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Don’t Get Duped: A Guide For Hiring Your Next Contractor!

Hiring The Right Contractor For Your Next Project

Going thru the process of deciding which contractor you can trust, who will have the best pricing, who will listen to what you need and want, is undoubtedly a time consuming challenge. Many homeowners cut corners just to get it over with and sometimes end up with poor workmanship, and higher cost in the long run. We know these challenges first hand, so we put together this helpful info-guide on hiring your next contractor!

Guide For Hiring Your Next Contractor

Using Angie’s List to Find Trusted Contractors

What’s Up With Angie’s List?

Angie’s List was founded in 1996 and has since become one of the go-to sites for consumers looking for reviews about local businesses and service enterprises, from plumbers and painters to dentists and doctors. Unlike other review sites, Angie’s List requires registration. Companies can’t pay for reviews on the site, so you only get information from real people and their real experiences.

While Angie’s List makes it easy to sort through the hundreds of contractors in your area, narrowing things down can be tough. Here are 4 tips to help you use Angie’s List to find a contractor.

In the Ballpark

Considering that budget plays a large part in any home project, the initial estimate given by a contractor makes all the difference. Try to narrow your search down to at least three contractors. Don’t limit your choice to just the top five contractors on Angie’s List. They may offer good work, but their prices may not match up with your budget. Try to get recommendations for friends and family or ask for references from the contractors you’re not sure about.

Even with the initial estimate, realize that many contractors increase their costs to account for all the materials that will be used. Some contractors go a little overboard with their material cost estimates. To cover all your bases, you should call suppliers directly to determine if the material cost is reasonable.

The amount of time it takes for a contractor to get back to you is also a good reflection of work ethic overall. If he says he’ll get back to you tomorrow only to call you next week, how reliable can he be when he’s actually at your home, knee deep in your bathroom?

At the Office

It’s easy to lose confidence in a contractor who operates out of the back of a van. Aim for contractors who have an actual business location. A contractor with a brick-and-mortar office not only shows that they’re established but that they won’t be going anywhere for a while. Contractors who only offer you a phone number are immediately suspect.

If you have the opportunity, visit your contractor at his office. Aside from meeting the contractor in-person, a visit to the office gives you the opportunity to see him in his element. How the employees treat you, the office, and each other are pretty good indicators of how they will treat your home and the project.

Avoiding the Scam

The above combined with some good research should be enough to keep you away from scams, but you should still keep an eye out for warning signs.
References

We can’t stress enough the importance of references. Any potential contractor should be willing to give you multiple references. Check those references, and if you have the opportunity, visit them and speak to the homeowners in-person. Reputable contractors should have at least three good references from within the past year. This shows that the contractor has some actual experience and gives you an idea of the styles and methods that the contractor uses.

Licensed, Bonded, and Insured

Businesses should have a contracting license and should be more than willing to prove it. Licensing regulations can differ from state to state and even between counties and cities, so any potential contractor should be licensed to work in your area. This also goes in hand with being bonded and insured. Bonds act as a form of insurance that protect you if your contractor fails to complete a job and can cover the cost of damages caused by the contractor’s negligence. Insurance protects those on the job and any injuries sustained therein, regardless of who may have been at fault. Fortunately, contractors listed on Angie’s List are encouraged to report their bonding, licensing, and insurance statuses.

Great Power, Great Responsibilities

Although a lot depends on the contractor, the ball is in your court and you have your own responsibilities.

Mind Your Manners

First, make sure you have informed the other contractors of your decision. You need to let the rejected contractors know that you went with someone else. The estimate might have been free for you but it cost the contractor time, money, and labor. They’ll probably figure it out when you avoid their calls, but letting them know upfront is professional, considerate, and just plain good manners. It allows you to leave on good terms and lets the contractors know that they can switch their focus to other projects.

