The Importance of Fireplace Inspections

Written By Charlotte Insurance on December 29, 2020. It has 0 comments.

a woman enjoying her newly inspected fireplace safely while drinking a cup of coffee.

Having your fireplace and chimney inspected might seem like something you can put off for another day, but there are very real dangers that can occur when you don’t get this done regularly — like your home catching on fire! At minimum, you need an annual inspection done for your fireplace and chimney, although cleaning can be done on an as-needed basis.

Why is this so important? Here are a few reasons.

Keep Smoke Out of Your Home

Blockages can occur in chimneys for a variety of reasons. Over time your chimney can build up debris. This comes from the creosote left over from a burning fire. It can also occur when animals set up nests in your chimney after you haven’t used it for a while. That debris can create a back-up so that when you light a fire, the smoke comes back down the chimney into your home. Not only is it dirty and smelly, but it can also be toxic to you and your family.

Get Rid of Creosote

The second most common cause of fatalities from a house fire is when the chimney and fireplace aren’t properly maintained. One culprit of home fires is creosote. This is a natural byproduct of burning fire, but it’s toxic and dangerous. Creosote attaches to the interior of the chimney and can catch fire in intense heat. If inspections and cleanings are not done on a regular basis, that build-up can cause multiple problems, including allowing toxic fumes into your home.

Avoid Water Damage

It might seem counterintuitive, but not properly maintaining your fireplace and chimney can lead to water damage and mold. This occurs when cracks and other damage affect the chimney. Left unrepaired, rainwater can seep into your home through the cracks, leading to damage in your walls, and even mold. You might not even notice the damage right away, making an annual inspection even more important.

Prevent Denial of Future Insurance Claims

Home insurance policies do not cover damage from neglect or lack of maintenance. Not having an inspection done for your fireplace and chimney will most likely lead to damage in your home — from smoke, water, or fire. If you file a claim, it may be denied because you didn’t properly maintain this part of your home, directly leading to the damage. Regular inspections and cleanings may cost money, but it’s much less in comparison to the cost to rebuild or repair your home when your insurance claim is denied.

If you’ve never had your fireplace inspected or you can’t remember when it was last done, schedule an inspection as soon as possible. Consider not using your fireplace until you do. If you have questions about your home insurance coverage in the event of a fire, contact Charlotte Insurance. We can help you understand your policy and provide a free quote for a new one.

Celebrating The New Year Safely

Written By Charlotte Insurance on December 22, 2020. It has 0 comments.

2021 balloons wearing masks

Like every holiday in 2020, New Year’s Eve will likely look a little different this year. No matter how you choose to celebrate, do it with safety in mind — yours, your family’s, and the people around you.

Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Social Distancing

The safest thing you can do to celebrate the New Year is to do it from a distance. Even with news about upcoming vaccines and the very real fatigue of social distancing, crowds of maskless people present a very real risk, both to your own health and to the people you may encounter later.

A New Year’s celebration at home with your household can be a lot of fun. You can still light sparklers, countdown to midnight, and enjoy a kiss or a toast to ring in the new year with the people you already live with. If being with family and friends is important to you, have a countdown party over Zoom. But if you attend (or plan) an in-person party, keep it outside and limit the number of people invited.

Drinking and Driving

We all know we shouldn’t do it, but after one too many drinks, anyone can convince themselves that they’re “fine” to drive. You most certainly are not fine and could cause a serious accident. Law enforcement officers know that New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest nights for driving under the influence. It’s likely they’ll have checkpoints in many places and officers on the highway. That’s the legal danger you put yourself in, not to mention the danger of hurting yourself or others on the road.

The easy thing is to not drink and drive, but many people want to ring in the New Year with a drink or two. Make plans now for how you’ll have a few drinks and stay safe. The best option is to drink at home. If you’re at a friend or family member’s home, make plans to stay there for the night. If you need to go home after the party, use a ride share service to arrive so you know you need to call them again to get home.

