Insurance for your most valuable assest

Valentine’s day has came and went, but that caring feeling for a loved one remains. February has Valentine’s Day, but it is also Insure your Love month. Insure your Love month is brought to you by Lifehappens.org. The site is a website discussing the importance of life insurance. Life insurance needs change many times throughout your life. Getting married, having a baby, buying a house, all of these events change your need for life insurance. Life insurance helps protect what you have built and love. Give us a call at 412-344-2800 or hit the contact us link. We would love to discuss your life changes and see how life insurance can help your loved ones. Life insurance can also give a discount on your home and auto. Remember it is cheaper to buy life insurance when you are younger so it is never too early to start.

Interest that your are earning got you down

Today we have a guest blog from agent Armand Castelli. Looking to earn more interest than bank CD's?  Erie Single Premium Deferred Annuity have three options. SPDA III is a  3 year rate Guarantee is 2.60%.  SPDA V is a 5 year rate Guarantee of 2.90%.  SPDA VII is a 7 year rate of 3.20%.   All rates are taxed deferred. The annunities are issued by Erie Family Life Insurance Company, which is rated A (Excellent) by A.M. Best.  For as little as $50 a month, Erie's Flexible Premium Deferred Annuity is currently earning 2.90% taxed deferred for long term savings.  Call us for a quote at 412-344-2800.

Black Ice

Winter driving lately has been a struggle for most people.  Traffic has been backed up and slowed down as winter weather has worked its way through our region.  One of the main causes of delays and accidents is black ice.  According to Wikipedia, “black ice is a thin coating of glaze ice on a surface”, “the ice itself is not black, but visually transparent, allowing the often black road below to be seen though it”.  Black ice is the same as regular ice; it is just easier to see through due to not having bubbles in it.  When driving on black ice there are a few tips to help keep you safe.  First remain calm.  According to Wikihow, do not brake when on black ice, do as little as possible and let the car pass over the ice.  De-accelerate by lifting your foot off the accelerator completely and keep the steering wheel in a fixed position.  Also according to Wikihow, if you are on black ice look for areas of traction, snow-covered spots or spots with sand could give you increased traction.  If you do lose traction and skid remember to steer the wheel in the direction you want to go, and if you end up losing control try to steer into things that will cause minimal damage.  There are ways that you can minimize your encounters with black ice.  Wikihow says you should travel slowly and remain a safe distance behind the car in front of you.  Keep your windshield clear of ice, snow, and dirt and free of obstructions.   Also remember to never use cruise control during icy conditions.  Stay safe this winter.

Winter Storm Harper

First off we want to ask everyone to be safe this weekend as a large snow storm is set to head our way.  Large winter storms can cause stress and anxiety for many people.  As the storm approaches be prepared for the storm.  On this blog and our social media sites we have talked about ways to winterize your car and home.  Last week we touched on snow shoveling.  Don’t forget about your four legged family members during a winter storm.  Remember to keep your pets’ outdoor time to a minimum during the storm.  Also if you have small or short haired animals consider a coat or booties according to aspca.org.  They ask you to remember that if it’s cold for you, it is cold for your pets too.  When your pets come in from outdoors wipe off wets paws and bellies with a moist wash cloth, salt and snow between the toes can be painful to your pet. (aspca.org)   Keep an eye on your pets’ water as well as most winter storm deaths for pets are a result of dehydration. (redcross.org) Your pet however isn’t the only one at risk of dehydration, avoid caffeine and alcohol if you are going to be out in the storm as both can increase the effect that cold has on you.  Don’t forget that other animals are outside as well and may be seeking shelter under your car if you park outside.  Looking under your car or banging loudly on the car can scare out and animals that might be hiding underneath your car.  Depending on your area, this weekend could bring up to 8 inches.  Stay safe and keep your pets safe and enjoy the weekend. 

Snow is here!

