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Home Improvement

Are you among the millions of homeowners who seriously consider installing solar roof panels? If so, the decision can be tricky because there are a lot of variables involved. For instance, some homes just aren’t constructed for the purpose. The good news is that most are, and no matter where you live, adding this new technology to your rooftop can mean significant savings on utility bills. Here’s a close-up look at the key pros and cons of installing a solar power energy array to your home’s roof.

Pro: Savings

Ask anyone who has panels on their roof, and they’ll invariably tell you that the main benefit from embracing eco-friendliness is lower electricity costs. If you live in a region where utilities regularly up prices, and do so with very little advance warning, you already understand the power of having access to low-cost energy. Plus, depending where you live, it’s often possible to sell back any excess electricity you produce to the local utility. That way, you’re not only eliminating an entire electric bill but getting cash, or utility credits, in return for the electricity you sell to the utility company.

Con: Cost

Making a significant investment in your home means up-front expenses that might be higher than expected. Some homeowners choose to sell their life insurance policies when seeking to help with bills and expenses associated with major improvements. Selling a life insurance policy for cash is a relatively simple and quick process. The best way to get started is by reviewing a basic online guide about how to get an immediate cash payout by selling your policy. Note that homeowners can use the proceeds from the sale for anything they wish, including adding a solar array to their roofs.

The downside of solar, for many homeowners who consider it, is that initial costs can be very high. While it usually takes about eight years for systems to pay for themselves, you’re still out a major chunk of money when you buy the panels for your roof. That’s why some people opt to lease the systems rather than purchase them outright. But with leasing, there’s usually a longer payoff period and less excess energy to sell each month. Buying is the far better option, but not everyone can afford it.

Con: Some Roofs Are Not Suitable

If you live in an older structure, or one that has either a slate-based or thatch-type roof, it can be very difficult to fit it with panels. Likewise, if you live in a place where there is not abundant direct sunlight, or if your house in shaded by large trees or nearby buildings, it might not be worthwhile to purchase a sun-based energy system.

Pro: Higher Resale Value

People shopping for homes often seek out those that are equipped with either rooftop or ground-based solar panels. It’s a win-win for buyers because they don’t have to pay the up-front costs or deal with installation headaches. For sellers, the deal is a way to recoup some or all of the initial installation expense. In today’s real estate market, sellers can get higher prices if their houses are equipped with professionally installed solar energy panels.

Across the U.S., single women purchased almost 9% more homes in the last quarter of 2020 than in the same period of the previous year.  Cincinnati consistently ranks highly as one of the best places for single women to buy and, as their financial autonomy and independence grows, women continue to have a significant impact on the property market here. However, while they have been able to take advantage of lower interest rates and affordable prices, housing stock is now in short supply, so being prepared to proceed quickly with a purchase is important to retain buying power.
Deciding on a Down Payment
With a shortage of housing, some purchasers might decide to wait until next year to buy, while saving for a larger down payment. However, to make their money go further, now could still be a better time to purchase as interest rates are likely to be higher next year.  Any rise in mortgage rates will affect the value of a home loan and could mean a reduction in buying power. The amount of down payment also has an impact on loan approval, and anyone with down payment questions needs to consider the pros and cons of a larger deposit. While a 20% down payment comes with benefits, in a fast moving market, taking too long to save could mean missing out on the perfect property. 
Making an All Cash Offer
According to a report by the Bank of America, single women have been prioritizing buying their own home over other key life events such as getting married. Interest rates of only 3% means that now is a good time to buy, and Cincinnati has been named as the fastest-selling housing market in the US. However this also means that there is currently only one month’s worth of housing inventory at any one time which is leading to bidding wars and price increases. For higher earners who have been focused on buying a property for some time, buying a property outright could be a possibility. In a heated market, where sellers are receiving several offers in just a few days, cash buyers who are less likely to face any last minute financial issues are often more attractive. 
Joining a Rent to Buy Program
Cincinnati has one of the highest percentages of renters of all US cities. Almost two thirds of households currently rent their property, and while potential first time buyers are struggling to secure a purchase, their rent is also increasing. One option for renters to get a foot on the property ladder is to join a rent to buy program, one of which has recently launched in Cincinnati.  After an initial financial assessment using measures such as credit scores and level of income, clients are given a budget for a home that they then rent for a couple of years until they are in a stronger position to buy it.
Although the fast turnover of housing stock in Cincinnati is less favorable to buyers, low interest rates and median house prices still make it a good time to buy, especially for purchasers with down payments ready to proceed quickly with a purchase. 