Serving Alcohol

While New Year’s Eve parties should look a lot different this year, there are still things to consider if you invite people over and serve alcohol. You take on extra responsibility and potential liability when you do — known as social host liability. Here’s what you need to know to keep yourself and everyone else safe.

  • Limit the amount of alcohol you serve. Make sure to offer non-alcoholic alternatives.
  • Be willing to cut someone off if they’ve had too much — and to take their keys and call an Uber for them, or let them sleep on your couch.
  • Do not serve alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. If you can’t properly monitor the age of attendees or who’s served alcohol, reconsider your invite list or whether alcohol should be served at all.
  • Talk to your insurance agent about your liability coverage. Make sure you have enough in case of accidents that result from party-goers who drank at your New Year’s Eve party.

The safest way to ring in 2021 is to celebrate at home with your immediate household. For those who make different plans, be mindful of how much you drink, choose a designated driver before you go out, and plan your gatherings very carefully. Doing so will make the start of the New Year a safer one.

Have questions about your liability coverage? Contact Charlotte Insurance today! We can walk you through your coverage or provide a free estimate for a new policy.

Common Electrical Mistakes Homeowners Make

Written By Charlotte Insurance on December 15, 2020. It has 0 comments.

an overloaded surge protector that caught on fire

Many homeowners dream of becoming the next DIY rockstar, taking on projects big and small around their home. But mishandling electrical issues can lead to disasters like fires, injury, and more.

Protect your home, your family, and your home insurance rates by avoiding these common electrical mistakes.

Overloaded Circuits

It can happen at any point, but it’s especially common during the holidays – overloading electrical circuits. You plug one too many things into an outlet or you have too many things turned on that are on the same circuit. You turn something else on and everything shuts off. The breaker’s been tripped and now you have to get the power back on. To avoid this, map your circuits and avoid plugging in too many things in the same area and definitely into the same outlet.

Lack of Junction Box

Known as junction boxes, j boxes or electrical boxes, these are crucial to any installation of an electrical item, like a light fixture. These boxes protect electrical connections and wires from damage and contain any sparks or heat that can occur due to a short circuit or loose connection. Too many homeowners connect wires outside of a junction box, putting their home at risk of a fire. If you don’t see a junction box when changing a fixture, install one before you install the new light.

Short Wires

Maybe you inherited a fixture or outlet with short wires or maybe you cut them too short. Either way, don’t try to create a connection with them. They’re difficult to manage and potentially dangerous. When cutting wires, leave yourself plenty to work with. If you cut it too short, purchase wire extensions from your local home improvement store. You can always cut them down to a more manageable length of three or four inches once they’re added to your short wire.

Sinking Outlets and Switches

Have you ever changed an outlet or switch and watched it sink into the wall, creating an ugly gap between the cover and the outlet or switch? That gap isn’t just unsightly, it’s also dangerous. It means the outlet or switch doesn’t have proper support which can lead to loose connections later. Loose connections can arc or overheat, leading to a potential fire. Instead of ignoring the problem, you may be able to use rigid electrical box spacers to create the correct alignment and connection – just make sure that it’s up to code first.

No GFCI Outlets

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets are a necessary safety feature in any home. They monitor the power between an outlet and an appliance. If any variation is detected, the power is cut immediately to prevent electrocution. GFCI outlets are especially important in kitchens and bathrooms, particularly near water. If you don’t have these installed in your home, you need them. These outlets keep your home and family safe.

When in doubt, call an electrician. Not every home project can be DIYed safely, and it might be cheaper in the long run to pay a professional from the beginning, instead of paying to fix multiple problems later.

While you’re taking care of your home, make sure to take care of your home insurance needs, too. Contact us at Charlotte Insurance to answer any questions, discuss coverage, or change your policy limits.

