10 Tips for Buying a Home Security System

We don’t want to alarm you (couldn’t help ourselves), but, according to the FBI, more than 2 million homes are burglarized in the United States every year. This means that someone is breaking into a home somewhere across the country about every 13 seconds. To avoid being the victim of a burglary, getting a home security system is your best option.

Many consumers, though, don’t know exactly what to look for in a home security system. Are there specific features I need to add? What questions should I ask potential vendors? Where and how should it be installed? With these questions in mind, here is a list of 10 things you should know before you buy a home security system. You’ll learn not only the basics, but also what to look for in a system to protect your valuables and your family.

Also, keep in mind that a home security system will also provide premium savings to your homeowners insurance policy. If you would like to find out more, please contact our office.


 

1. Home security systems are affordable.  Even if you are on a limited budget, you can have a home security system. You might want to consider a traditional burglar alarm system; this will give you sensors on your doors and windows, and alert you to any intruders. While not as advanced as a home security system, it will provide adequate protection for your valuables and your family.

If your budget allows, you can opt for a system that is larger, is more advanced and has extra features. This can include fire alarms, carbon monoxide alerts and intruder alerts, and can provide you with immediate access to emergency personnel. A more advanced system can also include the use of asset protection devices.

2. The installation process varies. The installation process of your home security system depends on what type you purchase. A traditional wired system will need to be installed by a professional, and often requires some drilling (and holes in your walls) to connect the sensors to the main alarm system.

On the other hand, a wireless system is much easier to install, as no drilling is required. In most cases, wireless systems are powered by battery, although some are powered by solar panels.

Installation will also depend on the company you purchase it through; special equipment may be needed to connect you directly to the security company or emergency personnel. Ask what is required for the installation so that you are prepared for the process (and the potential mess).

3. Security systems operate even during power outages.  Many homeowners are concerned about how the home security system is powered. Suppose you are on vacation and get word that there was a storm in your neighborhood that knocked out the electricity. Is your home security system still on? Is your home protected? Should you return home?

Don’t be alarmed: No matter what type of system you have, it will continue to operate even when there is no power at your home. A traditional system that is powered by electricity is typically low voltage, which means it doesn’t actually take a lot of power to run the system. And these types of systems contain a large battery that will back up the system when the main power is out.

Another option is a solar-powered security system. You can set this up to be only one component, such as an outdoor security camera, or your entire system can be run on solar power. A solar-powered system is more costly, but if you are looking for a “green” solution that will provide security even when there is no electricity, this is the best option.

4. Burglar alarms are not home security systems. There are major differences between a burglar alarm and a home security system; the latter provides additional benefits to help protect you and your family, and it may be the better investment. Before signing up with a company, it is important that you know what you are getting, what is protected and how the system works.
A burglar alarm is the traditional type of alarm system that has sensors on doors and windows. It will alert you or law enforcement (depending on your settings) that an intruder has entered into your home. This is extremely beneficial — but a home security system can also warn you about environmental dangers, such as fire, carbon monoxide and even flooding.

5. Size does matter. Although some security companies may tell you there is only one kind of security system for everyone, this is not true. In fact, several types and sizes are available, each of which can be customized to fit your needs. Sure, doing so will cost more; but it also will provide you with a higher level of security, as it will be designed specifically to fit your home and your way of life.

A small system might be fine for an apartment or small home. If you have a larger home, you’ll need a system that can handle a larger amount of information and monitoring. A large home requires a system that covers all the doors and windows, as well as the grounds.

6. Many systems offer personal security. Suppose you slipped while walking down the stairs and couldn’t get to a phone. How long would it take before someone came looking for you? Many home security systems are equipped with technology that can be beneficial in a medical emergency.

In most instances, you can get a pendant or bracelet that allows you to push a button to immediately be put in contact with emergency personnel. When you purchase this type of service, help will be available to you 24 hours a day. This option is great for the elderly, as well as those who live alone or don’t have neighbors close by.

7. Choose your provider carefully. Now that you have determined the importance of a home security system, and know what services are available, you will need to choose a service provider. First, consider how long the company has been in business. We recommend you choose a company that has at least 10 years of service, but that has updated, modern equipment. This track record will give you not only customer feedback, but also peace of mind.

Second, consider the distance between you and the monitoring location. We recommend that you be no more than 250 miles away. The farther away you are from a monitoring location, the longer it can take for the alarm to relay, which could delay the amount of time it takes for someone to get to your home.

