10 Things You Didn’t Know About Life Insurance

September if Life Insurance Awareness Month

Life Insurance Awareness Month happens every September,and while some people have the notion that this level of protection is a scam, the hard truth remains that it is inevitable that you will eventually die.  Hopefully it won’t be for many years… but it will happen.  It’s intended to assist your loved ones financially when you do pass away, and we feel part of our job as your Trusted Choice® insurance advisor is to educate and inform our clients.  So we gathered some information for you from LifeHappens.org, a free resource for anyone interested in learning more about Life, Disability, or Long Term Care Insurance.

“Life insurance blah blah blah.”  Is that what you hear when someone mentions it as part of your new job’s employee benefits round-up or when you see something about it on TV or social media?  Not to worry: we’ve got the low-down on what you need to know.  And it’s really not as overwhelming (or underwhelming) as you might think.

1.  It’s part of a sound financial plan. 

You know about savings, you know about retirement.  You might know a bit about investments and long-term financial planning for your health and happiness.  And life insurance helps with planning for your loved ones’ long-term health and happiness, especially those who depend on your income, in case something were to happen to you.

2.  There are different kinds.  

In addition to employment-based life insurance (which typically only lasts as long as your employment at your job), there’s term and permanent life insurance.

  • Term: You typically pay lower premiums for term life insurance, but your coverage is just for a specified amount of time, say 20 years, for example.  At the end of the term, your insurance coverage ends.
  • Permanent: With permanent life insurance (whole, universal, variable) you typically pay higher premiums in the short term, but then these policies generally allow you to accumulate cash value over time.  Your coverage is designed to last as long as you continue to pay premiums.

3.  It is surprisingly affordable for most people.

Sure, there are forms of life insurance that get pricier the more features you add on to it, and the price goes up if you’re a smoker or dealing with health problems.  But most people think life insurance costs about three times as much as it really does, according to the Insurance Barometer Study by Life Happens and LIMRA.  Just as a general guide, a healthy nonsmoking 30-year-old man can get a $250,000 20-year level term policy for about $16 a month.

4.  Key life events are often the best time to get on board.  

Getting married?  Having kids?  Changing jobs?  Bought a house?  Significant life events are often the time you become the most aware of the need for life insurance – and on that note…

5.  You can change your benefit.  

Perhaps you have a life insurance policy that your parents got for you when you were a baby.  Perhaps you have a term policy from when you bought your house but now you have a bigger family and you’re concerned about getting them all through college.  Or perhaps you want to bump up your coverage because your overall cost of living has changed.  And on *that* note…

6.  You may well need more coverage than you think.

Sometimes people think this policy is to pay off their own debts and funeral expenses.  But a key advantage of having this benefit is to ensure that the people who depend on you will be okay with their ongoing and future financial needs if something happens to you.  Need help figuring out how much?  Go to this online calculator: www.lifehappens.org/howmuch.

7.  The policy benefit pays out quickly.  

Because life insurance doesn’t get tangled up in estate claims, it generally pays out quickly, sometimes in days or weeks, usually inside of a month.

8.  The proceeds are generally tax-free.  

Compare this to, say, crowdfunding options like “GoFundMe” that have become so popular yet create tax consequences for the people they’re meant to help (to say nothing of fees and the lack of guaranteed benefit).

9.  It protects your family, but only if you let it.  

Keep your premiums paid up and your beneficiaries up to date, and the door with your agent open so that your loved ones know who to call if they need to.  Keep your paperwork with your other vital documents.

10.  It can be more than just life insurance.

Using “riders,” or an addendum to a life insurance contract, or even a specific kind of policy, these benefits can become “living benefits,” money you can access before you die, or use to pay for long-term care, as two examples.

If you still need help getting a handle on all this, talk to an agent.  They can help you understand the ins and outs and the best policy for your budget and needs.  Because of course – the most important thing to know about life insurance is that it’s there to help the people you love the most.

