Let me take you on a journey

It has become so expensive to drive anywhere at the moment I thought I would take you on a little journey, a fuel saving journey….

We’ll take your vehicle, if that’s ok, so I can talk you through some ideas to help reduce fuel consumption for your future trips. Before we set off I am assuming you have checked your tyre pressure to make sure they are inflated to the correct level. This simple check is one of the most effective ways to ensure your vehicle is using fuel efficiently. To find the correct tyre pressure for your vehicle check the manual, there is also often a sticker detailing the desired levels on the driver’s door frame. Underinflated tyres have a higher rolling resistance on the road, which basically means the amount of the tyre touching the road is greater so they generate more friction and increase fuel consumption. If all your tyres are underinflated by 10 psi, this could reduce fuel efficiency by up to 10%. I am also hoping you keep your vehicle in good condition, well-maintained vehicles generally use fuel more efficiently, so it is definitely worth taking it in for that annual service.

We are not going far so we don’t really need to take much, just open your boot quickly for me, I want to check we are not carrying any unnecessary weight. I am certainly guilty of filling my boot with lots of just-in-case items, but every extra 50kg your car weighs increases fuel consumption by 2%. This can also apply to the fuel in your tank, avoiding having a full tank means the fuel you do have goes slightly further, but it does mean more trips to the pump. Many do not consider it to have a major impact on consumption, but it does leave you space to top up if you find a slightly cheaper price at a different pump.

We are almost ready to go so I have checked our route for traffic. I know nobody enjoys sitting in a traffic jam, but that constant stop-starting puts a lot of pressure on your engine and burns more fuel so it is best to plan your journey to avoid the worst of peak traffic. I have also planned a few stops on our way, I hope you don’t mind if I pick up a few bits while we are out. Trying to condense multiple car journeys into one is always going to be a serious fuel saver. As well as not doing as many miles back and forth, did you know a cold engine uses much more fuel for about the first five miles? So combining all your daily errands into one big trip while your engine is warm should be more fuel efficient.

Have you got your seatbelt on? Because we’re off!! It’s a lovely sunny day and I can tell you are tempted to put the air conditioning on, but you’re thinking that will guzzle fuel, so you open the window instead. Interestingly at low speeds it is best to open the window, the amount of fuel used to compensate for drag is less than the fuel used to power your air-con. However, if you are driving faster than about 40mph with the windows down, the wind resistance would cost you more than the climate control option. Here’s a little rhyme to help you remember, ‘Around town, windows down. Open road, air-con mode’

While we are on the subject of speed, going faster might save you time, but it won’t necessarily save you money. When you travel at higher speeds your engine works very hard to compensate for the wind resistance, it can use up to 40% of its energy pushing that air out the way. Travelling slower than 30mph is not much better either, as it usually means you need to drop to a lower gear which also uses more fuel. Cars are typically most efficient at 45-50mph in a high gear on open roads but we can’t travel everywhere at a steady 50mph, so how else can your driving technique help save you money?

For fuel consumption purposes, as well as a comfy ride for your passenger, smooth and steady wins this race. Try to avoid things like braking quickly, speeding up and slowing down suddenly, and heavy-handed use of the steering, as they are all likely to impact on your fuel consumption.

I do not wish to be a backseat driver but whenever possible try to anticipate your next move so that you drive smoothly, for example slowing down as you approach the red light, rather than slamming on the brakes to come to a complete stop. Unbelievably driving erratically or aggressively can consume up to 60% more fuel than a considered approach. Try to use the gears to do as much of the work as you can, changing up a gear around 2,500 revolutions per minute (RPM) on a petrol and 2,000 on a diesel is best for fuel efficiency. Also avoid accelerating hard when pulling away or climbing a hill and don’t overtake unnecessarily as all these factors will increase fuel consumption.

So if you could just, gently, pull over by those shops, I won’t be a second…

….10 minutes later!!

Sorry about that, but I should have mentioned earlier if you are waiting for something or someone for more than three minutes, it is advisable to turn your engine off. You may not be moving but as long as your engine is on it’s burning precious fuel. You actually burn about 1.067 to 2.13 ounces of fuel every minute you’re idle which quickly adds up. Just a couple more stops if that is ok…

Ah, home at last – thank you for driving, I hope you learnt something along the way. Obviously any one of these factors alone will not make a massive difference to your fuel efficiency but collectively they could have a big impact.

If you are still finding the price at the pump restrictive despite your best efforts to reduce consumption, you could consider car sharing. E&G offers temporary car insurance from 1 hour to 28 days, giving you the flexibility you need, with fully comprehensive cover as standard for complete peace of mind.
We also appreciate that fuel prices are just one aspect of the overall rise in the cost of living, to make sure you are not paying more than you need to for your insurance needs give us a call and we’ll have a look to see if we can save you money, think of it like an annual service – It doesn’t cost you anything to let us quote, but think what it could save you.

Protecting against flood, sweat and tears

It’s Sunday night and I’m drifting off to sleep when an almighty crash brings me back to my senses, the loudest thunderstorm I think I have ever heard is battering the neighbourhood.  My chance of getting back to sleep is now further hampered by the concern that the torrential rain, given the extended period of dry weather causing my garden to harden to the consistency of rock, will cause flooding issues.  Luckily, this time, we didn’t suffer any problems from the sudden and unusually heavy rain but unfortunately we have in the past.  When we bought our house we checked, as most do, with the Environment Agency to see if there was any risk of flood but that was before we truly appreciated the risks posed by surface water flooding. It is now possible to check if your home or business is at risk. In 2008 the first map of areas at higher risk from surface water flooding was produced and in 2013 the government produced the Risk of Flooding from Surface Water maps. Check out whether your own house is at risk online at https://www.gov.uk/check-long-term-flood-risk.

