Archive for August, 2011

Should You Leave Solar Blanket on Pool

solar blanket for your poolWe had a question about whether you should leave a solar blanket on a pool all of the time or take it off every day, whether we are using the pool  or not. The short answer is, leave solar blanket on as much as you can but you also should let your pool breathe a bit every day. Remove the solar blanket for an hour once a day.

We have had a pool for the past 23 years and have used a solar blanket for every one of those years to keep our pool nice and warm for swimming. It has worked out great for us and it is well worth the cost of a solar blanket compared to heating with a gas heater. But back to our question of whether you should leave a solar blanket on the pool or not all day long.

Based on our experience the answer is yes, however there are some issues you need to be aware of if you are going to do this.  The practical side of leaving your solar blanket on the pool is whether you take the time to monitor the temperature and also the level of chlorine in your pool. If you let the water get too warm and the chlorine level too low, you risk the growth of green algae in your pool. In fact our pool turned totally green one year because I forgot to check the chlorine level. It took us 2 weeks to get the pool clear again.

Solar Blanket Schedule

This has been one of the best summers for a pool and so far we have had no problems at all. This is our schedule for the pool which has worked well for us:

  • Pump is turned on to circulate the water from 6:30am to 9:30am
  • Solar blanket is removed around lunch time
  • Chlorine level is checked around 6pm
  • Pump is turned on to circulate the water from 6pm until around 10pm
  • Chlorine and algaecide are added as needed
  • Chlorine shock treatment is completed once every 3 to 5 days depending on the temperature of the water.
  • Solar blanket is place back on after we are finished swimming in the evening

Daily Monitoring

The message here is daily monitoring of the chlorine level in the water or at least every 2nd day. It is very important to not let the water get cloudy ever. Once it does it is only a matter of hours before it goes green on you. Check the sides of the pool daily and if you begin to see green algae forming on the sides of the pool or the water begins to look a little bit cloudy , it is time to take action.

With the solar blanket on the pool so much, the water temperature rises quickly so daily monitoring is required. Once the blanket is removed and people are swimming, the water is being circulated more and mixed as well so there is no need to have the poop pump on all day long for private pools. However if you are the type to forget about some of these steps then it is best to use an automatic chlorinater and leave the pool pump on all of the time.

An added benefit of leaving the solar blanket on with the pool pump off is that the top foot of water gets incredibly warm. this makes it very nice to enter the pool and swim in the top foot of water. This warm temperature is really great when the air temperature begins to cool as you get closer to the fall and day time temperatures are lower. Of course after a few minutes the water mixes and the overall pool assumes the average temperature of the water.

This has been our experience of leaving the solar  blanket on the pool for long periods of time. With Solar Blankets you can save energy and also enjoy a warm pool too. It really does depend on the sun and if you only have cloudy rainy days there is not much to be gained by a solar blanket or even heating the pool with a heater. Comments are welcome.

For more articles on solar pool heating, click here.

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Installing a Garage Door Opener

Garage Door OpenerI just finished installing a new garage door opener. Although it took a few hours and a second pair of hands, the actual installation was pretty straight forward. My old garage door opener had lasted for almost 22 years. Although still working it was beginning to be a little temperamental. I knew it was on its last legs so to speak. I asked for a new one for a Christmas gift and finally got around to installing the new garage door opener in July. This post is to talk about my experience and how I saved the installation fee.

Removing the Old Garage Door Opener

It is always easy to remove things and take them apart, in most cases. It certainly was in this case as well. However I did do a little bit of planning so that avoided removing pieces of the old installation that I was going to need with the new opener. This made the job a lot easier as well. Basically on the garage door itself there is a bracket that is used to attached the opener to the door. This was saved and reused. The motor portion hung from the ceiling with a series of metal braces. Although not perfectly adapted for the new opener, I was able to reuse all of the mounting brackets and hardware without having to remove it from the ceiling.

Follow the Instructions

This is really the best advice that we can give at this point. In my case they were step by step and easy to follow. We are not going to quote them here since every door opener will be different. One thing we can say is that you should read ahead and understand the big picture before starting. Have all of the tools you need to have close by and arrange for someone to give you a hand at a critical time when it comes to physically hanging the motor and track.

There is a lot of preparatory work you can do ahead of time. The biggest time consumer for me was running all of the new wiring. I removed the old wiring and installed the controls, but then you have to run the new wire in as well. This is recommended since you want to avoid any potential problems with old wires that might be corroded or damaged in some manner.