Click Here for a special message from actress, model and mother, Brooke Shields, official spokesperson for Life Insurance Awareness Month (LIAM).

Thanks to LifeHappens.org for the content of this blog, and author Helen Mosher.

Rural Counseling Services

Rural Counseling Services

Farmers often struggle to seek help for themselves.  Many of us were taught to be independent and to “grin and bear it” when tough times come around.  Please do not let your pride stand in the way of getting what you need.  Approaching someone – be it spouse, parent, relative or friend – who needs help can be just as challenging.  What if they do not want help?  How can I even tell for sure if they need help?  Here are some common warning signs from Rob Holcomb, UMN Extension Educator, which may indicate that someone needs a hand or counseling services:

  • They isolate themselves
  • They abruptly sell land/livestock or their equipment/farmstead falls into disrepair
  • Their substance use increases
  • They lack motivation, become less productive, or their mood changes
  • They use statements of hopelessness or giving up
  • Their sleep patterns are altered
  • Their spouse/significant other/children exhibit stress

The most important thing is that if you see something, please say something.  Below is a list of phone lines, websites and other rural counseling services that can be used by farmers and others in rural communities.  And do not underestimate the power of a cup of coffee and a conversation.  Taking five minutes out of your day to call someone may make the difference for a farmers and their family.

Financial Assistance

Remember, you are not alone.  It is not a sign of weakness to receive help or aid from counseling services.  

Thank you to our parent company, Minnesota Farmers Union, and UMN Extension Educator Rob Holcomb for the content of this blog entry.

For a free, comprehensive insurance review of your farm operations, contact one of our local Agents in your area HERE.  

Summer Home Maintenance Tips

With Summer in full swing and the kids out of school, you may be looking forward to cookouts, children playing in the pool or yard, and gatherings of friends and family.  Make sure you and your guests stay safe and happy this Summer by taking steps to keep your home cool and protected from costly damage.  Here are a few Summer Home Maintenance tips to get you started.

Summer Home Maintenance Tip 1: Inspect your porch or deck. 

  • The last thing you need is a painful splinter in your toe, or worse!  Carefully inspect your porch or deck supports, floors, stairs, and railings for any damage or hazards that happened over the Winter or Spring.
  • Then, be sure you make repairs before you invite guests over.

Summer Home Maintenance Tip 2: Check for water leaks inside and out. 

  • You’ve probably already turned on the water to your outside faucets.  Inspect the pipes and any appliances attached to them to see if there is any sign of leaks inside or outside your home.
  • Pay attention to your water bills, as they can be a good indication of a leak somewhere that’s not obvious, like an underground sprinkler system.

Summer Home Maintenance Tip 3: Patch cracks and potholes in the driveway. 

  • Avoid damage to your vehicles by smoothing out your driveway.  You can hire someone to resurface it or patch it yourself if the cracks and holes are small.

Summer Home Maintenance Tip 4: Clean your grill before lighting it. 

  • Before you start barbecuing this Summer, give your grill a thorough cleaning, both inside and out.  With the propane tank turned off, remove the briquettes and cooking grates, and carefully detach the gas tubes and burners.  Then, wash the grill with warm, soapy water, dry it with a towel, and reassemble.
  • During the season, take time to burn off the grease on the grates.  This can eliminate unwanted fires.

Summer Home Maintenance Tip 5: Cool your home efficiently. 

  • Instead of keeping your air conditioner on full blast all Summer, try lowering the blinds, investing in blackout curtains, closing off unused rooms, and placing a bowl of ice in front of a large fan.
  • If temperatures are too hot upstairs, move to the basement floor.  Be sure to let the cool night air in by putting fans in the window after the sun goes down.

Summer Home Maintenance Tip 6: Keep your lawn in good shape. 

  • As a general rule, your lawn needs between one and one and a half inches of water per week.  During the hot Summer months, water your lawn during the last couple hours before sunrise to keep the water from evaporating.  Be sure to follow any city limitations or bans on watering.
  • Sharpen your mower blades to give your grass a clean cut.  This will help it conserve moisture better.

