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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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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KEEP YOUR CAR RUNNING LONGER WITH THESE 5 PREVENTIVE MAINTENANCE TIPS

Anyone can consider an automobile as an important investment – one that’s expected to stand the test of time as it serves to transport people from point A to point B. However, cars are as perishable as they can get – they’re meant to be replaced after years of constant usage, and wear and tear. If you’re the type who would stick with your old faithful through thick and thin, you’re expected to deal with numerous repairs as you adhere to a fixed maintenance schedule.

Now, if you wish to make your car useful for longer, you must practice ways on how to prolong its life. Check out these five tried and tested ways to lengthen your car’s lifespan, and you won’t have to worry about purchasing a replacement vehicle anytime soon.

  1. Don’t miss your scheduled car service

Have your car checked regularly to ensure that even the smallest ailments can be dealt with preventively. After all, there’s nothing like dealing with the problem immediately before it happens. It’s even more economical to take on a preventive approach to car maintenance than wait for greater damages to happen, which can reduce your car’s lifespan considerably. This means going in for your oil change when it tells you to, not waiting a couple thousand more miles just because it feels like you just got one!

  1. Keep your fluids in check

Check the condition of your car’s fluids so that you won’t expose it to greater chances of damage. Cars typically have transparent vessels for fluid storage, so it should be relatively easy to check whether your car’s fluids are at their right levels. Also, make it a point to conduct oil change at least every 3,000 miles or three months, so you can provide greater protection to your engine. Do the same for all other fluids as well, though make sure to consult your owner’s manual or a professional technician on when to replenish them. Technicians usually check this when you go in for your oil change…we’re serious about your oil changes!

  1. Take good care of your tires

Your tires are integral to your car’s overall operation. For that, make sure to take good care of your tires. Check if your tires are regularly inflated to the right pressure and rotated accordingly to ensure smooth and worry-free drives. Otherwise, you’d expose your car to unwanted accidents due to tire blowouts or worse, crashes.

  1. Go for smooth engine startups

Don’t just step on the gas the moment your engine hums after startup. Allow your car to reach suitable operating temperature after you start your engine. By letting your engine heat up after starting, you’re ensuring that the oil becomes hotter and thinner. With that, your engine won’t have to push itself too much, which in turn would ensure lesser chances of damage to your car’s other components.

  1. Replace your air filter

Think of having a dirty air filter as a car with polluted lungs. To avoid having your car choke on performance, make sure to have your air filter replaced with a new one once it accumulates much dirt. You don’t need much tools or specialization to have your air filter replaced. All you need to do is to consult your owner’s manual, and you don’t even need to worry about purchasing a replacement from any auto parts store since air filters are pretty much generic in design.

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8 things you should know about auto insurance

1) Some of the most helpful coverages are the cheapest.

 

The coverage you are required by law to buy -- liability insurance -- typically is the most expensive. It should be. The most common coverage limits can mean your insurance carrier is on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars for any damage you do.

Most other coverages are capped by the value of your car, though.

While collision, which pays to repair your car if you are at fault, can be pricey, other optional coverages such as gap coverage, roadside assistance, rental reimbursement, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, and comprehensive coverage can provide a lot of protection for a little price increase. Comprehensive coverage will normally be the most expensive of these other optional coverages, but is usually about only half the price of collision coverage and a third the price of liability coverage. It's worth the cost of comprehensive to cover your car for things such as theft, fire and vandalism.

Uninsured motorist coverage is especially important, considering the benefits it offers and the number of uninsured drivers on the road. Take a look at your coverage options. Paying a little more now may save you a lot in the future.

2) Many factors can affect your car insurance rate.

 

Auto insurance companies use many different criteria when evaluating an insurance application during a process called underwriting. Each car insurance company has many guidelines regarding which groups of drivers they want to accept and how much they will charge those groups they consider a greater risk. The guidelines are different for each company, meaning that two companies comparing the same driver can arrive at vastly different conclusions.

During the underwriting process, car insurance applicants are placed in a group based on how much money and how many claims the insurance company believes it may have to pay. Underwriting is done automatically by software behind the scenes.

