5 Common Insurance Mistakes to Avoid


Insurance can be a confusing thing. Without trusted advice from a professional like an insurance agent, it’s easy to make one of the most common insurance mistakes.

The Insurance Information Institute (III), an organization devoted to improving public understanding of insurance, created a video that shares the five most common insurance mistakes consumers make. Mistakes apply to both homeowners insurance and auto insurance.

Check out the video above to learn how to avoid these common insurance mistakes. And remember that one of the best ways to avoid insurance mistakes and coverage gaps is to talk with someone like an Erie Insurance Agent. An ERIE Agent in your community will help you get affordable coverage that gives you the protection you need–and the peace of mind you deserve.

Contact Lucsok Insurance today to get the correct coverage that you need.

Link to Original Article

21 Ways to Beat Cabin Fever

93267999_family-board-game-e1421436149207If there’s anything last year’s Polar Vortex taught us, it’s that sometimes you don’t have a choice but to stay inside. Yet endless days spent cooped up can lead to cabin fever.

But how do you really know if you suffer from cabin fever? Here are some signs to help you know:

  • You feel cooped up and restless.
  • You have difficulty concentrating on what’s in front of you.
  • You feel lethargic or simply unmotivated to do anything.
  • You feel irritated and on edge for no apparent reason.

If you can relate to any of those signs, you’re probably dealing with cabin fever. But before you take up permanent residence on your couch or start to sleep out of sheer boredom, check out these ways to beat cabin fever.

1. Break out a good book. For helpful suggestions and reviews, check out goodreads.com.

2. Start a new hobby. A few ideas include knitting, stained glass, Soduku and fiction writing.

3. Try a new recipe. The possibilities are endless on Pinterest.

4. Start scrapbooking.

5. Do a puzzle. It’s a little old-school, but still fun.

6. Pull out some old board games or a pack of cards.

7. Engage in some pre-spring cleaning. You’ll have more time to enjoy the great outdoors once it thaws out!

8. Rearrange your furniture. Sometimes a few moves is all it takes to make your place look new.

9. Tackle a home improvement project. Just make sure it’s an indoors one!

10. Plan your summer vacation. Thoughts of warmer days spent outdoors are nice to have during winter.

11. Have a movie and popcorn night. Dig out an old favorite or stream or rent something new.

12. Research your family history and create a family tree.

13. Write a letter to touch base with an old friend or family member. Everyone loves getting an actual letter that’s not a bill or solicitation.

14. Watch the newest season of your favorite show on Netflix.

If the weather isn’t too terrible, head outdoors. Here are some things to consider.

15. Go for a walk, even a 15-minute one.

16. Make a snowman or a snow fort.

17. Go out and shovel. It’s a great workout!

18. Try an outdoor winter activity like sledding or snowshoeing.

19. Have a snowball fight. You don’t have to be a kid to indulge in this one.

20. Volunteer your time at a local nonprofit or animal shelter. Animals especially need a warm place this time of the year.

21. Comb through your local paper’s entertainment section. Do something you’ve never done before.

Too much sleep and wallowing in boredom will only make you feel more lethargic. When it comes to ways to beat cabin fever, staying active and having fun really helps pass the time.

These tips come from our friends at Erie Insurance.

What You Need in Restaurant Insurance

As a restaurant owner, what you need in restaurant insurance probably includes coverage for your building, your business personal property, the personal property of others in your care, liability and employee on-the-job injuries.

And that is probably just the beginning since restaurants face some pretty unique risks. Below are some common industry risks that can help you think about what you need in restaurant insurance. Not every insurer or policy offers coverage for each one, so it’s important to have an idea of what you really need in restaurant insurance when you’re shopping for coverage.

This is a chart of what you need in restaurant insurance.

A few of the other coverages that restaurant owners often need include coverage for property damage related to an off-premises utility failure; employee dishonesty and theft; sewer and drain backup; and dish and glass breakage.

As you can see, restaurant insurance is important—and complex. To get some peace of mind about your coverage, it’s important to speak with an insurance professional like an Erie Insurance Agent. ERIE has a program that includes products and services specifically developed to provide restaurant owners with the protection they really need. A local Erie Insurance Agent can tell you more about it and give you a free quote.