Making the Most of the Holidays at Home

Written By Charlotte Insurance on December 10, 2020. It has 0 comments.

wrapped Christmas presents

The holiday season doesn’t look like what we’re used to. While it’s not easy, it’s important to remember that this is temporary. There will be a time when we can be with our loved ones again. Just because we miss our typical holiday traditions, though, doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the season in a new way.

Here are a few ideas to find and create joy and fun over the holidays, even when we can’t be in the same room with our loved ones.

Send Holiday Care Packages

From hot chocolate to ugly sweaters to special Christmas pajamas, you don’t have to give up on your family traditions this year. You might not enjoy them together in the same room, but you can enjoy them together. Pack up a holiday care package with hot chocolate, a sweater, or whatever you usually enjoyed together and send it in the mail. You might celebrate at a distance, but you can still feel like you’re together when you continue your old traditions.

Watch Holiday Movies Together

For your immediate family, this can be a great option each night leading up to Christmas. For families who can’t visit, you can still do this virtually. Netflix, Disney+, and more now offer “watch together” features. Pick a night (or several), put on your holiday pjs, make hot chocolate, and watch a movie together. You can feel connected even from a distance. Again, those beloved traditions don’t have to go away. They just need to adapt for now.

Drive to See Christmas Lights

You’ve done as much outside, six feet apart, as you can. Now that it’s colder, outdoor gatherings aren’t quite as easy. Why not do something together, but in your personal vehicles? Drive through neighborhoods or to local events to enjoy Christmas lights together. Call each other, put yourselves on speakerphone, and chat about the beautiful lights, silly displays, and fun songs. You’re having the same experience, but without the risk of getting too physically close.

Unwrap Presents via Zoom

You’ve had birthdays, anniversaries, and Thanksgiving via Zoom. This is no different. Whether you unwrap on Christmas Eve or you do it Christmas Day, set up a Zoom meeting, get everyone logged in, do it together. Everyone can hold their gift up to the camera for everyone else to see. And if you want to see the grandkids before the Zoom call, Facetime a little earlier (you know they’ll all be awake anyway) to get that special time together.

Create New Traditions

It’s easy to miss what you don’t have, and we all desperately miss our families this year. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start new traditions. Maybe everyone bakes cookies together or does a holiday craft together virtually. Maybe there’s a dish you’ve never had the chance to serve or make. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do this year, take some time to focus on the new things you can try. It won’t replace the family you miss, but it might give you something to look forward to.

With a bit of creativity and willingness to try new things, you can enjoy the holidays at home this year. You might even start new traditions to carry forward into the years ahead.


Best of Charlotte: Christmas Light Displays

Written By Charlotte Insurance on December 8, 2020. It has 0 comments.

a Christmas tree with lights on it in Charlotte, NC

A lot of holiday festivals have been cancelled or changed drastically this year because of COVID-19. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy one of the most beautiful things about the holiday season — the Christmas light displays. Whether you walk outside or you drive in your car, there are plenty of opportunities to feel like a kid again this holiday season in and around Charlotte — while staying safe.

Speedway Christmas

Now through January 17, 2021, with the exception of Christmas Day, head out to Speedway Christmas. You can drive through the infield and enjoy 800 displays of Christmas cheer made with four million holiday lights. The lights are synchronized to music so tune in to 101.3 FM while you drive to enjoy the show. Come by Thursday through Sunday any week and you can watch a drive-in holiday movie on the big screen, too! Learn more here.

Light the Knights at Charlotte Christmas Village

Head out to Truist Field to enjoy Light the Knights at the Charlotte Christmas Village on select dates December 4 through December 23. The start time varies, but the fun ends by 10:00 p.m. each night. Tickets cost $7 per person before 5:00p.m. and $10 after 5:00 p.m. You can shop for gifts from unique vendors or walk through the ballpark concourse and enjoy the thousands of lights, trees, and displays. Learn more here.