Surprisingly, of all the flood risks our green and pleasant island suffers, it is surface water flooding rather than any river, watercourse or coastline that threatens people and properties the most, in particular businesses.  According to the FloodFlash Commercial Risk Report 2021, 26% of commercial properties are at risk of flooding, compared to 14% of all properties in the UK.

Surface water flooding happens when it rains so hard the drains can’t cope, and if the ground is already saturated by previous rainfall or if it has been baked hard by the sun, the sudden deluge sits or flows on the surface rather than soaking away into the ground.   It can often affect floodplains, dry lakes, and natural depressions in the land, basically anywhere that surface water can build up quickly and not drain away fast enough.

The level of risk depends on the capacity of the drainage systems and the permeability of the ground. Surface water flooding can be more prevalent in urban areas where man-made non-porous surfaces like concrete and tarmac are more common and where drainage systems may be easily overwhelmed or insufficient.  The risk therefore tends to fall particularly on communities least able to afford it, for example poor urban areas with high density housing and extensive paved areas are less able to absorb the rainwater as big suburban gardens do.

The underlying problem with surface water flooding is that people don’t initially realise the risk. If you have not chosen to live near a river or the sea, it’s not entirely absurd to believe that you are free from the risk of flooding.  In fact over 3 million properties in England are at risk of surface water flooding, even more than those at risk from rivers and the sea (2.7 million). However, surface water flooding poses much more of a risk to the overall infrastructure because of its reach and the subsequent consequences.

Has flooding increased in the UK as a whole though? Well, in short yes…from the start of the observational record in 1862, six of the ten wettest years across the UK have occurred since 1998. Climate change is increasing the risk of both flooding and drought in the UK. As the atmosphere warms, it can hold more water, which is then released as rain. Additionally a drought may end with heavy rainfall that does not drain away easily as the ground has dried out and so flooding may occur as a result. These conditions can also increase the chance of flash flooding, which is the rapid flooding of low-lying areas, usually occurring over a short period of time and associated with heavy rainfall from severe thunderstorms, hurricanes, and meltwater.

Overall, the UK is expected to experience wetter winters and drier summers.  The more frequent and extreme rainfall that climate change brings will make flash flooding and overloading of the sewer network more commonplace, as experienced with a series of severe floods in recent years.  In response to this flood forecasting has thankfully improved. In 2009 the Environment Agency and Met Office jointly established the Flood Forecasting Centre, providing a 24/7 flood forecasting service to the Environment Agency, the Government and the emergency responders.

Most important of all, surface water flooding is a growing risk. Summer rain will likely become more intense than currently experienced, in fact the chances of a detrimental heavy downpour are expected to increase by around 25%.  Additionally an increasing urban population equates to further development, which means fewer places for rainwater to safely drain away. Unfortunately, the Climate Change Committee and other experts consider that progress in improving resilience to flooding in the UK is not keeping pace with the rising risk.

Specialist insurance for properties at risk of flood offers security to many households and businesses across the UK, these companies pay out almost £13 million per day to customers worst affected. So it is crucial that the industry understands current and future risks surrounding flooding, climate change and developments in construction and adapts quickly to respond to our changing landscape.

At E&G we make it a priority to stay up to date with this ever fluctuating environment and how this translates to the insurance market.  Insurers’ approach to flooding varies a lot and knowing which one to approach for a particular property requires expertise and experience, which is exactly where we can help.  We will compare prices across our panel of specialist insurers in order to get the best policy at the best price for you and your home.

Is Buying through a broker better?

What is a broker?

Brokers guide their clients through various business deals within the finance and banking industries, such as investments, mortgages or insurance. They are professionals who act as intermediaries between their client and the relevant financial institutions by outlining and arranging the necessary details. With such a wide and varied availability of products in the modern market it can all become overwhelming, so a broker is well placed to offer advice and support to assist in finding the right solution for you.

An insurance broker should determine your needs, provide advice and explain clearly what your insurance covers and, sometimes more importantly, what it does not. When deciding on an insurance broker it is essential to check they are authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FCA), to ensure they maintain a legal duty of care in the advice they give and products they recommend.

How does a broker save me time?

A broker’s ability to quickly provide advice stems from their expertise within their field, their job is to fully understand their market and constantly research the latest products to remain up to date with industry knowledge.

For the last decade our lives have become more and more digitally weighted. With the rise of comparison sites and self-service online platforms the role of insurance brokers has changed immensely.  Generally people don’t have time to talk to multiple insurance companies, they are concerned about repeatedly handing over personal details and then dread the multiple call-backs that usually ensue, hence why comparison sites have become so popular, overall they simplify the process and save the consumer time. A broker offers the consumer a comparable service, just in a far more informative and personal way. A self-service check-out can save you time, but a retail assistant will never utter the words “unknown item in bagging area”.

Will a broker always save me money?

Insurance brokers, for example, have access to a wide panel of insurers that offer a vast array of products. It is the broker’s responsibility to understand the needs of a client and then take those requirements to the market to find the best deal. This can sometimes save you money but it is important to note that the best deal is not necessarily always the cheapest but the one that offers you the best cover. There is little benefit in saving money each year on your premiums for example, if you discover that the policy you have been paying for is not adequate for your needs.

So comparison sites are pointless then?

