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Thursday, November 7, 2019

How to Avoid Used Car Scams


By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy flickr
If you’re like most consumers, you tend to hold onto a car as long as it still has some life in it.  Today’s vehicles are way more reliable than those made even a couple decades ago.  That means if you maintain your vehicle, chances are it will last at least 200,000 miles.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that you won’t need to someday part with your four-wheeled friend once the cost of maintaining the vehicle starts looking worse than a car payment.  If you like to buy used as opposed to a new car, there are a few things you need to know. 

Friday, November 1, 2019

Space Heater Safety tips


By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy flickr
Those of you who live in Florida wouldn’t know that it’s nearly November with temperatures still in the upper 80's, but a quick look at Weather.com just informed me that within the next few days the cooler weather will finally arrive in the Sunshine State.  You can expect daytime highs in the 60's & 70’s, with nighttime temperatures falling into the fifties.  That means many of us will be cranking up our heating system and/or space heaters to keep us comfy at night.  Especially when it comes to using either gas-fired or electric space heaters, comfort comes at a price if you aren’t careful about their safe operation.  Below are some safety tips to help you stay safe and warm this fall and winter.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

How Smart is Smartphone Insurance?


By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy flickr
Whether you're a Millennial or a Baby Boomer, one thing is certain; You never leave home without your smartphone.  Part communication device, part entertainment center, part research assistant, a smartphone puts the world at your fingertips.  You can read a book, watch a TV show or a movie, order a pizza or a taxi and converse with your friends and family six ways from Sunday wherever and whenever you choose.  If it did the dishes and the laundry, you’d probably marry it, right?  That’s why you can’t afford to be without your little oblong friend.  While the model I carry retails for around $100, this is considered the low end of the smartphone pool.  Springing for a Samsung Galaxy S10 will set you back $700, while an iPhone can cost more than a grand.  With prices like those, it should come as no surprise that I’m asked about smartphone insurance from time to time by my customers.  To keep from repeating myself, I created a handy blog that will gives you the ins and outs you need to consider before deciding to buying an extended warranty or insurance for your phone.

Friday, October 18, 2019

These Tow Truck Tricks are No Treat


By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy flickr
Picture this: You’re out driving along a lonely stretch of highway late at night when your Check Engine light comes on.  A minute later, your car engine dies and you coast to the curb.  Popping on the flashers and opening the hood, you get out to see if you can determine what caused your car to stall.  Only the problem isn’t evident.  The serpentine belt is still firmly attached and there isn’t a hint of smoke or any fluid leaking from under the vehicle.  Just as you head back to call for a tow truck, one appears from out of nowhere.  Seeing you standing there, the tow truck driver winds down his window and asks you if you need some help.  What would you do?

Friday, October 11, 2019

Driving with Dogs


By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy flickr
Being a dog owner, I’ve grown used to taking them practically everywhere with me.  My staff has long been used to seeing them at the office every day.  I wouldn’t think of putting them in a kennel when I go on vacation, either.  For the most part, where I go they go.  If you’re like me and treat your dogs like members of your extended family, this blog will give you a few pointers to making your life and theirs easier when you travel together.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Where's the Fire?


By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy PxHere
While cavemen both revered and feared it, fire is a tool that has literally taken mankind to the Moon and back. It also makes modern conveniences such as the internal combustion engine possible.  Where would our world be without it?  The problem with fire is that it’s a two-edged sword.  While it empowers our society, it can just as easily damage or destroy great swaths of it in no time at all.  To put the matter into perspective, I decided to put this week’s blog to the test, as well as the torch, to explore the many facets of fire.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Fall Back to Home Maintenance


By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy flickr
Last week, I wrote about the many uses of the man cave.  This week I thought I’d give all you man cave owners a few reasons to put the venerable man cave to use.  With summer slowly turning to fall, the relentless Florida heat is finally starting to fade away.  Fall is the perfect time of year to clean up the yard and do a little home maintenance.  The cool mornings are a great time to tidy in and around your home before the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is upon us.   

1.      It’s a jungle out there – If your yard is anything like mine, it starts to look a bit shaggy as September turns to October.  No matter how often you mow the lawn and try to keep the weeds at bay, the combination of sun and rain that occurs nearly every day during the summer can overwhelm any gardener.  Unlike our fellow countrymen and women up north who are breaking out the rakes at this time of year, fall in Florida is the time to fire up the hedge trimmer and the chainsaw.  While we have been fortunate this year with regard to Hurricane season, the squalls that recently blew through town were enough to break off some tree limbs.  I for one plan on getting out back this weekend to cut up any deadwood and clear out the gutters.  The hedges can wait until the end of October to trim, but I want to make sure that anything hanging over the roof is put in order.  I’ll also police the area around the air conditioner to make sure it isn’t a rat’s nest of leaf litter.    

