Hiring a Contractor for your Home Improvements

Finding the right person to work with you on your home improvements can be a challenge.  In our region, it is an industry where very few have websites to provide helpful information about who they are, how long they have been in business or examples of their work.  Instead, much of our connection with potential businesses comes through social media posts and referrals.

The first logical place to begin is to reach out to discuss your project and get a quote for what you need.  Try to connect with at least two or three different contractors and compare them.  Is there something that sets one off from the others?  Maybe better attention to details for what you are looking for or maybe a better way to implement your project that can save you money?

Before making a decision on hiring someone, there are a few things that you can do to learn if a particular contractor might be a good fit for you:

  • Check their website (if they have one) and learn about the company and their value proposition for you as a homeowner.
  • Do your internet searches for their business (google, facebook, community pages, angie, houzz, homeadvisor, etc.) and check their reviews.
  • Ask for examples of their work (photos), along with references from people they have done business with recently that you can contact.
  • Are they licensed and insured for the work that they do? (Ask for a certificate of insurance that you can have on file for your project.)
  • How do they communicate?  Will they return phone calls or emails promptly within a reasonable timeframe? 
  • Are they reliable – showing up on time, letting you know if they are running late?
  • Do they provide a warranty period for the work they perform?
  • Are there any known complaints filed against them?

It’s good to keep in mind that price is only a portion of the things that go into making the decision to hire a particular contractor.  There is a level of trust and confidence in the relationship and capability that builds up over time when you know you are receiving professional craftsmanship and service for your improvement projects. Chances are, when you find the right person to work with, they will become part of your home’s history and will be someone who will return again and again to help with the work you need to get done.

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End of Summer Home Maintenance

We are all familiar with ‘Spring Cleaning’ where we open the windows after a long, cold winter and prepare for the beautiful warm summer months that are to come, but it’s also helpful to make yourself an ‘End of Summer’ list as the season dies down. Keep some of the items listed below in mind to check towards the end of August to get your home prepared and in-shape for the fall.

Before the leaves begin to fall – give your gutters and downspouts a check to make sure there are no existing clogs. Remove any brambles and seeds and run some water through to see if there are any leaks that need to be repaired.

Give your windows a fresh cleaning and seal up any gaps with caulking as you go. Leaky windows cost money all winter long with the loss of heat. If repairing and sealing isn’t enough, consider whether you want to replace them.

Similarly, check your weather stripping around your doors. These often disintegrate over time, so replacing them every few years is likely necessary to prevent heat loss and insect intrusions.

Wash your trash bins. As the months get colder, animals and rodents can be attracted to the smells from your trash bins. A quick wash at the end of the summer can reduce or eliminate those smells and help keep pesky animals frommaking unwanted visits.

Spruce up your deck – clean, repair, restain or repaint and then seal it all before the cold weather arrives.

Check your outdoor equipment to make sure everything is in proper working order to get you through the upcoming months. This includes your leaf blower, snow blower, week whackers, and other tools. If you are working with batteries, now is a good time to make sure everything is charged up!

Our team at Bieritz Insurance Agency wishes you all a happy end of summer season!  If we can help you with any of your insurance products, please contact us for a free quote and learn how we can save you money on your insurance.

 

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Do You DIY?

When embarking on home improvement projects, one of the first decisions is whether to do it yourself or to hire a professional. If you feel you have the skillset to undertake a particular project, then it might make sense to proceed with it. If you are not sure, remember that time is valuable – and if you make a mistake, you may likely have to do all the work over again or possibly end up calling a professional anyway. Make sure you consider your ‘worst case scenario’ and let that help guide you in your decision.

One of the most popular DIY projects is painting. A fresh coat of paint can go a long way to perk up your living spaces and it doesn’t have to be a complicated project. If you are removing wallpaper and repairing walls, however, that might be a different story. If you are doing it yourself, don’t skimp on materials. The money you save on hiring someone will more that cover the increase in cost for quality paint and materials.

Another popular DIY project is switching out your plumbing fixtures. Replacing your old faucets and showerheads can bring a whole level of improvement to your living space – both aesthetically and practically. If you have a leak that can’t be corrected due to a worn out fixture, it can also save water and expense down the road as well. At the same time, plumbing repairs can be tricky for DIY since many homeowners don’t have access to the same tools or expertise as a professional. One wrong move can result in a bad outcome if something breaks – so be prepared for contingencies and have your plumber’s phone number on hand in case something goes wrong.

DIY tiling is another popular home improvement project. A good place to begin might be something small like a backsplash area around your sink or your stove. These types of projects can have a beautiful, personal flair – and will last for a very long time – so make sure you love it or find colors that will blend in well if you change your color schemes in the future. If you are working in areas where there is water, be sure to seal everything appropriately to avoid damage.

If you happen to have skill with wood and woodworking tools, there are a lot of things you can work on – from shelving, to seating, tables, racks and more. If you have an interest in these types of projects, consider taking a local course to better understand the craft and begin practicing with some simple projects.

Finally, if you do decide to take on some of your own home improvement projects, be sure to check with your local codes departments to see if there is any permitting that is required. Find out if there are any permits or inspections that need to happen as you progress through your project and what the procedures and timelines are. This will go a long way towards having a great experience and will save a lot of time and headache down the road.

Remember, if you are making improvements for your home, contact our team at Bieritz Insurance Agency to see if any updates to your homeowner’s policy are needed. We are happy to provide you with information and guidance!

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Insurance Protection Check for the Summer Months

sparklersThe summer months are ones we look forward to all year long, but they bring certain risks along with the great summer weather.  After our long, cold, winter months, we are all more than ready to be outdoors and enjoying fun times with family and friends.   To minimize your risks, you can do a quick insurance protection check to make sure you are ready for the summer months.