Comparison sites have changed the insurance business landscape. They certainly have a role for standard needs, however not everyone has a standard need, and this is where consumers can really benefit from using a broker to find the best deal for them.   The one-size-fits-all model feels less relevant as people’s needs are evolving.  Brokers know the questions to ask to ensure a policy is tailor-made and sometimes can even access deals that people going directly to the insurance provider can’t. Independent brokers are not tied to any one insurer, so they have the freedom to source suitable products from any company in the market.  While technology and Artificial Intelligence has become seamless in its processes in most cases, there will always be a need for reassurance from a real person on the other end of the phone who can put your mind at ease.

What other benefits can a broker offer?

Insurance can be a tricky conundrum. For people in all walks of life, appreciating what an insurer needs to know about the aspects that are important to you isn’t always obvious. Being able to approach a broker means that you can talk plainly to someone who not only understands what matters to you, but also understands what information an insurer requires.  Brokers form an important bridge in understanding between businesses/private individuals and insurance companies. Insurance can be a confusing and detailed business so having someone that understands your needs and the cover available to cater to those needs can be of great benefit.  It can also be crucial to have assistance deciphering any insurance jargon and small print, which can be prolific in most policy documentation. A broker should always take the time to establish that you have a clear understanding of the cover you are purchasing, including any optional extras that you may not have considered and important exclusions within your policy.

Can a broker also help if I need to claim?

A good insurance broker will also offer assistance when a claim arises, potentially achieving much better results in the value of compensation awarded. Although the claim itself is dealt with by the company that you have chosen to insure with, a broker can provide valuable advice and guidance regarding the details of the claim process. In the event of a claim a broker can be an indispensable aspect of the process and can offer support to achieve an equitable resolution.

If you require insurance for something unusual, you operate in a very niche market or are simply unsure of the level of cover required then choosing to use an insurance broker can be hugely beneficial. When required E&G work with specialist providers: such as home insurance for thatch properties, travel insurance with a medical condition or commercial insurance for small market stalls. Our experience and specialism mean that we can ask the most important questions to ensure your tailor-made policy provides only what you need and at the best price possible.

Finding a Happy Place…

It is not uncommon in our modern society to refer to the concept of community, but what does it actually mean?  If we simply look at the word, (although originally derived from the Latin loosely meaning joint obligation) you would certainly be forgiven in believing it was derived from a blend of the words common and unity, so in general terms it is a group of people who have something in common that gives them a sense of unity.

The dictionary definition describes community as ‘a group of individuals living in a specific location or having specific characteristics in common’. However socially and emotionally it can be so much more important.  Being a part of a community offers us the feeling that we are a part of something greater than ourselves, it provides a forum to share personal experiences, maintain support for each other and an opportunity to help improve our environment.  Overall, it is a feeling that people within the community matter to one another, a shared belief that our needs will be met through commitment and togetherness, a sense of belonging.

There are generally considered to be 5 key bases for the formation of a community; geography, interest, practice , action and circumstance. However communities are interchangeable, diverse and vary widely in size.

Geographically a community could be anything from neighbouring families to a country as a whole.  We can attribute a sense of belonging to a street, the town we live in, the place we were born or even our nationality.

Another obvious community can be created through a common interest or passion, anything from a local group of knitting enthusiasts to the worldwide support for a sports team.

We also regularly form communities when we come together to practice the same activity, a community of master builders or accountants for example will find familiarity through their profession.

Individuals also achieve a sense of community through a shared reason for action, whether that is climate change or gender equality, it is an interaction with a mutual desire for change.

Lastly, though by no means leastly, is a sense of community we have all recently experienced, one due to circumstance, when people are brought together by external events or situations, like COVID-19.

Unfortunately, a lack of social connection can have a serious effect on our overall health. An early study on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic showed that loneliness was one of the factors with the greatest influence on people’s mental health. Without community people are prone to feeling isolated and lonely which can impact their overall health, not just their emotions.

Studies show that those lacking strong social connections could be more likely to suffer from high levels of anxiety and therefore are at higher risk of suicide and stress-related illness. Research consistently links the lack of social connection with health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, immune disorders and cancer. Social isolation can also impact mental health and well-being, so strong social ties are crucial to our mental health as they help lower stress and anxiety and allow people to thrive.

As feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression have increased during the pandemic, many more people are seeking meaningful connections to help them cope. Building community spaces, creating social connections and offering support is one of the most vital functions communities perform, helping people feel better about themselves and, in turn, improving mental health.

Through community participation we feel a sense of empowerment, purpose and belonging, which can enable us to influence positive change. Having an opportunity to share stimulates innovation and growth which, apart from the personal benefits of gaining knowledge and insight, also contributes to the community’s greater worth. By immersing ourselves in a group of individuals we are exposed to a diversity of ideas, viewpoints, and personalities which can help drive growth and performance. The reinforcement from our peers can also be an effective learning tool to encourage beneficial attitudes and provide motivation. Belonging to a strong community offers us a form of support that hopefully provides a positive experience and an enjoyable sense of camaraderie.

Coming together physically or virtually and finding points of connection with others builds valuable relationships and participating in moments of celebration can leave us feeling engaged and refreshed. These positive emotions that encourage a deeper sense of belonging and security can help lower stress and anxiety. Developing relationships and effective communication with fellow members is an exercise in listening and developing rapport, being part of a community gives us the opportunity to share in a subject we’re passionate about, spreading confidence and encouragement.

There are so many positive aspects to being part of a group or community. Ultimately, communities give people a natural support group that helps them cope with difficult challenges, band together to solve problems, vent frustrations and celebrate highlights.  Providing unique opportunities for us to learn from each other and give support and encouragement are an invaluable part of joining forces with our peers and ultimately nurturing a rewarding and engaging community. With so much stress in the busy world we live in, there has never been a more important time to seek a supportive group to encourage our positive well-being.

