Q. Why is maintaining your air system more important now than ever?
A. Most air conditioning maintenance visits, when professionally performed, reduce the operating cost of the equipment substntially and extend its longevity. The major difference now is that most extended warranty providers are requiring regular maintenance to meet the manufacturer’s specifications in order to validate the extended warranty policy. That means if you have a new unit with an extended warranty, it might be a good idea to have a professional company maintain it. Often the cost of the maintenance agreement is recovered by savings on your utility bill. A maintenance agreement keeps the homeowner advised of the condition of the equipment, improves overall operation of the system and improves indoor air quality. Many professional service providers offer discounted repair rates and priority response time when failures do occur … especially when living in Famously Hot Columbia, S.C.Jeff Lawler, 2nd Wind
Q: Why do I need an outdoor lamp?
A: Outdoor lamps are constructed of materials that are suitable for use when exposed to the weather. Typically, the lamp has enough weight to remain in place with a little wind and will not be constructed of a delicate material that is easily broken should it fall. The shade fabric will be an outdoor fabric that resists mildew and can be cleaned with soap and water. And, most importantly, the switch is protected by a weatherproof casing and the plug is UL rated for use in a wet area. This means that the plug is grounded so that if you are standing on a wet surface and turn on the switch, you will be protected from harm.
Many people place indoor lamps outside, and while the selection of indoor lamps is far greater than outdoor options, safety should be everyone’s number one concern.
Dottie Reynolds, Casual Living
Q: How can we determine our style, and can we update without letting go of everything, including family heirlooms?
A: Updating our homes is always a work in progress. Some just do it more frequently than others. But as our families change and grow, so do our surroundings, whether intentionally or not. The key is to bring all those growth spurts, new ideas and tastes together cohesively. To determine your style, look around your house, at your clothes, accessories and jewelry. Note your favorite pieces, the colors you’re drawn to, the complexity. Write them down, and then scour magazines doing the same thing. Don’t look too hard though, just casually browse and as you are drawn to something, flag it somehow. You will begin to see consistency. That’s where you’ll find your style. If some of those family heirlooms were on your favorites list, you won’t have any problem blending them in with new purchases.
Regardless of your style, you’ll want to invest in well-made, durable and timeless pieces for your larger pieces of furniture. As your tastes evolve, and they will, embellish and refresh your home periodically with new trends in color, art and accessories. But keep your main style your main style.
Chris Metz, Chris Metz Interiors
Q: Do programmable thermostats really help you save money on your energy bills?
A: The honest answer is, “That depends!” Unfortunately, as with any other intelligent device, it is only as good as the operator using it. When they are used as they are designed, and the program is set and relatively left alone, today’s programmable thermostats can help reduce energy costs. Some newer models are capable of “learning” certain habits of the occupants and/or how long it takes to adjust the temperature of the dwelling to the desired set points. Smart thermostats can be adjusted via any internet connection.
Unfortunately, we are creatures of habit, and we tend to adjust the temperature settings on the thermostat when we are home, and now even while we are away. If one constantly adjusts the settings, even though the adjustments may be justified, the energy savings can quickly be reduced if not eliminated. Convenience, money saving or just plain cool – the result is in your hands.
Todd Wagstaff, Comfort Services
Q: How do you approach arranging plants in a planter?
A: When placing plants always start from the middle and work outward or from the back and work frontward, depending on how many directions the plant can be viewed from. Plant thick if you want instant gratification, or space plants out a little if you are willing to wait for them to fill in. Three keys to a good pot: Thrillers — the main focal point; Fillers — plants used to support main plant(s); and Spillers — plants used to cascade from the pot.
Kevin Shaw, Hay Hill Garden Market
Q: How do I prepare my home to sell quickly and for full value?
A: The expression, “You only get one chance to make a first impression,” certainly applies to real estate. Sellers often struggle to see their own home in its true light. To help prepare any home for sale, first de-clutter. Avoid having more than three items on any horizontal surface. Prospective buyers crave space, and minimal décor allows them to see a home’s space rather than its furnishings. Clean thoroughly, including woodwork, doors and windows. Buyers expect this, and it reflects on the home’s maintenance. Have pets? Use carpet deodorizing powder that will not overpower – not plug in deodorizers. Spruce up your entrance. The front entrance is the first place buyers pause while their agent opens the door. Perhaps your front door needs a paint touch up. Prep your bath. Replace worn towels with fresh white towels and clear all cosmetics and medicines from the counter top. Clear kitchen countertops, too, and remove papers and photos from your refrigerator to give it a clean, non-cluttered look. Buy stiff, inexpensive pillows with fresh shams for all beds. Clear closets so they are not overflowing. Taking these steps will put you ahead of the curve in getting your house sold.
Jill Moylan, Home Advantage Realty
Q: I am thinking about adding a master bedroom and bath to my existing home. Should I let my general contractor handle everything, or do I need an interior designer?
A: While a general contractor can absolutely answer all of the questions relating to construction and structural engineering cost, a designer’s expertise is a must. Many homeowners are overwhelmed with the number of decisions and selections that must be made in a timely manner in order for a project to proceed on time and within budget. This can often lead to snap judgement decisions, which if not made on time, can result in disaster. Start early, hire a designer to assist you in all of your selections and space planning, and make sure all of your materials are in stock and available. Having a complete plan, including all of the specifications and costs provided by your designer and your contractor, will result in the project of your dreams.
Linda Burnside, LGB Interiors
Q: Should I use LED lighting to illuminate my home?
