How to choose a company to repair your water heater

If you woke up to find a portion of your home underwater, there could very well be a problem with your water heater. Unfortunately, you might need an entirely new one. It might be hard to know where to start when it comes to choosing a reputable company to repair or replace your water heater, but we talked with Steve Cassel of JSC Enterprises to see what his advice was for choosing a water heater repair company. Steve has been involved with refrigeration from a young age, and he’s been in the refrigeration and water heater repair business for eight years now. He even teaches future technicians at a technical college, sharing his knowledge of AC and HVAC systems with them.

We started out by asking Steve about important things to look for in a water heater repair company.

He responded with these five points:

  • Appearance
  • Reputation
  • Insurance
  • Licensing
  • Experience

Why is appearance so important?

After all, you just need a new water heater, right?

Steve had a few things that really mattered to him when it came to the appearance of the employees.

  • Do the workers look like clean people?
  • Are they wearing old, dirty pants and boots?
  • Do they use profanity?
  • Do they show respect for the cleanliness of your home?

Steve explained, “All of these things reflect their personality, their work ethic, and their ability to do the work in your home. ” Steve said that he drills into his students that appearance does matter. “I tell them they need to clean up their mouth and they need to clean up their act if you’re going to make it in this business.”

But alas, this work ethic isn’t practiced by all companies.

What kind of reputation does the company have?

Take the time to do some research. Read some online reviews and see what kind of experiences other people have had with the company. This will help you gain a picture of what kind of a company it is and how they work. Then trust your gut—what do your instincts tell you about the company?

Steve often gets 5-star reviews without doing any work.

How is this possible, you may ask? It’s simple—he’s honest.

“Many times we go out to look at a job and tell people they don’t need to replace their unit or their hot water tank. In other words, we do not install a new one and we don’t make any money. Yet the person takes the time to leave us a nice review thanking us for our honesty and saving them tons of money. We believe this is the best form of advertising in the world!”

Do you get the sense that the company you’re considering is honest and trustworthy?

Is the company insured?

It’s surprising, but many homeowners don’t ask a water heater repair company if they have proof of insurance. Be sure that you will be protected from any mishaps that could happen while having your water heater repaired or replaced.

Steve recommends that your installer has at least a $1 million general liability insurance policy. He added, “There are tons of guys out there that do work on the side and do not have proper insurance.”

How do they get away with this? No one asks to see proof of insurance. Unfortunately, it’s very easy for someone to lie and say that they are insured when in fact they are not. So do yourself a favor and ask to see a copy of the insurance policy—do your due diligence.

Are they licensed?

Many people install water heaters without a license. Sure, they may work for someone with a license during the day, but what if they work on your home in the evening or on the weekends for themselves as a side job? Make sure that your installer is licensed and understands the code and requirements. Ask for proof of licensing.

There are advantages of working with a smaller water heater installation company.

Steve told us, “Many of the big companies hire kids right out of tech school without any work experience. They usually last for five months before they’re put in the truck to do service calls on your home.”

So the $99,000 question is, do you want someone practicing on your home?

When you work with a smaller company, you might get the owner him or herself at your house working on your water heater, or a member of their family. The owner will work hard to make sure that you’re 100% satisfied with their service—happy customers are their lifeblood. Fun fact—about half of Steve’s business comes from referrals from his company’s reputation.

How much experience does the company have?

Like we said, lots of bigger companies hire kids right out of tech school. This ought to concern you because there are a lot of things that could go wrong when it comes to your water heater. What are some possible disasters, you may ask? Well, there are challenges to every type of water heater, and the more experience the installer has, the better they’ll be able to help you with your specific system.

If you have an older home, your water heater might not have an expansion tank. Steve told us that adding expansion tanks to water heaters is part of code now, but your older water heater probably doesn’t have one. This is a major concern because as water heats, it expands. This expansion causes powerful water pressure, which can cause premature wear and tear to your plumbing pipes, water heater, and plumbing fixture. Remember you want the air tank to act as a shock absorber for your water heater. Otherwise excessive hydraulic pressure will result in you having to replace your hot water tank a lot sooner than the 15-year warranty that it may come with.

If you have a gas water heater, you really don’t want someone practicing on your gas lines. Leaking natural gas pipes can cause explosions, which is terrifying. You really have to have an experienced installer to fix your gas water heater because natural gas is not something to play around with.

If you have an electric water heater that needs to be replaced, there’s an important step that the installer has to take to make sure that the entire heater doesn’t burn out. The water heater has to be filled with water before ever being turned on. The heater element gets extremely hot, so without water inside the tank it would overheat and the entire heater would have to be replaced. An inexperienced installer might not know this important trick to water heaters, or they might forget to add the cold water. Don’t put yourself in that position.

You might have heard talk of tankless water heaters, which sound appealing at first. Steve said, “What people do not know is that tankless instant hot water heaters cost up to 3 times the cost of a standard water tank. On top of that, many times you have to upgrade the electrical wiring not just for the water heater but for the entire electrical service. This could cost thousands of dollars. It would take many, many years for the electricity savings of an instant hot water heater to pay for itself.”

An improper installation can also cause water leaks and damage. You don’t want to find your basement flooded, right? That would not be fun to deal with, so make sure that your installer knows what they’re doing and won’t make a mistake on your system.

We hope that this article about how to choose a contractor to install, replace, or repair your water heater was helpful. Special thanks to Steve for sharing his professionalise about water heaters with us. You can visit his company’s website here.

Need insurance? Want to get a free quote on your home insurance? Have questions about your home insurance? We can help! Fill out our quote form or give us a call today! 

Part Two: Tips for choosing a water filtration system installation company

Welcome to Part Two of our article about choosing a company to install a water filtration system in your home! If you missed Part One, you can read it here.

