Hunting Risks for Landowners – What You Need to Know

This might be a little far fetched but it is wise to consider the risks when you allow someone to hunt on your property

 

As a property owner have you ever thought about allowing hunting on your land? If you have, you may not have realized the risks that comes with hunting on your property. These risks stem from accidents that can occur while others are on your property. Although it is just an accident, people may seek compensation. If the compensation is not what they expected, a lawsuit may follow. It is important that you have the right protection so you and your family are not at risk.

 

Causes for Risk

Several things can happen with other people on your land. Things may go from bad to worse when an incident happens. These incidents or risks can include the following:

  • Accidental shootings
  • All terrain vehicle (ATV) accidents
  • Falls
  • Cuts from knives or other sharp objects
  • Boating and watercraft accidents
  • Fires
  • Negligence

For example, you have a hunter on your property who just killed a deer and is cleaning the carcass when they accidentally cut themself. The hunter decides to file a lawsuit because they feel there was not enough first aid procedures or boxes on site. They also claim that they would not have cut themselves if they had a specified location to clean and prep the carcass. The hunter is claiming you are at fault for the incident. Now you have to fight this claim by hiring an attorney and possibly going to court. Now additional unexpected expenses are incurred to protect you and your property.

 

Financial Risk

The biggest financial risks for the property owner is having to pay compensation because the insurance you had was not enough or the correct type. If a hunting accident occurs on your property, your homeowner’s insurance policy may not allow for hunting on your property which in turn causes the claim not to be paid. Therefore, any legal, medical or compensation that must be paid to the injured party is now the responsibility of the property owner. These payment can be devastating to you and your family.

 

Another example of a financial risk is allowing ATVs on your property. Most automobile policies do not cover ATVs. So if you have two hunter’s on your property and they run into each while hunting, your auto policy may not cover the damage to the four wheelers. The hunters involved may look to you as the property owner to settle the damages and any medical bills.

 

Property Damage

The property damage can be significant. If a hunter is on your property and they start a fire but the fire is not out all the way your entire property is now at risk. A fire will not only cost you financially but would be devastating  because it could displace you and your family if the house is burnt down.

 

Other property damage can include hunters getting too close to the buildings on the property and accidentally shooting out the windows or hitting the building itself. Not only do you have property damage, you now have an unexpected financial cost to fix the windows or building where the bullets hit.

 

Differences in Insurance

As a property owner you have property and automobile insurance to cover your property. But that coverage may not be enough or even cover your property if you allow hunting on your land. There is a specific insurance that covers the land owner and hunters if an accident or property damage occurs from hunting. This insurance is hunting insurance.

 

When looking for hunting insurance review the following:

  • Coverage – know what is covered and what is not. Make sure the policy covers incidents with all hunting equipment like ATV’s, firearms, dogs, treestands, and boats
  • Cost – look for any hidden fees and costs like annual membership dues for a hunting club
  • Exclusions – read all exclusions carefully and ask questions. Make sure you fully understand the exclusions so you do not have unexpected issues later on

 

Minimizing Risks

Be proactive! As a property owner minimize your risks by:

  • Making sure all hunters know any and all rules you have established
  • Anyone hunting on your property must complete a hunters safety education course
  • Clearly mark your property lines so the hunters stay on your property
  • Establish emergency plans and make all hunters aware of them – review them frequently
  • Create a procedure for hunters to report maintenance problems like a broken treestand
  • Review your hunting insurance policy annually and understand any changes to the policy

 

Having hunting insurance is an important piece of security for a property owner. You hope that you will never need to use it but you have the extra protection for you and your family.

 

Contact us at http://bieritzinsurance.com/contact-us/ with any questions regarding hunting insurance or to establish a policy.

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Insurance for a High Risk Pet

How do you know if you have a high risk pet that will affect either your ability to get insurance or the cost of your current homeowners policy? Insurance companies consider certain dog breeds to be high risk because these breeds tend to be more aggressive and are therefore deemed to be more dangerous:

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Why Your College Student Needs Insurance on Their Items

It’s always an exciting time when your child graduates high school and begins a new career as a college student. Parents often face a mixture of emotions as they watch their children transition from high school to college. On one hand, your student has worked hard to graduate, and is stepping into a new life. One the other, that life is often away from the comforts and familiar faces of their hometown. Bieritz Insurance understands this is both an exciting and sometimes challenging time in the lives of both the students and the parents, and wants to help add an extra sense of security for both.