Your kitchen is probably the most used room in your home between preparing meals or talking around the island while spending time with family and friends. In fact, kitchen renovation is the top request when it comes to interior design. So, when it comes to making yours everything you ever dreamed about, you might not know where to start. Every kitchen renovation is different, so even if you love the idea of ripping out your existing floor and cabinets, you might have the budget or ability to do so. Here’s what you need to know about kitchen remodeling.


Your final remodel is determined by the layout of your kitchen. You need to consider where the power and water supply are located and whether they can be moved. You should take inventory of any dead space you have in your kitchen and come up with some ideas of how you’d like to change it. Make rough sketches of your dream layout to give a contractor a general idea of what you’re hoping to achieve. There are also design apps that create renderings you can use to help make the process easier as well. Once you have a good understanding of how your kitchen is built, you can focus on how to improve the overall functionality and flow.

Efficiency and Functionality

Even though single-wall galley kitchens are making a comeback, L-shaped kitchens can be bought in most homes. If your kitchen functions as a family hub, it will be far different than one belonging to someone who’s single and living in the city. If your dream kitchen is nothing like the one you currently have, you also need to think about your finances. Kitchen makeovers can be as inexpensive as a quick coat of paint or as costly as a complete demolition and rebuild. For this reason, you might want to consider getting a line of home equity credit. There are plenty of guides online for review, which explain the process of taking out a line of home equity credit. This type of credit allows you to tap into your home’s equity for renovations. The interest could be tax deductible, and the repayment terms are usually less than with bank loans.

Color Palette

When it comes to repainting or wallpapering your kitchen, you need to think about the overall aesthetic of your kitchen. Consider the color of your cabinets, counters and floors. Choose a complimentary color or walk covering that tie everything together and creates a cozy environment. You also need to choose your kitchen gadgets accordingly. If you have a more eclectic taste, there’s no shortage of bold blenders, mixers and coffee makers on the market. However, it’s never a good idea to have every kitchen gadget you own competing for attention. For instance, if red is your signature color, choose one item in this hue. The goal is to let your personality shine through without throwing off the ambiance of your new kitchen. This will be even more important if you want to sell your home in the future.

You might love the idea of remodeling your house, but you might not know where to get started. The good news is that you are not alone. Many people start the process without knowing what to expect but doing so can lead to mishaps. That’s why understanding a bit more about the process can help you avoid unforeseen issues or expenses to simplify the process as much as possible. 

Planning the Process

If you plan on doing a major home renovation, you’ll want to think about how you’ll cover the cost. You’ll want to try to lower your monthly expenses while you save up for the remodeling project. One way of doing so is to refinance your student loan into a new one with the help of a private lender to get personal finances in order going forward.

One way of saving money is to talk to several contractors and then compare their prices. Different contractors have varying ways of getting things done, so you will want to understand each process before deciding. Otherwise, you might end up paying too much or not getting things done the way you want to. Make sure you do your research and get several opinions, especially for a big project. 

Using a Key Lockbox

If you do not live in the house you are remodeling, it might be a good idea to consider using a key lockbox. That is especially true if you do not live in the area. If you have several projects that are impossible to do by yourself, using a contractor is the best way to go. They often like to begin the project early in the morning, so they should be able to let themselves into your home. 

Otherwise, you might have to fight the morning rush hour to get there on time. Plus, allowing the contracts to let themselves in can save you quite a bit of fuel and time. If you don’t like the idea of a lockbox, you can also use smart hardware on the door and give the contractor a code.

Spending Time in the Area

It is best to avoid deciding on things like paint or lighting at first. Instead, spend a bit of time in that area and think about what you like. For instance, if you know you don’t like the flooring, consider what would work in that space and look nice. There are many types of flooring available, and you also have a range of colors to pick from.

The same is true of picking paint colors. You need to place samples of the paint on your walls to understand how the colors work together. And you might find that after updating the floor and paint, the light fixtures do not work as well as you had thought. Spend a bit of time thinking about everything will work together in the end. That way, you will not have to start over in your design later on. Of course, you may still find your ideas change along the way, but you can always make small tweaks to your design.

Solar water heaters are growing in demand as energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly appliances. Our resident expert offers an overview of how they work and which system may be best for you.

The move to energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly appliances are becoming more commonplace. There’s a huge focus on saving the planet for generations to come, and finding a way to utilize renewable resources to the best of our ability. One way to help with your environmental impact is to turn to solar water heaters. 

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, solar water heaters can be a cost-effective way to generate hot water for your home.

Solar water heaters work by using storage tanks and solar collectors but there are two types of solar water heating systems: active and passive. 

