You may be the kind of person who fires up the grill all year long at tailgating parties, or maybe you wait for a warm summer day and a backyard full of friends before you put on your apron. Either way, grilling can be one of life’s simple pleasures.
Unfortunately, where there is fun there is also the potential for safety issues. For example, did you know that leaving the grill unattended, not cleaning grease or fat build up properly, or placing the grill too close to combustible siding can cause injuries, fires and property damage?
Charcoal or Gas?
Nearly 9,000 home fires a year involve grills, according to a National Fire Protection Association report. Of all the home fires involving grills, gas-fueled grills accounted for four out of five fires, while 16% involved charcoal or other solid-fueled grills.¹ Gas and charcoal grills each have ardent advocates, who praise the convenience of gas or the flavor of charcoal. Whichever your preferred grilling method, follow these important safety considerations.
Gas Grill Safety
A leak or break was the leading factor contributing to gas grill-related fires, according to the NFPA report.
Charcoal Grill Safety
The leading cause of structure fires from use of charcoal grills was leaving or placing an object that could burn too close to the grill, according to the NFPA study.
Here are some other important tips to help you keep danger away when you are enjoying food and fun.
Choose a safe location for your grill. Keep grills on a level surface more than ten feet away from the house, garage or other structures. Keep children and pets away, as well as overhanging branches. Grills should not be used on a balcony or under an overhang. Avoid placing grills too close to combustible deck rails.
Grill outside only. Never use a grill in a garage, vehicle, tent or other enclosed space, even if ventilated, due to risk of harmful carbon monoxide buildup.
Keep the grill going on a cold day. During cool weather days, avoid wearing a scarf or other loose clothing that may catch on fire. Consumer Reports recommends shielding the grill from wind, placing it about ten feet from combustible surfaces and materials, and keeping the lid closed to retain as much heat as possible. Allow extra time for pre-heating the grill in colder weather and check temperatures of meat and fish with a meat thermometer to ensure that food is safe to eat.
Teach kids to stay safe. Make a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around the grill and areas where hot food is prepared or carried. Children under five are especially vulnerable to burns from contact with a hot grill surface. Grill contact accounted for 37% of burns seen at emergency rooms in 2014 involving children under five.
Remember post-grilling safety. Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill. If you grill with charcoal and need to dispose of the coals, soak them in water to extinguish them before disposing in a metal container. Otherwise, cover the grill tightly and close the vents, this should extinguish the coals and whatever is left will be ready for next time.
Moving to a new place is certainly exciting, but it can also be stressful — and expensive. Once you factor in things like movers, packing materials, truck rentals, gas and more, the costs can creep into the hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars, for just a single move.
Are you planning a move soon? Don't want to break the bank in the process? Fortunately, a little forethought and creativity can help in that department.
Here are five ways to help reduce your costs and keep a tight rein on your moving budget:
1. Shop Around for a Moving Company
Moving companies typically charge hundreds of dollars for their services, plus extra for things like gas, mileage and larger items like pianos and furniture. If you're going to hire a professional mover, shop around first. Get quotes from at least three different moving companies, and double-check the line-item charges. Does the quote include the truck, all protective materials, gas, mileage and larger furniture items? Does it provide insurance coverage in case of damage to any items you’ll be moving? If not, learn what adding these will cost you if they become necessary.
You can also consider local “mom and pop” moving teams or using an online service that matches freelance labor with local demand to help with everyday tasks. These come at a cost, of course, but are typically more affordable than a large moving company that has less flexible pricing.
Another great way to reduce your cost is to schedule your move for the winter or fall, if that is an option for you, as that’s when demand for professional movers is typically low. Weekdays are also a good choice, as most people move on the weekends. A moving company may be willing to give you a better deal if you move during these low-demand times, as they may be less busy and looking to fill their schedule. It may be worth exploring these options.
Pro tip: Consider doing a little research by checking out organizations online that provide consumer reviews of businesses. Before booking your movers, look at their reviews to get a sense of a company’s track record with other customers and try to verify that the company is legitimate. Note that none of these websites is a guarantee of a perfect experience, but they may help you with your decision.
2. Consider a DIY Move
Depending on how much you have to move and how heavy or cumbersome the items are, you may want to consider forgoing professional movers altogether if it looks as if your belongings can be managed without hiring help. If you have dependable family and friends that are willing and able to help with the packing, loading and transport, you might consider offering pizza or a free meal as a token of your appreciation in exchange for their help.