2.      The root of all evil – Another thing to keep a weather eye on are roots and cypress knees.  Not only can they become a hazard to navigation that can cause you or a guest to trip, but roots can grow to slow or stop water in sewers.  If you’ve heard water gurgling as it goes down the drain in your home or your toilet has been slow to empty, it could be roots that are to blame.  Better to have a plumber inspect your home’s drains and sewer line now than to have a smelly sewer backup when the holidays roll around.

Image courtesy flickr
3.      Stormy weather – Even though hurricane season isn’t officially over for another month, that doesn’t mean that the storms that have come and gone this summer haven’t done some damage.  When I went out to collect the mail the other day, I noticed a 1-inch gap between my roof and the rain gutter out front.  Time to climb a ladder to fix that problem. I also noted a small crack in the bathroom window that was no doubt caused by windblown debris.  This is the perfect time of year to do a quick check of the exterior of your home before any late season gully washers occur, or winter arrives.  The funny thing about wind and water is their ability to exploit the smallest crack or gap to enter your home.  Better to replace worn out weather-stripping than giving JEA any more of your hard-earned money than you have to.

4.      Is it time for an air conditioner check? – In Florida, air conditioners aren’t a luxury, they’re a necessity.  Due to the amount of work they’re required to do through the long, hot summer, they could use a little TLC this time of year.  When was the last time you inspected your home’s air handler or even changed the air filter?  A clogged filter not only makes your home’s HVAC system work harder than it should, but it can literally shut your system down.  So too can a clogged vent or a blocked drain line.  I

5.      The proof is on the roof – Another thing it wouldn’t hurt you to scope out in the cool of the morning is your roof.  It doesn’t take much to damage roof tiles.  Even a single warped or cracked shingle is enough to cause significant damage to your home as water drip, drip, drips onto roof joists and ceilings.  Water intrusion can also spawn mold which if left unchecked can render a home uninhabitable.  If you haven’t climbed up to eyeball your roof in 6-months or more, why wait for a visible sign of water damage to inspect your roof?  Replacing a few shingles now is much cheaper than replacing water-damaged ceilings and furnishings later.

Image courtesy Pixabay
6.      Where there’s smoke – As costly to repair as water damage can be, a far bigger danger to your home is smoke or fire damage.  Another item to add to your fall to-do list is to check the smoke alarms in your home.  Since they reside on the ceiling, the devices are all but ignored by most homeowners.  Sometimes this comes back to haunt them if a fire breaks out in their home.  The sad fact is, home fires are one of the leading causes of damage and death every year.  A well-maintained smoke alarm is your best insurance against this threat.  A working smoke alarm will let you know about any combustion in your home long before it turns into a conflagration.  These devices can alert you to an overloaded power cord or a pot left on the stove much earlier than your nose can.  Even better, they’re loud enough to wake you and your family from a dead sleep to give you time to get everyone to safety and deal with the situation before it gets completely out of control.  If you haven’t checked your smoke alarm batteries in 6-months or more, what are you waiting for?

7.      Getting more from your garage door – Another overlooked convenience on many homes is the automatic garage door opener.  While these devices are a blessing when the rain is pouring down, they can also pose a safety issue if they aren’t properly maintained.  If you’ve ever taken a good look at your garage door, you’ll notice that it contains an array of cables, pulleys and springs that make the door open and close properly.  Like any machine, these pulleys need to be oiled from time to time and the fittings used to construct the door sometimes need to be tightened.  Even the power door opener needs to be checked every now and then to make sure the safety system works correctly.  The best way to test the door itself is to pull the emergency release to open and close the door manually.  If your door doesn’t slide smoothly open and shut, it’s time to clean the tracks and oil the pulleys.  Next, test the automatic opener by putting a 2x4 or block of wood under the door and closing it to make sure the door bounces back up of its own accord when it encounters an obstruction.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at http://aplusallfloridainsuranceinc.com/

How to Avoid Used Car Scams

By Catherine Powell Image courtesy flickr If you’re like most consumers, you tend to hold onto a car as long as it still has some ...