  • If your summer includes a home pool, you can make sure you have specific safety measures in place to prevent accidents and drownings.  Have a fence with a locking gate is a great way to protect your pool from young children. Make note of those who can swim and make sure that any non-swimmers are geared with appropriate flotation devices.  For young children in a pool, consider using ‘touch supervision’ – where an adult is within touching distance of any young child in a pool, in order to react quickly in case of an accident.  While your homeowners coverage will cover some of your liability if an accident should happen, it likely will not be sufficient for any catastrophic incidences.  To assure protection, consider increasing your liability protection with a separate umbrella policy.

  • If you enjoy boating during the summer months, remember that boat owners are liable for any accidents.  Unlike auto insurance, boat insurance is not mandated (unless you have a loan on your boat, in which case your lender will likely require this).  Auto insurance does not cover boat owner liability.  Check with our office if you are in NY State to get a quote on coverage for your vessel and passengers.

  • Severe storms and hurricanes are more and more common as we head into a new ‘climate-changed’ world, so remember that flood insurance is a separate policy, often not covered by your homeowner’s insurance.  This is especially important if a hurricane is not a ‘named storm’ as identified by the National Weather Service.  While our inland properties are at less risk than coastal lands, you should likely still make sure you are protected.  We can help answer any of your questions about this coverage.

  • As we head into the 4th of July weekend and Fireworks season, there is a greater risk for personal injury and home damage from fire as a result.  Other than small poppers and sparkling devices, fireworks are illegal in New York State for the general consumer.  If you have damage that is the result of the use of illegal pyrotechnics, you can pretty much count on your insurance company denying any claim for coverage.

  • Grills, Barbecues and Lawnmowers are three of the biggest sources of home-based summer injuries.  Outdoor cooking areas should be monitored closely when in use, with a designated attendant, and small children should be restricted from those parts of the porch or yard.  The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that mowing should be done only by those who are old enough to safely operate the equipment – 16 or over for riding mowers and 12 and over for push mowers.

  • With school out of session for the summer months, there is typically a surge of teen drivers on the road – going off to summer jobs or heading off to see friends or spend a day at the beach.  If you have a teen driver, take the time to talk to them about road safety, particularly in terms of the use of cellphones while driving.  Set some rules for safety – turning off their phones when in a moving vehicle (there are apps for this), driving at or below the speed limit, using caution when driving near bicyclists, being aware of areas with greater pedestrian traffic during the summer months, etc.

Summer can be a great season.  Take some extra time to consider safety factors for best peace of mind, and give our team at Bieritz Insurance Agency a call at 607-547-2951 if you have any questions or if you need more information.  We are happy to assist you!

 

 

 

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Safety in the Outdoors

Outdoor recreation activities over the past few years (since the onset of COVID-19) has boomed with people throughout the U.S. looking for safe spaces with fresh air and good opportunities for socially distanced recreation.  Here in New York, there are parts of the Catskills that were inundated with so many people, trails were closed in order to protect them from foot traffic.  This surge in interest in outdoor activities has also spurred increased visitation at National Parks throughout the country.  Those numbers continued to increase in 2021 – with close to 300 million visits and record high numbers in forty-four parks.

If you are planning on traveling to some of our country’s beautiful outdoor recreation spots this year, please be sure to plan ahead for safety.  Some basic practical tips can help to make your trip a great one!

When traveling out of town for vacation, remember to practice safe online and communications protocols.  If you use social media, don’t post that you are going away, or the dates you will be gone – instead, save your pictures and trip posts for after you return.  Also, make sure to stop at your post office and have them hold your incoming mail until you return.  Mail piling up at your home is a good indication that no one is home, and can be enticing for break-ins and theft.  You can also have a neighbor or friend stop in each day you are away to bring in your mail and do a general house check.

Bring or buy a paper map for the area where you are traveling.  While our phone maps and GPS systems typically work very well, they are not failsafe and you should always have a backup in the event you are lost.  Keep emergency supplies with you in your car with blankets, extra water, dry goods, etc. in case you get stuck somewhere and have to wait for help to arrive.  A portable first aid kit is also a welcome addition to any backpack if you end up needing to travel on foot for a distance in the elements.  Remember that a locked car can get very hot very quickly, so if you bring your pets along with you, be sure to take them out at rest stops – use picnic areas or pet friendly outdoor dining areas for meals so they can stay with you.

Be aware of local wildlife and research safety protocols.  When camping, make sure to tie up your food and hang it out of reach to prevent bears and other wildlife from being attracted to your site.  Take your trash with you and don’t harass the local wildlife.  Leave animals be and give them a wide berth, and typically they will ignore you.  Know what to do in an emergency situation.  If you are visiting the coasts, learn the warning signs for sharks, and stay within approved swim zones with lifeguards and lookouts.

Learn about ticks and other hazards in the area you will be visiting.  What poisonous plants, reptiles, insects are in the area – learn how to identify them and how to prevent and/or treat any rashes or bites.  If you are hiking, be sure to wear and bring appropriate hiking gear, shoes, rain gear, etc. and if you plan on biking, make sure to use a helmet.

Our country has some amazing places to explore – locally, throughout the state and all across the US.  Travel, explore, enjoy – and be safe!

Our team at Bieritz wishes everyone an amazing summer season with special times with families and friends.  Make amazing memories and contact us at 607-547-2951 for all your insurance needs.  We are happy to help you!

 

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Basics of Insulation Options for an Old House

Living in a classic old house is a privilege. Older homes can evoke a sense of beauty, love, charisma.  They have a level of character and craftsmanship that are no longer seen in todays modern houses. However, during the cold winters, an older home can be quite uncomfortable.  If you are looking into insulation, you may find the information here to be helpful. 

