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Drive Green: Help the Environment—and Your Wallet

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from The Hartford Insurance Group

 

8 Easy Green Driving Tips

 

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You don’t need to spend a fortune on a hybrid to drive green. Making even a small improvement to your car’s fuel efficiency can make a big difference to the environment. Here are a few green driving tips to reduce the carbon footprint of the car that’s already sitting in your driveway – and in the process, to save money.

 

Get a tune-up for the environment Proper maintenance can have a big impact on how much gas you use. The payback for repairs varies, but fixing a serious problem like a malfunctioning oxygen sensor can improve fuel efficiency by as much as 40 percent.

Pay attention to your tires The next time you need tires, consider buying low rolling resistance (LRR) tires. Rolling resistance is essentially the energy that your tires consume as they compress under the weight of your vehicle, and LRR tires can improve fuel efficiency by 1.5 to 4.5 percent.Even with standard tires, proper inflation can make a big difference: The Department of Energy estimates that underinflated tires waste 1.2 billion gallons of gasoline per year. Once a month, use a gauge (not your eyes) to check each tire’s pressure. (Most hardware and auto supply stores carry them for around $15.) You’ll find the correct inflation number (noted as PSI, or pounds per square inch) in the owner’s manual—don’t go by the number listed on the tire itself, as that reflects the maximum pressure the tire can withstand.And remember this green driving tip: The tire pressure fluctuates with the temperature. For every 10-degree drop in outside temperature, tire pressure goes down 1 PSI. So you may have to treat your tires differently in January than you would in June.

Lose the junk in the trunk Those miscellaneous items that we all haul around can add up to lots of extra weight—and a hundred pounds equals about a 2 percent reduction in gas mileage.

Update your oil Engines on newer car models (those less than 10 years old) often require lightweight oil such as 0W20 or 0W30. (The lower the number before the W, the easier the engine will start in cold weather. The number after the W represents the oil’s thickness.) Not only will thicker oil reduce your car’s fuel efficiency because more energy is needed to push through it, but the heavier oil can fail to lubricate the small spaces in a modern engine.

Adjust your octane Many drivers (9 million by some estimates) mistakenly believe that pumping premium gasoline in their tank will help their engines run better; some drivers periodically opt for higher grades (91 octane and above), thinking it will help them clean out the car’s fuel system. In both cases, this is a wasted effort. If your car wasn’t designed to run on high-octane gas (94 percent of cars on the road today are designed to run on regular), using it will cause more unburned fuel to get into the emissions system, interfering with its ability to prevent noxious fumes. Premium gas also requires more energy to refine, so buying it when you don’t have to is bad for the environment at both the production and consumption ends of the market.

Go green when you need to cool off On short trips and when driving around town, keeping your windows down is more efficient than using the air conditioner. At highway speeds, use the air conditioner, as open windows and sunroofs create drag when you’re moving fast. A green driving tip: Using the vents is the most fuel-efficient cooling option of all.

Drive gently “Jackrabbit” starts and screeching stops are hard on your automobile and increase fuel consumption. Flooring the gas pedal just once can emit as much carbon monoxide as half an hour of normal driving. And slow down: Every car has an optimal range for fuel economy, generally from about 25 to 65 mph. (Check your owner’s manual for this range.) For every 5 mph over this range that you drive, you’re reducing fuel efficiency by about 7 percent.

Be eco-friendly, even when parked Gas can evaporate even from a closed tank—and heat speeds up the process, so park in the shade when possible. By doing so, you’ll also reduce the amount of energy needed to cool your car when you start driving.

NEW MOTOR VEHICLE LIGHT LAW IN EFFECT

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If you have day time running lights…manually turn your lights on to avoid a ticket or surcharge.

Massachusetts has a new law for all drivers to remember.  The law involves the use of both head and rear lights whenever the use of the wipers is needed.  As of April 7, 2015 you can be stopped for non-compliance and ticketed.  Although the ticket amount is nominal, it is a surchargeable violation that will impact your insurance premiums for up to six years. The law is intended to increase safety and visibility of vehicles on the Commonwealth’s roadways.

