Sunday, September 17, 2017

Prep Your Veggie Garden For Winter: Enjoy benefits next summer.


Baltimore, MD: As we approach winter and I picked my final veggies from the summer stock, it is a good time to develop the game plan for winter. Know when to clear out your garden and do "prep" work prior to the next growing season.

Here are a few easy steps to put your summer vegetable garden to bed for the winter season:

1. Remove all annual plants after they have completed harvest: Pull them up by the roots - do not just "cut". Surprisingly, dying vegetation can host bacteria and disease that can stunt next year's growth. Leaving your plants in place do not act as compost instead, you risk them rotting and stunting next year's harvest.

2. Wait until the first good frost, then cut or prune perennials back.

3. Lightly till the ground. This exposes some of the fungus/ bacteria and will ultimately kill it.

4. Consider adding a finished compost to the dirt prior to tilling.

4. Keep fall foliage clear from the area and make sure to not let leaves gather/ rot here.  You can save these for compost but, not in your garden.

5.  If you choose to use a winter ground cover such as pine branches to protect bulbs, wait until after a good freeze. By then rodents have already found their "winter hideout". Using a cover too early will invite them to your garden, your bulbs will become a nice snack mid-winter!

Thinking today will help you develop a plan over the next few weeks. This plan will make for a great summer crop and you will appreciate the little bit of effort in the spring when your garden is producing earlier and more than ever before!

Plus--- who doesn't like an excuse to do yard work on a crisp fall day:)



The information above is for conversation purposes only. Brought to you by EFynch.com- Maryland and Washington D.C.'s newest homeowner and handyman resource to get work done.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Regular Homeowner Disaster Preparedness: Simple lessons from a prepper for everyday families.


(Baltimore, MD)- After watching Hurricane Harvey rip through Texas (still ongoing as I write), it is reminder of the simple steps we can take at home to protect our families. Although the Mid-Atlantic has not experienced a storm of this magnitude, we have to remember  30"+ snowstorms that leave even the heardiest of adventures stuck for a few days.

You do not need to be a "prepper" in order to prepare. Having a storm or natural disaster plan is simply responsible and we want to help make it easy.

1. Have supplies
2. Have a Plan
3. Stay Informed

Below is a list of items we recommend. We broke this into 2 categories then discuss the benefits of "staying informed". The first are necessary and not having this in your home AT ALL TIMES is simple irresponsible.  The 2nd are items will make life at home easier and help you in the worst of times.


1.  ITEMS FOR SAFETY

Absolutely Necessary Items:
 - Prepare this as a kit. Have set aside in your home at all times, only to be used in case of emergencies. Keep note of expiration dates and rotate items which risk going bad.

1. Water- 1 Gallon per person, per day (3 days recommended)
2. Medicine- A 3 day supply of all medications PLUS a selection of others (pain relievers, comfort medications like stomach relief, gauze bandages, bandaids, hydrodren peroxide, etc.)
3. Canned Food- 3 meals per day per person. Consider dried fruit and canned goods (Don't forget the can opener)
4. Emergency Blankets
5. Battery Powered Radio
6. Photocopies of Identification for household members
7. Paper copies of important phone numbers
8. Whistle
9.  Flashlight
10.  Backpack


Other Items that may help:
If you are in it for the "long haul" these will help protect your family and keep you comfortable. They can also help in larger emergencies where evaucuation may be required.

1. Cell phone charger and battery backup
2. Sunscreen
3. Hand Crank Radio
4. Camp Stove (for use outdoors)
5. Spare Propane for gas grill (use outside)
6. Multi-purpose tool
7. Duct Tape
8. Extra cash
9. Board Games/ cards
10. Spray Paint

In addition to the items above, keep track of readily accesible items that are already in your home including:

1. Winter/ waterproof Boots
2.  Sweatshirts/ Coats/ Gloves/ Hats
3.  Packaged Foods (chips, gronola bars, bottled drinks, fruit)- these should be consumed first.
4. Sleeping bags
5. Pet Items

2. THE PLAN

Involve the entire family in the planning phase. Most major emergencies come with warning (snowstorms, hurricanes) but some may not (Tornado, Derecho!) Have a detailed plan on how to handle each of the following and make sure everyone understands the plan to enact it even on their own. Consider the following in determinaton:

1. Chossing to stay home: What are you flags to leave the house beforehand (go to a hotel), or leave the area. Governments usually give advice on this but if you area is prone to flooding you may want to use more discretion.

2. If you stay home, how long can you stay and if you have to leave, how can you leave and where? Know how long you can survive comfortably and use this in your consideration.

