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Home Care

Add storage and seating to your patio

According to landscape designer, Doug Scott, storage is something a lot of people forget about when designing an outdoor living space.

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Photo by Sonnie Hiles from Unsplash.com

Whether you’re grilling, gardening or simply lounging in the backyard, it’s important to have the tools, supplies and equipment you need close at hand. Unfortunately, finding a convenient place to store everything is a challenge many homeowners face.

According to landscape designer, Doug Scott, storage is something a lot of people forget about when designing an outdoor living space.

“Whether it’s gardening tools and supplies, outdoor furniture cushions, or a random collection of toys, almost everything we do outdoors comes with stuff,” Scott said. “And it’s not always convenient to go back inside and get those things.”

Scott has partnered with Exmark on a new Done-In-A-Weekend Projects video that shows homeowners how to build a dual-purpose outdoor storage bench that offers convenient on-patio storage. It also provides comfortable outdoor seating for family and guests.

“It’s really the best for both form and function,” Scott said.

While it’s possible to build the exterior of the outdoor storage bench from several wood options, Scott said untreated cedar is a good choice, for several reasons. It’s attractive and is naturally rot-resistant, so staining or painting the storage bench is an option, not a requirement.

The interior of the storage box is built from a combination of plywood, pine boards and decking board, secured with a combination of wood screws, wood glue and exterior construction adhesive.

Scott said the outdoor storage bench is a project that most folks can complete in one to two days, but he recommends enlisting the help of a friend or family member, which can cut the project time in half.

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Home Care

Tips to homeowners seeking a reputable contractor

Homeowners should proactively seek a contractor when their property is damaged due to a windstorm (e.g., hurricane, tornado) or fire. An unsolicited offer from a contractor with whom the homeowner is unfamiliar should be treated with skepticism.

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Contractor fraud often occurs after major natural disasters which impact large numbers of homeowners, with some contractors initiating contact with homeowners long after the disaster occurred. Unethical contractors frequently use flyers and door hangers to generate business. In Florida, there are contractors who solicit roof replacement claims door-to-door even when no storm has occurred. Homeowners, however, have ways to determine a contractor’s credentials and reputation.

“Disasters can bring out the best in people as they rush to help those in need. Unfortunately, disasters also attract predatory contractors looking to defraud and deceive disaster victims,” said David Glawe, president and CEO, NICB. “After most disasters, these shameful contractors use well-rehearsed, predatory practices to exploit stressed disaster victims when they are most vulnerable. As a result, survivors pay these bad actors who do little or no work.”

Triple-I and the NICB offer these five tips to homeowners in the market for a reputable contractor.

  1. If you didn’t request it, reject it—Homeowners should proactively seek a contractor when their property is damaged due to a windstorm (e.g., hurricane, tornado) or fire.  An unsolicited offer from a contractor with whom the homeowner is unfamiliar should be treated with skepticism.
  2. Get at least three written estimates for the work and compare bids—In the aftermath of a major natural disaster, contractors are in high demand.  The pandemic and supply chain disruptions also have put additional pressure on labor and building material costs.  Homeowners should solicit at least three written estimates from three different contractors.
  3. Check credentials, including licenses, references, and insurance—Reputable contractors will provide homeowners with their state and local business licenses, physical business address and telephone numbers, and references.
  4. Make sure your contract includes estimated construction schedules and prices for labor and materials—If a contractor requires full payment upfront for a job, homeowners should think twice about doing business with them. It is common, however, for a contractor to request some money upfront after signing a contract with a homeowner as the contractor needs to buy supplies. 
  5. Contact your insurer to make sure your policy is up to date— If a contractor offers advice on what a homeowners insurance policy covers, the property owner should have this interpretation double-checked by an insurance professional affiliated with the insurer who covers the damaged home.
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Home Care

Tips, tools to help customers save energy, money as temperatures rise

High temperatures bring higher usage for customers, which can translate into higher bills. But a few smart, simple tips can help energy users take control of their bill and save money.

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Photo by Ilse Orsel from Unsplash.com

As the mercury rises today and over the weekend, Duke Energy is providing tips and tools to help customers save energy – and money – while trying to stay cool.

Duke Energy has sufficient resources to meet customers’ energy needs and continues to monitor its power plants, power lines and other equipment to help ensure customers receive reliable service during the heat wave.

High temperatures bring higher usage for customers, which can translate into higher bills. But a few smart, simple tips can help energy users take control of their bill and save money.