Summer Home Maintenance Tip 7:  Trim trees and bushes. 

  • If you live in an area that is prone to wildfires, keep your trees and bushes trimmed around your house.
  • Pick up any lawn or garden debris, as it can feed fires.

Summer Home Maintenance Tip 8: Inspect your pool. 

  • Before opening your pool to swimmers this Summer, be sure to clean it and balance the chemicals properly.  According to swimuniversity.com, thousands of pool owners end up in the emergency room each year due to poisoning from pool chemicals.  Use safety goggles and extra care when handling your chemicals.
  • Make sure any steps, ladders, railings, slides, and diving boards are in good condition and installed securely.  Make sure your pump and filter are working well, and the pool is brushed and vacuumed often to head off algae problems.
  • Be sure to shock the pool at the beginning of the season to kill all the bacteria and get your water sparkling clean.  After dealing with chemicals in the pool, spray down the pool deck completely.
  • Test all of your pool’s safeguards: gate locks, door alarms, and storage for chemicals.  Set out your rescue and first aid equipment and flotation devices.

Summer Home Maintenance Tip 9: Consider your liability. 

  • Summer is a time for outdoor accidents.  Review your liability insurance policy to make sure you are completely covered for any unfortunate accidents that may happen on your property.
  • Consider additional liability insurance coverage if you own a pool.
  • Your insurance agent can help you decide how much you’ll need, so contact your local Farmers Union Insurance Agent to set up your appointment.  Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it!

Thanks to company partner Chubb for contributing to the content of this blog.  Find more helpful resources on their website’s Resources tab.

Grilling Safety Tips

You’ve been waiting all winter to head outdoors and fire up the grill.  Got the burgers and brats?  Check.  Got the propane or charcoal?  Check.  How about the fire extinguisher?  If not, you’re not quite ready.  Barbecuing is fun, but it comes with hazards.  Consider these safety tips for grilling season to keep your home and family safe.  

Create a Dedicated Space

Place your grill outside and away from any structures.  Many homeowners like to use their grill against the side of the house of the garage.  Cooking too close to the home can cause a house fire.  In fact, more than 10,000 grills start home fires each year, and some of these fires are deadly.  Make sure to pull your grill away from any fire hazards.

According to LawnStarter, the average Minnesota backyard is about 8,000 square feet so choose a spot that’s far away from buildings, walkways, and trees.  It’s easy for an awning or tree branch to catch fire, especially when it’s windy.  Consider creating a grilling station set apart from outdoor dining areas.  The area underneath the grill should be stable and free from dry grass or plant life.  Placing your grill on concrete is the best option to keep the grill stable and away from flammable grass.

Clean It Up

Grilling outdoors keeps the mess out of the kitchen, so it’s easy to forget about the spills and grease that could be accumulating underneath.  Make sure your grill is clean before you start it by scraping away any leftover grease or fat.  Empty the grease pan underneath and check for any nests or other flammable material that a bird or critter could have added to the grill.  Cleaning your grill is an essential part of grilling safely.

Know Your Flammables 

Propane and starter fluid are responsible for thousands of grilling accidents each year.  Make sure you’re aware of how to safely start your grill and teach others in the family as well.  Just because the flame goes out does not mean the gas is out.  Many accidents happen when igniting or trying to reignite a fire that has gone out.

Don’t light a gas grill when the lid is closed.  This can cause a dangerous buildup of gas and create a fireball.  If the flame goes out, turn the grill off, wait five minutes before you relight it.  

Charcoal grills are safer… unless you add lighter fluid to coals that are already burning.  The flames can quickly erupt into a fireball, igniting the lighter fluid container and the person holding it.  And never use a charcoal grill in the garage or a closed space.  Charcoal gives off carbon monoxide when it’s burning, sending more than 400 people to the emergency room each year.