 

Once upon a time, when a child graduated high school, a graduation watch was the standard gift. As technology has advanced, this has lost its favor. Many parents gift their children a new, top-of-the-line laptop at graduation. The reason is simple – they’re useful, and required for studying and doing homework. Parents want to give their child a gift that will help them to succeed, and students love having a laptop that they can not only take from class to class, but use for leisure time when in the dorm room or with friends. For these reasons, laptops are becoming a very popular gift for college-bound students.

 

Other common gifts include cell phones, room decor, bicycles and luggage. Everyone is excited to see their students enter a new phase of life, and give the best possible gifts they can afford to help make the shift to college life a smooth transition. What is often overlooked, however, is that students come to the dorm with thousands of dollars worth of items, and the university typically doesn’t offer any sort of reimbursement for lost or stolen items on campus. While students can make a police report and hope a stolen item is returned, if an item is lost, stolen or damaged, the only recourse is to replace it. Unless it’s a manufacture defect for something under warranty, the full price of replacement will be paid by either the student or the parents.

 

What most people don’t consider is how they can protect the value of those very expensive items once the student is in the dorm room. A lost cell phone? Stolen computer? A dorm mate spills water on their electronics? After investing so much money in helping their student succeed, most parents are confused when it comes to taking the obvious step in protecting those items through insurance. It can be hard to tell what insurance would be best, or what is covered through different plans, and there’s nothing worse than paying your premiums only to find out your coverage is low or your deductibles are high. Our team at Bieritz Insurance understands that deciding on a policy can be confusing, and we can help you find the policy you need.

 

Bieritz Insurance offers private insurance policies to cover many of these expenses and protect your investment. After all, we are a family-owned and operated agency and understand your concerns. We’ve been in business for over 70 years and have received recognition for being one of the top 30 independent agencies. We hope that we can earn your trust as a customer while providing peace of mind. We’d like to take a moment to explain the different insurance policies that can help protect your college student’s belongings while they are living on-campus.

 

Homeowner’s Insurance

While most homeowners insurance will extend a portion of coverage to your student off campus, you may be surprised by how little is actually covered. Many homeowners insurance policies only extend a percentage of your limit for items in your home to off campus locations. For example, if you have a $50 thousand dollar policy, only 10 percent of that may apply. Homeowners insurance may also carry variable deductibles that could be higher than replacement value for some items that are lost, damaged or stolen.

 

Renters Insurance

Renters insurance is designed to offer coverage for items, but it also covers a lot that a dorm student might not need, such as liability for pet bites or slip and fall hazards around the building. As a dorm student, pets aren’t usually allowed and the facility upkeep is the responsibility of the University, so why pay premiums for something that you don’t need?

 

Dorm Insurance

Dorm insurance is beneficial because it insures only what you want – your belongings – and the deductibles are generally reasonable.  Dorm insurance offers an easy and relatively inexpensive way to protect the value of personal items to a higher value than your homeowner’s extension policy, while keeping deductibles low.

 

As you can see, there are many different types of insurance options available for your student. Deciding which one works the best for you depends on what your needs are. Please contact us at http://bieritzinsurance.com so that we can help you and your family pick exactly the policy that fits your budget and insurance requirements. We look forward to serving you!

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Top 5 Tips for Pool Safety This Summer

Summer. It’s the time of year when the days are long and hot. The kids are out of school and nothing seems like a better idea than hanging out around the pool with your family, hosting backyard bbq parties, and enjoying those extra hours of sunshine. It’s not surprising, then, that many homeowners turn their eyes to their own backyards to contemplate the addition of a pool to their property. Homeowners that already have a pool installed will spend time cleaning and prepping the area in anticipation of summer parties and get togethers. Whether you have a pool or are planning to install one, here are some safety tips to help you enjoy it more and worry less.

 

Safety Features Every Pool Should Have

Fences

There’s an old saying that goes : Good fences make good neighbors. In the world of private pools, good fences make, well, good pools. It’s not just a good safety feature to install a fence around your pool, it may be required depending on your state. Fences around the pool will not only help prevent a small child from falling in during a get-together, they can help protect the homeowner by preventing others from using their pool without their knowledge or permission. Pool fence codes can vary,and Bieritz Insurance Agency can help you decide what type of fence would work best for your needs and comply with any state standards. If you already have a pool fence installed, be sure to check it annually for any loose posts and schedule to have repairs done quickly.

 

Ladders, Slides and Diving Boards, Oh My!

