by Peter Buttrick | Nov 30, 2022
Anita I. and her family had to be innovative to survive a winter after experiencing a furnace failure in their Dunbar, West Virginia, home.
Anita placed small heaters in bedrooms and the living room, but the electric system in the home couldn’t handle any more, leaving other parts of the home, such as the kitchen, unheated during one of the coldest winters in nearly a decade.
“No matter how I moved them around, there was no power to heat the kitchen,” Anita said.
Heating the home that she shares with several of her grandchildren with space heaters was also anxiety-inducing for Anita, despite having no heat because of the furnace failure.
“I was so scared that the house was going to catch on fire,” she said. “I didn’t sleep well at all. I was constantly getting up in the middle of the night to check on them.”
Additionally, because her furnace failure, her home got so cold that her water lines froze six times.
“We had no water at all – thank God that it didn’t last for days at a time,” she said. “We kept bottled water for the kids to drink, and we got smart and would plug up the sinks to keep enough water to flush the toilet and tried to be inventive. We would pray for it to warm up, because we didn’t have water anywhere in the house.”
Anita was dreading the prospect of facing another winter without heat, little sleep and freezing pipes because.
“My daughter and I have been praying,” she said. “We called in a company, and they said it would cost $6,000 to fix our heater, and there was no way I to come up with that money. I just started thinking: how can I go through another winter like this?”
Then, Anita’s daughter spotted an article online about the HomeServe Cares Foundation, the charitable arm of HomeServe North America. Among other community outreach projects, the Foundation provides free emergency home repairs to qualifying homeowners that address safety and sanitary issues or improve quality of life. Anita and her daughter reached out to the Foundation for help, and Tamara (Tammy) Gross, a HomeServe customer experience specialist, was assigned to assist them.
“Tammy made me feel so wonderful,” Anita said. “I didn’t want to feel like I was begging, and she didn’t make me feel that way.”
Tammy connected Anita with McAtee Plumbing Heating and Cooling, a contractor with whom HomeServe regularly works, and a technician was sent out to evaluate her furnace failure. They found that the unit was over 30 years old, and it would be unsafe to repair it, so it would have to be replaced.
“The first gentleman who came out to check and see if it was repairable, as he was leaving the house, I told him, ‘Please pray that it goes through,’ and he just gave me the biggest smile and said he sure would. The young men they sent out were very respectful.”
The Foundation agreed with the assessment that the furnace needed to be replaced and covered the entire $3,100 cost of parts and labor.
“God has to have his hands over your company, because I am in awe over what you did for me,” Anita said. “You were such a blessing to me and my family. I thank God for you and call you angels because you are angels to me. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but now I’ll be able to sleep at night.”
To learn how you can help your customers avoid furnace failure and get a good night’s sleep, contact us.
by HomeServe USA | Dec 10, 2021
During the holidays, many of us are looking for ways to lend a helping hand to our friends and neighbors, and HomeServe is no exception – and we take that giving spirit with us throughout the year.
Our HomeServe Cares Foundation and Customer First Program provide pro bono home repairs to qualifying homeowners who are facing emergency home repairs that impact safety, sanitation and quality of life that they cannot afford. These programs are part of our efforts to be a good corporate citizen by offering assistance aligned with our expertise in home repair in the communities where we have partnerships and our employees and network contractors live and work.
This allows us to help people like Shirley, a Georgia resident who had an electrical box that was a complete mess, along with leaking water lines in her basement. Shirley’s electrical service box had a melted cable and burned-out wiring and was coming away from the exterior wall. Additionally, the meter box wiring was burned as well. This was a dangerous fire hazard and was preventing Shirley’s home from getting enough power. This meant her electrical service was intermittent, usually only one electrical wall socket worked, and Shirley’s stove and refrigerator did not get power.
When HomeServe learned about Shirley’s plight, we dispatched Edward Dicarlo of EAZY Electrical and Plumbing.
“We were shocked to see she still had power because it’s a dangerous situation, leaving a lug or meter box wiring burning,” Edward said. “It could have caused an electrical fire.”
Edward made some additional repairs at no charge to make things easier for Shirley, but, while he was doing the repairs, he noticed Shirley turned the water off at the meter unless she was using it. He also noticed that, when the water was on, it poured from the pipes in the basement – Shirley needed a new water service line and plumbing she couldn’t afford. The Foundation stepped in again to make Shirley’s home livable.
“The combination of the electrical and the plumbing in this particular house cost upward of $10,000, and this customer could not have made that happen on her own,” Edward said. “I believe this is going to affect her in a great way, and it’s going to create a better living situation.”
HomeServe also utilizes our network contractors and employees to help people struggling with problems with their sewage systems, like Mary Lynn of Kentucky, who started worrying about home maintenance after she lost her husband.
“My husband always took care of everything,” she said. “It didn’t matter what it was, he took care of it some way and somehow. After he passed, I knew that I had no one to depend on to do things around the house. We’ve been here all these years [40-plus years], and things might go wrong.”
Then Mary Lynn noticed a strange depression in her yard, and she only had partial use of her facilities.
“There was a sinkhole in the yard, and I got to worrying about it,” she said. “The next thing I know, it was bigger. Then came a lot of rain and it kept getting bigger and I didn’t know what it was.”
Her septic tank had completely collapsed and wasn’t covered by her homeowner’s insurance. The cost to replace it would be $2,975 – far more than Mary Lynn could afford on her fixed income. Fortunately, Mary Lynn was able to get her septic tank replaced with the help of HomeServe.
“I don’t know what I would have done if it wasn’t for your company and my electric company,” she said. “I will never forget how kind you all were to me, and I will never forget what you did for me as long as I live.”
HomeServe helps scores of people with free home repair emergencies every year, including Lewis of Colorado, an elderly veteran on a limited income whose beloved garden was put at risk when his outdoor faucet stopped working.
“I’ve been laid up for the last year, so my wife has been watering the flowers,” Lewis said. “Then she went to water the flowers, but the faucet wouldn’t work. It was plugged up. It must have been leaking, too, because when I paid my water bill, it was almost twice as much as usual.”
HomeServe dispatched a plumber to replace the faucet and fix the line, and the plumber took the time to explain how to drain the line and prepare the faucet for cold weather.
“I can’t do a repair if something goes wrong, and it’s been a life saver,” Lewis said. “We were happy with the work, very pleased. It’s been cold for the last few days, so we haven’t used it, but we will soon. We really appreciate HomeServe for taking care of the problem for us.”
Most of those HomeServe assists are low- and middle-income homeowners who do not have the savings to address much-needed repairs. All indications are the middle class – which shrank by 10 percent between 1971 and 2011, according to The Pew Trust – don’t have savings for financial shocks like unexpected home repairs. In our Winter 2021 State of the Home Survey, 13 percent of respondents said they had no money set aside, and nearly one-third said they had either less than $500 or no money set aside. That number jumped up to 60 percent for households that reported an annual income of $50,000 or less.
Many times, they have an unaffordable repair that is a safety hazard, like Shirley; or impacts sanitation, like Mary Lynn; or simply impacts quality or enjoyment of life, like Lewis. Not being able to address home repairs has long-lasting impacts on their daily life.
Utilities can help their LMI customers address this financial hurdle by partnering with HomeServe to offer optional, affordable plans that enable them to address home repair issues as they arise, instead of leaving them to linger until they pose a risk to the homeowner. To learn more about our program and how we can offer peace of mind for low- and middle-income homeowners, contact us.