Reduce The Cost Thru Proper Tax Planning

How to Find a Good Tax Adviser

Many unlicensed tax preparers with questionable credentials set up shop during income-tax season. Some disappear after the April 15 filing date, leaving you to deal with the IRS if there’s a problem with your return. The IRS recently cracked down on such rogue tax preparers by, among other things, contacting those whose returns have frequently shown to have errors. Plus, it is instituting stricter rules for anyone who charges a fee to prepare a tax return. See the IRS’s fact sheets about the new requirements for tax-return preparers. Most of the new rules do not take effect until the 2011 tax season, so taxpayers still need to be vigilant when hiring a tax preparer or adviser this year

One good approach is to look for an enrolled agent. Enrolled agents are tax experts who must pass a rigorous test, meet annual continuing-education requirements, and who are licensed to represent clients in front of the IRS. Enrolled agents can prepare your income-tax return, and some provide tax-planning advice. You can also contact an enrolled agent if you need help after receiving a penalty letter from the IRS.

Enrolled agents work in a variety of settings: Some have their own firms, some work for tax-preparation chains, and some are also certified public accountants or certified financial planners. You can find an enrolled agent through the National Association of Enrolled Agents, at www.naea.org. They usually charge by the tax form to prepare a return (so the more complicated your return, the more you’ll pay) and by the hour for tax planning.

If you’re looking for help with financial planning as well as taxes, CPAs who are also personal financial specialists (CPA/PFS) can help integrate tax planning with investing, retirement-planning and estate issues

 

MAJOR DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TAX FILING AND TAX PLANNING

Just like there’s a really, really big difference between tax avoidance (lessening tax liability and legal) and tax evasion (the deliberate under- or nonpayment of taxes and criminal), there’s a big distinction between tax planning and tax filing. Unfortunately, if you’re like most people, it’s a distinction you’re not all that familiar with

It’s a popular myth that there are over 70,000 pages in the tax code, but the true number is still well over 4,000 pages. Is it any wonder no business person has the time to read it? Luckily, tax pros like CPAs, accountants, and bookkeepers do stay current with new and updated tax codes, making them well prepared to help you understand these three major differences between planning and filing

Each of these taxes is based on different criteria and has distinct filing requirements. With income taxes, for example, partnerships, sole proprietorships, S-corps, and LLCs show their next profit on personal income tax forms. C-Corps, on the other hand, pay corporate taxes. And don’t forget about state, city, and county taxes!

Tax planning is more long-term.

Good tax planning looks far into the future and helps you better plan and benefit from existing tax rules. It’s a time-consuming process that requires a high level of knowledge and engagement. You may find it tedious work, but a good tax planner will always be excited about helping you save money on your next return

HOW A BOOKKEEPER HELPS WITH BOTH TAX PLANNING AND FILING

An experienced, qualified bookkeeper is your perfect year-round partner in tax planning and filing. Tasks like paying bills, invoicing customers, and entering transactions are done on a consistent basis. Employee payroll, bank reconciliations, and entry adjustments keep your business operating smoothly. And monthly Profit & Loss reports, Accounts Receivable (AR) and Accounts Payable (AP) aging schedules, and balance sheets get you geared up for tax time. Come tax time, all that information can be used to quickly and easily file your various federal, state, and local tax returns, including payroll, sales, and income tax. You’ll also get all the W2s and 1099s you’re required to issue.

 

Now that tax season has ended, it’s time to start thinking about your taxes

Think retirement

Some of the most generous tax-sheltering opportunities involve retirement plans. Workers with earnings usually can opt for a choice of programs, including 401(k)-style plans and Individual Retirement Accounts, of either the traditional or Roth varieties. What these accounts have in common is their ability to allow investment earnings to grow tax-sheltered until money is withdrawn

Think charities

It’s also natural to delay thinking about charitable contributions until the waning weeks of the calendar year, when a large amount of donations are made. But there are good reasons to spread your giving throughout the year.

Think bunching

Charity donations, like many other expenses, can be deducted on federal returns only by people who itemize. Yet tax reform increased the standard deduction, thereby reducing the number of taxpayers who would gain from itemizing

Think organization

Now that you have all your tax-related receipts and statements handy, make an effort to file them in a way that makes sense for you, then keep the process going as more paperwork comes in.

Think clutter

Now that you have your tax returns and other paperwork within reach, it’s time to decide what to keep.

 

Tax Planning For Small Business Owners

Many small business owners ignore tax planning. They don’t even think about their taxes until it’s time to meet with their accountants, but tax planning is an ongoing process and good tax advice is a valuable commodity.

Tax planning:

Tax Planning is the process of looking at various tax options in order to determine when, whether, and how to conduct business and personal transactions to reduce or eliminate tax liability. Many small business owners ignore tax planning. They don’t even think about their taxes until it’s time to meet with their accountants, but tax planning is an ongoing process and good tax advice is a valuable commodity. It is to your benefit to review your income and expenses monthly and meet with your CPA or tax advisor quarterly to analyze how you can take full advantage of the provisions, credits, and deductions that are legally available to you.

Tax Planning Strategies

Countless tax planning strategies are available to small business owners. Some are aimed at the owner’s individual tax situation and some at the business itself, but regardless of how simple or how complex a tax strategy is, it will be based on structuring the strategy to accomplish one or more of these often overlapping goals

Maximizing Business Entertainment Expenses

Entertainment expenses are legitimate deductions that can lower your tax bill and save you money, provided you follow certain guidelines. In order to qualify as a deduction, a business must be discussed before, during, or after the meal and the surroundings must be conducive to a business discussion. For instance, a small, quiet restaurant would be an ideal location for a business dinner. A nightclub would not. Be careful of locations that include ongoing floor shows or other distracting events that inhibit business discussions. Prime distractions are theater locations, ski trips, golf courses, sports events, and hunting trips

Important Business Automobile Deductions

If you use your car for business such as visiting clients or going to business meetings away from your regular workplace you may be able to take certain deductions for the cost of operating and maintaining your vehicle. You can deduct car expenses by taking either the standard mileage rate or using actual expenses.

 

Tax Tips for People Who Are Self-Employed

Estimate your business income

It’s absolutely essential that you find out where you stand tax-wise – before you start taking other tax planning steps. You don’t want to make expenditures, for example, in a year when you don’t need the deduction. If you expect to be in a higher tax bracket this year or next, you’ll want to take as many deductions as possible in the year you are subject to the highest tax rate

Time your income

You can’t postpone income simply by not cashing checks that come to you, or by telling customers not to pay you until after the end of the year. Income is generally taxable when it is available to you. However, you can time billing near the end of the year to your advantage. You certainly can sell assets at a gain before or after the end of the year, depending on your tax situation.

Time your expenditures

There’s always a surge in business equipment sales at the end of the year – and it’s not entirely because computers and printers are a popular holiday gift. If you buy business assets by December 31, you can start depreciating them this tax year. You may even be able to take a Section 179 deduction and expense the entire cost of the asset in one year.

Make the most of medical insurance deductions

You can deduct health insurance premiums for yourself, your spouse, and your dependents as an adjustment to income. This includes premiums for long-term care insurance. The policy does not need to be in the business name – it’s deductible even if it’s in your name.

Keep the form of your company simple

Unless you need to form a partnership or a corporation for some reason, stick with a Schedule C, Sole Proprietorship. It’s the simplest way to file, and there’s nothing you have to disband if you move on to something else. If you’re looking for legal protection, get liability insurance (and consult your lawyer).

Tips To Find The Best Roof Inspection

Tips for a Roof Inspection

Look for Algae, Moss, or Piles of Leaves

If you have binoculars, you can begin your DIY roof inspection from the ground. Start by walking around your house and checking your roof for moss, piles or leaves, algae, or other growths or debris. Algae, moss, lichen and piles of leaves can cause serious damage to a roof. That’s because they can trap moisture, which can seep into the sheathing below your shingles, and even into the structural elements of the roof itself

Look for Buckled or Curled Shingles

Hot air in your attic can cause your shingles to warp, buckle or curl. Misshapen shingles can compromise the integrity of your roof, letting in water and causing poor ventilation. Curling asphalt shingles should be replaced. If more than one-third of your shingles are curling, it’s time to re-shingle the entire roof

Check for Damaged, Missing or Old Shingles

Missing or damaged shingles can also let water seep through your roof. If you have wooden shingles or shake, inspect them for signs of dry rot, either from the ground or from a ladder (don’t walk on a wooden shingle or shake roof. Asbestos, slate, or clay tile roofs can suffer from breakage, so look for cracked, chipped, broken or altogether missing shingles. Check a metal roof for signs of corrosion, metal seams, pitting, rusting, or other wear.

