Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How small businesses can protect their floors and technology this winter

Snow, ice, wind and cold temperatures bring a host of problems that facility and IT managers must plan and prepare far ahead of the winter season. Not only do they need to consider the damaging effects that salt and sand have on flooring, but they should prepare for potential power outages that could impact their technology infrastructure.

Here are some proactive tips to stay ahead of the harsh impact of winter.

* Prevent slips and falls. One of the biggest concerns in winter for building occupants is falling on icy walkways. Deicers keep snow from sticking to the ground and increase the surface temperature enough to prevent ice from forming. Apply these in anticipation of each storm to keep people safe from injury.

* Protect surface areas - inside and out. Consider the impact deicing agents may have on walkways, carpeting, floors and even the plants around the building. Careful use of ice melt products can minimize damage to these surfaces. Also, consider installing quality, absorbent floor mats to help keep ice melt residue from being tracked into the building.

* Evaluate winter maintenance costs. The salt and urea-based ice melt products available range in effectiveness and cost. Take for example rock salt, which is the most common and the least expensive. However, it can be slow to help ice melt and harmful to vegetation alongside walkways. Make product effectiveness your primary consideration, since labor is the biggest cost of winter maintenance. Factor in product availability and disposal costs and order winter maintenance products well in advance to ensure best selection and price.

While cleaning and floor maintenance is an important and key aspect of winter preparation, don't forget to protect your technology investments.

* Guard your technology and data. Winter weather can result in costly power outages due to ice and wind. It is critical to back-up all company and client data daily, either onsite or through a hosted, off-site cloud service. Cloud services include benefits such as speedier recovery times, resulting in improved business continuity and revenue. They also offer decreased energy consumption while reducing the amount of space that is required to house storage servers. In addition, always check to make sure your back-up system is working properly before a storm hits.

* Avoid electrical shut downs. If you are at the office when an outage occurs, turn off all computers and other equipment as a precaution against the sudden increase in voltage when power is restored. In those instances when no one is present, it is key to ensure all computers and electrical equipment are connected to surge protectors, which act as a power strip, but absorb excess electrical energy and prevent it from reaching connected equipment. Determine if your office requires individual surge protectors or a large building surge protector with battery back-up. For data centers, it is recommended to use an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). UPS units prevent a power shut-down that could cause business disruption or data loss, and also help to maintain the proper temperature and moisture control that is critical for data centers to operate efficiently.

* Review telecommuting protocol. In case employees are unable to safely get to work during or after a storm, make sure they are able to connect with the office remotely. Arm people with log-in instructions and protocol and suggest they test it out before the storm hits. Consider implementing a telecommuting program with technology and furniture solutions for employees in advance of the winter season.

Courtesy of BPT

How to identify your home's best and worst features before you sell

Identify%20your%20home%27s%20best%20and%20worst%20features 1. ANALYZE THE SPACE. Walk through your home and look at each room in the context of the overall property. - Is your kitchen very dark and compartmentalized with an inefficient floor plan and layout? - Are the cabinets just worn out and refused to stay closed? - Do your appliances only work when they want to?

OR - on the flip side:

If you've maintained your home beautifully over the years and renovated your kitchen recently - added a new patio and landscaping - and updated the overall d├ęcor - but you're still living with that green and pink guest bathroom down the hall, now would be the time to remodel it! It will look extremely dated and tired compared to the upgrades you've already made. So by refreshing it now will present a more cohesive piece of property to show later.

2. IDENTIFY THE NEGATIVES - AND FIX THEM! Before you invest any time and money into any home renovation projects it's so important to first evaluate the structural elements of your home. Do a walk through, and be really honest with what you find. What weaknesses did you discover? If YOU can see the problems, so will the potential buyers!

