5 Home Insurance Tips for Moving to Unfamiliar Weather

5 Home Insurance Tips for Moving to Unfamiliar Weather

Ready to relocate to a new region of the country? Consider the local weather, particularly when you evaluate your home insurance options.

Home insurance is a must-have, regardless of where your house is located. With the right coverage in place, you can safeguard your house and personal belongings against many natural disasters. But not all home insurance policies are created equal. As such, coverage that works for a homeowner in a hot, humid climate is unlikely to meet the needs of a homeowner who deals with excess snow, ice and other inclement winter weather.

To better understand the link between home insurance and weather, let’s consider a few examples.

Southern California experiences roughly 10,000 earthquakes annually, so a Southern California homeowner should have sufficient coverage to protect his or her house and personal belongings against damage or destruction that takes place due to an earthquake. However, Atlantic Coast homes may be susceptible to hurricane storm surge flooding that is not covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy.

If you’re moving to a new area of the country, it may seem simple to transfer your existing home insurance coverage to your new residence. Yet doing so could leave you without coverage against natural disasters that may be more likely to affect you as a homeowner in a new region.

Here are five tips that you can use to purchase the right home insurance if you’re moving to an area with unfamiliar weather:

  1. Understand What’s Covered by a Standard Home Insurance Policy
    A standard homeowners policy offers the following coverage:
  • Dwelling: Ensures you can repair or rebuild your home if it is damaged by a covered cause of loss. For homeowners, it is paramount to have dwelling protection to cover the full cost of home repairs or a complete home rebuild.
  • Other Structures: Offers coverage against damage or destruction of garages, sheds and other detached structures on your property.
  • Personal Property: Provides reimbursement for clothing, electronics and other personal items in your home that have been damaged or destroyed by a covered cause of loss.
  • Loss of Use: Covers the costs associated with housing and assorted living expenses if you’re forced to move out of your residence while it is being rebuilt or repaired.
  • Liability: Helps safeguard your assets and covers various legal defense expenses if you face a lawsuit because you or a family member caused damage or injuries to other people on or off your property.

Dedicate the necessary time and resources to learn about your current homeowners coverage – you’ll be glad you did. As an informed homeowner, you can review numerous coverage options and choose the right coverage based on your home’s location. Don’t forget to discuss your home insurance needs with an independent agent. With an insurance professional at your side, you can explore a wide range of coverage options and select a home insurance policy that will match or surpass your expectations.

  1. Find Out What’s Not Covered by a Home Insurance Policy

A standard homeowners policy is not always a surefire solution to all of your coverage needs. In fact, some of the weather-related problems that are not covered by a traditional homeowners policy include:

  • Earthquakes: If an individual requires earthquake coverage, he or she may need to purchase a supplemental insurance policy.
  • Floods: Flood insurance can be purchased from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which offers both home and personal property coverage if your home is damaged or destroyed due to flooding.
  • Hurricanes: In some instances, you may need to purchase additional flood and windstorm insurance to guarantee that you’re fully protected against hurricanes.
  • Mechanical Breakdown: If your car breaks down while you’re traveling to a new home in unfamiliar weather, mechanical breakdown insurance (MBI) is available to cover bad brakes, transmission issues and other major vehicle system malfunctions.
  • Tornadoes: Many tornadoes are accompanied by powerful winds that can damage fences and other structures on your property, but it is important to note that a standard homeowners policy only provides limited coverage for this type of property damage.
  • Water Damage: Hail and ice damage commonly are covered by home insurance, but water damage limits may vary.

When in doubt, it is always better to err on the side of caution. If you’re unsure if a weather-related issue is covered by your homeowners policy, don’t hesitate to reach out to an agent for extra assistance.

  1. Contact Your State Insurance Commissioner

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) helps state regulators protect the interests of insurance consumers, including those who are relocating to a new region of the country. This association also provides many valuable resources to help you discover the right home insurance policy based on your home’s location.

For instance, the NAIC offers a guide to shopping for homeowners insurance. This guide helps homeowners understand various declarations and basic insurance terms to ensure an individual can choose the ideal coverage.

You can always reach out to your state’s insurance commissioner to provide honest, unbiased recommendations about homeowners coverage, and can help you make sense of home insurance information that is not clear.

  1. Know the Cost of Home Insurance

What you’re paying for home insurance today may increase if you need to upgrade your homeowners coverage based on an upcoming move to a location with unfamiliar weather. Those who plan ahead for the increased cost of home insurance will ensure they can afford the coverage they need at a new location.

The Federal Reserve Board estimates the average homeowner spends between $300 and $1,300 per year on home insurance at an average coverage rate of $3.50 per $1,000, according to Zacks. At the same time, it is essential to note the cost of home insurance may increase based on a number of risks that extend beyond natural disasters. These include:

  • Attractive Nuisances: Swimming pools, trampolines and other “attractive nuisances” may force you to pay more than other homeowners for home insurance.
  • Proximity to a Fire Station: Those who live close to a fire station may be eligible for lower home insurance premiums than others.
  • Your Dog: Some insurance providers won’t offer full homeowners coverage if you own certain dog breeds.
  1. Shop Around for the Right Coverage

 If you’re moving to a location with unfamiliar weather and need to buy home insurance, why should you be forced to settle for subpar coverage? Instead, shop around for home insurance, and you can purchase the ideal coverage at the best possible price.

The right insurance company should boast plenty of industry experience, a proven reputation and best-in-class customer support. Plus, this insurance provider will employ friendly, knowledgeable professionals who are happy to respond to any home insurance queries.