An active solar water heating system has circulating pumps and controls. There are also multiple types of active solar water heating systems. A direct circulation system has pumps that circulate household water through the collectors and into the home. The Department of Energy says that this type of system is better in climates where it rarely freezes. 

There is also a indirect circulation system with pumps that circulate a non-freezing, heat-transfer fluid through the collectors and a heat exchanger. This heats the water that then flows into the home. These types of system sare more popular in climates where there are many days a year with freezing temperatures, like Cincinnati.

The other type of solar water heating system is a passive one. The Department of Energy says that the passive solar water heating system is typically less expensive than an active system and can last longer, but may not always be as efficient.  

There are two types of passive systems, including an integral collector-storage passive system and a thermosyphon system. 

Households with significant daytime and event hot water needs may find that an integral collector-storage passive system works better for them. These systems also work best in areas where the temperature rarely falls below freezing. 

A thermosyphon system allows water to flow through it when warm water rises as cooler water sinks. The collective in this system must be installed below the storage tank so that warm water will rise into the tank. These require more attention to detail during installation, and are more expensive than integral collector-storage passive systems.

When using a solar water heating system, there are more than just the water heaters that are needed. These systems also require a well-insulated storage tank. 

The Department of Energy says that solar storage tanks have an additional outlet and inlet connected to and from the collective. In two-tank systems, the solar water heater preheats water before it enters the conventional water heater. In one-tank systems, the back-up heater is combined with the solar storage in one tank.

There are three types of solar collectors that are used in homes: flat-plate collector, integral collector-storage systems, and evacuated-tube solar collectors.

Once you have chosen and installed the solar water heating system you want, it’s important to make sure that it is properly maintained. Passive systems don’t require much maintenance while active systems need more attention. 

Regular maintenance on these systems are needed every 3-5 years and should be looked at by a solar contractor. Systems with electrical components usually require a replacement part or two after 10 years.

Your local plumbing company can help you when determining which solar water heating system works best for your household and residence.


First-time homebuyer? Our plumbing expert shares plumbing tips for new homeowners.

As a first-time homeowner, you may not know all the ins and outs when it comes to making this big purchase. In the past, you’ve been a renter so when something went wrong with where you were living, it wasn’t up to you to get it repaired or replaced.

However, as the owner of your very own home, those duties are now on you to ensure that if something goes wrong, it gets fixed. We know that plumbing can be tricky, and repairs can be expensive, so we’ve lined up some tips on ensuring that you and your plumbing system have a good relationship from the beginning.

Get an Inspection

Before you even try to learn anything about taking care of your own plumbing, you will want to schedule an inspection. This is something people should always do before buying a new home and it can help you figure out what you might be getting yourself into. When you get a home inspection, not only will they check the plumbing but they will also check other areas of the home to ensure that you are not about to get yourself into a pickle. An inspection can also tell you some minor issues that may be something you will have to take care of in the near future.

Find Out When The Water Heater Was Last Replaced

If you are buying an older home rather than building one, you should familiarize yourself with the plumbing history. A major part of this is knowing when the water heater in your home was last replaced. Water heaters only last about 8-12 years before they need to be replaced. You will want to figure out the last time your water heater was replaced so that you are prepared to replace it when need be.

Many people will replace the water heater in their home before selling it to increase the value of their home. Whether they do this right before they put their house on the market or a few years earlier, knowing they will be moving in the near future, this will give you time to spare and allow you to avoid replacing the water heater right away. However, if the previous owners did not replace the water heater in recent years, you will want to figure out when it was replaced. The last thing you want is to run out of hot water mid-shower on a workday. This will only add stress to your life that is not necessary.

Find Out Where you Main Gas and Water Valve is Located

When you first move into your home, you will want to be sure to locate the main water and gas valves. Knowing where these are in your home and how to shut them off can help if you ever run into an emergency. While it may not happen while you are living in your home, a water or gas leak can happen in any home and knowing how to quickly shut off the main valve can help you a lot in the long run. You will also need to know where the main water valve is if you ever want to replace a pipe or do other DIY plumbing projects.

Check the Home’s Sump Pump

If you have a sump pump, you will want to test it to make sure that it is running smoothly. To do this, pour a few buckets of water into the sump pit. The pump should quickly turn on and remove the water before turning off. If you run into a problem, you will want to get your sump pump fixed before you actually need it. Testing your sump pump every so often can ensure that it is ready to perform efficiently when it needs to.

Clean the Drains

Keeping your drains clean is important for so many reasons. Your shower and bathtub drains can clog easily because of all of the hair, soap residue, and other debris making its way down your drain. Because of this, it is important to clean them regularly. If you ever notice the water draining slower than it should, be sure to snake them to remove any clogs. Cleaning your drains regularly will help you avoid more serious plumbing problems in the future and allow you to save money.