8. Additional services may not be worth it. As you begin calling home security companies, you will be offered additional devices and services that can be added to increase your security. However, not all of the devices are worth the price you will have to pay.

For instance, if you have no valuable paintings or jewelry, or other items that you want specifically protected, then you would not want to pay for asset protection devices. On the other hand, if you do have high-priced items in your home, then asset protection devices are definitely worth investing in.

Other high-tech devices you might find worth the cost are personal alarm systems, which provide you with immediate access to emergency personnel, as well as security cameras that can be linked to your smartphone. This allows you to monitor your home even while you are away; it is the way of the future.

9. Asset protection devices protect valuables. You can install devices that will alert you if your valuables have been tampered with. Asset protection devices let you know when, for example, a jewelry box has been opened, a painting has been moved or a safe has been tampered with, even if there is no physical evidence.

Asset protection devices are not only beneficial when it comes to theft, but also they give you peace of mind. For example, if a repair person or house cleaner comes into your home while you are away, you will know whether they disturbed your valuable items. When thinking about asset protection devices, consider how many you will need.

10. There are other less-obvious benefits. Aside from the security of knowing that your personal possessions are protected, there are other benefits to having a home security system that just might help you make the decision to purchase one.

For instance, many homeowners insurance policies offer a reduction on premiums for those who have a home security system installed. In addition, more advanced home security systems can provide you with an alert if one of your appliances is not working properly and could cause damage to your home. Furthermore, home security systems give guests, babysitters and nannies peace of mind, knowing that they are safe and secure in your home.

Insuring Teen Drivers

Did you know that vehicular fatalities are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. And though fatality rates for teens have steadily dropped since 1975, teens remain 3 times more likely to crash per mile driven than adults.

Thankfully, you can play a big part in keeping your teen safe. To help you navigate through this important milestone in your child’s life, here are 9 tips covering everything from safety to saving money on car insurance for teenage drivers.

If you have any questions on insuring your own teen driver, please feel free to give our office a call.


 

1. Invest in a safe-driving courseThe more practice young drivers have behind the wheel, the better. Since inexperience results in many teen motor vehicle accidents, approved safe-driving courses can help teens gain experience and helpful skills. Check with your state’s department of motor vehicles to get an approved list.

Safe-driving courses can be taken online or in person and usually last anywhere from 6 to 12 hours. Most courses are affordable, but it never hurts to shop around. And while you’re looking for ways to save, don’t forget to ask your insurer about a car insurance discount for taking an approved safe-driving course.

2. Get the safest car for your teen driver.  When it comes to choosing the right car for your teen, safety and reliability are key. Choose the safest car you can afford. Whether you buy a brand-new car or a used model, look for advanced safety features like front and side air bags, antilock brakes, head restraints, and electronic stability control. If a crash occurs, these safety features can be lifesavers.

Before you settle on a vehicle, make sure you check the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Top Safety Picks for the crash test rating of the car you have in mind.

3. Implement your own graduated licensing program.  Even if your state has an excellent graduated drivers licensing program, consider implementing your own set of rules until you’re comfortable with your offspring’s driving skills.

  • Restrict nighttime driving: The IIHS reports that most fatal crashes for young drivers occur between 9 p.m. and midnight, so it’s a good idea to take away the keys after 9 p.m.
  • Limit the number of passengers: It may be fun for your teen driver to play chauffeur to his or her friends, but studies have shown that the presence of passengers actually increases accident risk. Teen drivers are more likely to be distracted when they have friends in the car, and the presence of peers also leads to riskier driving practices.
  • Supervise driving: Even though your child may be a bona fide licensed driver, he or she still lacks the necessary experience to handle difficult driving situations.

4. Have a heart to heart.  Driving is a privilege — make sure that your young driver knows it. Before you hand over the keys, clearly spell out your expectations for good driving behavior.

A parent-teen contract detailing your policies regarding passengers, alcohol use, texting while driving, speeding, etc. — and the consequences should your child fail to live up to his or her responsibility — will make sure that you and your teen are on the same page.

5. Practice what you preach.  Set a good example for your young driver. Drive safely, buckle up, and avoid distractions (like texting, talking on the phone, or eating) behind the wheel.

6. Discuss driving costs. If your child has to pay for some car-related expenses (gas, a portion of the monthly insurance premiums, oil changes, etc.), chances are he or she will take driving more seriously and be safer on the road. So make sure your child knows who will pay for what and, when possible, have your teen help out with the cost of car ownership — even if it’s just buying gas every once in a while.