Hold Up Your End of the Deal

You are, of course, a customer, which means you need to make payments on time based on what was agreed upon in the contract. Contractors won’t enjoy late payments. Paying on time or early, even shows your appreciation for their work and helps them stay on schedule.

When you have verified their licenses and insurance, checked their references, and created a contract, you should trust your contractor to finish the project and do his job. Avoid hovering or complaining, both of which slow progress.

Angie’s List is an excellent tool, but it’s just the starting point. With some good research and plenty of communication, you can choose a contractor that you can trust!

Stay Warm Safely: 5 HVAC Don’ts

What not to do with your heating system

When it comes to home improvement, more people than ever are taking matters into their own hands. DIY projects seem to be the trend du jour, particularly since there is so much free information online in the form of homeowner suggestions, blog posts, and video tutorials. There are some things that are dangerous to take into your own hands, though, and even some DIY projects that can end up costing you more in the end in the way of repairs.

One tricky area of DIY home improvement is HVAC. Whether you are planning to do actual work on the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems in your home or you have other projects that may impact these systems, you should always play it safe.

Learn about 5 things to be sure to avoid as you seek to improve your home and stay comfortable.

Don’t cover up vents in unused rooms.

It may seem smart to close wall vents or place furniture over floor vents in rooms that aren’t often visited, but this is actually counterproductive. Air flows more efficiently through a home if it moves in the way it was intended. Blocking vents can actually obstruct air and compromise the overall efficiency of your system.

Don’t cover up return air vents.

You may think that there is really no purpose for return air vents (since they do not actually push any air into your home) but that sort of thinking can be costly. Return air vents are designed to help air systems “breathe,” and when that part of the system is covered or blocked, it causes stress on the rest of the system. Your air conditioner has to work harder to produce cold air, and your furnace has to work harder to produce warm air. When those systems work harder, or kick on more often, your utility bill rises.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that, this winter, heating costs will rise 13 percent over the average from the past five winters—so you should do everything possible to keep your costs low. Covering return vents also interferes with the air pressure in your home and can lead to uncomfortable air and even pain for people who have ear sensitivity related to air pressure.

Don’t store items near outdoor units.

Remember to NEVER store items on top of outdoor units because it blocks the flow of the fan—and that air flow simply cannot be restricted if the unit is to operate efficiently. As a common-sense rule, do not plant bushes or shrubs too close to the unit because overgrowth can restrict air flow—and it also makes it difficult for service providers to tend to the unit. All outdoor units should be positioned 4 to 8 inches from the ground so the coils are able to properly drain and remain free of snow and ice.

Don’t store flammable items in furnace closets.

Not all closets are created equal. The one that houses your furnace should never contain any flammable items, like cardboard boxes, clothing, aerosol cans, paint or gasoline. In fact, it is probably best to keep everything from touching your HVAC unit and keep that closet or storage space clear of any unnecessary belongings. This gives your unit enough air and space to operate efficiently, and reduces dangerous fire hazards in your home.

Don’t neglect your furnace filter.

Be sure to change your furnace and air conditioning filters once each month during peak seasons to prevent them from clogging and potentially overheating the unit. A clean filter also lowers utility costs, so it makes sense to stock up on them every few months and set a reminder on your phone or calendar to change them the same day each month. Proper maintenance is the best prevention when it comes to HVAC systems.

Temperature-controlled homes are a modern luxury that many take for granted but quickly come to appreciate when they are not working correctly. By taking smart steps to keep your HVAC system running properly, you will save yourself costs and headaches down the road. Plus, why do all the grunt work yourself when you can call a reliable HVAC technician like Bob Jenson Air Conditioning and Heating to take care of it for you properly?

5 Futuristic Home Features

5 Cool Features in Homes of the Future

For much of the 20th century, humanity looked ahead, trying to figure out what the home of the future would have within its walls. People envisioned floating cities and automated homes filled with videophones, appliances controlled by voice commands, and robots around every corner.