Link to Original Article

How To Insure Your Home

Model HomeHomeowners insurance protects your home, its contents, and, indirectly, your other assets in the event of fires, theft, accidents or other disasters.

A standard homeowners policy (known as an HO-3 policy) will protect you from things like fires and fallen trees. Notice how we didn’t mention floods or earthquakes—those events are specifically not covered by a standard policy and require additional coverage. Homeowners in some areas of the country may be required by their mortgage company to carry these kinds of policies.

A standard policy will also protect your possessions from said disasters as well as theft. But a standard policy is not a blank check: there’s a limit to how much you’ll be compensated. If you have specific items of value, such as jewelry or artwork, you can pay a little extra each year to insure them for their full replacement value.

Now, if someone is on your property and slips and falls and sprains his ankle, he might sue you for his medical expenses. Homeowners insurance covers your liabilities in this situation as well. And like the examples mentioned above, you can pay more for extra coverage. Homeowners insurance isn’t required by law, like auto insurance. But mortgage companies usually require you to obtain a policy before they’ll give you a loan.

How Much Coverage Do You Need? Your home-insurance policy should cover enough to entirely rebuild and furnish your home were it wiped off the map. Ask a home builder to walk through your home and give you an estimate of what it would take to rebuild; that figure should be the basis for how much replacement coverage you’ll need. Be sure to point out any unique and/or expensive details that would add to the replacement cost.

Once you’ve determined the replacement cost of your home, you’ll need to know what kind of coverage you want. There are a few key terms here:

Guaranteed Replacement Cost Coverage– This means that the insurer will pay for the rebuilding of your home no matter the cost. These policies are hard to find these days.

Extended Replacement Coverage– Many insurers offer coverage that caps the payout at around 125% of your home’s insured value.

Inflation Guarantee (or Guard) – This feature makes sure that your home’s insured value stays current with the marketplace.

If you get a reliable appraisal, extended replacement coverage and an inflation guarantee, you should be in good shape. The appraisal provides a realistic starting figure and the inflation guarantee makes sure that your home’s price stays current. The 125% coverage means that, even if construction prices outpace inflation, they probably didn’t outpace it by 25%, so you should have enough money for whatever work you need done.

One last thing: The law requires you to have flood insurance if you live in an officially recognized high-risk area. To find out your flood risk and to find plans (which are offered by the government), go to floodsmart.gov.

When it comes to protecting your possessions, you may want more coverage than your standard policy allows. If you have anything of exceptional value (a family heirloom, a piece of art, jewelry, etc.), you should insure it separately. Insurers will charge extra for this coverage (something like an extra $10 on your monthly premium per $1,000 of value insured), but it pays to be covered.

Also keep in mind that there are two different kinds of coverage when it comes to personal articles. There’s “actual cash value” and there’s “replacement cost.” You want coverage for replacement cost. Actual Cash Value Insurance is what you’d get if you sold your valuable today — a lower amount than what you initially paid. Replacement Cost Insurance pays you the amount of money you’d need to buy a brand-new item to replace your old one. Liability Coverage Say a guest stays at your home and slips on the floor and sprains his ankle. He decides to sue you. Your homeowners policy includes liability coverage in case you lose the court case. Generally speaking, standard policies offer $100,000 to $300,000 of liability coverage.

Supplemental liability coverage can boost your protection to $1 million or more. If you don’t own a car, adding that kind of coverage can be relatively cheap—less than $100 per year—and isn’t a bad idea. If you do own a car (putting you at greater risk for causing damage to people and property), expect to pay $300 to $400 a year. Check out your auto policy to see what kind of coverage you already have.

Shopping for a Homeowners Policy There are three kinds of home insurance companies and salespeople: Direct sellers, who sell directly to consumers; Captive agents, who only sell one company’s insurance products; and independent insurance agents, who sell policies from many different companies.

Your Deductible Like auto or health insurance, your homeowners insurance has a deductible (the amount you must pay before coverage kicks in). Like those other policies, you should opt for the highest deductible you can afford. If you do, the cost of your insurance premium (the monthly bill you pay) will surely be lower. Plus, a low deductible forces your insurer to cover more of your costs — costs they pass on to you in the form of increased premiums.

