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Michael Gillis

Michael Gillis
701 W. Market Street  Perkasie  PA 18944
Phone:  215-469-0213
Office:  215-453-7653
Fax:  267-354-6911

My Blog

5 Precautions to Take in Hurricane Season

June 25, 2015 1:03 am

Even the most experienced meteorologist can inaccurately forecast the strength of a hurricane. To keep you, your loved ones and your home safe during hurricane season (or any severe storm), prepare now with these tips, courtesy of Generac Power Systems.

1. Stock up on essentials.
Having gallons of water, a storage room with food, extra batteries and waterproof emergency numbers on hand is a smart idea on its own, but will come in extra handy if you can't leave your home during a hurricane. If you have little ones, create an activity box full of games, cards and books to keep them occupied while waiting out a storm.

2. Invest in hurricane-proof windows and garage doors. When hurricane winds blow, they can damage not only your windows, doors and roof, but the actual structure of your home. Invest now in wind load and impact-resistant garage doors, and hurricane-proof windows to ensure the structure of your home stays protected.

3. Have a backup generator installed. Automatic home backup generators automatically turn on if a hurricane knocks out the power, and remain on during extended outages until power is returned, giving you and your family peace of mind and a sense of safety and security during a storm. They are safer and more convenient to use than portable generators.

4. Charge your electronics before the storm hits. Charge your cell phone, computer and other electronic devices before the storm hits. Put new batteries in flashlights and have a backup case of batteries in a watertight container.

5. Remove all outdoor furniture prior to the storm. Patio furniture, plants, trash cans and children's toys can become airborne during high winds, causing damage to your home. Place them in a garage or shed, or bolt them to a sturdy surface.

Source: Generac.com

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DIY: Outdoor Power Tool Maintenance

June 25, 2015 1:03 am

When it comes to outdoor power equipment, the best service is no service at all. Homeowners who do their own outdoor maintenance, including mowing the lawn, can also do their own outdoor equipment maintenance, say the experts at Husqvarna. They suggest these tips to keep your mower and other outdoor power tools in tip-top shape for years to come.

Don't Be Fuel-ish
Gas with too much Ethanol can harm small engines, says Brett Wright of Wright Brothers Power in Newark, Ohio. Additives can help, but "we see more carburetor repairs than anything else," he explains. "Just because gas is OK for your car doesn't make it right for smaller engines."

Air It Out

A frequent mistake people make with mowers – or any equipment powered by an engine – is failing to clean or replace air filters. "Everything with a motor has to have clean air to run," explains Jared Basch of Basch Bros. in Cullman, Ala. "If people would check, clean and replace the air filter regularly, that would alleviate a lot of problems."

Inspect Intermittently

Similarly, a lack of attention to fuel filter maintenance allows "trash to get in your gas," notes Judy Lord of Steve’s Service Center in Prattville, Ala., causing engine issues. "Check it at the beginning or end of the mowing season – one or the other," she adds. "But just do it. It's crucial to maintain your mower."

Stay Sharp

A common problem with chainsaw maintenance occurs after a new chain is installed. Because it naturally stretches out after the first cut, the chain must be checked and tightened often, especially after the first few uses. "If it loosens and jumps the sprocket, that can ruin it,” says Basch.

Source: Husqvarna.com

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The 4 Things Grads Should Know about Student Loans

June 24, 2015 1:03 am

If the results of a recent National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) poll are any indication, many college graduates are faced with stress over student loan debt repayment. “The best way to feel more confident about keeping your student debt under control is to have a specific plan,” says Bruce McClary of the NFCC. “Part of the planning process involves learning about the debt and the options for making it work within a budget.”

To gain control over your financial future and stay on track repaying educational loans, the NFCC recommends the following tips.

1. Track Grace Periods – Different loans have different grace periods. A grace period is how long you can wait after leaving school before you have to make your first payment. It is six months for federal Stafford loans, but nine months for federal Perkins loans. For federal PLUS loans, it depends on when they were issued. The grace periods for private student loans vary, so consult your paperwork or contact your lender to find out. Don’t miss your first payment!