7. Set a zero-tolerance drinking policy.  The statistics for underage drinking are sobering. According to the Center for Disease Control, youth aged 12 to 20 consume 11% of all alcohol in the U.S. So though you might like to avoid the subject, turning a blind eye to teen alcohol use won’t make the problem disappear.

8. Keep a squeaky-clean driving record.  Since every vehicular infraction tarnishes your record and raises your insurance premiums, practice safe driving to keep your record clean. If you’ve added your child to your policy, make sure he or she also follows safe-driving practices. Since speeding is the most common driving violation in the teenage population, make sure your child follows speed limits at all times. (Investing in a vehicle tracking device could be a good option if you’d like to monitor your child’s speed.)

9. Encourage good grades. Aside from helping your young family member advance through life, good grades can also help you and your young driver save on car insurance. If your child is a full-time high school or college student and maintains a high GPA, he or she could be eligible for a Good Student discount.

7 Excluded Homeowners Claims

Our hope is that you never have to experience any disaster to your home that requires submitting an insurance claim to our office.

What worries us even more, though, is submitting an insurance claim assuming there is coverage only to find out the claim is actually excluded on your policy.

With that in mind we have put together a list of the top 7 most-frequently-excluded claims on homeowners insurance policies. While we are always working to provide you with the insurance coverage you need, subtle changes we are unaware of (like a trampoline purchase for instance) may have a dramatic effect on the coverage your insurance company is willing to offer.

We hope that by sharing this list we can help uncover some potential gaps in your policy and provide you with some insight on how to properly cover them.

If you have any questions at all specific to your policy, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.


Mold and Water Dam

A spike in mold-related claims at the turn of the century led most insurers to strike the coverage entirely from their homeowners policies.

Since 2000, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of mold-related claims submitted to insurance companies. The peak came around 2002 when Ed McMahon filed a $20 million lawsuit against his insurance company for mold-related damages. After that, many insurance companies stopped providing coverage completely or limited their coverage to a very small amount.

Sewer Backup

The only thing worse than having a bathroom or basement overflowing with sewage is the fact that you may have pay the entire bill yourself.

Sewage backups are a standard exclusion on many homeowners insurance policies. Without purchasing the additional rider (which is usually less than $100), there is a very good chance you will have to pay for the cleanup yourself.

We will often see the homeowners try to get their cities to pay for the damages, but without being able to prove negligence it is a very difficult thing to do.

Natural Disasters

Depending on where you live, your insurance policy may exclude coverage for certain natural disasters, including wildfires, earthquakes, and flood.

If you live in an area likely to be involved in a natural disaster, then your insurance company may be reluctant to provide coverage for the incident. For example, almost every homeowners insurance policy excludes any coverage for earthquakes, floods or landslides. That coverage must be purchased through a specialty insurance company.

Also, if your home is located in a very remote area far away from any fire station or you live in coastal area, then your insurance policy may not provide damage from fire or wind.

Neglect

Home damage that happens over a long period of time like a slow water leak or a termite infestation may leave you with the bill.

Homeowners insurance policies are written to cover “sudden and unexpected losses” that happen to your home. Insurance companies expect you to care for your home and deal with any maintenance issues that come up. This means problems like a slow water leaks or infestations are usually excluded on your insurance policy because they develop over a long period of time and should have been detected by the homeowner.

Bruce Johnson, author of “50 Simple Ways to Save Your House ,” recommends conducting regular home inspections to detect any potential problems. Tour the exterior of your home to look for cracks, decay or water damage. Check the condition of the roof and inspect the basement or crawl space for other hidden problems, including rodent droppings, termites or leaks.

Trampolines

Some hazards like a swimming pool or swing set may cause an increase in your premiums while other hazards like trampolines may outright excluded on your policy.

According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, there are approximately 98,000 trampoline-related injuries every year with fractures and dislocations accounting for 48% of those injuries.

With that in mind many insurance companies are now excluding any injury related to trampolines. In fact, some insurance companies will actually cancel your insurance policy if they find out your have purchased one.

So if you have purchased a trampoline be sure to speak with our office to find out how it will affect your liability coverage and insurance policy.

Dogs

Dog bites now account for over one-third of all homeowners insurance claims with average damages totaling over $10,000.

With total damages now exceeding $310 million a year, it is easy to see why insurance companies are very leery to insurance residences with dogs. Whether or not your insurance company will surcharge for owning a dog or provide coverage at all depends upon the breed of dog you own.