Remember: You should not use insurance to cover every conceivable expense, just the big ones. If reinstalling a gutter will cost you $200, pay the $200 — don’t start filing claims for it. Insurers hate it when you file too many claims, and may raise your monthly premium or even cancel coverage because they’ll view you as too risky. It’s not about gutters—you want the insurance when you have to pay for a whole new roof.

A good rule of thumb to follow: If you can fix anything for less than $1,000, don’t file a claim.

Lucsok Insurance is an independent agent wha can find the best policy to fit your needs.  Contact us today for a quote.

Link to original article here.

12 Tips for Driving in a Whiteout

whiteout-drivingIn many parts of the country, driving through wind and snow is just a part of your average winter. However, it’s not every day that you get caught driving in a whiteout.

Drivers are often caught off guard when snow is being blown across roadways and visibility becomes virtually nonexistent. If weather conditions are bad enough, make an executive decision to stay home.

However, if you absolutely have to go out— or conditions aren’t quite bad enough to warrant staying home—follow these tips when driving in a white out.

1. Slow down: Speed limits are set for summer conditions, when snow and ice aren’t an issue. If you’re driving in a whiteout, drive slowly. Also periodically check your speedometer—without visual cues passing by, it’s easy to speed up without realizing it after a while.

2. Avoid abrupt acceleration, braking and steering: Drive cautiously and gently to avoid slipping and sliding on the road. Also avoid jerking the wheel—overcorrections could put you in a tailspin. Instead, smoothly guide your car where you want it to go.

3. Don’t tailgate: This is important at any time, but especially when you’re driving in a whiteout. Leave more room than you normally would between your car and the car in front of you.

4. Avoid changing lanes or passing other drivers: Reduced visibility makes it hard to see when someone else has the same idea.

5. Avoid using cruise control: Tapping the brakes to turn off cruise control can cause your tires to lose traction. If you need to slow down, take your foot off the accelerator and let your car slow down gradually.

6. Look beyond the car in front of you: It’s easy to lock your gaze to the taillights in front of you. It’s a better bet to keep your gaze further ahead.

7. Put your fog lights or low beams on: Low beams are a better choice than high beams since there’s less bounce back from ice particles in the air.

8. Defrost your windows: Activate the defroster for the front and rear windows. It’s best not to press the recirculate button—doing so tends to make your windows fog up more due to the increased moisture in the air.

9. Reduce distractions: Beyond obvious ones like refraining from texting while driving, you might consider turning off the radio, refrain from eating or smoking, and putting any conversations on hiatus so you can really focus on the road. (The one exception: Tuning into weather reports.)

10. Be prepared to reroute: If a weather report says a certain area is closed off or backed up, reroute your course. The announcer often will give an alternative route.

11. Watch out for black ice: It’s extremely slippery and dangerous—so make sure you know how to spot it and how to handle driving on it.

12. Pull over: If conditions are bad enough that you can’t see the roads, put on your four-way flashers and park in a safe place off the road. Avoid going to the side of the road unless it’s an absolute emergency, as this can create a dangerous situation for you and other drivers.

Sometimes accidents and damage happen despite your best efforts. That’s why good auto insurance is essential for any driver. To learn more about auto insurance coverage you can count on, contact a local Erie Insurance Agent in your community to learn more.

Original article link here.

Winter Driving Tips

Auto-RepairmanGet your car serviced now.

No one wants to break down in any season, but especially not in cold or snowy winter weather. Start the season off right by ensuring your vehicle is in optimal condition. Visit your mechanic for a tune-up and other routine maintenance.

  • Have your entire vehicle checked thoroughly for leaks, bad worn hoses, or other needed parts, repairs, and replacements.

Check your battery.

When the temperature drops, so does battery power. For gasoline-powered engines, be aware that it takes more battery power to start your vehicle in cold weather than in warm. For electric and hybrid vehicles, the driving range is reduced and the battery systems work better after they warm up. Make sure your battery is up to the challenges of winter by:

  • Having your mechanic check your battery for sufficient voltage;
  • Having the charging system and belts inspected;
  • Replacing the battery or making system repairs, including simple things like tightening the battery cable connections;
  • Making sure to keep fresh gasoline in an electric vehicle, to support the gasoline system.

