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March 4, 2010

Mold invasion

Posted: 07:19 PM ET

HELP ME CLARK!
From HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard

Having trouble managing money?  Do your money goals seem impossible?  Clark Howard wants to help you!

We're looking for families or individuals who are willing to be profiled on HLN.  Those chosen will get money advice and information from Clark Howard.

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Filed under: Clark Howard • Help Me Clark • Home repair • Living


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October 26, 2009

"Floored" by home improvement debacle

Posted: 12:28 PM ET

HELP ME CLARK!
From HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard

RONALD:

I had some floors put down in my home for about $7,000. From the beginning, I have had nothing but problems. They sent out a "floor doctor" at their expense, who stated that the floors were installed incorrectly. They then offered to sell me a new floor at cost and the installer would install it for "free." I consulted an attorney who wants $7,500 to begin any action. I wrote my senator who sent it to my state representative who won't get involved. Where do I turn now?

CLARK:

You have to turn to yourself. In a situation like that where you feel that they have failed to deliver, you have a report from an expert that says they failed to deliver, that is made to order for you being your own lawyer, or the equivalent of a lawyer, representing yourself in small claims court.

Now, the limits on what you can do in small claims court vary from state to state. There's a great guide at nolo.com that will walk you through what the rules and requirements and limits are in your state.

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Filed under: Clark Howard • Home repair • Living


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October 5, 2009

How to pay for flood damage

Posted: 08:34 AM ET

HELP ME CLARK!
From HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard

HLN Money Expert Clark Howard takes your questions.
HLN Money Expert Clark Howard takes your questions.

CARLA:
We have flood damage to our home. We have no flood insurance. Both my husband and I have major health problems and can't afford a loan. Would it be advisable to take out the cash value from a life insurance policy we have to make the repairs we need?

CLARK:
Borrowing from the life insurance policy would be a viable option after the fact, not up front. If it were me, I would take advantage of the SBA loans that are being granted in disaster areas that carry ultra-low interest rates. Plus, if your county has been declared a disaster area, there may even be some grant money that will be available to you. You want to get an appointment with a FEMA inspector and they’ll write up a report and see what eligibility you have. If you take out an SBA loan and you find that even making the payments on it – because they’re ultra-low interest loans – are too burdensome for you, at that point, yes, you could borrow from a life insurance policy.

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Filed under: Clark Howard • Finance • Home repair • Insurance


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September 7, 2009

Help me with home energy savings

Posted: 05:48 AM ET

HLN Money Expert Clark Howard

For more tips, visit CNN.com/ClarkHoward

STEPHEN:

The heating system and air conditioning in my house is 21 years old. A contractor has told me that I can spend $5,700 on a new gas furnace that will be 90% efficient and a heat pump that will be 15 seer. This will qualify me for the $1,500 tax credit for energy savings. Is it worthwhile for me to make this investment?

CLARK:

If you plan to stay in your house for a lengthy period of time, it will pay off for you right now with the bonus of the tax credit. And it will definitely pay off for you over the long haul in what you'll save on energy in winter and summer. But you have to patient, because it is "eventually". You're not going to make this money back in two or three years. Depending on the climate where you live and the relative cost versus the energy bills you're paying now, it could be a 10-year payback. If you want to get a feel for that, go to energystar.gov and look at their calculators to see if the payback is a reasonable period for the length you plan to own your home.

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Filed under: Clark Howard • Economy • Environment • Home repair


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August 20, 2009

Is it worth getting a new energy-efficient HVAC system?

Posted: 06:00 AM ET

HELP ME CLARK!
From HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard

STEPHEN:

The heating system and air conditioning in my house is 21 years old. A contractor has told me that I can spend $5,700 on a new gas furnace that will be 90% efficient and a heat pump that will be 15 seer. This will qualify me for the $1,500 tax credit for energy savings. Is it worthwhile for me to make this investment?

CLARK:

If you plan to stay in your house for a lengthy period of time, it will pay off for you right now with the bonus of the tax credit. And it will definitely pay off for you over the long haul in what you'll save on energy in winter and summer.