Stay Nearby

Grilling involves an open flame that can be dangerous.  Never leave the grill unattended when cooking out.  Flames can get out of hand quickly, which can mean disaster for your home and property.  Homeowners with young children should also be careful to stay nearby to keep little hands from getting burned.  

Be Prepared for Fires

Older grills have a tendency to create more grease fires than newer models.  Make sure you’re always prepared to put out a fire if the flames get out of hand.  Tossing baking soda on a grease fire is one option for extinguishing the flames.  Having a fire extinguisher nearby is better.  Consider storing these items in a permanent station next to the grill.

These grilling safety tips aren’t intended to rain on your outdoor cookout, but to keep you safe while you enjoy the best part of the Spring and Summer.

Content provided by Kathleen Johnson of LawnStarter, who can be reached at (720) 213-8030 or on Facebook


Be sure to contact your local Farmers Union Insurance Agent if you do have an unfortunate fire caused by not following these grilling safety tips – we’re here for you, especially when you need us during claim time! 

Lawn Mowing Safety Tips

Lawn Mowing Safety Tips

The Menace of the Mower

Every Saturday morning as a child, I would wake to a list of chores my Mom had set out on the kitchen island for me and my sister to complete.  My parents had attached a monetary opportunity with each of the chores, the value growing as the task increased in effort. Like many kids, I jumped at the opportunity to make a couple bucks!  Mowing the lawn would always be on that list, so if it wasn’t too hot, I’d jump out there and get going.

After a few less than careful attempts at mowing our lawn, I had a firm talking to about lawn mower safety and how important it is to prepare for the task at hand. Whether you’re the one that mows the lawn in your household or someone else does it, be sure that you’re protecting whoever that someone is.

Lawn Mowing Safety Tips

  • Know how to use the mower and understand the controls.
  • Clear the path in front of the mower from debris before mowing.
  • Locate and avoid electrical wires that may be in your lawn.
  • Do not start the equipment near a combustible material, or areas with poor ventilation or smoke.
  • Use a mower with a control that keeps it from moving forward if the handle is released.
  • Make sure the mower has had time to cool before you refuel it.
  • Keep your hands and feet away from the blades.
  • Never use your hands to unclog the mower – think about using a sturdy stick instead.
  • Allow only one person on a riding mower at a time.
  • Consider buying and using safety glasses to reduce the chance of flying objects getting in your eyes.
  • Wear heavy shoes to help protect your feet.
  • Do not allow children under the age of 12 to operate a push lawn mower, and age 16 for a riding lawn mower.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there were more than 253,000 lawn mower-related injuries in 2010, and that rate is rising.  Keep yourself and the people around you from being a part of that statistic and pledge to be safe when it comes to mowing your lawn!

Thanks to company partner Foremost Insurance for contributing to the content of our blog (original blog entry edited for content).  Find more helpful safety tips on Foremost’s Blog.

Find your local Farmers Union Insurance Agent by clicking here.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Don’t let your last text be your last words.

Distracted driving can be caused by many different distractions while you are behind the wheel. Common driving distractions include mobile phones, radios, televisions, eating, and dangerous activities such as applying makeup or trying to remove your jacket. People who use cell phones while driving are 34% more likely to have a collision. If your music is so loud that you cannot hear horns or sirens of other vehicles, you may have a collision that you otherwise could have avoided. It could be taking your eyes off the road to glance at a text message, or taking your hands off the wheel to shove some food in your mouth. When an emergency arises, your reaction time is slowed when one hand is on the wheel and the other on a sandwich. We get it – life gets busy, but inattentive driving could cost you that busy life. 3,450 people lost their lives due to distracted driving in 2016 alone. Drivers paying attention to the road reduce their own risk of involvement in collisions. Find your local Farmers Union Insurance Agent here.