Repair Cafes are the perfect example of a community, a meeting place for people that want to achieve the same goal. Their engaging community is where members come to share interests, learn from their peers, celebrate and commiserate in a supportive environment and progress their wellbeing journey together. At E&G we pride ourselves on knowing a lot about Repair Cafes, having worked with most of them to understand and provide those communities’ insurance needs for a while now. Should you need us it would be our pleasure to offer you our expertise to support your community, after all insurance is our passion.

How much is your garden worth?

As the weather starts to warm up we look for opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors again, and if you are lucky enough to have a garden you may start spending more time in it.  Whether you dream of the ideal alfresco space for entertaining friends, an opportunity for the family to play and learn, or you have discovered your inner Monty Don during Lockdown, Spring is a great time to get out and make the most of any outdoor space you call your own.

That said, with the cost of living rising in general, how much time and, more importantly, money, should we invest in our outdoor space?   Research suggests that a garden could add up to 20% to the value of your property but it can vary widely, and the impact a garden will have for a purchaser certainly varies with the seasons. So where should you focus your efforts?

A garden building, if you have the space, is generally considered the most important. Whether it is a garden gym or office, a potting-shed or even just somewhere to keep the bikes, a building is apparently the garden feature that adds the most value.  Patio space and fencing are also high on the list, offering the opportunity to sit and enjoy the garden with a sense of privacy is important, and garden lighting is also very attractive to purchasers, enticing a buyer with thoughts of warm Summer evenings spent entertaining outside.  But what about the plants themselves?  Maintenance is often a key factor; you may have the most spectacular space filled with exotic flowers and immaculate shrubs, but this can seem intimidating to the non green-fingered buyer.  However, there are some excellent options that require little effort and offer stunning results, here are just a few to inspire your horticultural journey.

Bulbs are the easiest for a guaranteed display. Many of these bulbs can be grown in pots for the patio or balcony, layer them at different depths for continued colour and interest.  As a rule, plant Spring bulbs in the Autumn and Summer bulbs in the Spring, once the soil is beginning to warm up.

Snowdrops are the first to signal the start of Spring and known to be a bit of a crowd-pleaser.  Once planted they will spread and bring joy every year. Unlike most bulbs you should plant snowdrops ‘in the green’, just after the flowers have died off but while the leaves are still green.

Next to bloom is usually crocus, the first sign of some Spring colour, again these require little to no care and will spread over time.  Around early March you start to notice the daffodils emerging, hence their association with St David’s day, with tulips shortly afterwards.  Although dead-heading is recommended, make sure you leave daffodils to die back naturally so the bulb can absorb and retain the nutrients for next year.  You can lift and separate daffodil bulbs every couple of years but, just like at the side of the road across the country, they can be left completely alone and will still thrive.  Tulip bulbs can also be lifted and separated once the foliage has died back but if you were expecting an exquisite display and nothing appears apparently mice are partial to a tulip bulb so this may be the cause of your disappointment.

Lily-of-the-valley is another favourite, however they are not a bulb but a rhizome with “pips”. Once planted, the pips quickly extend their roots underground and happily spread year after year. Be slightly wary of the bluebell though, as they can take over if left to their own devices, the flower stem on the English variety droops towards the tip, whereas the invasive Spanish style stands straight.

As we move towards Summer iris and daylilies offer attractive foliage followed by impressive blooms year after year with little to no care and attention.  Prolific Summer flowering bulbs include crocosmia, (though they can get out of hand) agapanthus and alliums. Lilies, gladioli and dahlias are also very popular as they offer stunning Summer displays but may require wintering inside unless you live in the South, so certainly leave these in pots for ease.

Other than bulbs, perennials are excellent low-maintenance performers for your borders.  Generally they bloom for a long time, offer repeat flowering or continued interest with seed heads and foliage, these plants will add effortless interest to your garden.

Perennials are a type of plant that return year after year, some basics include primrose or primulas (same plant but with slightly different characteristics) and hellebores for Spring colour. Top tip for beginners is to remove all the green leaves of a hellebore when it flowers; it feels wrong but is great for the plant.  Geraniums or cranesbill make for lovely ground cover and the bees love them but be warned they do spread easily. Hosta and heuchera are both fabulous for foliage, though slugs love hosta as they thrive in shady areas. Aquilegia are beautiful seed spreading flowers offering a wide range of variety and in contrast to their delicate appearance are extremely reliable.

As a general rule, you should prune a plant after it has flowered, though as with most things in life there are exceptions to this rule.  Poppies, cosmos and love-in-a-mist seed prolifically so release your inner Morticia Addams and dead-head if you don’t want them to take over.  If you are looking for the ultimate in low maintenance and value for money stay away from annuals, they will only last the season, hardy annuals are a potential, but don’t be surprised if one year they don’t return.  There are obviously thousands of varieties of plants to choose from, these are just examples of some of the easiest and consistently rewarding.

Growing fruit and vegetables is a great way to use your garden space and ideal if you have young children keen to learn where carrots come from, but they can take a lot of effort with varying degrees of success and don’t expect to be able to say goodbye to the greengrocer forever! Try growing lettuce or tomatoes in a hanging basket if you are short on space and to keep the slugs away, salad leaf varieties rather than whole lettuces allow you to pick and return when you need a quick salad.  Herbs are perfect for the culinary enthusiasts; thyme, sage and rosemary are more than happy in pots and don’t require much attention at all. Simply continue to pick them (my nan would say to ‘nibble like a goat’) to encourage healthy growth!   However, don’t be tempted to plant mint in the garden, though it is said to keep rodents at bay, restrict this to pots and replenish the soil every couple of years for guaranteed fresh zing to your mojitos!  Pair herbs with vegetables that would taste good together, for example plant basil with your tomatoes, to discourage pests.