Inspect the Roof Up Close

If you can, get up on a ladder and inspect your roof up close. While you’re up there, look for damage to the flashings around the chimney, dormers and vent pipes. Damaged or corroded flashings can let water into the interior structure of your roof, and could contribute to rot in the structure of your roof and the walls of your home.

Investigate Your Attic

If your home has an attic, it’s important to go into it and look for signs that water has leaked through your roof. Inspect your rafters and the wooden interior of your roof for signs of moisture, mold and rot. Checking your attic for signs of water leakage can help you spot damage that may not have been visible from the ground or from your ladder. If possible, inspect your attic for leaks during a heavy rain; this will show you whether your roof has any active leaks.

 

EASY STEPS TO INSPECTING YOUR ROOF

Walk around your home’s exterior, inspecting the roof from the ground for signs of damage, sagging, and aging. Take notes of any possible problem areas or areas in need of closer inspection.

Identify areas with moss, algae, and piles of leaves – these areas are notorious for causing costly leaks and water damage

Keep your eye out for buckled and curled shingles! Hot air from attics often causes shingles to buckle and curl away from the home, putting your roof and home at great risk for weather damage and poor roof ventilation.

Look for missing, damaged, and aged shingles – this is the leading cause of roof damage. When you take the time to inspect your roof, you can catch minor issues like these before they turn into major issues followed by serious damage. Missing shingles = direct exposure to inclement weather, plus, they are an eyesore!

It is so important to clean your gutters and roof overhangs and maintain your downspouts! As you’re performing these essential tasks, make note of open joins and signs of rot, as those are typical indicators of larger issues

 

Tips to Ensure Roof Reliability

Make annual inspections of the roof to evaluate its general condition and detect any potential leakage problems before they develop. The best time for an inspection is the spring after severe weather conditions (and the damage they may have inflicted) have passed. In addition, the weather is ideal for repairs if they are necessary

Make the initial inspections from the ground or through upstairs windows where the roof surface can be observed. Binoculars are a good tool to use for the inspection.

Keep gutters and roof surfaces clear of fallen leaves, pine needles, twigs and other litter so that water will drain freely

Keep trees trimmed to prevent branches from scuffing the roof surface. This will also keep the roof surface drier helping to inhibit growths such as algae, mold, fungus or lichen. Keep climbing roses, vines and ivy trimmed back from the roof

Never paint or coat asphalt roofing materials to change the color or give the roof a “new” look. The use of paint or coatings may void the manufacturer’s warranty. Consult the individual manufacturer, as this type of treatment may be detrimental to your investment. However roof surfaces may be cleaned if they are showing signs of staining from algae

 

Inspection Tips for Your Home’s Roof

Whether it’s keeping you dry on a rainy day or warm and cozy on a cold winter night, your roof is a vital part of your home. To help make sure it’s protecting you and your family from the elements, regular maintenance and inspections are key. Here are some roof inspection tips to consider

Why Should You Inspect Your Roof?

Regular roof inspections can help identify issues prior to them becoming potentially major problems. It may be easier to fix these smaller issues now, which may save you time and money in the long run

How Often Should You Inspect Your Roof?

Typically, your roof should be inspected at least once a year, according to Zillow. However, you should also check your roof after any extreme weather event, like hail, snow or wind, and look for any interior leaks, says Zillow. Because all roofs are different, it’s important to consult a professional to know what to inspect and how often.

Check the flashings. Flashings are metal pieces that cover curves and edges of your roof, and water can easily leak in and around them if they are damaged. Openings around the flashing may need to be resealed with roofing cement.

Look in the gutters. If your roof is composed of asphalt shingles, a professional should look in the gutters for pieces or grains of the shingles. This can be a sign that your shingles may need to be replaced.

 

HOW TO INSPECT YOUR ROOF

Too many of us take our roofs for granted — it’s not something we think about unless there’s a problem. But as your home’s first line of defense against the elements, your roof goes through a lot of wear and tear, so it’s important to do a yearly visual inspection as part of your home maintenance routine. By giving your roof a brief inspection, small problems won’t lead to giant catastrophes.

Look for shingles that are missing or loose, or show signs of heavy wear or degradation (bald spots, granule loss, or severe curling), as these are considered weak points where water can penetrate and cause leaks. While it is normal for asphalt shingles to experience some curling, significant or abnormal curling are indicators that your shingles are reaching the end of their useful life.

GETTING A CLOSER LOOK

After a preliminary inspection from the ground a closer look may be necessary. Safely climb a ladder to get a closer look at your roof. But stay off the roof itself — not only is it dangerous to walk on the roof, you can potentially do more damage to the shingles.

INSIDE-OUT

After examining the roof from the outside, it’s time to check things from inside. Armed with a flashlight, inspect the attic and crawl spaces after heavy rains. Do you notice any signs of water damage? Are any of the rafters or decking wet? Has any of the insulation gotten wet? These are all indications that your roof may have a leak

GET THE RIGHT HELP

If you notice any damage, don’t waste time and energy trying to fix the problem yourself. Hire a credentialed contractor to properly inspect your roof and repair the problem correctly. Some will do so at no cost to you. You can find a CertainTeed credentialed roofing contractor by using CertainTeed’s Find A Pro locator tool.

Must Know A Little About Led Electrical Lighting

tips for choosing the right light bulb

The light bulb market has gone through enormous change since traditional incandescent bulbs were removed from the market and replaced with energy-saving bulbs. Below, we walk you through what you need to know to buy the best bulb for your needs

Choose a light bulb with the right fitting

Many a shopping trip has been thwarted by the lack of this critical piece of information. There are an awful lot of fittings to choose from so, if you can, take the old bulb you are replacing to the store with you. But if you can’t do that, then use the graphic above, which shows some of the most common fittings. You will need to write down the fitting reference number and take it along to match with the packaging on the box of your new bulb.

Don’t be put off by the upfront cost of LED lights

They could save you hundreds in the long run. There are three main types of regular light bulb – CFLs (compact fluorescent lamp – the standard type of energy-saving light bulb), halogens or LEDs.

CFL annual running

CFLs are cheap and widely available in a range of sizes and outputs. Some older CFLs were slow to brighten, but this has improved considerably in recent years. They are four times more efficient than incandescent bulbs and quickly pay for themselves in energy savings – but not everyone likes the light they emit.

Halogen annual running

Light from a halogen bulb is similar to an incandescent in colour and quality, as both use a tungsten filament. There’s little difference between the two in the amount of energy used and halogens are significantly more expensive to run than other energy savers. With an expected life span of less than two years, a halogen bulb is unlikely to pay for itself before it fails.

 

Guide to Buying LED Lighting

LED lighting. You know what it is. And you know that it’s the way of the future—if not the present—when it comes to illuminating everything from our homes to public spaces to indicator lights on our electronics. But with the technology advancing more and more each year, LED lighting has allowed for more flexibility in design, greater efficiency in use and a host of other benefits that affect our daily living

Efficiency

Compared to conventional incandescent lamps, LED lighting lasts longer, is more durable, and is over five times more efficient. LED bulbs typically use only 2 to 10 watts of electricity

Brightness

LED lighting is measured in lumens, not watts

Cost

LED lighting fixtures have a higher upfront cost, but will have a greater lifespan in the long run

Design

The compact size of LEDs make them an ultra-flexible design element, which has allowed designers and manufactures to create shapes, silhouettes and technologies that simply weren’t possible before.

 

LEDs are dramatically more cost-efficient over the long run.

For instance, a single 10-watt LED that puts out 800 lumens of light (lumens are units of brightness for a light source — more on that in just a bit) will add about $1.20 per year to your power bill if used for 3 hours a day at an average energy rate of 11 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). Under those same parameters, a traditional 60-watt incandescent bulb that puts out the same 800 lumens will cost about $7.20 per year. That’s more than the cost of replacing it with a basic LED like the one described above. Multiply that by the total number of bulbs in your home, and you’re looking at the potential for some pretty significant long-term savings, especially if you live in area with above-average energy rates

LEDs are also rated to last for tens of thousands of hours, which can translate to decades of use. Compare that with the year or so you typically get out of an incandescent, and you can begin to see why so many people find these bulbs appealing. With some options now as cheap as $3 per bulb, that 10W LED would pay for itself in energy savings within a few months, then keep on saving you money for years if not decades to come

First, it’s important to understand that LED lights typically don’t “burn out,” the way that incandescents do. Instead, they undergo “lumen depreciation,” which just means that they gradually grow dimmer and dimmer over a very long period of time. The test that the IES uses to determine a bulb’s longevity is known as the LM80, and it calculates how long it will take for an LED to fade enough for you to notice it

In the LM80 test, engineers run the bulb for 9 months straight in order to get an accurate read of the light’s rate of decay. Using those figures, they can calculate the point at which the light will have faded to 70 percent of its original brightness — the point where you’ll start to notice that things aren’t quite as bright as they used to be. This point, known as “L70,” is the current standard in LED longevity. If an LED says it’ll last 25,000 hours, it’s really saying that it will take the bulb 25,000 hours to fade down to 70 percent brightness

This isn’t to say that LEDs don’t fail. They definitely do. As with any device relying on tiny, delicate electrical components, things can go wrong. Fortunately, more and more LED bulbs come with multiyear warranties for cases of mechanical failure. Some manufacturers, like GE and Cree, offer affordable LED bulbs with 10-year warranties. Consumers with a healthy dose of skepticism regarding LED longevity claims should look for bulbs like these, made by manufacturers willing to put their money where their mouth is

 

FACT SHEET: A CONSUMER’S GUIDE TO BUYING QUALITY LEDS

Light-emitting diode light bulbs and lighting fixtures are known as LEDs. LEDs can have varied designs with a range of looks for many different uses. From the outside, many look like old-fashioned light bulbs and are available to replace a wide range of inefficient halogen and incandescent lighting.