Houses built in the midst of the 20th century were not well insulated. They had a natural ventilation system that allowed their walls to be hollow for it to “breathe” through it. Sitting in your living room on a cold winter night will tempt you to get the walls insulated the next morning.

One of the basics of learning about insulation is “R-Value”. The R-Value is the ability of the insulation material to resist heat and avoid its transfer from one place to another through that material. Usually, it is measured between 1.5 to 7 per inch, and the higher the value the better insulation it can provide to keep your home warm.  Before beginning any insulation project, you should also research your local codes as sometimes there are specific requirements for what minimum R-Value is required for attic, walls, etc.   

Here are a few options for insulating your old house, along with their R-value for comparison:

  • Fiberglass Insulation

Fiberglass insulation is the most common type of insulation used throughout the United States.  It typically has an R-value between 3.1 to 3.4 per inch. It is placed loosely into the stud bays of walls and rafters, allowing it to trap as much air as possible.   Additionally, an air barrier on the external wall helps to stabilize the efficiency of the insulation by preventing cold air from moving into the wall cavity in cold conditions.  

  • Spray Foam

The R-Value of open-cell spray foam insulation is about 3.6 to 3.8 per inch. It is easy to install as it can be blown inside and expands quickly, and you can shave off the excess as it covers the entire wall cavity. If you are spraying it in the cavity, it takes 6 to 8 seconds to set, but when you pour it into the wall cavity, it takes 5 to 8 minutes to fill it up. 

  • Closed Cell Foam Insulation 

This insulation is another form of spray-foam, but it is tough and rigid with a much higher R-Value of 6 to 7 per inch (about double that of the other regular insulation).  It also tends to be one of the more expensive options.  Closed cell insulation is best used on new construction projects as it has to be fitted into an open cavity of the wall and cannot be retrofitted. So, unless you are tearing out your interior walls of your home as part of your renovations, closed cell foam insulation is likely not a viable option.  

  • Cellulose

    Cellulose has an R-Value of 3.6 per inch. It is newspaper chopped up finely and mixed with boron or boric acid, which serves two more purposes. It acts as a fire retardant and also makes the insulation pest resistant. Moreover, it fends off mold, wood decay, and corrosion.  Thorough safety tests are conducted for open flammability to ensure the insulation is fire resistant.

    The cellulose is inserted with a blower, typically into the wall cavity with 2 holes, one in center and one at top. It is misted with a bit of hydration and then packed into the stud bay.
    A vapor barrier or retarder can be used depending on where you live in the country. This ‘loose-fill’ insulation will degrade and settle over time and it’s typical lifespan is in the range of 20-30 years.

Controlling the movement of Vapor in the insulations above:

Warm air contains a good deal of moisture and will always move towards colder air.  This warm, moist air needs to be prevented from entering into the wall cavity and coming in contact with the insulation.   A vapor barrier, like polyethylene is typically used for this purpose.  It can be stapled to the wall sides and should always be placed on the warmer wall, so if you live in a warm climate, it should be placed on the exterior wall, but in cold climates, it should be placed on the interior side. When the climate is different throughout the year, like here in NY, the vapor can collect on the backside of your drywall during summers, and the vapor barrier will not let it dry out. Hence we can use a vapor retarder that allows the stud bay to breathe and the vapor to escape. 

 If you are doing any major remodeling at your home, don’t forget to let your insurance company know.  Our experts at Bieritz Insurance will be happy to document your updates and assist you in finding your best options and rates if any changes are required.  Contact our team for an appointment or call our office at 607-547-2951.  We are happy to assist you with all your insurance needs. 

 

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Why You Should Regularly Re-Quote Your Insurance Policies

Most people know that there are some logical ways to save money on their insurance. Bundling your auto and homeowners insurance with one carrier and agency can qualify you for a discount.  You can use higher deductibles or drop some of your coverage levels. You can take driving safety courses or install security systems.  These are all things that you can control and adjust as you need to.  What you might not realize is that insurance pricing changes on a regular basis and is driven by many different factors.  The general recommendation is to re-quote on your policies every 6-12 months.

Some of the factors that influence your rates are completely out of your control – things like your age, gender, where you live (crime rates and average age), the economy.  On the other hand, there are some things that you can control – things like the kind of car you drive, your driving history, your credit history.  A speeding ticket or other moving violation can increase you insurance rate by up to about 25% according to an analysis by Forbes.com.  An accident with a bodily injury claim can cause your premium to increase an average of 46% and this can go even higher if there is extensive property damage of $200 or more (ValuePenguin/LendingTree).  Most companies do take into consideration whether or not the driver was at fault, but this can sometimes be difficult.  Points for moving violations stay on your records for about 18 months, so if those have cleared, you should re-quote on your policy and typically will find some savings there on your premium.

Similarly, your credit score impacts your insurance rates.  A very good credit score can reduce your rates by as much as 24%.   Poor credit can increase your rates by over 60% in comparison to an average credit score.  Getting a quote for your insurance does not impact your credit score.   Different companies will weigh your credit score differently, so it is helpful to compare quotes between carriers to see where their premiums come in.  If you have been actively working to improve your credit score, then it is definitely worth looking into what rates are out there with your improved credit profile.

Our team at Bieritz Insurance welcomes your inquiry.  We are happy to do the legwork to find your best options in the insurance marketplace – for auto, homeowners, business insurance and more.  Contact our team for an appointment or call our office at 607-547-2951.  We are happy to assist you with all your insurance needs.

