home maintenance

10 Simple Steps to Keep Your Home in Shape

Maintaining your home can be a daunting task at first. Unexpected mishaps occur, causing homeowners and landlords costly repairs. But with diligent checkups, you can prevent those mishaps from getting unmanageable and keep your home in shape all year long. Below are 10 basic maintenance routines that can save you headaches and prevent major repairs.

  1. Routine checkups

Start simple: Test and replace the batteries for your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Even hard-wired smoke detectors have backup batteries that need to be tested and replaced. This routine checkup can prevent massive home damage and keep your loved ones safe.

  1. Yes, fire extinguishers do expire

If you’re not sure if you can still rely on your fire extinguisher, check the pressure gauge. If the needle is in the green, your fire extinguisher is in the clear. Otherwise, it’s time to get a new one.

  1. You have the power

Every month, test all Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt (GFCI) outlets by pressing the “test” button or using a GFCI tester. Call a professional electrician to help if you’re unsure.

  1. Clean air, clean home

Change your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) filters every one to three months, depending on your household. If you have a large household with pets, your filter may need to be checked more often. If your filter is damaged, replace immediately. Regular filter changes are key to maintaining healthy air quality in your home. Bonus benefit: increased HVAC efficiency, which means lower cost to run.

  1. Test the waters

If you have rooms that aren’t occupied daily, such as a guest bathroom, be sure to run the faucet and flush the toilet. This will help prevent grime or buildup.

  1. Rinse and repeat

If your washing machine and dryer are not routinely monitored, it can be hazardous to your home. Regularly check for exhaust to come out of your dryer. (Tip: it should smell like fresh laundry!) If exhaust is not coming out, check for blockages — this may require a professional. Additionally, be sure there are no leaks in your supply hose. If you have a metal supply hose, tighten it until it cannot be tightened any further.

  1. Clean the lint

Always clean the dryer lint screen after every load of laundry to prevent fires!

  1. Basement patrol

Don’t forget about the basement! Take a look through the area for any repairs and mold. If your concrete walls are visible, make note of any cracks and water because these can be indicators of foundation issues. Use a piece of chalk to mark any cracks so you can track the “growth.”

  1. Chimney sweep

To prevent a chimney fire, check the chimney, fireplace and vents at least once a year to remove buildup of soot and creosote. Removing creosote can be a challenge, so it’s recommended to have your chimney inspected by a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA)-certified chimney sweep. Another tip: Never burn trash, cardboard boxes or trees in your fireplace because these can spark fires!

  1. Deep clean

Just as dentists recommend flossing your teeth in addition to daily brushing, it’s recommended to give your home a deep clean to enhance home care. Take one day a month to walk through your home and clean all the nooks and crannies. This includes baseboards, doorframes, cabinets and more. A clean home is a healthy home.

 

By regularly completing these 10 basic tips, you reduce your risk of frequent and costly home repairs. When in doubt, contact an experienced plumber, electrician or other professional.

As all homeowners know, anything can happen; so make sure your property is covered with a home insurance policy from Madison Mutual. Be a champion of safety and contact an agent today to determine the best coverage for you.

old photos and documents

Keeping Memories Alive: How to Preserve Family Heirlooms

Memories of lost loved ones are often sparked by the presence of something which once belonged to them. Your grandmother’s wedding ring reminds you of how you used to slide it off her finger and try it on your own. Your great-grandfather’s pipe brings back the sweet tobacco smell that filled your nose whenever you hugged him. Old photographs stir up smiles and tears as you see the faces of relatives once more.

Mementos are powerful things with incredible stories. But what should you do to make sure they’ll still be around for future generations to enjoy? Here are our ideas to help you preserve your family heirlooms for years to come.

Handling

Dust, dirt, and oils from your hands can damage or ruin antiques. You should always handle them gently and with clean hands. To further ensure a clean touch, invest in a pair of white cotton gloves to wear as you examine the items. Hold pictures and papers along their edges rather than down the middle to prevent smudges or crinkles.