Our bodies are made up of 80% water, so it makes sense that you want to drink only the good stuff! Today we’ll finish up our interview with Peter Van Cleave of Water for Life. We’re going to address:

  • The hidden costs of buying a filtration system online
  • Why you want a backwash system on your whole home filtration system
  • How to find the best filter for your money
  • Why testing your water before installing your system isn’t enough

Be wary of buying filtration systems off the internet

“Many of our customers were tempted to buy their filtration system off the Internet,” Peter said. “After all, it usually seems like the cheaper option at the time. [But] there are many hidden costs that the homeowner might not be aware of. We always encourage our clients to think things through before looking at a product online and buying it that way.”

Peter said that a good water treatment professional will want to discover your objectives for having your water filtered:

  • Why is having clean water important to you?
  • What are your major concerns?
  • What is the quality of your water to begin with so you get the proper filtration product?
  • Who will install the unit?
  • Who will maintain the unit?
  • How long will you be living in the home in which you’re having the filter installed?
  • Why is the difference between upfront and total costs important?

Once a water professional has the answers to these questions, he or she will be able to make suggestions and give the homeowner options. Buying a unit online because it was a good deal will most likely mean not getting everything that you need in a filtration system. Peter shares the following tips to help you think things through:

Be wary of miracle claims on the Internet.

Wild claims have been made about what some water filtration systems can do. Unfortunately, many of these claims are not based on real science, nor have they been verified by third-party labs.

 

On the other hand, all certified water treatment professionals are under a code of ethics from the Water Quality Association that requires them to be honest in their marketing promises. This is another reason to only buy equipment that has the NSF seal of approval.

Remember that ALL filtration units have to be maintained.

Take the time to figure out the cost of maintenance to get the real total expense for the system. Some filters are cheaper upfront, but the replacement cartridges and membranes are more expensive to purchase. Or, the replacement cartridges and membranes may need to be changed more frequently.

Clearly, this will add up over the next five years. So, before you buy that water filter online, calculate the cost for the next three to five years to get an accurate comparison between systems.

Does the system have a backwash system?

What’s a backwash system and why should you want one? Both are excellent questions. A backwash system is an electronic valve cycle that shoots water through your carbon filter, shakes it up, and cleans it. The jet of water removes dirt from the nooks and crannies of your filter, kind of like when you wash your hands with soap and water. This means that your carbon filter will last longer and you won’t have to replace it so often.

Two or three of the top whole-house water filtration systems sold on the Internet don’t have a backwash system. A whole house system that doesn’t have a backwash system might cost less upfront, but you’ll have to replace the filter three times faster than you would with a unit that does. A backwash system can save you up to $300 for every time that you would have to prematurely change the carbon filter.

Who will install the water filtration system?

Will you really save money buying the system yourself and then hiring a plumber to install it for you? The plumber may not know the brand of filter you bought. This means that they might take longer to install it as they try to figure it out. Plus, if they’re inexperienced they might install it backward, as we mentioned earlier. Or they might install it incorrectly and void the warranty. Also, they will generally charge more per hour.

Here’s a scenario. You have a plumber hook up your filtration system. He tells you it doesn’t work, so you call the manufacturer. The manufacturer says the plumber did not install it correctly, so they aren’t going to honor the warranty. Now, where does that leave you? Stuck, frustrated, and with dirty water, most likely. How does Peter know this? He’s gotten calls to straighten similar situations out. And yes, he has repaired units that were installed backward.

Remember, you need to invest in a unit based on your total cost, which includes:

A smart consumer wants the best buy, not the cheapest price.

The BEST water filter?

We asked Peter which filter he thinks is the best. His answer supported everything he taught us in this article. He said, “For my money, the best filtration system out there is the Kinetico K5 Reverse Osmosis system.”

We asked him why, and he said, “Yes this is the most expensive water filtration system upfront, running about $1,545. However, you save money [because there’s] little to no maintenance required. For example, the filter is equipped with a patented membrane technology called Everclean Rinse, which makes it last much longer than usual. The Reverse Osmosis membrane on this machine comes with a 10-year parts and labor warranty. That means you won’t have to replace it for 10 years! On the other hand, [the filters of some competitors] must be replaced every year or two at $200 a pop. Do the math and you can easily see that after 10 years you could have paid between $1,000 or $2,000 for membranes depending how often you are required to change them.”

But that’s not all.

“The Kinetico sediment cartridges last for 1500 gallons while the competition may only last for 500 gallons,” Peter said. “The same goes with the carbon filters. They last for one year while the competition’s [filters] have to be replaced after only six months. That means they last twice as long. This can really get expensive, buying two times as many filters over 10 years!”

We asked Peter if someone should spend money on their filtration system if they’re moving in less than ten years. “That’s the best part,” he said. “You can have your water treatment professional move this to your new home. All you have to do is state it in the real estate contract when selling your home.”

The lesson? The real price you pay for a filtration system includes installation, filter replacement, and maintenance. Take the time to find out your true costs.

A few words of wisdom on water testing

“Sure, someone may test your water in order to sell you a system. But if you think about it that isn’t really enough, is it? Make sure that your installer tests your water AFTER the filtration system is installed. After all, you do want to make sure that it is doing what they promised,” Peter said. “We also recommend having it tested annually too. Our self-serve customers can drop a water sample off to us for testing at any time. We also check it ourselves when we make our pro annual visits to install filter replacements. This means you can feel confident that your water is safe to drink year-round and for years to come.”

We hope you’ve found this article helpful! We want to thank Peter with Water For Life again for sharing his insight with us. If you have any questions for Peter, you can reach out to him on his website here. Don’t forget that it’s important to make sure the company you select is insured because even a small water leak from a hose or pipe connection can cause you thousands of dollars in water damage repairs. The suggestions here will save you a lot of heartache later on. We wish you much success in choosing the right water filtration company in Atlanta to work with.

