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!

So You Need (or Want) to Take a Defensive Driving Course

Whether you were caught speeding (or worse), you’re looking for a discount on your car insurance, or you simply want to be a better driver, there are a wide range of defensive driving and driver improvement courses available here in Rosemount and the Twin Cities metro these days and many can be done virtually!

But, which is right for you? Here are five tips to help you decide:

1. Check with your state or municipality. If you’re taking training to avoid a traffic infraction, not just any course will do. You’ll need to take an approved course – ask for a list before signing up.

2. Check with your insurer. The same goes if you’d like to potentially save on your car insurance. Your carrier may only offer a car insurance discount for completing certain courses. Also ask how much your discount will be — this will help when it comes time to choose a course.

3. Choose the type of course. There are online and classroom options, typically ranging from 4-12 hours depending on the course material. And, there are advantages to each. Online courses offer convenience (and sometimes a lower cost), while in-person settings can provide more interaction.

4. Determine how much you want to spend. If you’re trying to avoid a ticket (and a potential increase in your insurance premiums), the cost might not be much of an issue. If you’re taking a course to receive an insurance discount, however, make sure the total discount you’ll receive is greater than the cost of the course.

5. Check out the reviews. Online review sites, such as Yelp, can show you what others thought of a course. Keep in mind, people who felt “forced” to take a course might have a biased opinion, especially compared to someone who took the course willingly. No matter why you’re considering a defensive driving course, we’re happy to help you weigh the pros and cons. The biggest pro being, once you complete your training, you’re likely to be a little more careful the next time you get behind the wheel. And, that always pays off!

Here in Minnesota, St. Cloud State University offers some great in person and virtual class options. You can check them out here: https://www.stcloudstate.edu/continuingstudies/mhsrc/55-plus/classroom.aspx

Once you’ve completed your course, don’t forget to let us know so we can be sure to add it to your policy for your discount!

After School Safety Tips for Parents & Kids

This week marks the week that all the kids and teachers head back to school here in Rosemount, MN! You’ve likely already reviewed the basic safety tips for kids who walk or bus to and from school.

Those tips, of course, are:

  • Walk with a buddy
  • Stay in well-lit areas
  • Never accept a ride with strangers
  • Once home, lock the door and don’t let anyone in

However, Dr. Michele Borba, author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions, urges you not to overestimate your kids’ safety smarts. Kids under 10, for example, may not grasp the concept of crossing a street safely, she says.

She suggests teaching them: “Stop. Left. Right. Left.” Meaning that children should, “stop at the curb, look left, right, then left again before crossing, and keep looking as they cross.”

Another thing kids need to know, says Borba, is how to ask for help. Have kids practice saying, “I need help,” out loud and instruct them to “find a uniformed employee, a police officer or a woman, preferably with a child,” when they need assistance, she says.

Once home, kids will likely use the Internet, so be sure to discuss digital safety too.

Staying Safe Online

Here at the office, we have middle school and high school kids at our homes. So, staying safe online is a top priority in our personal households.

Internet safety advocate Sue Scheff, author of Wit’s End and Google Bomb, says that, “we need to put parental controls/security measures on computers and cell phones. Unfortunately, these aren’t guarantees, so having a cyber-smart child is your best defense.” 

Teach kids about the dangers of sharing personal information, such as their home address and phone number, online. And about using social media responsibly.

While online, it’s best for kids – and adults – to converse and connect only with people they truly know and trust, to keep their social accounts private and to still be cautious even then. After all, photos and information that go online today will still be there years later, when kids apply for college scholarships and jobs.

Above all, stay involved in your kids’ digital lives. Let them know you’re there for them, always – to talk, not to judge or punish, says Scheff. “Many kids fear having their Internet removed if they tell their parents they are being bullied online,” she says.

So keep the lines of communication open to help keep everyone safe, both in and outside of your home.

We hope your new school year is off to a fantastic start!

When water goes where it shouldn’t!

Even a small leak can become a major problem, so knowing what you’re covered for and how to prevent water damage are equally important. The below tips should help uncover any potential water problems down the road and keep your property dry.

  • Check appliance hoses. Standard hoses are not as durable as they used to be. Replace rubber hoses with steel-braided hoses. This is a low cost fix that can save thousands in water damage.
  • Broken tiles in the shower can allow water to leak into the walls or on the floor. Replace cracked tiles and re-grout when needed.
  • Run dishwasher and washing machine only when you are home. If a leak occurs, you can turn the appliance off right away.
  • When on vacation, turn off the main water supply to your house.
  • Keep storm drains near your house clear of leaves.
  • Install a gutter guard. This can prevent a rooftop disaster caused by drain clogs, and also prevents flooding by water that isn’t carried away from the house.
  • Install a water pressure gauge. An inexpensive gauge can prevent damage caused by water pressure that’s too high. Pressure should be between 60 and 80 PSI.