Snow is on the way.  Snow can be a big hazard on the roads but it is also a hazard at home.  One area of danger that many people over look is snow shoveling.  Before you head out make sure that you layer up to stay warm and remove clothing as you go to stay comfortable and not overheat.  Warming up is one thing that most people over look.  Going out into the cold can put the muscle in an environment for a pull or tear.  A few minutes of walking in place or bending side to side can help prepare for snow removal.  Another aspect of snow shoveling that many people over look is your shovel.  There are many ergonomically designed shovels available today.  Choosing one of these shovels can reduce the stress you place on your body.   A plastic shovel instead of a metal shovel can also reduce some of the weight and make shoveling easier.  Once you start the shoveling process remember to push the snow instead of trying to lifting it.  If you have to lift it, bend your knees and use your legs as much as possible.  Also avoid twisting as much as possible.  When the snow falls it can be beneficial to shovel as the snow falls so that the weight doesn’t pile up on you.  Take frequent breaks and walk around so that you can extend your back and keep it from cramping up.  Shoveling can also make you sweat, so remember to stay hydrated.  Be safe and take your time, our snow season can be a long one.

So far so good this Winter

We have been lucky so far this winter and had a small amount of snow.  At some point snow will be here. How can you prepare for the snow so that you are safe around your house and in your car?  One way to prepare your car is to have an emergency kit in your car.  Emergency kits are easy to prepare and can make a big difference.  Some simple items to include are a flashlight, phone car charger, pen and notepad, jumper cables, hats, gloves, and a blanket.  If you want a little bigger and safer kit, including items such as tools, a foldable shovel, first aid kit, fix a flat,portable air compressor, and safety absorbent would be your next step.  If you do not have safety absorbent, kitty litter can also help you get traction on ice.  Your walks and driveways are another area of possible danger during winter months.  One way to remove snow and ice is manually with a shovel.  Just make sure you use proper shoveling technique and safety procedures.  Salt can be used and is a popular method of de-icing.  The issue with salting is that it can cause damage to car, fabrics, carpet, plants, grass, and even pets paws.  You can look for de-icers that are safe for pets and easier on your driveway.  Organic salt free de-icers are available but more expensive than regular salt.  Urea is an alternative safe for pets but dangerous for grass and plants.  Alfalfa meal could be the answer to your de-icing needs.  It is natural, can de-ice, and is grainy so it can help with traction.  Another possibility is sugar beet juice.  Sugar Beet Juice is used by some municipalities.  Sugar beet juice also has a freezing point of negative 20 degrees Celsius.  Finally in a pinch coffee grinds can be effective.  We will continue to look at ways to make winter a little easier on your through the upcoming weeks.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care.....

In The Night Before Christmas, the stockings are hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St Nicholas soon will be there.  In real life the stockings may be hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that a fire does not come out of nowhere.  According to the NFPA, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day are the top three days for candle fires.  Over half of home decoration fires are started by candles.  NFPA suggest keeping candles at a minimum of 12 inches away from anything that burns.  Candles are not the only fire hazard in town for the holidays.  Christmas trees can cause major damage if they catch fire.  NFPA reports that a heat source too close to a Christmas tree causes 1 in every 4 fires, and on average 1 of every 45 Christmas tree fires results in death.  Keeping your tree at least 3 feet from heat sources and keep light strands to the suggested connected amount is a good place to start with tree fire safety, according to NFPA.  Remember it takes less than 30 seconds for a dry tree to engulf a room in flames according to the National Institute for Standards and Technology.  Keep your tree well-watered, the USFA reports that a well-watered tree is almost impossible to ignite.  Dispose of trees within four weeks of purchase.  Even the best watered tree will dry out after four weeks.  Christmas decorations and candles are not the only hazards around the house.  Heating equipment like space heaters can lead to fires.  Remember to keep anything flammable at least three feet away.  Other winter tips are to check your carbon monoxide detector and be sure to get your chimney cleaned by a professional.  Check out our Facebook and other social media sites for more fire safety tips.

Is jewelry in the plans for this holiday season?

