Everything You Need to Know About Solar Energy in the Home

Solar energy and its benefits have increasingly grown over the last decade. Solar energy can provide savings on energy bills as well as reducing the carbon footprint. As with any newer technology, it can also be confusing, with one statement about solar power often contradicting the other. More homeowners are considering switching to solar energy in their home because of the tax credits offered for its use as well as the lowered costs of installation. However, understanding solar energy and how you can include it in your home will require you to trace the light from the solar arrays straight into your wallet and to understand how you can set up your solar energy to realize the best savings. Solar energy is not really a “new” technology as human beings have been harnessing the power of the sun for generations. However, the new technology has allowed homeowners to take it to the next level. The following offers you a basic understanding of how solar power works in a home, the benefits of adding solar power and how you can go about adding solar power into your house.

Basic Solar Power 101

Solar panels house a collection of “cells.” You may have seen these types of cells (although miniaturized) in a solar powered calculator. These panels are fixed onto the roof with racks to take maximum advantage of the sun’s position in relation to your home. The installation process, itself, usually takes only a few hours. Solar energy is created when the cells inside the panels heat up and convert the sun’s energy into electricity. A component called an inverter takes this electricity and makes it into alternating current, which is what most houses need. This inverter sends the converted electricity to your electrical panel. Many times, your house will generate more energy that it consumes, which in some jurisdictions the power company will buy back from you. A good solar power company will offer you an estimate on how much power your system will produce based on the factors in your area, including the angle of your roof.

Solar Energy is Clean and Quiet

Unlike other types of energy that is used to power a home, solar power does not produce pollution or emit carbon dioxide. Additionally, the inclusion of the average solar panels on homes have a minimal impact on the surrounding environment. The other benefit, and one that is not often mentioned, is the fact that solar power is extremely quiet. The components involved in the production of the solar energy make little to no noise, which also creates a quieter environment for homeowners.

Adding Solar Energy into Your Home

If you would like to consider adding solar energy to your home but are not exactly sure what the first steps are, you should consider that there are at least three main ways that solar energy can be utilized. First, you can purchase the solar arrays, have them and the inverter installed, work out the agreement with the local power company, and that is all it takes. The other way is to lease a solar array from companies that offer this service. This allows you to see if you like using the solar panels without committing to the purchase of them. During the time in which you lease them, the company takes care of the maintenance. The last way, which is not always offered in all locations, is a power purchase agreement, which means that you allow the company to place the panels on your roof and you pay for the energy you use. Energy that is produced beyond what you actually use, the company sells and makes a profit.

Advantages and Disadvantages to Solar Power

Consider where you live. In many places in the U.S. the sun does not shine as much as it might in others. For example, solar panels may not be as useful to someone living in Seattle as it would to someone living in Florida. Additionally, solar panels cannot collect power at night, so you would end up using some of the power from the electrical company during that time (though many solar power arrays do have batteries that can store a certain amount of power). While other countries outstrip the U.S. in terms of its use of solar power, the U.S. has begun to move in the same direction. In Europe, for example, the cost of solar power is the same as purchasing power from the electric company.

Currently, those who wish to purchase their solar power equipment outright are looking at a $15,000-$20,000 price tag. The federal government currently offers a tax credit worth 30 percent of the amount paid for a solar system. This means that if the bill is approximately $15,000, at least $4,500 would be offered as a tax credit. If you are considering purchasing, you must also consider that solar panels and inverters last for decades, so if your roof is going to be replaced within the next 10 to 20 years, you may want to consider having that done first.

Regardless of which setup you go with, each solar system and its setup will be unique to your home and situation. What you need to consider is the amount of savings that you anticipate having once the arrays have been installed. What will you power with the array? Some opt for just powering a hot water heater, while others power their entire home.

Tips for Cutting Down on Utilities Costs

One of the best ways to save money is by creating a monthly budget. Many households struggle with creating a monthly budget because they feel there are too many costs that are hard to calculate. However, one consistent area that households can budget for is their monthly utility costs. Utility costs are one of the largest expenses for a household. Utilities are often defined as electricity and water services. While some areas combine these charges, most often they are kept separate.

Many households mistakenly believe there is nothing they can do to significantly lower their utility costs. However, households have significant control over their utility costs. Some of the changes the household can make lower the utility bills by only a small amount. While these may not seem significant at first, however, several small savings can quickly add up and lead to a significant reduction in monthly utility costs.

Heating and Cooling Utility Costs

Calculating how much goes into heating and cooling costs can be very difficult. Many households overlook how many devices in their home actually require heating and cooling. A great way to reduce the heating and cooling costs within a household is to use a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats have two different ways of reducing monthly utility costs. Whenever possible, the household can use the programmable thermostat to create a set schedule. Having a set schedule allows the thermostat to adjust heating and cooling at specific points in time, such as hours where everyone is out of the house or sleeping.