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Transitioning your Home from Fossil Fuels to Electric

New York State is making a huge push to help homeowners and businesses transition out of fossil fuel dependence.  Through NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority), there are currently a number of programs and incentives that can make it possible for homeowners to begin this process.  Although incentives for home solar systems have been around for at least a decade or more and are being phased out a bit, there is still time to configure a home system that can work out to being very close to expense neutral – shifting your payment from your existing utility company to a loan payment for a solar installation.  In some cases, the federal and state tax credits (which can be taken over the course of two years) are refunded to the homeowner and then paid to the loan provider as part of the loan agreement to minimize a good deal of the up-front cost.

In addition to solar incentives, there are currently programs for insulation, heat pump systems for home heating (mostly for geothermal systems currently), heat pump hot water systems, electric vehicle chargers, as well as continued support for energy smart appliances.  For homeowners who want to fully transition, there are discounts, rebates, tax credits and financing options available with some qualifications required (based on income, location, etc.).

If you are interested in learning about what might be possible for you, a good place to start locally is through the Otsego County Conservation Association’s HeatSmart Mohawk Valley program.  Their staff can give you an overview of what might be available for you and will guide you to the resources and application through the NYSERDA portal. They regularly offer overview webinars to help answer questions about how systems work and where to begin so that you can assess your energy usage and needs in order to configure the right systems for your home.  They can also help direct you to NYSERDA recommended service providers (many of which are local businesses) who can also assist you with navigating the process for qualifications for the NYSERDA incentives.

These kinds of home energy upgrades help to make your home infrastructure more climate-friendly by significantly reducing your annual household CO2 emissions (something we should all be acting on),  alleviating existing strains on our energy grid, and increasing the assessed value of your home.  Carbon based energy is a finite resource which is sure to become increasingly expensive, particularly if/when our governments (federal and state) decide to stop providing subsidies for fossil fuels.  Finding a solution to provide our own energy to heat and power our homes is very likely going to be far less costly.

If you plan on making some of these changes to your home (or business), contact our team for a quote on what you can expect for your insurance.  We are happy to assist you at either of our offices: Bieritz Agency, 209 Main Street, in Cooperstown or Morris Insurance Agency, 128 Main Street, in Morris.  You can also feel free to contact us through our website using our Request a Quote Form.  We look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

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Can we save you money on your Snowmobile Insurance?

It’s the time of year when our snow-loving neighbors venture forth on wintery trails throughout our region.  According to the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association, in 2021, there were over 1.3 billion snowmobiles registered in the U.S. – over 100,000 of these are in New York State. New York offers thousands of miles of snowmobile trails that wind their way through some of the most beautiful and scenic parts of the state including the Catskill Mountains and the Adirondacks.

 

Each year, between December and March, we receive a number of calls for quote requests for snowmobile insurance.  As an independent agency, we have the opportunity to work with a diverse selection of insurance providers and can often find products and policies that are specific to your needs, often at a great price.  Our team will work with you to determine the amount of coverage required and will research your options, answer your questions, and assist you in finding the right policy. 

 

Securing your insurance through a local, independent agency assures that you receive professional, personalized service with people who are part of your community. It means that you have someone to contact and help you with the process if you need to file a claim. 

 

To find out if we can save you money on your snowmobile insurance, call our office at 607-547-2951 or use our “Request a Quote” form located at https://bieritzinsurance.com/request-a-quote/.  

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Your Year End Insurance Assessment

The transition from one year to the next is often a time of reflection about our lives.  We assess the things that we might like to change to make our lives a bit better, feel happier, healthier and more productive.  Just as we make assessment of our personal habits, we can assess our surroundings as well.  The new year allows us the opportunity to step back and reflect on ways we can make our households run more efficiently – maybe with some re-organization, or updates, repairs and improvements to our home in ways that make sense for our budgets and our future.

If you made improvements to your home over the last year, or if you are planning any in the upcoming months, don’t forget to review these updates with your insurance agent as these changes can sometimes impact your policy and your coverage.  Ask your agent to provide you with updated quotes – and remember to include all your insurance products particularly if they are bunded for additional discounts.  Heading into a new year with some instant savings can feel pretty good!

In addition, consider any other major purchases or life changes that you are considering or will be making, as these can also impact your policies.  Your insurance provider will be able to advise you on the coverage changes to consider as well as any cost increases or reductions that you might qualify for.

Regularly making these assessments at the end of each year can keep you informed and can allow you to be prepared for the impacts of changes that are on the horizon.  The pdf linked below from American Modern provides a good checklist to help guide you in your year-end assessment.  If you have questions or need any additional help, contact our team at Bieritz Insurance in Cooperstown, NY at 607-547-2951.

Insurance Year End checklist

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Hunting Season Safety – for Hunters and Non-Hunters

The month of November is an exciting time for hunting enthusiasts as our avid outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen start gearing up for the start of deer hunting season.  The season typically begins each year early in the November for Crossbow hunting and then opens up a few days before Thanksgiving for the regular season for rifle hunting.  The regular season extends into mid-December.  According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, close to 700,000 New York State residents and over 50,000 out of state hunters take part in these opportunities each year.  Hunters who travel to Central New York to enjoy part of the season are an important part of our regions’ fall tourist economy.  These people, along with our local hunters also play an important role in local conservation efforts to manage our deer populations.  Having a safe hunting season – for both hunters and non-hunters – is an important part of upstate living.

Wear bright clothing

The preponderance of hunting-related shooting incidents in New York State involves a victim who was not wearing bright colored clothing.  If you are a hunter, New York State (as of June 2021) requires all big game hunters who hunt with a firearm to wear a solid or patterned fluorescent orange or fluorescent pink hat, vest or jacket.  If you are not a hunter but are outdoors in places where hunting activity might be taking place, wearing bright colored clothing immediately makes it known that you are not a deer or other prey item target.  Choose colors that are highly visible in wooded areas (reds, oranges, bright pinks).

