Save Money This Summer with AC Maintenance

As we’re nearing the warmer months of the year, it’s time to start thinking about how your air conditioner performs. And I’m talking about both central air and window-based units. With proper AC maintenance, you could save quite a bit of money.

Not only does maintenance help you save on the electricity bill, but it can also prevent accidental fires and other forms of property damage. For example, do you know how much a leaky swamp cooler could cost you in repairs if not dealt with immediately?

So, what are some ways to protect your home and your bank account?

Clean and/or Replace Filters

A clogged filter can cause all kinds of issues for any HVAC system. Even window-mounted air conditioners can form sheets of ice if the filter is clogged. And that causes a completely different problem.

This isn’t to mention how a clogged filter causes the unit to work much harder to cool the home. This, in turn, results in wear-and-tear leading to malfunctions and repair costs much sooner than anticipated.

Make sure all of your filters are either replaced or cleaned, depending on the type of system you have in the home.

Ensure Ductwork and Intakes are Clear of Debris

Over time, ductwork and air intakes for HVAC systems can become filled with dust and various forms of debris. Part of your annual AC maintenance should include ensuring the system has clear access to move air.

This means also going outside and making sure bushes, plants, and other elements are clear of the air conditioner.

In the event of a swamp cooler, it’s probably a good idea to install new pads. Wind can blow all kinds of debris into the wells of the evaporative cooler, which means it will have a harder time pulling air in to cool.

Properly Inspect Power Cords and Electrical Connections

Always ensure your power cords and electrical connections for the HVAC system are properly secured. In some cases, it may be a good idea to call an electrician to verify your power cables don’t pose a threat to the home.

While you’re at it, also make sure you don’t have too much of a load on a single power socket.

A lot of people will use extension cords and power strips to accommodate their electronics. The end result could be a fire caused by an over-taxed power cable trying to draw more power than the strip can handle.

Out of the different forms of ac maintenance, your power consumption is perhaps one of the most important to verify.

Inspect Weather Stripping Along Windows and Doors

Weatherstripping is one of the most important facets of saving money for both heating and cooling needs. This is the fine strip or silicone that lines the edges of windows and doors.

Making sure the strip is in good condition means less cool air escapes to the outside. Thus, your home stays cooler for longer periods of time.

Consider Shades or Blackout Curtains

Sunlight coming into the home can generate a great deal of heat. Depending on where your windows are located, the home could be exposed to a continuous bombardment of sunlight.

Blackout curtains are relatively cheap and can stop the light and heat from the sun.

If you don’t like the idea of sunlight being completely blocked, you can always go with shades or other window dressings that limit how much light comes into the home.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of the Cure

Preventing issues through ac maintenance today can save you a small fortune down the road. And don’t forget, you could always approach the homestead from the perspective of going green. For example, adjusting your thermostat so the AC isn’t constantly running.

After ensuring your cooling systems are running efficiently, give Vargas & Vargas Insurance a call to also make sure your home is protected in the worst-case scenarios. Don’t let accidents this summer cost you. Contact us today for a customized plan and keep your home safe year-round.

Spring Cleaning & Maintenance Checklist to Prevent Home Insurance Claims

Want to maximize your spring cleaning schedule to include maintenance items that can help prevent home insurance claims? Read on for some helpful tips!

Organize and declutter

Go through each room in your home and remove any objects that are not useful or needed anymore. Organize your storage space so that useful items are contained neatly. By preventing clutter from accumulating, you are reducing your fire hazards.

Store chemicals and other dangerous items out of the reach of children and pets

While you are going through your home, keep an eye out for any items that could be a potential source of danger for your children or pets. Look for medicine or cleaning chemicals that need to be stored in safe places. Consider adding child locks to certain cabinets to minimize the danger for children. 

Create a Maintenance Schedule

Come up with a plan to help you prepare your home for general maintenance to help prevent serious issues down the road. Having a maintenance schedule helps you feel less overwhelmed by scheduling different services throughout the year, while also giving you peace of mind that your home will be up to date and as safe as possible.

Some must-include items for your maintenance schedule

  1. Check your carbon monoxide and fire alarms. According to staysafe.org, carbon monoxide poisoning and fires are two of the leading safety hazards for homeowners. Make sure your alarms have fresh batteries and are in working order.
  2. Change the air conditioning filter. Air conditioning filters are meant to sort out harmful particles such as dust and mold. By preventing the spread of mold you are keeping your house safer and your family healthier!
  3. Inspect your roof. Check for missing shingles and clogged gutters. This helps prevent water damage to your home and its foundation.
  4. Check Your Oil Tank. Unwanted oil tank leaks can cause a huge headache, especially because oil tank leaks are rarely covered with home insurance plans

Stay one step ahead of your maintenance needs!