Mass General Law Chapter 85, Section 15, signed into law in January, requires that front and rear motor vehicle lights be activated in all of the following conditions:

  • When windshield wipers are on;
  • When low light or weather conditions prevent other vehicles or persons from being seen at 500 feet; or
  • From ½ hour after sunset to ½ hour before sunrise.
  • Relying on daytime running lights for these conditions is not sufficient under the law.

The law is fairly easy to comply with; just turn on your wipers and lights during the appropriate situations.  It may be a bit trickier if you have daytime running lights.  Typically, running lights do not activate your rear lights, just the headlights. You will have to check to make sure that both the front and rear lights are ON if you intend on relying on your daytime lights.  Check with your car manual, vehicle manufacturer, or maybe easiest of all, with a friend who can see the back of your vehicle as you drive and be able to tell you if the rear lights are on when the daylight running lights are activated.  If they are not, then to comply with this new law, you will have to manually turn on your lights so that both the front and back lights are lit.

 

 

Why Each Roommate Needs a Renters Insurance Policy

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You and your apartment, dorm or house mate might share living expenses, but you each need your own renters insurance policy. It’s an investment that replaces your possessions if they’re damaged, stolen or lost. Learn why this $15 per month policy is an important part of your living arrangement.

Be an Individual

Whether you and your roommates are strangers, best friends or cousins, purchase separate policies. Most renters insurance companies won’t include two or more unrelated people on a policy, so be an individual and purchase your own policy.

Cover Deliberate Damage

Maybe you and your roommate get along great until you have a big fight and he or she deliberately damages your valuables. If that happens and you and your roommate share a policy, you won’t receive a payout to replace the damaged item.

Protect Your Future Insurability

Let’s say your roommate’s car is vandalized. Your combined policy pays the claim, but since your name is also on the policy, your ability to purchase affordable insurance is negatively affected for the next three to seven years. Separate policies protects your future insurability.

Keep the Payout

Joint insurance policies include payout checks made out to both parties. So when your valuable electronic equipment is stolen, both you and your roommate have to sign the check. Purchase separate coverage to ensure you receive the full amount you’re due.

Cover Liability

When a visitor trips or falls and decides to sue you, renters insurance can cover the liability. Slander and libel may also be covered. Have your own policy to cover your liability.

Know the Limits

Despite purchasing separate policies, your renters insurance might include financial limits. Discuss coverage caps with your insurance agent to ensure your vintage guitar or art collection is covered.

Purchase Adequate Coverage

You don’t know how much your possessions are worth until you create an inventory list. Then, purchase replacement value coverage. Although it costs about 10 percent more than cash value coverage, it allows you to replace the damaged, lost or stolen item at its current cost rather than the purchase price minus depreciation.

The decision to share living space with an apartment means you share expenses too. Make sure each roommate purchases a separate renters insurance policy, though, as you protect your possessions.

Fitts Insurance Celebrates With First Congregational Church of Stoneham

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1st StonehamFitts Insurance is a leader in church insurance and the exclusive agent for the Insurance Board Plan for United Church of Christ, Presbyterian USA and Disciples of Christ denominations in our region.  Currently the Insurance Board is celebrating their 30th Anniversary and has invited churches in those denominations to share what milestones they will be celebrating this year.  The Insurance Board will pick 30 churches from those who share to celebrate with in some form and acknowledge their accomplishment with all the churches in this national program.  The First Congregational Church of Stoneham is the first of Fitts’ churches to be selected and honored.

First Congregational Church of Stoneham, MA is turning 175!!  This church played a significant role in the development of the town and is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Their main celebration event will be a commemorative worship service, planned for October 18 of this year. The children will ring the church bell during the hour before our 10 a.m service–175 times!  There will be musical events, historical exhibits, and tours of the “old town,” etc.

The church embarked on a new roof campaign at the beginning of this year.  To acknowledge and help them celebrate, the Insurance Board has donated $1000 towards their new roof fund.  Fitts’ Senior Vice-President George Hulme had the honor of telling the church the good news and then presenting them with the check.

