Gas Line Repair Puts Homeowner at Risk of Economic Shock

Gas Line Repair Puts Homeowner at Risk of Economic Shock

Shannon, a Southern California Gas customer, was at risk of economic shock when learned she had a problem with her gas service line. Service was temporarily discontinued to her home after a leak was detected. 

“The gas company could detect that there was extra gas being used,” Shannon said.

An Unexpected Repair is an Unexpected Expense

Without gas service, Shannon was unable to enjoy many of her home’s basic necessities in the interest of health and safety. Returning service would cost thousands of dollars, putting her at risk of economic shock.

Economic Shock

Shannon’s situation isn’t unusual – more than 50 percent of American homeowners needed a home systems repair over a 12-month period, according to the Winter 2019 edition of HomeServe’s Biannual State of the Home survey. These situations can cause economic shock, a large and unexpected expense that negatively impacts a household.

Economic shock is even more common than emergency home repairs, with 60 percent of U.S. households having experienced economic shock, such as emergency home repairs, within a year, according to The Pew Trusts. Unfortunately, more than a third of homeowners have $500 or less set aside for home repairs.

A repair like the one Shannon needed could cost, on average, $20 to $30 per foot, but up to $75 per foot, depending on the work done. Luckily for Shannon, SoCal Gas had partnered with HomeServe, a leading provider of home repair solutions, and Shannon had enrolled in HomeServe’s service line protection program.

HomeServe Offers a Solution

“When we found out there was a problem and the gas was turned off, we called HomeServe,” Shannon said. “They contacted a plumbing company to come out and determine the problem.”

Economic shock

HomeServe dispatched a licensed and insured network plumber, Frassica Inc., to Shannon’s home. The line was old and deteriorated – dating to the late 1960s when the home was constructed – and needed replaced from house to meter.

“[HomeServe] does whatever they can to make sure the customer’s necessities are met,” John, a Frassica technician, said. “HomeServe goes above and beyond to do what needs to be done; the best warranty company that you could work for.”   

The job included extensive concrete work and 250 feet of trenching, which would have cost $10,000 to $15,000, a substantial economic shock.

Save Money and Worry With a Policy

“With HomeServe, they are saving a tremendous amount of money,” Ken McCarthy, Frassica owner, said. “We’ve had to cut multiple sections of concrete and dig trenches. Some people couldn’t afford to pay for this, but that’s the value of HomeServe. For a nominal monthly fee, they’re covered when projects like this come up, and they get good value.

“These types of plumbing failures happen. I own a plumbing company, and I also have a HomeServe policy. Anyone who is a homeowner has experienced plumbing failures or will.”

Shannon knew the job would be large but didn’t realize the extent of the work.

“It was a much bigger job than we anticipated, but there was no out-of-pocket [costs],” she said. “The entire repair is being covered by HomeServe.”

Shannon was happy to have service returned, free of the worry of economic shock.

“I’m very satisfied with HomeServe,” she said. “I would absolutely recommend this type of warranty because you truly don’t know when something is going to go wrong. They came through for us and saved us a lot of money.”

Gas Service Line Repair is a Financial Shock

“When I came home that evening, I smelled gas very strongly,” Dorothy said.

It’s every homeowner’s nightmare – a gas service line failure. Dorothy, a Houston resident and CenterPoint customer, learned that her gas service line, although only 15 years old, was leaking.  

An Unexpected Problem

Jose Carbajo of Texas Quality Plumbing and his crew were quickly onsite, where they assessed the problem. Jose realized the gas service line was PVC, which was no longer up to code in the area.

“We’ll dig, trench, about 50 feet and install new [gas service] line that’s up to code,” Jose said.

Not only had the gas service line not lasted long, but replacing it would cost $3,000. However, Dorothy couldn’t delay, because she would have no gas service to her home until the gas service line was repaired. Leaving it as it was, was unsafe and untenable.

Financial Shock Can Prove a Hardship

Dorothy had experienced a financial shock, or a large, unexpected expense. The effects of a financial shock, such as an unexpected home repair or a sudden loss of income, can be devastating, and the United Nations estimates 40 million Americans are living in poverty. Estimates range from three-in-four to three-in-five Americans who are living from paycheck to paycheck.

Many homeowners are not prepared for a financial shock. However, 60 percent of American households endured one in a calendar year, according to the Pew Trust. Among those who experienced a financial shock, 55 percent of households struggled to make ends meet afterwards.

The HomeServe State of the Home Fall 2019 survey found more than half of Americans had a home repair in the prior twelve months. Meanwhile, one in five has nothing set aside in a “rainy day fund.”

A Solution Emerges

Luckily for Dorothy, CenterPoint partnered with HomeServe, a leading provider of emergency home repair plans, including gas service lines, electric service lines, water heaters and HVAC systems. When Dorothy received educational materials about the possibility of gas service line failures through the partnership, she signed up for gas service line protection.