If you have larger items, consider renting a small rental truck for a few hours. Get the smallest size possible and be sure to fill up the fuel tank before you return the vehicle. (It may cost you more if you leave the rental truck in need of gas that the moving company must take care of itself.
Pro tip: Plan so that you're not moving during rush hour. Heavy stop-and-go traffic can drive up your fuel costs as well as delay your move.
3. Only Move What You Need
It's important to pare down your belongings before a move. That means donating, selling or throwing away any items you no longer use, need or plan to use in the future.
For one, this reduces your load and, subsequently, your costs to move it. Additionally, if you’re motivated to sell some of your unwanted items, you can put those extra funds toward your moving costs — or use it toward the cost of furniture or decor for your new place.
Here are some options for downsizing your household before you move:
Offloading some belongings will also make unpacking easier (not to mention faster).
Pro tip: Measure your furniture and make sure it will fit in your new home, as well as through necessary access points. If it won't fit, sell it and consider using the funds for replacement furniture once you're in your new place.
4. Get Creative with Your Packing
Buying boxes, bubble wrap, tape and packing peanuts can get expensive. Instead of purchasing these items, take a more creative approach and use things you already have. Sheets, towels, blankets and cloth napkins all work great as packing materials, and they all need to be packed up anyway, so why not use them? You can also use your own duffel bags, luggage, purses and backpacks rather than cardboard boxes.
Once you run out of these items, try one of these resources for free or low-cost boxes:
Pro tip: Start saving the plastic and paper bags from your shopping trips. These make good packing materials and can even be used to help protect fragile items.
5. Track and Deduct Your Expenses
If you're a member of the military (or someone in your household is) you may be able to deduct your moving expenses1 on your annual tax returns. To qualify, you'll need to be moving due to a permanent change of station.
If you're eligible, you'll be able to deduct the costs of moving, storage, travel, lodging and other expenses you incur due to the move.
Pro tip: Keep a detailed record of your moving costs if you qualify for this deduction. Save all your receipts and invoices and keep them somewhere safe until tax season rolls around.
Are you moving to a new place? Don't forget to update your homeowners insurance policy. Use your move as an opportunity to ensure all your belongings, valuables and new property are protected. Contact your insurance agent to learn more about home insurance coverage and how it can safeguard your new home and family.
Did you ever leave for work without turning down the heat on a blustery winter day? Or head out for a day trip in the middle of summer without dialing down the air conditioning for your dog? A smart thermostat can help you heat and cool your home more efficiently, monitor your energy consumption and let you control your home’s heating and AC systems from your smartphone, wherever you may be. These devices can help protect your home from damage caused by frozen pipes by alerting you if your home is getting dangerously cold. But there are also some important safety considerations.
How Smart Thermostats Work
Unlike traditional and programmable thermostats, many smart thermostats learn and adapt based on temperature, humidity and your family’s behavior, including when you and your family are likely to be home, awake and asleep. Your smartphone acts as a remote control for your heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, allowing you to change the temperature from wherever you have a signal. Another benefit includes automated notifications if the temperature in your home rises or falls above or below a set threshold. For homeowners who travel frequently or who own a second home, these devices offer the ability to remotely monitor their property.
Key Considerations for Using Your Smart Thermostat
During cold temperatures, with a more traditional thermostat, you turn down the temperature when you leave your home and dial it back up when you return. With a smart thermostat app controlled by your phone, you are able, and might be more motivated, to turn down your system to a low temperature to conserve energy from wherever you may be. But be wary as turning the thermostat down too low could result in frozen pipes, Travelers Risk Control professionals warn. Be sure to keep the temperature at 55°F or higher to help keep the interior of the floor and wall cavities, where water piping can be located, above freezing temperatures.
As part of the Internet of Things, smart thermostats are also subject to hacking and privacy concerns. You may think there is less of a safety concern than with smart locks or other security-related smart devices, as there is less incentive for hackers to target these devices. However, smart thermostats can provide details about your daily comings and goings, which a thief could find insightful.
A prudent step would be for homeowners to make sure their devices are hard-wired to the Internet, rather than relying on a Wi-Fi connection. Choose a strong password and evaluate any specific safety concerns before you decide to buy a smart thermostat. As with any smart device, make sure it is compatible with your other devices or hub because not all devices communicate well with each other. The packaging for these smart devices may not offer detailed installation instructions, so you may want to consult a professional to help install them properly.
