How the Wrong Air Filter Affects Your Home

Most technicians recommend changing an air filter once every month, or at most, every 2 or 3 months. You might assume that this is because you need to keep your air clean. And this is true—partly. A technician’s number one concern, though, when it comes to your air filter, is keeping your air conditioner from being damaged.

That’s what your air filter is there for in the first place: damage prevention. But the wrong air filter can do way more harm than good.

How your filter protects your AC system

The air filter in your AC system is primarily there to protect your air conditioning system, although today’s filters are also effective at reducing allergens. If there were no filter present, your indoor blower fan could suck in large particles of debris as it sucked in the air, which could, in turn, damage an air conditioner.

However, you do still need a sufficient amount of airflow to move through the system. That’s why you are supposed to change your air filter regularly. If it’s too dirty, it could stop air from flowing into the system, not just debris.

Thinking of upgrading your home’s air filter?

Just as a dirty air filter can inhibit airflow, so too can an air filter that is the wrong size and rating for your air conditioner. The fibers that are meant to trap particulate in the air may be so tightly woven that they stop air from moving into the HVAC system altogether.

The MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) of your air filter is a good indicator of how well it filters. Most air conditioners come with a filter of about 1-4 MERV, but may be able to hold a filter of up to MERV 8. However, if the filter is too strong, you put your air conditioner at risk. Consider a whole-house air purifier instead!

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What to Feed Your Brain

Your brain needs food, and not just the intellectual kind like brain games to keep you sharp. Your brain functions best when it gets the proper nutrition, just like the rest of your body does.

A growing body of research and organizations like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Alzheimer’s Association support the notion that a diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids may help protect the brain.

So what foods should you eat? Read on to find out.

Top 10 Antioxidant-Rich Fruits and Veggies

“Eat more fruits and vegetables” is a common refrain. And if you’re going to make the effort, you might as well choose those that may help keep your brain healthy.

Researchers at Tufts University measured the antioxidant power of various fruits and vegetables. The top 10 in each category are:

 

Fruits Vegetables
Prunes

 

Raisins

Blueberries

Blackberries

Strawberries

Raspberries

Plums

Oranges

Red grapes

Cherries

Kale

 

Spinach

Brussels sprouts

Alfalfa sprouts

Broccoli flowerets

Beets

Red bell peppers

Onions

Corn

Eggplant

 

Before you run out and stock up on prunes and kale, remember that variety is important, too. In general, the darker-skinned fruits and vegetables pack the most antioxidant punch.

Try to fill at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables, as shown in the ChooseMyPlate picture below. You can learn more about this meal planning method at ChooseMyPlate.gov. Use the link in the resource section at the end of this article.

It may help you get more fruits and vegetables into your diet if you think of them as ingredients in savory dishes, salads and snacks. Toss Brussels sprouts with raisins and onions in a little olive oil and roast them, for example. Or combine dried cherries with raw almonds—another brain-healthy food—for an easy snack. Get creative with ways to mix and match the foods you like.

Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish is the main source of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Good choices include:

  • Salmon
  • Halibut
  • Tuna
  • Mackerel
  • Trout
  • Sardines
  • Herring

Try to have fish at least a couple of times each week to get a healthy dose of omega-3s. Grilling, baking or broiling is recommended over frying, which can add unhealthy fat.

Fish generally cooks quickly. Watch to make sure it’s not overdone, which can make it dry and less flavorful. Overcooked fish may tempt you to pour on the butter or other fat-laden sauces to make it more appetizing. Fish cooked properly needs little more than a splash of fresh lemon or a favorite herb to enhance the taste.

It’s best to get your nutrition from food, but fish may not be on your list of favorites. You can get omega-3 fatty acids from supplements, such as fish oil, which may offer some benefit. Discuss supplements with your doctor or a registered dietitian before you start taking them.