Homeowners often overlook the accessories added to pools that make them even more fun. Ladders, slides and diving boards should also be inspected regularly to ensure they haven’t been damaged while in storage or during the last year of use. Accidents can happen anytime, and unnoticed damage to pool equipment can increase their likelihood, so be sure everything is in good working order before opening your pool. Ladders that are removable should be taken out  and stored every season for in-ground pools, and above-ground pools should have stow away ladders that can be folded and inaccessible when the pool is not in use. This will prevent any curious children from climbing the ladder and entering the pool without the homeowner knowing.

 

Pool Covers

Pool covers have moved beyond just helping to keep your pool clean when not in use, to being safety features of their own. Some pool covers are designed to hold more weight and work to prevent accidental fall ins. On the topic of keeping the pool clean, be sure to test your water regularly and treat the pool as indicated by the installer. Keeping the water clean will help limit the potential of bacteria growth within the pool, aiding in preventing rashes and other skin conditions that may be caused by untreated water. Additionally, this helps maintain the pool’s filtration system, so by keeping your pool clean you are not only being safe but protecting your investment.

 

Pool Alarms

Pool alarms are relatively new to pool safety, but they are being recognized as one of the best safety measures for your backyard pool. In fact, some local municipalities or states require their installation. There are four types of pool alarms, those that attach to doors leading to the pool, those that either float in the pool or are installed submerged, and those that can be worn on the wrist of an individual. Bieritz Insurance Agency can help you decide which would work for the local municipal codes in your area.

 

Plan Ahead

One of the best tips for pool safety is to plan ahead. Make sure that you have everything you’ll need: towels, sunblock, etc., with you when you go out to your pool. By ensuring that you don’t have to run back in you will help keep everyone safe by not leaving anyone alone in the pool. If you must go back in, make sure to not leave children unattended and bring them inside. Teach your family proper pool safety rules such as no running, horseplay, the rules of diving, and to never swim alone. Teach kids the potential dangers of drain vents in pools and caution them against playing with the filtration system of your pool. When you have that backyard BBQ, make sure to tell guests with young children you have a pool so everyone can be vigilant.

 

Bieritz Insurance Agency understands your concerns when installing or maintaining a pool on your property. We want you to be able to relax and enjoy every moment of your investment in your property and families leisure time. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our tips to pool safety so that you can greet those long days of summer with a smile.  If you have any questions regarding your insurance needs for your pool or other summer recreational features, please feel free to contact us at our offices in Cooperstown and Morris, NY. We are happy to assist you!

 

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Insuring Your Vacation Rental Property

In our little corner of the world, the vacation rental business is booming.  While year-round lodging opportunities (hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, inns, etc.) continue to exist as a mainstay of accommodation  options in our area – there are many properties that now cater mostly to the thirteen week summer season – primarily targeted to the baseball camp family audience for weekly rentals.  Some of these properties contract with local managers to list and rent their homes as summer vacation rentals and others (more each day) list with one or more of the national rental chains like HomeAway, VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner)  or AirB&B.

 

A home that is used as a rental property is considered a business.  As a business, a typical homeowner’s insurance policy does not necessarily provide insurance coverage for your property (liability and damages, etc.) in the same way.   In some cases, if your property is used for short-term (less than 30 days) rentals, you might qualify for an endorsement on your existing policy. NOTE: You can check with our offices to see what your options are to make sure that you and your property are protected.   In most cases, you will need separate business insurance to cover you for liability (in case someone gets injured while staying at your property), building and contents (for replacement from catastrophic damage) and building income (to protect your business earnings).  If you offer extras like the use of bicycles or canoes/kayaks, or if you have a pool that guests will be able to use, you will want to make sure that your liability coverage extends to cover these items and their use by a renter.

 

Although some of the national rental chains (above) may offer their owners (and guests) the option to add insurance for their rentals, their policies might not provide the coverage that you need to be fully protected.  In some cases these policies do not allow for claims for extra guest fees, violations to the rental agreement, extra fees for cleaning or from pets, or loss of the ability to rent while repairs are being done. If you list your property through a national agency, Bieritz Insurance can review the details of that coverage for you so that we can advise how you can minimize your exposure to risks that might not be covered.  

 

Even with an insurance policy, some property owners continue to request a security deposit from their guests.  Although security deposits are time consuming to manage and are often points of contention between the owner and their guest, they do allow for the owner to provide documentation of damages and fees incurred to make repairs without going through the claims process (which often requires cooperation from the renter).  Security deposits may also provide a better incentive for renters to leave the property in good condition.