Cleaning and Repairing

Wipe down items with a clean rag to brush off dust. If mud is caked on, try removing it with a little bit of water, but avoid vigorously rubbing it. If you discover damage that you would like repaired, it is best to talk to a conservator before trying to fix it yourself.

Documenting

Physical objects can’t last forever, but words can. Take a picture or scan an item and record the memories you have attached to it. Ask relatives to share any information or stories they can to enhance the significance of the heirloom. Do some research online or at your local library to learn more about the specifics of each item. You may stumble across how best to preserve it in the process.

Storing

Keep keepsakes in safe places. Always check storage areas for mold, water, glass breakage, and any holes through which rodents or bugs could crawl. Dampness and humidity can damage fragile items, so basements, attics, outside walls, and any heat sources should be avoided. Instead, aim for storage areas with a stable environment, filtered air, and a temperature no greater than 72° Fahrenheit. Be sure to wrap items in acid-free paper and keep them in acid-free containers. If you can’t find an appropriate location in your home, consider storing smaller heirlooms in a safe deposit box at your bank.

Displaying

If you put photographs, textiles, or artworks on display, make sure they are hung on or placed near the wall that receives the least amount of direct sunlight. Further reduce exposure by framing artifacts behind ultraviolet light-filtering glass and periodically rotating out items on display for those in storage. An additional option to consider if you’re still worried about potential damage is to frame copies rather than the original keepsakes.

Appraising

Although most heirlooms are treasured purely for sentimental reasons, some may actually be worth a considerable amount of money. If you think you have something valuable on your hands, contact an expert to have it appraised, and record the approximate value alongside the artifact’s history.

Keep your memories alive by protecting your family heirlooms and treasured possessions with a homeowners insurance policy from Madison Mutual. Call your agent today to make sure your valuables are properly insured or visit www.madisonmutual.com to learn more.

no texting and driving sign

14 Effective Ways to Help You Fight the Urge to Text and Drive

The smartphone: unparalleled connection and information in the palm of your hand. You have practically the entire world at the tip of your fingers. Regardless of how invaluable such technology is, it can still serve as a temptation for some people, especially while in the driver’s seat.

Texting while driving is banned in 46 states and Washington D.C., but many drivers still choose to endanger their lives and the lives of others by using their phones. Don’t let yourself or a loved one become another distracted and dangerous driver! Use these tips to put down the phone and concentrate on the road.

Out of the Car:
•Download an app such as Cellcontrol, TextLimit, or Live2Txt to block certain cell phone features while driving.
•Watch interviews with accident survivors. Hearing their testimonies can be very powerful in helping you remember your motivation to put your phone down. You can find many of these on YouTube.
•Make a promise and keep it by signing an anti-texting pledge.
•Practice patience in every aspect of your life so that when that message comes while you’re on the road, you know it can wait.
•Highlight the risk. Close your eyes and count to 23 – the average time a driver’s eyes are taken off the road to send a text message.
•Understand and utilize #X – the message that says you can’t talk because you’re about to drive.

In the Car:
•Think about what you need to do before you start the vehicle. Send a message, make a call, program the GPS, or choose a music playlist, then put away the phone and put the key in the ignition. This keeps you from tinkering with your phone for the information or entertainment you need while on the road.
•Set your phone to “Do Not Disturb” or silent so you won’t know when a new message comes your way.
•Turn your phone off completely.
•Follow that old “out of sight, out of mind” proverb and put your phone in the glove compartment, trunk, backseat, or anywhere out of reach.
•If you absolutely must use your cell phone while in your vehicle, safely pull off the road first.
•If you’re traveling with a passenger, let them be your designated texter. They can read the messages aloud and type out your responses.
•If you don’t want your passenger involved in your personal affairs, have them simply hold on to the phone for you and give it back once you reach your destination.
•Live by example! If you don’t want your loved one texting while driving, then practice what you preach and stay off your phone.