By keeping your house clean and up-to-date on maintenance, you minimize your risks of safety hazards and damages in the future. It’s worth it! Click here to read one of our earlier posts on Spring cleaning.

When you finish cleaning your house, give Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency a call and we’ll help you clean up your insurance portfolio! One of our friendly and knowledgeable agents can review your home insurance, auto insurance, health insurance, and other insurance policies to make sure that you have all the coverage that you need, and at the right price. Don’t hesitate, call now – 617-298-0655.

Home Renovations That Might Lower Your Massachusetts Home Insurance

Home Renovations That Might Lower Your Massachusetts Home InsuranceWhen you are getting ready to renovate your home, you may be thinking of additional costs such as your home insurance. Some improvements will typically lower your home insurance rates.

At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we want Dorchester, MA homeowners to get their home renovations done right.

If you are thinking of renovating, you may want to add these modifications to your home to help with your Massachusetts home insurance policy.

Alarm System With Monitoring

When you have an alarm system on your home, with the audio or video monitoring, you increase your security. You are likely to see a reduction in insurance rates with an alarm system from an approved company.
You may not need to get your alarm company approved but check with your provider. Adding an alarm system during home renovations will also keep your new changes secure from safety threats.

Install a Sewer Backup Valve

Sewer backup is a significant home insurance risk. You can even update your home insurance policy to include coverage for this, as the costs are exorbitant.

Adding a sewer backup valve is easy, and can help you in the event of a sewer backup disaster. When water has nowhere else to go, it will come into the home. This is an expensive problem, and your insurance company knows this. Add a valve to the sewer and this could save you from this problem, and also from insurance costs.

Install a Sump Pump

A flood in the basement is a disaster. If you don’t have one already, a sump pump is a very affordable way to prevent flooding when bad weather hits. Overland flooding in Massachusetts is on the rise and could lead to an increase in claims. Add one to avoid this mess, and to potentially lower your home insurance costs.

Get a Quote

When you are renovating your home, you need to talk to your insurance company or update your home insurance policy. At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we want Dorchester, MA homeowners to have the most thorough policy, through every change in love. Call us for a quote and update your policy today.

How to Protect Your Home During Holiday Travel

Family skiing and enjoying holiday travel

With the holidays fast approaching, you might be planning a trip. It might be to visit family members or take a much-deserved vacation. As you’re packing for holiday travel, you need to take a minute to consider ways to protect your home while you’re gone. Here are a few tips. 

1. Tell Your Neighbors

Talk to a neighbor before you leave and let them know you’ll be gone. They can keep an eye on your home and contact authorities more quickly if something goes wrong when they know you’re not home. 

2. Don’t Tell Social Media

Many people enjoy sharing every moment of their trips with social media. However, it’s best to wait until you return home to share those vacation photos. You don’t want to advertise that your home is empty for an extended period of time. 

3. Update Your Alarm System

If you don’t already have an alarm system or your system needs an update, then this is the ideal time for it. A new alarm system or update can even help you secure a discount on your homeowner’s insurance. 

4. Use a Timer to Turn Interior Lights On and Off

A potential burglar will pass home when there are lights on inside. If anyone is watching homes in your neighborhood, they’ll see the lights going on and off at times to give the impression that you’re at home. 

5. Check All Your Doors and Windows

It’s easy to forget to lock a window when you close it in the fall after enjoying a cool breeze. This makes it essential that you check all the windows and doors in your home to make sure they’re locked and secure before leaving home for holiday travel. 

Vargas & Vargas Insurance is a premier local independent insurance agency. Our goal is to ensure that we offer the best insurance products to our customers. You have specific needs, and we strive to customize your insurance policy to meet them at a price point your budget can handle.  Our team is always ready to answer your questions and concerns, so contact us today.

What to Do During and After a Hurricane

woman looking through the window at home as a hurricane approaches

Hurricanes can pose a serious hazard for people and properties in the Boston, Massachusetts, area. Floods, heavy winds, and other severe weather factors can cause damage quickly. Read this short guide about how to stay safe and protect your property both during and after the next hurricane.

What to Do During a Hurricane

During a hurricane, it is important to avoid going outdoors or driving because the winds and flooding can be dangerous. If you must be out in the storm, then it is important to:

  • NOT drive around road barriers
  • NOT walk through flowing water
  • NOT drive through flooded roads

Also, continue monitoring the media for any emergency information. Look for credible emergency information shared by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and other government agencies. Also, you need to follow instructions given by the public safety officials.  

If directed to evacuate, you need to do so immediately, and take only your essential items and any pets, if possible. Given that conditions change fast, you need to be ready for evacuation to different places as directed and if necessary.

What to Do After a Hurricane Has Passed

After a hurricane has passed and you had evacuated, return home if authorities say it is safe to do so. Continue to listen to news reports to know if the water supply is safe. Before local authorities declare your water supply safe, you need to boil the water before drinking or using it for food preparation.