Let us know if you want to talk insurance! As you can imagine, it’s one of our favorite topics! We can get you a free quote and get you the coverage you need.

How to choose a pressure washing company

Choosing a contractor can be tricky. You want to make sure that you find someone who’s trustworthy and who will take good care of your home. That’s especially true when it comes to finding a pressure washing company. Over time, a layer of dirt and gunk can build up on your deck and house, necessitating that you hire someone to clean it. But you don’t want to choose just anyone.

We caught up with Mickey Rickard of MJR Pressure Washing to get some advice for choosing a pressure washing contractor. Mickey started pressure washing homes back in 1998. There aren’t many people who can say they’ve been pressure washing houses here in Atlanta for the last 19 years!

What should our readers look for when it comes to hiring someone to pressure wash their house?

  1. Experience.
  2. Insurance.
  3. Licensing.
  4. References.

What kind of experience should our readers look for?

Mickey said, “Ideally you’d want someone that has 10 years or more of experience…[but] 3-5 years is pretty good too. You will find that most have less than three years of experience and this is average.”

It’s important to find someone who has plenty of experience. Mickey himself admits that he’s still learning, even after 19 years in the business. Your home is a huge investment, so you want someone who knows what they’re doing to pressure wash it.

What kind of insurance should a pressure washing company carry?

Mickey said that your contractor should carry liability insurance at the least. To illustrate his point, he told us a story about how, when he was starting out, he accidentally tripped a breaker. He was washing close to an electrical outlet and some water slipped behind the box, causing the breaker to shut off. Fortunately, he was able to reset it and everything was fine, but if he hadn’t realized the breaker had been tripped it could have gotten messy. What if there had been a freezer filled with expensive foods connected to that particular breaker? Yikes.

He also shared a story that he heard in which smoke came out of an outdoor electrical outlet on a house that had been power washed. The smoke ended up causing a small fire, which is unsettling. A trick that Mickey has learned is to tape all outdoor outlets to seal them against any water trickling in—water and electricity don’t mix.

Again, the moral of the story is to make sure that your pressure washer has insurance and lots of experience. You don’t want your home to catch fire from power washing.  

What kind of licensing is required?

Mickey explains that the business must have a business license to be a legitimate pressure washing company. All it takes is going to the county office to get licensed.

What kind of references are best?

“Good and honest!” Mickey said.

Some places will actually ask you for a positive review after they do the job that you hire them for, but Mickey believes that a contractor should do such a good job that asking for a good review won’t be necessary. After all, it’s in their interest to do quality work so they get good reviews and build up a strong reputation. No one’s going to hire a power washing company with bad reviews. Mickey also points out that a contractor should strive to do an excellent job so that their customers will call them back the next year and pass along their name to their friends and family.

What kind of problems can an inexperienced pressure washer cause?

If your home has vinyl siding, you’ve probably noticed that it turns a very vivid shade of green, caused by algae. Oxidation from weather and the sun can also be an issue—it’ll leave a powdery substance all along your vinyl siding.

If an inexperienced pressure washer uses a pressure setting that’s too high, they’ll leave your house looking great while it’s still wet, but as soon as it dries you’ll notice squiggles and lines. This happens because a setting that’s too high and only removes some of the powdery oxidation.

Mickey explained that an experienced pressure washer knows to let the chemicals do the work instead of the blast of water. The bleach in the chemicals will remove all the gunk and oxidation, and then all the washer has to do is use a low setting the rinse off the bleach. To make sure that your pressure washer knows their stuff, ask them about their process and how they clean houses. If they mention a high setting…you may want to reconsider.

Also, if someone improperly bleaches your home, they could do some real damage. Using too much bleach or leaving the bleach on the surface for too long could cause the color of your house to fade.

Your home is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make, if not the biggest. To protect your investment, you should consider pressure washing to add life to your siding—plus it makes it look nice! And special thanks to Mickey of MJR Pressure Washing for sharing his professionalise with us. If you’re interested in getting your home pressure washed or you want to find out more, you can check out http://mjrpressurewashing.com.

If you’re looking to protect your home with insurance, we can help! Contact us today and we’ll help you make sure that your investment is safe and sound.

Part One: Tips for choosing a water filtration system installation company

If you’re tired of bad-tasting water and are ready to install an under-the-counter filter or a whole house water filtration system, this article should catch your interest. We asked Peter Van Cleave of Water for Life to share some valuable tips to help you be a savvy consumer when you’re choosing a company to install your filtration system.

Pete started as a water treatment professional back in 1989. Today his company is a 28-year-old independent, family-owned drinking water business. We asked Pete what he meant by independent. “A water filtration franchise can only offer you one brand of filtration system,” Pete explained. “On the other hand, because we’re independent, we represent over 40 different manufacturer’s lines to choose from. Greater choice and no franchise fees mean the customer wins.”

What are some things a homeowner should know before choosing an Atlanta water filtration contractor?

Are they a plumber or a certified water treatment professional?

Many people are surprised to learn that there’s a certification required to become a water treatment professional. “This training is conducted by the Water Quality Association,” Peter said. “This course of study requires passing a 300-question test. There are six levels of certification that are available to achieve. It includes learning about water chemistry as well as the technology behind the many kinds of water filtration options. They are also trained on the plumbing codes as well as how to properly make the connections. Finally, they get trained on various types of water treatment equipment. They receive a certification to install the various products as well.”

This means that your water treatment professional will provide you with the best options based on what’s important to you.

