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit, even when you are not at home. The temperature inside walls can be a lot colder than the air in the rooms, putting pipes at risk of freezing. Seal any drafts and leave interior doors open to help keep an even temperature from room to room.
  • Check your emergency supplies. Ensure you have adequate food and water, along with a battery-powered radio. You’ll want a week’s worth of supplies, or more if you live in a remote area.
  • Avoid deadly carbon monoxide. Do not use your oven or stovetop to heat your home, and never use gas-powered generators or barbecue grills indoors.

Don’t Let the Cold Get to Your Pipes

It’s hard to think of a worse start to a winter day than waking up to frozen pipes. Here are some tips to help you prevent what could easily become a very messy and expensive situation:

  • Before cold weather arrives, drain sprinkler and swimming pool supply lines. Detach, drain, and store outdoor hoses. If possible, close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs, and open the outside hose bibs for draining. Keep them open so any remaining water can expand without breaking the pipe. If you can’t shut off the water from the inside, pick up some foam faucet covers.
  • If you have pipes located along exterior walls or in unfinished or unheated spaces – such as a garage, attic, basement, or crawlspace – wrap the pipes with heating tape or cover them with insulation wraps or foam.
  • During severe cold spells, you may want to leave all faucets, both hot and cold, running at a slight trickle. Leave the cabinet doors open in the kitchen and bathroom so your pipes aren’t shut off from the warm air.
  • If you end up with a frozen pipe, quickly shut off your main water supply, and call a licensed plumber to address the situation.

What other steps do you take to winterize your home? Share your ideas in the comment box below. If you own a cabin or vacation home, remember these tips are equally as important for unoccupied dwellings.

Cheaper Isn’t Always Better

Want cheaper insurance? You are not alone.

This is the biggest reason why new people call our agency. They want a better rate. And when I say “they,” I mean everybody. Nobody wants to overpay for insurance or feel like they are being cheated by their insurance company.

People have a lot of different motivations for seeking a better rate: their current company keeps increasing the rates each year; they pay a lot more than their neighbor; they haven’t had a claim, yet their rates keep increasing. The list goes on.

On top of that, consumers are seeing ad after ad, every day, telling them that company XYZ could save them X amount of dollars on their premium. It is no wonder they are shopping for a lower rate.

But we forget one simple thing that is so important in the insurance buying process:

Cheaper insurance is NOT always better!
And what’s cheapest is not always best.

Now, I don’t want to diminish the role that price plays when you are buying insurance. I spent a lot of time shopping around for my own insurance. I wanted to find the best rate. And I do the same thing for my clients. I try to find them a competitive rate among the companies I represent.

But there are a couple things I don’t do: I don’t skimp on coverage, and I don’t use an insurance company that I don’t know or trust.

The number one consideration when shopping for insurance should be coverage!

There are a lot of questions that need to be answered when it comes to coverage. Do you have the right coverage? Do you know what coverage you need? Do you have enough liability coverage? Do you run a business from your home? Do you have any farm animals? Do you know the different coverages that companies offer and which ones you do or do not want?

A good agent will help you navigate your particular risks and make sure you have the right coverage for your situation. And believe me, every situation is a little bit different.

The number two consideration should be the insurance company you use.

You want to work with a company that is stable, has been around for a while, and has good financial ratings. You want a company with great claims service and superior all-around customer service.

If you decide to work with a substandard insurance company, and they are not willing or able to step up and pay when claim time comes, then that policy is not worth the paper it is printed on.

I also lump the insurance agent you choose into this consideration as well. A good agent/agency will have great customer service and they will recommend reputable companies to do business with.

The number three consideration is price.

If you don’t have the right coverage, or you are not working with a dependable insurance company, then it doesn’t matter how cheap your policy is, because at the end of the day your policy may not be doing its job of providing the service and financial protection you need if a claim occurs.