Many of the insurance carriers we work with offer Water Leakage & Seepage coverage. Contact us today for a free insurance review to see if your current coverage is adequate!

7 Tips to Help Keep Student Athletes Safe

As parents of athletes ourselves, safety of our kids is always just as important as the memories they are making on the field! We know high school sports here in Rosemount are starting up again for fall and your household may be one of the millions this fall in which student athletes are dreaming of victory on their school playing fields. Of course, we here at Sentinel Assurance Group want to see them succeed, but we also want them to be safe.

Rosemount Irish football team

So, here are seven tips for students, parents and school staff to keep in mind as the new season gets underway:

  1. Start off on the right foot: All athletes need a preseason physical and should share any medical conditions, such as sickle cell trait, with coaches. And, parents, don’t forget to provide your contact information and permission for emergency medical care.
  2. Think about nutrition: A healthy diet offers plenty of complex carbohydrates, plus moderate amounts of protein, salt, sugars and sodium. Keep fat, saturated fat and cholesterol to a minimum.
  3. Be smart about injuries: Athletic trainers and consulting physicians, not coaches, should decide whether athletes continue playing following an injury. Athletic staff needs to know how to use defibrillators and keep them nearby during both practice and games. Finally, athletes should always speak up about and seek medical attention for such symptoms as dizziness, memory loss, lightheadedness, fatigue or imbalance after a hit in the head or a fall. In most cases, they should not rejoin practice or play that same day.
  4. Maintain equipment and facilities: Helmets and pads should be properly fitted; gymnastic apparatus well-maintained. Facilities must be kept clean and checked for germs regularly.
  5. Warm up, cool down: Always warm up and stretch before beginning activities. Cool down and stretch when finished, and take plenty of breaks in between.
  6. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water (costly sports drinks aren’t usually necessary) before, during and after a workout or practice.
  7. Build up a heat tolerance: To avoid heat illnesses, especially in sports requiring protective equipment, start slowly and build up to more intensive training requiring the full gear.

We hope these tips help set up your student athletes for success this season. We’ll be rooting for them! And GO IRISH!

Rosemount Night to Unite

Celebrate Night to Unite With Your Neighbors

In 1984, National Night Out — “America’s Night Out Against Crime” — began as a way to promote crime prevention through neighborhood camaraderie.

Since then, according to the National Association of Town Watch (NATW), the annual event has taken root in tens of thousands of communities across the country, with more than 37 million people taking part in block parties, barbecues, parades, marches and more. It’s all about sending a message to criminals: Our neighborhood is organized, and crime is not welcome here.

On Tuesday, August 2nd, you can join the millions who are committed to making their communities safer by taking part in an existing event or planning your own. Even if you only attend a gathering, you’re still playing a part.

The City of Rosemount is partaking in this event and recommends you register your local neighborhood event so that you can receive a visit from Public Safety officials. You can register your event with the City of Rosemount here. You can find all about Rosemount’s Night to Unite here.

Support the Rosemount Family Resource Center with Donations

As in years past, our Public Safety officials will be collecting donations during their party visits. Learn what the most needed items are in our community. The Rosemount community is incredibly generous. Thank you!

Top 5 food items needed: canned fish/meat, cooking/baking items, rice/pasta/cereal, canned fruits/veggies

Top 5 Personal Care items needed: soaps, diapers/baby wipes, toiletries, feminine hygiene products, cleaning supplies

Planning a Night to Unite Out event

If your area has a neighborhood watch program, check to see if there’s an event already planned. If so, the organizers will be happy to have your support.

If there’s nothing in the works and you want to host your own, decide what’s appropriate for your neighborhood (and manageable for you). Maybe it’s a small ice-cream social or a big barbecue. The possibilities are endless. And be sure to visit your city’s website or Facebook page; many municipalities offer assistance in setting up an event. Some will even arrange to have law-enforcement representatives stop by.

NATW, the organization that started National Night Out, has great resources as well. When you register your event at natw.org, you’ll receive an official organizational kit with guidelines and suggestions.

Of course, you can have an event without registering or checking in with your city. Getting people together and focusing on making your community safer is what’s important.

Quick tips for all National Night to Unite parties

  • Give your guests as much notice as possible.
  • Have name tags for neighbors to fill out and wear; 67 percent of homeowners in a study by Nextdoor and Harris Interactive said knowing their neighbors helps them feel safer.
  • Briefly explain the purpose of Night to Unite and promote neighborhood watch basics, such as reporting suspicious activity to the police, etc.
  • Gather addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of neighbors, and, with their consent, provide a list to everyone later.

Finally, remember to have fun! Yes, the safety aspect of National Night Out is important, but it’s just as vital to get to know your neighbors better and enjoy their company. After all, that’s what building a stronger community is all about.