My old garage door opener did not have sensor to detect an object that was blocking the door from closing. Sensors must be installed a foot from the ground and wires run back to the motor. These sensors will stop the door from closing if there is any kind of object blocking the opening. These sensors also turn the lights on if you walk between them, which is a really nice security feature at night when your garage is dark and you want to avoid obstacles that could have been left behind in the way.

Ask for Help to Mount the Motor and Track

Once I was ready, I asked one of my neighbors for a hand to hold the ladder and lift the track up to me until I could permanently attach it to the mounting brackets. This took about 5 minutes of work and about 25 minutes of chatting about the news and people on the street. Although interesting, this can be a time waster, especially if you are in a hurry to get the job done.

That’s about it. As we mentioned earlier read the instructions from cover to cover before starting, plan your work and reuse as much of the mounting brackets as you can to make the job easier if you are replacing an old garage door opener. This is definitely a do it yourself kind of job for the average person with the right tools.  Take your time and be safe – unplug the old opener before you start working and get someone to hold your ladder when you are on it.

Comments about your experience of installing a garage door opener are welcome.

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Residential Property Management Ottawa

Residential Property Management OttawaThere are many residential property management companies in the city of  Ottawa. How do you know which one to utilize and contract with to manage the rental of your home or apartment, your investment property? Perhaps you just need someone to look after your home while you are away on vacation to satisfy your insurance company!

Ottawa property management companies offer a variety of services. Some are city-wide while others cover only specific areas of the city. This is designed to minimize travel costs and the subsequent charges to their customers. There are very large property management companies and there are small mom and pop companies in the city of Ottawa.

Residential Property Management Ottawa Services

Some of the basic services that you need to consider are:

Administration:

  • rent collection in trust
  • payment of invoices, property taxes, utilities, insurance
  • monthly reports, annual reports
  • maintenance of property records
  • cash flow management
  • property inspections
  • receive and respond to tenet inquiries 24/7
  • representation on all rent review matters

Leasing:

  • advertising of rental unit
  • receive leasing inquires 24/7
  • schedule showing of property
  • complete rental application
  • tenant screening process
  • execute lease
  • collect deposits and post-dated checks

Residential Property Management Ottawa Companies

Here is a brief list of some of the companies in the city of Ottawa that provide residential property management services

  • Sleepwell Management
  • Marklyn Property Management
  • Taggart Realty Management
  • CLV Group
  • District Realty
  • Gow Property Management
  • Megacorp Property Management Inc
  • Woodbridge Management
  • Apollo Property Management
  • Metcalfe Realty Company Limited
  • Just Imagine Realty Inc
  • Affordable Property Managément
  • Merkburn Holdings Ltd
  • Immogest Property Management Inc
  • Attaché National Capital Management
  • Rest Easy Property Management
  • Elk Property Management
  • Deerpark Management Limited
  • Executive Home Mgmt
  • A Premiere Property Management Associates
  • Axia Property Management
  • Capital Concierge
  • Sentinel Management
  • Beauregard Property Management corp
  • Reid Property Management Ltd

While we cannot vouch for any of these companies we urge you to review our post about residential property management to understand some of the things you should take into account when you are considering hiring a property management company. This list has a lot of common sense items on it that you may find helpful when you are interviewing some of these companies.

About Ottawa

Ottawa has approximately a million people living in the area and is spread out along the Ottawa river. Hiring a local company that is based in your area may mean that you can get a more competitive price, however be careful that you do not sacrifice services to yourself or your tenant to get a lower price. It could end up costing you a lot more money in lost rent or damages that you must repair if your tenant causes a lot of damage and then skips out with out your property managers knowledge.

If you are leaving on vacation for a few weeks, check with your insurance company to see what the requirements are for someone checking on your home. Failure to have some one check on your home could mean that your home insurance is invalid and any claims may be denied.

If you are a property manage and do not see your name on the list, leave us a comment and we will be happy to add it. For more information on Residential property management, click here.

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Updating Your Mobile Contract

Updating your mobile contract takes time and I just spent over an hour with my mobile provider talking to them about what plan I should subscribe to since my contract is up for renewal. I had vowed thatUpdating Your Mobile Contract I would never sign another contract for one year or longer ever again. The rates and the level of service I was getting from my mobility provider just were not measuring up to what I was looking for.

In fact I was going to go with a pay per use service, with no contract and freedom to stop the plan or go to another provider without having to break any contracts. When I compared my usage for the past year to prepaid rates, I was actually going to save money compared to what I am currently paying so why would I not go this route.