No one should be forced to overspend to insure their home and personal belongings. But with the right insurance company at your disposal, you can minimize your risks without having to worry about breaking your budget.

Lastly, an independent insurance agent can help you obtain the optimal coverage based on your location. This insurance professional can teach you about assorted home insurance options and help you make informed coverage decisions.

Take the guesswork out of getting the homeowners coverage you need at a new location. By using these tips, you can move one step closer to acquiring the right coverage any time you choose.


Ryan Hanley is the Vice President of Marketing at TrustedChoice.com and the Managing Editor of Agency Nation. He is also a speaker, podcaster and author of the Amazon best-seller, Content Warfare. Ryan has over 10 years of insurance expertise and blogs frequently to help consumers understand complicated insurance topics.

Who is the Only Real Estate Brand with Smart Home Specialists?

Who is the Only Real Estate Brand with Smart Home Specialists?

Hint: It’s also the real estate brand that helped define a smart home.

Smart homes aren’t the future of real estate. They’re the present. So why aren’t more real estate brands, companies, offices and agents doing more about understanding how smart homes are shaping today’s buyers, homes for sale and even home prices?

Simple answer? They aren’t Coldwell Banker.

We’re not new to the smart home game. We’ve actually helped determine the rules. Coldwell Banker has worked with technology site, CNET, to define what a smart home is so that everyone with a programmable thermostat doesn’t promote their house as a smart home. We’ve helped shape the smart home marketplace at the Consumer Electronics Show to make sure our agents and their customers know about smart home trends and how they can potentially impact the price of their homes for sale. We’ve done research. We’ve created a smart home staging kit. We’re also the only real estate brand to have smart home certified agents and listings.

When it comes to smart home, you could say that Coldwell Banker is pretty smart. To find a smart home near you or contact one of our smart home certified agents, visit coldwellbanker.com/smarthome.

How to Pet Proof Your Home and Yard

How to Pet Proof Your Home and Yard

Pet Proofing 101

As you may have guessed from our latest ad “Somebody to Love” we truly believe that a pet makes a house a home. Because our pets are so important to us ensuring they are safe is crucial. We reached out to our friends at HomeAdvisor to see if they had any tips to do so and as usual they came through with paw-sitively awesome advice.

When pet-proofing one’s home and yard, it is important to look at items from a pet’s standpoint and consider what things they are likely to play with, chew, or otherwise get into. If these items can hurt or even kill, then they should be removed or relocated into an area that the animal cannot access. Pet-proofing a home can take time and even some research so that it is done properly. Pet owners should also take into consideration the damage that a pet can cause to their personal belongings and take steps to prevent that as well. Ideally, pet-proofing should occur before bringing a new pet home; however, it can be done during a home improvement project or at any given time.

Bathrooms and Laundry Rooms

Toilet bowls are filled with water and often tempt pets to drink from them. This can cause a pet to drown, or it may poison them if toilet bowl cleaners are inside. The bathrooms and laundry room of a home are filled with a number of other items that are toxic to pets. Medications, both prescription and otherwise, are often kept in a bathroom, as are things such as bathroom cleaners, chemical drain openers, and deodorizers. Sharp items such as razors are also kept in bathrooms and can cut and seriously injure a pet that plays with or swallows them.

Laundry rooms are also a place where chemicals such as bleach and detergent are stored and regularly used. Fabric softener sheets may seem harmless; however, they are often impregnated with chemicals. Open dryers are tempting to pets that may climb inside to sleep, stay warm, or hide. This can be dangerous if the door is accidentally shut and the machine turned on.

  • Place any medications into a medicine cabinet and keep it closed.
  • Close the doors to the washing machine and dryer when not in use.
  • Check inside the washing machine and dryer before starting, particularly if it was left open and unattended.
  • Store laundry and bathroom cleaners and other chemicals inside of a cabinet. If a pet can nudge open a cabinet, use child locks or higher cabinets.
  • Close the lid to the toilet when not in use.

Living Rooms

In the living room, there are numerous items that are a threat to one’s pet. Unstable or top-heavy furniture can fall if jumped on or if bumped hard by a playful animal. Many types of potted house plants are known to be toxic if chewed or swallowed. The cords to drapery and window blinds are a choking hazard if they accidental loop around a pet’s neck, while electrical cords, if chewed on, can shock or electrocute one’s pet or start a fire.

paying the pet insurance

Certain items need to be protected so that pets do not damage or knock them over. Candles, for example, can either catch a pet’s tail on fire or may be knocked over and start a fire. Furniture and toys must also be protected, as they risk damage from chewing and scratching or they may cause a pet to choke. Certain items that contain batteries can be swallowed and will poison a pet or cause internal burns.

  • Move or cover cords and electrical wires so that they are not easily reached or cannot be chewed on.
  • Never leave candles unattended.
  • Place a fire screen in front of fireplaces that are in use.
  • Keep a toy chest for children’s toys and put them away when they are not being played with.
  • Properly dispose of old batteries and keep all others in a closed drawer or cabinet.
  • Check what plants are and are not poisonous to the type of pet in the home. Only purchase plants that are not toxic.

Kitchens

Kitchens are an overall dangerous place for pets to be. Jumping pets have access to countertops and tables, while all animals can easily get to anything that’s within their reach, such as kitchen trash cans or food on the table. When it comes to threats, food is the most obvious culprit, as certain items, such as chocolate and raisins, are toxic while others represent a choking hazard.

