Contractor Tips Blog


Advantages of Motorized Window Blinds

Posted in Home Automation

Motorized window blinds or shades are those which can be opened and closed remotely from a control panel, through a computer, via a wireless device such as a smart phone, or with a remote control.  They can be programmed to automatically open or close at certain times and can be customized to fit any door or window. There are several advantages to motorized window shades.

1)      Convenient and quality-preserving operation

Motorized window blinds provide the convenience of not having to manually adjust window coverings. This eliminates unnecessary stretching and walking, saves time, and rules out the possibility of window coverings getting damaged or malfunctioning from too-rigorous or careless handling. Also, because motorized window blinds are programmed to close or lower automatically, there is no need to remember to do this oneself.

2)      Cordless

Motorized window shades do not have cords hanging from them like regular window shades. The cordless effect is neat and pleasing to the eye. Cordless window coverings are also safer since window cords can present a choking hazard for young children.

3)      Cost-effective and energy-efficient

Motorized window blinds help homeowners and business places save money in the long-run. This is because they can be programmed to open and close at specific times and in certain weather conditions in a way that reduces heat accumulation. This eases the burden on air-conditioning systems thereby lowering energy bills.

4)      Security

Motorized window shades can be programmed to automatically open and close even when the premises are unoccupied, for example, when homeowners are on vacation or a business place is temporarily closed. This discourages thieves and inrtuders by maintaining an illusion of occupancy.

5)      Sun control

Letting sunlight into an interior space is often desirable. Indoor plants need sunlight and natural light can enhance an indoor space. On the other hand, the sun’s rays can damage furniture, flooring, carpets, and artwork, or cause health disturbances for some people. Motorized window blinds can be programmed to regulate the way and degree to which sunlight enters a room at different times of the day.


Do’s and Don’t’s of Using a Nanny Cam

 ‘Nanny cam’ is the common term for video surveillance technology used to monitor domestic staff, maintenance workers, or hired caretakers when homeowners or parents are absent from the home. With these systems, inconspicuous wall cameras are placed in key locations in the home to capture and record activity for hours or days at a time. Many nanny cam systems allow users to view recorded activity in real-time on a smart phone or online.

Nanny cams are legal in all states; however, users need to be careful that they are not courting legal action by breaking any privacy laws. If you are thinking of installing a nanny cam system in your home, here are some steps you should follow to avoid unnecessary complications. 

1)      DO be transparent

If you are going to install a nanny cam system in your home or have already done so, then you should share this information with the people being monitored. As part of the hiring process, explain to the babysitter, live-in nurse, or housekeeping service personnel that the technology is in place to provide security for your home and everyone in it. By being transparent up-front you can maintain trust, avoid accusations of spying later down the road, and weed out unsavory employees.

2)      DON’T reveal camera locations

It is never advisable to reveal the location of cameras to house guests, including live-in staff. In fact, as a general rule, with the exception of trusted family members, no one should know the location of the cameras in your home. Do not tell young children where cameras are located since children can let this information slip inadvertently or when pressured. By keeping camera locations secret you can prevent them from being tampered with. Also, depending on where cameras are located, there may be ways to operate outside of surveillance zones; house guests who do not know camera locations are unable to find these possible loopholes in the surveillance system.

3)      DON’T invade privacy

Cameras should never be placed in toilets, guest rooms, or other areas where bodily privacy or communications privacy can be infringed upon. It is a good idea to have designated camera-free areas in the home (for example, the vestibule or powder room) where staff can take care of private matters (e.g. phone calls) if the need arises.

4)      DO double-check privacy laws

In some states, it is illegal to own or use audio listening devices; in other states people can use them provided that they have the consent of the individuals being recorded. Find out what the laws pertaining to audio surveillance are in your county, state, or jurisdiction and follow them.


Pyrethrum: The Healthy, Green Insecticide

Posted in Insect Control

There is much evidence to suggest that eco-friendly lifestyles and “green” practices have significant positive effects on the environment and on human health and well-being. If you want to play a role in safeguarding the future of our planet and the health of your loved ones, a good place to start is by considering the type of insecticide you use in your own backyard.