Sherwood Forest Drive

Want to see what happens when a neighborhood comes together filled with the Christmas spirit? Head to Sherwood Forest Drive in Olde Providence South. The homeowners have outdone themselves with their holiday decorations. Make sure to put the window down while you drive through so you can enjoy the holiday music! Even better, they’re collecting donations for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, so if you’ve got a little extra, give to a worthy cause. Find more neighborhoods to drive through and enjoy this Christmas.

Lights at Whitewater Center

The Whitewater Center invites you to enjoy a different kind of light show this holiday season. From 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. every night, walk the half-mile walking trail through the forest and experience a series of immersive light installations designed by Meredith Connelly, a Charlotte artist. You’ll see 173 sculptures inspired by nature. While not specifically Christmas lights or decorations, you’re sure to feel the holiday spirit while taking in the sights. Learn more here.

McAdenville Christmas

Now through December 26, 2020, enjoy the lights and display of the McAdenville Christmas between 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Drive through downtown from Pharr Family YMCA on Main Street to the Spruced Goose Restaurant located on Weslayan Drive. This year, there are no lights around the lake, but it still makes for a nice evening drive. Learn more here.

Kannapolis Celebration of Lights and Winterland Express

Head to the town of Kannapolis for a night of Christmas and wonder, now through December 30. It’s free to walk through the park and take in the Celebration of Lights. Families and groups can reserve tickets (by the row) for a ride on the Winterland Express. Tickets cost $6 per row and fit three children or two adults. Enjoy the lights, listen to the music, take your own pictures with Santa, and eat roasted marshmallows! Learn more here.

Holidays at the Garden

Through January 3, every Wednesday through Saturday, you can take in the lights and the gardens at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont. Tickets cost $14.95 for adults, $12.95 for seniors, and $7.95 for children two to 12, while kids under two get in free. Stroll through the gardens between 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. and enjoy the Christmas lights, sing along with the music, roast marshmallows, grab a bite to eat from one of the many food trucks, and enjoy the holidays in a new way. Learn more here.

Winter Lights at North Carolina Arboretum

Enjoy a winter wonderland from the safety of your own vehicle at the Winter Lights display at the North Carolina Arboretum. Price per car starts at $25 (reserve your ticket in advance for the best price). Drive through until January 10 between 5:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. each night. Enjoy the lights, the displays, and the wonder of it all. Learn more here.

This Christmas season might not look like holidays past, but you can still enjoy the lights and cheer, even in a socially distanced kind of way!

Home Insurance 101: Understanding MedPay

Written By Charlotte Insurance on December 3, 2020. It has 0 comments.

an arm in a cast that's been covered by a homeowners insurance policy's medpay

If you ever read through your home insurance policy, and you should at least once a year or so, you may see a section labeled “Coverage F” or “Medical Payments Coverage” aka MedPay Coverage. What is this? How does it work? Why is it there?

Here’s what you need to know about MedPay.

What is MedPay Coverage?

Medical payments coverage or Coverage F covers the medical expenses of someone injured in your home or on your property who does not sue you. If you are sued for the injury, your liability coverage will pay the costs. Sometimes things happen in your home, like a neighbor or friend tripping and falling, but they don’t want to take you to court. They simply want their medical costs paid. This is where MedPay comes in.

How Much Coverage Do You Have?

Most standard home insurance policies offer MedPay coverage starting at around $1,000 per injured person. It’s one of the few coverages in your home insurance that’s not based on a percentage of the dwelling coverage. If you want more coverage than what comes standard with your policy, you can pay to increase those limits. Contact us to find out what limits are available and a free quote for an increase in your policy.

What’s Covered by MedPay?

Because so many injuries can occur in the home — from dog bites to falls and more — it’s easier to list what’s not included in medical payments coverage instead:

  • Transmission of communicable diseases
  • Physical, mental, or sexual abuse
  • Any injuries that arise from controlled substances (aka drugs and alcohol)

This doesn’t mean you can’t be found liable for these injuries, only that your MedPay coverage won’t pay the medical expenses related to those injuries even if you’re not sued.