Check your cooling system.

  • When coolant freezes it expands. This expansion can potentially damage your vehicle’s engine block. Don’t let this happen to your vehicle this winter. You should:
  • Make sure you have enough coolant in your vehicle and that it’s designed to withstand the winter temperatures you might experience in your area.
  • See your vehicle owner’s manual for specific recommendations on coolant. A 50/50 mix of coolant to water is sufficient for most regions of the country.
  • Thoroughly check the cooling system for leaks or have your mechanic do it for you.
  • Check to see if your system has been flushed (draining the system and replacing the coolant). If it hasn’t been flushed for several years, have it done now. Over time, the rust inhibitors in antifreeze break down and become ineffective. Coolant also needs to be refreshed periodically to remove dirt and rust particles that can clog the cooling system and cause it to fail.

Fill your windshield washer reservoir.

You can go through a lot of windshield wiper fluid fairly quickly in a single snowstorm, so be prepared for whatever Mother Nature might send your way.

  • Completely fill your vehicle’s reservoir before the first snow hits.
  • Use high-quality, “no-freeze” fluid.
  • Buy extra to keep on hand in your vehicle.

winter-windshieldCheck your windshield wipers and defrosters.

  • Safe winter driving depends on achieving and maintaining the best visibility possible.
  • Make sure your windshield wipers work and replace worn blades.
  • Consider installing heavy-duty winter wipers if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow and ice.
  • Check to see that your window defrosters (front and rear) work properly.

Verify floor mat installation to prevent pedal interference.

Incorrect or improperly installed floor mats in your vehicle may interfere with the operation of the accelerator or brake pedal, increasing the risk of a crash. Remember these tips when installing new floor mats to ensure safe operation of your vehicle:

  • Remove old mats before the installation of new mats.
  • Never stack mats, as that may increase the potential for pedal interference.
  • Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for mat installation and use the available retention clips to secure the mat in the proper position. This will prevent the mat from sliding forward.
  • Check that the mats are the correct size and fit for the vehicle and do not interfere with the full operation of the foot controls (accelerator, brake and clutch pedals). Whenever the interior of the vehicle is cleaned or the mats have been removed for any reason, verify that the driver mat has been reinstalled correctly.

Inspect your tires.

snow-tires-1211-mdnIf you plan to use snow tires, have them installed before the snow storms hit. Check out www.safercar.gov for tire ratings before buying new ones. For existing tires, check to ensure they are properly inflated (as recommended by your vehicle manufacturer), the tread is sufficient with no uneven wear, and that the rubber is in good overall condition. Note that tire rubber starts to degrade after several years, and older tires need to be replaced even if they have not seen much wear. Regardless of season, you should inspect your tires at least once a month and always before setting out on a long road trip. It only takes about five minutes. If you find yourself driving under less-than-optimal road conditions this winter, you’ll be glad you took the time.

  • Check tire pressure and make sure each tire is filled to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure, which is listed in your owner’s manual and on a placard located on the driver’s side doorjamb (called the “B-pillar”). If a vehicle does not have a B-pillar, then the placard is placed safercar.gov 3 on the rear edge of the driver’s door. Tire pressure drops as the temperature drops. Properly inflated tires ensure optimum tire performance and optimum vehicle driving range.
  • Keep a tire pressure gauge in your vehicle at all times and check pressure when tires are “cold” — meaning they haven’t been driven on for at least three hours.
  • Look closely at your tread and replace tires that have uneven wear or insufficient tread. Tread should be at least 1/16 of an inch or greater on all tires.

Check the age of your tires.

The structural integrity of tires can degrade over time and when that occurs tires are more prone to failure. The effects of aging may not be visibly detectable.

  • Check the age of your tires including your spare tire. Look for the tire identification number on the sidewall of the tire, which begins with the letters “DOT.” The last four digits represent the week and year the tire was manufactured.
  • Check the owner’s manual for specific recommendations for when to replace a tire. Some vehicle manufacturers recommend that tires be replaced every six years regardless of use.

Know your car.

Every vehicle handles differently; this is particularly true when driving on wet, icy, or snowy roads. Take time now to learn how to best handle your vehicle under winter weather driving conditions.