Kitchen cleaners such as liquid soap and bleach are also poisonous. Curious animals may crawl into a small space under and around the refrigerator or oven, while others may actual climb into an opened dishwasher and could be trapped within if someone closes it without checking it.

  • Only use garbage cans with secure lids, and ensure that they are closed at all times.
  • Keep cleansers locked away in a cabinet with childproof locks.
  • Block access to small spaces that lead behind the refrigerator or other appliances.
  • Put food in covered containers instead of leaving it exposed on a counter or table.
  • Keep utensils in a closed drawer, and push breakable china back on counters where it cannot easily be knocked down and broken.
  • Consider installing a safety gate to keep pets out of the kitchen while cooking.

Bedrooms

Although the bedroom may seem like an overall safe place for pets, it is the unexpected, little things that can prove problematic for pets. Electrical cords are dangerous to pets that are chewers, and small items such as earrings and hair pins may also be chewed or swallowed. Discarded shopping bags are a suffocation risk if a pet sticks its head inside and is unable to shake it off. Moth balls in closets or drawers are toxic, as are certain house plants that may be kept in the room.

Dog

  • Keep windows closed, particularly on the upper floors, to prevent pets from falling out.
  • Check that all windows have screens that are secure and in good condition.
  • Place mothballs in a location where they cannot be reached. If there are cats, keep the mothballs in a container.
  • Use containers or jewelry boxes to store jewelry or hair pins.
  • Cover cords or keep them out of reach.
  • Check closets and drawers before closing them to ensure that kittens or other small pets are not hiding inside.

Garages and Basements

Garages and basements are two areas where a pet will likely spend the least time. Unfortunately, they are both areas that are highly dangerous no matter how much time a pet spends there. Because these are areas outside of the main house and protected from the elements outdoors, they are places where deadly chemicals and other potentially lethal items are stored.

Toxic items that are commonly stored in garages and even basements include antifreeze, which is sweet-tasting but can cause a cat or a dog’s kidneys to fail if consumed. Motor oil, gas, battery acid, and car wax are just a few other dangerous car-related items. Additionally, pesticides, rat poison, paint, and paint thinners are examples of items kept in either location that can be lethal to a pet. Sharp and small items can cause injuries if stepped on or if swallowed, and even machinery, including one’s car, can be lethal.

  • Store screws and nuts in jars with lids.
  • Install cabinets to store chemicals, and keep them closed when not in use.
  • Verify the safety of any plants kept in the room.
  • Regularly check the floor of the garage for spilled or leaked antifreeze. Clean thoroughly as soon as possible.
  • Always check for cats or kittens in the car engine by banging on the hood prior to starting the car.
  • Unplug electrical tools and store them where they can’t fall.

Yard

Often, pets such as dogs and even cats like to go outdoors for a little playtime or to bask in the sun. Nature, however, represents numerous threats to pets as they spend time in the yard. Gardens, weeds, and other naturally occurring plants and flowers can all seem appealing to a cat, dog, or other outdoor-venturing pet.

Certain items that are used on the lawn, flowers, and plants, such as fertilizers, pesticides, mulch, and compost, may contain chemicals or elements that a pet should not eat, drink, or lick. Cocoa mulch, for example, is toxic, yet the smell is tempting to animals, and compost may contain food items that pets can choke on or that is toxic to them. Care must be taken to also protect pets in yards with fire pits or outdoor fireplaces, pools, and ponds.

  • Install a fence around the yard to keep stray animals out and pets in.
  • Remove poisonous plants from the yard, and check with a knowledgeable nursery before planting anything new.
  • Put a barrier around gardens to keep pets out.
  • Never leave pets alone when a fire pit is in use.
  • Add fencing around pools to keep unaccompanied pets away.
  • Use an enclosed shed to store chemicals, or keep them in a cabinet in the garage.
  • Consider creating a fenced-off area specifically for a dog to play in when outdoors.

This content originally appeared on HomeAdvisor

Your Home’s Honey Do List for May

Before you fire up that grill, here is your home’s honey do list for May which will make summer even more enjoyable.

The tulips are blooming and the yard work is piling up, but all you can dream about is Memorial Day barbecues. Before you fire up that grill, here is your home’s honey do list for May which will make summer even more enjoyable.

1. Curb Appeal – Because April showers bring May flowers, it’s time to think about your home’s curb appeal. Does your front door need a refresh? Could your outdoor lighting use an update? Does your mailbox need a makeover? Check out these 7 Major League Upgrades to Increase Your Home’s Curb Appeal.

2. Give Mom some Love – Because Home is Where Mom is, consider showing Mom your appreciation this Mother’s Day (May 14th) by giving her one of these unique homemade Mother’s Day gifts. Another welcome gift for every Mom is a helping hand around the house (see #5 on this list)!

3. May is for Mold? – Did those April showers cause water problems in your home? Use this brief guide to mold and moisture to clean up and prevent mold growth in your home.

4. Spring Into Action – Take advantage of the spring weather and get out of the house! See how many items on this list of Free Things to Do Outside the House you can tackle before June.

5. Glass Houses – People who live in glass houses…have a lot of windows to clean! Tackle outdoor windows and doors with a glass cleaner to let plenty of that spring sunlight inside.

6. Inspect for Termites – Termites are more active in the spring and summer months when the air is warm and moist. Check your home for termite damage, paying special attention to anywhere wood meets the ground. Watch this video to learn how you can inspect your home this May.