Pictured from left to right: church member Ben Jacques, Insurance Board agent George Hulme, Rev. Meredith A. Allen and church trustee Bea Griffin.

Tax Season Riddled With ID Theft Scams

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LAdyThe IRS says more than 3,000 taxpayers have been victimized by phone scammers claiming to be IRS agents and demanding payments by either by pre-paid debit cards, or by deposit into online payment accounts.

The IRS says it doesn’t call taxpayers to discuss their accounts, so anyone receiving such a call should hang up quickly.

Another potential danger for taxpayers is identity thieves using personal information to file fraudulent tax returns, and stealing their refunds. A number of states have enacted stricter identity verification methods to try to reduce this threat.

Tax season also brings with it an increase in email phishing scams in which criminals send emails claiming to be from the IRS, in the hopes victims will enter personal information into a false IRS or banking website.

Scammers are also trying to exploit confusion about the Affordable Care Act by demanding people pay ACA-related tax penalties to them.

All these scams highlight the importance of taking active steps to protect your identity, and the need for heightened vigilance during tax season.

Maria Cordeiro is client services manager for Chubb Personal Insurance.  Posted: 17 Mar 2015 08:34 AM PDT

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Wearing green, corned beef and cabbage, and of course a drink or two are par for the day.  But here are 5 things you might not know about today.

1. The original color for St. Patrick was blue.

2. The 1st St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in Boston in 1737.

3. For short, it’s St. Paddy not St. Patty.  St. Patty is for St. Patricia, patron saint of Naples, celebrated in August.

4. Guinness is lo-cal! A pint is 198 calories; less than most light beers, wine, orange juice, or low fat milk.

5. Shamrocks were used by St. Patrick to teach the Catholic concept of the Trinity.

Enjoy your day and please remember to celebrate responsibly; don’t drink and drive.

Falls may be tied to irregular heartbeat

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By Kathryn Doyle  (Reuters Health)

Older adults who suffer a fall are twice as likely to have a common type of irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation, according to a new study.

“These results are certainly surprising, as an association between AF and falls has not been shown in the general population before,” said Dr. Sofie Jansen of the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Certain arrhythmias are known to cause fainting or blackouts, but this is the first study to show the link with falls, Jansen told Reuters Health by email.

She and her colleagues analyzed data on 4,800 adults over age 50 in Ireland who completed questionnaires, personal interviews and physical health assessments, including electrocardiograms, between 2009 and 2011.

Twenty percent of participants reported falling at least once in the past year. Fainting and blackouts were less common.

Overall, three percent of people had atrial fibrillation (AF): about one percent of those ages 50 to 64, four percent of those up to age 74, and almost eight percent of those ages 75 and older. More than a third did not know they had AF before the study.

Almost 30 percent of those with AF had fallen over the past year compared to about 20 percent of those without AF, the researchers reported in Age and Ageing.

After accounting for other risk factors that might contribute to falls, the authors found that having AF doubled people’s odds of falling.

In addition, 10 percent of people with AF reported fainting or blacking out compared to four percent of those without the arrhythmia.

At least five million U.S. adults in 2010 had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, which may rise to about 12 million cases by the year 2030, according to a 2013 study (see Reuters Health article of July 26, 2013 here: reut.rs/1BSOiNn).

The irregular, usually very fast, heartbeat can cause uncomfortable palpitations, limit the ability to exercise or lead to heart failure or stroke, but it may not cause symptoms for some. It can be treated with medications and lifestyle changes to reduce stroke risk, according to the National Institutes of Health.

There are several ways AF could cause a fall, Jansen said.

“AF can impair the ability of the heart to pump blood around the body, including the brain,” she said. “This can lead to a reduction in the amount of oxygen going to the brain, causing either a faint or black-out (syncope), or dizziness resulting in a fall in a person who is already unstable.”

The irregular heartbeat can also be tied to stroke and hypertension, which can lead to degenerative changes in the brain.