Quality LEDs are now in most cases the ‘best buy’ in terms of electricity costs to run, frequency of replacement and overall lifetime costs. LEDs are quickly gaining popularity as they become more available at lower prices, however, evaluation of LED products currently available in the marketplace indicates a wide variation in quality and efficiency. This guide provides some practical tips to purchasing a quality LED product.

Not all LEDs are the same

Unlike Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs), LEDs are currently not regulated for energy efficiency – or characteristics such as colour. This means you may experience greater variation in their performance

Quality LEDs – cheaper in the long run

Quality LED light bulbs last 5 to 10 times longer than halogen light bulbs and consume a quarter of the energy to produce the same light output

Figure 1 A 10W LED bulb would cost $39 in total to buy and run over 10 years. Over this time, five 42W halogen bulbs would need to be used at a total cost of $148, or two 12W CFL bulbs would be used, at a total cost of $48. These figures are based on lifetimes of 6000 hours for CFL and 2000 hours for halogen; an LED price of $10, CFL price of $6, and halogen price of $3. The electricity rate is 28.55¢ per kilowatt-hour (kWh

 

things to consider when buying LED

As your incandescent fittings or light globes burn out, it’s a good time to consider switching to LED fixtures. LEDs have an impressive lifespan (20-something years!) and are very cost-effective in the long term. Now’s the right time to switch to LEDs. These bulbs have made significant advances over the last few years, finally delivering the warm light incandescent have comforted us with for decades. Because there are so many LED varieties, choosing an LED is entirely different from picking up an incandescent. Before you head to the store, find out what you need to know about choosing the right LED light or fitting to suit you requirements and the benefits it will provide

Lumens, not watts

When shopping for bulbs and lights, you’re probably accustomed to looking for watts, an indication of how bright the bulb will be. The brightness of LEDs, however, is determined a little differently.

Contrary to common belief, wattage isn’t an indication of brightness, but a measurement of how much energy the bulb draws. For incandescents, there is an accepted correlation between the watts drawn and the brightness, but for LEDs, watts aren’t a great predictor of how bright the bulb will be. (The point, after all, is that they draw less energy.)

But don’t bother doing the math — there isn’t a uniform way to covert incandescent watts to LED watts. Instead, a different form of measurement should be used: lumens.

The lumen (lm) is the real measurement of brightness provided by a light bulb, and is the number you should look for when shopping for LEDs. For reference, here’s a chart that shows the watt-lumen conversion for incandescents, halogen, fluorescent and LEDs

Must Know How To Take Care Possums In Your Garden

Tips for attracting a possum/opossum to your property

Despite their reputation as being pests, opossums are in fact useful little animals in your garden. They eat real pests such as slugs and small rodents and rarely cause problems themselves* (see below) . Opossums are also entertaining to watch because of their agility and intelligence. As with other wildlife, much of the natural habitat of possums has been lost to development and agriculture.

Opossums inhabit a wide variety of habitats and are not at all territorial.  They naturally prefer deciduous wooded areas near water sources, but can also be found in farmlands or marshes. They have become very common in urban, suburban and farming areas. They are wanderers, highly nomadic, and do not staying in one specific territory. Even mothers with young will spend only a few nights in any given place. They reside in a variety of homes including abandoned burrows, tree cavities, hollow logs, attics, garages or building foundations. They are not adept at digging, so they often utilize burrows that another animal, usually a skunk or woodchuck, may have excavated. They may even share dens with other species, including rabbits, skunks, raccoons, other opossums, and small mammals.

It’s best not to attract wild animals, including opossums, into an area with food. That is a good way to create a nuisance animal that ends up being killed.  Food left outside may also attract mice, skunks and raccoons, which can quickly become pests.  If you do decide to leave food for opossums, it can be as simple as a couple of bowls on the ground. Omnivorous opossums appreciate meaty treats such as cat kibble as well as fruits and vegetables. DO NOT LEAVE HUMAN FOOD, especially junk food. Opossums may well love such food, but it is not good for them. Ideally, put the food out in the evening, watch the possums feeding, then remove the food bowls so you don’t wind up feeding rodents

Providing shelter material or habitat is the best thing to do to attract opossums, but due to their nomadic nature this may not be successful.  In many states it is not legal to transport/relocate wild animals.  If this is to be done, the animal should be trapped humanely in a havahart trap and taken several miles away to a forested area near a water source (stream or pond). If the animal was a nuisance, near a barn or chicken coop, cleaning up all food that would attract opossums, will solve the problem. Opossums do not need to be lethally trapped in order to discourage them.

Install a possum nest box to mimic the tree holes that possums use for nesting. A possum nest box is essentially like a large bird box with a 5-inch diameter hole near the top. The Australian government provides detailed instructions for making possum boxes, which are the right size for North American opossums as well. Attach the nest box 6 to 10 feet up in a tree.

 

Tips for Attracting Opossums to Your Property

Although some people think opossums are pests, they are in fact useful little animals in your garden. They eat real pests such as slugs and small rodents and rarely cause problems themselves* (see bottom of page). Opossums are also entertaining to watch because of their agility and intelligence. As with other wildlife, much of the natural habitat of opossums has been lost to development and agriculture.

Opossums inhabit a wide variety of habitats and are not at all territorial. They naturally prefer deciduous wooded areas near water sources, but can also be found in farmlands or marshes. They have become very common in urban, suburban and farming areas. They are wanderers, highly nomadic, and do not staying in one specific territory. Even mothers with young will spend only a few nights in any given place. They reside in a variety of homes including abandoned burrows, tree cavities, hollow logs, attics, garages or building foundations. They are not adept at digging, so they often utilize burrows that another animal, usually a skunk or woodchuck, may have excavated. They may even share dens with other species, including rabbits, skunks, raccoons, other opossums, and small mammals

Encourage other wildlife to provide opossum prey by gardening organically and planting a dense variety of plants. Opossums need to obtain most of their food from natural sources.

It’s best not to attract wild animals, including opossums, into an area with food. That is a good way to create a nuisance animal that ends up being killed. Food left outside may also attract mice, skunks and raccoons, which can quickly become pests. If you do decide to leave food for opossums, it can be as simple as a couple of bowls on the ground. Omnivorous opossums appreciate meaty treats such as cat kibble as well as fruits and vegetables. DO NOT LEAVE HUMAN FOOD, especially junk food. Opossums may well love such food, but it is not good for them. Ideally, put the food out in the evening, watch the opossums feeding, then remove the food bowls so you don’t wind up feeding rodents.

Providing shelter material or habitat is the best thing to do to attract opossums, but due to their nomadic nature this may not be successful. In many states it is not legal to transport/relocate wild animals. If this is to be done, the animal should be trapped humanely in a havahart trap and taken several miles away to a forested area near a water source (stream or pond). If the animal was a nuisance, near a barn or chicken coop, cleaning up all food that would attract opossums, will solve the problem. Opossums do not need to be lethally trapped in order to discourage them.

 

What to do about opossums

Opossums get a bum rap. Often seen as a pest and accused of everything from knocking over garbage cans to killing chickens, these quiet marsupials are rarely a threat and easily sent on their way

Common problems and solutions

Opossums are often accused, but rarely responsible for getting into garbage cans or gardens. They are certainly game to stop by and clean up the mess left by other wayward critters, though! They are often accused of killing chickens, something that happens very rarely. Most people complain about opossums just being there, rather than for any problems they cause

Tolerance

Opossum are not aggressive: their open-mouth, defensive hissing is merely a bluff to look vicious. And if that doesn’t work they play dead when really scared!