Inorganic and synthetic insecticides have long been controversial owing to their harmful effects on human health, as well as their role in polluting and destroying the environment. Some of the most common over-the-counter insecticides contain heavy metals, arsenates, lindane, atrazine, DDT and other chemicals that are toxic to living organisms.

If you are using inorganic or synthetic insecticides in your garden, then you are exposing your family and pets to chemicals that are known to disrupt the human endocrine system and that have been linked to cancer, neurological diseases, birth defects, infertility, developmental disorders, and skin conditions in humans as well as animals. You may be also damaging the eco-system of your garden by killing off essential soil micro-organisms. Moreover, when it rains, runoff from your garden lawn or flower beds means that the chemicals can find their way into nearby water systems, contaminating human water supplies and poisoning local wildlife. 

Pyrethrum is a natural, biodegradable insecticide that offers a safe pest-fighting alternative to all the toxic products on the market. A botanical insecticide, it is extracted from chrysanthemum flowers and has a drastically lower avian and mammalian toxicity compared to other insecticides. Pyrethrum contains natural organic compounds called pyrethrins which, when ingested by birds and mammals, are quickly and harmlessly metabolized by their bodies. Pyrethrins are also easily degraded by soil microorganisms. Insects, on the other hand, are instantly paralyzed by pyrethrum making it a very fast-acting natural insecticide.

Pyrethrum does have a few pitfalls. It can cause allergic reactions in some individuals and may not be as well tolerated by cats as other mammals. Generally speaking however, pyrethrum is arguably the most environmentally-safe and health-friendly pest-control option on the market today.


Automated Misting Systems Help Eliminate Garden Pests

Posted in Insect Control

There are few things more satisfying than a healthy, thriving garden or yard. From holding outdoor events, to sunbathing on a lawn chair, a peaceful, attractive yard is a great asset and one that should not be taken for granted. That is why the first sign of outdoor pests in a garden or yard is always cause for concern.

Insect pests such as aphids and ladybugs can propagate quickly, damaging foliage, and reversing months of garden maintenance in no time at all. Flying and biting insects like mosquitoes and bees are a nuisance and can cause serious allergic reactions in some people, while insects like stink bugs will enter homes through door cracks and windows bringing their unpleasant odor with them. Without prompt and effective action, insect pests can significantly reduce the quality of your home life and cost you a fine penny in the long-run.

Automated misting systems are a smart, cost-effective solution for dealing with bug infestations.  Automated misting systems work by automatically spraying a precise dose of pesticide on garden lawns and shrubs at regular intervals. The units work in any weather and can be used with both synthetic and natural pesticides. They are easy to install and are equally well-suited for residential and commercial landscapes. Misting nozzles are placed in strategic locations on the property and blend in perfectly with the landscape, while the inconspicuous supply lines are run along fences or eaves, or buried in the ground along the perimeter of the grounds.

Automated misting systems eliminate the need for time-consuming manual applications of pesticide. Most systems also come with a remote control so that the spray nozzles can be activated at any time. Some misting units have sensors that respond to sunlight and others adjust the misting action depending on wind conditions. Automated misting systems have a long operating life and are easy to maintain. The misting nozzles need to be cleaned periodically with a cleaning solution, but otherwise, these convenient, user-friendly devices really do take the “pest” out of pest control.


Five Fun Ways to Use Your Basement

Posted in Interior Design

When it comes to getting the best out of interior space, the basement is the place that most homeowners concentrate on. Basements are typically spacious rooms with an open-floor plan making them ideal for a range of fun uses. Before converting a lackluster or neglected basement into an attractive functional space, you first need to have a clear idea of how you will use your newly finished basement. Here are five ideas for making your basement come to life.