“On the other hand, many plumbers will install a water filter unit for you,” Peter continued, “but if you ask them to recommend one, they’ll go to their plumbing supply house and see what’s in stock right now… And that’s what you get to choose from. If you ask them to install the filter that you supply, they may not know how to operate it properly and might even install it backward. I know this because we have had to re-install many water filtration units that were installed incorrectly.” Peter tells us that installing a whole house filter system backward is easy to do. Why should this matter to you? It will not operate properly and may plug up your water lines.

So, make sure that the installer is a certified water treatment professional.

Has the product they sell been certified by the NSF or the Water Quality Association?

Let’s explain what this means. Both NSF International and the Water Quality Association are third party testing labs that check water filtration units for performance. Peter said, “The water filter systems that receive the NSF stamp and the Water Quality Association Gold Seal have been rigorously tested to work in your home for a minimum of 10 years.”

Not all water filters have received these third-party seals of approval. That’s why Peter suggested only using water treatment systems that are from time-tested companies in the industry.

Beware of this advertising pitfall

“Sometimes only one component of the entire system may have an NSF seal. Yet the manufacturer will advertise the entire unit as NSF approved—some Reverse Osmosis Membranes may carry the NSF Seal, [but] the storage tanks may not,” Peter warned. We asked Peter what you can do to protect yourself. He answered, “You must physically look for and read the NSF seal on the product itself and not just in the literature for one of the interior components.”

Why some water filtration systems do not have the NSF seal

There are three reasons for this:

  • It’s costly.
  • It takes a long time to go through testing.
  • Some new companies can’t wait that long.

This is another reason why Peter suggests using time-tested systems that have gone through the submittal process. It means your system will take care of your family for a long time to come.

We asked if Peter ever suggests water filter units that do not have the seal “In rare cases we do,” Peter said. “There is some water technology that is too new to be tested for 10 years. For example, there’s only one ultraviolet light water filter that has the NSF seal. It’s really expensive, and very few people can afford it. So, what we did is go to reputable companies that have excellent reviews by our peers and the consumer users. We may suggest these as an option if their heart is set on ultraviolet light filters.”

Does the company have third-party endorsements?

Peter said, “Just as we suggest third-party endorsed filtration equipment, we also suggest looking for installation companies with third party endorsements too. An example of this would be places like Angie’s List or Home Advisor.” Peter’s company, for example, is a Home Advisor Pro Elite company and has been rated best in the category to work with.

Does the installation company have valid insurance policies?

Peter said installers that come in your home should be covered with a minimum of $1,000,000 of general liability insurance.

Are they a full-time professional?

Do you want a professional water technician or a weekend multi-level marketing salesperson giving you advice on how to clean your water? There are many multi-level marketing associations that sell water filters. Peter said that you should be concerned if someone is a commissioned salesperson, especially if they only sell one brand. These water filters may be good enough for getting chlorine out of your water, but not much more than that. Plus, a commission is stacked onto these filters, making them more expensive than a similar, non-MLM brand filter.

The lesson? Make sure you’re working with a certified water treatment professional that will test your water so that they can customize a solution based on your home’s water issues.

In Part 2 of this series on residential water filtration systems in Atlanta, we will address the question of whether or not you should buy your filtration system on the internet to save money. There are a lot of good deals out there, and honestly, it might be tempting at first. In Part 2, Peter of Water for Life will share about:

  • The hidden costs of buying an online water filtration unit
  • Why you want a backwash system on your whole house filter
  • How to find the best water filter for your money
  • Why testing your water before installing your system isn’t enough

To read Part 2 of this article, click here!

Need insurance for your home, car, or rental property? We can help! Fill out our quote form and we’ll be in touch soon.

 

Part Two: What you should know before hiring an electrician to install or replace your electrical panel

In Part 1 of this article, James Croffut of Big Frog Electric shared his advice for hiring an electrician to upgrade your electrical service or install a new circuit breaker panel. In Part 2 we’re going to pick up where we left off, and we’ll carry on by talking about why some electricians can charge a lot less than others, why James turns down some jobs, why you shouldn’t keep resetting that tripped circuit breaker, and why you should be concerned if your electrician uses contractors.

Before choosing an electrician to install a 200 amp electrical service for your home…

James warns us to ask the following questions:

  • Will they be bringing your home up to the currently enforced electrical code?
  • Do they have the right insurance?
  • Do they use employees or subcontractors?
  • Are their employees on salary or sales commission?

Some common mistakes when upgrading services or changing out electrical panels

Today’s electrical code requires that an overcurrent device, such as a main electrical breaker, be installed on the outside of the house. However, many homes built in the 80s or early 90s don’t have this overcurrent device because it wasn’t required at the time. Why should this concern you, you may ask? James told us, “It means that the wire that goes from the electrical meter outside all the way into your home’s electrical panel indoors is unfused, unprotected, and can cause a house fire.”

How does this affect you when getting an estimate to upgrade your service?

Let’s pretend that you have an older home with no overcurrent protection on the outside. If you want to upgrade your service, you’ll need to install an outdoor main circuit breaker by law. However, an inexperienced electrician may simply change out your panel and NOT install an exterior means to turn off your power. Now you can see why their quote will be cheaper. But remember, this won’t pass an electrical inspection and will create a potential fire risk.

Many inexperienced electricians do not realize what else is required after the installation of the exterior breaker. When an electrical panel is installed and an exterior breaker is added, the rest of the house’s wiring needs to be brought up to code as well.

That means that:

  • The electrical grounding must be brought up to code.
  • GFIs must be added and installed per the code.
  • Smoke detectors must be added and installed per the code.
  • Any 110-volt outlets that are replaced or 110-volt circuits that are added in the living area now require arc fault circuit breakers.