 

To protect yourself in a vacation rental business, your rental agreement with your vacationing guests should clearly stipulate the process for damages and claims.  You should also have a screening process in place so that you can make sure that your property and rules are a good fit for your prospective renter. A little bit of work in advance can alleviate headaches afterwards.  Our team at Bieritz Insurance in Cooperstown and Morris can help answer your questions and can find coverage to best meet your needs.  Contact us in Cooperstown at (607) 547-2951 and in Morris at (607) 263-5170. We are here to help you for all of your insurance needs!

 

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Cooking Safety through the Holidays

Did you know that there are about 1,400 cooking fires per year on Thanksgiving?  This is more than 3X the average for every other day of the year!  Furthermore, since 2004 there have been 107 fires due to frying turkey that have caused 47 burns and $5.2 millions worth of property damage!  Keep in mind the following tips to prevent accidents in your kitchen when you are cooking for the holidays.

Prevention

  • Make sure there is someone to watch over cooking operations as much as possible.
  • Tie long hair back and restrict or don’t wear drooping clothing that may easily catch fire.
  • Try to put meal-preparation tools that are flammable in a separate area.
  • Closely supervise cooking children or designate a distant playing space.
  • Keep watch over and clear away any grease buildup throughout the day.
  • Keep pan handles out of the way of passing traffic as much as possible.
  • Ensure that there are working smoke detectors installed on each floor, and perhaps get a photoelectric alarm that can determine the difference between smoke from cooking and smoke from fire.
  • If you choose to use a turkey fryer, set it up far outside and away from your house, not on the porch or in the garage.  Make sure the turkey is thoroughly thawed and dried before beginning.  Make sure you put only as much oil in it as you need.  If it starts to smoke, turn off the gas supply.  Also keep close watch.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby and learn how to use it.

 

Action After An Accident

In the event that there is a grease fire, call 911 as soon as possible and do not to attempt to put it out with water.  If someone’s clothing is on fire, remember or remind the person to stop, drop, and roll.  If someone is burned, further action is needed depending on which level of the skin it reaches.  For more information on treating minor burns, follow this link.

Remember, your insurance provider can help you navigate out of this kind of crisis.  You can reach our team at Bieritz Insurance in Cooperstown at 607-547-2951 or at Morris Insurance at 607-263-5170.

For additional information on things you can do to prevent accidents during the holidays, check out Safety Tips for the Holiday Season and Top Ten Holiday Safety Tips.

 

 

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Uninvited Guests – Pest Control for Your Home

Every old house homeowner knows there are time of the year when they find some unexpected house guests.  When the weather warms in the spring and summer months, the small trails of ants might appear in your kitchen, and in the fall months, as the weather cools, there are sometimes little creepers that find their way into your pantry.

Most people prefer to see their local wildlife outdoors, in the wild, where they belong.  But sometimes, they find their way into your home and you need to take action to eradicate/evict them.  Why are they there?  Habitat is a requirement for all living things.  This includes food, water, shelter and space.  If your home provides easy access to these resources, chances are you will find yourself playing the unwilling host.

Don’t Open the Door

One of the best methods to eliminate a pest problem is to make it hard for pests to find what they need.  Check for possible entry points around your home – a gap in your window screening, a broken window in your basement or maybe a garage door that doesn’t close properly may be easy access points to your house.  Do a general inspection each Spring and Fall for needed repairs to prevent pests from entering your home.  Is your crawl space protected? Do your windows need resealing? Does your attic screen need repair? Is your chimney capped?  Preventing entry in the first place is always a good place to begin.

Don’t Feed Your Guests

Next, look at your food sources.  Did someone spill the sugar?  Are there crumbs under your toaster? Is there food in your pantry that should be stored in a canister?  If pests cannot find something to eat in your home, chances are they will have to find somewhere else to live.  A thorough cleaning of your pantry and kitchen/dining areas will often help to assure that food particles are not available and will make it a harder or more unfriendly environment for pests, reducing the chances that they will take up a more permanent residence in your home.

Eviction

Sometimes, steps have to be taken to force your unwanted guests out.  That wasp nest on your roof porch needs to go!  If you use spray insecticides, make sure you follow the directions carefully and practice extra caution if you have pets or children in your household.  For small mammals like mice, avoid using poisons if you can since these animals are often prey for cats and other predators, and poisons often travel through the food chain and will impact more than that one intended nuisance target.  Trap and release works well as an alternative, but there are times when spring traps (for mice) or bait traps (for insects) might be necessary.

