Your Old Home can be a Smart Home

nestJust because you have an older home doesn’t mean you can’t make it into a smart home.  Many new home constructions are integrating smart home technologies into design, but even if you have an older home, there are systems you can implement in your home to manage systems that address security, locks, lighting, and heating/cooling.  Making your home a “smart home” can help save energy, time and expense and you might be surprised to find that installing some of these smart features can be affordable and can be done yourself!


Home security  

High definition security cameras are contained within an outdoor smart light and are placed at your home’s entry areas (plugged into your existing power so you don’t need to worry about battery replacement).  They detect activity outside your home and send you a mobile alert. From your phone app (from anywhere), you can adjust the lighting, view the camera feed, talk with a delivery person via 2 way intercom or activate a pre-recorded message or a siren.  


Smart Locks

Many smart locks for your home entry come with keypads as well as integrated ID with your smart phone that recognizes you as you approach and unlocks your door for you.  You can add and remove access codes for guests as needed. Some systems also have random numbers that will generate prior to use of your PIN to assure that any visible wear on the system keypad is evenly spread across numbers.


Smart Lighting

Lighting systems for inside your home typically include a wireless system and specialized light bulbs that allow you to customize your lighting needs – turning off lights when you leave your home, turning on lights when you are arriving home, adjusting lighting remotely when you are on vacation.  Some smart systems detect when you are in a room and when you leave and will adjust accordingly as well.  


Heating and Cooling

A smart thermostat for your home learns your preferences and habits, automatically warming your home when you get up in the morning and cooling your home in the evening while you sleep.  These systems typically will automatically adjust for seasonal changes and will provide your with reports about your energy savings (reports estimate a 10-15% savings on energy costs).  They can be integrated into older homes, but if you have lathe-and-plaster walls, you may want to hire a professional installer.  


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Dog Days of Summer – Keeping your home cooler on a budget

August is typically the hottest month of the year here in the Central New York region, and perhaps the only month that we struggle with trying to keep our homes a bit cooler.  In many cases it doesn’t make sense to install air conditioning for the short period of time that it might be needed.  Considering the small window of time that they are used, air conditioners can significantly increase your electricity costs.  If you find yourself on a budget but still needing to make your home more comfortable during the heat of the season, these ideas may be helpful to you!

  • One of the easiest things you can do is to keep your blinds and curtains closed, especially during the hottest parts of the day.  This one thing can help to keep your home about 20 degrees cooler.  
  • Allow cool air to freely circulate inside your home.  Open up doors between rooms, especially during the cooler nighttime hours. Opening your windows at night will also help to cool your house down.  
  • Consider using your outdoor grill instead of heating your kitchen with your oven and stovetop, and drink plenty of cool beverages to keep your body temperature down.  
  • Run your ceiling fans counter clockwise to draw warm air up to the ceiling and allow cooler air to flow back down to your floors where you spend your time.  You can also run your exhaust fan for a period of time in your bathrooms to help pull warmer air out of the house.  
  • Changing out your bed linens to lightweight cotton will also help to keep you more comfortable during hot weather.   
  • Try switching out your incandescent light bulbs which throw a lot of heat for cooler fluorescent CFL’s.  
  • And if all else fails, don’t forget the fan!  A small breeze can help you feel more comfortable, especially if you use a mister to slightly dampen your skin so that the fan evaporates the moisture and makes you feel cooler.  


For a few additional ideas and tips, check out the video below from PG&E

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Backyard Fire Pit Safety

camping-700215_1280Outdoor fire pits have become an increasingly popular outdoor home accessory.   If you have a fire pit or are considering adding one to your yard, here are a few things you should think about for safety.


  1. Check with your local building codes officer to determine if there is a legal minimum distance for placement of your fire pit from any built structures on your property (your home, sheds, etc.).
  2. Typically you want to place your fire pit in an open area with seating arranged with plenty of space for guests to maneuver around the fire without coming too close.
  3. There should be good ventilation around the fire pit as well.



  1. Use seasoned hard woods like oak or maple for your fires as softer woods (pines and cedars) have a greater tendency to pop and splinter when burned and can cause burning embers to fly.
  2. Start your fire with kindling only and avoid using lighter fluids of any kind in your fire pit.
  3. Use a screen to cover your fire pit to keep any stray embers from flying out.
  4. Never leave a fire pit unattended and keep a careful eye on children when the fire pit is in use.
  5. Don’t allow blankets or loose flammable clothing (nylons) near the fire pit.
  6. Keep a bucket of water or sand nearby to fully extinguish the fire when you are done (or use a garden host set for a wide gentle spray), and allow coals to fully cool for 24 hrs. before disposal.