7. Prep Your Home for Sale – If you’re getting your home ready for sale this spring, there are several items that many home sellers overlook. Do you have a copy of your survey on hand, or have you compiled a list of service providers for a buyer? These 9 often overlooked items when prepping your home for sale can help seal the deal with today’s savvy buyers.

8. Grilling Time – Now you’re ready for that Memorial Day backyard bash. To make sure you never unexpectedly run out of gas in your grill, consider checking out this handy product.

The Ultimate Guide to Water Heaters at Home

The Ultimate Guide to Water Heaters at Home

Everything you need to know about water heaters from our friends at Home Depot

Water heaters are one of those appliances that usually sit forgotten in a basement or utility room until something goes wrong. When it does, it can put a serious crimp in your lifestyle.

If you’re faced with a broken unit, the goal is to get a new heater in place as quickly as possible. Because water heaters are big-ticket items, it’s smart to think about the kind of water heater you want before it’s time for a replacement.

Water heaters, on average, use 17 percent of a household energy budget. That’s more than any other home appliance, so it’s important to know how they operate. This guide will show how the most common types of water heaters work and what to consider when it comes time to replace the unit.

Homeowners are increasingly shopping around for water heaters with energy saving and “smart” features.

Water Heater Basics

Water heaters come in three broad categories: conventional tank, tankless and hybrids.

Storage Tank Water Heaters. These are the most conventional water heaters. An insulated tank keeps water at a preset temperature—usually around 120 degrees—until you open a hot water tap. As you use the water, cold water flows into the tank to be heated. Tank water heaters vary in capacity from 20 to 80 gallons. They are powered by electricity, propane gas, natural gas or oil. In electric units, heating elements located inside the tank heat the water. Gas and oil water heaters contain a combustion chamber located under the holding tank. A flue goes up through the center of the tank so that combustion gases can be vented to the outside.

Most gas water heaters rely on the natural draft of a chimney to vent the unit, but some models have a direct vent system where a fan expels the combustion gases. These types do not need a chimney and can be vented through a pipe that runs horizontally through a sidewall.

A conventional gas storage tank water heater

Tankless Water Heaters. Unlike tank models that keep hot water on hand, tankless heaters heat up the water when you call for it, eliminating the wasted energy it takes to keep water at a set temperature. The Department of Energy estimates that for a family that uses about 40 gallons of water a day, a tankless heater is 24 to 34 percent more efficient than a conventional tank model. But the efficiency does drop off considerably if you use a lot of hot water.

“These heaters are perfect for some lifestyles, but not all,” -Merle Henkenius, a licensed master plumber.

Compared with a full-size tank, tankless heaters are small. They can be hung on a wall, freeing up floor space. They are powered by electricity or gas. Tankless heaters are available in both indoor and outdoor models.

A whole-house tankless water heater.

Hybrid Water Heaters. This is a catch-all term that includes heat pump water heaters, condensing units and indirect water heaters. Most hybrid technologies were developed to make water heating more energy efficient.

*Heat Pump Water Heaters. These use electricity to extract heat from the surrounding air to help heat the water in the tank. A heat pump works like an air-conditioner in reverse. An air conditioner pulls warm room air into the unit, removes the heat from the air, and then dumps heat that it extracted from the room air outside. Rather than dump the heat, a heat pump water heater uses the extracted heat to warm the water. When the heat pump cannot handle the demand, backup electric elements take over. These units are extremely energy efficient.

*Condensing Water Heaters. These are available in both tank and tankless models and are powered by gas. These units use some of the hot gases created during the combustion process to heat the water, rather than venting all of the gas to the outside.

*Indirect Water Heaters. In these systems, the water heater storage tank is connected to a boiler or furnace. The unit heats fluid that is circulated to the storage tank, where a heat exchanger warms the water.

*Solar Water Heaters. These circulate fluid through rooftop solar collectors. The fluid heats the water in the storage tank.

Smart Water Heaters. A few manufacturers have developed water heaters with WiFi capability, meaning you can control them through a smartphone or tablet. These products are more sophisticated than standard water heaters. They have electronic controls and thermostats, making them more precise and easier to use. They can also run diagnostics on themselves to spot potential problems.

Home appliances, including water heaters, are increasingly outfitted with WiFi capability to enable money and energy-saving control from your devices.

Factors to Consider When Buying a Water Heater

When it is time for a new water heater, a good place to start is to consider what you have now. If the old unit provided plenty of hot water and you were satisfied with it, consider simply replacing the unit. Even if you install a standard tank water heater, the new model will probably be more energy efficient than the old one, thanks to updated energy standards that went into effect in 2015. However, there are many more energy saving options available to choose from. If you are unsatisfied with your water heater’s performance, you may want to consider one of the alternatives mentioned above.

The following are other important considerations for this major purchase:

Warranties

Water heaters come with warranties. In general, the longer the warranty, the more the unit will cost. Expect to see warranties from 6 to 12 years, but lifetime warranties are available. Choose a model with a warranty you are comfortable with.

Sizing for Tank Water Heaters

Residential tank water heaters, including heat pump water heaters, vary in capacity from 20 to 80 gallons. Of course, meeting the local building code is one aspect of sizing a unit. Another rule of thumb is to base the size on the number of people who regularly use hot water in the house.

Here’s a guide:

NUMBER OF PEOPLE IDEAL GALLON CAPACITY
1-2 23-36
2-4 36-46
3-5 46-56
5 or more 56 or higher

How many people live in the house (or could live there in the future) is a factor in determining the size water heater that you need.

