Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Baltimore Startup EFynch.com Expanding into D.C.
3,000 members, $250k in savings, and strict privacy features, group expands platform to serve the 3.8m households in B/W Corridor.

Baltimore, MD: When homeowners think of Craigslist most have preconceived notions. Some of these may be positive but very few are comfortable when it comes to the security and reliability the site offers.  Baltimore based Startup/ Platform, EFynch.com is offering a product for those with this concern and it is now available in the entire D.C. Metro Area.

By taking a more structured but still open approach to the popular Trading Post, EFynch has several user features that include competitive bid collection with a strict privacy policy. "EFynch privately connects a homeowner with the guy in a flannel shirt and truck, or the commercial contractor that has down time between projects. We look for the opportunity and by being the only Home Improvement site offering the full spectrum of options and our homeowners are saving tremendously" said Teris Pantazes, EFynch Co-Founder who estimates savings have reached over $250,000 in the 10 months since their launch in Baltimore.

Earlier this summer the company announced the hiring of former Ambassador Charles Paul to lead these expansion efforts (Paul was the youngest foreign Ambassador to serve in Washington D.C.). Now with 3,000 members and a following reaching over 10,000 individuals, EFynch is betting the privacy factor will be received favorably in Washington D.C. because sites like Homeadvisor and Thumbtack utilize "pay per lead tactics". Basically, the sale of a homeowners information to willing buyers or contractors as a Lead. A practice that is becoming more common but controversial. **think of Justice Clarence Thomas submitting for a toilet repair and anyone being able to buy his home address for $20?**

EFynch plans to hire several new staff members for this expansion. They currently have an office in Baltimore's City Garage and are in discussions to open a 2nd (regional) office in Arlington. Questions may be directed to Co-Founder Teris Pantazes. Information below:
 
Media Contact:
Teris Pantazes
Co-Founder and CEO
(410) 562-9103

Monday, August 7, 2017

Maryland Residential Electricity: What and Why a 3rd Party Energy Contract.

Homeowner and Handyman Tips from EFynch. 

Baltimore, MD:  The other day I heard from a homeowner who was approached by a door-to-door salesman "selling electricity". Although this sounds odd and I do not necessarily agree with the tactic, it is indeed possible and legitimate (or possibly legitimate).

Maryland Energy is confusing at first but simple to explain.
 

Here is the short version (I am using a Baltimore home as the example).

- BGE is your Distributor. They own and maintain the power lines, and handle the payments (sending you a bill, setting up service, etc.). They do not generate any electricity and are a regulated utility. You receive a bill from BGE then BGE distributes those funds to the various entities involved with getting the electricity to your home. Besides maintaining the power lines, they are like the bookkeeper. 

- The Supplier of electricity is NOT BGE- The supplier is also known as the Generator. Historically the Generator had been "Constellation Energy" (now Exelon). They actually own the power plant and are a separate legal entity than BGE. Today, you can choose your own supplier which can save money or allow you to obtain energy directly from a renewable energy power plant.

How Does this work?

Think of the energy grid as a big water tank with several pipes running up and your water supply pipe coming down. The water in the tank represents the electricity that everyone in your community uses. It does not matter where the water comes from, as long as there is water.

Almost anyone can install a generator if they meet certain guidelines. That means there can be several generators (or water sources) putting energy onto the grid (or water into the "water tank").

The amount of electricity put into the grid by each Generator is recorded and credited to that Generator's account. Our local grid is called "PJM" and spans from here as far west as Illinois. PJM is a neutral party that organizes the entire process and keeps records.
The PJM Operator then takes that information and works with your local distributor to make sure that the energy you use is paid for then gets reimbursed to the supplier/ generator.


What about the salesman or other 3rd parties?

When someone claims they can "sell" you electricity, they are a 3rd party supplier. We are all familiar with names like Constellation Energy (now Exelon), BGE, and Pepco from our bills but in 1999 Maryland De-Regulated electricity which allows for new entities to generate electricity (this also happened as renewable energy took off so it fueled growth).