Medical Nutrition Therapy

Medical nutrition therapy is provided by a registered dietitian or nutrition professional to help you create an eating plan that meets your health needs. Medicare Part B (medical insurance) may cover the service, which can include a nutritional assessment and one-on-one counseling.

Your doctor or other health care provider must refer you for medical nutrition therapy. You are also eligible if you:

  • Have diabetes
  • Have kidney disease

Have had a kidney transplant in the last 36 month

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Love and Mortgage: Should Newlyweds Buy or Rent a Home?

Somewhere in your mind, you might have an idealized image of a newly married couple triumphantly sweeping into a dream home with the wife in the husband’s arms. As corny as the tradition might seem, you can also see it as a powerful symbol — two people making their first entrance into the home they now share as owners.

Should you and your new spouse follow that example, or do you have reservations about adding a mortgage to the mix? Consider some of the pros and cons of renting vs. buying as newlyweds, and then take your time in deciding whether home ownership is another threshold you want to cross together.

Your Solution Depends On Your Situation

You’ve probably made dozens of decisions together on your way to the altar, making the call on everything from the registry to the diplomatically arranged seating chart at the reception. And now’s not the time to give in to judgment fatigue.

Take some time to evaluate the respective merits. You may find that personal finances, career aspirations and even the value you place on independence vs. convenience could influence your decision of whether to rent or buy.

The Case for Renting

Some of the reasons that could make renting a home preferable to buying include:

Lower Start-Up Costs — Moving into an apartment typically means paying some moderate expenses, such as first and last month’s rent, specified deposits and the like. Buying a home typically means spending several thousand dollars on a down payment, closing costs, agent’s commission, attorney’s fees and more. If you still haven’t figured out how to pay off the honeymoon, the initial investment could loom large in your decision-making.

More Mobility — The U.S. Census Bureau reports that after age 18, the typical American can expect to move nine times. If you happen to get a new job in a different state, you’ll have a much easier time (relatively speaking) breaking a lease than you would be selling a house.

Repairs Aren’t Your Responsibility — If the toilet springs a leak at 3 a.m., a renter can call the landlord to get it fixed. For homeowners, the burden of arranging and paying for repairs, and possibly filing an insurance claim, falls entirely on them. When it comes to upkeep, a conscientious landlord can be a real convenience.

The Case For Buying

Factors such as these could tip the scales in favor of homeownership:

It’s Usually More Economical — For couples who plan to stay in the same area for several years, buying a house is generally considered the more affordable choice. The expert consensus favors ownership as a much better source of value than renting in just about every U.S. housing market. Also, you can help protect your investment with a home insurance policy that may provide coverage for weather damage, break-ins, and other hazards.

Ownership Builds More Wealth — One aspect of the pro-buying argument revolves around the central idea of wealth accumulation: Homeowners nurture an investment in something that will one day belong to them, rather than simply renting space from month-to-month or year-to-year. Even if you move to a new house before you pay off the mortgage, you still have the equity you’ve built up in your current home.

A Sunnier Market Outlook — Although memories of the housing bubble bust still linger, many indicators point to a stabilized recovery. New regulations have helped curtail risky lending practices, home prices have reached realistic levels and the economy has rebounded. With mortgage rates at historic lows, 2016 could be an advantageous time to become homeowners.

Whichever Way You Go, Go Thoughtfully

The decision to buy or rent as newlyweds depend on immediate realities and long-term possibilities. Do you have plenty of money on hand? Do you have job security? When might you start a family?

You’ll need to consider all these factors, and more, as you figure out whether crossing the threshold right away is a realistic option or just a romantic notion.

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Three Things To Know About Car Warranties

Any car owner can feel at ease about bringing their car to the shop if they purchase a car warranty. Car warranties can lower the cost of maintenance and repairs performed on your car. Here are three things to know about car warranties:

First off, know where the warranty is coming from. Is it coming from an auto manufacturer or an aftermarket auto warranty company? Also, know who is handling your policy.