Well it depends on who you talk to when it comes to negotiating rates and terms at mobile companies.  I purchase my  cellular service in Canada, so our rates are much more expensive compared to the US, however the concepts that I used during my conversation with my provider, Bell would apply equally to any of the US carriers or even other Canadian mobility providers.

And don’t forget this includes the device that you are planning to use as well as the plan that you may sign up for including voice, text messaging, and data plans. Many people focus in on one or two things, so step back and think about all of the things you are looking for and then contact the company to discuss your needs.

What are your choices when Updating Your Mobile Contract?

Go into the Store

They all have stores in many of the major malls and centers across the country. You can look at the phones and the standard packages and make a decision regarding what you want. If you are a new customer or are moving from another carrier, this is the place to start. You do not have a lot of negotiating power here other than to compare deals offered by the various carriers. The deals are what they are and it is up to you to decide which package you want to select.

Call Your Mobility Provider Help Desk

This is the next step especially for people who have existing contracts or have been with the carrier for some time.  When you call into the call center, you will be talking with a rep who has the authority to sell you the basics, in much the same way as the folks at the mobility store do. They may be able to offer you some discounts, however you will need to ask about them regarding what is available. The mobility rep may not tell you about these discounts without prompting.

Ask to Speak to the Retention Desk

These are the mobility reps with the power to cut deals and do what they need to keep you as a customer and if possible sign you up as a long term customer. These are the folks that can offer special deals, discounts and special situations can also be negotiated. They are motivated in having you continue as a customer and they will do just about anything to keep you. Here are a few examples of what I was able to negotiate:

  • Upgrade fees waived
  • Transfer fee for phone book to new phone waived
  • New phone provided
  • No new fees to begin contract
  • Calls to family phones included
  • Voice  messaging or voice mail included
  • Call forwarding, conferencing, display, forwarding included
  • Long distance minutes included
  • Local minutes for both phones shared
  • Text messaging included
  • 450 anytime minutes  included
  • Unlimited evening and weekend minutes included beginning at 6pm

And the best part is that this deal, while providing me with about the same service as previously is 37%  cheaper than previously, a huge savings!

To summarize, When Updating Your Mobile Contract

  • Ask to speak to the retention desk
  • Ask for everything you can think of to be included
  • Discuss going to the competition
  • Discuss the merits of various plans
  • The worst they can say is no, or offer something else which might interest you!

If you have had a similar experience, leave your comments. We all need help in keeping our costs down! For more suggestions on Mobile contracts, click here.

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Tire Pressure and Safety

tire pressure and safetyIt has long been known by most of us that proper tire inflation can save on fuel costs. Many people, however, do not realize that proper tire inflation not only prolongs the life of the tire, thus saving on replacement costs, but also impacts on the wear and tear experienced by various parts of the steering assembly itself. Additionally, Tire Pressure and Safety are directly related. Proper tire inflation simply improves  driving control by reducing the amount of corrections and control required from the driver. Proper tire pressure can actually avoid car accidents and save you a great deal of money and frustration.

Tire Pressure and Safety

Regular Tire Inspections

Safety is also impacted when proper tire inflation is combined with regular inspections and other appropriate tire care steps because there is less chance of unexpected tire failure in dangerous highway driving and other traffic situations.

So, all year round, increased safety and fuel economy can rest on something as simple as regularly inspecting your tires visually and maintaining proper tire inflation pressure. It is also a good idea to make note somewhere of when tires are purchased, including both date AND mileage. Many of us tend to let such bits of info slide into the background as we drive at top speed with our loved ones on tires which may be nearing the end of their effective, safe lives.

Check also when tires were manufactured. Any tire older than 7 years should be suspect and not only checked regularly, but also replaced as soon as they show signs of deterioration. Some tires are sold as new, when they are already 5 or 6 years old so check with the dealer before they are installed.

Check Tires Before Seasonal Changes in Weather

Due to weather changes and road conditions in various areas, additional checks, maintenance, and operations may be called for.

Winter presents unique challenges in some areas and in almost all areas from time to time. Cars may become stuck in snow, roads may become icy, and vehicles may slip and slide at exactly the worst time possible. Winter is NOT a time that you want a tire to fail, so the usual inspections and maintenance become even more important. Properly inflated tires can help maintain traction as well as aiding in regaining control in skids and slides. If stuck in snow, by the way, try to avoid spinning your tires. This can cause overheating of the tire and may possibly contribute to a future failure of the tire.