  1. Check with your insurance company to find out if your policy holder requires you to declare use of a fire pit at your home.

If you should have any questions about your insurance, please feel free to contact our team at Bieritz Agency in Cooperstown (607) 547-2951 or Morris Insurance in Morris at (607) 263-5170.  We are happy to help you!


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Travel and Rental Car Insurance

Do you need to purchase extra Rental Car Insurance on your trip?

businessman-805880_640Summer vacation travel season is here!  If you are planning on heading out of town and using a rental car for your trip, you might find some of the information here helpful.  

Typically, when you are renting a car while on a personal vacation, your regular auto insurance policy will cover you for most of your needs. If you are traveling for business, your personal auto policy will not cover damage if you are renting for a business trip.  If you have insurance for auto, renter or homeowner, you are likely already covered for liability, personal accident and personal effects coverage.  The only coverage you might consider adding is additional collision damage insurance for a rental car.  You can purchase this coverage to also include loss of use charges should a vehicle need to be repaired after an incident.  This coverage can often be purchased through your private insurance provider for a minimal daily charge – far less than the upsell through a car rental agency.

If you are not covered by a private policy, you may be able to add rental car coverage through your major credit card account.  Check with Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express through the phone numbers on the back of your cards.  To receive the coverage through a credit card company, you must charge the entire rental on the credit card and decline the supplemental collision damage coverage offered by the rental company. It is important to note that you can’t have both.  Coverage through the credit card company may have additional restrictions based on the length of the rental term, the type of vehicle you are renting, or what country you are renting from.  

Another option is to purchase special travel insurance for your trip, to help cover your trip investment.  Travel insurance helps to cover your trip investment if you have flight cancellations due to illness, injuries, weather incidents or other travel related issues.  It can help you replace lost baggage, theft of property, tour operator bankruptcy, and more.   Travel insurance also has the option for adding collision coverage for a rental vehicle as part of your vacation insurance package.

What rental car insurance can do is protect you from a surcharge on your policy premium for a claim on an accident when driving a rental car.  It also can protect you from ‘loss of use’ charges when the rental car has to be off the road for repairs.  If you are declining additional coverage, always make sure you take the time to read the fine print on your rental contract before signing for your vehicle, and make sure that it indicates that you are declining the additional insurance.  

If you have any questions, check with our team at Bieritz Agency before your trip so we can help to advise you on what makes the most sense for you.  We offer two convenient locations in Cooperstown and Morris.

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Spring Project Ideas for your Property

house-insurance-419058_640Spring is a great time of year to look around your home and decide on areas that could use a good refresh.  Many homeowners keep a list of projects that they would like to do – now is the time to start crossing a few of those off your list!  If you don’t have a list, but want to make some updates before the summer months, here are a few ideas for some outdoor and indoor projects.  Some of these will depend on the amount of time and money you have to spend.  


For a good outdoor cleanup, consider renting a power washer on a nice sunny spring day and use it to remove dirt, debris, mold, moss and other materials from your deck or your driveway, the outside of your gutters and maybe even your siding.  

If painting is your thing, you could give a fresh coat of paint to your outdoor furniture pieces or maybe repaint your entry door or your house trim.

Landscaping work can include adding a new garden area or sprucing up an existing one.  Spring is a great time of year to clear out leaf litter between your house and your shrubs too!


You might add a new rug, buy a new piece of artwork or invest in a good furniture item, or maybe change out your window treatments to let in more sunlight.  Try slipcovers for a new look for older furniture pieces.

A change in your lighting can make a big difference as well.  If you have an older kitchen, perhaps you might like to update an old appliance or re-invigorate your kitchen cabinets with a new color.

Add a fresh coat of paint to a room or rooms.

Improvements and Your Insurance:

If you decide to do any major improvements on your home, check in with our team at Bieritz Agency to see if there is any added insurance protection you need during or following your renovations.  You may want to add big ticket items that you purchase to your contents items on your policy.    If you don’t already have a content list, check out our post from last November on Cataloging your Possessions for Insurance.

You can contact our team in Cooperstown at Bieritz Insurance Agency, 209 Main Street , Cooperstown, NY 13326 –
607-547-2951 or in Morris at Morris Insurance Agency, 128 Main Street, Morris, NY 13808 – 607-263-5170.  We are happy to help you!




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Trees and Your Insurance

Spring is a good time to check your property for tree damage.


Spring weather can be erratic, as we well know this year from our April sub-freezing temperatures and snow storms.  Despite this, we can say with certainty, it will begin to warm up.  As your yard becomes walk-able once again, we encourage you to take a trip around your property to look for any damage to your trees.