Second, be sure to completely read through the entire warranty. This way, you will be knowledgeable about what type of coverage you are receiving and how long the warranty will last.

Lastly, know what specific maintenance that you need to have done on your car because there are some car warranties that will only remain valid if this work is done on your car. Also, make sure that you keep all of your car’s maintenance records in the event that there is a claim.

Car warranties will allow you to have peace of mind each time your car goes into the shop for repairs and maintenance. However, it is important for you to know all of the details of your warranty if you want to get the most out of it.

 

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Medicare and TRS Care in Texas

  

For over 30 years, the state of Texas has provided healthcare to retired teachers through the Teacher Retirement System, or TRS-Care. Medicare and TRS-Care work together to provide benefits for hundreds of thousands of retired teachers and their dependents.

The program’s original funding back in 1985 was enough to maintain the fund through the fiscal year 2000. However, the Texas Legislature is under no continuing obligation to provide benefits. As premiums and deductibles have continued to increase, many retired teachers have begun to leave TRS-Care. They are electing plan options with Medicare instead.

This is expected to continue, especially since premiums for retired teachers are expected to double or even triple in September of 2017. Let’s look at some comparisons of your options.

Coverage for People with Medicare and TRS-Care

Medicare + Medigap provides a comprehensive alternative to Medicare and TRS

Medicare and TRS-Care work together to provide coverage for retirees who are Medicare-eligible. To be eligible for TRS-Care 1, an individual must have worked at least 10 years in the TRS system. Eligibility for TRS-Care 2 or 3 requires must have at least 10 years in the system. You must also be age 62 or older.

TRS is network-oriented and currently use the Aetna network in Texas.  TRS offers 5 different healthcare plan options depending on your years of service and your Medicare enrollment status. In 2017, these options fall into two main categories: TRS-Care Standard plans and TRS-Care Medicare Advantage.

TRS-Care Standard Care Plans

In the Texas TRS-Care Standard Plans, the TRS benefits coordinate with Medicare, which will be your primary coverage. Retirees who have both Medicare Part A and B active will pay significantly lower premiums than those with only Part B. For example, a retiree with Part B only would pay approximately $215 – $245 for TRS Care 3 depending on years of service. A retiree with both Part A and B would pay $90 – $110.

Unfortunately, these plans have deductibles ranging from $400 – $3900 per individual, and twice that for families. After Medicare’s payment, TRS pays only 80%. You are responsible for the remainder. This means retirees pay their share in the form of copays and/or coinsurance for doctor visits, lab-work, inpatient stays, urgent care, emergency care, and many other items.

Your medications will be covered separately under one of three different Express Scripts drug plans in 2017. You will be automatically enrolled in one of them if you do not elect an option yourself.

How Medicare + Medigap Compares

Compare this with a retired teacher age 65 in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who has both Part A and Part B and elects Medicare Supplement Plan G.  She has a premium of around $110/month.

She can see any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare, which is an enormous network of nearly 900,000 providers in the U.S. Furthermore, she has a one-time $183 deductible and then she has NO COPAYS WHATSOEVER for doctor visits, lab-work, inpatient stays, urgent care, emergency care, and all other Medicare-covered items.

She can buy a standalone Part D drug plan for as low as $17/month.  Pretty easy to see why so many teachers are choosing to leave TRS for Medicare supplemented by Medigap.

TRS-Care Medicare Advantage Plans

TRS also offers two Medicare Advantage options. To be eligible, you must enroll in TRS-Care 2 or 3 and also Medicare Parts A and B. Members have a deductible to meet as well as copays for services as they go along.

For example, members might pay a $5 copay for primary care visits and a $10 copay for specialist visits after they first meet their plan deductible.  A hospital stay has a copay of either $250 or $500 per stay, depending on the plan chosen.

For 2017, Humana ensures the TRS-Care Medicare Advantage options. Your doctors must be willing to bill Humana for your care. Otherwise, you will need to pay for your claims and then submit to Humana for reimbursement.