In addition to tank capacity, you should consider the First Hour Rating of the unit. This tells you how much hot water the unit will provide during a set period. Think of your household first thing in the morning. The water in the heater is at its set temperature. Then people start using the hot water. As they do, cold water rushes into the tank, mixing with the remaining hot water. The water heater senses a drop in water temperature and clicks on. All at once, hot water leaves, cold water enters and the unit works to keep up with the changes.

The First Hour Rating takes into account the size of the tank, the efficiency of the heater and even the temperature of the cold water entering the tank. It can help determine the size of the heater you need based on peak demand periods. You will find it listed on the yellow energy label attached to the water heater and in the manufacturer’s literature.

Sizing for Tankless Water Heaters

Because there is no storage tank, tankless models are sized by the gallons per minute (GPM) of water they can deliver. Find the right size for you by estimating your peak water demand. You may have to consult with a plumber to estimate your demand, but here are some averages for various plumbing fixtures.

Shower and Bathtub 2.5 GPM
Clothes Washer 3.3 GPM
Kitchen and Bathroom Sinks 2.2 GPM
Dishwasher 1.3 GPM

Source: Energy Star  http://www.energystar.gov/products/water_heaters/water_heater_whole_home_gas_tankless

Homes in colder climates may require more powerful hot water heaters.

You will also need to consider the temperature of the incoming water to determine how much the heater needs to raise the temperature of the water. Cold water temperatures range from an average of 35–40 degrees in the extreme North to 65–70 degrees in the South. The difference between the incoming cold water and the hot water leaving the unit is called the temperature rise. The maximum GPM for a unit may be 8 or 9 GPM, but if the unit must raise the temperature 70 degrees, the effective GPM could be cut in half. The manufacturer’s literature will provide GPM at different incoming water temperatures.

Energy Efficiency

There are two ways to pick a water heater based on energy efficiency. One is the EnergyGuide Label that comes with each unit. It displays the estimated cost for running the unit when compared with similar models. If the label shows the Energy Star logo, it means the appliance exceeds basic requirements and meets more stringent criteria for energy efficiency.

The other is to consider the water heater’s energy factor (EF), which you can find in the manufacturer’s literature. This number reflects the efficiency of the heater in converting fuel—natural gas, propane and the like—into hot water. The EF is expressed as a decimal. An EF of 1 means that 100 percent of the energy is converted to hot water. For example, an efficient gas storage water heater might have an EF of .75. Some tankless water heaters can have an EF of .90-plus. A heat pump water heater might have an EF of 2.5 or higher, which means the heat pump produces more energy than it consumes.

Here’s how products that meet minimum energy standards that went into effect in April of 2015 compare with products that meet minimum Energy Star requirements.

Type of Water Heater New Minimum EF Requirements Energy Star EF Requirements
50-Gallon Gas Water Heater 0.60 > 0.67
50- Gallon Electric Water Heater 0.95 > 2.0
Tankless Water Heater 0.82

0.90

Sources: DOE National Appliance Energy Conservation Act; Energy Star Product Criteria: http://www.energystar.gov/products/water_heaters/residential_water_heaters_key_product_criteria

In general, highly efficient water heaters cost more than conventional models. A heat-pump water heater can cost three times that of a conventional heater of the same size. But energy efficient products are designed to reduce energy use and save money in the long run.

Tax Credits

Federal tax credits for energy efficient appliances, including non-solar water heaters, apply to items purchased in 2015 and 2016, but the credit is scheduled to expire at the end of 2016. You can claim 10 percent of the cost of the unit up to $300.

The items that qualify include heat-pump water heaters with an energy factor that is equal to or greater than 2, and gas and oil water heaters with an energy factor that is greater than or equal to .82, or a thermal efficiency of at least 90 percent.

Those who install solar water heaters can earn a 30 percent credit. The solar credit expires at the end of 2021.

If you install energy efficient equipment in your home, check the local utility for other rebate programs.

Installations

While water heaters are not particularly complicated devices (especially conventional models with a storage tank), they should still be installed by a licensed plumber. A plumber will be familiar with the local building code requirements, and he will be able to handle any problems that may crop up.

One thing to keep in mind if you plan on swapping out an old unit with a new one of the same size: If the water heater was manufactured after the new energy requirements went into effect in April 2015, it may be an inch or two larger in height and circumference. Manufacturers beefed up the insulation on units to help meet the new requirements. It is something to keep in mind if space is tight around an old water heater, and another reason to hire a pro to install the unit.

To protect your home and family, hire a professional when installing a new water heater or conducting significant repairs.

Here are some items that may be required with your new water heater.

  • Building Permit. If you or your contractor applies for a permit, the finished installation will be inspected by a building inspector. This is one way to help ensure you have a safe installation.
  • Dedicated Shutoff Valve. If there isn’t a valve attached to the cold water line just before it enters the water heater, the plumber will install one. The valve lets you shut off water to the water heater for maintenance and repairs without disturbing the rest of the home’s water system.
  • Expansion Tank. When water inside the tank is heated, it expands, creating more volume. That extra volume has to go somewhere. In a “closed” plumbing system, the expanded volume that would normally backflow into the main water supply is blocked by a valve. The pressure builds up within your home’s plumbing system, and that’s where the expansion tank comes in. It contains a bladder with pressurized air on one side. It gives the extra volume of water someplace to go. When you turn on a hot water tap or the water in the tank cools, the pressure is relieved.
  • Earthquake Straps. Some building codes, particularly in the West, require that water heaters be anchored to wall studs or approved blocking with metal straps.
  • Drip Pans. Even if they are not required by code, drip pans are a good idea, especially if a leaky tank will cause damage. Most contain a drain fitting so that you can attach a hose to the pan. You can also get a battery operated leak detector that can be placed near the water heater or in the pan for under $20. This will alert you if there are problems.