Households that do not have long periods where nobody is home can still benefit from a programmable thermostat. These households can program the thermostat to keep the house at specific temperatures throughout. Once the temperature is reached, the heating or cooling will automatically shut off or become idle as long as those temperatures are maintained. More elaborate systems allow households to set specific temperatures for individual rooms, while others simply apply to the whole house.

Another way to cut down on heating and cooling costs is to use portable devices. During the colder months, the household could use a portable space heater rather than heating the whole house with an air conditioning unit. Some households may also be able to use a fireplace to heat the house. In warmer months, households may be able to keep the windows open and use portable fans instead of air conditioning, which is much more expensive to maintain.

Households that do not mind doing a little work can also change their roof to a different color. White roofs are better for keeping a home cool, since black roofs attract sunlight and increase the overall temperature of the home. This may seem like a relatively minor change, but changing the color of a roof can sometimes save up to $100 dollars each year in heating or cooling costs.

To reduce both heating and energy, households can also use cold water to wash clothing. Water heaters use up a substantial amount of power and often are set to make the water much warmer than it needs to be. At the very least, households should set their water heaters to 120 degrees. This is lower than the default temperature for most water heaters, but it is still more than enough heat for utilities that rely on heated water.

Household Electrical Devices

Most households have a variety of devices that consume electricity. Some examples include computers, gaming consoles, televisions, ovens and more. On their own, these devices consume a small amount of electricity. However, as a group, these devices end up consuming a great deal of electricity. What makes these devices expensive is the fact that many of them consume electricity even when they are not in use.

There are a lot of devices that have power-saving options and automatically turn on when they have been idle for a certain amount of time. It is even more efficient to turn the devices off completely. However, the best way to eliminate these electrical costs is to put the devices on a power strip. Once the devices are no longer in use, shut down the power strip to ensure the devices do not use any additional electricity.


There are some household products that naturally consume a lot of electricity. Some of the biggest offenders are refrigerators, freezers and washing machines. Unlike smaller electronic devices, it is not possible to turn these devices off or plug them into a power strip. With these devices, the best way to cut down on utility costs is to buy more energy-efficient models. ENERGY STAR devices are designed to use significantly less power compared to older models. It may seem counterproductive to spend money on new devices to save money, but these devices may eventually pay for themselves thanks to their energy efficiency.

Water Costs

Another utility that many households initially overlook when attempting to cut down on household costs is water. A great way of cutting down on water costs is to install a new showerhead. Low-flow showerheads are relatively inexpensive and greatly reduce the amount of water consumed in the shower. With sinks, installing a faucet aerator helps reduce costs. Faucet aerators help with both water costs and heating costs. Finally, the household should consider replacing any leaky faucets throughout the house, since these faucets ultimately waste water and lead to increased utility bills.

How to Find Housing That Accepts Pets

If you are a pet owner, moving to a new place adds another dimension of stress because not all rental situations are open and accepting of pets. Ideally, you should begin your search for a new apartment before your current lease is up, as finding a pet-friendly rental can take some time. Not all pet-friendly renting is the same. Some require pet deposits and monthly pet fees, while others simply have you make a one-time payment and restrict what types of animals you can having living with you. The worst mistake is to assume a place is pet friendly only to find out that your particular breed, or species, of pet is not welcome. Additionally, you should make sure that your pet is well behaved and will not be a nuisance to your new neighbors and landlord. The following strategies for finding a pet-friendly rental can help cut down your search time by helping you make a good impression on a potential landlord.

Start Early When Searching for Pet Housing

If you start looking for a new living situation well before you actually need it, then it gives you more ability to be selective with your rental choices. It also gives you time to thoroughly read reviews of the rental, make sure that the area’s amenities suit both you and your pet, and that the price of keeping your pet in the rental unit is fair. Often, a quick keyword search on pet-friendly rentals in your area will give you a great first place to start your search. Another place that can offer assistance is the local Humane society, which will likely know who in the area rents to pet owners. The ASPCA may also be a good resource.

Do Not Sneak Your Pet In

Maybe your pet is small, and you believe that you can sneak your pet in without the landlord knowing about it. This is a bad idea for many reasons. First, there is a strong possibility your landlord will find out about the pet. You could be asked to leave and will have to find another home for you and your pet. Second, no matter how well behaved your animal is, there will be telltale signs that you have an animal living with you. Either your neighbors will know, or your pet will be discovered when your landlord inspects the apartment or comes in to do routine maintenance. Since it would be a clear violation of your leasing contract, you could incur legal consequences that simply make sneaking your pet into your apartment a very poor choice.