Because of De-Regulation, competition was allowed to enter the market and now you can actually direct BGE to purchase your electricity from a specific source. The salesman likely has a "source" and is selling you electricity, which will change who BGE pays. The registration process is simpler than the actual explanation- when you switch it takes a few clicks of a button.

Why choose a 3rd party Supplier? 
It is 100% up to you and I am no longer involved in this industry (*this is not an advertisement in any way).

You can choose a 3rd party supplier for many reasons but the most common is to save money- which I recommend!

A 3rd party supplier can typically use their own credit strength or a promise to purchase a large amount of energy from a power plant to get a " discount". They sell that electricity to you and share the savings. 

You can also choose to obtain a renewable energy source like I do. When I purchased energy through whomever BGE set me up with in setting up my account. I found a 3rd party renewable energy supplier that with a 1-year contract, I was able to obtain electricity for 20% below my previous rate. There are different types of renewable energy purchases which include directly from a nearby solar/ wind field or to purchase a "bundle" which is energy produced locally but offset by a wind park somewhere else in the country or even world (another article I should write).

Closing:

Research and review your energy supplier. I am not going to recommend anyone but you can either contact the Maryland Energy Administration or simply google "Maryland energy supplier platform". You should be able to enter you basic information then search and find a contract that meets your desires. Most people save bid on their energy expenses after doing this and when I was in solar I recommended this to ALL of my customers.  

*Disclaimer- EFynch is not a home improvement community but is a platform for home improvement services and advice. All work is completed by a 3rd party and EFynch makes no representations to the work being performed beyond what is discussed in our terms and conditions.  The views expressed above are not that of EFynch but are of the Author: Teris Pantazes. Teris was in the solar energy industry prior to joining EFynch but is no longer involved. The views are his opinions only. Any actions your take shall not be done so based on this information as it is deemed reliable but must be verified by your own research. This information is for discussion purpose ONLY.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Homeowner Tip: Real world ways to beat the heat and save energy.


The next few days can see temperatures over 100 degrees in Baltimore and Washington D.C. This causes a HUGE strain on your home, your pets, and yourself.

Countless articles have been posted with the “best things to do in heat”. Each is with a smile and few plugs for a paid advertisers.

Here are "Real World, you can do it now tips. The key is to keep your home at a "normal" temperature without having your AC work overtime. It is counter-intuitive but raising your thermostat slightly can make a big difference on extremely hot days. Whether you do this or not, the tips below can help no matter what.

HOMEOWNER TIPS:

1. Close your blinds curtains (as discussed previously, here).

2. Close the doors to unused rooms that face the sun (*note- we recommend against fully closing vents in those rooms as the area can get "too hot" and actually radiate adjoining areas).

3. Run Fans (typically, ceiling fans should run counter-clockwise).

4. Hang out in lower parts of your home (basement, etc.).

5. Grill or Eat out! (forego using your oven).

6. Use lighweight sheets and a blanket on your bed. "Less is more".

7. Eat Soup! This really works, so does spicy food. Just as in the next tip, it can jump-start your body's internal cooling system (a popular trick in Southeast Asia).

8. (Seriously)- Go Outside! Spend time in the shade but take in the heat. A few minutes outside initiates your body's internal cooling process making the indoors feel cooler and your body continue regulating it's temperature hours after heat exposure.

8.  BUT, drink cold liquids (besides hydrating, it helps keep body temp lower).

9. Take a cold shower.

DO NOT OVER EXERT YOURSELF. Your grass DOES NOT need to be cut today (it will only hurt it anyway).  


Stay Hydrated and keep an eye on Pets (even your neighbor’s pets).



PLEASE be vigilant for kids in cars!!!!!!!
 
*Not a 100% accurate story: The house pictures above was once a 3 story colonial painted a cool "tiffany blue". They didn't take our advice and now you see the remnants.


Hope this helps. For more tips follow this blog and remember to visit EFynch to register for more homeowners tips, discounts, or help in finding the next home repair proffesional or handyman in your area. 

 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Hire a Handyman- Risk Identity Theft- The Pay Per Lead Industry you don't know exists


Baltimore, MD: You've seen the ads on TV. By using that service the trusted home repair advisor who has made the "list" is only a click away. Your home improvement/ handyman fears are now diminished and the smiling (sometimes made up) personality is assuring your comfort.