Anything can happen even if you don’t use your phone while driving. Make sure your car is covered with an auto insurance policy from Madison Mutual. Call your agent from the safety of your home or office or anywhere but the road to determine what type of coverage is best for you!

towing a car on the highway

6 Things We Love About Madison Mutual

It’s true – you can get your insurance from any old insurance provider. But why should you when Madison Mutual is here to tend to your needs? After all, there’s plenty to love about our services and our company!

Here are 6 things that will send you head-over-heels for us!

We Protect Your Identity – When someone compromises your identity, to whom do you turn? The answer: Madison Mutual. Our homeowners policy includes protection from identify theft, keeping you safe from anyone who would try to steal your identity.

Our Direct Repair Program Is All the Rage – Getting in an accident is a stressful event. Our Direct Repair Program offers you peace of mind! The process is fast and efficient as we work directly with shops in our Direct Repair Program. These shops are contracted with Madison Mutual to guarantee quality repairs to your vehicle.

You Can Find an Agent Near You Quickly – Whether you’ve experienced a home invasion, an accident on the road, or simply want to make sure that your policy is up to speed, finding a Madison Mutual insurance agent has never been easier! Just visit our website at www.madisonmutual.com and click “Find an Agent.” Enter in your address, select a mile radius, and find the closest agent to you, along with pertinent contact information. It’s that simple!

We’ll Protect You on the Road, 24/7 – With our optional Emergency Towing and Road Service coverage, if you ever find yourself stranded on the side of the road, you will never have to worry about whom to call! Our emergency towing and road service helps provide peace of mind 24/7 should your vehicle become disabled or harmed. We will pay up to your limit for reasonable expenses including towing to the nearest facility, mechanical labor up to one hour, key lock-out service, and much more!

Our Discounts Are Fantastic – We are firm believers that you should be rewarded for good behavior and actions. That’s why we make it a point to offer you some of the best deals you can find! From multi-car, multi-policy, and safe driver discounts to discounts for good grades, loyalty, and more, we’ve got you covered.

We’ve Been Providing Superior Service for Nearly a Century – That’s right, ever since we opened our doors in January 1920, we have been dedicated to providing outstanding personal lines of insurance products to our wonderful policyholders at a competitive price. We are committed to providing you with the best insurance and the most fantastic service possible. You won’t find any better than Madison Mutual!

Don’t miss out on having the best insurance policies around! Learn more about what we can do for you by calling 1-800-766-MMIC or by visiting us online at www.madisonmutual.com.

closeup of a credit card's numbers

Got a Chip Card? You’ll Have to Wait 3 More Years to Use It at the Pump

If you have recently received a chip card to use as payment for your purchases, then you’ve probably been itching to use it in the new payment terminals. Although many stores have upgraded or are on their way to upgrading their machines, there’s one big merchant that is won’t be seeing any updates for a while – gas stations.

According to IDT911, Visa and Mastercard have recently granted gas stations 3 more years to convert their payment card readers from magnetic stripe terminals to chip card readers. Gas stations have already had a grace period of 2 additional years after last year’s 2015 deadline; however, they are receiving another 3 years to install chip readers in their gas pumps.

Why the extension? It will be a costly endeavor to gas stations nationwide. In order to upgrade their pumps, gas stations will typically need to break concrete, which isn’t cheap. Additionally, replacements can cost $30,000 as opposed to the $1,000 or so it had cost other retailers to upgrade their point of sales terminals. As of now, there is a shortage of smart chip card pumps as well, and complicated infrastructure and specialized technology is required in order for fuel pumps to be replaced successfully.

But don’t worry! There has been a lot of progress made with EMV migration in the United States. Right now, more than 1.7 million merchants are now accepting chip cards, and 388 million Visa chip cards have been issued in our nation alone. According to IDT911, we are already witnessing a 43% reduction of counterfeit fraud at chip-enabled merchants, meaning that countless people’s finances are becoming more secure.

