8 Ways to Winterize Your Home on a Budget

1. Clean Your Gutters

You’ve heard it before, but we can’t stress this enough. Making sure that water can flow freely through your gutters now will help prevent icicles and ice dams from forming later.

Cost: Other than your sweat and time, free

2. Flush the Water Heater

Particles and sediment can collect over time in the bottom of your water heater, hindering the unit’s efficiency. Flush the water through the drain valve to clear out the material and keep you heater functional at its best.

Cost: 100% free!

3. Clockwise Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans are everyone’s favorite summer budget-saver. But they can help out in the winter as well!  Have your ceiling fans move in a clockwise direction so the push hot air along the ceiling towards the floor.  If they’re going counterclockwise, they won’t be as effective.

Cost: Free if you have a fan.

4. Replace Filters

Regularly changing the filters in your central air and heating system can significantly improve its efficiency and longevity, while easing the pressure on your wallet.

Cost: a new filter runs about $10.

5. Window Insulation Film

It may not be the most fashionable tip, but window insulation film can keep up to 70% of your heat from leaking out of windows.

Cost: $20 to $30 per kit.

6. Draft Guards

Draft Guards can help save heat from escaping under the door.

Cost: $10 to $15.

7. Just Caulk It Cost: $20 for a basic caulk gun and $5 to $10 for a tube of caulk.

Any remaining gaps in siding, windows, or doors can be filled with caulk. For extra drafty windows and doors, caulk the inside too, pulling off moldings to fill all gaps in the insulation.

8. Chimney Balloon

Your chimney is a huge source of heat loss come wintertime. If not in active use, plug it up with a chimney balloon to keep drafts out and heat it.

Cost: $55.

20 Most Popular Vehicles of 2015, Ranked From Worst to Best for Insurance Cost

Are your Auto insurance customers getting the best deal when they buy a new vehicle?

A new study finds that some vehicles offer much better value than others when it comes to insurance.

The Quadrant Information Services study, commissioned by Denver-based comparison-shopping site insuranceQuotes.com, examined 20 of the most popular 2015 models, dividing the average annual cost to insure each vehicle by its manufacturer’s suggested retail price, to determine which vehicles are an insurance bargain and which ones carry a high insurance burden.

“There are so many factors that go into pricing an insurance policy for a vehicle, but the average driver rarely takes these into account,” says Christopher Paradiso, owner of Stafford Springs, Conn.-based Paradiso Financial & Insurance Services. “A lot of drivers think that a cheaper car means cheaper insurance, but that’s not necessarily the case.”

For example, the analysis reveals that although the Ford Explorer has an MSRP of $34,345, it only costs an average of $1,300 a year to insure. Meanwhile, the Ford Focus, which has an MSRP of $18,045 costs nearly $1,400 a year to insure, making it a relatively poor deal when it comes to the cost of insurance.

Laura Adams, insuranceQuotes.com’s senior analyst, said it is very important to shop around for car insurance before purchasing a vehicle.

“The recent insuranceQuotes study showed that buying a relatively inexpensive vehicle doesn’t mean that your insurance will also be inexpensive. In addition to important factors — such as your gender, years of driving experience, driving history, and annual mileage — the make and model of the vehicle you drive plays an important role in your auto insurance rate. If you don’t do your homework and shop rates before you buy a vehicle, you could be surprised by an insurance rate increase,” she told PropertyCasualty360.com.

Talking with current Auto insurance customers about costs before they consider purchasing a new vehicle can help them — and you — in the long term.

“This is a really important factor to consider when it comes to buying a car, because you may buy a less expensive vehicle that will wind up costing you more in the long run because it’s relatively expensive to insure,” says Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “But it’s also something people often forget to consider. You may be able to afford the car, but can you afford to maintain and insure that car after it leaves the lot?”

Here are the 20 most popular 2015 vehicles, ranked from worst to best by insurance cost ratio:

Ford Focus

(Photo: PRNewsFoto via AP Photo)

20. Ford Focus

Type: Sedan.

Average annual insurance cost: $1,391.

MSRP: $18,045.

Insurance cost ratio: 7.71%.

Toyota Corolla

(Photo: Paul Sancya/AP Photo)

19. Toyota Corolla

Type: Sedan.

Average annual insurance cost: $1,400.

MSRP: $18,665.

Insurance cost ratio: 7.5%.