If you have a tree that falls on your property and it hits your home or your auto, you are protected for repairs under your homeowner’s insurance policy.  If you have a tree that falls on a neighbor’s property, their homeowner’s policy should cover any damages.  Some of these claims can get complicated, so we would encourage you to check with your office if you have any questions in this circumstance.

Typically, if you have a homeowner’s policy with a high deductible, the expense for a claim may cost more than the cost of the removal of a potentially hazardous tree.  We encourage all of our homeowner clients to take steps towards prevention of damages each year, during the spring months.  Inspect your property and look for any potential hazards (trees that are diseased, branches that are unstable, etc.).  Do some trimming or tree removal when/if needed.  Check with a local company to find out when their busy season is so that you can schedule for removal in the off-season when costs might be a bit lower.

A once a year property inspection can end up saving you headaches down the road and can save you money!  If you have any questions about your homeowner’s policy or other insurance products, please call our offices in Cooperstown at 607-547-2951 or in Morris at 607-263-5170.  We are happy to help you.

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Home and Household Tax Deductions

tax-468440_640With just a little more than a month left for filing tax returns this year, it’s a good time to think about what things might qualify for an extra deduction.  In addition to your mortgage and some loan interest payments, some of your 2015 household improvements might be deductible.  

Home improvements eligible for deduction or tax credit include:

  • Installation of new storm doors or energy-efficient windows, insulation, air-conditioning or heating systems can qualify for an energy efficiency tax credit of 10% or up to $500 ($200 maximum towards windows).

  • Renovations and improvements to your home due to a medical condition may be tax deductible.

  • Solar and wind power systems can qualify for as much as 30% of the equipment cost and installation under the renewable-energy tax credit.  This credit will continue into next year for systems that are installed before the end of December 2016.

Home office tax deductions:

  • Home office deductions for those who work from home can include deductions for expenses relating to a qualified office for things like phone lines, heating, electricity, and renovations as well as a portion of your mortgage interest, property taxes and insurance.

Household education deductions (for children attending college or for your continuing education expenses):

  • The American Opportunity tax credit is worth up to $2500 per  year for qualifying expenses related to the first four years of higher education.  Student must be enrolled in a degree or credential program.  The Lifetime Learning Credit, $2000 per year, is not restricted to the first four years of school.  There is also a Tuition and Fees Deduction – for up to $4,000.

If any of these items apply to you in 2015, be sure to check with your accountant to see if you are eligible for any of these deductions.  Don’t forget to provide documentation. Also, make sure that any improvements to your home are documented for your homeowners insurance.  If you have questions about this, please contact our team at Bieritz Insurance in Cooperstown at 607-547-2951 or in Morris at 607-263-5170.  We are happy to assist you!


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Fireplace Safety

Despite the fact that this winter has been mild so far in comparison to the last two years, the months of February and March are still key months for fireplace use. By keeping in mind the following fireplace safety tips, you can protect your property and the lives of your family and neighbors.

  • Inspect and clean your chimney and fireplace once a year (typically in the fall) to remove soot and creosote build up and to make sure they are able to operate safely. A chimney professional will use specialized vacuums to clean the firebox, smoke chamber, damper, smoke shelf and flue liner and will report on any system deficiencies found. They can also check the chimney and cap for deterioration or signs of damage.
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on each level of your home, and keep them in working order.
  • Test your fireplace with a few small pieces of seasoned wood to make sure that smoke does not enter the room.
  • When operating your fireplace, make sure you remove any combustible materials from the area around your hearth, and use a mesh screen to keep embers in the fireplace. Glass fireplace doors should be kept open when a fire is burning so that the fire receives air to complete combustion and reduce creosote build up in the chimney.
  • Use the correct wood – dense wood types (oak, ash, maple) that have been stored in a dry area for 6 months or more are best – split wood dries more thoroughly and burns better than whole logs. Firewood should be stored a minimum of 30 feet away from your home.
  • Never use flammable liquids to start fires – use matches or a commercial firelighter, and never burn cardboard, trash or debris.
  • Do not close dampers until the fire is completely out.
  • Clean out excess ash so that it doesn’t impede airflow for your fire. An inch of ash at the bottom actually helps to maintain a fire. Ashes can take several days to cool completely. Keep them in a metal container located at least 10 feet away from any buildings.


fireplace3-pixabayThe expenses associated with maintaining your fireplace and chimney each year are minimal in comparison with the costs of a fire. We urge all our clients, family and friends to take the steps necessary to assure safe operations. If you have questions about your insurance coverage in the event of a fire, please contact our team in Cooperstown at 547-2951 or in Morris at 263-5170.