1)      Children’s playroom

A basement can be made into a safe, comfortable space for children to play. By having the playroom in the basement, parents can keep noisy kids out of their hair but close enough to keep an eye on.  Like all children’s rooms, basement playrooms need to have kid-friendly flooring, furniture, materials and fixtures. Utility features like electrical wires, gas pipes, and water heaters need to be secured and enclosed for safety purposes. 

2)      Family room

With the right use of space and décor, basements can be converted into excellent family rooms. Large windows can be installed to let in light and make an underground family room more inviting. Smartly-chosen furniture, ambient lighting, and decorative touches all work together to make a basement family room feel warm and livable.

3)      Adult game room

Many people relish the idea of having their very own game room. Some features that can be included in a basement game room include: pool table; poker table; dart board; skee ball table; foosball table; and more. The possibilities are endless. Keeping the floor plan spacious and open encourages a sense of fun and movement, and sports-related décor can add a certain atmosphere to a game room.

4)      Home office

Basements can prove to be the ideal space for taking care of finances and work-related projects in the comfort of your home. Their out-of-the-way location provides the peace and quiet needed for high-concentration tasks or brainstorming.  Making sure the basement is properly insulated is important since many people can spend long hours working in their home office. Superb waterproofing is also crucial since home offices tend to have computers and other equipment that can easily be damaged in the event of flooding.

5)      Exercise room

It is fairly easy to convert a basement into an exercise room by simply adding a few small pieces of exercise equipment; however, some people go all out and transform their basements into miniature versions of the gym. Basement gyms require special flooring such as rubber padding to minimize the possibility of falls and injury during exercise.


The Advantages Of A Home Theater

Posted in Home Theaters

With the amazing high definition technology available to the home viewing audience today, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t invest in a home theater but a whole host of reasons you should:

  • Movie tickets keep going up in price and taking the whole family to the theater is now a major expense.
  • The cost of popcorn and a few soft drinks at movie theater are ridiculous, imagine how much you could save by staying at home and enjoying a movie instead.
  • It’s easy to get a fully immersive surround sound system in your home today, all you need to do is contact a professional home theater company to help you work out how to make the best of your space.
  • With Blu-Ray technology the picture you get at home is the same picture you get in a movie theater and there will be no one else talking through the movie as you sit back and relax in the comfort of your armchair and taking in the scene.
  • You control the volume so no missed lines and of course if you get distracted for a second or two you can always skip back to catch up on what you didn’t see.
  • If you’ve got young children there’s no need to arrange for a baby sitter when you want to see something that’s on past their bedtime
  • You can afford to go to the cinema every single day, whenever you want without ever having to leave your home – it’s even kind on the environment because you won’t be driving when you’re watching.

Given all the fantastic benefits of a home movie theater isn’t it time you got in touch with a custom home theater design company to start planning your perfect viewing experience?


Enhance Your Entertaining with an Outdoor Kitchen

When you’re entertaining, the kitchen becomes the central hub that facilitates the service of your guests. After all, what is a party without food and beverages? When your party is taking place out of doors, having to travel back and forth from the kitchen inside the house can be very inconvenient. We try to minimize this inconvenience by using ice and coolers to keep things cold and a grill to do the cooking. More and more homeowners are solving this problem by installing a fully functional outdoor kitchen in their outdoor living space.

What would you need to make your custom outdoor kitchen fully functional? A refrigerator for beverages would be a top priority for most people. Installing a small outdoor refrigerator in a bar area where your friends can either be served or serve themselves will put an end to trips to the kitchen for beverages or ice. Plus, it will look much nicer than camping coolers set out on the patio or deck.

A large grill built into a granite countertop with plenty of work surface will make the chef of the family enjoy his task even more. Cabinets for storage of picnic ware and service pieces make it easy for the hosts to remain available for their guests instead of disappearing indoors for supplies throughout the party. A bar sink with running water will be another item quick to hit the list. If you want to go to the ultimate in luxury, your outdoor kitchen can also include a dishwasher, specifically designed for outdoor installation.

