Your house is most likely the biggest investment you’ll ever make in your life, and protecting that investment is obviously a high priority. That’s why you have homeowner insurance to save you from what could be crippling costs of damage to the structure and contents from fire and other perils.
What homeowners insurance doesn’t cover, though, are the costs of repairing or replacing major appliances and functional systems that break down or that simply wear out from normal use. Once manufacturers warranties on those appliances and systems have run their course, it’s all on you to open your wallet and pay what could be thousands in costs.
So here’s the first question on our quiz:
Q: Do You Know What a Home Protection Plan Is?
A home protection plan is like insurance in that it covers all or part of the costs of repairing or replacing appliances and systems that stop functioning for reasons other than the ones covered by your homeowners insurance.
Q: How Does It Work?
If you have a total protect home service plan, you make one call no matter what the appliance or system issue is, and you’re connected with a proven, reliable local professional. Even better is that repair services contracted through such a plan cost far less than what you’d pay if you contacted the service on your own. With a service plan, you pay a pre-determined flat fee per service call, and that fee sometimes can include parts or complete replacement.
Q: What Does It Cover?
Depending upon your needs, you can choose a protection plan that covers some or all of the systems and appliances in your house.
The systems include air conditioning and heating units and ductwork, plumbing (including stoppages), water heater, electrical, central vacuum, garbage disposal, instant hot/cold water dispensers and can even cover ceiling fans, smoke detectors, doorbells and re-keying.
The appliances include ranges, ovens and cooktops, built-in microwaves, refrigerators, free-standing icemakers, built-in food centers, dishwashers, trash compactors, clothes washers and dryers and garage door openers.
Q: What Doesn’t It Cover?
A home protection service plan doesn’t cover walls, floors, windows or the other structural features and furnishings that are included in homeowner insurance coverage for damage from fire and other destructive occurrences.
It also doesn’t cover routine maintenance, which is why it’s a good idea to keep your own schedule of simple maintenance tasks that will keep everything running smoothly and prolong their working lives.
Q: What Is the Routine Maintenance You Should Do?
These are simple things that will generally take just a few minutes:
- Check refrigerator and freezer seals. These rubber gaskets can get brittle over time, letting in air and raising the temperatures inside. Slip a piece of paper between the seal and the door before you close it. If you can slide the paper down with the door closed, it’s time to get the seal replaced.
- Clean refrigerator coils. Condenser coils that are dusty or covered in pet hair waste energy. Every six months you should unplug the unit and use an appliance brush or damp cloth on the coils. Then just vacuum or sweep up the debris. You’ll find the coils either behind the kickplate at the bottom or at the rear of the refrigerator, depending upon your model.
- Check oven seals. Deteriorated seals let heat escape and waste energy. Test the same way you did the refrigerator gaskets, and if you’ve got gas burner ports take another moment to clear them of clogs with a straight pin (not a toothpick, which can break off in a port.)
- Check your oil tank. Winters are especially vulnerable times, and you need to take special care to protect your home from the elements. One major part of that is oil tank maintenance. If you check out the ‘frequently asked questions‘ pages of various oil tank service websites, you will find that they give you a fair idea of what you should look for when inspecting your tank for damage or leaks. With this knowledge, you would be able to judge whether you need repairs or replacements, and how to better protect your home from accidents or damage.
- Check washing machine hoses. Detecting a weak spot before it cracks can save you from a flooded laundry room. Check for leaks at the connections, too.
- Clean out the dryer exhaust. Clean off the lint screen every time you finish a dryer load, and at least once a year clean the exhaust venting. Follow these tips from a pro to see how to do it.
- Replace heater and AC filters. Whichever you’re currently using, change the filters on your heater or air conditioner every month or so.
Q: When Should You Buy Home Protection Insurance?
You can buy it when you purchase your house, or at any time thereafter. Your appliances and systems don’t have to be new. While realtors will sometimes pay for the first year of a protection plan as a gift to you, it’s a great selling point if you offer to buy it as a gift to the person who is going to buy your house.