2. Understand Your Loans – Use whatever time you have during your grace period to get to know the types of loans you have, keeping track of the lender, balance and repayment status for each one. Every detail is important, because it can play a role in determining how each loan is repaid and what options might be available if you are ever at risk of falling behind. Start by visiting www.nslds.ed.gov to identify the details about the loan amounts, lender(s), and repayment status for all federal loans. If some loans aren’t listed, they’re probably private (non-federal) loans. For those, try to find a recent billing statement and/or the original paperwork. The school may be able to help if those records aren’t handy.

3. Plan for Repayment – When your federal loans are due, your payments will automatically be based on a standard 10-year repayment plan. If the standard payment is going to be hard for you to cover, there are other options, and you might be able to change plans down the line if you want or need to. Extending your repayment period beyond 10 years can lower your monthly payments, but you’ll end up paying more interest – often a lot more – over the life of the loan.

Some important options for student loan borrowers are income-driven repayment plans such as Income-Based Repayment and Pay As You Earn, which cap your monthly payments at a reasonable percentage of your income each year, and forgive any debt remaining after no more than 25 years (depending on the plan) of affordable payments. Forgiveness may be available after just 10 years of these payments for borrowers in the public and nonprofit sectors. To find out more about Income-Based Repayment and related programs and how they might work for you, visit www.IBRinfo.org.

4. Stay Out of Trouble
– Ignoring your student loans has serious consequences that can last a lifetime. Not paying can lead to delinquency and default. For federal loans, default kicks in after nine months of non-payment. When you default, your total loan balance becomes due, your credit score is ruined, the total amount you owe increases dramatically, and the government can garnish your wages and seize your tax refunds if you default on a federal loan. For private loans, default can happen much more quickly and can put anyone who co-signed for your loan at risk as well. Talk to your lender right away if you’re in danger of default.

Source: NFCC.org

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Outdoor Spaces: 5 Trends to Watch

June 24, 2015 1:03 am

According to a recent Garden Media Group report, homeowners desire low-maintenance, high-quality outdoor upgrades that create both a tranquil sanctuary and an entertainment-ready space. But you don’t have to break the bank to make your outdoor space perfect for you, says Joe Raboine of Belgard Design Studio.

"Even small updates to an outdoor living space can make a big difference, and this season's trends are versatile and adaptable for every style,” says Raboine.

If you’re not sure where to start, Raboine suggests seeking inspiration from these summer trends:

• Bringing the Indoors Out:
Outdoor space can be adapted as a comfortable and functional addition to the home's indoor rooms by varying paving stones to mimic a faux rug or creating the illusion of separate rooms by using different pavers for different areas.

• Lighting It Up: Get-togethers don't have to stop when the sun goes down; implementing lighting fixtures into hardscape designs can highlight gardens, pools, walkways and more.

• Cooking to Perfection: Warm weather means it's time to grill. No longer just for food enthusiasts, a plethora of options are available when it comes to creating an outdoor kitchen for all degrees of foodie with wood-fired brick ovens, matching woodboxes, grill islands and more.

• Stepping It Up (or Down): If it seems like nothing can add dimension to a large, expansive patio, consider staggering levels with paved retaining walls and steps or a sunken seating area, pool or fire pit.

• Letting It Flow: Water features are a great design piece for many spaces, and using permeable hardscapes to build a water display or fountain play area combines function and fun.

Source:
Belgard.com/Home

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How to Rock Your Kitchen Remodel

June 24, 2015 1:03 am

(Family Features) Remodeling a kitchen is no easy task, but with a bit of designer expertise, homeowners can transform their kitchen into the kitchen of their dreams. According to MaryJo Camp, a designer certified by the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), homeowners can successfully revamp their space with these tips.

1. Require References from Your Contractor (and Call Them)


As you begin to look for kitchen designers and contractors, ask for references from their last few jobs and call those references to ask about the experience. Ask specific questions like, How did they leave the jobsite? Are they loud? Did they show up too early? If sticking to a budget is critical, yet a reference says, "Well, he came in way over budget, but he did such an amazing job," this isn't the professional for you.