How to keep opossums out

The best way to keep opossums from denning under a deck or patio is to make sure they cannot get there in the first place by keeping any holes filled

Rabies

People often mistake the open-mouth hissing and drooling behavior of opossums as a sign of rabies. However, this is just a bluffing behavior that opossums use as a defense mechanism. In fact, rabies is extremely rare in opossums, perhaps because they have a much lower body temperature compared to other warm-blooded animals

 

How to Attract a Possum to My Yard

Despite their reputation as being pests, possums (or opossums) are in fact useful little animals in your garden. They eat real pests such as slugs and small rodents and rarely cause problems themselves. Possums are also entertaining to watch because of their agility and intelligence. As with other wildlife, much of the natural habitat of possums has been lost to development and agriculture. This means you can encourage them to visit your yard by providing food and places to nest.

Provide a possum feeding station, which can be as simple as a couple of bowls on the ground. Omnivorous possums appreciate meaty treats such as cat kibble as well as fruits and vegetables. Don’t put out human food, especially junk food. Possums may well love such food, but it is not good for them. Ideally, put the food out in the evening, watch the possums feeding, then remove the food bowls so you don’t wind up feeding rodents.

Encourage other wildlife to provide possum prey by gardening organically and planting a dense variety of plants. Possums need to obtain most of their food from natural sources

Keep pets inside at night and supervise them outside during the day. Cats and possums are rarely a threat to each other, but a large cat may attack possums and could discourage them from visiting. A dog is a threat and may kill possums if unsupervised.

Install a possum nest box to mimic the tree holes that possums use for nesting. A possum nest box is essentially like a large bird box with a 5-inch diameter hole near the top. The Australian government provides detailed instructions for making possum boxes, which are the right size for North American opossums as well. Attach the nest box 6 to 10 feet up in a tree.

 

Opossum Society of the United States

As the development of once rural areas increases, the opossum continues to be pushed out of its natural habitat and forced to live in a more urban environment. Opossums are extremely adaptable and have successfully made the transition to accept people as their neighbors. With a little tolerance and understanding you can do the same for the opossum, and we can all happily co-exist.

Considered rodents by many, this is a common misconception. Opossums are marsupials, or pouched mammals, and are related to the kangaroo and the koala. The opossum holds the distinction of being North America’s only marsupial. We should not consider them as pests, but beneficial to the environment, as they eat all kinds of bugs and insects including cockroaches, beetles, cricket and spiders. Snails and slugs are considered a delicacy. They also help keep the rat and mouse population in check. Opossums have well earned the title of “Nature’s Little Sanitation Engineers.”

LEAVE THE OPOSSUMS ALONE

Opossums should be allowed to live in their natural habitat. They are opportunistic animals and will often move into an area that has been damaged and then vacated by another animal. Unfortunately, the opossum is usually blamed for the damage.

DO NOT TRAP

If you find an opossum continues to return to your area, try eliminating the things that are attracting it. Clear away bushes, woodpiles and other hiding places, pick up fallen fruit from trees, and do not leave pet food out over night. Try leaving an outdoor light on at night.

OPOSSUM PROOF YOUR ENVIRONMENT

Make the area where you live less desirable. At night, keep doors and garages closed, and close windows that are located next to tree limbs and fences.

Must Learn How To Use Payroll Service In Your Company

Tips for Finding the Best Payroll Software

Congratulations! You’ve gotten to a point that many other small business owners have only hoped for — growth. But now you’re required to find a more robust payroll system.

Sure, when it was you and a couple of co-founders it was pretty easy to sort out payment. But now that you’re growing, it’s necessary to put a process to your operations, offload some of the tedious work you’ve been doing since the beginning, and free up your time and resources to focus on bigger issues at hand.

One smart way to do this is to invest in a payroll software platform that can take care of one of the most important parts of your business for you: paying your employees on time, every time.

Yet, as you know, it’s not nearly as easy as just cutting a check. From properly withholding taxes and reporting to the IRS to tracking PTO hours earned and much in between, there’s a lot to consider when deciding which payroll software system is right for you.

How to choose the best payroll software for your small business

Overall, the best thing that you can do is get a solid understanding of your business’ unique individual needs. As you dive into the capabilities and features of the many payroll systems out there, it can be easy to get swept up in thinking that you need fancy features that will actually go unused or forget an important need you have until it’s too late. So, above all else, know what you need (and what you don’t) and compare everything to that.

 

How to Find the Best Payroll Service

Payroll covers more than just making sure employees are paid. It also involves keeping compliant with laws and regulations, such as tax rules and the Affordable Care Act requirements. It includes workers’ compensation, benefits and more. Thus, while hiring a payroll service can seem like a big investment, it has the potential to save your small business time, trouble and money in the long run

Basics

It knows the rules. A payroll company should understand not only federal law, but also your state and local regulations, plus any rules specific to your industry

Extras

Workers’ compensation: Many services offer workers’ compensation insurance, which all businesses need by law. Some charge extra for this. Benefits: Many services offer benefits packages, such as employee discount deals and retirement plans. Mobile access: Most payroll services have mobile apps or mobile-friendly user portals so managers and employees can run payroll from a smartphone or tablet

Price

Basic fees range from $20 to $200 a month, depending on features offered, plus $1 to $10 per employee or paid contract worker per pay period. Sometimes payroll services bundle extras that drive up the cost while never being used by the client. Be sure you are not paying for things you don’t want or need.

Some services also charge additional fees, such as for setting up direct deposit or for mailing out paychecks themselves. Others charge for doing your end-of-year taxes. Some have a general annual fee. Be sure you ask about all fees over the course of a year, and what special tasks incur charges.

 

How to safely choose the absolute best payroll service for you and your employees

Payroll service companies can be a big help when it comes to calculating and filing your company’s payroll taxes, printing checks, and being available to answer important payroll-related questions. Industry-leading companies have streamlined processes and controls that lead to greater efficiency and fewer errors, which can save your company time and money.

When considering payroll service options, it is important to choose a reputable company because ultimately your business is responsible for paying the taxes, not your payroll company. That means you must do your homework to ensure the payroll company is compliant with regulatory standards and that your taxes are paid in full and on time.

Choosing a payroll company

One of the best ways to find potential payroll service providers is to ask other business owners or payroll professionals who they recommend and why. Hearing directly from a company’s customers is a great way to evaluate the company’s processes and service levels.

What services do you offer and what certifications do staff members hold?

It’s important to know what you’re looking for from a payroll company and whether those needs go beyond the basics. The company should have a CPA on staff, and other professional certifications (like Society of Human Resource Management or American Payroll Association) are a good sign of a quality organization.

Is the company bonded and insured?

Find out how much the company is insured for and request a certificate of insurance.

 

Your Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Payroll Provider

Save time

Automated services do so much of the work for you. They keep you up-to-date with continuous processing and insightful reports. Additionally, employee self-service features allow employees to do a lot of the onboarding and upkeep that an employer or payroll manager may have otherwise had to do.

Save money

Most payroll software systems cost less than hiring a full-time bookkeeper.

Reduce errors

Payroll software service reduces the opportunity for people to make manual errors. Payroll can get complicated. Be confident the automated service processes correct information and minimizes risk for things like tax noncompliance.

Access it anywhere.

Cloud-based payroll means you can access payroll information anytime, anywhere—not just at your desk.

Make a Payroll Checklist.

Before you go on your search for the perfect payroll provider, identify what’s on your company’s payroll checklist for software. Map out your organization’s needs first. That way, when you speak with payroll providers you know what questions to ask and which answers to look for. Then bring an open mind for options that you may not have thought of but could benefit your business. Understand your company first before you try to understand a payroll provider.

 

Choosing a Payroll Service Processor

Make sure it’s easy to process

Identify how you would like to process the payroll – online, via email, fax or phone. Online payroll service companies are the easiest and most popular to use. They automatically calculate regular rates per pay period, overtime rates, tax withholdings, net amounts, employer taxes, and holiday pay. The systems also apply necessary benefit deductions and track PTO/vacation/sick payments. It then makes payments to employees through direct deposit or check.

Multi-State Employer/Multi-State Tax Filing

If your company is a multi-state employer, it is important to make sure that your payroll service files tax reports and processes tax payments for all of the states that hold company employees. Otherwise, you will have to file reports and pay taxes manually, making it possible  to make mistakes such as missing a deadline. It also adds internal administrative costs. Keep in mind that the burden of company registrations with new states fall on the employers; however efficient payroll service systems can provide the necessary information for registration as well as the ability to follow up on missing information

Check Online and Mobile Access

Everything is accessible online these days. Most people don’t like receiving paper pay-stubs via snail mail anymore. The accessibility of paystubs and tax forms online at any point of time has become highly convenient. Most payroll services offer employee access to systems for reviewing payment information and downloading tax forms. Some payroll services even offer mobile apps for the convenience of employees as well as employers.