Complicating Factor

Some teachers have premium-free Part A benefits through other work history or spouses work history

Not all teachers qualify for Part A. Since TRS-Care must then be primary for Part A hospital services, these members pay higher premiums for their TRS-Care coverage. While many teachers have spouses who worked at least 10 years and then, therefore, qualify for Part A coverage through their spouse, there are still many retirees who are single or do not have Part A coverage. This means their costs on the plan are nearly twice that of retirees who do have Part A.

However, Medigap plans are not a viable option for retirees in this scenario because you cannot enroll in a Medigap plan unless you have both Part A and B. This leaves some retirees with TRS-Care standard plans being their only option.

Trading TRS for a Medigap Plan

There are a few things my team looks at when we are assisting someone with TRS-Care who is wanting to review their Medicare options.  First, we review how your important prescriptions will be covered. TRS-Care Standard plans do not have a coverage gap or donut hole for prescriptions.

For some people with expensive brand name meds, we might recommend you stay with TRS-Care. However, retirees with few medications or mostly inexpensive medications will find Part D plans to be a very affordable option. They pair this with their Medicare and Medigap plans for great coverage.

We also advise retirees to consider coverage for any dependents. Medicare and Medigap plans only allow coverage for yourself. You cannot carry a dependent on your Medigap plan, although your spouse may qualify for his or her own coverage if they are 65 and older. Should you need to cover a family member on your plan, staying with TRS may make the most sense until your dependent is able to obtain other coverage.

Finally, dropping TRS-Care means you cannot return to it in the future. However, with Medicare and Medigap options being so affordable and comprehensive, this is less of a concern today than it was a few years ago. A quick comparison of Medigap rates in your area against your potential TRS-Care and Medicare costs makes it easy to see which options will give you the lowest out-of-pocket costs.

Conclusion

With continuing budget cuts, it’s likely that we’ll see costs for retired teachers continue to go up. Fortunately, there are affordable options through Medicare which can provide great coverage to individuals for whom it makes sense. It’s important that you carefully review your TRS-Care and Medicare literature provided by the Teacher Retirement System. Get informed so you can make the best decision for yourself.

We also advise working with a broker like Boomer Benefits who can help you compare your TRS-Care costs against what your potential with Medicare and Medigap costs. We’ll make sure that moving to a Medigap plan makes sense for you. If you will be turning 65 soon and enrolling in Part B, you can advantage of your 6-month window to join any Medigap plan without any medical underwriting. If you are over 65 already, we can explain your rights for guaranteed issue when leaving your TRS plan.

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How Home Solar Warranties Work

Going solar is a long-term investment. You trust it will be on your roof for many years, quietly generating the clean energy you need and lowering – or in some cases completely eliminating – your electricity bills.

At yourinsurancesearch we are so confident in the efficiency and reliability of our industry leading yourinsurancesearch that we back it up with the best warranty so you can rest easy knowing that your investment is fully protected.

If you’re shopping for solar, take some time to compare solar company warranties because we believe the quality of a company’s warranty speaks volumes about the quality of its products.

What to Look for in a Solar Warranty

Home solar warranties can be complicated and full of fine print. For example, some only cover the solar panels. So if there’s an issue with another important component (such as the inverter), you may be out of luck or you could be unpleasantly surprised to discover that you have separate warranties for components that aren’t serviced by the company that sold you your solar system. Those separate warranties likely have different terms and varying time limits for coverage. 

Your solar warranty could also include hidden servicing costs that you will be required to pay. For example, some warranties require the homeowner to pay shipping costs to get a defective panel replaced. What’s covered and for how long can tell you a lot about how confident a solar company is in the products it’s selling.

yourinsurancesearch home solar warranty covers your entire system1, including the power it generates, for 25 years. (Monitoring hardware is also covered by yourinsurancesearch, but term is for 10 years.) And we’re the only company to cover all costs associated with repairs.  It’s that simple. Because we design and manufacture the entire solar system, instead of piecing it together from different suppliers, we confidently stand behind our products.