But you have to patient, because it is "eventually". You're not going to make this money back in two or three years. Depending on the climate where you live and the relative cost versus the energy bills you're paying now, it could be a 10-year payback.

If you want to get a feel for that, go to energystar.gov and look at their calculators to see if the payback is a reasonable period for the length you plan to own your home.

Tune in to Clark Howard Saturdays and Sundays at noon and 4 p.m. ET on HLN

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Filed under: Clark Howard • Home repair • Living


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August 7, 2009

I almost died Wednesday, but my dog saved my life!

Posted: 02:19 PM ET

By Matt Sloane
CNN Medical News Producer

It was 2 a.m. and Kylie, our 3-year-old Australian shepherd, started barking.  Dexter, her brother, jumped in between my wife and me, scared of what I thought was a thunderstorm.  But it turned out the "lightning" was coming from a power outlet over our bedroom vanity.  This is the second time in as many months that this has happened.  After the last scare, we had the electrician out to fix it, and he installed a special arc-fault breaker that was supposed to cut power to the outlet if it started to burn.  We were $400 lighter in the wallet but reassured, that is, until Wednesday morning when it happened again!  Outlet melted, wall burned, six-way adapter destroyed, and (false) sense of security shattered.

Kylie, the 3-year-old Aussie that saved our house from burning down
Kylie, the 3-year-old Aussie that saved our house from burning down

We found out from the electrician the next morning that our 30+ year-old house had aluminum wiring, which tends to overheat, and that our arc-fault breaker may have been faulty.  So, our six-plug adapter with a hair iron and hair dryer plugged in was probably drawing a ton of power, and caused the fixture to melt – and it didn't trip the breaker. 

Our house most certainly would have caught fire within a few hours had the furry ones not awakened us.

So, rather than be completely freaked out, I decided to share my near-death experience, hoping to impart some of the lessons from my old house, my electrician, a handful of experts and my dog.

 1. Older aluminum wiring can be dangerous.  The "old-style" aluminum wiring used in homes before 1972 was found to be incompatible with many receptacles being manufactured at the time, and it caused a whole host of deadly fires around the country. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, older homes containing aluminum wiring installed before 1972 "are 55 times more likely to have one or more connections reach 'fire hazard' status."  Since 1972, wire manufacturers have been using a much safer aluminum alloy wire.

Our electrician also recommended we plug just two appliances into our two plugs, and steer clear of six-way adapters.  The more power you draw, the hotter the wire gets, the more likely it is to cause a fire.

 2. Beware of counterfeit electrical parts.  According to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, more than $500,000 worth of counterfeit Christmas lights were seized at U.S. ports last December alone.  This could be just the tip of the iceberg, and some of these components are making it through undetected. Some even bear the coveted "UL Listed" (Underwriters Laboratory) mark of approval, although they haven’t earned it.  According to the National Electrical Contractors Association, some of these components are so well disguised they're reaching the toolboxes of legitimate electrical contractors.  But despite a few fake "UL" logos, NECA safety chief Jerry Rivera says, looking for the these logos is your best bet for avoiding counterfeit parts.  Nobody can say for sure whether our bad breaker was counterfeit, but experts say counterfeit electrical parts are one of the leading causes of electrical fires.

3. If you do suspect that your electrical components may be melting, call 911.  "Most electrical fires are hidden behind the walls," says Allen McCullough, fire chief and public safety director for Fayette County, Georgia.  "You may smell that electrical smell, but you may not be able to chase it and find the origin, so even when you're suspicious, call 911."  McCullough goes on to say that while fire departments used to come in and tear down sheet rock to find the origin of electrical fires, high-tech thermal imaging cameras can now find hotspots without doing damage to your home. 

If you wake up to an electrical fire already burning, McCullough says, don't use water to extinguish it.  A dry-chemical or all-purpose fire extinguisher is your best bet.

4. Dogs. Although annoying, when a dog barks incessantly at night, there's probably a reason.  PAY ATTENTION!

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Filed under: Health • Home repair • Living


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About this blog

Clark Howard helps you become a wise consumer. We know you're busy, and that's why Clark's tips are quick and effective. He'll arm you with the information you need to make smart choices. During these tough economic times, Clark wants to help you save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off!