Build Home Insurance Perks into Your Pitch

cit5glamourimagesmallWhether you’re a builder or an architect, you’re always looking for new ways to sell your homes to your clients. Here’s something unique to build into your pitch – the homeowners insurance benefits. Savings and extra perks go along with insuring a new house versus an old one. You can get a leg up on the competition by using a lesser known perk to your advantage.

To start off: simply buying new can help your clients save. Homes built within the last 10 years could qualify for a discount of up to 20%. Given that the average U.S. homeowners insurance premium exceeded $822 as of the end of December, the new discount could generate savings of up to $164 a year. Providers prefer new homes because they believe there is a lower risk of them incurring an expensive claim.

Other ways that new homes can earn your clients home insurance savings and help with your sales message include the following:  

New plumbing

Plumbing system failures are the leading source of home water losses, according to the Insurance Institute for Building and Home Safety (IBHS). It’s no wonder that home insurance providers wish to avoid plumbing malfunctions when the average claim per incident weighs in at more than $7,000, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

Updated plumbing systems in new homes form a major part of a moisture management strategy and can therefore earn your clients preferred home insurance policies, which generally come with lower premiums.

A modern HVAC system

Heating and cooling systems can be testy. In fact, heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). To avoid the approximate $5.8 billion dollars in damage that heating systems cause in fire damage every year, insurance carriers consider new HVAC systems a major factor in determining whether a homeowner qualifies for a preferred policy. New HVAC systems also typically work more efficiently and can save your clients 20% or more in utilities costs.

More fire safety

From 2007 to 2011, the U.S. experienced nearly 50,000 fires due to electrical malfunction and $1.5 billion in direct property damage, according to the NFPA. The average fire claim costs insurers in excess of $33,000, according to the III. Again, new wiring is a factor in qualifying for a preferred policy. Other anti-fire measures in new homes include smoke detectors, which can win owners premium discounts of up to 5% ($41 on that average premium cited above).

Roof stability

Roof damage from wind and hail costs an average of $7,177 per claim, so home insurance providers favor sturdy roofs. If your building project involves roofs that the carrier qualifies as impact-resistant,—UL class 3 or higher—your clients could get preferred status and qualify for lower premiums. Some materials that qualify are metal and concrete tile.

None of these savings are one-time price breaks: They can extend for years, which should increase their appeal to buyers. In fact, homeowners who go 10 years without filing a claim can win a discount of up to 20% on their premiums. New homes make it much easier to reach that 10-year threshold.

When speaking with potential buyers about the benefits of buying new, add home insurance discounts to your toolbox. You can get your clients focused on protecting their homes, while adding the benefits of lower monthly premiums. Doing so can help persuade clients to buy new – and to buy with you.

Guest Blogger Carrie Van Brunt-Wiley has been Community Manager for HomeownersInsurance.com since 2007. She is a native New Yorker with a background in journalism and professional writing.

 This guest blog post does not necessarily reflect the opinions of CertainTeed Corporation.

Managing Your Expectations

Lucas Hamilton

When you are considering remodeling activities and the impact that those activities will have on the energy consumption of the home, a very good place to weigh the benefits of one activity over another is the Federal Energy Management Program.

Under this program there are a variety of things but the one I thought most interesting is the Technology Deployment.  This focuses on market-driven technologies and creating market pull for new and underutilized technologies.

If you look at the Building Envelope section you will see what activities will give you a great impact on reducing your energy consumption.  Activities such as using a cool roof or a green roof, installing window films or replacing older windows with high R value windows are rated so that the end user can identify which remodeling activities will give the biggest bang for the buck. You can also look at the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning and see that commercial ground source heat pumps, for example, have a huge impact.

This in a wonderful way for consumers to get to the bottom line and be able to make smart choices when remodeling in order to reduce energy consumption especially in older homes.

It is also a great way to avoid being disappointed because you were told by some radio advertisement that installing new windows will cut your energy bill in half. You will be smarter than that!

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed

Simple Changes Could Help Consumers Save on HVAC

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

California has again pushed their energy bar higher.  One of the things that I love about California’s energy program is that they are now requiring an independent evaluation and commissioning beyond the air conditioning contractor of the sizing and installation of air conditioning systems. 