You’ve decided it's time to replace your outdoor deck and you’re ready to take it on as a DIY project, or you’ve decided to work with a licensed and bonded contractor for the heavy lifting. Before you start on such a critical project, it’s important to know that decking options have grown over the last several years, bringing new choices in composite plastic and wood products from which to construct your deck.
While they often cost more than wood, composite materials offer the promise of greater durability and less maintenance. Wood is still the most common choice for deck material, but it doesn't last forever. Composites may be more durable, but they might lack the natural look and color you are looking for.
In June 2016, CBS News reported that while wood products still have a command on the market, composites are growing in popularity. Synthetic wood commands about 16 percent of the $7 billion-per-year deck market and appear to be gaining some traction.
From cost to maintenance and durability to look, there are many things to think about as you decide between composite or wood for your next deck. Here are some pros and cons to consider before you decide which product to buy.
Calfee Insurance wants to help you protect the things that matter to you. We offer a wide breadth of products so you can be covered at home and on the road.
Pros of Composite Decking
If you rent an apartment or home, you might not be thinking about insurance. After all, you don’t own the building and your landlord may have insurance in case something happens. But if your living room is damaged in a fire, your landlord’s policy likely won’t cover your brand new laptop or your vintage vinyl record collection.
Renters insurance helps protect your personal property inside your apartment — your electronics, furniture and clothing — unlike a homeowners policy that generally covers the building as well as what’s inside. In insurance speak, protection for your personal property is also known as “contents coverage.” And, as a renter, if you invest in updating items such as built-in appliances or bathroom fixtures, you may be able to apply a percentage of your contents coverage to repair or replace what has been damaged.
Renters insurance can also protect your personal possessions from theft, fire, vandalism and other hazards, both at home and anywhere in the world. So if there’s a theft at the hotel you’re staying at while on vacation, your renters insurance may help you replace your stuff the same way it would if your things were stolen from your apartment.
Protecting You, Along with What’s Inside Your Apartment
It’s not just your possessions that renters insurance coverage can help protect. It can also help protect you. In case a claim is brought against you or you are sued by a third party, your renters personal liability coverage can help to cover the legal costs and related damages. Many renters policies provide a minimum of $100,000 of financial protection that may help if someone claims injuries or damages while in your apartment, or caused by your personal activities or those of your household members.
For example, if you are found legally responsible for accidental fire damage to the building where you live, liability coverage in a renters insurance policy may provide financial protection. This liability protection may also extend to any vacation property that you rent.
Like homeowners insurance, renters insurance can pay for necessary additional living expenses if you are unable to live in your apartment due to a fire or other loss that your insurance policy covers. You can also opt to purchase additional coverage for your valuable possessions that might have limited coverage in a typical policy, such as jewelry, fine art or silver.
Things to Know About Renters and Landlord Insurance
So, while your landlord’s insurance policy may protect the building itself in which you live, it likely doesn’t cover anything inside your apartment that belongs to you. A renters insurance policy can help give you peace of mind that you — and your stuff — have protection from unexpected events, both at home and wherever your travels take you.
Owning a home can mean dealing with the unexpected – from a tree falling on your roof to a pipe bursting in your bathroom. Because you likely can’t prevent all unwanted surprises, knowing what to expect if you have a homeowner’s claim can help give you some peace of mind.
While insurance carriers can handle claims in different ways, here are some basic steps in the process.
If Your Home Has Been Damaged:
Beginning the Claim Process:
We are an insurance company that cares. We help you get the coverage that meets your needs to help protect the things that are important to you, so you don’t have to worry.
Relocating After a Loss:
Resolving a Claim:
While renters insurance offers broad protection for tenants, it's important for consumers to choose the policy that best suits their individual needs.
A renters policy can cover your personal belongings and help cover legal costs in the event you are sued for accidental bodily injury or property damage of others. But not all policies are the same. Here are five questions to ask your insurance representative to help you make the right choice.
1. What's Covered and What's Not?
A renters policy generally covers your stuff against events like theft, lightning, fire, smoke, vandalism, explosions and windstorms.1 There's also liability protection against claims and lawsuits alleging that you caused bodily injuries or property damage. There may be coverage for certain kinds of water damage, such as leaks from damaged pipes. Your insurance rep can tell you if the policy includes additional living expenses if you're forced to move due to a covered loss.