Even though a big change to our money system is being made, it’s still important to take steps to protect your money, especially when you go to make your purchases. After all, as long as there are any magnetic stripe payments being accepted, there will always be vulnerability. Protect your PIN code by covering it up when you make purchases on the readers at the store. Never give out any sensitive data to anyone, especially over the phone. And, of course, never make any purchases with your credit card on a public computer.

We hope that you never experience identify theft, but if you do, be sure to call your agent at Madison Mutual. Our homeowners policy offers identification theft protection in the event that your identity is stolen! Learn more by calling us today at 1-800-766-MMIC or visit us online at www.madisonmutual.com.

snowy roadin the winter

4 Smart Tips for Driving Safely in the Snow and Ice

Breaking news from The Farmer’s Almanac! A bad winter has been predicted for us here in the Midwest. While winter seemed to be on vacation last year, it is predicted to be back in full force this year with numbing cold and plenty of wintry precipitation.

Are you dreading driving in the snow and ice? Check these 4 tips to help you drive safely this winter:

Slow Your Speed – Reducing your speed is one of the most important tips for driving safely in the snow and ice. Snow and ice can create “black ice,” which is always a danger on the road in winter. The faster your speed is, the greater potential for damage. The maximum speed for driving during such weather conditions should be 45 mph, but anything less than 45 mph is highly encouraged.

Wear Your Seatbelt – Wearing your seatbelt should be the first step you take when entering your car. Doing so can save you from tremendous injury if you were to get into an accident. Many people who have been injured in accidents were not wearing a seatbelt. Neglecting to wear a seatbelt can make a fender bender in the snow and ice much worse for you than it already is.

Pay Attention to the Weather – If you don’t already check the weather daily, now is the time to start! Checking the weather in the wintertime allows you to prepare yourself for an allotted driving time. Being aware of treacherous incoming weather will help determine whether you should drive in it or not. Make use of current weather information to make your best judgment.

Take It Easy on Your Brakes – Did you know your anti-lock brake system does not work very well in snow and ice? If your wheels are sliding, try your best to keep your foot off the brake. Your forceful steering will not change your direction during sliding, and the input steering doesn’t react when your wheels are sliding. Again, drive slowly and brake gently!

If there is any comfort or assurance when driving in the dangerous snow and ice, it is that you are insured with a great company ready to take care of all of your insurance needs. If you are dissatisfied with your current insurance, call us today at 1-800-766-MMIC or learn more about us online at www.madisonmutual.com!

New Year's Resolutions

5 Smart Resolutions You Should Consider Making for a Safer New Year

It’s that time of year again! That’s right; it’s time to reflect on 2016 and begin making resolutions for a better year ahead. Whether you’re striving to lose weight, get fit, learn something new, or spend more time with those you care about, having goals to work toward is always smart. Here are 5 great ideas to consider adding to your New Year’s resolutions:

Save More Money – Tidying up your budget to help save a little extra money here and there can help build up funds for things like a new home, a fun family vacation, or a larger retirement fund. You can help save a little more money at home by taking a few extra precautions. Make sure that your home is properly weather-stripped to keep the warm air inside. Also, consider turning the thermostat down a degree or two and turning off lights and devices that you aren’t using – it can help you save more money than you realize! Finally, talk to your insurance agent to see if you qualify for any discounts on any of your insurance policies.

Make a Home Inventory – Maybe you received some nice gifts for the holidays. Perhaps you have a collection of jewelry, electronics, or other valuables already in your home. If so, make this the year that you take an inventory of your belongings. Go through your home and take photos or make a physical list of your valuables. You will want this on hand in case you ever need to file a homeowner’s insurance claim. It will help you figure out exactly what is damaged, lost, or stolen should a disaster occur.

Become a Safer Driver – Resolving to be safer behind the wheel is a win-win situation for both you and the other drivers on the road. Stay focused on your driving at all times – put your smart phone out of arm’s reach, and never drive while drowsy or impaired. Make sure to obey the speed limits, use your turn signals, and give plenty of space between your car and the person in front of you. You’ll find that your driving experiences will become more enjoyable when you take these steps!