Now you can see why estimates to upgrade an electrical service or change the panel out can vary a lot in price. An inexperienced, unlicensed electrician might overlook all of these necessary code requirements. This is why you have to make sure to compare “apples to apples” and not just look at the price alone.

Why James may say no thanks to some electrical jobs

A licensed electrician is held responsible for ALL of your wiring if they do any work on your home. This means if your electrical contractor tells you about risky wiring or code violations but you don’t want to fix them, a professional electrician will walk away from the job. James told us that he will not work on homes that have old Federal Pacific breaker panels or aluminum wire unless the homeowner is willing to update their system to today’s code.

“It’s my license, it’s my livelihood, it’s my reputation, and it’s my conscience,” he said. “I don’t want to work on a house with existing bad wiring that’s a fire risk that the customer isn’t willing to pay to fix. We have walked away from a lot of business because of this.”

He went on to explain that this is another reason that his company loses bids. “We may lose the job because the customer is not comparing apples to apples on the bids. They are comparing panel change out quotes that do meet the code with lower priced quotes that don’t meet the code.”

James reminds us that the national electrical code is the minimum requirement for doing electrical work. The absolute minimum. On the other hand, James likes to install electrical work above and beyond the minimum. This protects you as a homeowner. Does the contractor you’re considering have a similar philosophy?

Do you have a circuit breaker that keeps tripping?

An inexperienced electrician may just reset the circuit breaker without finding out why it tripped. The problem with that is that constantly resetting the tripped breaker will eventually weaken the overload protection mechanical device inside the breaker. In short, that means that the breaker is no longer protecting you. That’s why James trains his people to find out WHY breakers trip. He teaches them to open up the panel and the device to see what the problem is. Why does he do this? James understands that when an electrician touches an electrical system, he or she is held accountable for anything that happens afterward.

Another mistake an inexperienced, unlicensed electrician might make is to simply put in a larger fuse or circuit breaker to prevent it from tripping again. But the wire is rated for the original breaker size only. This means that a bigger breaker will allow more electrical current than is safe. It could heat up the wire and cause a house fire.

The lesson? Hire only licensed electricians to work on your home’s wiring.

Do they have valid insurance?

It is important to verify proof of insurance. With today’s technology, anyone can print out a piece of paper that looks like an insurance policy. James suggested, “You should actually call the insurance company to see if their insurance policy is valid and paid up-to-date. Remember to insist on checking both general liability insurance as well as workers’ compensation.”

Do they use employees or subcontractors?

James told us that some electrical contractors are trying to save money and use subcontractors to do the work. However, many of these electricians are undocumented workers that do not pay taxes or have insurance. So they can charge a lower rate to wire your house.

That’s why James insists on hiring legal workers that pay taxes and that are covered by insurance. James believes in paying his workers a livable wage, not $50 a day like many are making as subcontractors. James said it’s hard to compete against illegal subcontractors. So, be sure to ask if employees or subcontractors will be working at your home. If the company will use subcontractors, ask to see proof of insurance that covers them all.

Are their electrical workers on commission or salary?

It’s surprising, but many local electrical businesses pay their installers a commission to sell you things, just like a car dealership would pay a car salesman. If your technician has a financial incentive, they may try to sell you things that you don’t need. That’s why all of James’s people are salaried employees. This means the customer has no need to fear being upsold. The electrician’s job is to educate you as the customer so you can make informed decisions.

 

Electrical fires are one of the biggest causes for home insurance claims. Take the time to research your electrical contractor before hiring them. We hope these tips will be helpful to you in choosing the best electrician to upgrade the panels or electrical service for your Atlanta home! To get in touch with Big Frog Electric, check out their website!  

If you’re looking for insurance for your home, we can help! Contact us today by calling or filling out our quote form and we’ll get you a free quote and make sure that all of your insurance needs are covered.

Part One: What you should know before hiring an electrician to install or replace your electrical panel

If you’re looking to upgrade the electrical service for your home, this article is for you. We caught up with James Croffut of Big Frog Electric, winner of the “Best Electrician in Gwinnett” Award for 2015 and 2016. James became an electrical helper 20 years ago in the state of Colorado, and he appreciated learning from some of the top electricians in the field. He is also thankful that his company made him go to school to learn electrical theory and how to install things properly.

After working for some local electrical contractors here in the greater Atlanta area, James knew there had to be a better way to build trust with his customers and his employees. Five years ago, he started his own electrical contracting business. Of course, we had to know how he came up with the name. James’s wife loves frogs, and since James said he wanted to be the “big dog” of his industry, they combined both names and came up with “Big Frog Electric.”

We asked James what you should know before hiring an electrician.

James advised that you should consider the following questions:

  • Are they licensed?
  • Do they provide ongoing electrical code training to their staff?
  • What is their online reputation?

Make sure that your electrician is licensed in Georgia to install services and circuit breaker panels.

James said the first thing you should be concerned about is if they have a license for the state of Georgia. Here lies the problem—many electricians state that they are licensed and insured, but the question is what kind of a license they’re talking about.

Apparently, many electricians are advertising that they have a license, but they’re referring to a “business license” and not an electrical license. You could end up unintentionally signing a contract for electrical work to be done on your home by an unlicensed electrician that is NOT recognized by the state of Georgia—and doesn’t know the electrical codes to wire it safely. That wouldn’t be good. Remember, in Georgia, all electrical work must be done by a licensed electrical contractor.

Here’s a tip to make sure that the electrician has the proper licensing. Instead of just asking if they’re licensed, ask if they have an electrical license for the state of Georgia. We asked James how to tell if they’re telling the truth—technically they could just lie about it. He answered, “Actually it’s pretty simple because you can verify it yourself. Go to the secretary of state website at http://verify.sos.ga.gov/verification/. All you have to do is to type their name, profession and license number to see if it is real and current.”