  • For electric vehicles, several things can be done to minimize the drain on the batteries. If the vehicle has a thermal heating pack for the batteries, make sure your vehicle is plugged in whenever it is not in use. If the vehicle has a pre-heat function to warm the car interior, set it to warm the passenger compartment before you unplug it in the morning.
  • Practice cold weather driving when your area gets snow — but not on a main road. Until you’ve sharpened your winter weather driving skills and know how your vehicle handles in snowy conditions, it’s best to practice in an empty parking lot in full daylight.
  • Drive slowly. It’s harder to control or stop your vehicle on a slick or snow-covered surface. On the road, increase your following distance enough so that you’ll have plenty of time to stop for vehicles ahead of you.
  • A word of caution about braking: Know what kind of brakes your vehicle has and how to use them properly. In general, if you have antilock brakes, apply firm, continuous pressure. If you don’t have antilock brakes, pump the brakes gently.
  • Stay calm and ease your foot off the gas while carefully steering in the direction you want the front of your vehicle to go if you find yourself in a skid. Stay off the pedals (gas and brake) until you are able to maintain control of your vehicle. This procedure, known as “steering into the skid,” will bring the back end of your car in line with the front.
  • When renting a car you should become familiar with the vehicle before driving it off the lot. For instance, you should know the location of the hazard lights in case of emergency. Take a minute to review the owner’s manual in the rental car so that you are prepared.

Plan your travel and route.

car-in-snowKeep yourself and others safe by planning ahead before you venture out into bad weather.

  • Check the weather, road conditions, and traffic; plan to leave early if necessary.
  • Don’t rush! Allow plenty of time to get to your destination safely.
  • Familiarize yourself with directions and maps before you go, even if you use a GPS system, and let others know your route and anticipated arrival time.
  • Keep your gas tank close to full, even with an electric vehicle. If you get stuck in a traffic jam or in snow, you might need more fuel to get home or keep warm. Note: To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning when stuck in snow, be sure to keep your vehicle’s exhaust pipe clear of snow and ice, run your vehicle only in the open with the windows partially down, and run it only long enough to keep warm.
  • Wait until road and weather conditions improve before venturing out in your vehicle. If road conditions are hazardous, avoid driving if possible.

Stock your vehicle.

Carry items in your vehicle to handle common winter driving tasks, such as cleaning off your windshield, as well as any supplies you might need in an emergency. Keep the following on hand:

  • Snow shovel, broom, and ice scraper;
  • Abrasive material such as sand or kitty litter, in case your vehicle gets stuck in the snow;
  • Jumper cables, flashlight, and warning devices such as flares and markers;
  • Blankets for protection from the cold;
  • And a cell phone with charger, water, food, and any necessary medicine (for longer trips or when driving in lightly populated areas).

Learn what to do in a winter emergency.

If you are stopped or stalled in wintry weather, follow these safety rules:

  • Stay with your car and don’t overexert yourself
  • Put bright markers on the antenna or windows and keep the interior dome light turned on;
  • To avoid asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning, don’t run your car for long periods of time with the windows up or in an enclosed space. If you must run your vehicle, clear the exhaust pipe of any snow and run it only sporadically — just long enough to stay warm.

Protect yourself and your loved ones.

  • Remember to always wear your seat belt. Ensure that everyone in your vehicle is buckled up as well.
  • Do not text or engage in any other activities that may distract you while driving.
  • While thick outerwear will keep your children warm, it can also interfere with the proper harness fit of your child in their car seat. Place blankets around your child after the harness is snug and secure.
  • Never leave your child unattended in or around your vehicle.

Drive safe, from your friends at Lucsok Insurance.

Home Team Losses Boost Collisions Around NFL Stadiums

From our friends at Erie Insurance:

football

Football’s biggest night is almost here. As you stock up for your big game party, you might want to remember to drive a little safer.

According to a new study from the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), the rate of collision claims from ZIP codes around NFL stadiums is higher on days during home team losses or ties.

HLDI analysts looked at collision claims for ZIP codes in which the 31 NFL stadiums are located, as well as adjacent ZIP codes. Claim frequency was higher on home game days compared with other days. The effect was especially pronounced in the ZIP codes where the stadiums are located, though it was also present in the surrounding ZIP codes.