Recently, I participated in a workshop with a Philadelphia-based builder. He is a very professional, conscientious builder who stays in touch with building science and education. He brought his mechanical contractor to the workshop and we had a chance to talk about the way homes are built and particularly the mechanical systems. 

Here is the situation:

  • There are still ‘rules of thumb’ being applied to the sizing of mechanical systems in our homes. 
  • Manufacturers make changes to equipment to help those ‘rules of thumb’ meet the requirements, especially regarding motors and equipment that can tune itself to the needs of the house. 

What we really need are systems that are designed and installed to the actual house. 

We can’t expect equipment to be continuously updated or modified to make up for our lack of willingness to do a simple calculation as to what the house really needs. It’s not just about the tonnage of air conditioning and the size of the heating units.  It is mostly about the delivery – the physics of the delivery – of that comfort.

When someone tells me something regarding heating or cooling that just isn’t sitting well and I need a gut check, my gut actually lives out in Missouri and his name is Eric Kjelshus. He is a Missouri Mechanical Contractor with his own company, Eric Kjelshus Energy. He is a smart, thorough, well studied mechanical contractor who cares about this stuff far beyond anyone else I have come across.

It seems like many of the builders I have spoken with have been spending a lot of effort (effort = $$) after the sale trying to make the homes they have constructed meet the comfort expectations of the owners. This leads me to wonder if there are things we consistently get wrong with regard to how we deliver comfort. Time for another gut check!

Here is what Eric taught me:

We under return air in our homes.  Very few people consistently measure static pressures in the HVAC system to find out if it is balanced. If they did they would see that the system is not returning the same volume of air it is supplying. When we under return, we force the system to pull make-up air from outside the home.  Air conditioning is more efficient when the air is dry. For most of us residing east of the Rocky Mountains, the return air in our homes is both cooler and dryer than the air outside during our cooling periods. Pulling unconditioned and uncontrolled air from outside the home into the system is a big efficiency penalty and it’s one we pay for over and over again. Why not simply return the correct volume of conditioned air back to the unit? Not only is this an elegant, passive solution to the problem –  it comes with a much lower up front cost than high tech solutions.

So hats off to California for requiring that trained professionals check these systems to ensure they are properly sized and installed. We as consumers can get much better value out of systems that are less sophisticated but are sized and built right.

Rules Matter When it Comes to R-Value

Ken Forsythe

We all know there are ‘rules’ that everyone might not follow to the letter: “Speed Limit 55”…”Do Not Remove Mattress Tag Under Penalty of Law”…”Lather, rinse, repeat.”  When it comes to heating and air conditioning ductwork, there’s another rule many insulation contractors rarely follow:  “When installing bubble wrap insulation on ductwork, secure spacers every 24” to 36” around duct before applying wrap.”

While there’s no harm if you skip the “repeat” step when washing your hair, there can be serious utility bill consequences if installers leave out the placement of spacers between a duct and bubble wrap insulation. Bubble wrap insulation needs the thermal break provided by the air space that is created by spacers to achieve advertised R-values.  The actual R-value of improperly wrapped (i.e. no air space) duct with bubble wrap can be as low as R-0.90 to R-1.1.  Building Inspectors and owners need to be aware of what to look for to insure that the product performs properly.

In checking with HVAC insulation distributors to determine if insulation contractors routinely purchase air spacers with their bubble wrap, the answer is often “We’re still on our first shipment of spacers” or an outright, “We never sell any of those.”

Often bubble wrap insulation manufacturers do include spacer instructions with options for installers to create their own spacers by cutting and placing 2” wide strips of bubble wrap around the duct in intervals before applying the wrap around the duct or applying corner spacers specifically made for the purpose at each corner of rectangular duct.  But with so much pressure on insulation contractors to keep labor to a minimum, it’s hard to imagine that the vast majority are taking the time to create or use spacers on every project. Let’s face it: installers care about installing as quickly as possible for the lowest cost.

It’s true that quality bubble duct wrap may have good reflectivity and provides some protection against conductive heat gain or loss – as does fiber glass duct wrap with FSK (Foil-Scrim-Kraft) facing – however, the bubble wrap industry needs to do a better job educating installers and/or HVAC contractors. Educating the industry about the science behind adding air spacers and their integral role in delivering promised R-value is an important first step and is in everyone’s best interests.

 Ken Forsythe is a Senior Product Manager for CertainTeed Mechanical/Industrial Insulation