Pet-Friendly Apartment Search Tools

There are many websites that cater to pet owners and their common need to find rentals that allow companion animals. Many of these search tools allow you to filter for type of pet, location, monthly rental fees and whether a pet deposit is required or not. Social media is also a great way to ask around and get personal recommendations from friends who know of places that accept pets. Real estate agents can also be helpful in finding pet-friendly accommodations. The benefit of working with a real estate agent is that this agent knows the area, will spend time getting to know what your needs are and will be able to cut down your search time by only offering you possible rentals that would be a good fit. Speak with your veterinarian, pet store workers, groomers or those in your doggie day care group.

Expect Some Discrimination

Certain breeds of dogs have a misguided reputation for being dangerous. If you own a Rottweiler, Doberman or pit bull terrier, for example, then you may have a hard time convincing even pet-friendly rentals to accept you. Not just large breeds experience discrimination. Some smaller breeds also find themselves on the banned list, including pugs, French bulldogs and beagles. Landlords are allowed to set the limits and terms when it comes to animals. Many landlords are not accepting of exotic animals, including certain types of reptiles.

Have All of Your Pet Documents Together

If you need to make your case for your animal being a good pet, then having all of the vaccination records, letters of reference from the vet, a former landlord and a former neighbor can be useful. If you have a certificate from an obedience class, this also lets the landlord know that you are a responsible pet owner. Lastly, arrange a pet interview where the landlord can meet your furry roommate. Often, this face-to-face meeting can be the deciding factor for most landlords. Make sure your pet is not overly enthusiastic when meeting new people, and make sure that his or her people skills are the best they can be.

Set Aside Additional Funds

You can expect to have to pay additional fees to be able to keep your pet with you in an apartment. At the very least, you will have to pay several hundred dollars as a pet deposit to hold against damages that may be caused by your pet. Other apartments will not need a pet deposit, but will, instead, charge an additional pet fee that is payable each month. Either way, you will need to save and set aside that money before you move. When you get the initial contract, do not sign it until you have read the pet clauses closely. Some apartment complexes and rental homes word the language so that any slight damage will result in a fine or loss of a deposit. Still, others will have no pet clause in the lease at all, which may give the landlord too much latitude to deny the pet after you have already moved in. Having pet-friendly clauses in the contract are essential.

How to Choose Your Internet Service Provider

Pennsylvania offers residents many options when it comes to internet service providers. Many activities require high-quality internet connections, fast speeds and larger capacities, which makes selecting the right internet provider even more crucial. If you are moving, then you will want to already make a determination on who your new internet service provider will be before your move. Rushing the decision can also have its consequences as you can be locked into a one year contract with a provider whose service does not work well in your area or does not deliver as promised. Business owners whose businesses rely heavily on computers will want a service provider that offers enough reliability and power to successfully handle multiple computers at once. The below information explains how you can choose a suitable internet service provider for your needs.

How much speed do you need?

Most service providers like to boast about their speeds for both uploads and downloads. Most consumers do not really know what that means. The download speed is how fast the connection is when pulling data from the internet. The upload speed refers to how fast your computer is able to send out data. These speeds generally relate to how fast you can access data on the internet and how fast your emails will transmit. Internet service providers measure both of these speeds in megabits per second (Mbps). If you are just looking for a simple internet service for your home, then one Mbps is enough. However, if you like to play games or stream television shows, then you will want to opt for more Mbps.

Getting Connected in Pennsylvania

In PA, there are five basic options for connecting to the internet. First, you can opt for a DSL connection. This was one of the first types of high speed internet connections, and it is still a viable option today. While DSL is the cheaper of all the connection types, it is not the fastest. Most internet service providers offer this service as a residential and business line. They utilize at least one already existing phone line to provide this service, or a service provider will run another phone line. The business DSL lines tend to be able to handle larger loads, and in many areas this service can be bundled with other phone services. You do not actually have to be a business in order to have the business line installed.

Wireless connections are available in most areas, but not all. With these types of connections, your computer uses the 4G networks available through phone companies and mobile phone groups. If your computer has a built in wireless card, then you can access the wireless network. The cost is comparable to what you would be paying for DSL, and this services often come included in a bundled phone and internet package.

Cable internet connections are extremely popular for several reasons. These plans tend to be still in the affordable range, depending on what extras are ordered. They can be bundled with other cable television products for a discount. The internet is provided using the cable connection, however many users report having connection troubles, or slower than average speeds, during peak usage hours. However, even with these slower times, cable connections are faster than DSL connections.

Satellite internet connections are also available and are comparable in cost to the cable internet connections. The pricing tends to be the draw for most customers, but if you live in an area that experiences a lot of inclement weather, such as snow or heavy rain, then consider that during those times you may have slower connection speed.

Fiber optics are currently only offered in select areas in PA. However, as a new technology, it is likely that at some point it will become more mainstream. The connection speeds are the highest of the three types of internet services.