3.  If you have to leave, have a plan on where to go. Speak with family or friends out of town before the storm, have "Plan B" on standby.

4. Consider your family situation: I have 3 children under 5. Even a small chance of power loss could be uncomfortable so I may leave sooner than others. 

5. Have an emergency plan- what to do if disaster strikes unannounced or if one family member is not present when something happens. Have a meeting place (when I was younger or in college it was my Grandmother's house in New Jersey if SHTF and we were seperated--- many families are challenged with this right now because the National Guard arrived at a meeting spot while another family member was retrieving an item or pet back at the house).

6. STAY CALM- Bear Grylls, the ultimate survivor, always says a major factor in surviving any situation comfortably is attitude. With a plan comes confidence and calmness. Material possesions are just that- don't sweat the property loss during an emergency and stay positive.


3.  STAY INFORMED

Every problem has a solution and we are lucky to live in a society where you will never be forgotten. The key is to be informed with regard to the status of the disaster, prep beforehand and make an educated and logical decision to survive until help comes or the disaster has receded.

During the disaster, following the news will alert to when an alteration is or if opportunities to find relief arrive (water dropoffs, etc.).

Staying informed includes both listening to the radio/ tv and contact with family members. During tough times rumors will start flying and incorrect information can hurt you. Knowing where you family is at all times and what they are experiencing first hand will make the entire situation better.

CONCLUSION
Some of the items listed may not have an obvious usefullness. I will explain those below. The key with everything is to make sure you can survive for at least 3 days without outside help or contact. There are VERY few scenarios where help cannot come after a few days. Alerting the authorities when you are in diress is important, next is to stay in contact with friends/ family/ neighbors to make sure they are not in trouble.

Always stay indoors, monitor the news, don't touch downed power lines and help each other out.





*******

Explination of some items on my list:

1. Water is the #1 priority. We cannot survive without it and when you start dehydration your judgement is effected and you will experience terrible side effects. Use bottled water and if possible- fill the bathtub for pets or emergency drinking situations. Having extra water in the tub can also be good for personal hygeine which helps anyone keep a strong and positive morale.

2. Paper copies of important phone numbers: Because your cell phone might be dead.

3. Whistle: To call for help.

4. Sunscreen/ Boots/ Backpack- Because you may have to walk for help. Those items will help if you are stuck outside for a while and carry emergency/ personal items.

5. Duct Tape: Because the world is better for this great invention- you may need it--- who knows?!

6. Spray Paint: If things are bad and you are in duress- painting help is not out of the question. In Houston, people were stranded in their attics this past week. Painting S.O.S. or HELP on your garage door signals anyone who can assist you to come and help.


Disclaimer: This information was drafted and provided by EFynch. 
It is meant to discussion purposes only. Information was prepared by data and recommendations from the CDC. It is important that each person consult with several sources and develop a personal plan.



Monday, August 28, 2017

EFynch Escrow- the Protection and Security that helps you.



Explination of EFynch Escrow- simplified.

(Baltimore, MD)- The EFynch Escrow system is based on years of experience in contracting.

There is no additional costs for this system and although sometimes credit card fees apply, contractors have included all fees already in bids provided to you through the EFynch system.  If you are told otherwise please contact us immediately- this is against our contractor terms of service and is false.

*** We recommend using the Escrow System for ALL transactions *** Unless in writing, for your specific job,  EFynch has NOT granted permission for any contractor to bypass this system. ***

The EFynch Escrow works as follows:
   
1. After hiring, use your credit card, paypal, or venmo to post the funds.

2. The funds are held in a 3rd party escrow. They are fully refundable if you are not 100% satisfied. Funds are still under your control and are never released until you agree to doing so.

3. By putting up the funds early, this acts as a natural motivator for the contractor (stick and carrot).

4. Once the job is complete, the contractor must click "complete" on their phone. As the homeowner you have the ability to review, inspect, then finally sign off on the work- releasing the funds.

5. AT THIS TIME you rate the contractor. With EFynch, ONLY completed projects can be rated unless another circumstace has been approved (i.e. the contractor failed to perform and you email us to report).


BENEFITS of the EFynch Escrow:


- Security of Payment

- EFynch Escrow verifies contractor identity, address and status in the EFynch system with every transaction.

- Various payment options.

- 100% refundable (in full or partial).


The EFynch escrow can be very powerful and provide value and comfort the transaction. If you have any questions, please contact us through the EFynch website.