The other problem is that many people say they’re electricians and do electrical work for themselves on the side. Some are electrical helpers under a licensed contractor during the day, but moonlight as electricians for themselves on the side. Or they might just be a handyman that hung a few lights or changed out some switches once upon a time and now call themselves an electrician. That’s why you have to verify that your electrician is indeed a licensed electrician—if they’re not, bad things may follow.

What could happen if the electrical panel isn’t installed properly?

James told us, “Many times people will hire an unlicensed electrician to save a few bucks. Sure, they may save a few dollars upfront, but you’ll have to pay much, much more later on to fix it correctly or replace it entirely. Remember, what’s important is not that your lights turn on today… but will they be working 10 years from now?”

To illustrate his point, James shared this story.

“There was a homeowner that called us that had built their house in 2011. Four years later, in 2015 the electrical panel burned up and caught fire. Electrical panels that are installed properly should last 25 years—not 4 years! The problem? The inexperienced installer didn’t tighten the connections at the main breaker in the panel. The loose connections got hot and eventually burned the panel up.”

Now here’s the scary part. The original panel passed an electrical inspection. However, no one checked the connections to see if they were tight enough. Yes, the homeowner did save a few dollars initially, but only to pay thousands of extra dollars afterward. And that doesn’t address the inconveniences they suffered or the anxiety they had of their home possibly burning down.

The importance of ongoing electrical code training to their staff.

James informed us, “Unfortunately here in Georgia there only needs to be one license holder for the company. This means that they can hire 100 new untrained electricians to work underneath them to work on your electrical wiring. The result is the mistaken thought pattern that if it ‘turns on’ … It’s good!”

That’s why James holds electrical code classes every two weeks. Attendance is mandatory. Why so often, and why make attendance required? “The national electrical code is updated every three years,” James said. “It is almost impossible to keep up with all of the code changes without providing continual education to employees.”

So, it’s definitely to your advantage to ask if the electrician has an electrical license for the state of Georgia before letting them anywhere near your electrical panel.

How much will it cost to swap out your service?

It’s a legitimate question—how much should you expect to pay to get your service changed? James explained that prices can be all over the place because there are no regulations in place to control them. So…how can you know that you’re getting a fair price? “As an educated consumer I suggest calling three similar companies to get competitive quotes from,” James said. “Make sure that they have valid electrical licenses and proper up-to-date insurance. Make sure the quotes you compare are apples to apples and not apples to oranges.”

Apples to oranges? James said that he loses bids every day because the competition isn’t licensed, isn’t insured, or doesn’t bring the house up to code in the proposal. In other words,  it looks good on paper because the homeowner is saving money. But in reality, they could be paying for dangerous wiring that could start a fire from a company with no insurance to pay for the repairs later.

We wanted to know what James meant by bringing a house up to code, and we’ll share his answer in Part Two of this article. We’ll also tell you why some electricians can seemingly afford to install your electrical service for less. Click here to read Part Two of our interview with Big Frog Electric founder James Croffut! You can also check out Big Frog’s website here

Got insurance questions? Want a free quote? Drop us a line, we’d love to help!

 

Why you should bike to work and how to stay safe while you do

Commuting to work can try anyone’s patience, especially with all of the road problems Atlanta has been facing lately. Atlanta traffic can be really awful at the best of times, and that traffic can be costly in terms of gas and car repairs. But we’ve got a solution to this problem that will help you be healthier and save money.

You can ride your bike to work.

The benefits of biking to work:

There are lots of reasons that biking to work is a good idea. Sometimes being on two wheels is just better than being on four. It’s not a bad idea to consider digging your bike out of the garage or storage room and dusting off your old helmet. Here are 4 reasons that you might want to bike to work.

1. Biking to work can save you money.

It’s true. Biking to work is more economical than driving. When you take your car to work, you face gas expenses (which go up the longer you have to sit in Atlanta traffic.) You burn through a lot of fuel when you’re crawling along.

You can also save money on parking costs. It’s hard to find parking in the city. And when you finally find that coveted parking spot, you might be dismayed at how much you have to pay for it. You might need to rent a space in a parking deck downtown, which gets extremely pricey. Even public parking lot costs add up after a while. Save yourself the trouble of trying to find a parking spot. And the trouble of having to pay for it.

You’ll also save money on car repairs and maintenance. If you give your car a much-needed rest, you’ll put less wear and tear on it.

2. Biking is better for the environment.

Have you ever been driving to work and noticed the haze of smog hanging over Atlanta? Air pollution is a huge problem, and cars are a major pollutant. Atlanta’s really in love with cars, meaning that tons of gross emissions and gasses are being pumped into the air. These emissions lead to smog, and smog makes it hard to breathe. Bikes are emission-free, and if you bike you’ll contribute to cleaner, safer air.

3. Biking is great for physical fitness.

It’s nice to get a workout in without having to go to the gym. Most of the US population lives within a five-mile radius of where they work, which by bike isn’t really that far. To do some quick math: if you bike at 10-12mph, you’ll get there in about half an hour. Not bad, considering that you get to exercise for close to the same amount of time that you’d be stuck in traffic. Biking is nice and healthy for your body, and you can set your own pace. There’s no need to be an Olympic cyclist on your way to work.

Stay safe while you’re biking to work.

If we’ve convinced you to try biking to work, it’s important that you stay safe. We’ve put together some safety tips to help you have a smooth ride to work.