Protect Your Identity – Identity thieves are constantly coming up with more ways to snatch your social security number, credit card numbers, and any other important personal information. Prevent identify theft by keeping your information to yourself and shredding any important documents that you need to throw away. Also, never give your social security number or credit card numbers over the phone, and keep a close watch on your bank accounts. If you notice any unauthorized activity, be sure to call your bank right away! Keep in mind that Madison Mutual homeowner’s policies include identity theft protection at no additional charge.

Review Your Insurance Policies – Want to protect your financial livelihood? It’s always a good idea to check your insurance policies to see if they’re up-to-date. Consider making an appointment with your Madison Mutual insurance agent early next year to discuss your coverages. You may be able to save money by bundling your auto and homeowner insurance policies or by increasing your deductibles.

We hope that you have a happy and safe New Year! Don’t forget to call your insurance agent at Madison Mutual to discuss your policies at 1-800-766-MMIC. Learn more about us by visiting us at www.madisonmutual.com!

winter tips for farmers

5 Must-Follow Winter Tips for Farmers

All famers know that just because the harvest is finished doesn’t mean that the work is complete. A little preparation goes a long way come spring. Use the acronym FARMS to remember these vital 5 winterization steps:

Fill Tanks – Topping off fuel and hydraulic oil tanks prevent condensation from forming as the temperature changes with the seasons. If you are planning to keep using your equipment throughout the winter, be sure to take steps to prevent the diesel fuel from gelling such as adding cold flow improvers.

Adequately Lubricate Metal – Any metal that is not painted needs to be greased to prevent damage from the elements like rust, which can diminish both the quality and value of the equipment. Refer to your user manual for more information about how to properly lubricate.

Repair Damage – Fixing broken or damaged parts now will protect the equipment from rusting or degrading over the winter. Be sure to check for worn or loose belts and leaks in addition to damaged parts. This will ensure that come springtime, you can get to work faster.

Maintain and Clean – Use a high-pressure washer to clean out dirt and debris from equipment before storing it for the season. Be cautious when cleaning seals and bearings. It is a good idea to remove the batteries and store them in a dry location.

Store Equipment – If possible, store equipment inside to avoid the worst of the winter elements. When storing equipment outdoors, cover it with material that is both water-resistant and protects delicate electronics from too much sun.

Always remember to consult your equipment’s user manual for the best way to winterize and care for your specific product. Equipment is a large investment for most farmers. Taking good care of it will ensure that it will serve you for several future growing seasons.

Madison Mutual is dedicated to protecting you and your farm this upcoming winter and always. Read more about our Farmowner Coverage here.

smart ways to save money during holidays

9 Ridiculously Easy Ways to Save Money This Holiday Season

The holiday season can be a bit draining, and we’re not talking emotionally! Beginning with Halloween and ending with a huge celebration to ring in the New Year, preparing for the holidays can be daunting. Oftentimes we can find ourselves going overboard, and the credit card debt builds up in the blink of an eye. This year, though, we’ve got 9 easy ways to help you prepare and start saving money now:

Make a Budget – Before setting foot in a store or even considering whom you’d like to buy gifts for this year, set a budget. Make sure to consider not only gifts, but also things like decorations, party favors, postage, and travel expenses. Don’t forget to factor in a little extra for those unexpected costs. Now that you’ve set a budget, don’t forget to keep track of your spending. A budget is useless if you don’t intend on sticking to it.

List Out Your Recipients – Now that you’ve completed your budget, it’s time to establish who will be on your gift-giving list. Go through each individual and allocate part of your budget toward each person. If you’re noticing that you don’t have enough money to cover your budget, go through your list again and cut names or amounts. It will also be easier setting dollar amounts per person, as opposed to gifts you would like to buy for individuals; this saves you from overspending because you had your heart set on a specific gift that is out of your dollar range.

Pay Cash – If you find yourself swiping without thinking, it’s time to seal up those credit cards and tuck them away until after the holiday season. Using cash will make you more aware of what you’re spending and will keep that budget at the forefront of your mind.