Troublesome breeds like pit bulls, German shepards, Rottweilers, and huskies may make finding an insurance policy that will provide liability coverage very difficult. Providing proof of dog training and a proper fenced-in enclosure with help prove to insurance companies you are taking the necessary steps to protect yourself and others, and they may be willing to discount your premiums for doing so.

Intentional Damage

If your rebellious teenager or estranged spouse intentionally damages your home, there is a good chance you will be paying for the damages yourself.

Intentional damages caused by an insured person – you, your spouse, dependants or any relatives living in the home – aren’t typically covered by your homeowners insurance policy. Estranged spouses are a very gray area for insurance companies: while they may not live at the residence, they may still be listed on the deed or have an insurable interest in the home, which will give insurance companies a right to deny any claim from their destruction.

* Disclaimer
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.

Social Host Liability

Now is the time of year for social gatherings, whether it’s a family holiday party or New Year’s Eve bash, if you are planning to serve alcohol at any type of party it is important to take steps to limit your liquor liability and make sure you have the proper insurance.

Social host liability, the legal term for the criminal and civil responsibility of a person who furnishes liquor to a guest, can have a serious impact on party throwers. Most of these laws also offer an injured person, such as the victim of a drunk driver, a method to sue the person who served the alcohol. There are circumstances under these laws where criminal charges may also apply.

While a social host is not liable for injuries sustained by a drunken guest (as they are also negligent), the host can be held liable for third parties, and may even be liable for passengers of the guest who have been injured in their car.

Before planning a party in your home, it is important to your homeowners coverage and any exclusions, conditions or limitations your policy might have for this kind of risk. Homeowners insurance usually provides some liquor liability coverage, but it is typically limited to $100,000 to $300,000, depending on the policy, which might not be enough.

Most importantly, whether you are hanging out with a small group of friends for cocktails or throwing a big family bash, remember that a good host is a responsible host, and takes steps to ensure guests get home safely if they have been drinking.

If you have any questions on how your homeowners policy will respond, please feel free to give our office a call. 

How to Protect Yourself and Your Guests

  • Consider venues other than your home for the party. Hosting your party at a restaurant or bar with a liquor license, rather than at your home, will help minimize liquor liability risks. 
  • Encourage guests to pick a designated driver who will refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages so that he or she can drive other guests home.
  • Be a responsible host/hostess. Limit your own alcohol intake so that you will be better able to judge your guests’ sobriety.
  • Offer non-alcoholic beverages and always serve food. Eating and drinking plenty of water, or other non-alcoholic beverages, can help counter the effects of alcohol.
  • Do not pressure guests to drink or rush to refill their glasses when empty. And never serve alcohol to guests who are visibly intoxicated.
  • Stop serving liquor toward the end of the evening. Switch to coffee, tea and soft drinks.
  • If guests drink too much or seem too tired to drive home, call a cab, arrange a ride with a sober guest or have them sleep at your home.
  • Encourage all your guests to wear seatbelts as they drive home. Studies show that seatbelts save lives.

 

Fun Halloween Facts and Safety Tips

Did you know that over $2 billion will be spent on Halloween candy this year? Or how about $330 million on just pet costumes?

We know that Halloween is one of children’s favorite holidays. The chance to dress up in a costume and fill bags with candy is a sure way to excite any youngster. (Plus, the fact that the average trick-or-treater consumes the equivalent of 220 packets of sugar on this holiday doesn’t hurt either.)

For parents, though, the night can be a little stressful as you worry about your kids’ safety. With that in mind, we have compiled an infographic with 31 interesting statistics and facts associated with Halloween along with a brief list of safety tips. We encourage you to take a look at it just in case there is a tip or two that will help you avoid any potential accidents or danger.

Safety Tips

Trick-or-treating
Make sure your children take flashlights so they can avoid tripping over obstacles on the sidewalk or in yards. Flashlights and glow sticks will also help your children be seen by motorists.

If you allow your older kids to go out without your supervision, make sure they go out in a group. Don’t ever allow your kids to go out alone or even in pairs; make sure they go out with at least 3-4 other kids.
Map out their route so you know where they will be and when they should be home.

Tell your kids to only stop at familiar homes where you know the residents and where the outside lights are on.
Instruct your kids to WALK from house to house and NEVER run.
Make sure your kids know to never enter anyone’s home, to never accept rides from strangers, and to never take shortcuts through yards or other dimly lit areas

Costumes

Costumes should be light enough to be clearly visible to motorists. You may even want to add reflective tape to both your child’s costume and bag.

Make sure your child’s costume is labeled flame-resistant.
Costumes should be short to prevent trips and falls.