Cleaning slow drains in your basement is also important. You will want to ensure that they are clean and draining quickly in case there is ever a flood. By doing this, your drains will be better able to remove water from your home quickly and prevent a ton of flood damage

It's happened to the best of us: a clogged garbage disposal. Read on as our resident plumbing expert offers tips that could save you time and money in the future.

Garbage disposers, or disposals, can be subject to several common problems. They can jam up when objects bind the impeller blades inside the appliance. The drain fittings can loosen and cause leaking beneath the sink. Or the drain connecting the garbage disposer to the rest of the sink’s drain trap assembly can become clogged and cause water to back up into the sink basin where the disposer is installed.

In a double-basin sink, when it’s only the disposer basin that backs up with water, the likelihood is that the drain fitting on the disposer is clogged.

Causes of a Garbage Disposal Clog

A disposal generally has no problem grinding most food waste, but it’s what happens after the grinding that usually causes a clog. Often this has to do with how ground food waste reacts to water (or lack of water) after the disposal unit grinds it up and sends it on its way toward the drain line. When a garbage disposer clogs, you will often find the problem in the drain trap assembly located on the waste discharge side of the disposal.

Disposals also can back up over time because the waste line or trap gets coated and eventually obstructed with food waste. If your disposal is draining very slowly or not at all, the problem is most likely in the drain trap—the U-shaped plumbing fitting that is located downstream of the disposal discharge pipe.

Here are some of the most common ways that users create garbage disposer clogs:

  • Lack of flushing water: Not putting enough water down the disposal when it’s grinding is a sure way to get a clog. Without sufficient water, the waste can’t be flushed through the pipes and will quickly build up. Once a full blockage occurs, water can’t flow at all.
  • Grinding up eggshells or coffee grounds: These items are a bigger problem than you might imagine. When ground up by a disposal, egg shells and coffee grounds create very tiny granular waste that will stick to any sludge found in the pipes, quickly becoming a clog.
  • Grinding potato peels: Potato peels are notorious clog makers. Once ground up, they form a starchy paste similar to mashed potatoes that will quickly clog the drain.
  • Grinding banana peels: These are a similar problem to potato peels, except they also add stringy fibers to the mix.

Want to build a new house, but have questions on how to finance it? Read on as we chat with our local mortgage expert to get answers.

If you’re wanting to build your dream home rather than buy an existing one, you may be surprised to learn that you won’t be getting a traditional mortgage. Instead, you’ll likely get a construction loan. We tapped the expertise of Cincinnati-based Ron Erdmann at Guaranteed Rate find out more about this loan type, how they work, and what to keep in mind before jumping in.
What are construction loans?
A construction loan is a loan used to finance the building of a home or another real estate project. 
How do construction loans work?
Construction loans can help you build your dream home, says Erdmann. “A traditional home loan is based on the fair market value of the home and determined by the home’s condition in comparison to other recent sales,” he explains. “Construction loans are based on what the projected value of the home will be once the work is complete.”
Typically, traditional loans are paid out by a mortgage company for the cost of the home in one lump-sum at closing. In contrast, construction loans are paid in installments, or “draws.” A bank will pay the builder as various phases of the building process are completed. The total cost is transferred to you once the entire project is finished.
Why are new construction loans different?
When you borrow money to build a house, collateral isn’t there to back up the loan like there is in a traditional mortgage — at least, not yet. “With a traditional mortgage, if you default on your payments, the lender can seize your home,” says Erdmann. “With a home construction loan, the lender doesn’t have that option, so these loans are viewed as bigger risks.” 
Things to consider: 
Have a good team: Erdmann says it’s crucial to work with a good builder. “You need someone who’s experienced with budgeting and scheduling and who also has the ability to work well within those limitations,” he explains. “Make sure you do your research before applying for a loan, too, so you work with someone reputable.”
Have a good plan: According to Erdmann, you can also expect a thorough inspection of the architectural plans and your builder. “Because construction loans are on such a short timetable and they’re dependent on the completion of the project,” he says, “you need to provide the lender with a construction timeline, detailed plans and a realistic budget.”
Have a downpayment: For most construction loans, they’ll want you to contribute 20% of the cost of the total overall project. Example, if you purchase a lot for $200,000 and wish to spend $600,000 constructing the home, the total cost of the project is $800,000. So you’ll need to do a 20% downpayment, or $160,000, and finance the rest ($640,000).
Erdmann says construction loans can also be used for renovating your home, buying a fixer-upper, or building an addition onto your home. You’ll want to talk through details of those different types of construction loans with a trusted mortgage professional.
To learn more, contact Ron Erdmann, NMLS 728342, Branch Manager and SVP of Mortgage Lending at Guaranteed Rate, visit You can also contact him via email or call (513) 609-4484.