1. Wear a helmet.

Seriously. Helmets are cool. Here are some things to keep in mind about your head gear:

  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission even took the time to create standards to regulate helmet safety—that’s how important helmets are. So make sure your helmet has a fancy CPSC sticker or proof of approval from the CPSC. Your helmet should cover your forehead and you should always buckle up your straps.
  • To improve the effectiveness and life of your helmet, have a place to store your helmet. Don’t toss it around when it’s not on your head.
  • You can also make yourself more visible to drivers by putting reflective stickers on your helmet.
  • If you’re in a crash or if you have a fall, you may need to replace your helmet. It might have been damaged, so if you were to have another accident it might not do its job and protect you.

2. Try to stick to bike paths/routes as much as possible.

Map out a route that allows you to stay on bike paths. This will keep you safer than if you have to share your space with drivers.

3. Practice your path ahead of time.

Once you know the route you want to take, give it a try, preferably on the weekend. It’s best to be familiar with your route.

4. Learn the laws of the land.

You’re subject to the same rules of the road that drivers are. Follow the rules so that you lower your risk of a crash.

5. Brush up on your hand signals.

It’s important that motorists know what you’re planning to do. Know how to signal a turn or a stop, and get into the habit of using these signals.

6. Dress to impress.

First, wear bright colored clothing. Drivers can see you more easily if you’re wearing bright or reflective clothing. You can always bring a change of clothes to work.

Second, wear sneakers when you bike. Bring along your work shoes and stash your sneakers under your desk.

Third, don’t wear loose clothing or let the straps of your backpack fly around. You don’t want anything to get caught on your bike, as this could cause you to fall or spiral out of control.

7. Be aware of your surroundings.

That means keeping an eye on the cars around you. Make eye contact with drivers to make sure that they know what you’re planning. If you come to a busy intersection, hop off and walk your bike through it instead of riding. 

Also, look at the road ahead of you. Make sure that the road’s clear. It wouldn’t be fun to hit a bump or pothole. You could end up airborne. Not good.

8. Don’t try any stunts.

Keep your hands on the handlebars.  Make sure that you keep control of your bike. Steering is important.

9. Bring H20.

Make sure to stay hydrated by bringing water with you for your ride, especially if the temperature is going to be hot or humid—does that sound like a city you know?

Biking to work can save you money, help the environment, and help you stay fit. Even if you don’t bike to work every single day, planning to bike a few times a week is good for you. But remember—safety first.

Got insurance questions? Want a free quote? Our agents can help. Give us a call today—we’re at your service.  

 

Safety tips for apartment living

If you’re thinking about moving to Atlanta, you might be considering getting an apartment. There are plenty to choose from in the city, and living downtown or in Midtown makes getting to work a lot easier. Actually, there are a lot of perks to being in the city, but it’s also important to be aware of where you live.

When you’re on the hunt for the perfect apartment complex, it’s important to keep your safety in mind. Being in an apartment building in the city creates a lot of risks, both from intruders and from other tenants. We’ve put together some tips to follow while you’re thinking “apartments” that will help you be as safe as possible in your new crib.

 

When you’re looking for apartments…

1. Take note of what the facilities are like.

Does the building look like it’s kept in good repair? Do you get the impression that it’s taken care of? If the complex looks like it’s well tended-to, that’s a sign that the landlord is concerned with maintenance and upkeep. And if the landlord cares about maintenance, they’ll probably be quicker to fix things that provide safety, like lights and smoke alarms.

Speaking of lights, take note of how well-lit the building is, especially places like entrances, the parking lot or deck, and the elevators. Burglars tend to lurk in the shadows, and good lighting helps keep them at bay. Does the complex you’re considering offer sufficient lighting?  

2. Check out the entryways.

If you need a key, code, or buzzer to get into the building itself, that’s an added safety measure. This will help keep people who aren’t supposed to be there out of the building. It will also give you more peace of mind. The security of the building is important.  

3. Do your research.

What’s the neighborhood like? Hit the Internet to find out what the crime statistics for the area are. You can also get in touch with the local police department to find out what they have to say. It’s important to be aware of how safe your potential new neighborhood is.

 4. Observe smoke detector prevalence (and whether or not they’re functional.)

Fire safety is extremely important. You need to be able to get out of the building in case something happens. Make sure there are things like posted fire-escape instructions. Also, smoke detectors are a big part of making sure that your apartment will be safe, so make sure those are present. 

 5. Consider scoping out the place at night.

It might look lovely during the day, but it’s also important that you feel okay there at night. Consider taking a friend and seeing what it’s like after dark. Again—take a friend for safety. The buddy system is a solid plan.

 After you’ve made the place your own…

1. Make sure the locks have been changed.

Ask your landlord if it’s okay to get new locks put on the door. You definitely want to be the only one with keys to your new place.

2. Install a deadbolt.

If your new place doesn’t already have  a deadbolt, you might want to think about having one installed. A deadbolt adds security to the door. Definitely something to consider.

3. Get a security system.

You can find a security system company that will install at apartments, and you’ll most likely be able to find one that will work with you if you need to move. Do some research to find a reputable company that will fulfill your needs in a security system.

4. Trip out the windows.

Make sure all your windows are covered. Get good blinds that prevent people from seeing anything inside your apartment. If you’re not home or if it’s dark outside, keep those blinds drawn. 

5. Install a security bar on sliding doors.

Sliding doors need a little boost to make sure they’re safe. Bolster your sliding door with a security bar.

6. Get renters’ insurance.

Renters’ insurance protects your belongings in case something were to happen to them. If you’re the victim of a fire or theft, you want to make sure you’re covered. You might be surprised to find out that your landlord’s policy won’t cover your belongings, so talk to them to see what the situation is with their policy. Shop around for a renters’ policy to make sure that you have the coverage you need. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

 

There are lots of benefits to living in an apartment, but it’s important to make sure that you’re safe. When you’re looking for an apartment, keep safety in your mind. It’s important that you feel secure and comfortable where you live.

