How Efficiently (or inefficiently) do you use your heat? 🔥

Many homeowners in the Twin Cities see their energy bills each winter and think, “How can I be spending this much when the house isn’t even that warm?”

To get an answer to that question, you should start with some other questions that will help determine just how efficiently you’re heating your home.

  • Where is the warm air going? If you’ve got a leaky house, you’re costing yourself money, plain and simple. Heat ends up escaping and cold air keeps flowing in, which means you either turn up the thermostat or just shiver in your living room. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends getting an energy audit so you can find and seal the gaps.
  • When is the heat on? Are you keeping the house at the same temperature all day and night? Even when you’re or sleeping or at work? There’s no reason to, and programmable thermostats mean you can still have a warm house when you wake up and when you get home.
  • How often do I use space heaters? If you find that you’re using space heaters to supplement your main heating system, you could be masking a bigger problem — and actually increasing your energy costs. Addressing underlying issues, such as a furnace that isn’t working well, can be more cost-effective in the long run.
  • Am I maintaining my system? A lot of homeowners simply forget to do things such as changing their air filter regularly or getting periodic examinations of their furnace. These routine tasks can not only prevent more costly problems down the road, they can help you more effectively heat your home right now.
  • Is my fireplace hurting more than it’s helping? It could be, if you always leave the damper open even when you don’t have a fire going. And, if you have the damper closed, a leak can make it yet another place where warm air gets out and cold air seeps in. Check the seal around your damper, and consider using a chimney balloon when you aren’t using the fireplace.

Taking some time to answer these questions can increase your efficiency, decrease your bills and perhaps even prompt another, more pleasant question this winter: “Is it too warm in here?”

Winter Tire Tips

Do You Need Winter Tires?

You know it’s coming. Snow and slush. Freezing rain. Maybe even black ice.

But do you know if your tires are ready for all of that?

When driving in Minnesota in the wintertime, your tires just might be the most important safety feature on your car. The right ones can get you to your destination safely. The wrong ones? Well, just look over in the ditch during the next storm.

So how do you figure out what’s best for your vehicle? Here are five things to know about winter tires:

1. Winter tires really are different than regular tires.

Winter tires have deeper tread, along with siping (slits in the tread blocks). This increases the number of edges that touch the road, resulting in better traction and handling. They also stay softer than other tires do in cold weather, thanks to special rubber compounds designed specifically for winter use. That helps increase traction as well.

2. If your area regularly drops below 45 degrees, you probably need winter tires.

Winter tires don’t just perform better in snow and ice. They are better for cold weather in general. So if you get some chilly days where you live, consider a set – a full set. Installing just two winter tires can cause handling problems.

3. There are two main categories.

Studless snow and ice tires are designed for extreme conditions. They are better in deep snow than performance winter tires, which are for light snow and ice. What about studded tires? Well, they give you great traction on ice but also damage roads. And some experts say chains do just as well.

4. You still need to check the pressure — once a week.

If your tires are under-inflated, they are at risk of failing. In winter, if they’re overinflated, your traction will be significantly reduced.

5. You still need to check the tread, too.

An inexpensive tool found at auto-parts stores can be used for this, or you can use a penny. Stick the coin into the groove of the tire, with Lincoln’s head down. Is some of his hair hidden? Good. Can you see all of Abe’s hair? It’s time for new tires. Right now.

We here at Sentinel Assurance Group know that nobody wants to spend too much time thinking about tires. The good news is you don’t have to. Just a little bit of preparation, along with some routine maintenance, will keep you driving in the Twin Cities all winter long.

Preparing for Winter Weather ❄️

Getting ready for winter weather

Fall has officially arrived and we are nearing it’s end, but there’s still time to get ready for winter weather, including storms. Extreme cold is always a possibility here in the Twin Cities, so we at Sentinel Assurance Group have compiled some tips to help you stay safe and limit damage.

Preparing your home

  • Perform basic winter maintenance — insulate your walls and attic, caulk and weather-strip doors and windows, and insulate water lines that run along outer walls. When temperatures drop, keep water taps slightly open so they drip continuously, and keep the cabinets under sinks open to allow warmer air in.
  • If you use a fireplace or wood stove, have the chimney or flue inspected each year. Make sure your house has working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and test them monthly.
  • Check your emergency supplies and ensure that you have adequate food and water, along with a battery-powered radio, in the event of an extended power outage. You’ll want a week’s worth of supplies, or more if you live in a remote area.
  • Never use gas-powered generators or barbecue grills indoors. These can allow deadly carbon monoxide to build up.

Preparing your car

  • Have your vehicle serviced according to manufacturer recommendations. Check the antifreeze level.
  • Keep the gas tank near full, which helps avoid ice in the fuel lines and the gas tank itself.
  • Replace wiper fluid with a wintertime mixture.
  • Make sure your tires are in good shape and have the proper air pressure.
  • Check to confirm your battery has a good charge, your heater and defroster are working well, and that your emergency lights are functional.