Clearly identify your pets

Similar to humans, pets should also be clearly identified with bright colored accessories such as a vest, leash, coat or bandana.  If you have a hunting dog that accompanies you on your outings, you want to be sure that they are properly outfitted.  If you are a non-hunter out hiking with a pet, make sure that they are also clearly identified as non-prey.  Orange vests for dogs are available at almost any pet supply store as well as many sporting goods stores.

Be aware of others and be courteous

Situational awareness is a critical part of safety during hunting season.  If you are hunting, try to make sure others in the area are aware of your presence. If you are a hiker, consider alternate locations where hunting is not permitted for your walk.   If you should come across someone who is hunting, make sure they see you and recognize that you are there.  Be respectful (don’t make lots of noise that might disturb wildlife or take other actions to interrupt hunting in the area).  If you hear shooting nearby, you should raise your voice to let hunters know you are in the area.

Let others know your plans

A good safety practice in general (hunting season or not), is to let others know where and when you are going and how long you are expected to be there.  For hikers, you can make use of a park office and ‘check in’.  For hunters, make sure you have permission to hunt on private land.

These easy, common sense tips can help make the hunting season safe for both hunters and non-hunters.  Safety is critical to a successful season for all.

 

 

 

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Fall Fire Safety Checklist – Now’s the Time

The winter months bring greater fire risks for homeowners.  According to the Red Cross, house fires generally increase during the fall and winter months, with December and January registering the highest numbers.  There are tasks that every homeowner should do each fall as a preventative measure to reduce the dangers of a house fire.

Schedule with your service provider for a home heating system inspection and maintenance.

Changing out your filters and cleaning out any buildup from the prior year can help make your system run more efficiently.  In addition, if you use fuel oil or propane, your annual maintenance can identify if there are any leaks that can cause fires or other contamination.  If you use stationary or portable space heaters, make sure they are placed in a location far from things that can burn like furniture, clothing, and bedding.  (National Fire Protection Association data puts 81% of home heating fire casualties as a result of space heaters.) Similarly, items that are too close to your hot water heater can also be hazardous and potentially could catch on fire.

Check your fireplace and chimney and schedule for a cleaning.

Soot and creosote (which results from burning wood and fossil fuels) can build up inside of your chimney and catch fire if not cleaned regularly.  It can also be a hazard for smoke exposure.  Most chimney fires are quiet and slow burning, and can cause severe damage to your chimney system (flue lining, brick mortar) and to your home (roofing, celings, walls, structural beams).   Having your chimney inspected and cleaned each fall helps to reduce or prevent your risk of a chimney fire.

Stoves can also be a source for home fires.

The best prevention here is to never leave your stove unattended and make sure that there are no combustible materials (curtains, dishcloths, etc.) nearby.  Clean your stove regularly to remove any grease or flammable grime from your cooking surfaces and turn off your stovetop immediately if you see smoke coming from the bottom of your pot or pan when in use.

Make sure you have working fire extinguishers and smoke detectors.

Preventative measures can make a big difference.  The ability to recognize when there is a fire and to put the fire out quickly can be a life saver.  For a home fire extinguisher, the general guidance is to test or recharge them every 5-6 years and to replace them every 10-12 years.  Some fire extinguishers will have a tag that will show the maintenance schedule or expiration date.  If you need to use your fire extinguisher, make sure to have it recharged or refilled so that it is available is you should need it again in the future.  Changing your battery in your smoke detector once a year is about the simplest thing you can do to make sure you are alerted if a fire should start in your home.  That warning is an important part of protecting your home and your family from the dangers of a home fire and can help save lives.

Check on your extension cords and don’t overload them.

With all of our tech devises and gadgets nowadays, it’s easy to have the need for a lot of plugs without the availability of a lot of outlets in our older homes.  Choose the right extension cord for the job and use it as directed – know the wattage capacity of the cord and the wattage use of the devices you plug into it.  Check for overheating or signs of damage regularly.  Overheating at the plug area, the wall socket or the cord itself are all signs that something is not functioning correctly and the cord should be immediately unplugged.  Extension cords should also have fuse protection (a blown fuse will cut off electicity to stop overheating that can cause a fire) and should be listed by a national testing laboratory ( look for UL, ETL or CSA).

In the case of fire, as in so many other things in life, we can look to the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.  Take some time to check for hazards and rest more easily knowing that you are being as safe as you can be.  To make sure you are protected with the right insurance coverage, contact our team in Cooperstown, NY at https://bieritzinsurance.com/contact-us/.  We will be happy to assist you in finding the right product to affordably meet your needs.

 

 

 

 

 

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School Bus Rules of the Road

A Short Safety Refresher for the Back to School Season in New York

school bus rules of the roadThere is nothing more important than the safety of our children in getting back and forth to school.  Whether they are walking, riding a bike or traveling in a school bus, it is imperative for drivers to be constantly aware, patient and exercise caution.  Take a look through the following information for a refresher on School Bus Rules of the Road.

 

First of all, have patience when driving.  Leave yourself extra time for your morning and afternoon commutes, especially if you travel during the typical school pick-up and drop-off times of day in your area.  School busses make frequent stops, so be prepared for this and drive carefully.  Slow down so that you can get where you are going on time and without incident.

 

In addition, driving in the fall and winter seasons can be slippery.  Wet leaves during the fall and snow and ice conditions in the winter and early spring can be hazardous and make it more difficult to stop safely.  The best preventative measure for an accident is to reduce your speed when driving and be vigilant about intersections, crosswalks and general travel routes to and from our local schools. Don’t follow a bus (or line of following cars) too closely.  You are at a disadvantage when you can’t see what might be ahead, and if a bus slows suddenly to avoid a hazard, you don’t want to be in a situation where you collide with the vehicle in front of you.  