Low- to no-cost energy efficiency tips

High temperatures can lead to higher energy usage and bills as customers combat the heat. Below are some tips to help manage your energy use.

  • Change air filters regularly. A dirty air filter makes an HVAC system work harder, which uses more energy.
  • Set your thermostat at the highest comfortable setting. The smaller the difference between the inside and outside temperatures, the lower your energy usage and bill will be.
  • Close blinds, drapes and curtains during the hottest part of the day. Keeping your blinds, drapes and curtains closed will help prevent the sun’s rays from heating your house.
  • Use a ceiling fan in occupied rooms to supplement your air conditioning. Make sure the fans are set to operate in a counterclockwise direction to push cool air down into living spaces. Only use ceiling fans in rooms that are occupied; fans cool people, not things.
  • Grill outdoors. Using your electric oven and stovetop creates a lot of indoor heat. Help save energy by firing up the grill outdoors or prepare meals that don’t require cooking.
  • Turn off unnecessary lights. Be sure to turn off lights when you leave a room. Lights emit heat and cause your air conditioning system to work harder.

Track, manage your energy usage

Energy use typically spikes in the summer since air conditioning is one of the biggest energy users in your home. Customers can also easily track and adjust their usage during this week’s heat wave.

  • Customers with smart meters can check online to view their daily usage. Smart meters collect usage information by the hour, so checking spikes throughout the month – by day and even hour – can show what appliances and behaviors are increasing their bills. Video available here.
  • Duke Energy customers with smart meters also receive usage alerts through email and/or text halfway through their billing cycle, well before their bill arrives, with their current usage amount and a projection of what their final monthly bill could be.
  • Customers can also set budget alerts, so they know when their bill reaches a specific dollar amount of their choosing, allowing them to adjust their usage and help save money on their bill.
  • Customers without smart meters can sign up to receive high bill alerts for when adverse weather is projected to increase their electric bills by at least 30% and $30 compared to historical usage.

Other energy-saving programs, tips and guidance to help you manage higher energy bills that can result from increased energy is available at duke-energy.com/Summer.

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Home Care

Tips to fix those leaks

It is vital that homeowners know signs of leaks and how to begin repairing them.

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Photo by Luis Quintero from Unsplash.com

The professionals at Petri Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Drain Cleaning, a family-owned home service company serving Brooklyn and Manhattan in the US, are offering tips for recognizing and repairing leaks in homes.

“As we turn the page to spring, it is vital that homeowners know signs of leaks and how to begin repairing them,” said Michael Petri, owner of Petri Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Drain Cleaning. “This can cut down on the amount of water wasted per year, and it can also limit homes and appliances from incurring leak-induced damage that could lead to costly repairs.”

Petri said to ensure a home is free of leaks that could inflate water bills and damage property if not recognized, homeowners should follow the advice below:

  1. Check for toilet leaks – Place a couple of drops of food coloring into the tank and wait about 15 minutes. If color shows up in the bowl, then the flapper is probably bad or deteriorated. Most homeowners can replace the flapper themselves but can call a plumber if they are uncomfortable with making the repair.
  2. Clean the gutters – Most homeowners only think to do this once a year, but it should be done more often if the home is located under trees or if a storm has deposited debris. Clogged gutters can cause water to sit on the roof until it becomes too heavy and starts to leak through the home’s ceiling.
  3. Check the roof – Monitor and replace loose or damaged shingles on the roof, as these can be a common cause for leaks from the top of the home. Hidden damage from leaks can spawn mold and cause wood rot in the ceilings and walls of the house.
  4. Push rain runoff away from the foundation – By using downspout extensions, homeowners can keep rainwater flowing away from the home. This keeps rainwater from infiltrating through foundation cracks and getting into the basement.
  5. Inspect the home for leaks – Check the home’s plumbing lines frequently, look for any standing water on the floors or moisture on the walls and address any leaky faucets or toilets as soon as a drip or leak develops. Staying on top of minor drips can prevent them from becoming major leaks.
  6. Check irrigation systems – Homeowners should also perform a routine check of irrigation systems and hoses that may have grown icy or hardened through winter. Leaks can spring up from damages hoses and connectors.

Altogether, Americans waste 180 gallons of water per week or 9,400 gallons of water per year. But with these tips, leaks can be prevented and/or caught quickly.

“Leaks can happen anywhere at any time,” Petri said. “It’s important to stay aware and proactive, but if you see a problem, don’t hesitate to contact a licensed professional. A quick reaction can save thousands of dollars in damage and costs to both your home and, if applicable, your appliances as well.”

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