There are many reasons for embracing the English obsession with our gardens, aside to your enjoyment, simply providing a space for wildlife to thrive has become increasingly important. Encouraging and protecting bees for example has become of national, if not global, priority.  In general bees like anything that shows off its wares, daisy style flowers opposed to roses for example are most attractive to nectar-gathering insects.  If you are able to spare a small area of your garden that you can leave to go wild, nature will be most grateful. Incorporating a bug hotel, leaving a natural mess behind the shed or creating a compost area are all excellent for keeping your little ecosystem buzzing with life.

This is obviously only a very brief introduction to the world of gardening, as our expertise is insurance, not impatiens, so while you are out enjoying the garden we would also recommend taking stock of your plot with your home insurance policy in hand.  Does your home insurance cover your gym equipment if it is in the ‘shed’? How tall should you let that tree grow before it becomes an issue for your insurer? Do you need additional cover for the new BBQ, hot tub or luxury patio furniture?  Give us a call and let us put your worries to rest, you haven’t got the time anyway, you’ve got that weeding to do…

It only takes a minute….

The statistics for the number of burglaries per day in the UK are astonishing. Although there was a decline during the pandemic, as people return to work and holidays become possible again they are set to increase once more.  Interestingly, just over one third of burglaries take place during the day, with the midnight till dawn slot not far behind.  However, not surprisingly, more than half of all burglars enter your home through the front door, one third via the back door and one fifth go for a window, though rarely by damaging it.  So what can you do to protect you, your property and your possessions? Here are a few simple ways to deter intruders:-

Lock, Stock and Barrel.

Although it sounds like an obvious solution, lock your doors! One third of burglars just walk straight in through the front door, without using force, so it is worth remembering to lock your doors when you enter or exit your home.  Fitting a new door, or ensuring you have multiple visible locks, is also an ideal deterrent.   UPVC doors should be fitted with a three-point multi-locking system, while patio doors should be fitted with top and bottom key-operated bolts, contact an installer for the most appropriate advice.  It is also a good idea to check your exterior doors to establish if the frames are solid and the hinges are concealed.  Installing doors with approved lock types certainly increases security, and as a result can reduce your home insurance premiums too.

Window of opportunity.

Depending on the style of windows you have, consider installing locks on them too, in particular windows on the ground floor. Pin locks will stop intruders from lifting a window, though key operated locks are best where possible. Inspect the condition of your windows frequently, rotten frames and rusty locks allow for easy access and are vulnerable to force. As with your doors, if you can prove to your insurer that your windows are secure, your insurance premiums may decrease.

Alarming statistics.

You can greatly improve your home’s security by installing an alarm system. The available options are broad and diverse, from DIY window sensors to fully monitored CCTV, you should have no issue finding a solution to suit your budget and your property.  Simply advertising your home is fitted with an alarm by putting up signs can even be beneficial. However signs referring to dogs, from a security point of view, are not as discouraging as you would think, as burglars know simple tricks to distract pets and homes with dogs are less likely to have alarms.  Once again, a professionally-installed alarm system could considerably lessen your home insurance costs.

Vacant for Vacation.

Burglars often target empty homes; occupants can lead to complications. They also like to operate under the cover of darkness for the same furtive reasons. Consider installing motion-sensing lighting, smart timers for lights and even timers for appliances like TV’s, as these can be discouraging for thieves.  Making sure you cancel regular deliveries and asking a neighbour to move any visible post while you are away is also recommended to give the illusion that you are at home.  Don’t be tempted to post pictures of your holiday on social media either, this is equivalent to advertising your absence and everyone will be just as envious the week after you get home.

Hide and Seek.

If you have tall bushes in front of your property they may offer you more privacy but they also allow burglars the same protection.  Prune tall plants at the front of your property or plant smaller shrubs to offer the same kerb appeal without appealing to burglars.  While you are outside, remember to tidy away garden tools too, ladders or other useful items can be too tempting if left on display, make sure you secure your shed or outbuildings as well, the contents may be worthless but not useless.

Hidden objectives.

Burglars tend to be opportunistic, so leaving your valuable items on display is equivalent to a shop window for thieves, and it is advisable to invest in a home safe if you own any particularly valuable items; don’t forget to let your insurer know if you do. Depending on the position of your letterbox, store your keys away from your front door to avoid ‘letterbox fishing’, and especially keep your car keys in a less than obvious place as many criminals will break in just to steal your car.

Usually we do not consider the security of our homes until it is too late.  Try standing outside your property and considering how you might attempt to access, it may also save you time searching for a solution when you lock yourself out! Unfortunately gaining access will lead to damage and although the average value of items stolen during a burglary is thankfully usually low, the cost of repairing damage caused can be five times as high.

Home insurance is about protecting what is probably your greatest asset and investment, and the ability to recover quickly should something dreadful happen such as fire, theft, flood, storm or subsidence.  Understanding your insurance policy and what it covers can be complicated, that is why using an insurance specialist is recommended to make sure you have the right cover for the right price.

It doesn’t cost you anything to let us quote, but think about what it could save you.

