Category Archives: Residential

What to do about your Electronics when Moving

Moving can be very stressful, so here are some recommendations for you.

TVs: If you have unmounted TVs, you can either take them or not. If they are older models that still work you may want to donate them to a school or senior home. Don’t try to pawn off tube or projection TVs to anyone, as they are way too old to be wanted. Hire a junk company for those.

If they are newer TVs, i.e. TVs with HDMI connections, then they can be boxed & moved to your new home. Mounted TVs can also be moved, however they need to be removed from the wall, along with the entire mount (part on wall & part on TV), to be remounted in your new home. If it is a TV over 55”, you will need 2 people to do this without damaging the TV. You will also need to first ask your moving company if they will move the TV, as some won’t move large TVs. If they won’t move it, you might as well let it convey with the house and get new ones.

Components: If you have components that connect to your TV, it is a good idea to color code the TV connection and the component or take pictures; do something that makes it easier to put them back together again in the new home.

Cameras: Other than stand-alone cameras indoors, leave the cameras. Leave the Ring Doorbell, leave the cameras mounted outside. People don’t want to buy a house with a bunch of wires protruding everywhere and no doorbell because you took all your cameras.

Home Theater: We go into homes all the time where people took half the home theater, i.e. they took the receiver and remote and left the screen, projector & speakers. It is totally your choice as to what you want to take, but personally I would just convey the entire home theater system, so that the new homeowner can walk in and enjoy it. Will it add a huge amount to the house? Not as huge amount as a new kitchen would, but it will definitely add value. And, please leave the paperwork and equipment manuals if you still have it so the new owner can figure out how to operate the theater.

Security systems: Since security systems are connected to a call system, just cancel the subscription and let the new owners subscribe if they want to. You aren’t going to remove any of the wiring that was installed or any wall devices.

Smart home devices: Take your Google or Alexa freestanding devices. Leave your Nest thermostat or change it out and take it with you. Just leave the new owners some type of thermostat.

Audio: Leave all speakers in the walls. External mounted speakers and stand-alone speakers can be moved along with the receiver/amplifier, subwoofers, etc. However, if you have mounted speakers that work with a 5 or 7 speaker surround sound system where speakers are in-ceiling or in-wall, don’t break up the system. Again, sell the entire surround sound as a value-added feature of the home.

One thing to remember. If you leave ANY electronics that are account based such as a Roku, Apple TV or RING Doorbell be sure to reset the device to its factory defaults so that it is removed from your account. You don’t want anyone using your account to purchase services.

These are all recommendations only. What you do is entirely up to you as you own everything in your home. When we bought our home, the previous owners took the refrigerator, washer & dryer so we, as new homeowners had to buy new ones. That was quite a large financial hit, which essentially was negotiated into the purchase of the home. But, it was a buyer’s market back then, not like it is today.

The Future of “Cutting the Cable Cord”

On Sunday, April 14, 2019 on the front page of the Washington Post was an article titled “Cord Cutters’ dreams dashed as streaming sector splinters.” For those who didn’t read this, we thought we would summarize it because we get a lot of calls from existing and prospective clients to “cut the cord” on their cable TV and go straight to streaming via the Internet, to save money.

Essentially, the article talks about the fact that because streaming is becoming so popular, companies owning the movies that are offered via streaming, are starting to splinter into additional streaming companies. For example, Disney will start their own streaming service for $6.99 a month, taking their movies away from other services that now offer them. So, while you may have been able to watch Start Wars before on other streaming services, now you will have to purchase Disney’s service.

There is a huge proliferation of streaming services, i.e. NetFlix, Hulu, Vue, Sling, Amazon Prime, HBO Now, DirectNow and more. This list will continue and each will offer their own shows, some TV shows, and some movies. So, essentially, while consumers are spending less on cable, they are now spending more on Internet. Some people are paying more now for streaming services than for cable TV. Netflix recently increased their service by 18%, partly to fund original shows, whose costs have risen due to higher production costs.

While the article states that a study by Ovum analyst Tony Gunnarsson cited at the recent NAB trade show noted that the majority of consumers will subscribe to only 2.25 streaming services, there are still companies, such as Disney, entering the market.

Something that the article doesn’t go into is the need for stronger residential networking to handle streaming. Cutting cable can also mean that your home’s infrastructure may not be set up to get the full speed of the Internet, which will result in problems watching streaming TV.

So, before you cut the cord, do a complete analysis of what the costs are for 100% streaming. What channels will you want to subscribe to, what will your Internet cost be should you need to increase the amount of broadband coming to your house, and can your internal infrastructure handle all the streaming and if not, what is the cost to get you up to speed. Then compare this to your current cable bill to make a decision.

Recycling your Electronics

Your trash collector will not dispose of electronics. Dumping your old TV or receiver into a commercial trash bin or worse yet, the environment is not acceptable. First check your options through your county (see below) for disposing of electronics. For example, Loudoun county holds 2 events a year and while there are limits and small costs, they ensure that the waste is disposed of properly. Their next event is in either May or June at May or June 2019 at 751 Miller Drive, Leesburg, VA 20175.

There are also private events held all the time that help dispose of electronics. On April 6 from 9-12, Keller Williams Realty in Dulles Virginia at 46191 Westlake Drive in Sterling will be holding a FREE recycle event. The Verizon campus generally has an event as well and when we hear about it, we will promote it through our Facebook site and this newsletter if possible.