However, there is a glaring problem and it has to do with profits and the security of your personal information. 

*The "Before We Start Disclaimer": Not every online home improvement company does what I am about to describe but, it is prevailant. It generates fast and easy income and even us at EFynch had once been heavily advised to partipcate. But in truth, it is simply sleazy (IMO)- we are not participating in this practice.

Pay Per Lead is the horrible and deceptive practice that even the well-known brands in home improvement use.

They collect your information (often without your knowledge) and then sell it to local contractors. Sometimes for a hefty fee and without your knowledge. *It is rumored that one large group has a 300 person, off-shore call center focused just on this task.

The idea is simple- you go to a website or even answer an add for a local handyman service such as the one below.  Your information is collected, pooled, advertised and then sold to anyone willing to pay the fee ($5 per lead up to $600!)

I have personally called these numbers and spoke with an "answering service" (like it is 1995!) who said someone would call me back. My information was taken and within 20 minutes I began to recieve calls from 3 to 5 different contractors. Through discussion with one of the salesman, I found out they actualy paid a service $60 for my information. By my calculations, when I placed the phone call to the (not) local company, I netted that group at least $200 in fees.

The problem with this is two-fold. 

1. I did not know my information was being "sold". In fact, I was specifically told that I called a local company and that I was speaking to their answering service. There was no privacy policy given or respect for my data (which is now on several lists I am sure).

2. The local contractor I spoke with told me they close 1 in 5 of the leads they recieve (20%). Calculating these numbers, it translates to $300 in acquisition costs which he must then pass onto the owner (myself in this case). The project I was calling for would have been approximately $1,500 therefore 20% of what I pay my local proffesional is actually going into the pocket of a middle man!

This was sent to EFynch.
So, you unsuspectingly provided you name/ phone number/ etc. and it is sold off. You are now payingis  many of these groups DO NOT CARE WHO PURCHASED YOUR INFORMATION and they are not vetted. In fact, even EFynch was soliciated by a competitor because these guys use special tools to "scrape" the internet for data then offer it to the "highest bidder" Let that sink in- my competitor contacted me to sell a "lead"!
higher rates for home improvement services and the most dangerous aspect

EFynch has adds but always clearly states how we work, they approached us because their simplified system thought we were a contractor.


Pay Per Lead is a gross violation of trust and in my opinion tarneshes the experience for both homeowners and contractors alike. As long as I run EFynch I will make sure to work hard and rid the Home Improvement Industry of this practice- it serves no one but the salesman on the other end of the phone.

Please share. . .


Pay Per Lead Examples: Ads taken from Craigslist, only a small mention of "referred by" in the bottom of the ad. Same ads, different cities.





*Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely the views of the author, Teris Pantazes and are meant to be made for discussion purposes and not home improvement work advice. EFynch is a communication system and this article does not represent the thoughts or opinions of EFynch or neccessarily any of the employees or owners of EFynch.  The information presented including images and references to phone calls and discussions were personally made by the author and can be provided upon valid request.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Asking for a Contractor Recommendation via Social Media? What you need to know first and how to avoid pitfalls



Baltimore, MD: We've all encountered it. You open Facebook or another social platform and see someone asking for a recommendation for a service. Typically a handyman, plumber,  etc (we will keep it to Home Improvement for this article).

Over the next few hours your timeline will fill with the posting person's friends and neighbors posting then, passively arguing whose contractor is better. Want to start a real debate? Forget politics, ask for a plumber instead. See below:

Recommendation #1: "Call Tom, his number is 410-555-5555"
Recommendation #2: "Try Jim, his number is 443-555-5555, he did our work last year, he is great"
Recommendation #3: "Hey, last year I used Frank, he did a great job. He was prompt, fair priced, honest, sincere, etc. etc. etc."

Notice a pattern? The first person usually throws the minimum info out, then it progresses with more detail.

*Side note- I once saw a women recommend her roofer with a 5 paragraph dossier. When I had my contracting company I received praises from customers. Something that long may have raised the eyebrow of my wife and I suspect this was not an honest recommendation.