Benefit Bundle features:

Several payroll processors work with benefit companies to incorporate benefits in their services. Usually, a payroll and benefit bundle is good for both the employees and employers due to superior benefit plans for cheaper costs. Do some research on what benefits payroll services offer prior to signing the deal.

System Integration

Payroll services can integrate a variety of payroll related programs, such as accounting software, HR software, and time and attendance systems. It is important to keep in mind that some payroll systems can only integrate with certain programs. If integration is important for your company, research which programs integrate properly prior to choosing payroll services.

Must Know How To Find Good Commercial Electrical Maintenance

Making The Most Of Electrical Maintenance

With simple maintenance and prevention methods, you can feel better about the safety and efficiency of your home’s electrical system. This includes making sure your appliances are running smoothly and all of your outlets are safe to use for everyday needs, such as charging devices and plugging in lamps.

Just one mishap could spark an electrical fire, so be sure to keep these steps in mind for proper electrical maintenance:

  1. Remember the golden rule: Safety first

You should never start any home maintenance or repair work without proper preparation and safety tools. When working with electrical items, make sure to unplug the unit or turn off the power to the specific circuit. Don’t forget that water and electricity don’t get along, so make sure to unplug anything electric before cleaning. Never use a metal ladder when performing electrical tasks.

  1. Use electronics accordingly

It’s important to be smart about how you’re using electronics. Avoid plugging in too many things into one circuit, which can overload it and cause a power outage. Be mindful of where you place small appliances and electronics, such as toaster ovens and hair dryers. Make sure they’re not under any vents that could potentially drip on them or are too close to a source of water, such as sinks and showers. Further, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends installing ground-fault circuit interrupters for all of the outlets in wet locations, such as kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms. They’re designed to turn off electric power immediately in the event of an incident, which can be a potentially life-saving feature.

  1. Be mindful of plugs, outlets and wires

Treat your plugs kindly and don’t force them to fit into outlets. Don’t try to bend and adjust the prongs, as this could cause an electric shock. Alternatively, if it’s loose inside the outlet, it may be time to replace the cord for a fresh plug. Replace old outlets with new electric sockets with advanced safety features, such as built-in surge protectors. Unplug extension cords when you’re not using them to avoid an electric and fire hazard. When you’re outside, only use cords and electrical items that are specifically for the outdoors.

  1. Schedule routine professional check ups

Electricity can be dangerous, so never hesitate to call a licensed electrician for help. In fact, one of the most important steps in good electrical maintenance is having a professional inspect your system at least once a year. An electrician can check your electric panel, replace damaged wires and test circuit breakers.

 

 

Simple steps to resolution

Stepping through further checks, the technician can review the breaker’s programming, such as LSI overcurrent settings, using easy to navigate graphical screens. There may also be a ‘state of health’ view that can quickly reveal any service warnings. This might indicate that a backup battery that needs replacing, or the amount of breaker service life left.

If a bar code is provided on the front of the breaker, scanning it with the smart phone will connect to the device’s online maintenance history. Not only will this confirm that the correct equipment needing servicing has been identified, it will also reveal any previously logged data or service notes to help determine the appropriate next steps.Simple steps to resolution

Stepping through further checks, the technician can review the breaker’s programming, such as LSI overcurrent settings, using easy to navigate graphical screens. There may also be a ‘state of health’ view that can quickly reveal any service warnings. This might indicate that a backup battery that needs replacing, or the amount of breaker service life left.

If a bar code is provided on the front of the breaker, scanning it with the smart phone will connect to the device’s online maintenance history. Not only will this confirm that the correct equipment needing servicing has been identified, it will also reveal any previously logged data or service notes to help determine the appropriate next steps.

 

How to Improve Your Electrical Maintenance Strategy

When it comes to maintenance strategies, mechanical assets tend to receive more care than electrical control and distribution systems. Electrical systems can run for years without problems, making it tempting to focus on systems where wear and tear produce more frequent, and more noticeable, issues. Mechanical maintenance staff usually outnumber electrical system staff, whose electrical maintenance training is seen as less mission critical than staying up-to-date on advances in equipment technology.

Reactive Electrical Maintenance

Like mechanical equipment, electrical systems benefit from preventative maintenance. Reactive responses to electrical problems results in longer down times, expensive repairs, and loss of productivity.

Signs of a reactive electrical maintenance strategy include:

  • Electrical failures not recorded in CMMS
  • Electrical maintenance supplies no readily available
  • Electricians on staff not up-to-date on electrical maintenance training
  • Few to no electrical planners on staff
  • Little to no documentation of electrical maintenance tasks
  • No standards for electrical schematics
  • Technical information on electric systems not centrally located.

Towards a Proactive Electrical Maintenance Strategy

In contrast, a preventative electrical maintenance strategy protects both employees and electrical assets. Careful planning maximizes uptime, while improving energy efficiency and extending the service life of electrical distribution systems. Steps towards preventative electrical system maintenance include:

  • Acknowledging the current system is flawed, but can be improved.
  • Developing a vision for the future, including new hires, maintenance strategies, and electrical maintenance training.
  • Understanding which equipment is mission critical, and creating regular maintenance schedules.
  • Discussing the need for improvements with work team, who may raise issues or solutions that would otherwise go unnoticed.
  • Documenting all processes and gathering data on which components could fail and what the effects of such failure could be.

Report your findings to management and fight to get the management team on board with your efforts.

  • Developing preventative maintenance inspection and tasks for all system components.
  • Gathering all strategy documents, schematics, and manuals in a central location.

 

Electrical Preventive Maintenance

Too many people mistakenly think a lack of moving parts means little can go wrong with electrical systems. In fact, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) reports that the failure rate of electrical components is three times higher for systems without preventive maintenance programs.

The two top causes of electrical distribution failures — loose connections and parts and exposure to moisture — account for nearly half of all electrical losses. And both problems can be corrected with a comprehensive electrical preventive maintenance (EPM) program. Consider these five factors when planning a program for your organization:

  • Qualified Personnel
    The people who perform your EPM program must be properly trained for the specific equipment being maintained or tested. They should have a thorough understanding of electrical safety practices and procedures.
  • Scheduled Maintenance
    Inspection, testing and servicing of equipment should be done on a regular basis — at least once every three years and more often for critical components.
  • Informed Decisions
    You want to make informed, responsible decisions about how best to correct any problem conditions. That can only be accomplished if personnel reviewing test reports have a thorough understanding of the specific subject matter.
  • Performing the Work
    There is little point in testing and inspections if you don’t intend to fix the problem. Ultimately, a scheduled outage is necessary to perform the work.
  • Record-Keeping
    A clear, concise and complete record-keeping system will help make sure that all work is done when it should be. Tracking test results over time also can often identify a potential failure that can be corrected before it happens.

Electrical preventive maintenance is cost-effective in many ways, improves equipment efficiency and reduces utility bills. Don’t neglect your electrical distribution system. Consider an EPM program — before a costly failure occurs.

 

Why Routine Electrical Maintenance is Important

The electrical wiring of your home is out of sight and it is one of the important reasons why maintenance is often set aside.  The wires suffer wear and tear over time and its impacts on the appliances and equipment that operate on the circuit. You will eventually have to deal with electrical problems that you used frequently. The best way to avoid these type of complications is to hire electrical services in Sylvan Lake for regular electrical maintenance.  After you find a good electrician, it will be easier to perform an annual inspection of your property’s power system.

Here are 4 benefits of regular inspection of your property’s electrical works.

Reduced Energy Costs

If the appliances are working properly, it uses less energy which will save your money. The outdated electrical system and faulty appliances may need to sue more power to work continuously. It can drive up your electric bill automatically. If you let the electrician perform maintenance works regularly, the electrical items at your home are kept in the best working condition. The electrician can also suggest some ways to save energy with the use of technological advancements.

Fire Safety

Electrical incidents and wirings spark home fires. Outdated electrical systems, fixtures, and wirings are the root cause of these types of accidents.  So having an annual checkup of the power system will make sure that the power source, wirings, electrical lines, and outlets are functioning properly and up to date.

Protection of Appliances

Whether you are using a four-door fridge or a mini-fridge at your home, you have spent quite a good amount of money for it.  So obviously you would want to make good use out of it.  If you don’t do regular maintenance, it means you are waiting for your appliance to die before its lifetime. Every piece of equipment you have at your home comes with a manual that states that their recommended maintenance works and how often it should be done.  Make sure you discuss all of this ­­­­­­­ with the electrician so he can schedule the visits accordingly.