Installing Service Provider Equipment

In general, and depending on your provider and type of connection, you may not need to have any of your own equipment. Some providers will offer their own routers for your use. Others will require you to “lease” the equipment, while others will ask you to use your own router and peripherals. This is a very important distinction to make when speaking with potential service providers in your area, as sometimes the advertised price does not include the equipment. Some companies will waive the equipment fee, which is substantially high, if you agree to a one year contract.

Check Service Availability

Not all types of internet services are available in all areas of PA. To locate whether or not a service provider extends its services to your particular area, you can go online and use various search tools that allow you to search for DSL, Cable and Satellite internet service providers. Some of these tools allow you to also create a comparison between the services you are considering, so you can compare benefits, costs and levels of service offered. If speed is most important to you, then there are search tools that allow you to find the fastest internet service providers that have been tested by real time users internationally.

How to Choose Your Television Service Provider

Many consumers in Pennsylvania have watched their television service provider bills increase. This prompts many consumers to begin comparison shopping when it comes to their television providers, and to even consider other alternatives. With the innovations in streaming content, as well as the advances in broadband and satellite television, consumers have more choices than ever when it comes to watching television programming. Before shopping around for the cheapest provider on the market, it is best to first consider what it is you want from your television provider. You should take into account the types of programming that appeal to you and the sort of bundling options that are available. Where you live may also affect the types of television services available to you. Addressing these factors will help you find the ideal television service provider.

How much do you want to spend?

What you will spend on a television provider’s packages will depend on the type of experience you hope to get for your money. Do you want access to premium sports channels? How often do you watch television? Do you want local news and events to be available? Answering all of these questions will help shape your idea of what type of provider might work best for you. If price is the real motivator, then the most affordable option may be to stream television using an internet connection.

Streaming Television Services

There are a number of streaming television services and components these days. Most require you to purchase your own streaming device, which can often be obtained for less than $100 at many retailers specializing in electronics. Streaming television services allow you to access many television series and shows by subscribing to channels on the streaming device. You will be required to sign up with channels, such as Hulu or Netflix, which give you access to movies and entire seasons of past television shows. In the case of Hulu, you can also watch currently broadcast shows. Amazon also offers its own streaming service. Many of the device platforms now offer users a way to access local news channels, which users had not been able to do in past years. After the initial cost of the transmission device, users simply pay for subscriptions to the streaming services mentioned above.

Cable Television

Cable television has been around for a long time. Using a broadband cable, the broadcast signal is strong and reliable. The primary providers for cable television include AT&T and Xfinity. However, local providers may also exist in your area of Pennsylvania. Entertainment packages are offered to consumers, which include a selection of various programming. This is where knowing what you are interested in watching will come into play. Weigh the programming lineup carefully as you do not want to be paying for a package that only offers a few of the programs you like. You will also be liable for the cable box and any other components required to get the broadband into your home. Most cable television standard programming begins at around $60 per month for the most basic programming, with other packages costing over $100 per month.

Satellite Television

Television service is also accessible through a satellite dish service. Direct TV is one of the largest providers of this service in the U.S. but may not be available in all areas of the state. As with cable television providers, you will be asked to select a programming package. You will also be charged for equipment that includes the satellite dish and the satellite receiver box. Most service packages include 50 or more programs and feature low introductory prices. Make sure to read the fine print, however. In many instances, you must agree to a one year contract, and the low introductory prices revert to the standard prices after a certain number of months.

Combine Different Services

The other option is to sign up for the most basic of cable or satellite packages, and then purchase a streaming device. Between the two services, the price is kept lower than a premium cable or satellite service, and the increase in programming provided by the streaming device still ensures that you have most of the shows you enjoy. While you will pay more than the cost of a streaming device alone, this combination ensures that you have access to specific cable channels not available on the streaming device.

Service Providers and Contracts

Once you have determined which television service provider you are interested in, you will have to decide whether you are willing to sign a contract with them. While almost all television providers offer a no-contract service option, most of the discounts and incentives are only offered to customers who agree to a contract. You will have to weigh the potential drawbacks of signing a contract with a company and ask what happens if you change your mind before the contract term is completed.

Signs That Your Illness Needs to Be Treated With Antibiotics

While millions of prescriptions are written each year for antibiotics, an estimated one-third of those prescriptions are written unnecessarily. Antibiotics are an aggressive but effective form of treatment against many ailments, but they cannot cure every common disease. In fact, taking antibiotics when they are not necessary is one of the main ways to make yourself resistant to them, which could make it harder for you to treat a disease in the future. It is, therefore, extremely important that you only take antibiotics when you actually need to take them. The key to recognizing when you need to take antibiotics for your illness and when you do not is to identify whether your illness is caused in any way by a bacterial infection. Antibiotics are not an effective treatment against viral infections. Likewise, if your condition does not involve any infection at all, it does not need to be treated with antibiotics.