We are in the middle of the holiday and gift giving season.  Typically when giving and receiving gifts, insurance is one of the last things on your mind.  Receiving gifts can potentially impact your insurance needs.  Remember it will cost you an estimated $39,094.93 to buy the Twelve Days of Christmas this year according to www.forbes.com.  The Holiday Season can be a time of year where more expensive gifts are given.  Rings, watches, necklaces, and other jewelry, not to mention other valuable items are given.  Valuable items like this typically need special attention paid to them.  Adding an inland marine policy or inland marine endorsement to your homeowners’ policy is a great way to protect your new gifts.  Homeowners and renters policies without an inland marine component typically offer some coverage for valuable gifts. Your renters or homeowners policy most likely carries a per piece limit for valuable items, that limit can easily be exceeded and leave you with not enough coverage to replace them.  Personal inland marine coverage also typically includes increased covered perils as well.  Your homeowner’s policy will not usually cover things like breakage and some other perils covered by the inland marine part.  A different deductible can also be applied to an inland marine so you can pay less of a deductible on valuable, sentimental items in the event of a claim.  Not sure if an inland marine is right for you and your new gift, give us a call and let us help you understand what you need.  You can reach us via this website, via our social sites, or at 412-344-2800.  Also check out our social media sites for tips on how to stay safe when shopping in the mall or online this year.  Click the buttons on this page to check us out.

Turkey safety tips

Last week we looked at prepping your home for Thanksgiving.  This week we will look at the food preparation part of Thanksgiving.  The first thing to think about is the Turkey.  Will you be buying a fresh turkey or a frozen turkey?  Suggestions for a fresh turkey are to purchase it within 48 hours of Thanksgiving.  Remember that the turkey should be stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  If you purchase a frozen turkey make sure you follow safe thawing procedures.  There are a couple of ways to thaw your Turkey.  You can thaw it in a sink of cold water or use a microwave.  Do not leave your turkey out on the counter to thaw.  A turkey thawing for more than two hours can rapidly reach an unsafe temperature. Also be sure to clean any surface your raw turkey touches to prevent the spread of bacteria.  Many experts now also advocate against rinsing your turkey,  rinsing your turkey can spread bacteria and even aerosolize it.  If you are stuffing your turkey, be sure to do it right before cooking.  Your stuffing temperature should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit that same as your turkey.   After dinner make sure to store leftovers promptly. 

November brings Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day is one of the most dangerous days for house fires during the year.  Many people are cooking large meals, using deep fryers, and generally just distracted by trying to get everything done.  This month in our blog we will look at Thanksgiving Day safety.  The first thing you can do before even thinking of Thanksgiving Day is make sure all of your fire extinguishers are in working order, or if you do not have any buying one or two. Have baking soda nearby as well in case of a grease fire.  Next if you haven’t checked/changed your smoke detector batteries make sure you do so now.  If you are having friends and family to your house check all walk ways and make sure they are clear and secure.  According to www.popularmechanics.com you should fix loose treads on exterior steps, and check for loose deck boards or loose pavers on walkways.  You can also look to tighten screws on hand rails and tack down rugs using two sided tape.  Also have de-icer or salt on hand to make driveways and walk ways less slippery.  Do a quick review of entry way and walk way lighting, make sure any dim or burned out lights are replaced.  You can also walk through the house and do some quick child proofing.  Moving heavy objects away from edges and covering electrical outlets are a good way to keep little ones safe.  Finally check and replenish your first aid kit.  A good first aid kit can help greatly during an emergency or with a small cut.  Hopefully this will help you prepare your home for the big day.  You can stay tuned to this blog for more help Thanksgiving Day hints.  You can also check out our social media accounts for more hints and tips.  We are on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram. 

