Monthly Archives: April 2013

Building a better light bulb: the new technology for lighting your home

LED bulbQ: How many insurance agents does it take to change a light bulb?

A: One, but thanks to the latest crop of light bulbs they’ll only need to change it once every 100,000 hours or so.

Smaller, cooler, and vastly more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs, Light-Emitting Diode (LED) lights for residential applications are now also coming down in price.

While the new bulbs may still cost more to buy than the traditional ones we grew up with, their longer life and lower energy use make them a smart choice for anyone who has to pay the monthly electric bill (and who wants to do their part to help the environment at home).

As LEDs continue to be adopted in our homes and work places, manufacturers are working to improve their design, making them brighter, dimmable, more efficient and interchangeable with more fixtures. They’ve even thought about changing the shape so you can have that plain round bulb design peeking out of your lampshades again. What’s not to love?

Lighting currently consumes about one-fifth of the world’s energy, with offices and industrial use consuming half the total global amount. The newest LED bulbs aim to cut that by up to 90%, substantially preventing millions of tons of greenhouse gases from being created and released into our atmosphere—saving billions of dollars in electricity costs each year in the US alone.

Quick links: a buying guide to LEDs

A little (light!) background reading

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowner’s and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

 

One Fund for Boston

Our heart belongs to Boston…
TheOneFundBostonIf you participated in the Boston Marathon this year, or were out cheering the marathoners on, we hope that you and yours are safe.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the three young people who we lost on Monday, and to those who were injured. We’re extremely proud of Boston’s brave first responders and world class medical personnel, as well as those in the crowd who, without thinking of their own safety, selflessly helped others in need.

While we’re still in deep shock and in mourning here in Boston, we are resilient and are looking forward to supporting and cheering next year’s runners on.

In support of those directly impacted by the tragic events, Mayor Thomas Menino and Governor Deval Patrick have created a new charity called The One Fund  with the purpose of raising money to help those families most affected by the tragic events that unfolded during Monday’s Boston Marathon.

If you are looking for a way to help those directly impacted or to make a contribution to anyone in need you can:

The Boston Marathon is one of the world’s premier international athletic events. Thousands of runners and spectators come from around the world each year to participate and watch the race. The marathon is also a truly democratic event, one in which elite and regular runners alike can participate, and one that everyone along the course can pull up a lawn chair and enjoy (no tickets needed). While we’ll never forget what happened on April 15th, that original joyous and competitive spirit of the Boston Marathon must and will endure.

Thank you so much.

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowner’s and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

The Big Unchill: Bunker Hill’s Tips on Protecting Your Home from Flooding

Highwater_SignApril showers bring May flowers and potentially a whole lot more. That’s because in addition to rain, the warm weather brings melting snow which is a commonly overlooked cause of flooding and water damage.

According to Floodsmart.gov, all 50 states are flood and flash-flood prone—even the states we think of as being land-locked and bone-dry. Did you know that in flood-prone states like Massachusetts, homes are more likely to be damaged from flooding than fire?

It just takes an inch…

While flash floods make the news and cause everyone to sit up and take notice, an inch or two of flood water can cause extensive damage to your home, so it’s a good idea to understand the dangers of flooding and have a plan.

One of the key things to remember is, if you can safely do so, Stay Put. Don’t wade or drive through flood waters.

  • Your car could be quickly carried away by floodwaters a mere two feet deep, or the roads ahead could be washed out. If you get stuck and your car stalls out in rising waters, get out immediately, head for higher ground, and wait for help to arrive.
  • Don’t take the chance on foot either: you could accidentally touch downed live power lines, be exposed to sewage, or bump into poisonous water snakes among other hazards. Head to the highest point and wait for help. Keep children away from deadly currents, including culverts and storm drains.

Before a flood…

  • Have a bag packed and ready to go with some cash, changes of clothes, medicines, eye glasses and other essentials for you and your family. Don’t forget to include copies of your insurance policy numbers (with your agent’s contact info) and other important documents.
  • Shut off your gas and water valves and disconnect all your electrical appliances.

After a flood…

  • Toss it out. Food, cosmetics and medicines could be tainted by sewage or other hazards.
  • Don’t slip. The ground and floors can be very slippery with mud and other debris; tread carefully (or better yet, stay away until it’s safe).
  • Be on the lookout for snakes and other animals.
  • Use flashlights to inspect for damage in dark places. Don’t use matches or lighters, candles or open flames until you’re 100-percent sure the gas is turned off and the area is properly ventilated.
  • Use generators outside where carbon monoxide won’t reach dangerous levels.

Other things you can do…

  • Pump it and dump it. A sump pump, properly installed with drain tile, can help prevent your basement from suffering from water damage. Battery powered sump pumps cost around $150-$400 and are a smart bet when the power’s also out. Make sure the water drains away from your house (and your neighbors’).
  • Have a professional fix leaks in your roof, windows and foundation as soon as possible before they cause more damage. Close foundation cracks with masonry caulk and mortar or hydraulic cement.
  • Keep it clear. Maintain those drains and gutters and clean them twice a year (more if yours tend to collect debris).
  • Move your bling. Put your valuables in a safer (higher) location in your home – ideally the second floor if you have one, or attic, where they’ll be safe from all but the most terrible floods.

While most homeowners insurance does not include coverage for flood damage (now’s a good time to check with your insurance agent and review your policy—flood coverage is typically a separate endorsement), if you live in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) or other high-risk area and have a mortgage backed by the federal government, you must have flood insurance to qualify for a mortgage.