“I signed up [for gas service line coverage] in July, I believe, never thinking this would happen, but it did, and I’m very glad that I had it,” she said. “When I called, the agent was very helpful, answered any questions I might have, reassured me that I was covered, which made me very happy. The contractor that HomeServe sent out was very helpful and ready to fix whatever it was.”

Jose and his team installed a new, safe, code compliant gas service line for Dorothy. It didn’t cost her a penny, thanks to CenterPoint and HomeServe.

Emergency Furnace Repairs Cause Concern

Jessica of Albuquerque was struggling with degenerative nerve disease and late-stage cancer. So emergency furnace repairs blind-sided her.

Jessica faced adversity, but she had her family and her business, SOS International, to keep her occupied. As a second-generation business owner, she continued to work out of a home office space. Jessica also had the comfort of her extended family, including her mother, son, daughter and two grandchildren, surrounding and helping her.

Jessica didn’t have it easy, but she had a strong support network and fulfilling work.

Everything Goes Wrong at Once

The family found water spreading across the floor after the hot water heater burst. And that was before they realized they needed emergency furnace repairs.

“My son’s carpet was wet and we thought the dog’s water spilled, but you stepped on it and [half an inch] of water came to the top,” Jessica said.

The family received more bad news when they learned they needed emergency furnace repairs, an expensive prospect as winter approached.

“Six [valves] went out at one time,” Jessica said. “It was starting to get cold at night, and my daughter has a newborn and a two-year-old.”

With a new baby in the home, the hot water heater failure and emergency furnace repairs had come at the worst possible time. The family couldn’t financially handle so much going wrong at once.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Jessica said.

People like Jessica, who face serious illness, are particularly financially vulnerable. Those battling cancer are two and a half times more likely to go bankrupt, although 75 percent have health insurance. Financial difficulty makes recovering even more difficult.

Turning to a Trusted Friend

Facing a winter with emergency furnace repairs and no hot water, Jessica turned to Eric Maxon, Steward’s Plumbing president. The two had been members of the same business association.

“My first thought was Steward’s Plumbing,” Jessica said. “There’s no one in Albuquerque I trust more.”

Steward’s Plumbing had done Jessica’s plumbing work for years, because she trusted their competency and professionalism. They understood her home’s heating and plumbing systems. It was important to have a plumber who was trustworthy and competent. She didn’t want to seek out and contact multiple plumbers to receive quotes.

Steward’s Plumbing is a HomeServe network contractor, and Eric was familiar with the company’s charitable arm, the HomeServe Cares Foundation. Through its Caring for People program, the foundation provides home repairs at no cost to those who qualify.

“I’ve known Jessica for years,” Eric said. “We’ve worked together on several projects, and getting these emergency furnace repairs done would be life-changing for her and her family.”

A National Company Steps In to Help

Steward’s Plumbing employees passed drug and background checks before the company became part of the HomeServe network. In addition, the company must maintain an A rating with the Better Business Bureau and a high post-job survey score.

HomeServe uses local contractors, because not only are they close by and convenient, but they are familiar with local permitting processes and building codes.

Eric reached out to HomeServe and proposed Jessica and her family as candidates for HomeServe Cares. HomeServe agreed to help the family and dispatched Steward’s Plumbing to replace the hot water heater and make the emergency furnace repairs.

“I couldn’t believe he and HomeServe worked so diligently to make this happen for me,” Jessica said. “Thank you, HomeServe!”

Utilities are looking for opportunities to connect more deeply with customers. HomeServe helps to improve customer engagement for our utility partners through the integration of complementary home repair programs with utility initiatives such as energy efficiency and safety, offering customers greater access and choice. Partnership allows the utility to leverage HomeServe’s marketing and communications expertise to educate their customers through a variety of channels. For more information, contact us.

An Electrical Hazard: How to Avoid One During the Holidays

It’s the holidays, and your rate payers are looking forward to family gatherings, gifts and decorating, but they probably aren’t thinking about the risk of an electrical hazard.

No one wants to think about the potential of electrical hazards causing property damage or tragedy at the holidays, but with increased visitors, cooking large meals and holiday lights, the potential for a fire, electrical or otherwise, is higher than any other time of the year.

Christmas trees are involved with an average of 160 reported home fires annually and holiday décor, excluding trees, causes 780 fires annually, with a total of six deaths, 49 injuries and $22 million in property damage each year from 2013 to 2017, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Your Christmas tree can be an electrical hazard.

Two out of five Christmas tree fires started in the living room and 44 percent involved electrical hazards. One-fifth of décor fires began in the kitchen, and 16 percent began in the living room, family room or den.

Since your customers want to hear from you across many platforms – and, when they do, their satisfaction with your services increases, you may want to share some safety tips to avoid electrical hazards during the holiday season. It’s right in your wheelhouse, shareable, easily digestible and can cross platforms.

The Tree

If purchasing an artificial tree, buy one that is flame retardant – it won’t stop a fire, but it will resist burning, burn more slowly and extinguish more quickly than one that isn’t flame retardant.

