10 Tips to Get You Ready for Boating Season 🚤

Spring is here in Minnesota (well, sort of!), and summer is right around the corner. It’s time to think about getting your boat out on the water.

Actually, first things first: It’s time to think about getting your boat ready to get out on the water. From the engine and propeller down to your trailer, a little preparation as you get your boat out of winter storage can help you start off the season right — and get the most out of your time on board.

Here are 10 tips from Discover Boating to get you started:

  1. Check your safety gear. Do you have enough life jackets? Are they in good shape? What about onboard fire extinguishers? Are your navigation lights working?
  2. Consider adding safety items. Should disaster strike, an emergency position indicating radio beacon can help rescuers find you and your boat. And, if you have an enclosed space on the boat, you should have a carbon-monoxide detector.
  3. Examine your fuel system. Any leaks or damage should be addressed immediately.
  4. Look at all belts, hoses and cables. Those that appear brittle or cracked most likely need to be replaced.
  5. Check fluid levels, such as engine oil. Change or add as needed.Have your battery and electrical system checked. Look for corrosion on your electrical connections.
  6. Make sure your propeller isn’t banged up. Dings and distortion can cause vibration, as well as damage your drive train.
  7. Look at the hull for blisters and cracks. Repair or patch damage, and make sure to use an environmentally safe solution when washing the exterior and interior.
  8. Don’t forget the trailer. Treat your trailer with as much care as you show your boat. Inspect the hubs occasionally, and check your lights before every trip. If you go boating in salt water, give the trailer a very good rinse afterward.
  9. Don’t forget insurance, either! It’s a good idea to check your coverage as you head into boating season, too. Just give us a call here at Sentinel Assurance Group, and we can help you with a quick insurance review.

There’s nothing quite like a sunny – and safe – day on our local lakes and rivers in Minnesota. We’ll see you out there!

Get ready for boat season

College Graduation Insurance Tips

Protect your college grad with the right insurance

College graduation is an exciting time for students and their parents alike. And, while it’s easy to be immersed in graduation parties and focused on first-job jitters, it’s a time of major transitions and big decisions, and it’s essential to prepare graduates for what comes next.

One area new college graduates need to address is insurance. As insurance professionals at Sentinel Assurance Group, we know insurance can be a confusing topic. We also know that seemingly small missed details can result in very large losses. We want to ensure your college graduate is protected before heading out into the real world, so we have compiled the following pointers.

  • Review your family’s current insurance. The first step when considering insurance for your new graduate is evaluating the coverage you currently have.  Make an appointment with your agent, who can advise on whether it’s appropriate given the pending changes, and whether it will cover your son or daughter.
  • Know the law. Most states require drivers to have auto insurance, and most of those have minimum policy limit requirements. Research the law in your son or daughter’s state, or consult with your agent, to make sure they are covered adequately.
  • Read your lease. Many apartment, condominium and home rental properties require tenants to maintain a certain level of renter’s insurance, which covers the contents of the home in the event of a robbery, fire, or other loss. Make sure you know the terms of your son or daughter’s new lease, and insure them accordingly.
  • Don’t end up liable. Any home renter or owner is exposed to liability risk. To ensure there is adequate coverage in the event someone gets injured on your son or daughter’s property, speak with your agent about liability insurance.
  • Don’t gamble! Never go without. It’s simple: your son or daughter should always have insurance in place. Be sure to discuss with your agent what types they need.
  • Know your company benefits. Many college graduates move straight into the workforce, and most companies have benefits. Study the company’s human resources handbook to learn what benefits are available, when they go into effect, and what their limitations are.

We at Sentinel Assurance Group congratulate you on the graduation of your student!  Please contact us with any questions, or to request a review of your family’s insurance portfolio.

Do You Have Enough Coverage to Rebuild Your Home?

When it comes to your Homeowners Insurance, the Dwelling Coverage amount is intended to cover what it would cost to rebuild your home. This is something that is updated annually at your insurance renewal based on many factors (cost of labor, materials to name a few) and we have seen a larger increase of this coverage over the last couple of years due to inflation.

Selecting the proper amount of coverage is the single most important decision you can make with your Homeowners policy. Without it, you may not have enough coverage to rebuild after a total loss. This is called “insurance to value.” Below are some explanations and tips to help you make the right choices for your needs — and remember, if you need help, we’re just a phone call away and are happy to help determine if you have enough coverage on your current policy, even if you aren’t a customer of ours!

What is insurance to value?

Insurance to value is the relationship between the amount of coverage selected (typically listed as “Coverage A” or “Dwelling Coverage” on your policy declarations page) and the amount required to rebuild your home.  Insuring your home for anything less than 100% insurance to value could mean you wouldn’t have enough coverage to replace your home in the event of a total loss

Why is the cost to rebuild different from the market value?

A home’s market value reflects current economic conditions, taxes, school districts, the value of the land and location, and other factors unrelated to construction cost.  The cost to rebuild your home is based only on the cost of materials and labor in your area.  It is important that you insure your home based on its reconstruction cost, NOT its current market value

Why is reconstruction more expensive than new construction?

New-home builders typically build many homes at once, and solicit bids from various sub-contractors to receive the best pricing. Their business model is based on economies of scale. For example, they may purchase 20 bathtubs at once, securing a lower unit cost. These economies of scale don’t exist when building a single home.

How can I make sure I have the correct amount of insurance?

Work with us or your agent to provide detailed information at time of purchase to be sure that you receive a thorough and accurate quote.

Ask us about additional coverage options that may be available.

Review your insurance to value calculation on a regular basis with your agent.

Tell your agent about any changes or improvements that you make to your home.

Avoiding Frozen Pipes 🥶

Don’t Let the Cold Get to Your Pipes This Winter

It’s hard to think of a worse start to a winter day in Minnesota than turning on the faucet and … nothing. Maybe there’s a trickle of water, but it’s clear you have a frozen pipe. So, what now? Here are some smart tips to help you prevent or address what could easily become a very messy and expensive situation:

  • See to your outdoor water lines: Before cold weather arrives, drain water sprinkler and swimming pool supply lines, and remove, drain and store outdoor hoses. If possible, close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs, and open the outside hose bibs for draining. Keep them open so any remaining water can expand without breaking the pipe. If you can’t shut off the water from the inside, pick up some foam faucet covers.
  • Keep your home warm: Maintain an interior temperature of at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit, even when you’re sleeping or not at home. Seal any drafts and leave interior doors open to help keep an even temperature from room to room.
  • Tend to those pipes: Leave the cabinet doors open in the kitchen and bathroom so your pipes aren’t shut off from the warm air. You can also insulate your pipes with sleeves, heat tape or heat cable. Insulation is especially important in unheated areas, such as your attic, basement, garage or crawl space, and for pipes running along exterior walls. During severe cold spells, you may want to leave all faucets, both hot and cold, running at a slight trickle.
  • Call in a professional: Frozen water in your pipes can cause them to burst, meaning you’ll have a mess on your hands once that water unthaws. So, act quickly to shut off your main water supply, and call in a licensed plumber to see to the situation.

Finally, be sure to touch base with us at Sentinel Assurance Group to check whether you’re covered for the damage a frozen pipe may cause. We’re happy to answer all of your policy questions this winter, and beyond.

Rosemount MN Homeowners insurance

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!