Avoid Potholes

After Winter has done its damage to drivers in many parts of the country, a new phenomenon may appear in abundance. Many new potholes happen due to a cycle of freezing and thawing of water under the roadway. Potholes can be tire killers at any time of the year, but, because of this cycle, there seems to be more of them after Winter has passed. Often, the damage a pothole inflicts on a tire is invisible, although the damage to the steering may become immediately evident due to the “pulling” of the vehicle to one side or the other, or vibration which wasn’t present before.

Obviously, avoiding potholes completely is the best way to protect your tires against damage. However, as we all know, this is not always possible. Here is a tip on how to hit a pothole with minimum damage to your tires. First and foremost, do NOT brake during the impact itself! This creates a solid impact at a given point and will produce the most damage. Instead, brake as much as it is safely possible up to just before impact and release the brakes in time to roll across the pothole. This will result in a rolling contact which produces less damage in most cases.

Proper Tire Inflation

When deciding on proper inflation pressures, your car manufacturer will usually provide the recommended pressures in the owner’s manual and also on a data plate commonly located on the door frame, in the glove compartment, or under the hood. However, aftermarket tires purchased later may require different inflation pressures. In this case, it is good to check with the tire dealer on what would be the best inflation pressures.

Tire Rotation

Last, but not least, a word on tire rotation. Obviously, not all tires are going to experience the same wear at the same time. For this reason, it is usually considered a good idea to periodically rotate tires. Your best bet in most instances is to simply go with the car manufacturer’s recommendations, but a rule of thumb might be to rotate tires every 6,000 miles on most cars, and every 4,000 miles on cars with 4-wheel drive.

In these days of high fuel costs, and with the possibility of even higher costs in the future, this is a simple way to improve fuel economy. When you consider that you can also prolong the safe and effective life of your tires as well, you will not only be putting more money in your own pocket but will be helping reduce the power needed to produce more new tires and help reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil as well.


Floor Stain for Hardwood Floors

Floor Stain for Hardwood FloorsHardwood floors look their best with the right floor stain for hardwood floors applied in your home that matches your overall decor and design for your home. Whether you are buying new or restaining a floor, the biggest decision is the color of stain you chose. Most hardwood floors come pre-stained and pre-finished, so there is no work to do other than installing the floor.  After years of use, you may need to strip the floor and sand it to remove scuff marks and remove the old finish. Once it is properly sanded you can then apply the hardwood floor stain properly to bring out the beauty in the wood. At this time also you can choose to change the original color of the stain or keep it the same, the choice is yours.

Floor Stain for Hardwood Floors

Pre-finished hardwood floors come in all sizes and colors and it can sometimes be difficult to decide what color of stain to choose. This means you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a stain to match with your wood furnishings or one that suits your overall decorating style. Also, the variety of stains available can come in handy when it comes to repairing scratches or water spots on your floors. You can find a hardwood floor stain chart from any hardware store and match this against your floors at home. Of course you can also cover these marks with an area rug or some piece of furniture that will hide the marks. Of course if the marks are in the middle of a traffic area, your only choice is a rug or carpet that can cover the area and enhance your overall rooms decor.

If you are someone who likes a light airy feel to your home you will likely go with a blond or light colored stain, while people who have darker requirements and furniture tastes will go for something that has a darker mahogany type of stain. Spend some time with the floor salesman, ask many questions and look at pictures in magazines to asses which style of wood and color of stain you would prefer.

Staining Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors will need to be stripped and re-sanded after heavy use or many years of service. Choosing a the right floor stain for hardwood floors can be easy – just use the same as before, or more challenging if you plan to change the overall look of your home. When you have your stain chosen it is important that you know how to apply it properly to avoid blotches. Most people choose oil based stains because they are easy to handle and apply. When you apply the stain make sure to work in a well ventilated area and keep all ignition sources away from your work area. Apply the stain with in the direction of the wood grain with a rag making sure to apply an even coating. It is often helpful to have someone work with you to wipe away excess stain often. Also you should change rags regularly.

With the right selection of hardwood floor stain and care in application, you will have your hardwood floors looking their best. Whether you are purchasing a pre-finished hardwood floor or refinishing an older floor,  the benefits of a hardwood floor will last many years! Many people will also place area rugs to add texture and a warmer feel to the room. These rugs also protect the floors as well from higher traffic and scuffing.