The life expectancy of a typical unit is 10 to 20 years, depending on the type and model. Ensure you get the best performance possible: Carry out simple maintenance tasks, and know when to call a plumber. Read the manual carefully and perform any routine upkeep required to make the most of your unit’s lifespan.

How to Reduce Water Heating Costs

Here are tips for reducing water heating bills.

  • Replace old equipment with energy efficient models.
  • Install low-flow shower and faucet heads.
  • Reduce the water temperature in your water heater by adjusting the unit’s thermostat.
  • Wash your clothes in cold water.
  • Choose water saver cycles when using the dishwasher.
  • Fix dripping hot water faucets.

The ABCs of Smart Home Technology

The ABCs of Smart Home Technology

Don’t know where to start with smart home technology and devices? We’ve compiled an A-to-Z dictionary to help guide you to pro status.

Is 2017 the year you make your home smart? It might seem like a large undertaking, but today’s smart home products are easier than ever to install and use. We’ve compiled an A-Z guide to smart home technology, buzzwords and trends below:

A is for Automation – Dreaming of a ‘Jetsons’ home? Today’s smart home technology can do everything from order your groceries to dim your lights, and the technology is only getting better by the day. Check out some of the newest products unveiled at this year’s CES.

B is for Buyers and Sellers – Smart home products are beneficial to both buyers and sellers. That’s right – you can leave pre-installed smart home products in the home you’re selling. A 2016 survey by Coldwell Banker found that 44% of Americans believe smart home technology should already be installed in homes for sale.

C is for Cost-Savings – You probably already know this, but smart home technology can save you money. Smart thermostats can reduce unnecessary cooling and heating expenses and smart lighting can help you curb your energy consumption and reduce your electric bills.

D is for Don’t Want to Get Up – We all have our lazy moments. Imagine you never had to get up to turn off the lights before bed. Imagine you didn’t have to leave the warmth of your blanket to turn up the heat. Smart home tech enhances life’s simple comforts.

E is for Entertainment – Smart TVs, sound systems, content streaming, gaming and more. Smart home technology expands the possibilities for how we lay back and relax at home. You’ll never binge watch your shows the same way after you see them in high definition clarity and connected to your smart sound system and streaming system.

F is for Fridge – How many times have you gotten to the supermarket and realized you left your grocery list at home? Imagine you could look inside your smart fridge from your phone to see what was missing? These are the possibilities available with today’s suite of smart refrigerators.

G is for Green – We’ve already covered the cost-saving benefits of smart home technology. Beyond saving you some green, it can help reduce your home’s environmental impact and help you go green!

H is for Hubs – You might have heard of things like Apple’s HomeKit, Samsung’s SmartThings and Google’s Thread. These three are examples of hubs, which help connect multiple smart home devices across many brands and capabilities under one platform, simplifying your smart home experience.

I is for Integration – You may have heard a lot of buzz around the word smart home integration, which goes hand-in-hand with hubs. Integration means multiple products are able to work along with one another. An example is an Amazon Echo working with your Nest thermostat.

J is for “Just for the Tech Savvy”This is actually a big smart home myth! Smart home technology is for everyone along all ends of the technology spectrum.

K is for Kit (the Smart Home Staging Kit, that is) – Did you know that Coldwell Banker curated the first-ever Smart Home Staging Kit? The kit includes a Nest Thermostat, Nest Protect, Nest Cam, August Smart Lock, August Connect and Lutron Caseta Wireless Lighting Products. The kit is available at SmartHomeStaging.com, or you can speak to a Coldwell Banker agent to take advantage of exclusive promotional pricing.

L is for Lighting – One of the most popular smart home categories is smart lighting. Much of today’s technology can help you control your home’s lighting remotely via a smart phone app. Some products can help you transform a room using dimming features to create a more dynamic and versatile living space.

M is for Mainstream – Smart home is now in the mainstream, but it isn’t too late to hop on the bandwagon. Think about areas of your home that could use a convenience upgrade and take a leap. Bring your home into the 21st century!

N is for News – Coldwell Banker lived stream news about smart home technology straight from the floor during CES 2017 this year in Las Vegas. Now you can check out Blue Matter for everything you need to know about smart home in 2017.

O is for One At a Time – Introduce new smart home products one at a time so you can get acclimated and learn each device’s functionality. Our agents turned smart home gurus agree and suggest starting with one product you know will improve your day-to-day life if you are skeptical of adding smart home features. Dip your toes into the pool before you dive in!

P is for Presents – While the holidays have come and gone, smart home technology can make a great gift for a loved one or friend throughout the year. Check out our most recent smart home gift guide!

Q is for Q&A – Of course, it’s normal to have questions. The good news? Coldwell Banker launched a first of its kind smart home education program in consort with CEDIA. This makes our agents the foremost experts in all things smart home – and more than willing to answer your questions.

R is for Real Estate – Coldwell Banker has been attending and sponsoring CES for the past three years. Why is a real estate company investing in a tech show? Smart home technology is no longer a prediction for the future – it is in our present, and is a growing part of the real estate industry.

S is for Security – Smart security cameras, smoke alarms, door locks and more. There is a smart home product to protect every corner of your home whether you are near or far.

