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.






Monday, June 12, 2017

Want the Uber of Home Services or Home Improvement? Check the Fees to make sure you get aren't blindsided!

The basic and and easy answer to why Baltimore Startup EFynch saves your money.


Baltimore, MD: Previously we have sent out an image which shows the cost to install a TV in Baltimore. When looking at that image (below), it is clear to see that EFynch’s prices are far less than other online options. The reason for this is little known withinin the Online Home Services Industry but, we are changing that.

Other guys- many with the same options we offer Maryland, D.C. and Virginia homeowners- take a S__T ton of money- that is the "easy answer".

Rates Calculated on information collected on 6/12/17. Information on the calculations can be found here.




As a former contractor who still does some handyman work from time to time- this could be one of the biggest problems I have with  guys in our industry. The handyman/ plumber/ contractor/ roofer- those are the guys out there swinging a hammer and risking their health or (even) lives to work on your home. Charging fees to use a service is acceptable (all of our sites cost money to develop and maintain)- but some are just simply absurd.

Below you will find how much those fees are for my fellow “Uber of On-Demand Home Services”.

We calculated each of our competitors fees based on a constant $250 project.



And for reference, here is the original image showing TV installation costs.






No, for the record- Online platforms are expensive to develop and require regular maintenance. They are supposed to bring efficiency to our lives and add convenience.  Uber is successful in the Freelance Economy because the benefits they bring to the table outweigh the costs.

Today- you can spend half a day calling around to get bids, explain/ re-explain your problem and meet with countless contractors BUT- there are better ways. Unfortunately for our competition- we simply do not see them as that alternative.

More information can be found at https://www.efynch.com

Next week we cover "Pay Per Lead"- a popular payment system among sales sites.










Calculations for Home Improvement Services rate calculations. Performed using Maryland/ D.C. Markets where possible.

On June 12th, 2017 EFynch shared a video.  In researching the tech startup wanting to be “next Uber” for Home Services, we found several companies (like us), all with aspirations to go national.

One thing we have a hard time stomaching is the fees that other companies charge. In this video we reference several fees and amounts for a $250 project (our current average project size).

Below is the calculations for  those fees.


Calculations performed by Teris Pantazes


1. Homee: Information provided via home website 855-Go-Homee.

Homee is an on-demand property maintenance service that provides customers with instant access to electricians, plumbers, HVAC technicians and handymen from the convenience of their smart phones. The Homee app allows users to find GPS-located service providers and request immediate service. Homee is licensed, bonded, and insured. For more information or to install the Homee app, search for Homee On Demand in the app stores (6/12/17 12:05 PM ghttp://www.homeeondemand.com/news/press-releases/homee-demand-app-connects-nearby-handymen-electricians-hvac-repairmen-plumbers/)


CALCULATIONS:

They charge the homeowner a 30% premium on all jobs. If I am a “skilled” handyman, the homeowner has “agreed” to pay a 30% premium for finding me through homee.

$250 x 30% = $75 


Taskrabbit: Information provided via google.com and task rabbit website

Trusted Handyman Help For Your Home Projects. Low Rates & Reliable Service.
Background checked · Insured up to $1M · Over 1 Million Tasks Done · Cash free payment
Services: Handyman Services, Furniture Assembly, Moving Help, Cleaning Services, General Errands (6/17/17 12:19PM. https://support.taskrabbit.com/hc/en-us/articles/204411610-What-is-the-TaskRabbit-Service-Fee- and https://support.taskrabbit.com/hc/en-us/articles/204940570-The-TaskRabbit-Trust-Safety-Fee)

CALCULATIONS

TaskRabbit collects a 30% of the total transaction when passing the funds from the consumer to the provider. They also charge a 7.5% Trust and Safety Fee which is paid by the consumer. This fee pays for Insurance, Customer Support, and Tasker Vetting.

$250 x 30% = $75
$250 x 7.5%= $18.75

Total Fees $93.75

Round up to $94

TAKL: Information provided via google.com and TAKL website and App.

Find local background checked providers on-demand to check off your chore list- lawn care, handyman services, cleaning services, junk removal & more.

CALCUALTIONS.

Takl charges providers 30% of total preset project fee. There is a blended rate if you are “requested” 20%, Add ons are 10% and providers and handymen keep all of their tips.

Takl charges contractors/ providers/ handyman 30% for jobs. (https://support.takl.com/hc/en-us/articles/217734977-What-are-the-provider-pay-rates- 6/12/17- 12:26pm)

$250 x 30% = $75

When you purchase a service through takl App, they charge an additional 9% service fee- image attached. 6/12/17- 12:26pm

$250 x 9% = $22.50

Total Fees: $97.50



HANDY: Information provided via google.com and conversation with Handy Advisor and GlassDoor

Book Professional Baltimore Cleaners On Demand. Next-Day Availability.
300k 5-Star Ratings · Affordable Pricing · Trusted Professionals · 3.5M+ Cleanings Completed
Services: Home Cleaning, Furniture Assembly, TV Mounting

Handy Charges hourly rates then sends a 1099 cleaner to your home. For home cleaning in Portland Oregon- a cleaner wrote on GlassDoor she makes $20 per hour (https://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Handy-2-hours-Reviews-EI_IE680570.0,5_KH6,13.htm 6/12/17 12:37PM- posting was made on 10/22/16)

I then checked Handy for house cleaning. A 3 hour service in Portland Oregon at the time of writing this was $168. Given the hourly rate I calculated that Handy takes $108. However, they did offer a “coupon” making the actual cost $120.60 (which includes a $3 trust fee).

$120.60 / 3 = $40.20 collected per hour.
Contractors makes $20 per hour

$40.20 - $20 = $20.20 (Handy’s hourly fee).