Don’t Wait – Don’t wait until the last moment to begin purchasing your gifts. You’ll miss out on sales and end up paying extra because of the hiked prices that stores tend to implement closer to Christmas. On top of that, you could be spending extra on postage the longer you wait to mail your gifts.

Cut Back Preemptively – Start saving now! Cut back spending in other areas of your life as you prepare for the holiday season: pack your lunch, carpool as the weather gets colder, and order water instead of soda when you go out. Little things can add up quickly, and the savings you receive can be put directly toward your holiday spending.

Use the Secret Santa Method – Have a lot of family members or a large group of friends? The Secret Santa method could be perfect for you. Set a price point, draw names out of a hat, and buy a gift for one person instead of ten.

Create a Christmas Closet – You know all that leftover wrapping paper and those unused gift tags you threw away from last Christmas? This year, find a large bin that you can store all of those extra items in. Take inventory before you head out to buy more the next year!

Curb your Kids’ Expectations – So many commercials these days are targeted specifically toward kids. While they draft their extensive lists to Santa, make sure you’re helping them set realistic expectations. Set financial boundaries with your older children.

Minimalist Decorations – It’s easy to go overboard with decorating during the holidays. Instead of adorning your whole house, focus on just two or three places that guests will see most. For instance, your fireplace, living room, and dining room table tend to be high-traffic areas. This saves you from spending money on decorations for every room.

What other ways do you save money during the holiday season? Let us know in the comments section below or stop by our Facebook Page. Make sure to call an agent at Madison Mutual to make sure you’re saving money on your insurance. Call us at 1-800-766-MMIC or learn more about us online at www.madisonmutual.com.

how to deep fry turkey safely

9 Tips to Help You Deep Fry Your Thanksgiving Turkey Safely

There’s nothing quite like enjoying a delicious, crispy fried turkey on Thanksgiving Day! This method of cooking will give you a mouth-watering, tender turkey to savor; however, you will need to take the proper steps to ensure that your meal is cooked properly and that you stay safe. After all, deep fryers present quite a few fire hazards, so extra caution needs to be taken.

Don’t let deep frying scare you away from having an amazing Thanksgiving meal! Just follow our tips below to stay safe when you’re frying your turkey:

Keep Them at a Safe Distance – When using an outdoor fryer, make sure that you keep them off decks, out of the garage, and more than 10 feet away from all buildings, cars, and trees.

Thaw and Dry the Turkey Completely – It is especially important to thaw and dry your turkey completely before placing it in the fryer. Even the smallest amount of water or ice can cause dangerous flare-ups when it comes in contact with hot oil, which can cause terrible burns or fires.

Watch the Weather – Keep an eye on the weather. Never operate a fryer outdoors in the rain or the snow.

Keep It on a Level Surface – Always be sure that your fryer is placed on a level surface and avoid moving it once it’s in use.

Protect Yourself – Always use thick oven mitts when handling your pot. The sides, lid, and handles can reach extremely high temperatures due to the hot oil inside. It’s also a smart idea to wear goggles to shield your eyes.

Watch the Oil Temperature – If you don’t have one already, purchase a fryer with temperature controls. When you’re cooking, watch the oil temperature carefully. Oil that is heated beyond its smoke point can catch fire, so if you notice that the oil is smoking, turn the fryer off right away.

Never Leave It Unattended – Don’t leave your fryer unattended, and keep children and pets away from the fryer at all times. Fryers can be easy to tip over, which can be a recipe for disaster.

Keep a Fire Extinguisher Nearby – Should a fire break out, you will need a fire extinguisher close by to help you put it out. Make sure that you and your family members know how to use it properly as well.

Take Care Once the Turkey Is Done – Once your turkey is done, carefully remove the pot from the burner and place it on a level surface. Cover it to let the oil cool overnight before you dispose of it.

We hope that these safety tips will help you have a happy and safe Thanksgiving this year. Don’t forget to keep your home up-to-date with an insurance policy from Madison Mutual! Visit us online at www.madisonmutual.com to learn more about us.