More of a guideline than a rule…

Firstly, I would like to caveat this entire blog with Muphry’s law, which is an adage that states: “If you write anything criticising editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written.” *

Incorrect grammar and in particular poor spelling can make a huge difference in the professional world, especially on a CV or job application; it is not uncommon for an applicant to be dismissed without further consideration for such misdemeanours. Even with automated spell-check it is always a good idea to re-read anything you write, or ask someone to proofread it for you. We all have times when something doesn’t look quite right or certain words consistently trip us up, so let’s look at some of the most common spelling errors and how to avoid them.

‘Misspelling’ is by far the most embarrassing to get wrong, though ‘embarrassing’ itself can be a tricky one! ‘Mis-’ is a prefix that means badly or wrongly and when added to the verb ‘spell’ it refers to a word incorrectly spelled, or is it spelt, agh…! In the USA they only use ‘spelled’, but everywhere else both are acceptable.  Interestingly my spell-check would prefer me to write ‘spelt’, but that usually makes me peckish!  If you are ever unsure how to spell ‘misspelling’, just remember that you wouldn’t remove the ‘u’ from ‘understand’ to make ‘misunderstand’, so don’t remove the ‘s’ from ‘spell’.

Apparently ‘accommodate’ is another one that frequently causes confusion. Other than simple repetition there are a few clever ways to remember it,  for example “twice the comfort”, or my favourite “ac (air-con) is common in hotel rooms”. However, don’t assume words with a similar appearance will follow a similar pattern for instance ‘recommend’, although comparable, simply translates as to ‘commend’ something again, using the prefix ‘re-’ to indicate it has occurred again!  Ah, and there is another one! ‘Occur’ becomes ‘occurred’ in the past tense and similarly ‘refer’ becomes ‘referred’, but be careful, this has more to do with the stress on the ‘r’ in a two-syllable word rather than a definitive rule, for example ‘repair’ becomes ‘repaired’ and ‘number’ becomes ‘numbered’.

So, is it the rules that cause the problems? Did you know nearly every single English grammar rule has exceptions?  The most widely (un)appreciated being the “i before e except after c” rule.  I always remember failing a spelling test as a child for following this advice and incorrectly spelling ‘height’ and ‘weight’. However, the next line of the rhyme “…or when sounded as ‘a’ as in neighbour and weigh” may have helped me, but it is still misleading.  One of the most commonly-used words that fails to follow this rule is ‘receive’, so perhaps all you need to remind yourself is ‘I received misleading guidance at school’. An entertaining exception to another rule is ‘publicly’, usually when an adjective ends in ‘-ic’, you form the adverb by adding ‘ally’, ironically the only one that “does not include al(l)” is public!

Mnemonics (amusingly rather difficult to spell) are often used to assist, though sometimes they can be more difficult to remember than the actual word. My son is fond of ‘Big elephants can always understand small elephants’ as a mnemonic for ‘because’, but it always trips me up; I remember the ‘always’ and ‘understand’ part but generally forget the rest.  Many types of mnemonic exist and different ones work well for different people, for example for the word ‘separate’ do you prefer “the r separates 2 a’s” or does the mental picture of ‘separate parasites’ strike a more memorable chord?  With ‘definitely’, do you think “I have definitely got it right”, or just know it’s ‘finite’?  ‘Parallel’ lends itself beautifully to its meaning as it contains two l’s that form parallel lines, and ‘calendar’, rather than ‘calender’ is simple when you realise there are no months that begin with an ‘e’ or that calendars are full of days.

The most simple and obvious mistakes are sometimes the hardest to spot.  Personally I have to remind myself “a car is to ‘stationary’, as a pen is to ‘stationery’” as it usually catches me out.  An automated spell-checker recognises (or ‘recognizes’ as my computer would prefer) both words and therefore doesn’t correct the spelling, but it can’t always detect if it isn’t appropriate to the sentence or, more frequently, the continent.  For example in British English ‘practice’ and ‘licence’ are spelled with a ‘c’  when it’s a noun, and ‘s’ when it’s a verb, but in American English they would only ever use ‘practice’.  Another common continental-based issue, especially for spell-check, is ‘programme’. In the UK we usually use ‘programme’, whereas American English tends to use ‘program’, except for a computer program which is the same in both.  A handy guide is to remember “you programme a program”, but it can still send your spell-check into a spin.   Regardless of continent, spell-checks are no substitute for knowledge and attention to detail, as the dreaded homophone will always be their too catch you out and there is no explaining the ridiculous nature of the text message autocorrect – I’m sure my phone does it on porpoise!!

We all make mistakes, but as a copy editor, proofreader or indexer, if you make a mistake it could be far more serious than a simple spelling mistake.  Your duty of care to your clients means that they could have a claim of damages against you if you have made a mistake that has a financial impact on them. Even if such a claim is successfully defended the associated legal costs can be extremely high.

Professional Indemnity insurance (known as errors and omissions insurance in the US) protects these service-providers against damages awarded by the courts in any negligence claims made by a client and the legal costs associated in defending such a claim.  Well worth the piece of mind!!

* The name is a deliberate misspelling of “Murphy’s law”!!

Are you doing the Office Hokey Cokey?

You Put Your Left Arm In…

The Coronavirus pandemic resulted in many people working from home instead of their normal working environment. Even when restrictions relaxed many employers and employees welcomed a hybrid of home and office working, embracing the change as it offered the chance to work more efficiently around family life and/or reduce the costs of commuting.  Although you were previously obliged to tell your home insurance provider that you regularly worked from home, since the global pandemic began this requirement has been relaxed.

However, there are still insurance implications to consider when working from home and it is always best to keep your insurance provider up to date regarding your working arrangements to ensure you are correctly covered.