A: LED has recently become very popular with the “Going Green” initiative all across America. There are many pros and cons to weigh when choosing whether or not to use this product. Some of the benefits are: LED lamps use up to 80 percent less wattage and energy than conventional lamps. Also, the average LED lamp has a life expectancy of 30,000 hours or about 10 years under normal use. New technology has allowed the LED lamp to have the same great color as conventional bulbs. Some of the downfalls of LED are: The price is still high. Although these lamps are half the cost of what they were two years ago the price still needs to come down some to make the payback period worth the investment. Also the lamps are very sensitive to heat and moisture. So if your lighting fixtures are not designed for LED technology you may not get the full life expectancy of the lamp. LED lights are the way of the future. There will soon come a time when the only thing on the shelf is LED lamps.
Kenny Kaufman, Outdoor Lighting Perspectives
Q: How do builders keep their costs low without sacrificing style and quality in construction?
A: Home design is essential to keeping costs low. A home that is designed for nominal board lengths reduces waste. Rectangular homes are efficient but lack style and curb appeal. To add curb appeal, design homes with corners placed where they will make the most difference in the home’s appearance.
The lower a home is to the ground the less expensive it is. Slab homes on flat lots are the least expensive homes to build. To reduce supply cost, place windows at key spots throughout the home to take advantage of views and natural light.
The real key to keeping your new home costs low is to start now. Interest rates are at an all-time low but will pick back up with the market. Material prices are already starting to rise so now is the time to build.
Stan O’Brien, Paradime Construction
Q: In your business I bet you see a lot of interesting things. What’s the biggest disaster you have ever seen?
A: That depends upon how you define disaster. Drying an 18 story office building or 10 floors of a hotel are large in scope, but they are not what I would call “disasters.” The building owners have good insurance and those buildings are usually completely dried and open for business in about 4 to 5 days. A fire on the other hand is much more destructive because the soot travels and covers everything in the structure.
The largest “disasters” we have seen are losses where the people affected do not have insurance to reimburse them for the loss. A creek flood (groundwater) is not covered by homeowner’s insurance. If you rent your home, your contents are not covered unless you have a renter’s policy. There is nothing worse than watching someone realize that everything they own is now gone, and they have no way to get it back. I tell everyone to make sure they have the correct insurance coverages. You will never miss the premiums paid, but you will definitely be glad you have the coverage if it is ever needed.
Walker Williams, Puroclean
Q: What are a few quick and easy ideas to give my home a fresh look for Spring?
A: Think of how a new scarf, jewelry and shoes can make you feel very different about an outfit from last season. Dress up your home for Spring by clearing the clutter and adding some new accents in the season’s latest colors. Greens from emerald to turquoise have moved into the spotlight and look great with all shades of orange and coral. The restful blues of the sea are great as well. Add colorful pillows, a garden seat as a side table, a sea grass rug and toss a new throw over your favorite sofa or chair. Ceramic lamps will add a splash of color too. Use the same accent color on all for the greatest impact. Bring the outside in with fresh new plants and take the old plants outside to be renewed. A few new touches make everything feel special and fresh again.
Sherry Koon, Redd Flooring & Design Center
Q: When planning a wedding or other large event, how soon should a florist be chosen and what are the steps?
A: Planning this momentous life event can sometimes seem like a daunting task. The first step to take when planning a wedding is to choose the venue and time the wedding will take place. Making these arrangements allows your floral designer to envision the setting of your special day. The next step is to choose a color scheme. Once these choices have been made, it’s time to schedule your consultation. During the consultation with your floral designer, the bride’s preference in flowers, colors and general style will be taken into consideration. The designer will work within the budget and create the vision the bride is looking to achieve. By consulting with the bride after she has arranged details such as venue, caterer and bakery, florists can work to make the dreams of her special day a reality.
Chad Ridenour, Rosewood Florist
Q: What do I do when I get a stain on something at home? Should I treat it and then bring to the cleaners?
A: Great question. The answer is pretty straight forward: No. If at all possible do not treat the stain using at home products; it actually makes our job much more difficult and may damage your garment. In the event you have a stain on a garment you need to wear (or wear the rest of the day/night) the best thing you can do is to try to minimize the stain spreading into other areas. First gently remove any food residue (crumbs etc.) from the garment. Next, place a dry cloth over the area and gently blot (do not rub) the area as dry as possible. If it is a liquid stain, skip step one and proceed to step two. Finally, bring the garment into the cleaners as soon as you’re able and point out and identify the stain. Knowing what the stain is (grease, egg, milk, chocolate, liquor, coffee, blood, etc.) will greatly increase a cleaner’s ability to remove the stain.
Tripp Penninger, Tripp’s Fine Cleaners
Q: How do I find a security system?
A: Prior to 1990 most people owned their security system. Since then many national security companies have promoted leasing with a lower cost upfront but with a monitoring/lease contract and higher monthly rate. Over the long term, owning is better without the long term contract. The most important factor is getting early detection of an attempted intrusion before they enter the premises. Many of the leased systems offer only minimal protection. Security systems should be built in so as not to take away from the appearance of the home and be invisible to potential threats. Options such as fire detection, medical alerts and portable key fobs are available on any system. Cellular notification of alarms as well as mobile phone interface add value and convenience and are very popular today. Service and customer support is imperative in feeling comfortable and secure in your home. Don’t overlook that in making your decision.
Eddie Weaver, Weaver Systems