Finish off the area with some great outdoor lighting features for the evening parties and your backyard will be a place where you can attend to the needs of your guests without ever having to leave the party.


Energy Savings and Better Comfort With New Windows

Installing new windows in your home is an excellent way to save on heating and cooling costs.  According to EPA estimates, a homeowner can save up to $500 per year by replacing old single pane windows with new energy efficient double pane Energy Star windows.  In addition to saving energy, a home window replacement using new Energy Star windows  can increase the value of your home, keep you and your family more comfortable, and protect your valuables all while reducing your carbon footprint.

If your home was built with single pane windows or even standard double pane windows, you can dramatically improve the energy efficiency of your home by upgrading to Energy Star double pane windows.  Depending on where you live and your old windows, your energy savings can range from 7 to 15 percent.  To qualify for the Energy Star rating, the windows must meet certain minimum requirements for

Energy Star qualified windows also have special coatings that reflect infrared light and the harmful UV rays of the sun.  These coatings help keep heat outside your home in the summer and inside your home in the winter.  In addition, it reduces sun damage to curtains, upholstery, floor coverings, photographs and other valuable personal property.

Energy Star windows have at least two panes of glass with a layer of air or inert gas between the panes.  Combined with other features, these windows have excellent insulating properties that keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.  They also reduce drafts and those cool or warm areas near the window and new windows are designed to make cleaning the windows a breeze.

Upgrading to modern energy efficient windows can be a significant investment, but the upgrade will be reflected in the value of your home.  Meanwhile, you will enjoy greater comfort and reduced energy bills with your new Energy Star windows.  Talk to an experienced window installation contractor about upgrading the windows in your home.


Test Your Fire Alarms Regularly

Fire and smoke alarms are one of the most important tools in keeping you safe and secure in your work environment. In fact, it’s been shown that a working fire alarm could prevent many of the 3,500 deaths suffered by Americans who are killed by fire or smoke inhalation every year.

Here are six great reasons that you should have your fire alarms inspected and tested regularly:

  1. In order to meet the requirements of your local fire inspectors, or local building department or possibly your insurance provider
  2. People’s lives are on the line, a fire alarm can only save lives if it’s working and many faults aren’t obviously apparent without testing
  3. To reduce or limit your possible liabilities to others including but not limited to employees, tenants and guests
  4. It’s possible that your insurance provider won’t pay out on your policy unless you can prove your fire alarms were tested recently and were found to be working properly
  5. So that you don’t cause work unnecessarily for your local fire department, who don’t need to be called out to a false alarm and don’t forget when this happens it diverts resources away from others who may really need help
  6. And importantly for business owners it’s the law – and that means it’s required by the National Fire Alarm Code in section NFPA72

So don’t let your home or business become a fire risk when you can have a qualified fire alarm inspection and testing professional visit and make sure all your equipment is in top working condition.



Home Fire Prevention

Did you know that every year more than 3,500 Americans die and another 18,000 are injured in fires in their homes? That’s according to FEMA, and those fires cause an estimated $7.3 billion dollars worth of damage to homes and valuables too.

While insurance may cover the costs of replacing lost items, nothing may be able to bring back objects of great sentimental value like photographs of your children in their early years, or your wedding dress from the closet where it hangs as a reminder of one of the happiest days of your life.

One of the most important things to consider is that a fire can become life threatening in just two minutes from the moment that something in your home bursts into flame. You and your family deserve the best possible protection against this very real hazard.

The good news is that help is at hand. Heat and smoke detectors are available that keep an eye on your whole house so that you can be sure your loved ones will be safe. Not only do these systems work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year monitoring every part of your home for unusually high temperatures or smoke, but as soon as they detect anything unusual they will not only sound an alarm in your home but also send an alarm to a monitoring company.

For the best protection against fire for you and your family, chose a reliable alarm monitoring service that is approved by Underwriter’s Laboratories.  Ask if the monitoring is handled locally or off-site.  A local monitoring station can usually provide better and more reliable service in an emergency than one located hundreds or thousands of miles away.

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