Hyundai Elantra

(Photo: PRNewsFoto via AP Photo)

18. Hyundai Elantra

Type: Sedan.

Average annual insurance cost: $1,384.

MSRP: $19,085.

Insurance cost ratio: 7.25%.

Honda Civic

(Photo: Paul Sancya/AP Photo)

17. Honda Civic

Type: Sedan.

Average annual insurance cost: $1,368.

MSRP: $19,910.

Insurance cost ratio: 6.87%.

Chevrolet Cruze

(Photo: Paul Sakuma/AP Photo)

16. Chevrolet Cruze

Type: Sedan.

Average annual insurance cost: $1,318.

MSRP: $19,695.

Insurance cost ratio: 6.69%.

Hyundai Sonata

(Photo: PRNewsFoto via AP Photo)

15. Hyundai Sonata

Type: Sedan.

Average annual insurance cost: $1,367.

MSRP: $21,975.

Insurance cost ratio: 6.22%.

Nissan Altima

(Photo: Handout)

14. Nissan Altima

Type: Sedan.

Average annual insurance cost: $1,414.

MSRP: $23,125.

Insurance cost ratio: 6.61%.

Ford Fusion

(Photo: PRNewsFoto via AP Photo)

13. Ford Fusion

Type: Sedan.

Average annual insurance cost: $1,359.

MSRP: $22,985.

Insurance cost ratio: 5.91%.

Toyota Camry

(Photo: Paul Sancya/AP Photo)

12. Toyota Camry

Type: Sedan.

Average annual insurance cost: $1,371.

MSRP: $23,905.

Insurance cost ratio: 5.74%.

Toyota Prius

(Photo: John Locher/AP Photo)

11. Toyota Prius

Type: Sedan.

Average annual insurance cost: $1,409.

MSRP: $25,035.

Insurance cost ratio: 5.63%.

Honda Accord

(Photo: Katsumi Kashara/AP Photo)

10. Honda Accord

Type: Sedan.

Average annual insurance cost: $1,289.

MSRP: $23,725.

Insurance cost ratio: 5.43%.

Toyota RAV4

(Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP Photo)

9. Toyota RAV4

Type: SUV.

Average annual insurance cost: $1,288.

MSRP: $24,580.

Insurance cost ratio: 5.24%.

Ford Escape

(Photo: Reed Saxon/AP Photo)

8. Ford Escape

Type: SUV.

Average annual insurance cost: $1,210.

MSRP: $23,995.

Insurance cost ratio: 5.04%.

Ford F Series

(Photo: PRNewsFoto via AP Photo)

7. Ford F Series

Type: Truck.

Average annual insurance cost: $1,341.

MSRP: $27,225.

Insurance cost ratio: 4.93%.

Honda CRV

(Photo: Remy de la Mauviniere/AP Photo)

6. Honda CR-V

Type: SUV.

Average annual insurance cost: $1,183.

MSRP: $24,325.

Insurance cost ratio: 4.86%.

Dodge Ram 1500

(Photo: Seth Perlman/AP Photo)

5. Dodge Ram 1500

Type: Truck.

Average annual insurance cost: $1,302.

MSRP: $26,855.

Insurance cost ratio: 4.85%.

Chevrolet Equinox

(Photo: Andrew A. Nelles/AP Photo)

4. Chevrolet Equinox

Type: SUV.

Average annual insurance cost: $1,265.

MSRP: $26,105.

Insurance cost ratio: 4.85%.

Chevrolet Silverado

(Photo: Andrew A. Nelles/AP Photo)

3. Chevrolet Silverado

Type: Truck.

Average annual insurance cost: $1,269.

MSRP: $27,815.

Insurance cost ratio: 4.56%.

GMC Sierra

(Photo: Paul Sancya/AP Photo)

2. GMC Sierra

Type: Truck.

Average annual insurance cost: $1,272.

MSRP: $28,315.

Insurance cost ratio: 4.49%.

Ford Explorer

(Photo: M. Spencer Green/AP Photo)

1. Ford Explorer

Type: SUV.

Average annual insurance cost: $1,301.

MSRP: $43,345.

Insurance cost ratio: 3.79%.

Winter is On the Way! Avoid Home Insurance Claims With These Tips!

Winter time can be tough on your home. The fluctuation in temperature and the various types of precipitation can wreak havoc! Make sure you do the following to keep the risk of having a major problem this winter!

