Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Change your clocks- CHECK YOUR BATTERIES. Save a life w/ SMOKE DETECTORS


When we burn dinner and the alarm goes off, we act instantly waving towels and blankets but, what happens if it were to remain silent? We should treat a quiet detector as important as a buzzing one.  U.S. Fire Deaths have decreased in the past 10 years and now cities like our hometown of Baltimore have programs that give away and install FREE smoke and CO2 detectors (click here for more info). Yet, last December many of us had to fight back tears when we read about a fire that killed 2 children just days before Christmas.  Then in January- a TRAGIC story was told of 6 children dying in a single house fire. 

I don't want to feed you more stories but, I don't want to spout off "fire death statistics" treating each of these cases as a number. 

As a Father I can only recommend we swallow the lump in our throats and take the inititive to help our families and neighbors.

Please join me in spreading the word:- November 5th, 2017 is daylight savings. 


Change your clocks/ Check your Batteries. 
Twice per year we get a reminder to test and check one of the the best life saving device in our homes.

Each time the clocks change, you should change your batteries.  Don't hesitate over the cost, don't compare "hardwired" vs. battery operated--- CHANGE THE BATTERIES! 
*most take a 9V


While you are there- inspect the Smoke Detectors: 

1. Replace all Smoke/ CO2 Detectors every 10 years (manufacturer date should be inside).
2. Make sure they are clean and clear of dust- lightly vacuum if possible then test afterwards. 
3. Always make sure there is no paint on the Detectors.
4. Push the button and test. If you Smoke Detector is hardwired- the other alarms in the house should go off. 

Finally:
Share these tips with your neighrbors and friends. If you know of someone unable to check their own Smoke/ CO2 Detectors- lend a helping hand and offer to do it for them. If you cannot do this- please, let us know and we can try to get someone out for free.

Thank you.




A Training Excercise for Firefighters. But, shows the power of a fire.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

What makes Tree change their color? Why are they sometimes dull?

Do you ever wonder what makes leaves change color in Autumn?
What about why some years they are bright, 
others. . . not so much-

Every fall we marvel at the bright colors. This change signals the “most satisfying season” according to psychological studies but some years the “marvel” is less than others.
 

First, why do leaves change? (*non-technical)
The intensity of leaf color in the fall is mostly due to weather patterns throughout the summer and early fall. A good “growing season” with ample moisture, and plenty of sunlight make for a healthy tree (thus brighter color potential). Drastic changes, drought, and other weather patterns can effect the tree’s health causing a blander leaf in the fall. Once the tree starts changing (September), the tree is in an especially sensitive period.

The Red/Orange/ Yellow colored chemicals are actually in the leaf all summer. However, they are hidden behind the reen color we see (Chlorophyl). The tree stops producing Chlorophyl when sunlight starts getting  and the tree actually begins “cutting off” it’s connection to the leaf. As the green diminishes- we see the bright aura of colors that are left behind until leaves fall (BTW- EFynch offers raking and leaf service providers).

So what does this mean for us. . . .  ?

This year the Baltimore and Washington area had a strange weather pattern. On paper, there was more than enough moisture but the rain was concentrated and many trees may experienced “drought conditions” periodically. Depending on the health of the tree, it would have been able to efficiently store nutrients and will be just fine. But, for many, this was stressful and probably will reduce the overall color on a lot of trees.

September is also a big factor. We received half the rain as normal. The early cold spell was good to accelerate the change but those few 90 degree days may have put stress on the “jump starters”. Not to mention you could argue we are in a mini-drought right now but this may change soon (as of 10/5/17).

Our guess is that this year will be “spotty” with the healthier trees still having some pop and certain species and older trees providing most of the show.

The movie style, drive down a brightly colored street is probably not going to happen but the overall contrast may be pretty interesting because there will be a drastic difference between the healthy trees and less healthy.

Your guess is as good as ours and we’d love to see your reporting. Have a great and happy Autumn!