At this time, the insurance company will look at motor vehicle records to see how many accidents or tickets a driver has received. Many insurance companies also use an insurance history report to see if the driver has made any car insurance claims, and how much money was paid. Although accidents and violations can only affect the rates you receive for three years, many companies will look back five or more years when deciding if they want to offer you insurance.

In addition, many auto insurance companies look at the credit history of the applicant. Typically,drivers with bad or no credit history pay more. But that means you can save money (quite a bit) by shopping around as your credit improves.

3) Insurance prices vary (a lot) by company.

 

Car insurance rates differ significantly from one insurance company to another. That's because each insurance company uses its own formula to assess risk and decide what you pay for coverage. This means no two insurers will have identical prices for the same policy -- often, the difference is hundreds of dollars. So, if you don't compare rates, you can wind up overpaying.

"Auto insurance is a highly competitive business and one of the most effective ways to reduce insurance costs is simply to shop around," according to Jeanne Salvatore, senior vice president of the Insurance Information Institute. "Drivers should look for an insurance company that will provide a good price along with excellent service."

The best plan is to decide what coverages and options you need and comparison shop so you can find cheap auto insurance that still provides sufficient coverage.

 

4) If you let your policy lapse, you'll pay more in the long run.

 

Most insurance companies view drivers who are licensed but don't have insurance as risky or irresponsible. Because of this, if you let your policy lapse, you'll probably pay more when you go to buy car insurance. To avoid this, if you don't want to pay for insurance or are planning to let your policy expire because you want to switch car insurance companies, make sure to purchase car insurance before your current policy is cancelled.

5) Higher deductibles can lower your premium.

 

Insurance prices are based on how much money the insurance company believes it could have to pay. If you agree to pay for a larger portion of your own damages by raising your deductibles, your car insurance company automatically knows they won't have to pay as much for your claims. Because of this, they will usually give you a lower premium. If you decide to raise your deductibles to save money, be sure you can afford to pay the deductible if you have to make a claim.

6) Insurance discounts can make a difference.

 

Most insurance companies offer auto insurance discounts for things like a safe driving record, car safety features, anti-theft devices, electronic payments, payment in full, and more. Make sure you're getting rewarded for being a safe driver and for having a safe car by shopping around for car insurance that appreciates your record.

 

7) Coverage affects what you pay.

The majority of your car insurance premium generally goes toward the legally-required liability portion of your policy. It's typically not a good idea to reduce this portion in an attempt to save money, because you'll be responsible for any amount of damages above your policy limits.

However, other coverages, although generally helpful, could be reduced or eliminated to lower your premium. If you have an older car that's not worth very much, or if you won't have a problem paying for a new car, collision and comprehensive coverages may not make economic sense.

Use our coverage calculator to see how much car insurance coverage you need.

8) The car you drive can affect your auto insurance rates.

 

The Highway Loss Data Institute compiles insurance accident statistics for most types of cars. Many insurance companies use data like this when setting prices on your insurance. For example, if the car you drive is very expensive to repair, the company is going to have to pay more if you get in an accident. Conversely, if the car you drive is extremely safe and protects occupants well, your insurance company will not have to pay as much if you're involved in a crash. If your model of car is generally less likely to be stolen, your car insurance company is less likely to have to pay to replace it.

All of these car related factors can raise or lower the auto insurance quotes you receive, so it makes sense to keep insurance in mind when purchasing a car. Of course, since rates are based on much more than just the car you drive, your overall rate may be more or less than someone driving the same car.

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CAR WARRANTY AND CAR INSURANCE: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THESE TWO?

CAR WARRANTY VS CAR INSURANCE

 

The mere mention of “car warranty” and “car insurance” brings this one word to mind: protection. Given that definition, you might be forgiven at first for thinking that warranty and insurance are the same. However, those two advocate distinctive characteristics as far as consumer protection is concerned in regards to their respective coverages. As a matter of course, you must avoid confusing between the two concepts.

Despite having seemingly similar names, car warranty and car insurance deal with a mixed variety of things. Nonetheless, what has long been established is the fact that both tools provide diverse ways on protecting you and your car the way you want it. Put simply, car warranty and car insurance come in a variety of protection packages, all of which targets specific components pertinent to you and your car’s safety.