The following sections cover the signs and symptoms of bacterial infections and common conditions associated with them. This should help you identify when your illness needs to be treated with antibiotics and when it does not. For additional certainty, these distinctions are followed by a brief list of certain common conditions that are associated with the symptoms. Ultimately, however, only a physician can determine whether your illness is viral or bacterial in nature. Antibiotics should only ever be prescribed by a licensed physician. When antibiotics are not needed to treat your illness, ask your physician what treatment options are best.

When You Should Take Antibiotics

Since antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, they should only be prescribed if you are showing signs and symptoms of this type of infection. Physicians use many clues to identify whether an infection in a patient is bacterial. The following are signs that your infection is bacterial and needs to be treated with antibiotics:

  • It involves a single body cavity. Viruses spread all over as much of the body as they can, but bacteria like to settle in one place.
  • You have a high fever. Both viral and bacterial infections can cause a fever, but fevers caused by viruses tend to be lower than those caused by bacteria, and generally only last for the infection’s first few days. An exception to this rule is influenza, a viral infection that can cause high fevers from 101 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Fevers caused by bacterial infections, in addition to being higher, also tend to last for as long as the infection lingers.
  • You have the shakes or chills. These are not definitive indicators of a bacterial infection, since certain viral infections like the flu can also cause these symptoms. However, shakes or chills, in combination with other symptoms, can help a doctor determine whether your illness is bacterial in nature.
  • White spots on a sore throat. Both viruses and bacteria can cause sore throats, but sore throats caused by viruses do not tend to produce white spots on the throat. If those are observed, they were probably caused by bacteria.
  • It does not go away by itself. Viral infections tend to go away on their own in time. Bacterial infections will linger for as long as the body fails to eradicate them. If you are able to get out of bed after the first few days of your illness, it was probably viral. If you only seem to keep getting sicker and sicker, your illness is probably bacterial and requires antibiotics. Strep throat is a noteworthy exception to this rule, often presenting itself as a mild viral form of pharyngitis. It is also worth noting that a viral infection that lasts for a long time could eventually take on a bacterial component. The longer you have been sick, therefore, the more likely it is that an antibiotic should be prescribed.

Common conditions associated with a bacterial infection that need to be treated with antibiotics include:

  • Strep throat.
  • Urinary tract infection.
  • Whooping cough.

When You May Need Antibiotics

Some conditions, like a middle ear infection or a sinus infection, may be caused by either a viral or bacterial infection. These, therefore, may or may not improve from treatment with antibiotics. Both bacterial and viral upper respiratory infections can trigger the production of colored mucus. Despite popular myth, there is no reliable differentiation in the color or consistency of mucus caused by one or the other. Thin and clear mucus may be more often viral than bacterial, but yellow or green mucus can be caused by either type of infection.

Bacteria and viruses also frequently mimic one another. Influenza is an example of a viral infection that highly resembles a bacterial infection, while mycoplasma is a bacterial infection that presents just like a viral infection. This is why it is important to have a doctor determine the true nature and source of your illness and whether or not you need to take antibiotics to treat it.

When You Do Not Need Antibiotics

When an otherwise healthy adult or child experiences a chest cold or bronchitis, antibiotics are not a suitable form of treatment. Even in cases of acute bronchitis caused by bacteria, antibiotics are not considered effective. Antibiotics are not the solution, either, for any type of sore throat that is not strep throat. Furthermore, antibiotics are not indicated in any of the following conditions:

Everything You Need to Know About Life Insurance

Life insurance is sometimes confused with medical coverage. While both services are very important, medical coverage is very different from life insurance. Medical coverage is about staying healthy, while life insurance is all about what happens after death. With a life insurance policy, a customer pays premiums to a life insurance provider. In return, the life insurance provider pays out a lump sum to whomever the policy owner designates as their beneficiary. Typically, the beneficiary is a family member, such as a spouse or a child. However, some life insurance policies pay out to charities. Policy holders are not limited to one beneficiary. In addition, they can also dictate how much goes to each beneficiary.

How much a beneficiary can receive depends on a couple of different factors, most notably, the type of insurance plan and how much the policy holder was paying. Picking a life insurance plan is a very important decision. Consumers searching for a plan are encouraged to take as much time as they need to fully understand the specifics of the various plans and how much their beneficiaries will actually receive.

Different Types of Life Insurance Policies

There are two primary groups of life insurance policies. The first type of policy is universal life insurance, which are also sometimes referred to as whole life insurance policies. Universal life insurance policies last for as long as the policy holder pays the premium. Universal life insurance policies pay out a lump sum upon the death of the policy holder, but they also come with investment or savings options. With these options, policy holders accumulate cash value while they are paying for their insurance. Over the course of their life, policy holders may withdraw money from these policies if needed, otherwise, the unused money is added to the total lump sum.