Since it usually takes at least 30 days for a policy to go into effect, it makes sense to buy flood coverage well before you think you’ll need it.

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowner’s and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

Are you getting hosed? (Washing Machine Hoses 101)

washing-machine-and-dryerDoing laundry is often the least-loved and most frequently performed household chore, so it makes sense to give your vastly underappreciated but totally overused washing machine (and hoses) a little TLC this season.

Why?

Because cleaning up after a flood, on top of doing laundry (and folding AND reminding everyone to put their clothes away for the fifth time) is just the absolute worst. And a flood should never happen, because washing machine hose failures are one of the most preventable home related disasters out there.

Don’t let a hose failure happen to you. Here’s what you can do to avoid calling the plumber for an emergency visit (and possibly an expensive clean-up crew as well):

  1. Braids of Steel. Trade up to a better quality water supply hose. Run-of-the-mill rubber supply hoses dry out with age and can easily expand and burst, flooding your home in seconds. Sometimes that old hose will look fine from the outside, but it could be badly deteriorated on the inside, which even the most keen eyes can’t see. That’s why you should consider upgrading from the typical rubber hoses to braided stainless steel lines. They’ll cost you a bit more, but are well worth it (and so are you).
  2. Know where the flow goes. Know where the washing machine water valves are—and check them regularly. When (not if) there’s ever a problem with a water line, you’ll know exactly where to find them—and know how to shut them off quickly. And if you’re remodeling or renovating, make sure you put your water valves in a place that’s easily accessible and they are easy to turn off—a single lever valve may be the way to go.
  3. Shut it off. Talk to your plumber about connecting a shut off valve to your main water line, which could detect any unusual uptick in water flow to or from your home before it turns into a tributary for Niagara Falls. When traveling you may want to consider shutting off your water completely, that way you will never need worry about potential water issues while you are gone.
  4. Don’t get kinky. Make sure you have adequate space between your washing machine and the wall behind it—this will allow your water lines to hang free and prevent kinking which is a another potential factor in causing hoses to burst.
  5. Check it twice. When attaching the drain hose make sure the connections to both the washing machine and the stand pipe are secure. Run a test wash to make sure there are no leaks at either end.
  6. Homeowner, meet dryer vent. Remember to love and cherish your dryer vent and exhaust hose, too. This means making sure you clean them every six months at least. This is in addition to your emptying the lint screen every time you throw a load in to dry. Vacuum and wipe out the vent and connections thoroughly twice a year, and check that your external dryer exhaust hose is in good condition and is clean, too. Built-up dryer lint causes thousands of home fires every year and many preventable deaths. Don’t let this happen to you.
  7. Mark your calendar. Every six months or so, take three minutes to check that your washing machine supply lines (hot and cold water hoses) are properly tightened (not too much!) and in good shape. Check your dryer vent, too, and make sure it’s clear and properly positioned so warm dyer air vents outside unimpeded while you’re at it.

Useful Links:

Real Simple magazine has a series of cool checklists for cleaning and home maintenance. Here’s a link to their “Complete Laundry Room Checklist.”

The Money Pit and HouseLogic are good starting points if you’re looking for complete reference websites for home care and maintenance. We love New England’s This Old House, too. Go, Norm!

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowner’s and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

Spring Cleaning Tips for Inside Your Home

Start your spring cleaning—Open your windows, say ‘bye to those dust bunnies, and banish winter dirt and grime with these 7 tips to help get your home sparkling clean and ready for spring.

Spring Cleaning

  1. Windows and curtains. Windows are the eyes of your home. Make them sparkle by cleaning window glass inside and out using a mix of water and white vinegar. Take down your dusty curtains and throw them in the dryer on air-fluff with a damp towel to collect the dust. Don’t forget to clean the curtain rods and wipe down window trim and sills while you’re at it.
  2. Kitchen confidential. Clean out your fridge. Go non-toxic when cleaning around your food [source: About.com]: Mix fizzy soda water and salt to remove tough, stuck on goop, or try soda water with gentler baking soda for a less abrasive but effective cleaner. Wipe down counters and cabinet doors. Clean out your pantry and cabinets and throw out expired food products and other odds and ends rattling around in those crammed drawers. Wipe down your cabinets and drawers.
  3. Floor routine. Sweep and damp mop wooden floors. You probably do this more than once a year, but for a deeper spring clean, pull furniture away from the walls and get those dust bunnies hiding in hard-to-reach spots. [source: Better Homes & Gardens]
  4. Climbing (and cleaning) the walls. Wipe down painted walls with a few drops of mild dish detergent in water and a damp sponge or clean cloth.
  5. Home office. Tackle that seemingly bottomless pile of papers in your home office for a few minutes every day until your files are organized and ready for tax time. Don’t forget to create file folders for last year’s tax returns and paperwork, too.
  6. De-clutter closets and shelves. Give your storage space some breathing room. Go through your bedroom closets and donate items your kids have outgrown or that you haven’t worn in more than a year. Same goes for books and toys cluttering your shelves and living areas. Dust shelves and vacuum closet floors before putting things back neatly in place. Extra credit: organize your clothes by color. You’ll speed up your morning routine and find what you’re looking for faster. [source: Real Simple]
  7. Clean the air. If you have forced hot air heat, consider getting your vents and ducts cleaned by a pro, especially if you suffer from allergies. Check air filters on your furnace and air conditioners and replace dirty ones with HEPA filters.

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowner’s and auto insurance throughout the northeast.