Winter is coming

Winterizing your home the final steps

 

This Saturday we turn back the clocks.  What does that have to do with winterizing your home?  It is a good reminder to replace your smoke alarm batteries and the batteries in any other safety or monitoring devices.  Remember that in the winter your home is mostly sealed up, this could be a good time to get that carbon monoxide detector you have been putting off.  Fall is also a good time to get a radon test.  It is also a good time to disconnect and drain any garden hoses or hoses that are attached to the house.  You can also add a faucet protector to keep cold air out of your pipes.  Speaking of pipes, you could look to wrap pipes in unheated locations.  According to www.wikihow.com, you need to protect pipes that are in unheated locations such as crawl spaces or garages.  Wikihow suggest using heating tape, whatever you use make sure it is safe to use on your pipes.   Finally according to www.safewise.com, adjusting your water heater could be a good winterizing idea.  Most water heaters have a factor setting of 140, if you turn down you water heater to 120 degrees you could save up to $60 dollars a year.  You water heater will not have to work as hard to keep warm in the winter.

 

Winterizing your life doesn’t just have to be about your home.  It can also be about you.  Feel free to call us for a review of your current insurance.  Let us help you make sure you have the right coverage, at the right price.  Have you had any changes of lifestyle recently, let us know so that we can serve you better.

Clogged gutters can cause big problems

Think that cleaning the gutters isn’t that important? Think again, clogged gutters can cause a variety of problems. Check out the below article from Erie Insurance that discusses some of the damage caused.

https://www.erieinsurance.com/blog/clean-gutters?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=ErieSocial#__prclt=B66o1LN7

Have you cleaned your gutters?

You serviced and prepared your furnace for winter.  The windows and doors have been sealed and are fitting tight.  What else can you do to make your winter more safe, comfortable and affordable?  Two simple outside items that do not cost a lot are the cleaning of your gutters and closing up of your air conditioner.  When you are closing up your air conditioner there are a few things to consider.  According to www.thespruce.com, there are two main things to do.  One is to clean the condensing unit.  An easy way to clean this is to use a pressure washer to clean the blades and coils of debris and dirt.  After cleaning the condensing unit, be sure to cover it.  Winter weather and things like dead leaves can damage the unit.  Letting the unit rust or freeze can have a negative impact.  Cover the unit with a waterproof breathable cover and tie it tight.

 

Cleaning the gutters can also be cost effective.  Leaving dead leaves and debris in your gutters can lead to a variety of problems.  Debris and leaves can block water from flowing freely in your gutters or cause a clog.  Clogs can cause water to pool.  This can lead to seepage into cracks which when expanded and contracted due to freezing and thawing can cause major damage.  How do you get your gutters clean?  According to www.servicemasterclean.org, you need gloves, a gutter scoop, a leaf blower and possible a pressure washer.    You can blow or pressure wash the leaves down the gutter spout.  You can then use the gutter scoop to lift out the excess.

 

Doing these two cost effective cleaning methods can save you money and aggravation in the long run.

The furnace is good, now what?

Your furnace is winterized and ready to go, but how can you help your furnace not run as much.  One thing you can do is run your ceiling fans in reverse.  Running ceiling fans in reverse causes the hotter air that is at the top of the room to be sent down towards the bottom of the room or house.  According to Popular Mechanics, this could cut your heating cost up to ten percent. 

 

Drafts from windows and doors can cause your furnace to work overtime as well.  One simple way to block drafts is to roll up a towel or fabric and place it around door jams that are leaking heat.  A more costly solution is installing storm doors and windows.  Popular mechanics states that a door snake could save you between 5 and 30 percent on your heating, storm doors and windows can be up to 45%.  This could be worth the extra money in the long run.  Weather stripping could be a good middle ground between the two or extra reinforcements.  In the same idea category, re-caulking around your windows can help as well.  Both of these options are cost effected and usually easy to DIY.  Worried about the look of your winterizing?  Try heavier curtains.  Heavier curtains can look stylish and help cut the draft sneaking through windows. 

 

Keeping checking our blog this month as we continue to look at ways to winterize your home to keep you safe and save you money. 

 

Sources:

 

https://www.popularmechanics.com/home/interior-projects/how-to/g52/winterize-home-tips-energy-461008/

 

https://www.hgtv.com/design-blog/design/12-ways-to-prep-your-home-for-cooler-days