$20.20 x 3= $60.60 for a $120.60 bill or 50.24%.

$250 x 50.25% = $125.63 collected for $250!

To further the calculation on my chart, Handy appears to favor a “subscription model and I chose the 6 month package which is much less expensive for house cleaning.”

With this in mind I did the same math but for the advertised service signing a 6 month agreement. The total cost was $84 for this service (including trust fee- I don’t know if this is a flat fee or percentage).

Since they pay $20 per hour to the cleaner for 3 hours- the cleaner makes (assumed) $60.

84-60= $24 (Handy’s Fee for the cleaning after paying the home service provider).

$24/ $84 = .285 or 29%

29% x $250= $72.50- total fee collected.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The price for mounting a TV in Baltimore Maryland: how to get the best price.

Making sure you get a fair deal and keep your TV Protected: When there is a wide price gap for services- how do you insure a proper deal.  
(The "skinny" on discount installers vs retail)


Baltimore, MD: Having a TV mounted can be stressful. You just spent the better part of a paycheck on a new device and now it begs to be mounted, admired. . . hanging from a wall. . .  and ofcourse "staying there"!

But you read online that the job can be easy however, after a few holes you decide to hire a pro.

Anyone who has ever gone through this process knows a few things.

1. The actual mounts are ridiculously expensive. $80 for a piece of metal!
2. Install prices are all over the place, but why? (*see price list at bottom of article)

Not getting into the mounting prices too much , they are connected to the price of installs in certain circumstances.  The only important part: a good single tilt mount should not be more than $40- anything over is marked up.

Now, why are install prices so "wild" (see the chart below)?

Simply put- they are because the person providing those prices sets them according to their "market". If you are a retail purchaser they assume you will pay retail prices. In a large store the prices can be the highest because they just sold you a TV and with that relationship they can to scare you into "local services". In reality- they hire the local guys, markup the price and you have the same mount mounted to the same wall. If you can break the price down to it's simplest form- mounting a TV is a semi- skilled job which should take a professional under 1 hour. It is NOT a $300+ project.

EFynch has helped with over 1 dozen installs in Baltimore in the past 2 months (about $50 or less in labor). In order to participate in this deal we ask the installer the following questions. We think you should always consider the following as well (explanations below).

1. How many TV have you installed in the past?
2. What methods do you use to find and verify you are hitting (and centered) on the stud?
3. Will you guarantee the TV is level?
4. For smaller TV' where only 1 stud is used- what type of drywall anchors are you using and is that included in the price?
5. If I decided hide the wires after you hung the tv, can you perform this and at what price?

So for the "discount guys" offering services for half the cost, don't hesitate- just ask the right questions.  Like many jobs that run through large national chains or websites- the installation process ends up feeding a few people along the way and you end up paying. In the end you still have the same local, independent guy doing the work.

With proper research the work can be done without an issue. That is our philosophy which is why groups like Baltimore TV Mounting and other groups are great users of EFynch.

It's not that our guys are charging a "cheap" rate to mount your TV, it's that they are giving a fair price.

That is my two cents. Thanks for reading!
Explanation for each question:

1. How many TV have you installed in the past?
     Just because the installer has not been doing this for 10+ years doesn't make him any less skilled then the next guy. Ask about his background and how the pro started installing and mounting flat screen TV's. As long as he has done 20 or so in the past, he should be able to encounter anything that may come his way. ** Also ask them to bring extra bolts, etc- I ask the homeowner if I can keep all extra hardware after a job, you never know when it might come in handy.


2. What methods do you use to find and verify you are hitting (and centered) on the stud?
     You want to hear that multiple methods are used and verify that the installer will drill a pilot hole for each bolt. Acceptable actions should include measuring, stud sensor and a pilot hole. I do not accept using a magnet or "knocking" as the primary method- it is not exact enough.

3. Will you guarantee the TV is level?
     Self explanatory but so often not verified! Asking this questions also alerts the installer that you will expect a proper and clean job. It sets expectations for his quality of work.

4. For smaller TV' where only 1 stud is used- what type of drywall anchors are you using and is that included in the price?
      This is an important factor and happens often. Make sure at least 2 bolts are secured into a stud. The TV should be as balanced as possible and drywall anchors should be tested. If there was previous water damage to the drywall there will be virtually no strength and an alternative anchor may be required (addition of a post behind the wall).

5. If I decided I want the wires hidden or more options, can you provide this and at what price?
     You want flexibility. This also shows that the handyman is capable of doing deeper work and (at the very least) will be confident in the TV mounting and understanding what goes on behind a wall.  Would you hire someone to mix the batter if they didn't know how to bake the cake after? (stretch of an example, I know- but you want to make sure their skills go beyond the specific project you are performing).

So for the "discount guys" offering service for half the cost, don't hesitate- just ask the right questions.  Like many jobs that run through large national chains or websites- the installation process ends up feeding a few people along the way and you end up paying. In the end you still have the same local, independent guy doing the work.

With proper research the work can be done without an issue. That is our philosophy which is why groups like Baltimore TV Mounting and other groups are great users of EFynch.

It's not that our guys are charging a "cheap" rate to mount your TV, it's that they are giving a fair price.


Article written by Teris Pantazes. The opinions and discussion of work performed do not necessarily reflect those of EFynch and this article was written by him as an individual, not on behalf of EFynch.com. This is all opinion and should be taken for discussion purposes only.
EFynch- $45.00 to mount a TV.
Takl- $141.70 to mount a TV
Angie's List- $213
HomeAdvisor- $287 (which just bought Angie's list- luckily the parent company also owns Tindr so hopefully they can swipe right and meet somewhere in the middle).


Home Improvement information and handyman work in Baltimore, Annapolis, Washington D.C., Maryland, etc.