Summary:

Why they change:
- Healthy and happy trees can be brighter.
- Cool nights in the fall help the faster reduction of Chlorophyl (green color) and give us longer/ brighter colors.
- Trees typically drop their leaves at the same time each year but drought, rain, and wind in the fall can accelerate the shedding and virtually “skip” the bright color time.

Our 2017 Effect:
- Sporadic rain in the summer hurt some trees.
- Early September cool weather helped but late month heat did not.
- Potential storm mid-October will accelerate leaf shedding.
- Probably not the best year for viewing and will be slightly below average.


Other interesting facts (if you’re a dork like us):
- In the Northern Hemisphere- all trees have grown their summer vegetation by June.
- Under the leaves we see this year already exists the following year’s leaf buds
- Speaking of next year- a majority of the carbohydrates in a plant are actually being stored for the following year as well. Next year the tree will work to rebuild for the year after that.
- Unlike spring flowers- The approximate date for the fall change always remains the same. Weather has a greater effect on spring growth timelines.
- Scientist know how and why leaves change color. They still cannot understand why (*although there are some theories- see below).
 - For some reason trees don’t keep their leaves during the winter and choose hibernation


*For some reason Trees do not keep their leaves during the winter. Most think this is due to a lack of strong sunlight (which I would personally believe because I know solar panels produce less electricity from direct sunlight in the winter vs. summer- so would my summer sunburn). Other possible causes have to do with typically drought conditions and harsher weather.

This completely non-scienetific but we hope it makes for good conversation. I've always been told water has the greatest impact on brightness of leaves. We shall see. EFynch is a home improvement community based in Baltimore and also service the entire Washington D.C. Area. For more information visit www.efynch.com and get in touch with us!

Some of the information above was provided by the USDA. A detailed explination can be found here.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

You cannot afford to have a dirty DRYER VENT!


Possibly the most overlooked home maintenance issue I find is your dryer vent. It is very easy to forget this annual service but can have a pretty big impact if ignored for too long.

We remember to clean the lint trip after each load but what about the little dust bunnies that escape the dryer but don't quite get to freedom? There is a pipe that connects your dryer to the outside air and is needed to let heat escape and keep lint out from back-flowing into your home.

Here are our top (and pretty strong) reasons to keep this chore on the top of your fall checklist:

Clogged vs. Clean Vent
1. SAFETY: Over 15,000 fires each year are started because of dryers. 80% of these are reported to be from heat buildup in dryer vents. Lint and/ or animal nests can collect in your vent and cause this hazard.

2. AIR QUALITY: It is hard to argue a risk of fire one minute then mold in another however, for dryers this is a real problem. When clogged, the dryer releases enough hot air to dry trapped lint close to the appliance (fire risk) but as you go farther away moisture builds and creates a "mold playground" reducing air quality and/ or back-flow of air back into your home!

3. EFFICIENCY: If your dryer "feels tired" lately and is taking longer to dry your clothes, this can very easily be poor ventilation. A clogged dryer vent can reduce your dryer's efficiency up to 75%, taking longer or a 2nd run when doing it's job.

4. REDUCE MAINTENANCE: Think about the wear and tear on your machine when constantly working overtime. It takes more energy to push the air through a clogged vent and will take longer to dry (Imagine driving your car down the highway in 1st gear and the strain it causes). If saving energy isn't you thing- how about you stop being a jerk and let the poor guy work easier :) It will certainly increase the overall lifespan of your appliance.

In addition to cleaning the dryer vent once per year, we recommend that you also perform a regular inspection of the outside vent cap. Make sure the vent opens when the dryer is turned on but closes completely when not running (see picture below).

For more information and home tips visit EFynch.com "The Friendly Community for Home Improvement".
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Typical dryer vent. Closed when dryer is turned off. Open when turned on. Keeps animals out.

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.



Explanation 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.