  1. Clean and check your gutters– Make sure all debris is removed and the downspouts are flowing water away from your foundation.
  2. Shut off and drain outdoor water spigots– This will help keep your pipes from freezing and bursting.
  3. Check for Leaks– Make sure you check the outside windows and doors for any leaks that need to be caulked. This helps keep cold air out of your walls.
  4. Have your furnace serviced– This may help you avoid having your heat go out this winter or potentially a more dangerous furnace problem.
  5. Check the Chimney– If you use your fireplace over the winter, make sure to have the chimney checked. There could be leaks or critters living in there that could block it up. This could cause a fire or carbon monoxide to stay in your house.
  6. Tree Trimming– Make sure there are no branches hanging over or touching your house. This can damage your roof and if there is an ice storm, a branch could fall on your home.

Stay warm this winter and have a great holiday season!

Check for Storm Damage

How to Check Your Property for Damage After a Storm

When a big storm hits in Louisville, you hunker down inside, relying on your home to protect you and your family. Once that storm passes, though, it’s time to repay the favor — identifying damage and protecting your home from further issues.

The National Storm Damage Center has a number of resources and tips for homeowners. Here are four major things the agency – and we here at Commonwealth Insurance Services– recommends you check after a storm:

  1. Your roof: If you see holes, split seams or missing shingles on your roof or if you notice leaking inside or out, it’s a good idea to have a qualified inspector come assess the situation.
  2. Your exterior: Siding, brick and stucco are all vulnerable to storm damage. Look for cracking, chipping, dings and dents in siding, and look for holes in stucco. Look closely and at different times of the day. Some homeowners don’t notice damage until it’s too late to file a claim, and different lighting can reveal damage you didn’t see before.
  3. Driveways and walkways: Cracking and splitting can create safety hazards, as well as reduce the lifespan of the concrete. Assess any damage to your driveway or sidewalks and call an inspector if you suspect cracks or splits may be dangerous for your family.
  4. Trees: According to the National Storm Damage Center, fallen trees and limbs cause more than $1 billion in damage annually. Check roofs, vehicles, fences and machinery for fallen limbs that may have caused damage or could pose a risk. Clean up what you safely can and rely on a reputable tree removal service to handle the rest. Depending on the circumstances, your homeowner’s insurance policy may help with tree removal and damage repair costs  if you experience a covered loss.

A few more helpful tips:

  • Keep trees well maintained and trimmed. Also notify neighbors if you see any overhanging branches on any trees on adjacent properties.
  • Know your insurance. Take a look at your policy so you know what’s covered, what your limits and deductibles are, and who to contact in the event you need to file a claim. This will prevent any surprises during the claims process.
  • Take pictures. Photographs help you show the cause and extent of any storm damage that occurs.

Of course, if you’ve suffered through a major storm, don’t hesitate to call us at Commonwealth Insurance Services for help with an insurance claim or with finding a professional property inspector.

Avoid Parking Lot Accidents

5 Ways to Avoid Parking Lot Fender Benders in Louisville Kentucky

Parking lots in Louisville – we love the convenience but hate the frustrations, especially when people drive too quickly, back out of spots without looking and otherwise exhibit bad parking lot etiquette.

These behaviors are the cause of many a door ding and irritated driver. Even worse, careless behavior can cause a collision or injury.  So, let’s all slow down and follow these five tips to make parking lots safer for everyone:

  1. Don’t Speed
    Speeding decreases the amount of time you have to react when a child runs out in front of you, another driver stops suddenly or a car begins backing out unexpectedly. Is a collision – or even a fatality – really worth the price of getting to your destination just a bit sooner?
  2. Use Your Eyes – and Mirrors and Cameras
    Keep a lookout for perils at all times, even if the lot seems empty. When you’re pulling into a spot, watch for doors being opened. When backing out, turn to look through your rear window as well as in your mirrors and in your rear-view camera, and then proceed slowly.
  3. Give Yourself – and Others – Some Space
    Parking in between the lines and in a spot sized for your vehicle helps to minimize dings and scratches. Better yet, park in a less-crowded area and enjoy the stroll into the store – just don’t park where you feel unsafe, and always park away from stray shopping carts.
  4. Expect the Unexpected
    Assume things will happen: someone will dart out in front of you, a cart will come rolling toward you, or that someone backing out of his/her spot won’t see you backing out of yours. When you’re on guard, you’re better prepared for those who aren’t.
  5. Be Respectful
    A little kindness goes a long way in a parking lot or parking garage. Stop for pedestrians, don’t cause traffic jams waiting for a spot and, above all, don’t lose your cool.