Try cosmetic face paint rather than a mask. Masks, especially on children, may not fit properly and can obstruct vision.

Be sure to remove all face paint that night to prevent skin irritation.

Candy
Don’t allow your child to eat any candy before you have a chance to inspect it for choking hazards or tampering.

Only permit your child to eat candy that is unopened in its original wrapper. Any homemade or unwrapped candy should be discarded.

A good way to prevent your kids from eating any candy before they get home is to make sure you give them a meal or snack right before they go out.

Above all else, limit the amount of candy your child eats after they get home or you will be dealing with one big stomachache.

Adults
Use additional caution when driving a vehicle. Lookout for children who might run into traffic from behind parked cars or other obstacles.
Turn on your porch and any other exterior lights to welcome trick-or-treaters to your home.

Remove any obstacles from your lawns, steps or porches that could be a tripping hazard for children or adults.
Keep all jack-o’-lanterns from doorsteps or steps where a child could brush by the flame with their costume.
If you keep your jack-o’-lantern inside, place it on a sturdy table away from curtains or other ignitable decorations and out of reach from children and pets.

Preventing Water Damage Claims

Did you know that water damage is the number one cause of homeowners insurance claims?  In fact, 98% of all basements will experience some sort of water damage and approximately 37% of all homeowners will report a financial loss from water damage.
 
Even just a small leak can present major problems.  For example, just a 1/8 inch pipe crack can quickly add up to 250 gallons of water per day!  
 
Even though most homeowners insurance policies cover basic water damage claims up to the purchased limit, implementing some simple prevention techniques is much easier than submitting a claim.
 
Below we have included an infographic with additional information on water leaks along with some prevention tips. 
 
If you have any questions on how your policy will respond to water damage, please feel free to give our office a call.

Be Careful Where you Plant. Some plants and trees, like weeping willows, have pretty invasive roots. If you’re not careful, they’ll grow right into your sprinkler system, drainage field, pipes, foundation, and septic tanks. Plan before you plant to keep roots away from any water lines and well away from your home’s foundation.

Clean Out Your Gutters.  If you’re seeing lots of leaves, birds’ nests, sticks, and whatnot up there, your gutters may not be doing their job. And on a rainy day, a clogged gutter can send water spilling into your home’s foundation, through the roof, or down into your basement. That could cause some serious water damage! So next time you’re doing some seasonal cleaning, make sure those gutters are clean. And if your gutters are too high, be safe and get a professional to check them.

Keep an Eye on Your Water Bill. With so many water pipes hidden behind walls and in the floors in your house, you might not know there’s a leak until the damage is done. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on your monthly water bill. If you see it starting to creep up, or get one that’s uncommonly high, it’s a pretty good sign that you may have a leak somewhere.

Use a Drain Snake Instead of Unclogging Chemicals.  Chances are at some point in your life you’ve used one of those powerful chemical drain cleaners to get things moving again. But as convenient as they may be, most folks don’t realize those caustic chemicals are also eating away at their pipes. If you rely on them a lot, you could be setting yourself up for leaks. That’s why owning a drain snake is a good solution to clear away clogs. They’re pretty inexpensive, you can get them at your local hardware store, and they can cut through most any clog you’ll have without damaging pipes.  Drain snakes also have less impact on our environment and won’t leave your eyes red and teary. 

Never Pour Grease Down Your Sink.  It doesn’t matter if you flush it with hot or cold water. It can still congeal and cling to your pipes, and could still cause some serious damage and blockage.  The safest thing to do is just to pour your grease in an empty can, and either let it sit or put it in the refrigerator. Once it hardens you can toss it in the trash and get rid of it. Done and done.

Water Damage Infographic

Cell Phone Insurance

Winter Driving Tips

The winter will always bring with it precarious driving conditions. Whether it’s icy roads, heavy snowfall, low visibility, or any other combination of harsh weather, knowing how to control your car is key to staying safe as you journey through the snow. In fact, winter driving conditions account for more than 40% of all auto accidents and more than 113,000 injuries each year.

In addition to being more cautious while driving in adverse weather, motorists should know the safety rules for dealing with winter road emergencies.  Since road conditions can also change quickly in winter, drivers need to be aware of situations and surroundings, and be prepared to react more quickly than in other driving scenarios. Extreme temperatures may also impact vehicle function.

Below you will find some additional information on navigating your vehicle in winter weather.  And, if you do happen to experience an accident, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our office.