If your employer has requested that you work from home and you do not need to invite work-related visitors to your home, it is unlikely that you will need to change anything, and most standard office-based equipment should be covered under your existing policy or the company’s insurance.  On the other hand if you are making and/or storing goods at home or offering any services, such as beauty treatments, then this will have an impact on your cover. With your right leg in and out of the office so frequently it is also a good idea to check if any work-related items are covered when you are between home and the office.

You Shake It All About…

Some have taken this unprecedented opportunity to start up their own business, reigniting a long-lost passion or adapting their career to suit their circumstances. If you have chosen to start a new business from home you will certainly need to check that your home insurance policy is up to date, especially as some policies exclude any item for ‘business or professional purposes’, and valuable specialist equipment may require additional cover. Those offering any element of professional advice will need the protection provided by Professional Indemnity Insurance, (link to https://eginsurance.co.uk/professional-indemnity-insurance/) providing cover against damages courts may award as a result of loss that any professional advice given by your business has caused to another business or individual.

Also, with everyone at home and distractions aplenty, you may have decided that you need a new space to put your right arm in (…and your right arm out) and have decided that your property needs a shake up to accommodate for home-working or your new business venture, for example by replacing the shed with a garden home office or creating a space to store products. If this sounds familiar you will certainly need to flag this with your insurance provider.

And You Turn Around….

There is potential, especially in the UK, that business would grind to a halt without a hot beverage to lubricate any meeting, now imagine you turn around and accidentally knock the aforementioned coffee all over your client’s laptop causing unrecoverable damage; you might still win the deal but you may not win the claim for compensation.

No matter how careful you are, accidents happen, and when they do, public liability insurance covers you against claims made against you or your business. If you own business premises, arrange activities or events in a business capacity or someone visits your home for professional purposes you should consider public liability insurance. This type of insurance will cover you if a client or a member of the public claims they have been injured or their property damaged due to your business activity.  It is primarily designed to cover the cost, up to the limit of the policy, of any legal proceedings, including any compensation costs you may face.  Check with your employer as well to ensure you are covered if you have face-to-face meetings, for example, whilst working from home.

Although public liability insurance is not a legal requirement, if your business has one or more employees, you’re legally required to have employers’ liability insurance.

Ra, Ra, Ra…?

It is likely that the office system offered you the necessary security protection you required when online, however how comfortable are you that your firewall is sufficient and your DM’s are actually private? With so much information being shared digitally, via computers and mobile phones, it is increasingly important to any business to keep it secure. Any information you keep about yourself, your business and, most importantly, any data your clients or customers trust you with, is open to attack from hackers, at risk if your IT systems fail, and open to issues of sharing due to human error.  Whether you have a firm grasp of your internet safety or all you hear when the IT department call is “ra, ra, ra”, cyber insurance (add link to https://eginsurance.co.uk/cyber-insurance/) will protect against a data breach or cyber hacking, providing cover for loss of revenue or profit and costs of putting things right. This cover can also protect you if your business is required to defend and settle claims made for failing to keep customers’ personal data secure, or for allegations of non-compliance with GDPR.  Also ask your employer if they have cyber insurance it might be something they have not considered.

That’s What It’s All About!

So much change can be overwhelming at times and it can be difficult to navigate this merry dance alone, but nobody likes dancing by themselves so let us do all the hard work for you; our highly experienced team, with your interests at heart, access a wide range of insurers to find you the best package for your needs – we care about what matters to you!

It doesn’t cost you anything to let us quote, but think about what it could save you.

Gifts that keep on giving

If you’re still struggling to find that perfect gift or wondering this holiday season what to buy for someone who already ‘has everything’, you’re not alone! It can be tough to come up with new and thoughtful ideas for that special someone.

But don’t worry. If you’re looking for a present that is more about your presence all year long then we are here to help. Browse our selection of gift ideas that keep on giving!

A year of special dates

A calendar is a popular Christmas gift, but it can be so much more – the gift of time together!  Whether it’s coffee and cake with your bestie, a date night with your partner or just a phone call to a far flung relative, fill in some dates and details before you wrap it.  Make a plan to catch up every month, it could be the same place at the same time each month or plan for special occasions with different venues and themes.

Subscriptions aren’t just for magazines

Do you know someone looking for a hobby, the opportunity to try different activities or simply a chance to meet new people? Gift them an annual membership for a local Men’s Shed (women are welcome too), a walking club or a similar organisation. It might be something they never knew they wanted.

The classy option

We all know someone who needs a little push in the right direction sometimes.  Sign them up for that class they have been intending to join; it could be yoga or pilates, crafting or cooking, a book club or bog swimming, the options are endless.  If the price is a little out of your budget, offering to go with them as your gift could be all the incentive they need.

Plant power

Plants and flowers are a wonderful choice for a gift that keeps giving; kitchen windowsill herbs for the avid cook, perennial shrubs for the keen gardener, spring bulbs for the patio or even plant a tree on someone’s behalf.  Head down to your local florist or plant nursery for the best choice and advice.  If the recipient is not known for their green fingers include simple easy to follow tips to ensure your gift really does last!

Take the pressure off

Have you got a skill that someone you know lacks? You could offer a friend or a loved one help throughout the year with coupons for tasks they might struggle with like gardening, decorating or general household chores. You may know someone who would benefit from some book-keeping, a review of their finances, or simply helping them search for the best insurance, energy or travel products.  This is a great option for the younger members of the family too, as they could offer dog walking, baby sitting or even help with homework for a sibling.