 

When a school bus is getting ready to stop, their lights will flash yellow.  This is your indication to begin slowing down and prepare to stop your vehicle.  All traffic must stop when the lights turn to red and the bus is actively loading or unloading passengers.  This applies to cars that are behind the bus (no passing allowed) as well as to vehicles that are traveling in the opposite direction – even if it is a divided highway.  If the red lights are on and the stop sign is out, all traffic must stop until the bus gets back underway.  Your car must be at least 20 feet away from the bus when you are stopped.

NYS DMV Where to stop for a school bus with red lights flashing

Image from New York DMV – where you must stop for a stopped school bus. 

 

Many busses now are equipped with cameras to capture information about vehicles that pass a stopped school bus and violations can exact some hefty fines and penalties for violations. Points for driving infractions can increase your auto insurance costs and premiums, and convictions can even result in jail time.

 

For full information on School Bus Safety from the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles, please visit https://dmv.ny.gov/more-info/school-bus-safety.  For help with all your insurance needs, contact our team at Bieritz Insurance at 607-547-2951 or submit our web contact form at https://bieritzinsurance.com/contact-us/.

 

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Think about Insurance BEFORE you Need it

Think about Insurance BEFORE you Need itOne of the most important things we can tell our clients is to think about insurance before you actually have a need for it.  If there is one thing we have all learned over this past year, it is that life can be unpredictable.  While it may be hard to imagine the kinds of things that can happen that upend our lives, there are some systematic ways to assess some of the basics.

Take Time to Review Your Coverage

An annual review of your insurance coverage is a process that can help you to evaluate your risks, along with any changes that might be needed to your policies.  What home improvements have you recently made? Are you planning on making any changes in the coming year?  Are you looking for a job change? Did you have a child ? Have you purchased a new car?  Do you have a teenager ready for a learner’s permit or new drivers license?  Are you protected in the event of a fire or a flood?

It’s hard to prepare for the unknown and unexpected, but if you take some time – even just for a few hours once a year – to consider whether or not to make changes to your insurance to more accurately protect your assets (and yourself), the value can be tremendous.

In light of today’s construction costs, it may cost more than you expect to rebuild or repair your home.  Is your coverage keeping up with inflation?  Does your current insurance policy still protect you in the event of an emergency?  Check with our team to learn if you are covered in the event of an accident or natural disaster.  We may be able to help you make modifications to your policy to make sure you are properly protected.

Just over the last 10 years, we have seen several flood events in our region with communities that have been hard hit with damages.  With changes to our climate, these events are likely to occur more and more frequently.  If you are not sure if you would be covered in a similar type of event, schedule an appointment with your team so that we can help you interpret your policies to make sure you are secured with a level of protection that makes sense for your specific needs.

If we could tell you one thing, it would be “Don’t put this off”.  Take the time today to assess your risk, document your current assets and their value and take action to protect yourself with appropriate coverage – before you need it!  As always, our team is ready to assist.  Call us for an appointment at 607-547-2951 or submit our Contact Form Here.

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Summer Grilling Safety Tips

Who Doesn’t Love a Barbecue?

Summer Grilling Safety TipsOne of the best things about summer is the ability to cook outdoors.  We hold family barbecues, attend outdoor picnics, and just generally cook outside whenever we can while the season is here.  70% of our households in the U.S. own an outdoor grill or smoker.   While a big part of our summer fare, outdoor cooking does not come without risks.  An average of 10,600 home fires are caused each year and almost 20,000 emergency room visits are directly related to home grilling and about half of those injuries involve thermal burns.  Take a look through these Summer Grilling Safety Tips – recommended by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA).  NFPA is a global self-funded nonprofit organization, established in 1896, devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards.

 

GENERAL GRILLING SAFETY TIPS 

  • Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors. 
  • The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches. 
  • Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area. 
  • Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill. 
  • Never leave your grill unattended. 
  • Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it. 

 

CHARCOAL GRILL SAFETY 

There are several ways to get the charcoal ready to use. Charcoal chimney starters allow you to start the charcoal using newspaper as a fuel. If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid.  

  • Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire. 
  • Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources. 

There are also electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire. Be sure to use an extension cord for outdoor use. 

When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container. 

 

PROPANE GRILL SAFETY

Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose. A propane leak will release bubbles. If your grill has a gas leak, by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame, turn off both the gas tank and the grill. If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak does not stop, call the fire department. 

If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not move the grill. 

If the flame goes out, turn the grill and gas off and wait at least 5 minutes before re-lighting it. 

 

So, enjoy your barbecue, but remember to take steps for safety!  If you should need any guidance on insurance in case something goes wrong, please feel free to contact our team at Bieritz Insurance Agency to see if you have the protection you need.  We are happy to assist you.

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Transitioning Your Yard to Native Plants: How?

If you have made the decision to begin transitioning your lawn to a native plants habitat, but you’re not quite sure where to begin, then this information should be helpful.  We will provide some guidance on how to get started.  This article is the second part of a 2-part article.  To view prior content, please visit: Transitioning Your Yard to Native Plants: Why?

Find a local supplier

One of the first steps in the process is to find a good local supplier that has expertise about native plants.  They will be able to advise you along the way and provide expertise and options for how to best develop your native plant garden.  Use someone local whenever possible – someone that can access plants that are specific to your region, from your region.  Big box suppliers may have plants labeled as native, but may actually come from places far from your location.  Often you might find native plant ‘cultivars’ – which are a modified version of a native plant and may not provide the same type of benefits.  If you are not sure who your local experts are, a good resource is the New York Flora Association.  Their board members likely know people throughout the state that can help you with true expertise.