In HLDI’s claims data, the ZIP codes reflect the vehicle’s garaging location, and not the location of the crash. So crashes involving the vehicles of people who live elsewhere and drove into the ZIP code for the game aren’t included. In addition, some crashes of vehicles garaged near the stadium could have taken place elsewhere.

Nevertheless, the pattern of increased claim frequency on home game days is probably connected to higher traffic volumes around the stadiums on those days.

On days when the home team won, the rate of collision claims was 3.2 percent higher than on days without a home game. On days when the team lost or tied, the claim rate was 9.4 percent higher than on days without a home game. Only the increase for a loss or tie was statistically significant.

“The game day effect was much more pronounced at some stadiums than at others,” says HLDI Vice President Matt Moore. “This may point to differences in policing and traffic management strategies, which could present opportunities for improvement.”


Source: The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

Original Article Link Here

Tips to prepare for a blizzard

blizzard-pooch-1996-copyBlizzard Juno is expected to create harsh winter weather conditions – snow, cold and wind – across much of the Mid-Atlantic.

TIPS FOR BEFORE THE STORM

Prep your car. Fill up your gas tank before the weather hits. Take a minute to check your wiper fluid level and leave your wiper blades up if your car is outside. This is also a good time to make sure you have everything you need, like kitty litter or salt, a shovel and an emergency car kit.

Prevent damage to your home from frozen pipes. Water damage is no joke. Turn the heat up if it will be especially chilly and make sure the garage door is closed. Even at the last minute, there are still steps you can take to prevent frozen pipes.

Stock up and charge up. Make sure your phone is fully charged and has emergency numbers (family, friends, the power company and the police) stored in it. And, if possible before the storm hits, pick up essentials from the store, like milk, cereal, bread and batteries.

Brings pets inside. If you have an outdoor cat or a dog that sleeps in a kennel, bring them inside. Subzero temperatures can test even the hardiest of our furry friends and cause them to seek out questionable shelters (like under the hood of a car) to find warmth.

Thank you and stay safe.

Preventing Frozen Pipes

frozen_pipes_in_the_garage_286103608_stdWhen water freezes, it expands. That’s why a can of soda explodes if it’s put into a freezer to chill quickly and forgotten. When water freezes in a pipe, it expands the same way. If it expands enough, the pipe bursts, water escapes and serious damage results.

Why Pipes Burst

Surprisingly, ice forming in a pipe does not typically cause a break where the ice blockage occurs. It’s not the radial expansion of ice against the wall of the pipe that causes the break. Rather, following a complete ice blockage in a pipe, continued freezing and expansion inside the pipe causes water pressure to increase downstream — between the ice blockage and a closed faucet at the end. It’s this increase in water pressure that leads to pipe failure. Usually the pipe bursts where little or no ice has formed. Upstream from the ice blockage the water can always retreat back towards its source, so there is no pressure build-up to cause a break. Water has to freeze for ice blockages to occur. Pipes that are adequately protected along their entire length by placement within the building’s insulation, insulation on the pipe itself, or heating, are safe.

Regional Differences

Generally, houses in northern climates are built with the water pipes located on the inside of the building insulation, which protects the pipes from subfreezing weather. However, extremely cold weather and holes in the building that allow a flow of cold air to come into contact with pipes can lead to freezing and bursting.

Water pipes in houses in southern climates often are more vulnerable to winter cold spells. The pipes are more likely to be located in unprotected areas outside of the building insulation, and homeowners tend to be less aware of freezing problems, which may occur only once or twice a season.

Pipes in attics, crawl spaces and outside walls are all vulnerable to freezing, especially if there are cracks or openings that allow cold, outside air to flow across the pipes. Research at the University of Illinois has shown that “wind chill,” the cooling effect of air and wind that causes the human body to lose heat, can play a major role in accelerating ice blockage, and thus bursting, in water pipes.

Holes in an outside wall where television, cable or telephone lines enter can provide access for cold air to reach pipes. The size of pipes and their composition (e.g., copper or PVC) have some bearing on how fast ice forms, but they are relatively minor factors in pipe bursting compared with the absence of heat, pipe insulation and exposure to a flow of subfreezing air.

When is it Cold Enough to Freeze?