Continuous Productivity

If you want to maintain control of your home or the productivity of your business, a major electrical problem can cause a major problem for you.  Electricity runs all your appliances that include the important ones like refrigerator, desktop, and air conditioning system.  If the damage has worsened, then it can take some days to get the power working again.  It means less productivity for those people who are working from home. It can discomfort them at times when you should actually be relaxing after a long tiring day.

Must Know What Need To Prepare For Long Distance Moving

How To Prepare for a Long Distance Move

Pick a Destination

Before you can even begin the moving process, you have to know where you are moving to! Explore the area you wish to move and house hunt online and in person. Once you have found the perfect place, you can then begin to plan out your move.

Confirm Your Move Date

Once you have put an offer in on your new home, sold your current home, and have been given a timeline for closing dates, plan your move date accordingly. It is common to move 1-3 days before closing.

Book a Mover

Having an established timeline of your move is a great guideline to make sure all tasks are finished beforehand.

Declutter

Decluttering your home will not only make the packing and moving process easier, it will also lower the cost of the entire move. Consider having a garage sale or donating items you no longer want or need.

Pack

Once you have decluttered you can begin the packing process. Whether you are packing yourself, or the moving company you have chosen is packing for you, make sure all items are organized and in the correct spot to make packing easier and more efficient.

 

essential long-distance moving tips

Make a list of the accounts you need to update or cancel

Buy a super cute magnetic notepad so you can pretend this part is fun. Add all subscriptions, bank accounts and government organizations that need your new address. If you can’t remember everything, check your credit card statement and snail mail. Keep the list on your fridge so you can add accounts as you think of them.

Inventory your belongings

Pull everything from your closets and cabinets and really see how much you have. Trust us, you own more things than you think you do. Make a list of your belongings and take photos. Creating an inventory helps you determine how much you need to pack and ship.

Marie Kondo your stuff

After your initial inventory, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed. Good. That means you understand the need to get rid of some stuff. Use Marie Kondo’s principles in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to determine which belongings “spark joy” and what you should donate. You’ll thank Marie Kondo when you see how much you save on moving costs. More stuff = a more expensive truck and more boxes to unpack.

Get estimates on moving companies, trucks and packing services.

If you’re moving long-distance, it takes more than a box of pizza to convince your friends to help you. You need professional help. Now that you know how much stuff you have, get a reliable estimate on how much it costs to rent a truck, hire movers and get help with your packing.

Come up with a plan of attack for packing

Since it can take weeks to pack, you need a strategy. Start with the things you definitely won’t need before your move: holiday knickknacks, family heirlooms, off-season clothes, that shawl that you only wear at the beach. Pack these into boxes and bags that are organized and labeled. If you put a spatula, a cardigan and a wall hanging in the same box, you’ll hate yourself when unpacking. Be kind to yourself and organize on the front end.

 

Long Distance Moving: How To Prepare

How to Pack

Most cross country movers would suggest learning how to pack before handling any other detail. Follow these tips to protect your belongings during the long haul.

Start Early

As soon as you know that a move is approaching, start packing early. Collect cardboard boxes, tape, bubble wrap and other accessories for the packing process. Out of state movers will caution residents to narrow down their packing volume by holding a garage sale. Selling or donating items that aren’t of use anymore will make packing much easier than taking everything in the home.

Focus on Items to Pack Now

After clearing the home of any clutter, gather the items that you want to keep but aren’t used on a daily basis. Family heirlooms, holiday decorations and similar items don’t need to be on hand between now and the move. Place them into their respective boxes, label the container and stack them in a corner. Taking one less chore out of your to-do list will make packing easier down the road.

Use Quality Packing Materials

Don’t select the thinnest cardboard boxes around. You want quality packing materials for your move. Because the boxes will be traveling hundreds of miles, the cardboard must withstand some vibration and changes in temperature. Ideally, select heavy-duty boxes designed for your items’ weights. Long distance movers can always point out the best selections for your needs.

Be Aware of Specialty Items

Take a look at your household’s belongings. Items such as pool tables and grandfather clocks must be handled with extreme care. In some cases, the items should be disassembled before the move and reassembled at the new home.

 

Cheap Ways to Move Cross Country

Rent a portable moving container

enting a portable moving container is one of the most popular alternatives to using full-service movers. For starters, renting a portable moving container is much cheaper than hiring a professional moving company. Second, portable moving containers can also double as storage solutions before and after the move. Costs will depend on the length of time you decide to rent the container and the size of the container. In general, renting a moving container for a long distance move tends to cost anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000 per month. Compare that to the $4,000 to $6,000 that a professional moving company will likely charge, and you’ll see the difference. To move using a moving container, all you have to do is load your boxes and belongings, and the container company will do the rest. Popular moving container companies include: PODS, ABF’s U-Pack ReloCubes, United Mayflower’s container, Go Mini’s, U-Haul’s U-Boxes, and 1-800-PACK-RAT – just to name a few.

Find free moving boxes and supplies

One of the best ways to cut costs on a long distance move is by gathering and using as many free moving supplies as possible. This means seeking out boxes, bubble-wrap and newspaper from nearby retailers, online marketplaces and community groups. Several places to look for free moving supplies include: Craigslist, local liquor stores, U-Haul Box Exchange, Nextdoor.com, bookstores, friends and neighbors, offices, recycling drop-off points, grocery stores, Freecycle, local schools and big box retailers. I also recommend asking friends and family for any boxes that they may have lying around.

Rent a moving truck

If you’re prepared to not only move but drive across the country, consider renting a moving truck from a reputable truck rental company. By embarking on a DIY move, you’ll be saving thousands of dollars. For example with U-Haul you could rent a truck for a one way move which would have a set price for the truck rental, the distance traveled, as well as insurance costs. Additionally, you would have to pay for additional fuel costs for the distance traveled. Of course, keep in mind that truck rentals don’t get great gas mileage. In fact, a typical truck rental only gets around 10 mpg. If you’re moving 2,000 miles, that means it’ll take around 200 gallons of gas to get you to your destination. If the truck rental’s fuel capacity is around 30 gallons, you’ll need to stop at least 7 times for gas to make it to your destination. Several truck rental options include U-Haul, Budget, Enterprise and Penske.

Use a freight trailer

One of the best ways to haul your belongings across the country is to use a large freight moving trailer instead of a moving company. How it works: a freight moving trailer company will drop off a large trailer (28 ft.) and give you three days to load it. After three days, the company will pick it up and drive it to your new home. Several freight trailer companies to look into include U-Pack, Estes SureMove and Old Dominion Household Services. The cost of renting a freight trailer is usually several thousand dollars cheaper than hiring a full-service moving company. For reference, HireAHelper states that the average cost of a long distance move with a U-Pack moving trailer is $3,015.

Choose a better moving date

Believe it or not – when you move can make a big impact on the cost of your relocation. Avoiding peak moving days and times could potentially save you money on truck rentals, moving companies and more. A few peak moving dates to avoid (if possible) include weekends, the months between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and the first and last weeks of the month. Aim for a mid-day, mid-month move between the months of October to April. For more information on the best times to move, check here.

 

Long Distance Moving: 6 Things To Keep In Mind When Moving Across The Country

Move During Off-Season

Moving can be an expensive experience. Looking to save some money? Make a choice to move during the off-season can increase your chance to save on expenses and give you the opportunity to take advantage of special rates. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, July and August are the most popular months for people to move. If you have the option, think about making your move sometime between September and May.

One Year Rule

Throughout the packing process, pay attention to the items you haven’t used, or even seen within the last year. While we often choose to keep things just in case, chances are if you haven’t used it in the last year, you never will. If that’s the case, let it go!

Relax

Moving your entire life is both a commitment and a process. Though it would be easy if everything went according to plan, a move often takes on a life of its own. The best thing you can do during these times is to relax. At the end of the day, all of your belongings will get packed, and everything will make it to your new home. A go-with-the-flow state of mind will help you sleep at night.

Pack Properly

When planning for an cross-country move, one of the most important things to think about is how you’re packing your goods. By ensuring everything is packed properly with the correct boxes, tape, and wrappings, we can be sure that your possessions will arrive to your new home safe and sound. Be sure to get boxes, tape, and newspaper ahead of time so you’re not feeling rushed closer to your move.

Soak In The Memories

Whether you’re moving due to a new job opportunity, looking for a change, , this journey is not one to be taken lightly. While making the decision to move is without a doubt exciting, taking the time to soak in the memories is an important part of the process. Take a moment to reminisce about the time you stayed up late watching old movies with friends and on your child’s first steps. You’re not saying goodbye to the old, but rather preparing for the new.