Delicious deliveries

For many, Christmas is all about indulgence, why not spread that joy throughout the year? It could be treats like chocolate or cheese, or more practical options like organic veg boxes or meal solutions, there are now so many choices for monthly foodie subscriptions. Buy this for someone you live with and they might let you share in their delight!

Give back

Christmas is the time for giving but if you know someone who really doesn’t ‘want for anything’, consider donating to charity on their behalf. Some charities send updates throughout the year letting you know how your donation has helped so don’t forget to register the donation in your ‘recipients’ name.

Pay it forward

We don’t mean regifting those Christmas socks you never wore, we are talking about charity shops.  It may not be a year-long option, but it certainly is a gift that keeps giving; not only does the purchase benefit a worthy cause, it is the sustainable choice and you can find some real treasures too!

Make it personal

For the ultimate personalised gift – make it!  For those who can knit, sew, build, or paint the options are obvious, but for those with less craft-based talents try framing family photos, creating a photobook or make a scrapbook of funny quotes.  Get the kids involved and ask them to decorate and repurpose everyday objects (see charity shop above) for a special person in their lives. We guarantee it will take pride of place on the mantelpiece for many years to come!

Make money last

When you really can’t think of anything, so many of us resort to cash or vouchers in a card.  Consider opening a savings account or purchasing premium bonds as an alternative.  It may not be very exciting or fanciful but hopefully a gift that will last the test of time.

Merry Christmas to you all and please accept our little gift that keeps on giving all year long…

“We can help you find a policy that meets your individual circumstances, and we aim to find you the best cover at a great price.”

Keeping you cosy and costs down this winter

With temperatures dropping and energy prices rising, how do you keep cosy whilst saving energy and money?  Your initial response might be to put on a jumper or snuggle under the blanket, but by making just a few simple changes it’s surprising how much energy you can save. Here are 10 energy-efficiency suggestions you can do to help keep your home warm, so snuggling under the blanket becomes optional rather than essential.

1. Insulate to Accumulate

Insulating your loft or roof is a simple and effective way to reduce heat loss and lower your heating bills.  While most loft spaces will already have some insulation, are you achieving maximum benefit?  Topping up your roof insulation from 120mm to 270mm will save you money on your energy bill but essentially helps your home feel warmer.

2. Befriend your Boiler

Show your boiler some love with an annual boiler service, ideally before heating becomes essential in case there is a problem.  If your boiler is more than 10 years old it will be far less efficient than a newer model and spares become harder to find, so consider replacing it. Costs and savings vary but the benefit can be significant. Boiler Cover with annual servicing is another great way to show your boiler you care!

3. Tanks a lot

Most hot water cylinders have some insulation, but just like in your loft, increasing tank insulation from 25mm to an 80mm could save you money by retaining heat.  A British Standard hot water tank jacket costs around £15.  Although it may only save you a few pounds a year on your bills, you could also save approximately 110kg of carbon dioxide emissions, so the planet will ‘tank’ you too.

4. Pimp your pipes

Insulating your pipes reduces heat loss from your system but can also prevent pipes from bursting in cold weather. Simply slip foam tubes, available from most DIY stores, over any exposed pipes in your system.  It will typically cost around £20, and although it may only save you a small amount a year on your heating costs, it will reduce the possibility of burst pipes and a subsequent expensive repair bill.

5. Bleed and Reflect

Are your radiators cool at the top but warm at the bottom?  Regularly bleed your radiators to release the trapped air that prevents them from filling with hot water.  Use a bleed key to turn a small valve on the side at the top of the radiator to expel any air trapped in the system. When the hissing sound is replaced by dripping water (have a paper towel ready) you can close the valve.

Reflect heat from your radiators back into your home, instead of letting it escape through external walls, by using a heat reflector behind your radiator. Investing in radiator reflector panels will prove most beneficial, but aluminium kitchen foil is still very effective.  For extra efficiency keep heat absorbent furniture away from your radiators and tuck any curtains behind the radiator when you close them.

6. Take Control

Room thermostats set the temperature of your home, while a programmer sets the time the heating comes on and thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) let you control the temperature of each radiator.  Utilising a full set of heating controls ensures you are warm exactly when and where you want in your home, making considerable savings compared with an uncontrolled system.  When it’s very cold, set your heating to switch on earlier rather than turning up the thermostat.

7. Best Foot First

Did you know 10% of heat loss in homes is through uninsulated floors? If you are not planning renovations that would allow you to update the floor insulation you can still seal any gaps and cracks in your floors and skirting boards to prevent heat loss.  If you’re looking for a quick fix, rugs and carpets will keep your feet and your home warmer and may help you resist turning up the thermostat.

8. Mind the Gap

Draught-proof your home by sealing unwanted gaps that let cold air in and warm air out, especially around doors and windows. Not only will it save money it will help your home feel snug and warm. If you have an unused open chimney consider investing in a chimney balloon and don’t forget keyholes, letterboxes and cat flaps could also be draughty, however never cover air vents.

9. Drawing your own conclusion

Windows can be responsible for up to 40% of the heat loss in your home. Even with double-glazing you can still retain heat by closing curtains, blinds or shutters when the sun goes down. If you have curtains, consider lining them during the winter to make them more effective.  Door curtains in front of glass doors or draughty front doors can also make a big difference.

10. Cover up

Spend a cosy afternoon in your energy-efficient and wonderfully warm home familiarising yourself with your current Home Insurance policy.  Make sure it covers you and your home for any winter related emergencies or issues.  If it seems ‘draughty’, give us a call –  It doesn’t cost you anything to let us quote, but think about what it could save you.  Trust us, it will give you an overall cosy feeling knowing you have the right cover.