Attentive Driving Tips

  • Assess traffic conditions. Project your vision far ahead to see what the traffic is doing well in advance of your current position. This gives you more time to assess and ultimately react smoothly to changing traffic patterns and conditions.
  • Reduce speed and increase vigilance during inclement weather such as snow, rain, and sleet, and during dark periods. Be alert before, during, and after dawn and dusk since visibility can be hampered.
  • Use good sunglasses during daylight hours to reduce glare where appropriate and available.
  • Maintain adequate following distance based on the equipment or car you are driving. The higher the speed, the more you should increase the following distance. Also, inclement weather requires more following distance than good weather.
  • Avoid driving when upset, arguing, or conversations requiring deep thought.
  • Maintain proper lane and lane usage. Slower traffic in the right lane is appropriate for multilane highways. Check mirrors and be aware of surroundings before any lane change maneuver. Use signaling before changing lanes.
  • Do not read or take notes. The same rules apply for dictation and recording equipment.
  • Any activity that will diminish your attention to the road should be done while your vehicle is stopped.

Thanks to our company partner, Secura, for contributing to the content of this blog.  Find more helpful safety tips on Secura’s Blog.

How to Prevent Flood Damage

According to CNNMoney.com, “Every year, flooding causes more than $2 billion of property damage in the U.S.” and “In a high risk area, your home has a 26% chance of being damaged by a flood during the course of a 30-year mortgage, compared to a 9% chance of fire.”  The Insurance Information Institute (or III) states: “Flood damage is excluded under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies.”  Not only that, but there is a 30 day waiting period on Flood policies before their coverage goes into effect!

Since floods and flash floods occur in all 50 states, homeowners all over the country can benefit by making sure their homes are as prepared as they can be.  Here’s some tips from HomeAdvisor on how to prevent flood damage.

If you’re in the process of pumping water out of your basement right now, these tips might be too late to prevent flood damage for you.  But if you have the time and money and want to prevent flood damage to your home in the future, read on!

Retaining Walls

Residential retaining walls are generally meant to hold soil in place and prevent erosion.  Retaining walls can also deter flood water and protect your property from flood damage if they’re properly placed and designed.  Their cost (installing a masonry retaining wall averages over $5,000) can be prohibitive for many homeowners; unless you have experienced lots of trouble with flooding, you may want to consider other options first.

Clean Your Gutters

Clean your gutters.  It’s a cheaper way to prevent water damage and flooding, and gutters can be a great benefit to your home by carrying water to an area where it will create the least damage, but only if they’re properly maintained.  Clogged gutters, however, don’t just perform poorly, but have also been linked to erosion, basement flooding, and even foundation damage.  At an average cost of $191 nationwide, having your gutters cleaned is one of the most affordable ways to reduce the risk of flood damage.

Get an Inspection

Even capable do-it-yourselfers may not have the knowledge necessary to predict how their home will perform under flood conditions.  Hire a professional to inspect your home to identify areas where water damage is likely and help you to better fortify your property.  A general home inspection averages $324.

Permeable Paving

Conventional asphalt and concrete pavement blocks water from naturally seeping into the ground.  Consider using permeable pavement, paving stones, or grass pave to counter flood damage.  If you really want to save money and reduce runoff at the same time, skip the paving all together and opt for gravel fill instead (residential asphalt paving averages $4,704; gravel fill averages less than $1,000).

Sump Pumps

Sump pumps are basically the last line of defense against excess water.  When ground water rises to a critical point, a sump pump begins to divert that water away from your home where it won’t harm your property.  While installing a sump pump is not an infallible defense against flood damage, when precipitation threatens property damage, the average investment of $866 could save you thousands!

Talk with your local Farmers Union Insurance Agent about what you can do to reduce the risk of flood damage to your home, and report any damage right away.

Thanks to company partner Foremost Insurance for contributing to the content of this blog.