Preparing yourself

  • Always wear temperature-appropriate clothing, such as hats, gloves, scarves, etc. Remove any wet clothing immediately. And keep spare clothing in your car trunk throughout winter in case you are stranded or stuck.
  • Stay hydrated. You might think this is more important when it’s warm outside, but it’s just as vital in winter.
  • Be mindful of physical exertion and the amount of time you’re spending outdoors. Shoveling snow is hard work, so don’t overdo it!

Winter is a lot of fun, and we’re looking forward to ice fishing, sledding and trips to our favorite ski hills. So get your house, car and body ready, and have a great season!

Contact Us!

At Sentinels Assurance Group, we can work with you to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable. Just give us a call at 651.237.5180 or send us a note at info@mysentinels.com. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what’s important to you is protected!

Content provided by Safeco Insurance

10 ways to honor Veterans for Veterans Day 🇺🇸

Top 10 ways to honor a veteran on Veterans Day

Americans celebrate Memorial Day in the spring and Veterans Day in the fall. While it can be easy to confuse the two holidays, Memorial Day is set aside to honor American’s war dead; Veterans Day is intended to honor the service of all U.S. veterans, both living and dead.

In fact, celebrations surrounding Veterans Day often place a special emphasis on thanking all living U.S. military veterans who have or are currently serving in any U.S. armed service. And it’s the perfect time for all Americans to show appreciation for their service.

The best way to thank a military U.S. veteran for his or her service depends on the individual and his or her needs. But the most important thing is to do something to show your gratitude.

Here are 10 ideas to get you thinking about how to be grateful for veterans on November 11.

  1. Raise. Display the American flag in your yard to demonstrate your support of veterans everywhere.
  2. Listen. Strike up a conversation with a disabled or homeless veteran and be an active listener as you hear about their experience.
  3. Speak. Simply say, “Thank you” to veterans you see.
  4. Reach out. Contact a disabled or homeless veteran whom you know and spend some quality time together.
  5. Support. Send a donation to organizations that support the special needs of veterans.
  6. Find. Trace your ancestry and identify how many veterans are in your family.
  7. Write. Send a letter to someone who’s currently serving in the military.
  8. Visit. Visit a disabled veteran in his or her home or a homeless veteran on the street.
  9. Learn. Educate yourself on the challenges veterans face when retiring from service to rejoin civilian life.
  10. Share. Use your social media to help celebrate Veteran’s Day and acknowledge the service of all veterans.

To learn more ways to honor a veteran on November 11, visit http://www.wallawalla.va.gov/Misc/Honor_Veteran.asp.

To all our American heroes, we at Sentinel Assurance Group thank you for your service to our country.

Did you know? Veteran’s Day is always celebrated on November 11, regardless of the day of the week. It’s also a federal holiday, so federal government employees take the day off on Monday if the 11th falls on a Sunday, and they take the day off on Friday if the 11th falls on a Saturday.

Contact Us!

At Sentinel Assurance Group, we can work with you to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable. Just give us a call at 651.237.5180 or send us a note at info@mysentinels.com. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what’s important to you is protected!

Content provided by Safeco Insurance

4 Things to Consider when Insuring a Second Home

Everyone loves vacation. But, vacationing in your own seasonal home? Even better.

MN Rental property insurance

However, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to protecting your investment in a vacation home, and you definitely want to protect it. We here at Sentinel Assurance Group can help by making sure you have the insurance coverage you want.

To that end, here are four things that may impact the coverage you choose and how much you’ll pay for it:

  • Separate Policy: Your seasonal home won’t be part of your primary property policy. It needs its own policy, and you can expect it to be similar to the one for your primary residence. However, you do need to watch out for “named perils” coverage, under which your policy explicitly lists the perils it will cover. If a peril isn’t listed, no coverage. We typically steer homeowners away from this type of coverage, in favor of broader coverage.
  • Location and Occupancy: The “where” of your vacation home is no doubt among the primary reasons why you bought it. But, it will also impact your insurance costs. Rural areas are hard for emergency responders to reach, and waterfront homes are prone to flooding. These added risks can mean added insurance costs, such as the need for a separate flood policy. If the home is unoccupied or rented for much of the year, there are even more insurance considerations.
  • Personal Property: Establishing and maintaining a separate inventory of the things you keep at your vacation home will help you select an appropriate level of personal property coverage. If it’s filled with expensive skiing and snowboarding gear, for example, you may need increased coverage or to schedule some of the more valuable items separately.
  • Extra Liability Protection: If you plan to regularly host guests at your summer or winter retreat, you should consider an umbrella policy, which will help to increase your liability limits in case someone is seriously injured on your property. This can go for invited and uninvited guests alike.

We know you want to relax and enjoy your chosen spot in the sun – or snow. Having the right insurance coverage helps you do just that, so give us a call and let us help.

Did you know that we are licensed in many states outside of Minnesota? We are licensed in Arizona, California, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa & Indiana! If you have a rental property in any of these states, we would love to help you find the right coverage for it!