Slow drain? Our plumbing experts weigh in on what the causes may be and how you can fix them.

Slow drains are a common plumbing issue faced in homes across the country. Whether it’s in the bathroom or the kitchen, it’s an inconvenience that no one really wants to deal with. 

Food, hair, grease, and other things going down the drain oftentimes plug up your pipes and require you to clean and find ways to get your drain back to normal. 

Here are some reasons why you may find slow drains:

Bathroom drains

Hair is the most common culprit related to a slow drain in your bathroom sink, tub or shower. Whether you’re shaving, trimming, combing or washing it, your hair can quickly slow down a drain. The problem only increases for folks with long hair. Your flowing strands wind up in the drain and often become trapped in the pop-up assembly, where they form a sort of net and accumulate all sorts of other debris, leading to a slow or even clogged drain.

Kitchen drains

The most common causes of a slowly draining kitchen sink are food related: grease and other debris get trapped in either the drain basket or the P-trap. The P-trap is the curved section of drainpipe located underneath the kitchen sink. Over time, grease, food particles and sediment can become trapped in the bottom of the P-trap, inhibiting the flow of water. Food can also restrict waterflow by getting stuck in the bottom of the drain basket.

Venting problems

For your home’s drain lines to function properly, they must work in conjunction with the vent stacks placed strategically in the bathroom and kitchen areas around your home. Most often, vent stacks take the form of those pipes protruding through your roof. The vent stacks allow air to be drawn into the drain lines to reduce the vacuum that would otherwise restrict the flow of water passing through them. If a vent stack becomes clogged by sticks, leaves or even birds’ nests the drain line associated with it will slow down significantly.

Sewer line problems

Sewer lines are the main lines that carry sewage and wastewater away from your home. Tree roots, deteriorating or collapsing pipes, and sludge buildup can all lead to slow drains in your household. When your toilet flushes slowly or clogs on a regular basis, it is most likely related to a problem somewhere in your main sewer line.

Slow drains are more than a minor inconvenience. If ignored, they can lead to major sewer problems and costly repairs. Periodic maintenance and inspection by a licensed plumber will help you prevent a complete shutdown of your home’s sewage system.

Have you ever stopped to think about how the City of Cincinnati gets its water and how it's cleaned? Read on as our resident expert offers insight.

Have you ever wondered where Cincinnati’s water comes from? There are plenty of bodies of water that meet here to combine with the Ohio River, but are theses the same waters that we later drink, cook with, and take showers in?

For more than 200 years, the Greater Cincinnati Water Works has treated and provided the Queen City with its water supply. It’s lasted through wars, floods, and fires, and continues to provide safe, quality drinking water for the region. 

The Greater Cincinnati Water Works supplies water from two sources. One source is the Miller Treatment Plant, which treats surface water from the Ohio River and supplies 88 percent of drinking water to Greater Cincinnati Water Works’ customers, including most of the City of Cincinnati. The other source is the Bolton Treatment Plant. This plan treats groundwater from ten wells in the Great Miami Aquifer. It’s located in southern Butler County and is 150-200 feet deep and 2 miles wide. The Bolton Plant supplies about 12 percent of Greater Cincinnati Water Works water.

Both the Ohio River and the Great Miami Aquifer provide plenty of water supply to the area and a focus on protecting those source waters. That’s why Greater Cincinnati Water Works regularly tests water from the Ohio River before it even enters the treatment plant. Additionally, Greater Cincinnati Water Works also works with an early warning organic detection system, the first of its kind. This system: 

  • Warns treatment plants downstream about spills so that measures can be taken before the spill reaches water intakes
  • Was developed by water utilities along the Ohio River in conjunction with the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission
  • Consists of 13 monitoring stations located along the Ohio River

The state’s Environmental Protection Agency says that the Ohio River is highly susceptible to contamination, like other surface waters, and that makes it even more important that the Ohio EPA and Greater Cincinnati Water Works work together to ensure the safety and protection of the water.

The Bolton Treatment Plant treats groundwater and provides water to the northwestern area of Hamilton County and parts of Warren and Butler counties. And because the Great Miami Aquifer does not have a protective clay layer, it is also susceptible to becoming contaminated. To help keep this water safe, Greater Cincinnati Water Works is part of the Hamilton to New Baltimore Groundwater Consortium to protect the Greater Miami Aquifer.