The other type of life insurance policy is known as term life. Under term life insurance policies, the policy holder only has insurance for a certain length of time. As long as the policy holder passes away while the insurance is in effect, his or her beneficiaries will receive a payment. If the policy holder survives past the initial term, the insurance policy is no longer in effect, and the policy holder will have to get a new plan if he or she wants anything to go to his or her beneficiaries.

Because they are only temporary, term life insurance policies are cheaper than universal life insurance policies. In addition, more costs typically go into universal life insurance plans because of the savings options with those policies.

Optional Payments

Most policy holders choose to go with the lump sum payment for their beneficiaries. However, some policy holders pick a different payment plan, known as a family income benefit. Through this method, beneficiaries receive monthly payments instead of receiving the lump sum all at once. Policy holders typically choose this option if they are worried about how their beneficiaries will handle one giant payment. It is especially common with younger children, who do not have the financial responsibility to reasonably handle receiving a giant payment all at once.

Who needs life insurance?

Life insurance is technically not required but is strongly recommended. For parents, life insurance is an important way to guarantee their children are financially provided for in case of an emergency. Even couples without children should consider life insurance, since it ensures their spouse is taken care of financially.

In some situations, it may be impossible to get a loan without a life insurance policy. This is especially common with mortgage lenders. For the lender, they feel safer providing the loan because they know that even if something unfortunate happens to the borrower, he or she will still be able to pay off the loan.

Not everyone needs life insurance to provide for their family after they pass away. Some employers provide a death in service benefit, which provides similar benefits as life insurance. Even then, policy holders are still strongly encouraged to look at a life insurance plan and compare the benefits to the death in service package provided by their employers.

How much does life insurance pay?

The amount that a life insurance policy pays out is known as the death benefit. Determining the exact death benefit can be difficult without the assistance of a life insurance agent. The closest estimate is for the policy holder to take his or her yearly salary and multiply that amount by eight. Because there are so many factors that can change between taking out a policy and actually using the policy, it is very important to treat this number as a rough estimate.

How much does life insurance cost?

Some policy holders may decide to take out a smaller insurance policy, which will have a smaller death benefit. The size of the death benefit has the largest overall impact on how much a life insurance plan costs. There are a couple of other factors that go into determining the cost of life insurance.

Insurance agents take into account the health of the policy holder when they sign up. If the policy holder is older or has health issues, they will have much higher premiums. Anyone that lives an unhealthy lifestyle, such as smokers or drinkers, will pay higher premiums as well. Insurance agents also look at past family history, marital status and where the policy holder lives when determining the price. Finally, the gender of the policy holder may influence the cost of life insurance. Females typically pay less in health insurance, since they have a longer life expectancy.

Tips for Navigating the Health Insurance Marketplace

Federal health insurance reform led to the requirement that all U.S. residents have health insurance. Although that will no longer be the case after 2019, all residents are still required to have adequate health insurance in 2018. If you do not have health insurance, you may be fined when you file your annual income taxes. Health care reform also led to the creation of the online Health Insurance Marketplace to help residents search for appropriate health insurance plans. If you are currently in need of health insurance, then you should explore the Marketplace to choose a health care plan which will suit your needs. However, before you search for health insurance, you must learn how to use the Marketplace and maximize your health insurance benefits. Information you must familiarize yourself with includes when to enroll in a health insurance plan and the requirements for qualification. Below is a list of several tips for navigating the health insurance marketplace.

Accessing the Health Insurance Marketplace in Pennsylvania

When attempting to navigate the Health Insurance Marketplace for the first time, you must begin by locating the marketplace for your state. Currently, 15 states use their own online marketplaces. Like most states, however, Pennsylvania uses the federal Marketplace located at

Applying for New Health Insurance Coverage During Open Enrollment

Under typical circumstances, you will only be able to apply for health insurance coverage through the Marketplace during specified open enrollment periods. The exact dates of annual open enrollment vary each year, but they typically occur during the last two months of the year. Therefore, if you wish to switch from an insurance offered by your workplace or another plan to one in the Marketplace, you must wait until the next open enrollment period to do so.

Special Enrollment Periods

Although open enrollment is the typical time during which you can apply for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you may qualify for enrollment at other times of year based on status changes in your life. For example, if you lose your work-provided health care coverage due to losing your job, then you will immediately be able to sign up for new health insurance through the Marketplace. Similarly, any changes to your family status may qualify you for an immediate change of health care coverage. Examples of such status changes include having a child or getting married.