Remember, when you’re watching for dangers, you have a better chance of avoiding them. If an incident does occur, we here at Commonwealth Insurance Services are ready to help.

The 4 Most Commonly Asked Questions About Flood Insurance

Flood Insurance is one of the most confusing and frustrating insurance policies for Home buyers. If you are interested in buying a home, and it is determined to be in a flood zone, you will most likely have to buy a Flood Insurance Policy to satisfy your Mortgage Loan Company. When you get a quote for the Flood Policy and it turns out to be really expensive, it can totally shoot down a contract to purchase the home. Some people already own a home and have a flood insurance policy still are not sure what it covers.

I have listed some of the most common questions we get about flood insurance to try to help you be a more informed buyer and homeowner!

What is the difference between Flood and Sewer backup?

Water flooding in from outside is flood water excluded from coverage on a homeowner’s insurance policy. Backup of sewers is when a sump pump fails allowing water to flood your basement. This can be covered on a homeowner policy if you have the endorsement. It is good to review your homeowner’s policy to make sure you have this coverage if you have a basement. A homeowner’s policy WILL NOT cover water that leaks in through a crack in the foundation. This is considered deterioration and that is not a covered cause of loss.

Who insures flood losses?

National Flood Insurance Plan (NFIP) insures all flood risks. There are private insurers that have a system in place to quote and issue flood policies through the NFIP. These may have the name of the company on your policy, but it is still insured through the NFIP. Hurricane Katrina caused all private insurers to stop insuring properties for flood, due to the risk of catastrophic loss. The government stepped in through the NFIP to offer this coverage to property owners in the vacancy of private insurers.

Is my property inside the home covered?

Flood insurance will not cover any property kept below grade. This means if you have a below-grade basement that you have property in, the belongings will not be covered. It will cover above grade property. If you have a slab foundation or crawlspace and the water enters the first floor of the home, the property will be covered if you have property coverage on your policy. You can have property coverage for an extra premium or exclude it for a premium reduction. Again, review your policy to make sure you have property coverage.

Who determines if my home is in a flood plain?

There are local authorities that work in conjunction with FEMA to determine if your property is in a flood plain. In the Louisville area, Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) is the local authority. The look at thing like elevation of the land, location near a body of water, and if there has been flooding at that site in the past 100 years.

Remember, if you are unsure about your coverage or your quote, review your quote or discuss your policy with your Insurance Agent. Don’t wait until something happens and then have a loss that is not covered!

3 Ways to enjoy a Claim-Free Summer Vacation!

Summer vacation time is here! Most people have a checklist when they are going on a trip. They want to remember things like swim suits, sun screen, etc. They want to remember things that will make their trip awesome! It is also smart to have a checklist to help prevent bad things from happening while you are on your trip. An Insurance Claim can be one of those things. While your insurance company will prevent you from having a major financial loss, a claim can still be costly. You have to pay your deductible and then worry about your premium increasing or even worse, getting non-renewed!

No need to fret though! I have compiled a short and simple list of a few things you can do to prevent a costly insurance claim from spoiling your Summer Vacation Memories!

  1. Turn off the water going to the house if going for extended time. If you have a pipe leak or your hot water heater bursts while you are gone, it can cause major water damage which often leads to large insurance claims. Remember, you don’t want to come home from vacation to a house full of water!
  2. Close all your window blinds and have a neighbor or family member collect mail. Thieves look for signs that people are not home. If they see mail or newspapers piling up, this could be inviting to them. You also want to make sure they can’t see in the windows to see valuables. Alarms are great, but if they see something they could take quick, they may try it!
  3. If you are renting a car, your insurance will cover it like it is your own. If you have full coverage on your auto insurance, it will provide full coverage to the rent-a-car with your deductible applying. This saves you money by not having to buy the extra insurance the rent-a-car company can provide. With this said, treat the car like it is your own car. Lock it up, park in well-lit areas, and don’t leave items in full sight in the car. Also, when picking up a rent-a-car, make sure to do a thorough examination of the car for any existing damage so that when you turn it in, you are not blamed for it!

Remember if you have any questions or you are not sure of your coverages, you can always call your Licensed Insurance Agent and they will be glad to answer your questions.

Have a Great, Claim-Free Summer!