Get Help

If all else fails, it’s time to turn to the “Yellow Pages” or your favorite online directory to find professionals in your area that can help you with pest control.  Try to get recommendations from friends or maybe a local realtor to find out who might be best for the job.

Recap

Prevention is always the best method of control, but if you see or hear signs of unwanted guests in your home, then it’s too late.  You are closing the barn door after the horses get out (or the raccoons got in).  Do what you can to eliminate entry areas and habitat for your pests and if that fails, then move along to take more extreme (and often more costly) measures.  Pests are nuisances, but they can also do considerable damage to your home (chewed electrical wiring, structural wood damage).  Action is necessary to make your home inhospitable – for both short-term and long-term control.

If you have questions about whether pest damage to your home is covered by your insurance policy, give our team at Bieritz Insurance a call at (607) 547-2951 or stop in at our offices at 209 Main Street, Cooperstown.

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How does Installing a Pool Affect Homeowners Insurance?

One of the small joys of the summer season for adults and children alike is being able to go swimming.  Cooling off in the water offers relief from the heat and humidity.   If you are looking for the convenience and benefits of having your own backyard pool, don’t forget to consider the added cost of insurance into your expenses.  

Installing a pool usually increases how much you pay annually for your homeowner’s insurance policy.  It can add costs to your standard premium for the following reasons.  

  • A pool is a high risk investment, so you can expect that you will need to increase your liability coverage to cover personal injuries and/or damages. Increasing your liability claim limit will cause an increase to your premium.  

  • Some homeowners opt to purchase an umbrella policy to protect against potential lawsuits and other damages up to $1 million, costing an additional $200-$300 per year to the policy holder.

  • In-ground pools can be seen in two ways by policies – either as part of the home or as external structures.  If your pool is considered part of your home, increasing the replacement cost value in your policy by the amount it costs to install the pool increases your maximum claim limit and therefore also your premium.  If your pool is considered an external structure, you might want to pay for more coverage.  This is because a lot of policies cover the cost to replace external structures only up to 10% of the value of your home as listed in your policy, and that might not be enough to cover your costs for replacement.  

  • Above-ground pools, however, are considered personal property.  Many home insurance policies cover personal property up to 75% the replacement cost value of your home, and your pool may be included in that, unless your policy puts a claim limit on swimming pools.  If it doesn’t, then you will probably be set in the event that damage is done to your pool, unless your pool is very expensive.

  • Some safety features are required in many states, such as fencing, and they may also minimize the amount that is added to your premium.  Some pool accessories, such as slides and diving boards, are seen as increased risk to providers.  If your pool has them, it may not be covered at all, or it may cost more to protect.  

  • In warmer areas where swimming pools are more common and often-used, the amount of increase to the annual premium may be less than in areas where they are less in-use.

  • If you don’t declare your pool in your policy or notify your provider that you are installing one, you won’t have to pay the increased premium, but you may be in more debt later because of it, and your provider will not be likely to step in to aid you, this time or the next.  

The bottom line is that getting a pool may mean that you will end up paying more for your homeowner’s insurance policy, but it depends on the type of pool you get, its accessories, your location, and how much protection you decide to invest in.  If you are considering a pool, our team at Bieritz Insurance Agency can help to answer your questions.  Be sure to give us a call at (607) 547-2951 (Cooperstown Office) or at (607) 263-5170 (Milford Office).

 

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Flood Safety

Spring is here and with the season’s change comes the rain.  It seems that we have had a good deal of precipitation just over the last two weeks in our region – and if you are looking at our local rivers and streams, we are noticing that the water is running fast and high.  Floods happen everywhere – they are not relegated to specific regions like tornadoes or hurricanes.  Our area has certainly had more than a few years over this last decade where flooding has been severe.  For safety, please keep an ear out for warnings and follow the safety suggestions below!

 

  • Flood insurance often takes up to 30 days to go into effect, so if you are in need of a rider, you need to plan for this well in advance.  Our team can provide you with additional information and details on how flood insurance works.
  • Prepare for emergency situations with your family.  Hold a meeting and talk about what needs to be done in case of a flood, have a plan for communications in case people are at work or at school, and don’t forget about your pets.
  • Make up several emergency kits and keep one at your office, your home and your family vehicles.  If you don’t know what should be in your emergency kit, you can find information here: https://www.ready.gov/kit
  • Be aware of flood warnings and move to higher ground.  If you are advised to evacuate, please do so.  If you are already on higher ground, be prepared to stay there until it is safe to travel.
  • Check on your neighbors.
  • Never drive or walk through flooded streets.