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Flashlights Without Batteries

We could not resist this subject. Flashlights without batteries is one of those solutions that is gradually becoming more popular over time. While flashlight without batteriesmany people have flashlights in their homes for emergency use and working under the sink or other jobs, how many times have you gone to use your flashlight and found that the batteries were discharged. Maybe the kids stole them for use on one of their games! Perhaps you forgot to charge the battery after the last time it was used assuming they are rechargeable. Then there is the problem of disposing of batteries. Unfortunately many people just toss them in the garbage and they end up in landfill polluting our lakes and streams. Flashlights without batteries are the answer for those emergency situations that need a working flashlight 100% of the time.

Either way it can be quite frustrating to need a working flashlight when the power goes out and not be able to find one that works. This is why these new flashlights that come with a crank and can be charged at a moments notice are becoming more popular.

There have been so many times when I have tried to use our flashlight when it did not work that I just got fed up with it. Eventually I broke down, spent the $15 needed to buy one of these new battery less flashlights and have never looked back. We never buy batteries any longer.


The flashlight that I have has a small crank which I wind up when I need it, a switch to turn it on and three LED lights that shine quite a bright light on whatever I need illuminated. I keep one of these in the car all of the time and one in the house and never worry about batteries!

Advantages of Flashlights without Batteries

There is so much going for this solution that I wonder why more people do not consider making this purchase. First of all , no more batteries to buy, secondly no more batteries to throw out and pollute the planet, no more manufacturing of batteries which also pollutes the planet and finally, no more dead batteries when you really need a flashlight.

Some folks will make the comment that the manufacture of these new flashlights also pollute the planet and yes this is true, however at least you are reducing the amount of pollution by no longer relying on throw away batteries.

The convenience cannot really be measured until you face the situation flashlight without batterieswhen you need to have a flashlight and there is no working model to be had.

There are disadvantages of using this type of flashlight and we will list them next.

 

Disadvantage of Using Flashlights without Batteries

The particular model that I have has a crank which must be wound to charge the internal capacitor. As the capacitor discharges, the lights progressively get dimmer until I rewind the crank again. Typically I need to wind the crank about every minute of use which becomes an irritation after a while if I need the light for a long time. This can be a bit frustrating if you are trying to work at the same time and need both hands to perform whatever it is that you are doing.

Larger capacitors or flashlights with rechargeable batteries provide better results so this is something I would look for if I need to purchase another one. I have seen flashlights were winding for a minute charges the capacitor enough for it to last a full 20 minutes.

Another disadvantage is when you are charging the capacitor by winding the crank, there is a fair bit of noise generated which is fine in 99% of any situation I will ever find myself in, however for those people looking for silence, this could be an issue for some.

Lately I have found it harder to find these kind of flashlights. Not sure if people are not buying them or if the stores cannot make enough money from them. It is too bad. we used and throw out far too many batteries for the toys we buy.

Comments are welcome.  Always looking for ways to generate alternative energy without using the electrical grid or polluting the planet even more. for more posts about finding new energy sources, click here.

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Indoor coverage vs. Outdoor Coverage

indoor-coverageOutdoor Coverage vs. Indoor Coverage

Great wireless  coverage outside doesn’t always mean great wireless  coverage inside homes and offices. Wireless carriers have done a good job on improving outdoor performance with more cell sites spread across cities and even into rural areas. They have also improved dropped call rates in most major cities. In fact I hardly ever lose a call now due to a poor signal, unless I am in a zone that they just have not figured out yet. But poor in-building coverage continues to be a problem for all carriers, even the long term incumbents who have robust networks. It does not matter whether you are serving offices, commercial buildings, condominiums, apartments and homes, there  is an issue that needs to be addressed. That’s indoor wireless coverage.

Indoor coverage – Blame the Building

Our cell phone numbers, voice calls, text messages  and email addresses have increasingly become a way of allowing us to stay connected no matter where we are.  We expect that our wireless devices should work inside our homes and offices, in fact we demand it. But building materials like concrete and tinted glass, and building locations in shadowed areas, can frequently degrade the cellular signal or even stop cellular, 3G, 4G, GSM, CDMA and PCS signals from penetrating into your location. Your smart phones don’t work in meeting rooms, home offices, warehouses – the list goes on. Your productivity suffers as a result and business is delayed due to poor signal levels.

It is usually the building materials that were used to construct the building that is the cause. At the very least the signal is weakened making calls difficult. There is a solution to this problem, however it means that either the building owner or the carrier must spend some money installing a wireless repeater.