As soon as it’s safely possible, check your home for any signs of damage. While checking your home, you need to:

  • Repair leaching systems and damaged septic tanks to minimize potential health risks.
  • Hire a qualified electrician to assess any damages to electrical systems.
  • Have a professional check your wells for contamination.
  • If you suspect there is a gas leak, go outdoors immediately and contact a licensed professional to check it out.
  • In case your home or property is damaged, document the damage by taking videos and photos and contact your insurance company.

Also, report any power outages to your utility company. If you’re waiting for the power to return, be careful to only use grills and generators outside because their fumes contain dangerous gases.

Try to avoid entering floodwaters in and around your property. Seek the services of a professional cleaning and repair company to clean and disinfect your home. Check on neighbors and friends, especially the elderly and those who live alone.

At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we’re here to help you protect your home, property, and family. Call us today to learn more about hurricane-related coverage, flood insurance, and safety tips to help you get through the storm.

Should I Buy Earthquake Coverage?

At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, our job is to provide the right insurance policies to protect your investment into your home and to protect your family and belongings. Today, we’re talking about earthquake insurance. Before we get any farther, we should point out that most dwelling policies don’t include earthquake coverage. In other words, if a huge 8.1-magnitude earthquake were to rumble through Massachusetts and toppled your home to rubble, you would not be covered with a standard homeowner’s policy.

mother and daughter inside a kitchen

Earthquake coverage is a rider that can be added to any home insurance policy. It’s worth the money if you ever experience a significant loss, and it’s certainly worth the peace of mind.

Does Massachusetts Experience Earthquakes?

Yes! According to the Northeast States Emergency Consortium (NESEC), the state has felt 408 earthquakes over the last 450 years. That’s almost one per year on average. Earthquakes occurring in surrounding states, and even as far as Quebec, Canada, have been felt in Massachusetts, too. 

Even though our earthquake history in recent years isn’t as scary as in other states like California, Massachusetts homeowners are always at risk of earthquake loss. Preparing for one now can protect your home later.

On Home Valuations and Earthquake Deductibles

Earthquake insurance is written based on the replacement cost of your home, not the purchase price or property tax valuation. In other words, your company will insure your home based on what it will cost to build a new home from the ground up, just like through your general homeowner’s policy.

However, deductibles work differently with earthquake insurance. You can choose your deductible to be 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, or 25%. It’s vital that you understand these deductibles as they relate to a loss.

For example, let’s say your home replacement cost is $250,000. A 10% deductible is $25,000. Earthquake insurance won’t come into play for a small loss. If a small earthquake occurs and breaks all your dishes and some windows, the damage won’t be more than your deductible of $25,000. However, if your entire home were to turn to a pile of rubble, you’d be entitled to a check for $225,000.

Ultimately, the choice to insure your home against earthquake damage is entirely up to you. It’s an affordable addition to any homeowner policy, but it’s important to choose the right coverage for your specific property. Reach out to a licensed insurance agent at Vargas & Vargas Insurance today to learn more.

How to Keep Your Home Safe From Burglary While on Vacation

family packing for a vacation

When it’s time to pack up your suitcase and head out of a town for some much-needed R&R, the last thing you want to think about is your home’s security. In reality, however, burglars prey on houses that are obviously left unattended for extended periods of time. Taking a few simple steps before you leave town can ensure that your home and property remains intact while you are away, both from trespassers and home disasters.

Be Mindful on Social Media

You’d be surprised what people take note of on social media. Don’t publicize specifics about going out of town before or during your trip. Likewise, if you receive expensive gifts over the holidays and are soon leaving town, don’t post them on your account. Burglars look for easy targets like these.

Keep Valuables out of Sight

Close your blinds and curtains before you leave, so outsiders can’t see what’s inside. This won’t just prevent burglars from spotting valuables, such as electronics. It will also make it more difficult for them to view additional points of entry to break into.

Forward Mail and Packages

If you are expecting packages from online shopping or know your mailbox will be overflowing before your return, take the time to temporarily forward your mail to your work or a friend’s house. Packages left unattended on the front porch are not only at risk of being stolen. They are a sure sign that no one is home to retrieve them.

Have a Neighbor Watch Your Home

Ask a trusted neighbor or friend to stop by your home a few times throughout your trip. They can turn on the lights, move your car, or simply ensure that everything looks secure. Giving the impression that someone has been home is an effective deterrent to thieves.

Use Light Sensors and Timers

Installing timers and motion sensors on indoor and outdoor lights is an effective security strategy. It will make sure that anyone lurking around your yard or house is seen, as well as indicate to any potential burglars that someone might be home. 