Health Insurance Renewal vs. Open Enrollment Periods

When navigating the health insurance marketplace, you must understand the difference between the open enrollment period and your health insurance renewal period. When you sign up for a health insurance plan, your coverage will last for one year. At the end of the year, your coverage may automatically renew, or you may have to manually renew it. However, you will not be able to change health insurance plans during your renewal period. Your health insurance plan may only be changed during open enrollment or if you have a major status change such as those listed above.

Health Insurance Marketplace Eligibility

You will only qualify for health insurance through the online Marketplace if you currently have no other health insurance plan. Also, you must meet other eligibility requirements. For instance, you must prove you are living in the United States legally. Additionally, you will not qualify for health insurance through the Marketplace if you are currently serving a prison sentence.

Covered Medical Conditions

You cannot be turned down for health insurance coverage through the online Marketplace based on your current physical health status as long as you meet the basic eligibility requirements. Health insurance obtained through the Marketplace covers pre-existing conditions. Your new health insurance plan will also cover preventative medical procedures, as well as essential care, such as annual checkups and certain hospital procedures. If you are pregnant, you can also obtain insurance coverage through the online Marketplace that will cover services related to your pregnancy.

Familiarizing Yourself With Your Insurance

One of the most important actions you must take when using the Health Insurance Marketplace is to familiarize yourself with the services offered under the plan you choose. You may be able to save a great deal of money by determining which services are cheapest under your health care plan. For example, some health care plans may give low rates for visits to a primary doctor but charge significantly more for certain procedures, while other plans may have higher copays for doctor visits but charge less for the same procedures. You must select a plan that offers the benefits you expect to need most often.

Re-Examine Health Insurance Options Before Open Enrollment

You must renew your health insurance during your annual renewal period. However, you will be allowed to change your coverage during open enrollment if you so choose. Health insurance benefits offered under your current health care plan are subject to change. Therefore, you may decide that your current health insurance plan no longer suits your needs. Also, new health care plans with new services are often added to the Health Insurance Marketplace. Examining new additions to your own plan, as well as to the Marketplace itself, will help you to make the best health insurance decision during the open enrollment period.

Various Careers in Health Care and How They Differ

If you have always wanted to help people, then you may enjoy a career in a health care field. However, health care careers are not all equal. They differ not only in pay scale but also in the time it takes to obtain a degree. The type of degree or degrees you will need, the time you must spend training and the salary you will receive will depend on the medical career path you choose. You may also wish to choose a health care career based on other factors, such as your own personality. For example, you may prefer working in a fast-paced emergency room, or you may desire the quieter environment you are likely to have if you decide to work in a different medical field, such as ophthalmology. Regardless of your personal preferences, there are many medical careers from which you can pick. Below is a list of several popular health care careers and an explanation of how they are different from other careers in the industry.

Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant

If you want a career in health care but do not want to become a physician, then you can obtain certification as a nurse practitioner. However, you must first become a registered nurse, which requires you to have a bachelor’s degree in the field of nursing. After obtaining your nursing degree and working as a registered nurse for a certain period of time, you can obtain your nurse practitioner certification. It will take you between two to four years to receive your nurse practitioner certification, at which point you will be legally able to make certain types of patient assessments, order and assess lab tests, and prescribe treatments or medications for patients.

A similar alternative to a career as a nurse practitioner is that of a physician assistant. As a physician assistant, you will have similar authority and capabilities to those of a nurse practitioner. However, you will be legally required to work in tandem with a licensed doctor. You will also be legally authorized to assist surgeons during surgical procedures. However, you must understand that your pay will be significantly lower than the pay of a doctor or surgeon. It will take you approximately two years to obtain a degree as a physician assistant, and it will be beneficial if you already have a bachelor’s degree in nursing prior to starting your physician assistant training. However, this may not be required.


As a surgeon, your skills are likely to be in high demand. However, you will be working in a high-stress environment, often under emergency conditions. On-call work will also be common, since emergencies requiring surgical intervention do not occur on a set schedule.

The wages you will make as a surgeon depend on your exact area of surgical expertise and the geographic area in which you work. For example, if you become a surgeon at an urban hospital in a large city, your pay will generally be higher than that of a surgeon performing similar procedures in a small rural hospital. However, if you choose to work in a smaller hospital, you are likely to have the advantage of having a less hectic schedule than you would in a large metropolitan hospital.

In order to become a surgeon, you must begin with undergraduate studies, get high grades on your Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and attend medical school for four years. You will also be required to pass a test called the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). If you pass the examination, you will be legally able to start a five-year surgical residency. Depending on whether or not you wish to specialize in a particular type of surgery, you may also require further training through fellowships.


If you love children, then you may enjoy becoming a pediatrician. When choosing a career in pediatrics, you must decide if you wish to become a pediatric general practitioner or specialize in treating children with particular ailments. For example, you may choose to become a pediatric oncologist in order to treat children with various types of cancer. In order to become a pediatrician of any sort, you must complete four years of medical school after your undergraduate studies. Then, you will be required to complete three years of residency. After all of that training is complete, you can become a general practitioner of pediatrics or accept a fellowship to study a particular area of pediatric studies.