Wireless Data Applications

Cell phones and other devices like iPads, iPods, iPhone’s, Blackberry’s, and G1 Android’s are fast becoming a way of mobilizing the workforce. IT shops in most companies are equipping their employees with these devices to improve productivity only to be stymied by poor coverage inside buildings. But where you might be willing to put up with two bars of coverage on your cell phone for a voice call, for a wireless data application to work well – a strong signal is required.

Improving in-building coverage is a must for ensuring data throughput for wireless devices is maximized, and that those wireless applications that your organization has invested in, work well in the places where they are being used more and more frequently – indoors.

Solutions

There are many companies that provide indoor repeater solutions. Basically these systems capture the signal outdoors and repeat it indoors after it has been amplified. Better voice calls and data rates are found with these solutions. The same process for transmitting voice and data must be applied from indoors. The signal your phone transmits must be captured indoors and retransmitted outdoors so that the carrier can pick up the signal to be processed.

Others are employing a WiFi solution to improve data coverage and reduce data bills as well. With WiFi there is no data charge and the user can connect directly to the companies data network after they have authenticated the users device. This is a well known and popular solution for many companies to solve the data issue.

Sufficient WiFi transmitters and receivers must be placed throughout the building to provide sufficient coverage. Even in homes, if your WiFi modem is located in the basement, the signal might not be that strong upstairs in your bedroom for example or even outside the home. Locate your WiFi modem upstairs somewhere, where it can transmit a signal that is much less impeded by interference from your home.

For more indoor coverage topics, click here.

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Tire Pressure

tire pressureYour vehicle’s tires are actually synthetic rubber which has been shaped into a form to meet the specifications for your vehicle. It covers the circumference of the wheel of your vehicle and provides traction in all kinds of conditions from dry payment to snow and ice conditions. Your tires must be at the recommended tire pressure for them to provide the best traction possible in all conditions. Keep your tires properly inflated at all times.

Your tire has many functions.

A few of them are :

  • Dampens any strong shocks or forces that could be the effects of any irregularities on the road surface like bumps or potholes.
  • Tires also protect the wheel itself from wearing out too soon.
  • Your wheels  provide traction on all kinds of road conditions
  • Tires are designed to release air slowly with minor punctures
  • Specialized tires are designed for high-speed conditions, slippery conditions and many more situations
  • There are summer tires, all season tires and winter tires

That is why it is of utmost importance that a car owner should take extra care when it comes to choosing the right tires and maintaining his tires. One of the most common ways of keeping a tire in good shape and condition would be to maintain the proper air pressure, balance and alignment.

Routine Tire Pressure Checks

Make this activity a routine and do it regularly. Check your tires air pressure  to taking long drives. During the summer months, be sure that you check the tire pressure when the tires are cold for the air inside expands when the tires are hot so you would be getting a different reading. During winter, the air condenses so your tires may seem low or flat even though they are not leaking.

Review your car owner’s manual for the right amount of air needed for your tires? Usually, this document holds pertinent information regarding anything and everything about your vehicle and this includes the recommended tire pressure. Or you can also check the label found in the glove box or in the driver’s side’s door latch. You see, if a tire has just the right of pressure, they are more likely to last longer and less likely to fail you while you drive and they provide you with much better gas mileage.

Check Tires for Uneven Tire Wear

Make sure that your tires are wearing evenly. If not, there might be a problem with how you drive or with the wheel alignment or even how they are balanced. Have your car checked by a mechanic if you feel a vibration while driving. This is likely badly balanced wheels, while uneven wear on one side or the other represents alignment issues.

Running tires at low tire pressure can cause all kinds of problems from uneven wear, to poor maneuverability to even blowouts at high-speed. Low pressure tires will cause your car to not handle as well.

Now, if you see tread wear warning bars running across the tire, do not think twice about replacing that tire. Purchase new tires immediately.  It means that the tire has reached the end of its lifespan. Bald tires are actually unsafe on any kind of road.

If you have comments on tire pressure or other topics about tires, feel free to leave a comment. All constructive comments that are valuable to readers will be considered for posting. For more safe driving ideas, click here.

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Residential Property Management

Property ManagementIn every major city and most small cities and towns across the country there are Property Management firms offering a variety of services to clients who need to have someone look after their home, their apartment or their rental property.  You can have an excellent service or end up with a nightmare if you are not careful.