2. Remember: A Little Space Can Add A Lot


Remodeling because you're tight on space? You're not alone. "The top complaints I hear–no room for seating, too little counter area–all go back to a lack of space," says Camp. Referencing her own remodel, she says, "We borrowed space from a closet in our entryway, which only added about 20 square feet, but it made a big difference."

When working with a smaller kitchen, resist the urge to put cabinets everywhere. Less common design options, like running cabinets along only one wall, selecting mid-high cabinets, or implementing an art wall, can do wonders to break up the space.

3. Select Materials and Finishes That Work for You


When you're ready to choose materials and finishes, it's easy to get overwhelmed. Keep in mind that practicality is key, especially when it comes to countertops. Softer stones like marble are beautiful, but also very delicate and require special care. If you're looking for a material that gives the look of a natural stone, but can stand up to anything, consider an all-natural sintered compact surface.

4. Don't Forget about What You Love


"Everyone always wants to talk about what they hate about their kitchen, but people rarely consider what they love about the existing space," says Camp. "If it's liking how the light comes in or your kids' favorite homework spot, you don't want to take that away."

Source: Neolith.com

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Mortgage Default Rates Plummet

June 23, 2015 1:03 am

Credit default rates, including those of mortgages, recently sunk to historic lows, according to the S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices. Both mortgage default rates fell, the first to 0.74 percent and the second to 0.42 percent, signaling a turn of tides for economy.

Data from the Indices revealed the auto loan default rate dipped to a record low of 0.86 percent. The bank card default rate decreased to 2.98 percent – its largest decrease since 2013.

“Consumer credit default rates are below pre-crisis levels, at new lows and continue to drift down,” says David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “These low levels should not come as a surprise: interest rates haven’t turned up, consumer debt service as a proportion of household income is close to its record low, and the Federal Reserve reported that consumer wealth was at a peak in the first quarter of 2015.

“Nor should one assume that debt levels and defaults are low because no one is spending; on the contrary, May light vehicle sales were the highest since July 2005 and retail sales jumped. The economy looks good, consumers are spending and credit usage is rising. The combination of low debt service and economic expansion should ease worries about the fallout some fear when the Federal Reserve boosts interest rates,” Blitzer says.

Source: S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices

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Mold Cleanup: When to Clean, Dry or Discard

June 23, 2015 1:03 am

Not all damage from flooding takes place while your home is under water. Long after the flood waters have receded, mold and mildew can present serious and ongoing health issues, says FEMA. Mold and mildew can start growing within 24 hours after a flood, and can lurk throughout a home, including the attic, basement and crawl spaces. The best defense is to clean, dry or discard moldy items.

Many materials are prone to developing mold if they remain damp or wet for too long. Start a post-flood cleanup by sorting all items exposed to floodwaters:

• Wood and upholstered furniture and other porous materials can trap mold and may need to be discarded.

• Carpeting presents a problem because drying it does not remove mold spores. Carpets with mold and mildew should be removed.

• Glass, plastic and metal objects and other items made of hardened or nonporous materials can often be cleaned, disinfected and reused.

All flood-dampened surfaces should be cleaned, disinfected and dried as soon as possible. To ensure a safe and effective cleanup, remember:

• Open windows for ventilation and wear rubber gloves and eye protection when cleaning. Consider using a mask (rated N-95 or higher) if heavy concentrations of mold are present.

• Use a non-ammonia soap or detergent to clean all areas and washable items that came in contact with floodwaters.

• Mix one-and-a-half cups of household bleach in one gallon of water and thoroughly rinse and disinfect the area. Never mix bleach with ammonia, as the fumes are toxic.

• Cleaned areas can take several days to dry thoroughly. The use of heat, fans and dehumidifiers can speed up the drying process.

• Check all sources of odor. Mold often hides in the walls or behind wall coverings. Find all mold sources and clean them properly.

• Remove and discard all materials that can’t be cleaned like wallboard, fiberglass and other fibrous goods. Clean the wall studs where wallboard has been removed and allow the area to dry thoroughly before replacing the wallboard.