Determine Parameters – Identify Conditions

Next in your process is to designate your space.  You can start with one area and expand this over time.  Select a practical location to begin and allow for room to expand over time.  You will want to assess the existing conditions of this space.  Is it sunny throughout the day or well shaded?  What is the soil type? Look at drainage and other factors that might impact the types of plants that would be best suited for that location.  When you have this information, consult your provider for recommendations on what plants might be best.

Plan Your Design

Consider the design for your garden.  In addition to focusing on plants that provide a good variety and quantity of food resources (nuts, berries, seeds, nectar, etc.), you might also want to incorporate vertical structure – with plant species grouped together and providing different shapes, sizes and heights.   You can design for seasonal colors and blooms, with some plants that bloom in spring and others that bloom in fall months.  Other features can include natural concave rocks for catching rainwater, and some brush piles or branches to create additional shelter throughout the year.

Prepare Your Soil

To prepare your area for new plants, you may need to remove lawn or any invasive plants.  Add compost to the soil for a nutrient rich environment.  Once you have prepared the soil, you can cover with layers of newspaper and mulch until you are ready to plant.

Plant and Enjoy

Native plants need time to adapt to their new habitat, so it is recommended to plant on cooler days in Spring or Fall, or during a cooler summer week.  They will need some basic watering and care while they start out for the first few weeks, but after that, maintenance is just checking for and removing any invasive weeds that appear.  If you have additional questions, you can find information at Bird-Friendly Plants FAQ from National Audubon Society.

 

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Transitioning Your Yard to Native Plants: Why?

Rose- breasted Grosbeak in a Sugar-maple; Image by Putneypics-Flickr-CC(BY-NC 2.0)

As the weather finally begins to warm, we expect many will be spending some time working on their outdoor spaces.  If you are looking to do some landscaping around your home this season, you may want to consider starting to transition your yard to native plants.  The impending impacts of climate change will find birds and wildlife ranges shifting northwards, and will also increase our prospects for experiencing severe weather events.  Using native plants in your landscaping can provide many benefits including support for local wildlife and making your home more resilient.

What are the benefits of using Native Plants?

Flood prevention and erosion control

As a rule, native plants, trees and shrubs establish strong, deep root systems that are not found with lawn grasses and sod.  These root systems can help to reduce the flooding impacts from major storm systems by storing water during and after heavy rains.  They are also more effective at slowing water down and therefore reducing erosion and loss of soil on your property.  Avoiding flood damage can reduce your insurance claims on your homeowners policy.  Claims on your insurance will typically result in increased rates over time, so therefore, this is an investment that could save you money in the long run.

Increased habitat and less maintenance

Native plants naturally require less fertilizers and  pesticides to keep them healthy and once they are established, they require less watering and maintenance than a grassed lawn.  In addition, they provide important sources of food and shelter for birds, insects and local wildlife. Habitat loss is the number one threat to birds and other wildlife, so every patch we can create is an oasis of much needed space.  Over the past century, the US has lost over 150 million acres of habitat and farmland – a trend that shows no sign of slowing. Converting our lawns can help reclaim over 40 million acres of needed habitat.  Native animals rely on local plant species – for cover from predators and protection from the elements as well as for nuts, seeds, berries and insects that they host.

Healthy ecosystems and beautiful spaces

From an ecological perspective, native plants help to maintain the integrity of the ecosystem and they can help to reduce the spread of invasive species.  They can also be a beautiful addition to your property as many native plants produce showy flowers, abundant fruits and seeds, and brilliant fall foliage.  They are healthy places where you and your family can spend time.

(To be continued in Part 2: Transitioning Your Yard to Native Plants: How?)

 

 

 

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Can Going Green be Good for Your Business?

Last week, we celebrated the 51st anniversary of the first Earth Day.  The first event in 1970 looked a lot different than it does today.  It was the largest single-day protest in human history when more than 20 million people poured out onto the streets throughout the US.  Shortly after that, in 1972 landmark conservation laws and regulations were passed that included the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, to name a few.  While there is a lot that has changed over the last 50 years, a good deal of our original challenges that remain today.  For example, Recycling remains a challenge.  In Otsego County, only about 12% of recyclable materials are recovered with close to 80% continuing to go to landfills.

If you own a business, you likely take some time each year to do some planning.  What are things that you are doing that are working well?  What are some things you can do better? etc.  Do you keep your environmental impact in mind when you are going through these planning steps?   Going green with your business can be a good thing!

Otsego County Solid Waste Department recently launched their Waste-Smart Business Certification to recognize businesses that are making the effort to improve their practices.  They have three levels of recognition that are based on a point system.  Your certification can be a deciding factor for someone who might want to do business with you.  When researching you and your competitors, this may have weight in the decision making process.  Learn more about the requirements and benefits at their website at https://www.otsegocounty.com/departments/s-y/solid_waste/waste-smart_business_certification.php.

There are other ways that environmentally-friendly practices can save your business money and lower your insurance risk.  For example, you can switch to using only non-toxic cleaning products in the workplace.  Exposure to fewer toxins can keep your employees healthier – reducing the number of sick days as well as expenses on health insurance.   You can save energy and dollars in a number of ways as well.  By powering down your business machines at the end of the workday, you can save energy and avoid risks of data breaches during the off hours; making the switch to LED light bulbs means less energy cost, less bulb replacement cost, and less risk of injury if replacement requires a ladder.  If you drive as part of your work, following fuel efficiency guidelines can not only reduce your costs for fuel, but can also improve safety and reduce your chances of having an accident.  Less accidents can translate into lower rates for your insurance.