Here is why:
There is a psychology behind online recommendations and more often than not- you're getting what you paid for (which is nothing).

Studies have shown that as much as 85% of online service recommendation are NOT actually made because the recommended person received a great service. The truth is a majority of responses are for "Self Affirmation".  (We've all done, I admit doing it myself).

Why? 33% of American homeowners replied that finding the right handyman or professional is the toughest part of any home improvement projects.  The reason is the conflicting nature and uncertainty of information that can be found in various places.

Once we make a choice, we want to think we found the best deal and since you asked, we are asking you to affirm this by hiring my handyman.

*(let's face it- your local handyman is good- "the best"? probably a stretch because that title goes to Bob Villa and you didn't hire Bob Villa).

They aren't saying "hire my guy because he is (literally) the best". They are figuratively saying "hire my guy. If you do it will prove that I made the right decision before". (Don't believe me, make a recommendation and then see how you feel when your reply is ignored or not chosen- I've done this and it feels like rejection).

Then, what happens when 4 friends make a recommendation and you can only choose one? Because of this Self-Affirmation rule, you've basically just told 3 other people that you found a better option-how is that for sour grapes!

Our Advice: Asking for a recommendation is better left for direct contact with someone you know and trust. Blindly turning online to your "nextdoor" community is only an avenue for a sales pitch and in our opinion, this is NOT proper research. Most of that information is unverified.

Online reviews can be valuable but make sure to find out how they were collected (i.e.- we only allow VERIFIED transactions to be rated on EFynch. Many sites  blindly asks  to rate their "trusted pros", they never check if the work was completed and opens the door for fake reviews).

In the end- remember that your neighbor probably did not hire "THE BEST HANDYMAN EVER" so finding an acceptable candidate who meets your expectations (pricing, experience, efficiency, schedule, etc.) is the most important goal.


POST YOUR NEXT HOME IMPROVEMENT PROJECT FOR FREE AT EFYNCH.COM. Privacy Protected- we never sell your information or give it to 3rd parties and you can save up to 40% on each project plus find the local/ independent pro already working in your neighborhood.  Click here.




This article is being shared by EFynch.com- a Baltimore Based Handyman and Homeowner community. It is meant to provide advice for conversational purposes and is not a solicitation to do physical work to your property. EFynch is your handyman and contractor resource in the Maryland, Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia regions. EFynch is a software platform that shares information and we advise you to speak with a licensed contractor or handyman prior to doing any work on your home.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Weatherizing you home: 5 steps to saving cutting your energy bills in half.


Beating the heat and saving money: Tips on reducing your home's energy consumption.


Washington D.C.: Now that we are in the dog days of summer, you have to think about energy usage. Your AC can use the most energy of any appliance in your home. That sweet, satisfying, cool air that keeps your brow from collecting sweat is valuable and MUST be preserved.

Here in Maryland and Washington D.C., we get a dozen or so days over 100 degrees. Regardless of temperature- every day is filled with swampy and muggy air that is swimmingly. . . gross!

Below are a few quick tips on reducing your energy consumption and preserving the cold air. You can literally reduce your summer energy bills by 20% to 40% by following this information.

Summer energy efficiency is often overlooked when compared to the winterization of your home. That is because cold can cause damage and as humans, we fear it. However, when thinking of the wear and tear to your home HVAC and the energy required to run these systems- Summer is just as important (luckily, many of the tips below apply to both seasons):

1. Seal Air Leaks: 
               Caulk windows- also making sure they are all closed.
               Seal Attic Access
         

2. Prevent Heat transfer:
               Close doors and vents in unused rooms
               Invest in heavy drapes or thermal blinds- more info here


3. Insulate:
                Summer is as important as winter
                Insulate attic, crawl spaced (floors are important in summer)
                Again, caulk windows.
              

4. Use energy efficiently:
                 Raise AC temperature when you leave the home
                 Use fans to help cool/ move air
                

5. Change Habits:
                 Keep exterior doors closed
                 Hang out in rooms that tend to be cooler (basement), raise ac
                 Less indoor cooking
                 Take cooler showers

If you'd like more information on any of these items please feel free to contact us.

We'd be happy to recommend a energy audit company or implement many of the items above which have "off the shelf options".