Source: FEMA.gov

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Want to Up Curb Appeal? Try This

June 23, 2015 1:03 am

Whether looking to improve a home’s curb appeal out of choice or necessity, enhancing the exterior of the house can be easily accomplished with one smart upgrade. Vinyl siding, says Vicki Payne, host of PBS series “For Your Home”, not only looks beautiful, but can boost resale value when it is time to sell. Here’s why.

After winter, wood or fiber cement siding may be swollen, cracked, pitted, peeling or fading, says Payne. These can be signs of freeze/thaw or water damage and the affected areas may need repair or replacement. Vinyl siding is PVC-based, so it does not absorb water, and has a “rainscreening” design that won’t trap water behind the cladding.

Many homeowners choose to repaint wood or fiber cement siding. The finish on vinyl siding retains a freshly painted look for years, eliminating the need to touch up with paint in the future. While there are hundreds of vinyl colors to choose from, consider colors indicative of the architectural style of your home, Payne suggests.

No one wants to be taken by surprise with a costly repair. Nearly 98 percent of the vinyl siding sold in the United States is certified to meet or exceed standards for quality, such as color retention and performance, says Payne. Generally speaking, vinyl siding warranties cover the original owner for a lifetime and 50 years from the date of installation for subsequent owners.

There are also innovations in siding that can actually reduce your energy consumption, adds Payne. Insulated siding wraps your home in continuous insulation, preventing heat or air conditioning from escaping through the studs, so your home stays cool in summer and warm in winter.

If not installed properly, all cladding will be vulnerable to damage over time. Vinyl siding is the only exterior cladding with a certified installer program with validation by an independent, third-party administrator. Certified installers have years of installation experience, knowledge of proper installation techniques consistent with the industry-recognized installation standard, and have passed a rigorous certification exam.

Source: VinylSiding.org

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Excessive Vacation Spending Can Damage Credit

June 22, 2015 1:03 am

It’s no secret travelers tend to spend more money when vacationing, but a recent Experian survey finds that the majority are relying on credit cards to make up the difference. Findings from the survey show that most travelers prefer to use credit than debit cards and cash for expenses like lodging, airfare, entertainment and dining.

"People want to come home from vacation with happy memories, not with unanticipated and unmanageable credit card bills," says Experian Consumer Services President Guy Abramo. "Racking up excessive credit card debt without a plan to pay it off can put people, especially millennials, in a bind that could affect their financial health and credit status for years to come."

According to the survey, millennials rank higher when it comes to risky vacation spending. Nearly three-quarters of millennials report spending more than expected when traveling, and one-third report not saving in advance of a vacation. More than half are strapped with credit card debt once the holiday ends.

Source: Experian Consumer Services

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The Download on Digital Dwellings

June 22, 2015 1:03 am

Homeowners today are more plugged in than ever, incorporating technology into their digs like never before, says Moen Senior Director of Consumer and Marketing Insights Jack Suvak. A recent survey conducted by Moen explored the smart home trend, concluding that homeowners could make smart home technologies must-haves in the future.

"With easy access and the increased availability of smart devices, consumers are able to transform their homes into personal data epicenters, with instant access to news and up-to-the-minute information from family and friends," explains Suvak. "Our research found consumers own about seven personal digital devices, proving there is a definite demand for not just these devices, but the seamless integration of technology into the user's everyday life. In fact, 57 percent own one or more home-based smart devices like thermostats, security systems and televisions."

According to the survey, digital devices make many homeowners feel smart, organized and efficient. But there is such a thing as being “too connected”–more than three in 10 consumers surveyed found being tethered to a smart device made them feel anxious and tired.

"It's possible that as connected home devices improve, and become almost second nature, there is a greater likelihood negative opinions could move toward more positive feelings," Suvak says. "Maintaining a constantly 'turned on' mentality can be stressful, but as brands improve applications, and the technology behind connected home products becomes more intuitive and integrated, we may see a shift in how homeowners perceive and interact with these products in the future."

Source: Moen

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