Tips To Prepare Before Home Renovation

Common Home Renovation Mistakes

Are you renovating your home? Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, make sure you do it right the first time. Home projects can take a big bite out of your budget and your time if it’s not done correctly. Here are  the most common home renovations mistakes to avoid:

Setting an unrealistic budget.

Renovations invariably cost more than expected. Build in an extra 20% to your budget to be better

prepared for any surprises.

Not complementing the original architectural style.

Additions don’t need to be the same style as the original structure. However, they do need to complement it to help with resale value and to look and feel great while you’re living in them.

Sacrificing function for form

Think about how you’ll actually live in the space. That affects such details as door, window and outlet placement. It can also determine traffic patterns throughout the home.

 

Ignoring Your Gut

On that note, do your homework and interview multiple contractors and other pros as you assemble the team. They may have good working relationships with people they can recommend to you, but  stresses that you should meet contractors in person and talk to at least three to five people before committing.

“Every meeting is going to be an education; you’ll learn about the project and yourself,” . “But listen to your gut!” If you feel like that initial meeting seemed overly rushed, or that they were rude or condescending, those feelings are only going to multiply during a renovation. Move on

Miscommunicating

Communication is key: With your workforce, between the team—and with your partner, too. “The project can become a kind of blank canvas for any issues that exist in the relationship,” . “Go in with your eyes wide open!”

If you have a strong rapport with your contractor, that person can help you and your partner work through any disagreements,  that you shouldn’t have side conversations without each other. It’s also important to establish with your contractor how best to communicate. “Whether it’s by text, phone, or an email once a week, you want to know how to reach them once the work gets under way,”

 

Waiting too long to consult a general contractor

Ask a contractor to look at plans in the schematic stage, rather than at detailed finished plans. “This way you can find out if your project is in the right budget ballpark before falling in love with a plan—and paying for a complete set of biddable drawings. It’s also a good way to meet potential contractors, get their input, and not misuse their time.”

Making too many changes along the way

Changes that seem simple to you may require a lot of work on the back end, so be sure you check with your designer or builder on even slight adjustments. “Even moving a light switch a few feet can cost $1,500,”

Not setting up a timeline

Work with your contractor to put together a list of items that need to be purchased and deadlines for making decisions. The last thing you want is to feel under the gun to make an important fixture selection you’ll later regret.

 

Spending Too Much Money on Unnecessary Things

If you’re on a limited budget, you may want to forgo investing in some of the items that can really add up: This includes such luxuries in a bathroom renovation such as heated towel racks, self-flushing toilet and other fancy fixtures, or a kitchen renovation with high-end appliances. Consider what you really need and what you can live out, and look for the alternatives.

 

Not anticipating roadblocks

Unfortunately, renovations rarely go according to plan. The last thing that anyone wants is to hit an unanticipated setback in the middle of a project, but it’s not uncommon. The best thing that you can do is make sure that you’re ready for the unexpected before your renovation even begins.

You can do this by padding your budget and timeline from the start. Conventional wisdom states that you should leave around 10 percent to 15 percent extra in the budget for incidentals, or these unexpected costs. Similarly, though your contractor will work up the official project timeline, make a mental note to pad it by at least two weeks to account for any issues that may delay the work slightly.

Do you have experience with renovation mistakes? Do you have any tips that we missed?

Tips To Become Camera Operator

How To Be a Better Camera Operator – Part 2: TECHNIQUE

Clearly state when the camera is running

When the camera is running everyone on the shoot should know it.

Edit in Camera

Make sure your footage will cut together.

Don’t overshoot

Overshooting means filming far more footage than is actually required. This is extremely bad practice, but for some reason it seems to be quite common. Frankly it drives me (and my fellow professionals) absolutely crazy!

Turn in flawless footage – ALWAYS!

Your job isn’t to shoot footage that is just acceptable; your job is to shoot footage that is exceptional!

Develop Speed and Efficiency

We are all familiar with the term ‘Time is Money’ and it is never more so prevalent than in the film and TV industry. A production going over schedule has a serious knock on effect on the budget. There are literally hundreds of reasons why a production can go over schedule, bad weather, various technical problems, actors/TV presenters’ performances and directors wanting to do retakes…the list goes on and on!

 

Tips for Surviving in the Camera Department

Big Budget Cameras to Know:

The Alexa is unsurpassed in it’s abilities. Although it is one of the pricier cameras on the market, you get what you pay for. Using the Alexa allows productions the ability to use less lighting, and gives little to correct in post. For informational videos about the Alexa, follow the link below.

Small Budget Cameras to Know:

These three cameras cannot provide the quality that the Alexa and Amira do, but they are major players in smaller budget productions. With the right lighting, and the right lens, you can create some amazing shots with these cameras. Beneath each picture, you will find a link to the brochures and manuals for each camera. Memorizing every manual is pretty impossible, but you should know where to get them so that you can refresh your memory before a shoot.

Be Alert/Present

Stay alert to the needs of the Operator and the DP. Blend in with the surroundings, almost make yourself invisible, and support the camera department with anything they need. You should always be present and working on the job you’re on now, not thinking about your next job.

Anticipate

Anticipating the DP and Operators needs will be next to impossible if it’s the first shoot day and you’ve never worked with this crew before. So use that first day to really observe your surroundings and the behavior of the crew. Learn on your feet so that you can begin to anticipate the needs of the department.

But Don’t Over Anticipate – Be Respectful

There’s a fine line between anticipating and being overbearing. If you overhear a conversation between the Director and the DP, and you hear them specifically say they want to use another lens, then it is ok to preemptively change the lens before the DP walks over to you. If the DP is taking a moment to think about the shot, do not interrupt their thoughts with your own suggestions of what lens you think would look good. Find the line, don’t overstep and certainly don’t guess. If the DP asks for your opinion, give it. If they don’t, don’t. Be reactive, but do not step on toes. There’s a balance that you need to find.

 

Tips for Camera operators

The Rule of Thirds

A basic rule of composition is the rule of thirds. This guideline gives you ideas on where to place your subject within the frame. Though your tendency may be to position your subject dead center on the screen, the rule of thirds will give you a more compelling picture.

Look Room, Lead Room and Headroom

Look room is the space that you leave in front of someone’s face on the screen. This space gives the person room to breathe, as well as gives the impression that the person is looking at or talking to someone just off screen. If you don’t leave enough look room, your subject will appear to be boxed-in and confined.

Remember

Good composition is a means to an end. When it’s done well, the audience should not notice it. Instead it should help create a mood, or at the very least, a sense of normalcy and stability. The next time you watch a movie, pay attention to how the cinematographer frames the shots. You’ll notice that they use the rule of thirds as their foundation, and build from there.

Searching for shots:

Always be searching for new shots.  Your Goal as a camera operator is to get your camera “Live” as many times as possible. The best way to do this is to continually “Feed” the director Shots.

Other tips:

Keep your camera in focus: out of focus shots are hard to look and can cause a disconnect with the audience.  To make sure you are in focus zoom all the way in on a subject.  Focus and no matter how far out you are that subject will always be in focus.

 

New Camera Operator? 5 Tips for Success

Understand your event.

I know this sounds like an elementary idea, but it’s incredible how much understanding the event you’re covering helps you with your job. You have to ask yourself: do I know what the viewer – and your on-air talent – is looking for? Covering football or basketball, do I know the basic rules and flow of the game? These things are vital to understand to make your job as a camera operator much easier. If you find yourself saying you don’t have a firm understanding of the event, then do your homework and watch the event.

Know your role.

This is a two-part tip that will make your life much easier if you keep it in mind. As a camera operator, it’s important that you understand the responsibilities for your particular camera position and that you understand your place in the chain of command. I’m not trying to steal a line from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, I’m only trying to help you avoid a potentially detrimental mistake.

Be aware.

Again, this is another multi-part tip, but this one will go a long way in your success as a camera operator. The four biggest things I think a camera operator needs to be aware of are: your tally light, the program audio, the director and other people. Your camera’s tally light is the single most important thing you can pay attention to as a camera operator.

Be prepared.

This seems like an overarching tip that really encompasses everything above it, but here I’m talking about being physically prepared. Every event I work, I take a backpack with me that has everything I think I could possibly need for an event. My backpack contains rain gear, sunscreen, paper tape, gaff tape, a multi-tool, snacks and all kinds of other small items. Being prepared for anything will make your life much easier.

Make goals.

This is something I do every single time I work an event. I found by making goals for myself going into and during a game makes the job more fun while helping me progress. The goal can be something as simple as, every shot will be in focus, or something bigger like, during game action the ball will not leave my shot. One goal I always try to set — and I found has helped me hone my skills — is mimicking a shot I saw on a major network broadcast.