 

Find more details on what to do before, during and after a flood at http://www.susquehannafloodforecasting.org/before-during-after.html

 

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When (and When Not) to File a Homeowner’s Insurance Claim

Knowing when and when not to file an insurance claim is one of the tricks of the trade for someone trying to manage the costs of damage to one’s property or house.  Every insurance agency has different regulations for what makes a valid claim, as well as for what policy modifications are necessary after a claim has been made.  Often, insurance rates are raised.  Based on the circumstances of the claim and of a homeowner’s claim history, policies can even be cancelled and a client can earn a reputation in the field that makes other providers refuse them or offer unaffordable policies.  Therefore, it is helpful to know generally when and when NOT to file a claim for property damage.  

Don’t file a claim…

  • If you can handle paying for the damages yourself because
    the cost to repair damage is only a few hundred dollars more than your deductible (some will recommend that you choose the highest deductible rate as you can handle).
  • If it would make your second claim in the past 3 years, or the 3rd or 4th claim in the past 10 years.   
  • If the event causing damage or the item damaged is not covered by the policy.  (It could still be written down in your history as a claim.)
  • If the damage should have been reported and claimed sooner, and has only gotten worse since then.  Providers will be reluctant to pay for it it.  

 

File a claim…

  • When your property has suffered major damage.
  • When the cost of repairing damage is far beyond your means.
  • When the last time you filed a claim it was because the cause of the damage was different from the present cause of damage (ex.: it was burglary before and now it’s weather)
  • As soon as possible after damage has occurred to keep your property insurance-worthy.  Again, insurance providers will be reluctant to cover damage if damages have been steadily getting worse over the years (ex.: mold, rot).
  • When the damage was done by weather or other similar catastrophes (most insurers don’t raise rates for those types of claims).

 

If you are still unsure about when it is best to file a claim, look for help!  Your policy is a good place to start, although you may need some help interpreting what it means.  You can always contact our offices for guidance.  We offer two convenient locations: Bieritz Insura
nce Agency in Cooperstown, NY and Morris Insurance Agency in Morris, NY, and we pride ourselves on great customer service.

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The Importance of Maintaining Your Chimney

chimneyThe Fall Season has officially arrived in our area with the first frost (last night) and the cooler temperatures means that it’s time to start using our fireplaces and wood-burning stoves to help warm a room or to take a bit of the chill out of the air.  Before you begin to use these, however, it is recommended to inspect and clean them to make sure they are safe to operate.  According to the National Fire Protection Association, this should be done at least once a year, usually in the fall months.

A chimney inspection will check for soundness, freedom from deposits and correct clearances.  Even if you don’t use your chimney often, there may be nesting materials from animals or other types of deterioration that make the chimney unsafe to use.  A chimney sweep will clear out any sooty buildup in the chimney (1/8″ can be enough to cause a chimney fire that could damage the chimney or spread to the home), and will typically also include cleaning of the chimney flue and smoke chamber.  Sooty deposits are also very acidic and can shorten the life of your fireplace and chimney.

Over time, chimneys may become clogged with creosote, a by-product of burning wood.  This builds up over time and leaves a highly combustible glazed coating on the inside of the chimney.  Creosote build up is often caused by poor air supply, so your regular chimney cleaning helps to prevent creosote formation as well.  Chimneys with poor air flow can also cause the buildup of carbon monoxide in your home.  At low levels, carbon monoxide can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, confusion and fainting, and at high levels, it can be deadly.
When a chimney is not cleaned regularly, there is the chance that soot will accumulate around the flue which inhibits the ability to draw smoke up the chimney and instead causes smoke to enter the room.  A black film around your fireplace, or on nearby furniture, carpeting or decorations, this indicates that your chimney is not working properly.

fireplaceIn addition to annual maintenance, we encourage our families, friends, and clients to always use safe fireplace practices:

  • use appropriate fuel for your fires;
  • use fireplace screens to protect nearby areas and provide a reliable barrier from embers;
  • maintain a safe zone of 36 inches or more around your fireplace or stove;
  • never leave a fire unattended
  • install monitoring equipment for smoke and carbon monoxide

Taking these steps help to protect your family and your home.  If you have any questions about your homeowners insurance and chimney fires, please contact our team at Bieritz Insurance Agency – located Cooperstown at 547-2951 and in Morris at 263-5170.
 

For additional information, click on over to our article on Fireplace Safety.

 

 

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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.

Siting:

  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.

 

Safety:

  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.

 

Insurance:

  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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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.  

Outdoors:

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!

Indoors:

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.

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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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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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