Hopefully some of the things we talk about in this web site will help you in your selection of a residential property management company for your home while you are away or for a rental property that you own.

This web site is focused on property management for urban consumers who are either renting a home out to a 3rd party and want someone to look after the rental and the management of their home, the rental contract etc or are leaving their home vacant for a long period and need someone to look after their home while they are away.

This latter group comprises snow birds who are spending the winter in the south, business people who are away traveling or people who have been transferred to other locales. Property managers also looks after rentals in the same city that you live in as well as properties that are located in other cities from were you live.

What Should You Look For in Property Management Company

There are numerous items to consider and we have tried to list some of the more important things in this post. If we miss any that you feel are important, please leave us a comment so that we can update this post to alert our readers.

  • Contract that states the services they will provide to you
  • Rental philosophy that matches with you and the type of person you want to rent to
  • Regular reports that clearly show revenue and expenses
  • Final annual report you can use for tax purposes
  • Emergency number to call for your renter and yourself
  • Designated contact for you to call
  • Process for collecting rents, payment of bills and deposit of rents to your account
  • Reasonable property management fees
  • Advertising costs are prorate across all rental units they manage
  • Emergency repair process
  • Repair approval process
  • Handy men at reasonable rates for standard repairs
  • References from other property owners
  • Monthly, quarterly reports that meet your needs

These are just a few of the areas you want to consider. We will discuss some of them in more detail to give you a flavor for what we are considering in these items.

Rental Philosophy

At one time we had a property manager who believed that having a low vacancy rate was the right way to manage a property. Yes, the property was always rented, however the people we rented to were not some of the best people to have in our units.

All of the bad things that you can imagine occurred. They skipped town, they had a lot of damage in the unit, they missed rental payments and on and on.

It is very difficult in some jurisdictions to collect from these delinquents and it costs more money to collect from them for missed rent and money to cover damages. We came to the conclusion it was better to have a unit sit vacant for a month while we found a better class of tenant who had great references and was not going to wreck the place! The cash flow was usually better even though the unit sat vacant for a month.

Property Management Reports

  • Look for regular reports that meet your needs. They should include:
  • Monthly cash flow for your unit
  • Quarterly cash flow for your rental unit
  • Comparison to forecast so that you can see how you are doing
  • Annual statement for tax purposes
  • A managers report in narrative summarizing activity concerning your property

This seems like a lot, but it is necessary to ensure that there are no surprises. Some people will not hear anything regarding their property for an entire year and then get a big surprise when they find they have to pay more money for major repairs or that cash flow is not what they expected.

Property Management Contacts

This applies equally to your renter as well as yourself. The renter needs to have someone they can contact in case of an emergency to solve his or her problems. If there is a water leak on a long weekend, you want it fixed that day and not after everyone comes back to work.

Also if you the owner have a question, who do you call to get answers to your queries about information given to you on the property management reports. Remember to not be a pest either. Be professional and business like in your dealing with the property manager.

References for Property Managers

Always get references, although sometimes that may be suspect. Spend an hour talking to other owners to compare notes. There are two fundamental things to look for:

  • Does the owner you are speaking with have the same business approach as you do
  • If so, are they satisfied with the service they get from the property management firm?

There is really no sense in speaking with someone who never talks to the
property manager, does not want reports and only wants to be called if there is a problem. Of course they will be happy with a property manager who never calls them and gives them the annual report they need for their taxes. I am exaggerating a bit here, but hopefully you get the point.

If you both want monthly results with an accounting report and a narrative report and the person you are speaking with finds the reports meet their needs, then there is a better chance that you will also be satisfied with the firm you are considering.

As we said earlier, if there are major thoughts missing in this post about property managers, please feel free to leave a comment.

 

 


Use Your Gift Cards

Use Your Gift CardDo you still have a gift card hanging around from Christmas? or perhaps your birthday? Did you know that department store gift cards are one of the most profitable businesses to be in for the department stores simply because many people forget they have them and either lose them or they become out of date. The money your family and friends paid to acquire them goes to the store and you got nothing for them in this case. In some cases if they are not used in a specific amount of time they are considered dormant and then canceled. Millions of people every year lose money this way.

Gift cards are just like cash and can be used by anyone who holds them. They are not registered and if someone else spends the money on them, well too bad for you. Don’t lose them, forget about them or let them fall out of your pocket. The difference between cash and gift cards is that they have a shelf life. In other words they will get out of date at some point and they tie you to one store which can be a problem under specific conditions.

Store Goes Bankrupt! What happens to my Gift Card?