Be on the lookout for anything and everything from cracks in the foundation, rotting, bulging or splitting around doors and windows. Is the electrical wiring antiquated? Do you have a termite problem? These issues can't be hidden or camouflaged. So be proactive and hire a home inspector before you sell. They will help you uncover problems and looming issues that you may have over looked. A typical home inspection analyzes the home's structural integrity, all major mechanical systems and provides you with a thorough assessment of your home's structure and property.

Use this information to repair the necessary areas of the home and give it the TLC it deserves. - Set goals and decide what you NEED to do and the compromises you'll willing to make to turn your home into someone else's dream home.

3. ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVES - AND ENHANCE THEM! Highlight your home's Best features. Every home should have some. If they don't then create them! Is it a canyon view from the hillside - the ocean view from the kitchen - the spectacular double-sided fireplace or the fabulous gourmet kitchen you've loved for years? Or its simply the deck and outdoor kitchen off the family room? - Whatever the asset - dress it, enhance it, show it - AND CREATE THAT WOW FACTOR!

by: Lori Gilder


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Home improvement tips that instantly lower your energy bill

(BPT) - It's one piece of mail homeowners dread every month: the utility bill. Considering the average annual utility bill is $2,200, according to energystar.gov, it's no wonder homeowners cringe every time it arrives. What if you opened your bill and, to your surprise, it was lower than expected? With a few simple steps, that is possible, even when the temperature drops.

Heating, cooling and water heating are the top three energy drains in a home, accounting for 60 percent of a home's energy bill according to ENERGY STAR, so it's wise to focus your home improvement efforts on those areas. A few simple steps and some strategic investments can lower your monthly bill significantly, plus you'll reduce your carbon footprint. Here are some tips for giving your home an energy-efficient facelift:

Change your home's air filter regularly

Smart homeowners will check their home's air filter every month to see if it needs replacing. How can you tell if it's time to swap in a new one? Look at the color - if it appears gray or brown, or you can visibly see particles or pet fur, it's time for a fresh one. A filter helps keep air flowing in your home and takes out dust, dander and other microscopic debris floating in the air. A dirty filter slows air flow, making your heating and cooling system work harder, costing you more money. Air filters should be replaced every one to three months.

Go beyond tankless: consider an integrated heating and water heating system

Many homeowners have heard about the advantages of tankless water heaters, but now there's a way to be even more efficient by using the Rheem Integrated Heating & Water Heating System, which uses a Rheem tankless water heater to heat both the air and water in your home with maximum efficiency. How does it work? The system matches a hydronic air handler with a tankless gas water heater.- When there's a demand for heat, hot water is circulated through the air handler to produce heat and is then re-circulated back to the tankless water heater to ensure that no water is wasted. This pairing of products provides a soft, comfortable heat to the home while maintaining comfortable humidity levels regardless of the climate. Also, the heating function of the system operates at the same efficiency as the tankless water heater - which could be as high as 94 percent efficient.

Lower the temperature on your water heater

To lower energy costs, consider lowering your water heater's temperature setting. Try somewhere around 120 degrees Fahrenheit and see if that is sufficient in supplying your home with hot water for showers, laundry, dishes, etc. Each 10 degree reduction in water temperature can save 3 to 5 percent, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. If you go on vacation, remember you can turn your water heater down to the lowest setting to save even more while you're gone and it's not in use.

Install a programmable thermostat

Adjusting your thermostat a few degrees during the day can have a big impact on your utility bill. For example, during cold months, turn your thermostat down when you're away from the house, such as during work. Programmable thermostats work perfectly for this - you can set your preferred temperatures throughout the week to fit your schedule and it adjusts automatically. About one-third of American homes have programmable thermostats, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. If you turn back your thermostat 10 or 15 degrees for periods of 8 hours or more, such as when you're at work, you can save 5 to 15 percent a year on your heating bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

From changing your air filter on a regular basis to selecting an integrated system to heat your home's water and air supply, these changes can have a big impact on your utility bill, plus they're environmentally friendly too.

Courtesy of BPT