Physical or Occupational Therapist

Unlike the medical careers listed above, you do not need to complete medical school to become a physical therapist or an occupational therapist. However, you must still complete specialized training, and you will not receive as much pay as you would in more specialized medical fields. If you choose to become a physical therapist, you will be able to help patients attempt to regain mobility after injuries and ailments. To become a physical therapist, you will be required to obtain a Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree, which will take about three years. The physical therapy studies program you choose may require you to have a bachelor’s degree prior to obtaining your DPT.

If you choose to become an occupational therapist, you will need a master’s degree, which may take two years or more to obtain. However, you will also have the option of becoming an occupational therapist aide or assistant, which only requires a two-year degree. In either case, you will be able to help patients improve the skills they need in order to return to work or to their homes after illnesses or injuries.

The Importance of Annual Physical Examinations

Many adults have a hard time scheduling their annual physical examinations. There are a few different reasons that adults use to justify why they did not get their yearly physical. The first is the difficulty of scheduling a physical exam. Many adults feel that they are simply too busy to fit a physical exam into their schedule, usually saying they are unable to secure the time off of work, or that they need to be home to take care of their family. Another common reason adults use to justify not getting a physical is believing they are perfectly healthy. These individuals are not necessarily opposed to seeing a doctor if they need medical assistance, but they do not see the value getting a yearly physical.

The Purpose of a Yearly Physical Examination

Many adults skip their yearly physical examinations because they underestimate how important a physical is. Yearly physical examinations serve multiple purposes. Through a yearly exam, medical providers are able to screen for different diseases and assess whether or not their patients are at risk of any future medical problems. It is not uncommon for a patient to feel perfectly fine while having a medical condition that has not yet shown any symptoms.

Part of avoiding any future medical conditions means living a healthy lifestyle. During a yearly physical, doctors are able to provide medical advice to help their patients live healthy lifestyles, which may prevent future medical conditions. Yearly physicals are also a good way for doctors to make sure their patients are staying up to date with their vaccinations. Finally, a yearly physical is a good way for patients and doctors to strengthen their relationship. This may not seem important, but patients that are uncomfortable with their doctors may have a harder time justifying a future visit. It may also be harder for patients to be honest with their doctors if they do not feel comfortable with them.

What happens during a yearly physical examination?

Doctors perform many different procedures during a yearly physical examination. Most doctors begin the physical by talking with their patient. During the conversation, the doctor asks several questions regarding diet, exercise, sexual health and whether or not the patient drinks or smokes. During this time, patients can also update their family medical histories and go over whether or not they are up to date with their vaccinations or required medical tests.

After that, the doctor moves on to taking the vitals of his or her patient. During this time, the doctor will perform a blood pressure test. Next, doctors will look at the heart rate of the patient, which determines how many times his or her heart is beating per minute. After that, doctors test for respiration rate, which is the average number of breaths a patient takes each minute. Finally, doctors will take the temperature of their patient.

While all of these may seem like very basic medical procedures, they are incredibly important for identifying potential medical issues. Many patients may feel healthy, but there are various serious medical conditions that do not necessarily cause symptoms. Doctors may be able to spot these health risks based on physical examinations.

During these physical exams, doctors will also take note of the physical appearance of the patient. Some examples of this include looking at the skin tone of a patient, whether or not the patient has difficulty moving and whether or not the patient has difficulty breathing. Based on this, doctors may perform additional exams, like checking the ears, nose, eyes, lymph nodes or sinuses of a patient. Doctors will commonly look at a patient’s tonsils and tongue as well.

Doctors will also perform basic tests on the internal organs. These tests include tapping on the abdomen to help detect liver size, as well as check for the presence of any abdominal fluids. Doctors will also physically check for any tenderness, and may listen to additional sounds using a stethoscope.

Gender-Specific Examinations

In addition to the basic health procedures during a physical examination, there other procedures that only apply to certain genders. For men, doctors will examine their patients for growths or lumps on their testicles, which could be a sign of cancer. For women, doctors perform a breast examination. Based on the sexual history of the patient, doctors may decide to perform additional screenings. For this part of the procedure, doctors of the opposite gender will typically offer to bring in a different physician that matches the gender of the patient.

Preparing for a Physical Examination

There is very little preparation that goes into a physical examination. Patients are primarily responsible for providing medical history. Most of this information should already be known by their doctor, but patients should still be prepared with the list of any medications they are currently taking. Patients should also be ready to talk about any allergies they have. In certain cases, patients may want to avoid eating before a physical examination, as the doctor may order blood tests that must be done while the patient is fasting.