As I said earlier, cheaper insurance is not always better. The right insurance policy is one that combines all three considerations, or what I call the right value: great coverage with a great company at a competitive price.

If you want someone to help you find the right coverage and value, talk to us. It’s what we do every day.

What You Need to Know About Life Insurance

Life insurance can help your loved ones meet their expenses and maintain their standard of living in the event of your untimely death.

“Two-thirds of Americans recognize they need life insurance yet many do not have adequate coverage to protect their families.” ~ James Scanlon, LIMRA Market Research

Words to Know

Beneficiaries: the person(s) who receive the death benefit when you die. These are individuals you choose – they can be a spouse, children, parents, business partner, etc.

Premium: the cost of the policy. This can be paid monthly or yearly. The cost depends on a variety of factors, including your age, your health, the benefit amount, and the type and length of the policy.

Death benefit: the amount paid to your beneficiaries when you die. You choose the amount when you purchase the life insurance policy. The death benefit is generally income tax free.

How Much Life Insurance Do You Need?

How much life insurance you need depends on your personal and financial circumstances as well as what you’d like to accomplish with the death benefit should you pass away prematurely.

Many experts recommend aiming for 10 to 15 times your income. At a minimum, you should purchase at least enough coverage to pay your funeral expenses (an average cost of $7,000 to $10,000) and your debts. As your family grows and changes, you may need to reevaluate the amount of coverage you have.

Here are a few things to consider as you determine the amount of insurance to purchase.

  • How much money will your family need to cover the lack of your income? Are you close to retirement, or are you providing for a young family? The coverage you will need is tied to the amount of income you would need to replace in the event of a premature death.
  • What debts do you have that your family will need to pay? These may include a mortgage, automobile loans, student loans, and credit cards.
  • What specific expenses would you like to cover for your family in the future? General living expenses, college, weddings, etc.
  • Will your family need to replace your annual income, or will your spouse’s income be sufficient?
  • Choose a policy with premiums you can afford long term. You are better off purchasing a smaller policy with lower premiums you can fit into your budget. If you purchase a policy with premiums beyond your capacity to pay, you risk letting the policy lapse due to missed payments.

For further guidance in determining how much life insurance you need, download our life insurance planning checklist.

Types of Life Insurance

There are two main types of life insurance: term and permanent.

Term Life Insurance

A term life policy is the simplest and usually the most affordable type of life insurance.

A term policy offers protection only for a specified number of years. You choose the term (length of time you want the policy to last). Typical terms are 10, 15, 20, or 30 years. The policy expires at the end of the term and is no longer in effect.

If you pass away while the policy is active, your beneficiaries will be paid the death benefit that is specified by the policy.

Example: In 1998, John purchased a 30-year term life insurance policy for $500,000. He passed away 21 years later (in 2019). The policy was still active since it was within the 30-year time frame and John had not missed any monthly payments. His beneficiaries received a death benefit from the insurance company for $500,000.

If you pass away after the policy has expired, your beneficiaries will not receive a death benefit since the policy is no longer in effect.

Permanent Life Insurance

The two main functions of permanent life insurance are to:

  1. Pay your beneficiaries in the event of your death.
  2. Serve as an investment account that has a cash value you can access or borrow against while you are living. The longer you have the policy, the more cash value it will have.

This type of insurance provides lifelong protection until maturity, usually until the insured is age 95 or older. Permanent life insurance policies can include whole life, universal life, or variable universal life.

While permanent life insurance can be significantly more expensive than term, permanent insurance is a good choice if you want long-term coverage with a predictable premium and a way to accumulate cash funds for emergency needs or opportunities.

Younger families often purchase term insurance and convert to permanent insurance later. Premiums may be higher with the renewed or converted policy.

Talk with Your Insurance Agent

Purchasing a life insurance policy can be intimidating. Your insurance advisor can help make the process easier by offering advice, performing a needs analysis, and explaining coverage options and costs.

Contact us for further guidance on determining the amount and type of insurance that is right for you.