You can best differentiate car warranty and car insurance respectively through these two concepts: car parts and accidents. Car warranty provides protection in the event when any of your car’s components fails without any fault from your end. Car insurance shields you from any unwanted one-time costs arising from accidents. This article discusses a comparative approach to distinguishing between the two tools.

car warranty thus serves as a safety net against those circumstances previously mentioned. Standard coverage for vehicular damage caused by defective car parts – in the absence of any external force of course, merits the advantage of a car warranty. Essentially, automakers specify a sufficient warranty period for your car and specific car parts, which allows you to take advantage of free repair and replacement throughout its duration. In the event any of your car parts break down without your fault during the warranty period, you can use your car warranty to have your repairs and replacements done free of charge. But those warranties only last so long, which is why you should then invest in an extended warranty for your car to further your protection against unexpected car repairs. With an extended warranty, you are able to get discounted repairs, which is better than paying the full price. Less money to be spent, means that you won’t lose your mind when you get that bill.

CAR INSURANCE: ANTICIPATING THE UNKNOWN

Accidents happen just when you least expect it. Chances are, your car may be exposed to countless opportunities of being written off the more you use it for commuting. From road mishaps to damage from natural disasters, your car confronts numerous chances of encountering accidents. That should leave you with no room for complacency, given that one-time payments for repair and replacements can derail your budget in the long run.

To save yourself from the financially-disastrous effects of car accidents, consider a proper car insurance package that best suits you and your car. Through reasonable payment terms for premiums, a car insurance affords you with sufficient coverage that allows you and your car to recover as you claim what is due to you. Compared to shelling out money for expensive repairs, car insurance provides you with the convenience of having your insured car taken care of by your insurance provider, particularly in cases where your insurance package involves a specific service center. Additionally, car insurance also helps cushion the financial consequences of damaging another car in an accident, as it provides you with cover as you compensate for repairs. The fact that you cannot exactly anticipate the frequency of accidents happening to you and your car makes car insurance an essential investment.

CONCLUSION: WHICH IS A BETTER INVESTMENT?

Car ownership means so much more than purchasing your own car – it involves the need to invest in various protective instruments, as in the case of both car warranty and car insurance. Both tools allow you to have optimal protection against the financially-disastrous effects of car parts defects or accidents on the road. Depending on the scope of your coverage for each tool, you may choose to go for just a car warranty, car insurance, or both. We highly suggest having both, as you can never know what will go wrong. Insurance is a must, but a warranty is just as important for the normal wear and tear you’re your vehicle undergoes from commuting you to your various locations. Ultimately, investing on these tools makes you the biggest beneficiary, which is why your wise and informed discretion is crucial in making this decision. It’s best to be proactive and protected, because life can throw you curve balls and sometimes it throws things at your car.

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Do Home Warranties Cover Plumbing?

Let’s face it; plumbing issues stink! Plumbing is one of those home systems we tend not to appreciate until there’s a problem with it. They can occur without any warning making for an unpleasant surprise that you have no choice but to address immediately.

Plumbing problems aren’t just unpleasant; they can also be expensive. Not only does the issue itself needs to be remedied, but also leaked water can cause several residual issues such as floorboard rot, drywall damage, and mold, among others.

The average cost to hire a plumber for a typical job ranges from $160 to $430. Plus, plumbers often charge an additional premium to come out on evenings or weekends. The cost of parts for the repair can vary widely, especially in older homes where replacement pieces are harder to find.

What Do Home Warranties Cover?

If you’ve been asking yourself whether you should invest in a home warranty, the first step is to look at what’s covered under the warranty. Each plan is different and coverage can vary.

yourinsurancesearch plan covers the costs of repairing or replacing more than 20 major appliances and home systems, including plumbing. There are flexible plans that allow you to choose the best fit for your family’s needs and you can even build your own custom plan so you have the exact coverage you want.

Do Home Warranties Cover Plumbing?

Generally speaking, home warranties do cover plumbing when issues result from normal wear and tear. Not every plan is created equally, though, so it’s important to look at what exactly is covered, especially if you already have a contract. Some of the common plumbing troubles covered by yourinsurancesearch include:

  • Leaks and breaks in the water, gas, drain or vent lines
  • Faucets, shower heads, and shower valves
  • Built-in bathtub whirlpool motors, pumps, and air switches
  • Clearing sink, tub, shower and toilet stoppages
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