We do have some of those things—videophones and voice command—though many of the ideas—consumer robots—are still a thing of fiction. Still, the future is something to look forward to as technology continues to develop new and convenient means of living in and navigating this complex world. Let’s take a look at some common features you’ll see in the homes of the future.

Nest Thermostat

1. Smarter, more efficient climate control

We’re already seeing some very cool futuristic improvements to the way we keep ourselves comfortable at home.
Who needs ducts? Rather than having all those ducts running through your walls, ductless systems feature a single dedicated refrigerant line. Ductless systems consist primarily of an outdoor unit and one or multiple indoor units that mount to the wall or ceiling and condition the air in each room.

Sounds simple enough, and it is. Doing away with ducts actually reduces the energy use 25 to 50 percent. Part of that comes from the inefficiencies that come with ducts—leaks, damage, maintenance. Part of it comes from the sheer control you have. Indoor units can be placed in each room and set to separate temperatures, so a room that gets more sunlight can be set to a cooler temperature than a room in constant shade.

Automated thermostats like Nest can learn your behaviors and daily schedules to provide optimal temperatures when you’re at home while saving energy when you’re out and about. These units can even be controlled via smartphone or tablet, so you can warm up your living room before you get home from work. You can also monitor your systems energy usage and make changes on the go. This maximizes your comfort while significantly cutting your utility bills.

Kwikset Kevo

2. Home security

Your home is your castle. You should feel safe in your home without worrying about intruders. Future security systems can make it easier for you to get into your home while effectively keeping out interlopers with biometric technology. Biometrics refers to identifying people through their physical traits or characteristics. You’ve seen it in many a spy or science fiction movie. Doors open via thumbprint or cornea scan or voice recognition—metrics that are unique to each individual.

Other smart lock systems, like Kwikset’s Kevo, open or lock via phone, so you never have to worry about losing your house keys again. The lock essentially recognizes your phone’s Bluetooth signal to allow entry and monitor access from other entrants. In other words, you’ll know who enters your home and when.

Smart Fridge

3. The smart kitchen

The kitchen is the beating heart of every home, the warm engine that offers food, social interaction, and family time all at once. The kitchen of the future won’t do away with any of that, but it will improve the design and function of your appliances.

Let’s take the refrigerator. There’s not much to the modern fridge. It’s just a large box that keeps things cold, but the most common problem is losing or forgetting foods in the fridge, which leads to strange smells and even stranger microbial creatures growing in your crisper. Smart refrigerators feature a touch screen interface on the door. These touch screens keep track of all the meat, produce, and condiments held within and can notify you when the foods are nearing or past their expiration date. These fridges can then go a step further by suggesting healthy recipes that you can make with the foods you have.

Smart appliances will be scattered throughout the kitchen of tomorrow, and they will all be controlled via your smartphone—see a running theme here? You can tell your dishwasher to start up when you’re at work. You can tell your oven to keep the ham warm while you finish watching the game.

Phillips Hue Lighting

4. A bright idea

Your lights tend to suck up a lot of energy, and even with constant vigilance, you may accidentally leave a light on before you head out to work. In your future home, each light bulb will have built-in Wi-Fi, so you can program your lights or remotely turn them all on or off at once.
Why limit yourself to one color? The Philips Hue system uses one bulb housing three LEDs, allowing for 16 million different colors! You can fill your home with warmer, more relaxing lights or dim your bedroom light as you drift to sleep.

Home OS

5. Your Home OS

Probably the most significant development of the future home is the idea
that everything in your home will communicate and work in conjunction with each other to make your life more enjoyable and convenient. This concept of interconnectedness will essentially turn your future home into its own operating system, so when you close a door, the lamp will automatically turn off. Your home operating system knows exactly what to do when you walk into the kitchen in the morning, lounge in your living room, or have a visitor at your front door.

It’s exciting to see what home technologies are currently in development, and even more exciting to see what lies beyond the horizon. One thing that won’t change—there’s no place like home.

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