T is for Thermostats – Smart thermostats can control both your heating and cooling. Besides the cost-saving functionality we discussed earlier, these thermostats can also make your home a bit cozier before you arrive. You can control your A/C remotely to turn on a few minutes before you arrive home on a sweltering day. Same goes for your heat on a particularly frosty day.

V is for Voice Control – According to our 2017 Smart Home Marketplace survey, voice control is the next big thing in smart home technology. 72% of Americans who have smart home products – controlled remotely by a smartphone, tablet, computer or by a separate automatic system within the home itself – want voice control. Voice control technology has quickly evolved with the advent of platforms like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home.

W is for Wi-Fi – At the root of all smart home technology is Wi-Fi. All of these products require an internet connection in order to function with the devices around them and your smart phone.

X is for XOXO – how you are going to want to thank your home after it’s decked out with smart home technology.

Y is for You – It’s up to you! Once you make the decision to introduce smart home elements to your home, installing smart home technology can be a fun DIY project.

5 Easy Ways to Keep Your Carpet Clean

5 Easy Ways to Keep Your Carpet Clean

For those times when guests forget to leave their shoes at the door…

Guest Post by Andrea Davis

Carpets make your home feel welcoming and cozy. But carpets also take a lot of abuse from day-to-day life. Here are five easy ways to keep your carpets clean.

#1 Buy a Good Vacuum

Your vacuum is your first line of defense against dirty carpets. Follow these tips to stay ahead of dust and dander:

  • Look for vacuums with easy-to-empty canisters and strong suction.
  • Vacuum at least once a week.
  • Go slow and steady to ensure the vacuum is getting up dirt.
  • Don’t ignore corners.

#2 Use Good Spot Cleaners

You can use a variety of spot cleaners to keep your carpets clean. Use the following around-the-house cleaners for DIY stain removers:

  • Hydrogen peroxide foams up when it contacts blood. This lifts the stain and allows you to dab it away.
  • Laundry detergent cuts grease and allows you to blot messes away.
  • Shaving cream also helps to lift stains. Let the shaving cream set for 30 minutes and then blot it away with a dry cloth.

It’s important to remember to blot your carpet stains. Rubbing blemishes only spreads stain-causing liquids. Blotting uses a small amount of pressure to soak up the stain.

#3 Buy Organic Cleaners

Organic cleaners remove messes without using harmful chemicals. This is especially important for homes with small children or pets. The residue left behind by dangerous cleaners can pose a threat to certain family members. Also, many organic cleaners don’t leave behind strong chemical odors.

#4 Hire a Maid Service

One of the keys to keeping a clean carpet is staying ahead of the mess. Hiring a maid for several hours each week is a simple — and labor-free — way to keep your home spotless. Also, professional cleaning services remember to clean the easily forgotten areas of your home that can become major mess magnets.

#5 Time Your Cleanings

The early spring months are the best time to begin a deep clean of your carpets. You’ll be able to remove all the grime and dust that accumulates in the winter before the summer humidity arrives. Humidity traps moisture in your carpets and can cause mold and mildew growth.

The Sweetest Way to Kick Off Valentine’s Day at Home

The Sweetest Way to Kick Off Valentine’s Day at Home

We found the best recipes for breakfast on Valentine’s Day

In case you haven’t noticed yet, Valentine’s Day falls on a Tuesday this year. Yuck, a Tuesday. If you are anything like me then going out for a nice dinner (or worse cooking one) after a long day at work sounds anything but romantic. That’s why this year I am flipping the script and focusing on kicking the day off with something sweet and what better way to do than with breakfast at my favorite place in the world…my home.

Last year, 11 Sweet Breakfast in Bed Ideas was one of our most popular posts in February so I decided to write a version 2.0. This year’s theme is all about Red Velvetand these recipes are sure to make breakfast on Valentine’s Day, or any other day for that matter, extra sweet. Enjoy!

Red Velvet Waffles | Go Eat & Repeat | Recipe Here

3 Words… Cream Cheese Glaze (mmmm)

Red Velvet French Toast | Cafe Delites | Recipe Here

What I love most about this picture is the fact that Karina added a few raspberries to the plate. In humble my opinion the fruit on this dish basically cancels out the rest of the calories.

red velvet pancakes valentines day breakfast

Red Velvet Cinnamon Rolls | No. 2 Pencil | Recipe Here

Dessert for breakfast…yes please!
red velvet breakfast cinnamon rolls

Red Velvet Crepes | Six Sister’s Stuff | Recipe Here

Close your eyes, take a bite and imagine yourself vacationing in Paris.

Red velvet crepe

Red Velvet Pancakes | DAN 330 | Recipe Here

Short stack or full…whichever you choose will  be a delight!

red velvet pancakes

Red Velvet Donuts | Homemade Hooplah | Recipe Here

While most donuts are fried these are actually baked, so don’t feel bad when you reach for seconds.

red velvet donuts

Red Velvet Nutella Hearts | I Love to Cook | Recipe Here

N U T E L L A!!! Need I say more?!

Red Velvet “Skinny” Shake | Mom on Time Out | Recipe Here

You and your honey can satisfy your sweet tooth with this recipe for 2!

Your Home’s January Honey Do List

Your Home’s January Honey Do List

Start 2017 off on the right foot with this list of January resolutions for your home.

Ah, the month of resolutions! Your personal honey do list is sure to be filled with ambitious goals for 2017: get back to the gym, take control of your diet, but what about your home? This month, we’ve rounded up a January to do list to make sure you start the year off on the right foot at home.