Another thing that happens with gift cards and a strong reason why you should use your gift cards as soon as you can, especially after Christmas is that many business go out of business in the winter months and suddenly that gift card you have is worth less. Some small companies who are struggling and many that are not really depend on the Christmas season to make or break them. They will do 90% of their entire years sales in 2 months time. If for some reason sales are not what they expected or they end up with too much inventory left over after Christmas, they can find themselves in financial difficulty.

If your family purchased a gift card from one of these companies and they in turn declare bankruptcy because their sales are way down, you might  find that your gift card is worthless. If you must  purchase gift cards as a Christmas or birthday gift always try to purchase one from a well-known store that is part of a large healthy chain of stores. This is probably the best way to avoid this kind of situation. Next you just have to make sure your friend uses the card.

Forgetting to Use Your Gift Card

Sometimes they get lost in all of the wrapping paper. Sometimes they are set aside in a safe place, never to be found again for many years. Sometimes they just sit in the drawer or even in your wallet and you forget they are even there. These are just a few of the reasons many people do not ever use their gift cards.

As a result the great idea that someone had to give you gift card is completely wasted and the store made 100% profit. The best advice we can give from our web site for gift cards that you receive is to make a conscious effort to use them as soon as possible after you receive them to make sure they do not get lost. After all this web site is about saving money so the only way to do that with a gift card is to spend it. It is just like cash except that you can only use it one store or chain of stores.

The next best thing is to purchase something on sale with a gift card. So now you can really stretch it as far as possible and get a few things that you might not have otherwise.

Let us know by leaving a comment if you have run into these problems or have lost your gift card. What can you do to avoid losing a gift card.

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Engineered Hardwood Floors

Adding hardwood flooring to your home can be a great investment, since most new homeowners are looking for the upgraded look and feel of hardwood floors. If you are planning to sell an existing home, hardwood floors will enhance the sales potential of your home. In most cases your home will sell much faster than a home that does not have hardwood flooring. Buyers appear to have a preference for hardwood flooring everywhere.

Not only does it look great but it is long lasting and can withstand many years Engineered Hardwood Floorsof use however hardwood flooring can be expensive. As an alternative to true hardwood, an engineered hardwood floor can be a great option for those who want the advantages of hardwood floor while spending less. Here is some information for those interested in engineered hardwood floor if you  want to know what it is all about. Carpeting on the other hand begins to look tired even after a few years, especially if there is a lot of foot traffic on some areas. Stick to hardwood if you are buying a new home or upgrading and replacing your existing flooring.

Engineered Hardwood Floors

Engineered hardwood floors are made with an inner core of hardwood, high density fiberboard (HDF), or plywood and on top of this a layer of wood veneer is glued. The outer wood veneer layer can be found in almost every kind of hardwood species. This means you can have the same great look of all the varieties of hardwood flooring available. The outer veneer layer can come in varying thickness as well so you can find flooring that  will be long lasting and will stand up to wear.

A great advantage of engineered hardwood floor is that the inner core material is designed to allow greater stability. True hardwood floors are very sensitive to heat and moisture and can expand, contract and warp. This could lead to gaps forming or cupping of the boards among other things. So in essence you have the best of both worlds. The outer veneer layer is the same wood you would see in solid hardwood but the inner engineered core of engineered hardwood floor makes the flooring less sensitive to the effects of heat and water damage.

A Big Disadvantage

One big disadvantage of an engineered hardwood floor is the number of times that the floor can be refinished. Basically when you refinished a floor, you are removing the top layer of varnish and some of the wood as well to get down to  untreated hardwood. Since an engineered hardwood floor has a veneer it is limited in the number of times that you can refinish it. If you take good care of your floor, don’t allow shows to be warn on the floor and clean regularly, your floor will last for many years without the need to be sanded. consumers have been know to get as many as 20 years out of a floor before it needs to be refinished.

Impacts on Your Homes Resale Price

For those people who are planing to sell their home the age, how ell it has been looked after and whether it needs to be refinished or not could be a potential negative for a buyer. If you plan to stay in your home for many years chances are that you will need to refinish the floor at some point and you will want to take this issue into account, before you make the decision to go with the engineered hardwood floor variety.

An engineered hardwood floor is a great way to have the beauty and charm of hardwood flooring with less worry over the floor stability. Take the time to look further into the many advantages of this type of flooring. Talk to the experts and compare the advantages and disadvantages for your new hardwood flooring design.

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