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Safe Riders Video

The video below is put together by the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association and contains comprehensive information about safe snowmobiling. Twenty minutes well-spent if you are new to this sport! We wish all our snowmobiling friends and clients a safe season. Please let us know if you have any questions about your insurance needs for your vehicle!

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Snowmobiling in Otsego County

If you are a snowmobiling enthusiast, you know that our area is a great place to play!  According to, New York offers over 10,400 miles of trails throughout the state.  There are over 230 local clubs associated with the New York State Snowmobiling Association and information available on events, trails, places to stay, tips and more.  This coming weekend is a free snowmobiling weekend to encourage out-of-state and Canadian enthusiasts to sled in NY (the registration fee is waived for the weekend for properly registered and insured out-of state snowmobilers).

Locally, there are some great snowmobiling resources available for riders.  One of our favorite resources is a locally developed phone app that can be accessed even when cellular data service is not available – a great feature for when you are not sure what direction to go when riding our local trails.  The premium app for all of New York State is available for download at both the AppStore and Google Play for $20.  Find parking, areas of interest, tourism locations, stopping areas and trails and trail conditions along with additional tools to help plan your route.  This technology is developed by Mohawk Valley GIS , a Utica based company established in 2003 by Linda Rockwood.

You can access the information online as well at and you can find them on Facebook here:



Don’t forget, if you need help with insurance for your Snowmobile, we are happy to assist you!  Contact our team at our Cooperstown office at 607-547-2951 or at our Morris Office at 607-263-5170.


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Snow Removal Safety

snow removal bieritzWe have been very fortunate in our region this year to have not had any significant snowfall so far this winter.  But, as we all know – those days are coming!  Our favorite snow-shoveling days are the ones where each morning, there is only a tiny layer of new snow – light and powdery enough that all you need is a once over with a broom to sweep it clear.  If we are lucky, we will have more than a few of those kinds of snowfalls this winter.  Inevitably though, as part of the winter mix, we will end up with some accumulations of wetter snow that will require actual shoveling. Keep in mind some of the following safety tips for when this occurs.  

First, make sure you are able to safely shovel – if you have back problems or a heart condition, you might want to check with your doctor first, or consider finding someone to hire for the task.  Some landscaping companies will contract with you for snow clearing services through the winter months or if you know any local youths, they might be interested in an extra few dollars in their pockets.   

If you are able to shovel, before you go out make sure you are dressed properly – with layers of clothing, warm socks, hat, gloves and shoes that offer traction on slippery surfaces.  Take a few moments to limber up as well to warm your muscles for the task. Remember to take breaks frequently and stay well-hydrated.  If you experience any pain while shoveling, you should stop immediately.  

Choosing the right tool for the job is likely one of the most important things you can do to prevent injury and strain.  A plastic small-bladed shovel with a curved handle is best.  The curved handle helps you to keep your back straighter while shoveling and the small blade assures that you won’t be lifting too much snow at a time.  It is better to push snow rather than lift it when possible which is why it is recommended to shovel more frequently to clear new snow than to wait until the storm ends and clear it all at once.  One large shovelful of snow can weigh 25 pounds! 

You can increase your leverage while shoveling by keeping your hands at least a foot apart on the shovel.  If you need to lift snow, remember to remove it in smaller shovelfuls and use your legs to lift and move  – try to avoid twisting.

Our team at Bieritz Insurance wishes you a wonderful and safe winter season, free from injuries and with only the amount of snow you can handle!  

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Santa’s Schedule at Pioneer Park 2015

santaWe take this opportunity to welcome Santa and Mrs. Claus back to their cottage on Pioneer Park this year.   Come enjoy the spirit of Christmas in Cooperstown!

Each year Pioneer Park in Cooperstown is transformed into an enchanting “Christmas village” for the holidays. Santa arrived in his horse drawn sleigh at his cottage in Pioneer Park on November 27th.

For your convenience – Santa’s schedule for December  is posted below:

4th      3 – 6 pm
5th    10 – 11 am Mrs. Claus Story Time
5th      1 – 5 pm
6th     1 – 4 pm
11th     3 – 6 pm
12th  10 – 11 am, Mrs. Claus Story Time
12th    1 – 5 pm
13th    1 –4 pm
17th   3 – 6 pm
18th   3 – 6 pm
19th   1 – 5 pm
20th  1 – 4 pm
21st   1 – 4 pm
22nd  1 – 4 pm
23rd  1 – 4 pm
24th  1 – 4 pm

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