Q & A

Is there any cost for EFynch Escrow?
When you get a bid on EFynch, all fees are already included in that bid. There is a cost to use EFynch escrow and that is shown to the Pro when they have placed your bid*. The fee that is paid for EFynch Escrow is the greater of 2% of $10. We felt paying $10 on a $300 project or $20 on a $1,000 project is a small price for great security.

*CLARIFICATION: When a contractor places a bid on EFynch, all fees are included in that bid and shown to the contractor up front. By placing a bid, the contractor has agreed to pay us this (small) fee. At any time if you encounter someone who claims we charge "additional fees", please let us know. We feel this statement would be dishonest and it is not someone we want working on our member's homes.


Can I use EFynch Escrow even if I did not hire through EFynch?
Yes! EFynch Escrow provides security. If you want to pay through EFynch Escrow you are able to do so, even if you did not hire. Please contact us to arrange this.

Where is the money held?
EFynch Escrow Funds are held by a 3rd party- (a company owned by Paypal). EFynch CANNOT touch you money and the only power we have is to refund this in the event you are not satisfied. You money is held in escrow but is under your control.


What if the work is not completed to satisfaction?
 If work is not 100% to your satisfaction, we can refund it fully. If a request comes in, we always work our hardest to remedy the situation, even scheduling an alternative professional to complete the work when possible. This is part of our promise to help you with any home improvement project- from start to finish.

What is the verification process?
 EFynch Escrow is part of the process for our contractor verification. The Maryland Home Improvement Commission views "financial solvency" as an important factor in trusted someone. Our verification system automatically (at the start of each job) verifies the banking information of the contractor. Included with this is their banking account and related address.

How long until my Contractor is paid?
Work is done. Contractor presses "Complete Job" on their phone and you "Agree to Release Payment". The process starts immediately. You should receive an email with confirmation and the money is released to the  Pro's bank as soon as possible. Normal processing time occurs (like a check), but this process gives everyone comfort that funds are in process.






Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Hello September- Autumn Ideas for home Maintenance.


Baltimore, Maryland: As we approach Autumn our attention will undoubtedly turn from summer fun back to regular business. Fall is one of my favorite times of year because the days are cooler, football is on TV, and everything just seems to feel "cozy".

Although you may not have a pumpkin latte yet, September is a great time to start thinking about early fall maintenance which can save you time and trouble later in the season. Working on some items now can save you from the "Late Autumn Rush".

Here are some of our recommendations for early fall Home Improvement Projects:

Exterior

1. Inspect your driveway: Winter is the HARDEST time on your driveway. Ice can fill in cracks causing them to expand. You cannot seal a driveway or any cracks once the night time temperature drops below 50 degrees. "Crackfill" can be purchased from your local hardware store and is a good DIY project. Asphalt Sealing is something we recommend you hire a pro because it is messy and most store brands have poor quality.

2.  Caulk windows: The mild temperatures are comfortable for outdoor work, they also keep old caulking pliable and easy to remove. The great thing about re-caulking your windows (besides saving energy) is that I always make this a "side project". Keep your materials accessible and do a few windows at a time when the urge strikes. For me, this is an oddly satisfying project and squeezing a single window during Halftime is possible.

3. Outdoor Painting: Just like the previous two, paint should not be applied when cold temperatures arrive.  Because winter a darker time of year, moisture can tend to stick around longer therefore painted surfaces suffer. A complimentary job to caulking is repainting. This time of year I like to skip the decorative shutters and focus on the front door, window sills, etc. Regular inspecting and painting does more than look good- it protects. THIS INCLUDED DECKS!!!



Interior

 1. Change your air filter EVERY MONTH: Fall Allergies and dust can be harsh. Keep a clean air flow in your home. Especially if you are like me and enjoy opening windows at night!

2. Have your Chimney Cleaned: Do it now and avoid the rush later. Besides, what is better than a cool October day and your first fire:)

3. Vacuum/ test your smoke detectors: Speaking of the fireplace, you want to make sure your smoke and CO2 detectors are in working order. Vacuum and make sure they are free of dust then test each one. I'd stick to replacing batteries with the time change.

So that is our advice. We hope you are having a great summer and look forward to working with you very soon. Please use the advice above for conversation purposes only. The information is reliable but we recommend you check with a local and licensed professional prior to taking on any of the tasks. Do not start a project unless you are fully comfortable in every aspect of the job, this includes ladders, etc. 



If you have any questions or would like to find a home professional or handyman to complete any of the tasks above, please visit EFynch to find your local pro and get competitive bids while protecting your privacy. 

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.