“All of these changes in the brain can also affect walking, mobility, and other conditions that affect fall risk, such as depression and dementia,” Jansen said.

But, she emphasized, this study did not show that AF causes falls, only that it is significantly more common among people who fall.

“Falls are very common in older adults,” Jansen said. “People with AF have an even greater risk of falls, and when they suffer from falls they should definitely mention this to their physician, as there are several treatment or prevention options for falls.”

“Because falls usually have several causes or contributing factors, recognition and treatment of all of these factors is vital to reduce fall risk,” she said.

The most common causes of falls are muscle weakness, balance problems, gait problems, medication side effects, neurological issues, dizziness or cognitive impairment, according to Dr. Laurence Z. Rubenstein, who chairs the Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City.

Cardiac arrhythmias, including AF, do cause some falls but less commonly than the other causes and risk factors mentioned, said Rubenstein, who was not part of the new study.

“Falls are a very important problem in the older population and we’re always looking for ways to reduce them,” he said. “When you do a post-fall evaluation, listening to the heart is an important part of that,” and a doctor would likely discover signs of AF it were present, he said.

SOURCE: bit.ly/1aM2BaD Age and Ageing, online February 21, 2015.

Boating Time is ALMOST Here!!

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imagesAs you dream about those sunny days ahead on the water this season, some of you may also contemplate adding a fire pit to your vessel for those chilly sea breezes at night.  A lovely picture.  It seems like a perfect idea.  But BEFORE you buy that fire pit, make a call to your insurance agent to see how having one on board may affect your coverages.  Better to know now as it may inform your choice.

Test, Change and Maintain.

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Daylight Savings Time is here and whether you agree with its benefits or not, come 2 am Sunday, it will officially become 3am Sunday.  Of course we don’t expect anyone to actually stay up to make the change at that exact time!  Doing so before bed or when you wake up, which ever way is easier for you to deal with losing an hour, is just fine.

There are also things that you should also do at this time of year on this date: Test, Change and Maintain.

Test your smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, and even your house security systems.  Better to know NOW that they are properly working for you than to find out AFTER an emergency happens that they were not functioning properly.

Change the batteries in ALL the alarms.  Yes, there may be good life left in them, but you want these systems to always have the best life they can have so they can protect you.  You don’t have to toss the old batteries, just use those on other things that don’t require ladders and chairs or screwdrivers to change them out.

Maintain your fire extinguishers.  This is a good time to make sure they are within easy reach and that everyone in your home knows where they are and how to use them.

 

 

Transition Time

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Can you feel it?  Change is coming. The very month of March is all about change.  You know the saying:  March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Quite the transition. 

But in spite of outward appearances (for those who can see OVER the snow banks) and the current temps (it should be in the 40s but we barely made 21 today!) there is a collective sense, a hope, a NEED for change, some positivity, some good things in store to help us keep perspective and our sanity. 

With every Fitts Monthly Email that we send to our customers we end it by saying: We love having you as our customer and we want you to stay safe, healthy and happy! And we truly mean it.  So we offer you the following facts to ease the transition and indeed attest to the truth that change is just around the corner.

 

1. Spring: 14 days away and getting closer every second!

2. March Madness: 11 days away; pick your brackets now, we hope your team wins!

3. Start of baseball season: 32 days away 

4. Opening Day at Fenway: a tad and a bit over a month away, stock up on peanuts and Cracker Jacks

5. Boston Marathon: 45 days away – big push for last minute training

6. The start of Daylight Savings Time: TOMORROW, move your clocks ahead one hour. Longer days = more sunshine!

7. St. Paddy’s Day: 10 days away – enjoy the party but no drinking and driving!

8. The premier of Cinderella and Frozen Fever: 7 days away.  Prepare for the successor obsession to Elsa, Anna and THAT SONG “Let It Go”  (We wish we could)

9. Easter: 30 days away – not too soon to buy the new outfit, order the ham, and help the Bunny – you gotta get the good candy NOW before it’s all gone!!!

 

We hope we have given you a few smiles and things to look forward to during these last death rattles of winter.  Remember: this too, shall pass.