1.  Nix Indoor Condensation – Look for indoor condensation on windows and take corrective action. For 7 ways to reduce humidity in your home, check out this great video from Andersen Windows & Doors.

2.  Make a maintenance calendar – Review warranties and product material to check on recommended maintenance for furnace, equipment, appliances, and tools. Mark your calendar to track scheduled upkeep and service.

3.  Accessorize, Accessorize, Accessorize – After the holiday decorations come down, your walls can feel a bit dull and empty. January is a great time to add new home decor accessories, like fresh throw pillows or framed photos of the past year’s activities.

4.  Get ready for the big game – Now’s the time to get ready for the ultimate game day. Here are 5 winning football party ideas that will score big.

5.  Organize your files – While most paperwork is now maintained digitally, it’s still important to make sure you’re organized and backed up. Take an afternoon to sort through online statements, contacts and emails that piled up over the holidays. And after all of that hard work, be sure to back up to a hard drive or cloud service.

6.  Sort and toss – Take time to sort through your toiletry products in the bathroom and food items in the pantry. Toss anything that is old or expired and start fresh for the new year.

7.  Warm up your home – In many parts of the country, we’re dreaming of ways to add a little extra warmth around the house. Whether it’s adding weather stripping or a smart thermostat, these 6 easy ways to make your home warmer and cozier this winter are just the trick!

8.  Ready to Move? Do this first – If you’re thinking of selling your home in 2017, make it a resolution to collect these 10 pieces of valuable information well before the spring real estate rush.

Green Remodeling Projects With Major Aesthetic Appeal

Green Remodeling Projects With Major Aesthetic Appeal

These green home renovations have big design potential!

The following is a guest post by Erin Vaughan with Modernize.com


Let’s face it: some remodeling projects are a lot more fun than others. Rearranging the living room? Count me in! But blowing in insulation in the attic? Meh, I’ll pass. And unfortunately, the home projects that have the most environmental impact usually don’t exactly let you bust out the Pinterest boards and interior design magazines. There’s nothing exciting about air sealing, after all.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any green renovations with big design potential. Upcycled and reclaimed goods especially can add a certain editorial panache to your home—while diverting cast-off materials destined for landfills. Or you can go for a new lighting feature, landscaping design, or window treatment that will help you reduce your water and electricity use. Take a look at these five remodeling projects that are all super eco-friendly and pretty easy on the eyes, too!

modernize1

Redo the Kitchen Countertops in Terrazzo
Every week, US residents throw away enough glass bottles and jars to fill a 1,350 square foot building. Terrazzo, a countertop material made from crushed glass suspended in concrete, helps give some of that glass a purpose—and it has a unique, glittery look, as well. The majority of terrazzo countertops come from post-consumer products, like wine bottles or car windshields. For an extra modern edge in your kitchen, go for sharp, clean lines and install a tiled backsplash in an unexpected pattern behind it for extra oomph.

Terrazzo Floor texture background pattern and color

Install a Solar Tube in Place of Recessed Can Lights in the Hallway
As experts have begun to study the effect that light has on our productivity, alertness, and overall well-being, they’ve noticed that interior lighting that more closely matches the intensity and hue of natural daylight consistently demonstrates the best responses from study participants. A solar tube is what it sounds like—a small, rounded tube cut into the ceiling that reflects natural light from the outdoors into your home’s interiors. Use them in place of recessed lights in a sunroom, hallway, or powder room, and enjoy the positive affect they have on your circadian rhythm—and the electric light they offset, as well!

Repaint Your Furniture with Homemade Milk Paint
Milk paint is exactly what it sounds like—an ancient surface covering mixed from lemon juice, color pigment, and of course, milk. Painted on furniture, it gives pieces an edgy, distressed feel. And it doesn’t contain harmful fumes, like VOCs, that can affect the air quality throughout your home. You can buy milk paint ready-made, or make it yourself using this recipe. Try it on an aging bureau, dresser, or on a side table that could use a lift—and pat yourself on the back for not adding to our landfill footprint!

Install a Solar Shade to Ward Off the Heat
If you live in a warm climate, you may already be aware of how excess solar radiation can affect your cooling bills. The sun raises the interior temperature of your home, meaning your AC has to work harder to keep things cool. And if you have old or outdated windows, the environmental toll may be even greater. While eco-friendly frames and glazings do exist, if you aren’t ready to spring for new windows for your whole home, you can at least protect your HVAC and furniture from solar heat by installing a solar shade over your most sun-prone areas. These green window treatments use specialized materials to block excess light and heat from entering your home. And they come in a variety of styles and colors as well!

Real young girl in casual wear illuminated by the setting sun near the sea with her hand covering her face from sun light. black and white

Replant a Patch of Lawn with Native Grasses
Here’s one just for you, green thumbs! Every year, thirsty lawns pull billions upon billions of gallons off the water table. In fact, the EPA estimates that lawn irrigation accounts for 30 percent of residential water use—or 9 billion gallons per day. That’s a shocking statistic, and it means that our outdoor spaces could really use some help when it comes to cutting back on the sprinklers. Ornamental native grasses add an eclectic verve to your landscape design—and go well with other water efficient features, like hardscaping or manmade dry creek beds. What’s native will differ according to your area, of course, but reedgrass, oatgrass, and maiden grass are all popular choices—and grow without too much encouragement in many climates. They make the perfect accent next to a line of bushes or along pathways. After all, why shouldn’t green look good?