When should homeowners be alert to the danger of freezing pipes? That depends, but in southern states and other areas where freezing weather is the exception rather than the rule (and where houses often do not provide adequate built-in protection), the “temperature alert threshold” is 20°F.

This threshold is based upon research conducted by the Building Research Council at the University of Illinois. Field tests of residential water systems subjected to winter temperatures demonstrated that, for un-insulated pipes installed in an unconditioned attic, the onset of freezing occurred when the outside temperature fell to 20°F or below.

This finding was supported by a survey of 71 plumbers practicing in southern states, in which the consensus was that burst-pipe problems began to appear when temperatures fell into the teens. However, freezing incidents can occur when the temperature remains above 20° F. Pipes exposed to cold air (especially flowing air, as on a windy day) because of cracks in an outside wall or lack of insulation are vulnerable to freezing at temperatures above the threshold. However, the 20°F “temperature alert threshold” should address the majority of potential burst-pipe incidents in southern states.

Mitigating the Problem – Preventing Frozen Pipes

Water freezes when heat in the water is transferred to subfreezing air. The best way to keep water in pipes from freezing is to slow or stop this transfer of heat.

Ideally, it is best not to expose water pipes to subfreezing temperatures, by placing them only in heated spaces and keeping them out of attics, crawl spaces and vulnerable outside walls. In new construction, proper placement can be designed into the building.

In existing houses, a plumber may be able to re route at-risk pipes to protected areas, although this may not be a practical solution. If the latter is the case, vulnerable pipes that are accessible should be fitted with insulation sleeves or wrapping (which slows the heat transfer), the more insulation the better. It is important not to leave gaps that expose the pipe to cold air. Hardware stores and home centers carry the necessary materials, usually in foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves. Better yet, plumbing supply stores and insulation dealers carry pipe sleeves that feature extra-thick insulation, as much as 1” or 2” thick. The added protection is worth the extra cost.

Cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations near water pipes should be sealed with caulking to keep cold wind away from the pipes. Kitchen and bathroom cabinets can keep warm inside air from reaching pipes under sinks and in adjacent outside walls. It’s a good idea to keep cabinet doors open during cold spells to let the warm air circulate around the pipes. Electric heating tapes and cables are available to run along pipes to keep the water from freezing. These must be used with extreme caution; follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to avoid the risk of fire, and check to make sure the product conforms to UL 2049. Tapes and cables with a built-in thermostat will turn heat on when needed. Tapes without a thermostat have to be plugged in each time heat is needed, and may be forgotten.

Letting the Water Run

Letting a faucet drip during extreme cold weather can prevent a pipe from bursting. It’s not that a small flow of water prevents freezing; this helps, but water can freeze even with a slow flow.

Rather, opening a faucet will provide relief from the excessive pressure that builds between the faucet and the ice blockage when freezing occurs. If there is no excessive water pressure, there is no burst pipe, even if the water inside the pipe freezes.

A dripping faucet wastes some water, so only pipes vulnerable to freezing (ones that run through an unheated or unprotected space) should be left with the water flowing. The drip can be very slight. Even the slowest drip at normal pressure will provide pressure relief when needed. Where both hot and cold lines serve a spigot, make sure each one contributes to the drip, since both are subjected to freezing. If the dripping stops, leave the faucet(s) open, since a pipe may have frozen and will still need pressure relief.

If You Suspect a Frozen Pipe

If you open a faucet and no water comes out, don’t take any chances. Call a plumber. If a water pipe bursts, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve (usually at the water meter or where the main line enters the house); leave the faucet(s) open until repairs are completed. Don’t try to thaw a frozen pipe with an open flame; as this will damage the pipe and may even start a building fire. You might be able to thaw a pipe with a hand-held hair dryer. Slowly apply heat, starting close to the faucet end of the pipe, with the faucet open. Work toward the coldest section. Don’t use electrical appliances while standing in water; you could get electrocuted.

Going on a Trip

When away from the house for an extended period during the winter, be careful how much you lower the heat. A lower temperature may save on the heating bill, but there could be a disaster if a cold spell strikes and pipes that normally would be safe, freeze and burst.