If purchasing a live tree, buy one that isn’t dry – the needles shouldn’t break or pull off easily. Keep it watered daily and at least three feet away from open heat sources such as fires or space heaters. Dry trees are a fire hazard. Check out this video from the US National Institutes of Standards and Technology demonstrating the increase in flammability of a dry tree.

The Lights

Examine lights before you use them. There shouldn’t be frayed or exposed wires, broken bulbs or damaged sockets. If a string of lights is damaged or malfunctioning, it’s become an electrical hazard, so you should discard it.

Look at labels. Lights meant for indoor use should only be used indoors, and likewise with those meant for outdoor use. Lights and replacement bulbs also should be tested and certified by the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) to make sure they meet safety standards.

Your holiday lights can be an electrical hazard. Only use lights rated for outdoors when decorating outside.

Don’t overload electrical outlets. Don’t plug more than one high-wattage item into an outlet at a time and don’t connect more than three strings of lights together.

If you’re using extension cords, don’t plug too many lights into one cord and don’t plug too many cords into one outlet. Check the wattage the cord is intended for and don’t exceed it. Cords shouldn’t be run under carpets or furniture, pinched by windows or doors or run through high traffic areas. Don’t remove the third prong, because this grounds the cord and prevents electrocution.

If using a cord outdoors, don’t leave it on the ground, because water can get into the connection and cause an electrical hazard. Instead, elevate the connection with a brick or rock. Outside, use Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) outlets to prevent water-induced shorts.

Avoid nails, tacks and staples that may pierce wires. Instead, invest in some insulated hooks that will prevent damage to the lights – and electrical hazards.

You should not leaves lights unattended. A timer can be utilized to ensure lights are switched off automatically at times when everyone in the home is out or asleep.

Store safely. When the lights are returned to the attic or the basement at the end of the season, they should be stored in a water- and pest-proof container.

The Meal

This seems like common sense, but remain aware of the stove or oven while in use. With all the visitors and activities, distractions can occur. A timer can be used as a reminder to check food that is cooking.

Be aware of potential fire hazards – clean up grease spills and keep pot holders, towels and oven mitts away from burners.

Keep an eye on wattage. Some kitchen appliances can demand a lot of power – only plug one into any one outlet to prevent it from becoming an electrical hazard. Any outlet that could encounter water or liquids should have a GFCI.

Be prepared in case there is an emergency. Ensure that fire extinguishers and smoke detectors are operating properly.

With just a little thought and preparation, your customers can have a safe and happy holiday season and avoid electrical hazards.

Utilities are looking for opportunities to connect more deeply with customers. HomeServe helps utilities improve customer engagement for our utility partners through the integration of complementary home repair programs with utility initiatives such as energy efficiency and safety, offering customers greater access and choice. Partnership allows the utility to leverage HomeServe’s marketing and communications expertise to educate their customers through a variety of channels. For more information, contact us.

HomeServe Sponsors Veterans Networking Event

Bunker Labs – a 501(c)(3) non-profit – is a national network of veteran entrepreneurs dedicated to helping new veteran entrepreneurs start their own business. Their vision is to empower the entrepreneurial dreams of the military connected community and they are committed to seeing that every entrepreneur in the veteran community has the network, tools, and resources they need to start their own business. One way that Bunker Labs provides these resources is through Bunker Brews veterans networking events.

HomeServe and Bunker Labs sponsored a veterans networking event.

Bunker Brews is a monthly meet-up where the Bunker Labs community — veterans, military spouses, and civilians alike can network with subject matter experts, investors, thought leaders, creating a robust environment for growth and development.

HomeServe Marketing Panel

HomeServe was proud to recently sponsor a Bunker Brews event in Denver, Colorado, and participate in the panel discussion: “Marketing and Branding – How to Make Your Phone Ring.” I was joined by three very talented co-panelists; Trevor Shirk, Founder and CEO of Strattex; Rob Bingham, Executive Director and CEO of Colorado Veterans Project and Kristin McFarland, President of Source Marketing Group, each of whom provided tremendous insight into branding, social media, email and event marketing.

At HomeServe, caring is in the fabric of our corporate culture. The HomeServe Cares Foundation is built upon four community pillars, including Caring for Veterans. The HomeServe Cares Foundation supports various programs and efforts that provided needed resources to our transitioning military and veteran families in communities across the U.S., including veterans networking events. A cornerstone of the Caring for Veterans pillar is the HomeServe Veterans Recruitment Initiative,which offers veterans opportunities to launch post-military careers in the plumbing, electrical and HVAC trades, and for other business functions here at HomeServe.

We are proud to have veterans as part of our HomeServe family and recognize the tremendous impact they have on our culture and community.

Click here to learn more about Bunker Labs.

Local to the Denver area? Check out the Colorado Veteran Project’s various events, including an annual Memorial Day Run & March, which raises over $100,000 and 40,000 pounds of food annually to help feed local homeless Veterans.

About HomeServe

HomeServe partners with utilities who are looking for opportunities to connect more deeply with customers. HomeServe helps to improve customer engagement for our utility partners through the integration of complementary home repair programs with utility initiatives such as energy efficiency and safety, offering customers greater access and choice For more information, contact us.