Don’t let your vacation end on a sour note by coming home to an empty or ransacked house. With these simple steps, you can reduce the risks of theft while you’re away. However, even the most cautious vacationers can experience a burglary or home invasion. Talk to our team today about the right home insurance coverage to give you more peace of mind.

Why You Should Buy Flood Insurance for Your Massachusetts Home

Floods happen far more often than most people realize. In the United States, flooding is a factor in 90 percent of natural disasters. Unfortunately, home insurance policies do not cover flood-related losses. That’s a fact that some homeowners only find out after they’ve experienced property loss from a flood. At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we’re here to help you protect your property before a flood.

mother and child gardening in the backyard of their Massachusetts home

Why You Need Flood Insurance in Massachusetts

Although properties on the Massachusetts coast have a higher flood risk, flood insurance isn’t just for people who live there. No matter what part of Massachusetts your house or condo is located in, you need flood insurance.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has a popular adage that goes: “Where it can rain, it can flood.” It’s another way of saying every home is at risk of flooding. While your home may have a lower or higher risk than other properties, a home with no risk of a flood doesn’t exist.

In fact, flood insurance claims for properties in low-risk areas are commonplace. FEMA reports more than 1 in 5 NFIP claims are associated with properties that aren’t in the high-risk zones. 

If your home is in a high-risk flood plain, you need to know what that risk level means in practical terms. According to the Massachusetts Division of Insurance, that risk level means you have a 26 percent risk of a flood damaging your property over the course of a 30-year mortgage.

Consider the town of Northampton in western Massachusetts. Many years ago, mid-March warming caused winter’s ice and snow to melt so rapidly that the Connecticut River overflowed to the extent that Northampton flooded. Today, Northampton officials are concerned that climate change could cause the town to flood again. Town officials are currently working diligently to prevent a repeat of that historic flooding. Homeowners should protect themselves for the risk of a flood in any season.

How to Get Flood Insurance

If climate change or another weather event brings flooding to your community, it’s important to be prepared. Flood insurance policies typically take 30 days to go into effect. Therefore, now is a good time to contact your local independent insurance agent to discuss your options for flood insurance coverage.  

Keep Your Homeowner Policy Safe

Dangers are abound in even the simplest of repair situations, so steer clear of the contractor’s work zone. 

When you hire the right contractor to do repairs or renovations or maintenance at your home, you want to maintain a respectful distance from their work area.

The contractor has been trained and, through long experience, knows how to maintain a safe work zone for themselves.  When you intrude across the boundaries of that zone, you introduce an unexpected variable in the contractors work process.

And that is when it can get messy. Be prudent when you’re hiring a contractor. How?

Request evidence of insurance. 

Speaking of safety and experience, don’t forget to collect the necessary certificates of insurance from your contractors. If anything happens on your property, you don’t want to give anyone any reason to abnegate responsibility to seek remedy for their injuries under YOUR homeowners insurance policy. 

Yes, you read that right.

If your state doesn’t require Workers Compensation coverage, the Homeowners policy could apply to cover lawsuits filed by an injured worker or to pay for medical expenses incurred if they don’t file a lawsuit. 

While the work area may appear to you to be perfectly safe, it is after all, your house and you know your house better than anyone, you still cannot anticipate hazards known all too well to the contractor through their possible training and experience. 

Respect the contractors’ work zone and, if you have a coffee or other tasty treats to share, let the contractor know where you’ve placed it easily accessible in your kitchen.  Then the contractor can enter the work zone and you can be comfortable the premises are safe.

Please schedule a call with us to discuss the very complicated process of your homeowners policy being exposed compared to the contractors’ workers compensation policy.

You want to ensure that your homeowners policy is updated and accurate to protect you in the event hired workers do not provide proof of insurance.

Flashback Blog: Boston is No Stranger to Fire

The city of Boston has been destroyed by large blazes multiple times. The first devastation of fire occurred in 1631; just one year after Boston was officially established.

Here are a few tips to keep you from having to file a fire damage claim on your home insurance.

The first thing you should cement in your mind is to never leave a flame burning where it cannot be seen. Enjoying an aromatherapy session with some scented candles? Even if you need to leave the room for just a moment, blow them out. You never know if something will delay or distract you from returning immediately.

Keep pets, especially agile cats, away from lit candles, scented oil burners, and other open flames. They could bump or knock over the materials, causing a fire that could have been avoided. On the same train of thought, teach your children proper fire safety. Flames and the resulting smoke can be very dangerous.

In case a fire does occur, despite your best efforts to handle flames safely, make sure you have up to date insurance in Boston, MA. Boston boasts median home values above $100,000. 

Without coverage, how would you repair or rebuild your home after a fire ravaged your property? Avoid this potential financial burden by requesting a free insurance estimate today and putting your coverage in place. 

With Vargas & Vargas Insurance, you can get the coverage you need for your home. Click here to contact us today for more information!