 

Top [5] five qualities to look for when hiring a cameraman or crew

Easy to work with/Flexible

Finding someone who is flexible and easy to work with is always nice to have, but it is especially true when selecting a camera operator. You want someone who can: put those being filmed at ease; be patient when working on set during unavoidable delays; and be understanding about reshooting if you’re not getting what you had envisioned. You may be able to step in and do an “okay job” at other tasks, but shooting with a $50,000 camera and lens takes technical skills learned through school and years of practice.

Honed technical skills/Tech savvy

Operating a camera, maintaining composition and adjusting camera angles is no easy feat. Learning, understanding and honing the technical skills required to become an operator takes many years – and then several more to hone a specialty. For instance, to be good at news requires a cameraman who is quick thinking and fast on their feet.  Others may be good at sports production and following the ball, or an expert in EFP (Electronic Field Production) which requires precise lighting and composition.  Still others specialize in multi-cam for meetings and the like, and then some can do it all.  Camera operators also need to stay up-to-date on shooting techniques, lighting, new equipment, and a plethora of formats, frame rates and resolutions.

Physical stamina and strength

While keeping abreast of the latest news through industry associations, forums and journals is important for honing technical skills, the camera operator must also possess physical stamina, strength and manual dexterity. Shooting, although lots of fun, can also be very demanding – with long hours, challenging conditions, and the need to be on your feet all day.

Creativity: they have a “good eye”

Creativity is something that cannot be taught. A good camera operator will be able to spot a good opportunity and have an artistic eye for framing shots. Having the ability to look through the lens and picture how all of the elements come together – visual composition, perspective, lighting and movement – is crucial so that the images captured will reinforce your message and tell your story in the way you want it to and one that is consistent with your brand image.

Attention to detail

Producing professional video is an orchestrated event that requires all parties to work together. A good camera crew will carry out instructions accurately and with precision. This level of coordination between you, camera and audio people, lighting and the rest of the crew will multiply your productivity and benefit your communication objective. Getting “what you need” or “more than you need” in the field will streamline your editing process and provide additional content for the future.

Use The Best Water Heaters In Your Home

Water Heaters

The cost of heating water consumes almost 20 percent of your household budget, second only to what you spend on heating and cooling your home. Despite this expense, water heaters are typically ignored until they break, leaving you with no hot water and, possibly, a flooded basement.

If your water heater is nearing the end of its useful life and you’re thinking of replacing it before disaster strikes, you’ll be happy to know that you have better choices, thanks to recent federal regulations that require water heaters to be more energy-efficient. New storage tank water heaters are required to operate more efficiently, and tankless (on-demand) water heaters are even more efficient than that.

Typically, homeowners replace their old water heater with one of the same type that runs on the same fuel—natural gas or electricity. Switching from a tank water heater to a tankless unit can be expensive because it requires you to retrofit your plumbing and possibly your electrical system. But if you’re building a new home or adding to an existing one, installing a tankless water heater may make economic sense.

Consumer Reports recently tested several electric and gas whole-house tankless water heaters from brands such as Bosch, Navien, Noritz, Rheem, Rinnai, Tempra, and Trutankless. We compared the results with those of conventional tanked heaters from Rheem, one gas and one electric, as well as with a Rheem electric heat pump water heater, which is a variation on a tanked water heater.

 

Why Buy An Energy Efficient Water Heater?

About Water Heater Efficiency

A water heater’s efficiency is measured by its energy factor (EF). EF is based on recovery efficiency, standby losses, and cycling losses. The higher the EF, the more efficient the water heater. Electric resistance water heaters have an EF ranging from 0.7 and 0.95; gas water heaters from 0.5 to 0.6, with a few high-efficiency models ranging around 0.8; oil water heaters from 0.7 and 0.85; and heat pump water heaters from 1.5 to 2.0.

Tips for Buying a New Water Heater

  • Choose a water heater with an appropriate first-hour rating (FHR) by estimating your family’s peak-hour demand for hot water.
  • Determine the appropriate fuel type for your water heater. If you are considering electricity, check with your local utility company for off-peak electricity rates for water heating. If available, this may be an attractive option to choose electric water heaters. Natural gas, oil and propane water heaters are less expensive to operate than electric models.
  • If you are in a moderate climate (i.e., with relatively low heating loads), consider a Heat Pump Water Heater (HPWH), which is more efficient than a conventional electric water heater. Though a HPWH may have a high initial cost, it can save up to 50% of your water heating bill.
  • For safety as well as energy-efficiency reasons, when buying gas- and oil-fired water heaters, look for units with sealed combustion or power venting to avoid back-drafting of combustion gases into the home.
  • Everything else being equal, select a water heater with the highest energy factor (EF). However, you should note that the EF of one type of heater is not comparable to another type. For example, an electric water heater with an EF of 0.9 may cost more to operate than a gas water heater with an EF of 0.7.
  • Whenever possible, do not install the water heater in an unheated basement. Also try to minimize the length of piping runs to your bathroom and kitchen.

 

How To: Choose a Water Heater

While we often take a hot shower or bath for granted, it’s important to note that up to 20% of a household’s annual energy expenditures come from heating hot water. That makes it the second largest utility expense in the home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, averaging around $400 to $600 per year.  If you are looking to install a new hot water heater—or replace an existing one—the type, size and efficiency of the unit you choose will have a big impact on its performance and long-term savings.

There are a number of different types of water heaters to consider from heat pumps to solar-powered units, but the most common are tank and tankless. Traditional, tank-style water heaters are large metal cylinders that keep hot water stored and on reserve for when it may be needed. Since they typically range in capacity from 40 to 60 gallons and are generally about 60″ tall by 24″ wide, they are often installed in a basement or laundry room.

Tankless units, also known as “on demand” water heaters, turn on only when hot water is required. With no holding tank, the system is not only more compact—typically 20″ wide by 28″ long by 10″ deep—but more efficient since it is not storing a reserve of hot water (or compensating for its subsequent heat loss). Tank-style water heaters are usually less expensive than tankless units, but tankless models generally last longer: a traditional water heater usually lasts 10 to 13 years, while tankless water heaters can last up to 20 years.

Regardless of whether the unit is tank or tankless, water heaters generally fall into two categories: direct-fired or indirect-fired. Direct-fired means that the water in the tank is heated directly by the heat of a flame; these units are generally used in homes with warm air furnaces. In direct-fired heaters, fuel is burned in a combustion chamber under the water storage tank, then hot flue gases heat water in the tank.

 

Best Water Heaters Review and Buying Tips

How to find the best water heaters when there is a variety of gas and electric storage tank and tankless water heaters and numerous models? We have compared Rheem, AO Smith, Bradford White, Rinnai, Noritz, Takagi, and other top-ranked manufacturers and brands, and here is the list of the best and most popular models.

To get the best water heating unit for your home, it is essential to know that between 20 and 25% of home energy consumption goes toward water heating, making it the second-largest energy consumer in the North American home. And what is even more important is to know how to get the device that can save.

And this is the reason for these articles… to help you find the best electric and gas models, including top-rated tankless and a storage tank type.

After reviewing many water heaters, it became evident that it is not easy to find one particular brand or a model, which truly stands out from a wide range of available heaters on the market today.

The quality and versatility of models they offer are great, and their heating products have similar material quality, available features, longevity, efficiency, and warranty.

All of them are making quality products, but before you buy the best gas water heater or the top-rated electric model, be sure to know what you are looking for.

 

Water Heater Tips | Save Money & Energy

CONSIDER PURCHASING A NEW WATER HEATER

It’s a good idea to replace your water heater if it is more than 10 years old. An old water heater is not only inefficient but could also cause irreparable damage if it leaks or bursts.

REPLACE OLD APPLIANCES

If your dishwasher or washing machine is more than 10 years old, you might consider replacing it with a new, more energy-efficient model. There are many new designs on the market (including ENERGY STAR® models) that use less water and are much more efficient than what was on the market even a decade ago.

INSULATE PIPES

In addition to insulating the tank itself, consider adding insulation to the first 6 feet of both the hot and cold water pipes connected to the unit. This will prevent fire hazards and help conserve heat so that your system doesn’t have to work so hard to reheat it.

INSTALL A TIMER

A traditional water heater tank is always running, which is a waste of electricity. Installing a timer to turn off your heater at night is a great way to help conserve energy – and could add years to the life of the unit. Call your local plumber for more information on water heater timers.

DRAIN THE TANK

It’s a good practice to drain your water heater every year or so. Draining the tank helps to remove sediment that can impede heat transfer and ultimately lower the efficiency of the unit. While this is a relatively easy procedure, always make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions. If in doubt, call a professional to help with water heater maintenance.