Snow Shoveling Tips, Tools and Techniques

Snow shoveling can be a laborious but inevitable winter chore.  Between the snow and ice storms in the colder regions of the U.S., the responsibility to clear your sidewalk, driveway, and various other paths are on the to-do list.  Snow shoveling may seem like a no-brainer, but many people don’t complete the task as effectively or as safely as they should to reduce the risk of injury!  Take a look at the top three things to keep in mind when snow shoveling to keep paths clear and your body pain-free this winter.

What kind of shovel should I use when snow shoveling?

  • High-strength, plastic shovels are light and easy to use, so if you have snow piling up, this kind of shovel would do the job well.  However, constant scraping against sidewalks and driveways can wear out the material, and they are not particularly effective when ice is on the ground.
  • Metal shovels are heavier and more difficult to maneuver, but if you are dealing with both snow and ice, this might be a good way for you to go.  These shovels will save you a lot of time if you need to chip ice while shoveling, and have amazing durability when chosen properly.
  • Either way, make sure the shovel has a long, curved handle to reduce risk of spinal stress.  Back injuries, fractures, and heart problems related to snow shoveling cause more than 11,000 adults and children to go to the hospital every year – you don’t want to be part of that statistic!

How should I prepare my body to help ensure comfort and safety while snow shoveling?

  • Stretch your arm and leg muscles to help prevent injury from strain.
  • Dress in warm, thick layers (and don’t forget a hat!).
  • Wear boots that provide proper traction to avoid slipping.
  • Stay hydrated – grab some water every 15 minutes or so.

What form should I have when snow shoveling?

  • Push, don’t lift!  Snow can be surprisingly heavy, especially when wet.  If you only have a few inches of snow on the ground, pushing instead of lifting when snow shoveling will relieve strain on your back, shoulders and neck.
  • Do not throw snow over your back.
  • Squat by bending your knees rather than your back.
  • Remove snow by layer.  Rather than scooping one foot of snow, skim the top few inches and toss in front of you, then continue to skim until you can push the last few inches to the end of your driveway/sidewalk, etc.

First and foremost, make sure that you keep yourself safe this winter during snow shoveling!

Thanks to company partner Foremost for contributing to the content of this blog.  Find this article and more helpful tips for you and your family by checking out their blog!

Find a local Farmers Union Insurance Agent in your area by clicking HERE.  For information about the insurance services and products our Agency can provide, please visit our website.

Holiday Decoration Safety Tips for Homes and Businesses

The Holiday season is upon us, and it’s a great time for parties with family, friends and coworkers.  As the song goes, it’s time to “deck those halls and trim those trees.” But, you don’t have to be Clark Griswald and overdo your holiday decorations, which can not only be a little tacky, but it can also lead to an unsafe environment in your home or office.

Seasonal decorations, including lights, trees and wreaths can help put your home or office in the holiday spirit.  However, when not displayed properly, decorations can create safety hazards or cause fires.  According to the National Fire Protection Association, electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 43 percent of home Christmas tree fires.  Between 2012-2016, home fires started by Christmas trees cost $12 million in direct property damage annually.  Two of every five (40 percent) home Christmas tree fires started in the living room, family room, or den.  Three-quarters of the fatalities and two-thirds of the associated injuries resulted from fires started in this area.

Holiday Decoration Safety Tips

By taking the proper precautions both inside and outside of your home or business, you can prevent hazards and focus on friends and family during the holidays.  Keep your employees and your family safe during the holiday season by following these holiday decoration safety tips:

  • Choose holiday decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant
  • Hang ceiling decorations away from sprinklers and fire alarms
  • Keep lit candles away from sprinklers and fire alarms
  • Never leave a candle flame unattended
  • Refrain from placing extension cords in high-traffic areas of your workplace, or under rugs, carpets or furniture
  • Use the right ladder when hanging lights and other decorations
  • Check the ladder to make sure it is not in a broken or in a deteriorated condition as both of these factors can make working at heights even more dangerous