How is MedPay Different From Bodily Injury Liability Coverage?

MedPay offers a lower amount of coverage, but it’s also meant for simpler issues. Bodily injury liability pays a claim when you’re legally responsible for the injury. That’s often determined in a lawsuit, which includes legal fees, larger claims from the injured party, and court costs. That’s also why liability policy limits are so much higher than MedPay limits. If you get sued, you’ll pay a lot more than if the injured party simply allows you to cover the medical expense without taking you to court.

It’s important to note that you only use one or the other, but never both at the same time. MedPay is for injuries that you’re not legally responsible for. Liability coverage takes care of injuries you are legally responsible for.

Want to increase your medical payments coverage for your home insurance? Have questions about your current policy? Contact us at Charlotte Insurance for a free quote and to help you understand your coverage and policy limits.

There’s No Such Thing as “Full Coverage”

Written By Charlotte Insurance on December 1, 2020. It has 0 comments.

a woman who's been in a car accident and worried about her full coverage auto insurance

The common term of “full coverage” for auto insurance is extremely misleading. All it takes is one too-big auto accident to learn that some aspects of the accident aren’t as well covered as you thought, and only part of it will be paid for.

Here’s why “full coverage” is a misnomer and what you can do to better protect yourself while behind the wheel.

Understand Your Coverage Limits

The one thing that prevents “full coverage” from living up to its name is because of how auto insurance is structured. There’s no single auto policy that covers everything. In reality “full coverage” is multiple policies grouped together to offer the most protection possible. And each of those policies has their own policy limits. All it takes is one bad accident to reach those limits and realize you have to pay out of pocket for the rest.

The best way to provide the most protection is to look at your policy limits and increase them to make sure that you’ve got enough coverage. For added liability protection, an umbrella policy can give you even more coverage for a very affordable price. Contact us today to find out exactly what your policy limits are and to request a quote for more coverage. Don’t reject increasing your limits because you think it’ll be too expensive. Get the facts and then make a decision.

Make Sure You Have the Right Kind of Coverage

Most people think of “full coverage” as liability, comprehensive, and collision. In fact, to come close to genuinely “full” coverage, you need more than that. Here’s what an ideal auto insurance policy will include:

Liability: Your coverage should be well above the minimum requirements for the state, whether you live in North Carolina or South Carolina. A better policy will provide at least $250,000/$500,000 for bodily injury and $100,000 for property damage.

Comprehensive and Collision: This coverage protects you whether you hit a light pole or get hit by a deer on the highway. Check your policy limits at least once a year and increase your limits to ensure that you’ve got enough coverage.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist: This protects you if you’re in an accident, and the other person is at fault, but doesn’t have enough auto insurance. An ideal amount is a policy limit that matches your liability coverage.

Medical Payments/Personal Injury Protection: No matter who’s at fault in an accident, you deserve to have your medical bills, and those of your passengers, covered after an accident. This makes sure you don’t get hit with a scary financial surprise while you’re recovering from injuries. Try to match your own liability limit if you can.

Rental Reimbursement/Roadside Coverage: Some auto insurers include one or the other (or both) when you purchase comprehensive and collision coverage together. If not, it’s worth paying for as it will save you rental and towing costs after an accident.

Umbrella Insurance: As we mentioned before, umbrella insurance provides an extra layer of protection (like an, ahem, umbrella in the rain) after an accident. This is additional liability coverage that helps out if an auto accident is so big you exceed your liability policy limits. The good news is that a $500,000 or higher policy is extremely affordable compared to your auto insurance. It allows you to truly breathe easy and know you’ve got the fullest coverage possible.

Want to make sure you really do have “full coverage” for your auto insurance? Contact Charlotte Insurance today. We’ll be happy to discuss your current policy limits and get you free quotes for higher limits and better coverage.