Thank you! For more information visit EFynch- Your Neighborhood Home Improvement App.
 Members receive monthly updates and discounts on many of the services listed above.
Sign up for free here!


*The information above was provided by EFynch.com. This is meant for conversational purposes and we recommend you consult a licensed professional prior to taking any actions within your home. EFynch is a home improvement software company and does not perform any work to residential properties. Our service is available only in areas that are allowed by law.  EFynch currently operated in Maryland, Washinginton D.C., and Virginia.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Homeowners Guide: Copperhead Snakes- Maryland's Venemous Snake.


Copperhead population in the Baltimore and DC area has grown. 
How to identify one and what to do:
Homeowner Tips from EFynch



Baltimore, MD: Copperheads are 1 of 2 Venomous snakes found in the Baltimore and Washington areas (Maryland/ DC and Northern Virginia). *the other is a rattle snake mostly in the mountains. 

They are dangerous for several reasons. When scared, they do not tend to run like most snakes. Instead the Copperhead will "Freeze" in place, making it more likely to step on- then causing a bite.
Although copperheads rarely strike- when they do the bite can often be painful.

  
How to spot one:
Northern Copperhead in Southern Maryland.
- Babies are 8" and up.
- Adults can be 3.5' +/-
- Light brown body with dark brown "diamonds" or polygons on back.


What to do if you see one:

(1) Immediately clear the area of pets, family members, etc. Try to keep an eye on the snake.

(2a) If you are away from populated areas or in the woods- take note of the snake and leave it alone (it's his habitat- you are just a visitor).  Then notify a park ranger (if in a park). 

(2b) If you are near a populated area like your backyard, etc.- take note of the snake and contact an exterminator or animal control. Make sure to remember identifying features. DO NOT APPROACH THE SNAKE TO TAKE A PICTURE UNLESS YOU ARE A SAFE DISTANCE AWAY.

(3) If you need to re- enter the area. First check to see if the the snake has been removed (in a Park), or wear high boots and pants.

DO NOT ATTEMPT TO PICK UP A COPPERHEAD OR KILL IT YOURSELF. 



What if you are bitten:

For all those who have been bitten- medical attention is necessary:

- Healthy adults usually do not require an anti-venom however monitoring is needed.
- Copperhead snake bites can be very harmful for children and elderly and requires and anti-venom.
- The bite can be deadly to animals or those with pre-existing health issue. (Can we make a political joke here?)

If you should get bitten by a venomous snake, immediately contact the Maryland Poison Center at 800-222-1222. The Maryland Poison Center is open 24 hours a day, and is staffed by Professionals who trained in emergency cases like this.
According to Maryland DNR and the American Red Cross:

1. Wash the area with soap and water.
2. Immobilize the area bitten and keep LOWER than you heart.
3. Immediately seek medical attention. 
                                         DO NOT ICE- DO NOT ICE- DO NOT ICE


How to prevent them:

Just like any wild animal, Copperheads have a very particular environment. Making your yard appear a certain way is a threatening place for them and will keep it clear of snakes.

- Keep lawn mowed
- Avoid landscaping "ground cover", etc.
- Make sure your home is properly sealed with no large gaps.
- Keep food and trash in secure receptacles.
- Keep your yard free of debris, wood piles, trash.
- Do not allow standing water to stay on your property.

If you need help performing any of these tasks, please contact EFynch today.

*When hiking or in the wild, you cannot control these factors however we recommend paying attention to them and exercise caution when present.


RESOURCES: 
MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
Photo Guide of Maryland Snakes

Since we just talked about snakes: 
29 Pictures of puppies who are too cute for words




*** DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR CONVERSATION PURPOSES ONLY. IT IS NOT TO BE CONSIDERED THE ADVICE OF A TRAINED PROFESSIONAL, JUST RESEARCH PERFORMED BY US.  THE INFORMATION LISTED IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE AND YOU MUST CALL POISON CONTROL FOR EVERY SNAKE BITE. EACH SITUATION IS UNIQUE AND YOUR SCENARIO MAY BE DIFFERENT THEN WHAT WE DISCUSSED HERE.