These are just a few ways that your green practices can make sense for both the environment and for your business!  Take a few minutes and decide on something you can do today to make a difference.  If you are looking to assess your business insurance plans and your risks, please give our team a call and schedule for a free consultation.  Reach us in Cooperstown, NY at 607-547-2951 and in Morris, NY at 607-263-5170.

 

 

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Your Insurance Needs When You Are Moving

While buying a new house is certainly one of the most exciting things anyone can do, the actual process of getting into that house is often full of stress and hard work. Even when the sale has finally closed, you still have an incredibly daunting task ahead of you: moving. Some people choose to do it themselves; others hire professional help. Either way, it’s important to consider your valuable possessions, and what might happen to them during the move. No matter how careful you are, there’s always the risk that something bad can happen to these irreplaceable keepsakes. This is why it’s important to consider moving insurance.

 

What is moving insurance?

Just like it sounds, moving insurance is insurance that is specifically designed to protect you from loss during the process of moving from one home to another. It is a short-term policy that covers the cost of these items should they be stolen, broken or lost during the move. As stressful as this time can be, the peace of mind that comes from knowing your valuables are protected is often worth as much, if not more, than the items themselves.

 

Moving company guarantees

But wait, you might ask – don’t moving companies guarantee the items they move? The answer to that question isn’t easy. In theory, a moving company guarantees your items against negligence. This is called “valuation,” and it’s a moving company’s version of insurance (although, it should be noted that for legal purposes they aren’t allowed to call it that).

 

Most basic moving company contracts will provide some form of valuation, and you can actually upgrade the valuation for more protection. However, this is not always fool-proof. In some cases, the valuation has a limit to the amount of protection offered. This means that more expensive items, such as antiques, heirlooms and large pieces of furniture, might not be covered under the terms of the valuation contract.

 

In addition, it’s not unusual for companies to try and wiggle out of paying by claiming that events were outside of their control – if you packed some boxes yourself, for example, they could try and claim that it was your faulty packing that led to the damage.

 

Existing insurance coverage

You might also wonder if your existing home insurance covers this move. Again, it’s a good question that doesn’t have an easy answer, because in truth it depends on the policy and its coverage. It’s safe to assume that it doesn’t cover it, however, since most homeowner policies only cover things while they exist inside the home. Once an item leaves the home, the coverage usually no longer applies. It’s a good idea to contact your insurance company and nail down specifically what is and isn’t covered during a move under your existing policy.

 

Purchasing moving insurance

So, even though we’ve seen that the moving company and your existing policy might offer some protection, it’s a safe bet that it isn’t enough coverage for the life you’ve built up over the years. This is where moving insurance comes in. This type of insurance is built specifically to cover items while they are being packed up in one place, transported across town, across the country or even internationally and unpacked in a new location.

 

Even better, most moving insurance policies last for a while, and cover damage of any kind, no matter what. So, if your items are in transit, but have to sit in one place for whatever reason, they’re still covered. If an earthquake happens to damage your items during the move, they’re covered.

 

In addition, many moving insurance policies also cover internal damage to electronics and appliances. So, even if the item in question looks completely fine, if it doesn’t work properly once it reaches its final destination, it’s possible to file a claim to get the item replaced.

 

Of course, different types of moving insurance plans can cover different sorts of items, events and amounts, but in general this sort of coverage provides you with the satisfaction of knowing that you’re covered, even if unforeseeable problems occur during the move.

 

Contact us today

If you are looking at a move in your near future, you’re probably stressed out enough as it is. You owe it to yourself to purchase the peace of mind that comes from moving insurance, and we are ready to help you. Please contact us at Bieritz Insurance today so our team can help assess your needs and come up with a plan of protection for you and your valuables. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Parking Lot Safety: What You Need to Know

Parking lots contain a lot of potential safety hazards for both pedestrians and drivers. The National Safety Council (NHS) states that tens of thousands of crashes occur in parking lots and garages each year. This results in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries. Parking lots are busy places. Drivers can be distracted by talking or texting on their phones. Pedestrians can also become distracted as they cross the lot. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself and others while looking for a parking spot.

Follow the Signs

Watch out for signs stating specific rules for driving or parking in the lot. For intersections without a stop sign, make sure to follow the right-of-way procedures. Stay within the lanes and avoid cutting across the parking lot. Only park in designated parking areas. Parking spots with a wheelchair logo, are for drivers with the handicap card or license plate. Also, be sure to watch the direction the arrows of the pavement are pointing towards.

Stay Alert

Backing out of a parking lot requires your full attention. While backing out, do so slowly and proceed with caution. Small children tend to dart quickly around and behind vehicles. Use your rearview mirror or if equipped, your car’s backup camera system. The American Automobile Association (AAA) suggests that drivers reverse into parking spaces when possible. Also, finding a parking spot that allows you to drive forward instead of reversing can make exiting the lot easier.

Slow Down

You might be tempted to increase your speed while searching for the perfect parking spot. Take your time and follow the posted speed limit. There can be unseen hazards such as potholes, debris, or ice that can cause injury to both the pedestrian and the driver.

 

Parking Garages

Parking garages also contain many potential safety hazards. Poorly lit parking garages can be a difficult environment for visibility, especially at night. To ensure safety, park your car near well-lit areas. Not only will it make it easier to spot passing pedestrians, but it can also serve as a deterrent for thieves. Parking garages contain blind spots and many drivers ignore traffic signs. While driving through the parking garage, be sure to follow the arrows and traffic signs.

 

If you find yourself in a fender bender, don’t fret. Our team at Bieritz Insurance Agency is here to help you. We are family-owned and operated, and will provide professional and exceptional customer service. Expect to talk to real people, not machines. Contact Bieritz Insurance Agency today to speak to a team member for more information today!

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