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.

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 Tackles Young Couple’s Main Sewer Line Repair

HomeServe Tackles Young Couple’s Main Sewer Line Repair

The couple bought the home knowing that the sewer line would need attention, and Adam and a friend rented equipment and spent hours cleaning out the line. The couple believed that would keep the problem from worsening until they were able to implement a more permanent fix.

Wichita couple inspects their main sewer line repair project.Adam and Jennifer F. loved the first home they bought together, a historic 100 year old house in a quiet Wichita neighborhood – but they didn’t love the main sewer line problems that came with it.

However, within two years, the couple noticed they once again were experiencing drainage problems.

“I thought, ‘I just fixed that,’” Adam said. “I didn’t think it had been long enough to have another problem.”

But it was. One of the features of the backyard the couple loved was an enormous tree, easily as old as their home, but the main sewer line passed beneath it. The tree’s roots sought out the warmth the line emitted, especially during the colder months. In addition, the line was an old clay pipe and offered little resistance to the encroaching roots.

Compounding the problem, an outbuilding had been erected at the rear of the property, directly over the sewer line. In order to avoid foundation damage or completely re-routing the line to avoid the tree, an auger would be needed to dig beneath the outbuilding.

The cost would be thousands of dollars – an expense the young couple simply couldn’t afford. Fortunately, Adam had assisted a local church, and the pastor put him in contact with Sunflower Services, a HomeServe USA network contractor.

Sunflower recommended replacing the main sewer line, a clay pipe, with sturdier, more resistant PVC and rerouting it to avoid the tree and outbuilding to prevent continuing root encroachment. This method would also make the line more accessible if it should ever need repair in the future. The problem was the $7,000 price tag, representing a significant portion of their annual income.

Sunflower Services employees knew just what to do and contacted HomeServe to see if HomeServe Cares, the company’s charitable arm, would cover the young couple’s job. HomeServe agreed to cover the cost of the repair.

HomeServe, a leading home warranty company providing plumbing and electrical warranties throughout the U.S. and Canada, also offers low-cost water and sewer service line warranties through Utility Service Partners’ National League of Cities Service Line Warranty Program. The program is in partnership with municipalities and utilities and has been endorsed by several state leagues, including the Kansas League of Cities.

As for Adam and Jennifer, everything is back to normal, thanks to Sunflower Services and HomeServe.

“It’s draining just fine now,” Adam said.

HomeServe Cares Helps Salt Lake Resident Replace Clay Sewer Line

HomeServe Cares Helps Salt Lake Resident Replace Clay Sewer Line

Helen T. of Salt Lake City knew she needed to do something about her clay sewer line – it had gotten to the point that she had to have it cleaned out annually to clear it of roots.

“My sewer line is old and clay,” she said.

However, figuring out exactly how to approach the problem and which plumber to use proved to be a daunting task.

“It’s difficult to find a contractor. There are so many repair methods to consider – lining, bursting,” Helen said. “I had six bids.”

Stott Plumbing employees begin work on replacing the clay sewer line.Helen wanted to be sure that she was making the right choice so she could enjoy many more years in her beloved home – a 100-year-old structure in a quiet residential neighborhood popular with young families. The repair would be an investment of several thousand dollars, and she wanted to make the best, most cost efficient choice. It would have been a great help to have someone knowledgeable about plumbing repair assist her, she added.

“The bidding process was difficult,” she said, noting it required doing research on her own to better understand both what she needed and what was being offered to repair the clay sewer line.

After receiving a recommendation from a plumber with whom she had a long relationship, she chose Stott Plumbing, a network contractor with the HomeServe USA.

“They came out here, they gave me a fair estimate and they gave me space to make a decision,” Helen said.

Not only do Stott Plumbing managers Bryan and Mike Stott pride themselves on word-of-mouth  advertising and their cordial relationship with Salt Lake City officials, but also on being able to do every part of a job from start to finish. Stott, which was started by Gerald Stott, Bryan and Mike’s father, in 1970, has the personnel and equipment to do everything from opening a cut in the street to running heavy machinery to backfilling.

“When you don’t have control over that, then you run the risk of delay when a [third-party vendor] isn’t available,” said Bryan. “This just makes sense.”