There are no pass-through warranties to worry about. If you ever need something fixed, which isn’t common, you just make one phone call to SunPower.

 

Product and Power Warranties

As you’re doing your solar warranty research, ask about product warranties and power warranties. Product warranties cover material and workmanship. Power warranties cover power generation. The yourinsurancesearch warranty covers both the product and the energy that it will produce for 25 years.2

While there is a natural loss of energy production at a certain rate per year for all solar panels – like humans, solar cells get a little sunburn -- Place-five's highly efficient, highly durable panels degrade at a much slower rate than conventional panels, so we’re comfortable backing up our energy production with the best power warranty in the industry, which assures that your system will produce 92 percent of its rated power in year 25.

In partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development, we developed a robust method to calculate solar panel degradation. When this method was applied to eight years of energy performance data from 264 yourinsurancesearch solar systems operating at various locations worldwide, it showed that yourinsurancesearch panels degraded less than 0.25 percent per year – 50 percent less than the annual degradation rate for conventional panels. This is why we are confident to provide our industry-leading power production warranty.

If you buy a lower quality solar panel, poor workmanship issues can lead to a faster-than-normal decline in energy production over time. Many solar manufacturers try to take advantage of this ambiguity by providing, for example, only a 10-year power warranty.

yourinsurancesearch covers the entire system with one warranty for the full 25-years,2 regardless of whether the issue is a product or power one.

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AQUAFLOR: The Newest Line of Laminate Flooring

Good news, the future of laminate flooring is here and just in time for renovation season. Introducing Avalon’s exclusive new high quality laminate collection Aquaflor. Thanks to groundbreaking technology, Aquaflor looks and feels like hardwood, but without all the maintenance of hardwood!

Each plank is imprinted with HD images to give a realistic wood look and embossed to give a realistic wood grain feel. But unlike hardwood, Aquaflor can withstand vast temperature changes and has waxed edges on each plank. This means you don’t have to worry about the effects of big spills or wet mopping seeping into the cracks and ruining your floors. This also means you can finally get the hardwood look you’ve always wanted in your kitchen now! And because of its dense core and “Diamente” finish—the crème de la crème of protective finishes—Aquaflor has one of the hardest wearing and scratch resistant surfaces; also making it the perfect choice for high traffic residential and commercial spaces.

aquaflor colors

It’s simple to install too—yet another advantage to add to the list. Aquaflor is installed free floating with its angle drop and lock system. And unlike other laminate flooring, it doesn’t require transition molding in spaces that are up to 105 feet in length and/or width. Hello seamless open floor plan!

Even with all these great features, with any large purchase, especially for your home, it’s important to know that you’re protected. Which is why Aquaflor comes with excellent warranties to give you peace of mind.

  • Industry leading 48 hour spill and wet mop warranty
  • Lifetime warranty for residential use
  • 15 year light commercial use warranty
  • 5 year heavy commercial use warranty

Layers of Aquaflor laminate flooring

So when weighing your flooring options for your next renovation, ask one of our yourinsurancesearch design experts about Aquaflor. Because no matter what space you’re working with—it’s got you covered!


At yourinsurancesearch Flooring, we want to make sure you’re happy from your first step in our showroom to your first step on your new flooring—and as your partner in home design, we’ll be there every step along the way. Consider us your “One-Stop Shopping” destination for all things flooring…(and window treatments)!

Our design consultants are equipped with the knowledge to guide you through the wide selection of products we offer, and our expert installation team is professionally trained to make sure everything gets installed the way you envision. We know your home is an expression of your sense of style, and we’re here to make sure you’ll be proud of it for years to come.

Stop by one of our 14 showrooms and we’ll be happy to work with you to figure out what’s best for your lifestyle.

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