And with your new apartment, you might need some renter’s insurance to protect your belongings. If you want to get a free quote, let us know! We can help you with any of your insurance needs.

Sources:  

http://www.safewise.com/resources/apartment-security

Tips for choosing an Atlanta professional organizer

Atlanta Professional Organizer

Lots of people live in apartments in Atlanta to be closer to their workplace, and having an apartment can be more affordable and flexible than having a house. There are plenty of perks to living in an apartment, but one drawback is their size. Apartments are tiny. There’s a limited amount of space in the city, so living quarters can get a little squishy sometimes. This is where working with a professional organizing service might be a good idea.

A professional organizer can help you declutter and sort your belongings. They have serious skills when it comes to helping their clients maximize the amount of space in their apartments or homes so that they have a more comfortable place to live. You might also consider hiring a professional organizer if you’re moving into a new home or apartment.

We’ve put together some tips on finding a professional organizer in Atlanta by talking to the professionals. We’ve reached out to two professional organizers in the Atlanta area to ask for their advice.

*Note: This article is intended for informational purposes only. InsuranceHub does not endorse any of the businesses below.

First up is Andi Wills of Goodlife Organizing (Perry, GA)

What three things should an apartment renter know before choosing a professional organizer?

  • Check out their website and see what they specialize in. No need [to call a] Professional Organizer who specializes in offices and productivity when what you really need is someone to help organize your closet.
  • Schedule a phone call with them. Most offer a free phone consultation. This will let you get to know them a little bit and see if you will work well together.
  • Ask if they are a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (napo.net). There are good organizers that are not members, but the people who take the step to belong to the industry’s main professional organization pledge to abide by a certain code of ethics and have a great pool of resources with the group.

What common mistakes do people make when organizing themselves?

  • Don’t buy your containers, bins, baskets, and hangers until after you’ve decluttered your belongings.
  • You can’t know the best way to containerize your belongings until you know exactly where you stand.

Can you give three tips to help apartment renters organize their small space?

  • Think vertical. Add hooks if you are allowed on the back of doors, on small sections of wall in the closet. Command Hook™ is a great solution that won’t damage your walls.
  • Over-the-door shoe organizers for storing anything from shoes to scarfs to cleaning supplies utilize an often overlooked piece of real estate.
  • Don’t forget about the space underneath your beds, couches, and dressers. Under the bed boxes are great for storing out of season clothing and even old paperwork.

Any specials to let our readers know about?

BRAND NEW in the Good Life Organizing Store! The Home Organizing DIY Assessment workbook – for all of your DIYers out there who want to get started but just aren’t sure where to begin. Grab your copy today.

Next we’ve got Kristen Schneider of Truorder (Atlanta, GA)

What 3 things should an apartment/ home renter know BEFORE choosing a Professional Organizer?

  • Not everyone advertising as a professional organizer has experience or training. It’s important to ask how many years experience they have as an organizer. Professional organizers with many years experience make quicker decisions, have more ideas and solutions, and organize a space quicker than someone with little experience.
  • Reputable professional organizers charge anywhere from $50 to $150 per hour. If the organizer charges less they may not have any experience, pay taxes or have professional organizers insurance.
  • Professional organizers are not housekeepers and housekeepers are not professional organizers. Many housekeepers and home cleaning services list home organizing as one of their services. This does not mean they know what they are doing or have the same professionalise as a professional organizer.

What common mistakes do home/apartment renters make when organizing themselves?

  • A common mistake many home and apartment renters make is bringing too many items into their new space. This makes it almost impossible to get truly organized. Not everyone is naturally good at home organization.
  • Another common mistake is stuffing filled moving boxes into a storage closet or basement and forgetting about the contents.
  • The biggest mistake of all is not getting enough help with relocation. Moving is an exhausting task and getting organized takes time in a new space. People will make an easier relocation with the help of a moving company, friends and/or a professional organizer.

Can you give three tips to help apartment renters organize their small space?

  • My most important top tip to help someone get organized is to de-clutter, de-clutter, de-clutter. If you are disorganized or you cannot put everything away, you most likely have too much stuff.
  • When I help a client with relocation, we always start with the kitchen. Sort like items together and place handy kitchen organizers where needed.
  • Take a break when you need it. So many people overdo it and end up straining their backs because of tackling too much in a day. Set up what is most important in your everyday life and leave the rest of the items to work on for a few weeks until you are settled in your new space.

Any specials to let our readers know about?

Anyone can purchase a time block or gift certificate online to get started.

Truorder takes credit cards, checks, and cash as payment.

If you’re extremely busy or if you’ve just moved (or if you’re just a pack rat), hiring a professional organizer might be a good idea for you. Remember, before you hire an organizer it’s smart to:

  • Read online reviews on Yelp or Google.
  • Ask friends and family for referrals or recommendations.
  • Check references.
  • Take the advice offered by our pros and ask for a free phone consultation.

You can even turn this into an opportunity to do a home inventory of all your belongings. While you’re doing your inventory, take photos or video so that you’ll be prepared if you’re ever faced with having to file a claim.

Thanks again to our panel of Georgia professional organizers for the helpful tips they shared with us today!

We can help you with finding a great rate for your insurance. We’ll get you a free quote for whichever kind of insurance you need: home, renters, life, or auto. All you have to do is fill out the quick quote form.

The importance of Atlanta home insurance

The importance of Atlanta home insurance

Home insurance in Atlanta is an essential element to home ownership.

Still, many homeowners often feel like it just isn’t worth the money, especially since homeowners insurance in the Atlanta area can be very expensive. In spite of the cost, home insurance is very important and well worth having. Here’s why.

The bank or lender that financed the home is the number one reason to have insurance on it.

Read more