A solution is to drain the water system. This is the best safeguard. With no water in the pipes, there is no freezing. This remedy should be considered even when the homeowner is not leaving but is concerned about a serious overnight freeze.

To drain the system, shut off the main valve and turn on every water fixture (both hot and cold lines) until water stops running. It’s not necessary to leave the fixtures open, since the system is filled mostly with air at that point and not subject to freezing. When returning to the house, turn on the main valve and let each fixture run until the pipes are full again.

Source: Institute for Business and Home Safety. IBHS is a national nonprofit initiative of the insurance industry to reduce deaths, injuries, property damage, economic losses and human suffering caused by natural disasters.

The Pitfalls of Failing to Review Your Homeowner’s Insurance

Damaged HomeWhen was the last time you looked at the details of your home insurance policy? For most of us, we’re lucky to have read through the fine print back when we first secured the protection we’ve been renewing every year. Only about a third of the respondents to a recent Angie’s List nationwide survey said they’d reviewed their homeowners’ policy in the past two years.

“At a minimum, every year when it’s time for renewal, you should review your policy,” said Lynn Hudson of The Turner Agency Inc. in Greenville, S.C. “A lot of changes can affect the policy. There are things that, when they come up throughout the year, would benefit (the homeowner) to tell us as soon as they do them.”

Skipping this review can really cost you if you’ve made improvements and failed to cover them. But don’t just stop at home improvement. Think about expensive purchases or gifts — jewelry, electronics, antiques or artwork. Most of us have something of value that’s sitting unprotected somewhere.? Even adding a pet or plaything like a trampoline could impact — even void — your policy.

Another issue could be a misunderstanding about what kind of coverage you have. Most homeownersshould have a guaranteed cost replacement clause in their policy, so if the home is damaged beyond repair, the policy would cover the cost it would take to rebuild the home. But some homeowners have policies that only offer the original value of the home.

Because the cost of reconstruction has increased in recent years, homeowners without replacement cost might not have enough coverage to replace their homes to their current state.?

Suzanne Brown of Suzanne Brown Insurance Agency in Houston suggests homeowners consider inflation guard protection, which raises the dwelling coverage 4 percent every year. ?

“In a year like this year, it would definitely be worth it to check with your agent to be sure you have the current cost of appraisal built into (your coverage),” she said.

Brown speaks from personal experience. Her 91-year-old neighbor had a 60-year-old home and hadn’t updated her policy in years. When a fire leveled the home, Brown’s neighbor found out her policy only covered the original value of the home.

“She didn’t review it and left everything up to her agent,” said Brown, who was not the agent who insured her neighbor. “When they looked at the policy after the fire, they realized she did not have a policy that tracked with inflation, so she got only a fourth or a third of what she needed. All those years, she basically thought she had a policy that would rebuild her home, but because the value of that policy did not track to what she needed based on current construction costs, it paid her much less.”

If establishing that you have the coverage you need isn’t enough to get you to talk to your agent, consider this: Sometimes a short chat can result in a rate reduction. Many insurers give discounts for alarm, home automation and sprinkler systems. Even nonsmokers and retirees can qualify for special deals through some carriers. Anytime you have a significant life change, be it having a new child, getting divorced or bringing in a roommate, you should talk to your agent.

Homeowners concerned about whether they have too much or too little coverage should ask their agent to run a replacement cost estimator, which can provide them with accurate information on current values.

“You don’t want to find out after you have a loss or claim,” Brown said. “By then, it’s too late.”

If you’re shopping for a new policy, don’t just look at rates. Find an agent who is well-versed on the varying coverages and isn’t interested in just making the sale. Talk to prospective agents, and find one who will act as your consultant during the purchasing process. Insurance agents must be licensed by each state in which they do business. Your agent should work on your behalf. Be sure to find someone with whom you are comfortable.

Hudson has another tidbit to offer.? “The home insurance market is getting tough right now,” Hudson said. “The losses have been bad the last three to four years. Homeowner insurance carriers are tightening up. When you have a loss, talk to your agent and weigh it out with them whether or not it’s something you need to turn in. It’s not a good idea these days to turn just anything in. Always talk to your agent first. That’s what they’re there for.”

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, the nation’s most trusted resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care. To find out more about Angie Hicks and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2013 CREATORS.COM Original article can be found here.