Winter Driving

  • Avoid driving while you’re fatigued. Getting the proper amount of rest before taking on winter weather tasks reduces driving risks.
  • Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  • Make certain your tires are properly inflated.
  • Never mix radial tires with other tire types.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
  • If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
  • Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).

Tips for long-distance winter trips:

  • Watch weather reports prior to a long-distance drive or before driving in isolated areas. Delay trips when especially bad weather is expected. If you must leave, let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.
  • Keep blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and any needed medication in your vehicle.
  • If you become snow-bound, stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Don’t try to walk in a severe storm. It’s easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.
  • Don’t over exert yourself if you try to push or dig your vehicle out of the snow.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.
  • Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps.
  • If possible run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve gasoline.

Tips for driving in the snow:

  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
  • Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning – nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement.
  • The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill as slowly as possible.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
  • Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.

5 Winter Tips for Your Home

So another glorious summer is over, and what do we have to look forward to now? Just imagine it: 10-degree temperatures, icy slush to drive on and cold drafty breezes inside our homes. If that excites you, you’re living in the right area and you’re in the right month. If the whole idea sends a chill down your spine, you’re in good company.

While most of us can’t do anything about the icy slush or the outside temps, we do have a good deal of control over how warm our homes can feel. The following list of tips provides some ideas on getting your home winter ready. Surprisingly, a few dollars spent up front not only saves money all winter, but makes us warmer as well. It’s kind of like having your warmth and your wallet, too.

Roofs
Most of us would prefer to ignore our roof and just hope it keeps taking care of us. Shingles can look OK from the ground but can be cracked, curled and wind damaged when you get a closer look. And when there is a problem, you can’t fix it in the winter. That foot of snow that will be on your roof in January? Well, that will pretty much prevent any attempts at stopping the mold momentum that will be growing with each passing January hour.

If you can safely inspect your roof yourself, please feel free. If not, hire a home inspector or roofer that you trust. This is one of those items that meet the $10/$10,000 rule: a few dollars spent now can save you a bundle later this winter.

Rain Gutters
Many of us are quite unaware that rain gutters perform a vital purpose. Their job is to capture all that water coming from the roof and run it well away from the structure — especially the window wells. If your gutters are full of leaves, pine needles, kite string, and tennis balls, then water that doesn’t drain stays right there and freezes leaves you with a problem: an 800 lb. ice cube tray lurking over your head. And it’s just waiting for that perfect moment to fall.

Even worse: when your gutters don’t drain, you get water that drains where it shouldn’t. Now you have water into your window wells and mold in your manor. As an added bonus, wet basements are an awesome way to introduce termites into your living space. To prevent all of the above, make sure your gutters are clean, that they drain toward the down spout, and that there is a drain tube at the end of the spout to run water well away from the foundation.

Seals
Nobody loves that waft of cold air flowing through your home in the middle of winter. Where does it come from? The usual suspects are the doors and windows, but it can come through electrical plugs and other openings on the exterior as well. There are solutions for all of the above, but the easiest and cheapest fix will be the weather stripping and door sweeps at your front and back doors. If you close your door and see daylight around the edges, then you have work to do. Don’t wait until you’re doing this project with the door open in 10-degree weather.

Hose Bibs
Ah, the lowly hose bib. Home inspectors will routinely see where homeowners leave a hose bib attached to something. One thing is pretty much certain: If you leave your hose on the hose bib all winter, you’ll have frozen pipes in the winter and broken pipes in the spring. When that valve is turned next March you’ll find you’re the proud new owner of a swimming pool in your basement. The rot, mold and termites will be soon to follow.

To avoid this, get all attachments off your hose bibs — now. In addition, make sure that your hose bib is securely attached to the structure so you can’t pull the hose out of the house. It only takes two screws to do this right, but the absence of those two screws can mean the $10,000 fix is heading your way.

Heating and Cooling Systems
To be able to safely take care of you, your furnace needs to see some love. Get a good filter, and then make sure it goes where it actually filters the incoming air to your furnace. Take a look at where air comes in and make sure your filter won’t lean, fall or lift improperly when the air flow happens. Next, take a look at your furnace. If it looks like the place where all the dust on earth comes to die, you might have a problem. Get your furnace serviced regularly.

If you have a swamp cooler, you have some tasks to do. First, start saving — central air is better in 1,000 ways. Until then make sure that the pan is drained, the supply line is drained, the supply valve is off and the supply line disconnected. Next, make sure the unit is protected against drafting cold air into your home, the power is off, and for good measure, take out the motor and bring it in. Or just roll the whole thing off the roof.