A typical renters insurance policy does not generally provide coverage for damage from floods and earthquakes. Also, there will be limits on how much coverage is provided for your things. There could also be lower limits in the policy for different categories of your possessions. If you own expensive collectibles, such as jewelry or art, ask your insurance representative about buying additional coverage for these valuables.
2. Will a Renters Policy Cover my Roommate?
Renters insurance typically covers family members, but may not cover roommates. Calfee Insurance recommends that each occupant obtains his/her own policy to cover their individual stuff.
Some insurers allow roommates to be insured under a single policy. In these instances, roommates must agree to the level of coverage, based on the combined value of their stuff. If one roommate moves away, the remaining renter typically will need to obtain a new policy.
3. What's the Difference Between Cash Value and Replacement Coverage?
There are two types of renters coverage, one that pays based on your property’s actual cash value and one that pays based on you property’s replacement cost.
For example, a computer you bought for $1,000 eight years ago has significantly depreciated in value, let’s say to $200. If you have a cash value policy, the maximum amount you would be paid would be the lesser of the cost to repair it, or $200. If you have a replacement cost policy, the amount you would be paid would be the lesser of the cost to repair or replace the item with a similar new computer.
4. Will Owning a Dog Affect my Renters Coverage?
Some policies provide coverage if your dog injures someone, and some insurers exclude or limit coverage for customers who own a dog. It’s best to discuss this with your insurance representative when purchasing your policy.
5. Am I Covered if my Laptop Computer is Stolen from my Car Parked Outside my Home?
Renters policies generally include coverage for items stolen off-premises. That means belongings outside your home have insurance protection similar to the things inside your home. However, off premises coverage may be limited to a percentage of your total coverage for personal items. For example, if you have $50,000 in personal items coverage, the amount available for off-premises losses may be 10 percent of that figure, or $5,000. Also, keep in mind, there is generally a deductible that applies.
There are many common myths about potential dangers in and around the home that can keep some homeowners up at night. However, the gap between myth and fact can make all the difference when it comes to reducing risk in your house. So what does the data tell us are the biggest risks to your home?
From leaking valves to house fires, a look at Calfee Insurance Claim data reveals the facts about the most frequent causes of homeowners’ claims, as well as the costliest. The answers may surprise you. While some risks are common nuisances we are all too aware of, others can be catastrophic. To help keep your home, your valuables and your family safe, you will want to take steps to protect them.
Danger #1: Water Damage
Many people think of damage from hurricanes and heavy rains when they think of water damage. But according to Travelers Claim data from 2013-2020, more property losses resulted from non-weather water claims (23%) than weather-related water claims (15%)*. Non-weather water claims can involve plumbing-related losses, such as pipes, drains and valves, as well as appliance issues. Learn more about common causes of water damage and the steps that you can take to help prevent it.
Danger #2: Weather-Related Roof/Flashing Damage
Wind, hail and weather-related water damage accounted for more than half, or 53%, of all Travelers property loss claims between 2013-2020. Falling limbs and branches weighed down by snow and freezing rain can cause roof/flashing damage. It is a good idea to inspect trees on your property to help prevent damage caused by falling tree limbs. Learning how to identify and remove ice dams can also help you avoid costly damage in the winter months.
Danger #3: Frozen Pipe Damage
Frozen water pipes are considered a potential source for catastrophic property damage, and make the list of Travelers’ five costliest sources of homeowner claims. While a sub-item of weather-related water loss, it is so significant, it deserves special mention. The good news is you can take steps to help prevent your pipes from freezing by identifying pipes that are most at risk and taking steps before winter arrives to help insulate them. During the winter, you may consider using a smart thermostat to manage and monitor that your heat is set at a safe level to help avoid freezing, and to receive notifications if the temperature in your home drops unexpectedly.
Danger #4: Theft
Theft from the premises makes the list of top causes of property loss claims, accounting for 4% of losses. There are many steps that you can take to help make your home less attractive to thieves, including landscaping with theft prevention in mind, adding outdoor lighting and creating a plan to make your home appear occupied while you are away. There are a number of methods to monitor your home to help minimize the theft potential, including smart home alarm systems.