Holiday Light Safety Tips

  • Check your holiday lights if they are for outdoor or indoor use and use them appropriately
  • Use lights that have been tested for safety by a nationally-recognized testing laboratory, such as UL or ETL/ITSNA
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connectionss
  • Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of light strands to connect
  • Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged
  • Plug outside lighting into GFCI outlet to help prevent electric shock or electrocution
  • Always turn off holiday lights before leaving the office or home and before going to bed

Christmas Tree Safety Tips

  • Look for the “Fire Resistant” label when purchasing an artificial tree
  • Choose a live Christmas tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched
  • Place the tree at least three feet away from any heat source like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights
  • Position the tree away from any exits or doorways
  • Add water to the tree stand and water the tree daily
  • Remove the live tree from the office or home when it is dry as they are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home, office or garage
  • Check with your local community for Christmas tree disposal or recycling programs
  • Take down lights after the holidays to prevent breakage and keep them in good use for years to come

Holiday Entertaining Safety Tips

  • The holidays are also a time for entertaining in the office and at home.  Below are additional tips to have a safe holiday event at your home or office:
  • Keep children, pets and flammable materials away from lit candles
  • Stay in the kitchen when cooking to keep a close eye on the process and the food
  • Move items that can catch fire, such as oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers, or towels away from the cooking area
  • Make sure kids stay at least three feet away from the stove and oven, hot food, and liquids
  • Set up a deep turkey deep-fryer on a flat, level surface at least 10 feet from your home or office building

Safely decorating your home or business during the holiday season requires a bit of extra time, but it is well worth the effort.  Wishing you a safe and Happy Holidays, from the Staff and Agents of Farmers Union Insurance Agency!

Thanks to company partner AmTrust contributing to the content of this blog.  You can find more safety tips for your business by visiting AmTrust’s Loss Control Department, and be sure to contact one of our friendly Agents in your area to discuss writing an AmTrust policy for your business.

Fall and Winter Energy Saving Tips from Farmers Union Insurance Agency

During the last few months of the year, energy bills can skyrocket, especially here in Minnesota.  Here are some Fall and Winter energy saving tips for you to use in your home.

These tips will help you save energy and money and stay comfortable during the cool fall and cold winter months.  Some of the tips below are free and can be used on a daily basis to increase your savings; others are simple and inexpensive actions you can take to ensure maximum savings through the winter.

If you haven’t already, do an energy audit to find out where you can save the most, and consider making a larger investment for long-term energy savings.

1.  Take advantage of heat from the sun.  

  • Open curtains on your south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.

2.  Cover drafty windows.

  • Use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames during the cold winter months.  Make sure the plastic is sealed tightly to the frame to reduce air leaks.
  • Install tight-fitting, insulated drapes or shades on windows that feel drafty after weatherizing.

3.  Adjust the temperature.

  • When you are home and awake, set your thermostat as low as is comfortable.
  • When you are asleep or out of the house, turn your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours and save around 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills.  A smart or programmable thermostat can make it easy to set your temperature back on a timer.
  • If you have a heat pump, maintain a moderate setting or use a programmable thermostat specially designed for use with heat pumps.

4.  Find and seal leaks.

  • Seal the air leaks around utility cut-throughs for pipes (“plumbing penetrations”), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets.
  • Add caulk or weatherstripping to seal air leaks around leaky doors and windows.

5.  Maintain your heating systems.

  • Schedule service for your heating system.
  • Furnaces and heat pumps: replace your filter once a month or as needed.  Find out more about maintaining furnaces or boilers and heat pumps.
  • Wood- and pellet-burning heaters: clean the flue vent regularly and clean the inside of the appliance with a wire brush periodically to ensure that your home is heater efficiently.

6.  Lower your water heating costs

  • Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120 degrees F).  You’ll not only save energy, you’ll avoid scalding your hands.
  • Find other strategies for energy-efficient water heating.

These Fall and Winter Energy Saving Tips were excerpted from Energy.gov, an office of the U.S. Department of Energy.