Helen is retired and on a fixed income, and this repair would be a significant financial hardship. So Stott suggested she apply for the HomeServe Cares program. HomeServe agreed to cover the clay sewer line repair for Helen.

“I didn’t believe it at first,” Helen said. “It sounded too good to be true, but it was true.”

Stott Plumbing replaced Helen’s entire sewer service line, from her home to the city sewer main. This required digging a trench through her front yard, cutting through the street and “bursting,” or pushing the new pipe through the old, to avoid disturbing the sidewalk and porch. Stott Plumbing accomplished this all in one day so Helen will enjoy her home and neighborhood for many years to come.

“I want to thank HomeServe Cares and Stott Plumbing,” Helen said.

HomeServe is committed to serving its partners’ communities. To this end, HomeServe Cares is a program to aid disadvantaged homeowners in communities it serves who are faced with a service emergency and don’t have a service plan or the funds to cover an emergency repair. HomeServe Cares leverages the company’s existing service infrastructure and financial resources to aid homeowners in need.

Millennials’ Buying Habits Continue to Impact Energy

Millennials’ Buying Habits Continue to Impact Energy

By 2025, Millennials will make up to 75 percent of the work force, as the next largest generation, the Baby Boomers, retire in droves. This means their buying power will only increase in the next decade – multicultural Millennials’ buying habits include spending more than $65 billion each year and influencing up to $1 trillion, the generation has more spending power than Boomers and will spend up to $1.4 trillion by 2020.

Energy providers are sure to get some of those dollars, but what can they do to get a bigger piece of the pie? Millennials spend with companies where they are engaged and they are confident the company is socially responsible.

They also are the first truly “digital generation,” and they want cutting-edge tech like that employed in smart homes.  They are willing to pay more for a home with smart technology and real-time data. These demands offer a wealth of opportunities for energy providers, from offering smart thermostats to apps that provide real-time information on energy consumption and ways to save. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to smart devices and data.

In addition, energy providers can offer even more engagement with value-added services, that build on smart devices and data analysis. Everything from home security systems to emergency home repairs give energy providers opportunities to move laterally and increase engagement – and profits. Energy services isn’t a new field, but it is an exciting and growing one.

Clean Energy

Providers also could combine those two demands to meet one Millennials are clamoring for: clean energy, for which Millennials are willing to pay more, and a smart grid that integrates clean energy such as solar and wind power. Clean energy and environmentalism isn’t a “trend” for Millennials’ buying habits; it’s a practice they see crossing into all aspects of their lives, from politics to spending habits.

Energy providers who showcase their social responsibility by providing the clean energy Millennials demand will stand head-and-shoulders above their competition. This generation is already driving investment in Energy STAR appliances and solar power. They don’t just want to utilize clean energy, they want to reduce their overall usage – yet another reason to move into smart home technology, data analysis and value-added services, especially with energy consumption flattening.

There is a clear gap between what Millennials want and what they are being offered by energy providers. Despite 86 percent of overall customers who would like to have green energy, only 45 percent have been offered it, according to a Deloitte study. It also shows that 48 percent of Millennials are interested in solar power and 32 percent are interested in wind power. The study also confirms Millennials’ interest data analysis, particularly smart meters, apps and time-of-use rates.

Forward-thinking providers will be moving into these spaces as Millennials continue to increase their buying power. Partnerships with service providers such as HomeServe can help them do that.

HomeServe, a leading provider of home repair service plans, partners with utilities across the nation to offer utility customers affordable protection from potentially expensive repairs of electrical lines, water heaters, HVAC systems and water and sewer lines. To learn more about a partnership with HomeServe, contact us.

ClickConnect Conference 2018 Highlights

ClickConnect Conference 2018 Highlights

HomeServe USA was featured in a blog post by Gregory Gibbs, Vice President of Global Customer Transformation for Service Council following Click’s 2018 “ClickConnect” conference.

“Of all the many great takeaways from this conference, which we will highlight in later communications, one of them came from Mark Crook, VP Energy Services, HomeServe USA, a home warranty service organization. When asked what his organization measures as KPIs, his answer was, ‘We don’t measure ourselves against our direct competitors–we have to measure ourselves against our customers’ best service providers.'”

To read the full blog, click here.