Danger #5: Fire
Although fires do not occur as often as other incidents around the home, the damage that they can cause puts fire at the top of the costliest types of claims, according to Travelers Claim data from 2013-2020. Fire and related damages accounted for 27% of claims as measured by costs paid out. Fires can start from cooking, overloading circuits, and improperly using a wood stove, among other causes. Learn more about the potential wood stove safety tips, and how to help protect your home.
Frozen pipes can present an invisible threat – one that you might not recognize until the weather starts to warm. By then, the water damage can be significant and costly. Fortunately, keeping your home warmer, at a consistent temperature, and better insulated can help protect your pipes from freezing this winter.
What Do You Do if You Have a Frozen Pipe?
If you suspect pipes in your home have been exposed to freezing temperatures, or water is not flowing through a faucet normally, follow these steps to help reduce the potential for water damage:
Why is a Frozen Pipe a Concern?
When water begins to freeze, it expands. This can cause both plastic and metal pipes to burst, possibly leading to significant water damage to your home.
Which Pipes Are Most at Risk?
Pipes that are most exposed to the elements, including those outdoors and along the exterior walls of your home, may need extra protection during winter months. These include the following:
How to Help Prevent Frozen Pipes
A heavy rainstorm has finally stopped. Or maybe a long winter has finally ended, and the deep snows have begun to melt.
While good weather may seem like a relief, the potential for water damage may just be beginning. Storm water runoff can quickly overwhelm natural and manmade systems, leading to flooding and property damage.
The steps you take today to prepare your home and yard for proper drainage can help avoid time-consuming and costly repairs when the bad weather does blow through.
In a natural environment, storm water runoff is absorbed by soil, evaporates into the atmosphere or flows into bodies of water, such as streams, lakes or rivers. Homeowners may need to recreate the natural environment on their property to address storm water runoff. This includes planting trees and other vegetation, building rain gardens and installing rain barrels or cisterns to collect roof water.
How Can You Protect Your Home from Storm Water?
The key to developing a yard drainage plan is to understand the specific characteristics of your property and implement the system that works best for you. During a storm, you can go outside and observe how the water flows. Take note of the different grades and slopes and whether they divert the flowing water away from your home. Look for any low spots that collect or pool water and for any steep slopes that have indications of surface erosion.
Consider the steps needed to protect your property from water runoff. Rain that falls on roofs, driveways, patios, roads and other impervious areas moves across the ground surface at greater speeds. The property adjacent to these areas could be more susceptible to damage. Frozen soil can also increase risk of damage by preventing water from being absorbed by the soil. Replacing impervious areas with pervious surfaces, such as permeable paving stones or pavers, can also help.
Other questions you might consider:
Is storm water that falls on impervious surfaces diverted away from your house? This is the work of things like roof gutter downspouts, driveways, walkways and patios. Runoff from these surfaces should be directed to an area that has the ability to absorb or slow the surface flow, such as landscaped areas, and away from your house.
Does your house have a stream, pond or lake close by?
Consider the flood potential and how it may impact your property. You can research local flood maps that will detail flood water levels for various storm events and their flood potential.
Does your driveway or other impervious surface have a negative pitch back toward the house? Consider installing trench drains or area drains to help prevent pooling and divert water away from the house.
Do you have retaining walls on your property? If so, it is important that the walls have a drainage system in place to alleviate pressure behind the wall. Periodically clean weep holes to ensure they are not clogged. Surface water should not be allowed to cascade over the top of the wall and instead should be diverted to the end of the wall or around it.
Is a portion of your house below ground level, such as a basement?
Make sure any sewer and water lines, or any other pipes or lines that penetrate subsurface walls, and foundation cracks are properly sealed. Basements that are prone to water intrusion should have a water collection system in place, such as a sump pump system. This system should be maintained with a battery backup for continued operation in the event of a power failure. Consider elevating mechanical systems or installing curbs around areas that need protecting but cannot be elevated, such as finished areas and storage areas. Exterior basement window wells should have covers and the ground surface of the well should be below the well rim.
Do you have a sewer or septic system and property with known high water tables?
Have the system checked by a professional. If the groundwater rises too high, it can affect the efficiency and operation of the system. In some cases, this may lead to sewer back up or waste leaching above the ground or back into the house.
Surface storm water is not the only consideration for protecting your home. It is also important to assess the functionality of your whole home envelope system. Make sure that your house exterior is maintained, including roofing, flashings, weather barriers, windows, doors and sealants.
While you cannot prevent against all damage from storm water runoff during large acts of nature, these steps can help protect your home when storms do hit.