Best Buy accepts many electronic products for free. A $25 fee is charged for Tube TVs smaller than 32″- Flat-panel TVs: LCD, plasma, LEDs smaller than 50” and Portable TVs. You can check out their website for what they accept and any restrictions and you don’t have to buy anything to use this service, though you do get a discount on buying some items when bringing in an older version, so again check out their website if you are looking to replace an electronic item.

Working electronics? Consider donating to a local charity or selling it via an online yard sale or app. Keep in mind that you might have to take the item to them as many charities do not have pick up services. Some charities that do offer pick up services don’t accept electronics because they can get damaged in transit, so be sure to check their website’s list of acceptable items before offering it to them. PS: No one wants the large tube or projection screen TVs that weigh a ton, so if you don’t want to take them to a recycling center, your only option is to call a Junk company. We do offer a discount to 123Junk so if you have more than just one or two items to toss, they are a good choice.

Outdoor speakers

As the weather starts to warm up (hopefully soon), we will be spending more time outdoors. Sitting back and listening to some tunes is relaxing as well as fun. Take a look at some of your options.

Mounted speakers: There are a variety of speakers that can be attached to the house or porch. These speakers are weatherproof and come on a swivel mount to direct the sound down. Our preference on the high end is Bose 251 Wall Mount Outdoor Environmental Speakers and for a mid-range speaker the Polk Atrium 5 series.

Rock speakers: For those who want to hide their sound in the garden, rock speakers or environmental speakers are very popular. The Niles Audio rock speaker delivers years of worry free use in all types of weather conditions and sounds fabulous. Another style of garden speaker (and Lew’s personal favorite) is the Bose Free Space Environmental Speaker. This speaker is buried about 2/3 of its height into the garden and provides a rich warm sound to any patio, pool or garden setting.

Planter speakers: The only planter style speaker that is worth purchasing is the Niles Audio speaker in either terracotta or weathered concrete. Niles knows what they are doing to ensure this is a quality speaker that looks good and will last.

Other speakers: In addition to the above, there isn’t much you can’t do with outdoor speakers. Several manufacturers make an in ground speaker system that is scalable and designed for flower beds and around the yard.

Sophisticated, elegant and powerful, today’s outdoor audio is capable of delivering state-of-the-art performance.

Banish the Buffer

Go to any neighborhood social media group site and you’ll see posts from people asking how to cut the cable cord and go towards 100% streaming. You can definitely save money by cutting out cable TV from your bill and only subscribing to the Internet. However, to avoid buffering or a choppy picture, you need to make sure your home’s network is never the bottleneck in your streaming video pipeline. Here are 3 steps to follow if you are considering cancelling cable TV.

Step 1: Select the right plan from your Internet Service Provider.

You will want to subscribe to a plan that promises the right speed and data allowance for your needs. Netflix only requires 5MbPs of bandwidth for an HD stream and 25Mbps for 4K Ultra HD. This is a good starting point but don’t sell yourself short. Those are the requirements for just one device. It doesn’t account for multiple devices in your home using your bandwidth. Every smartphone, computer, smart TV, cable box, streaming stick and game console may be sending and receiving data at any given moment. That can put quite a burden on the bandwidth.

In addition, just because your service provider tells you that you get 50 or 250Mbps, that doesn’t mean that you get it all the time. The feed that runs to your home is shared by your neighbors so it can clog up from time to time when everyone is using it at the same time, which is pretty much every evening. You will probably get pretty close to the maximum bandwidth at 3:00 a.m. but not at 8:00 p.m. Fortunately for you, we live in one of the best areas in the country for bandwidth (notice all those data centers going up), so you have a better chance of getting good bandwidth speeds than many other people in other parts of Virginia and the rest of the country.

In addition to bandwidth received into the home, check on data caps and download limits. ISPs can cap usage of bandwidth based on the plan you have. So, if you are switching to 100% streaming, you will want to be sure that your cap is very high or unlimited (if available) and that you have no restrictions on downloads, so that you don’t max out early in the month. Your bandwidth won’t stop but it will slow down considerably.

Step 2: Equipment

Just because you have Internet coming to the house doesn’t mean that it gets through the house well. The modems/router that ISPs provide are not bad, but there are better ones on the market. Your ISP may even recommend better modems/routers. We use equipment from various manufacturers depending on the environment. Our preferred manufacturer is Ubiquiti Networks, an unknown name but a wonderful product.

In addition to a better modem/router, you might consider adding Access Points, a device that allows Wi-Fi devices to connect to a network. The AP usually connects to a router (via a wired network) as a standalone device, but it can also be an integral component of the router itself.

Step 3: Wire it

It will be some time, before Wi-Fi ever gets to the point that it is as good as hard wiring, maybe never. If you really want to get the most out of your streaming, get as close to the Internet Service Provider’s source as possible through cabling. Take a look at the devices that will stream the most and look into getting those hardwired. Combining hard wiring with good Wi-Fi equipment can tremendously boost your bandwidth. Stay away from Wi-Fi extenders, they are not always the best fix and sometimes make network performance worse.

Streaming Channel costs

Don’t forget to look at the cost of the channels that you want to stream. Hulu, Amazon, NetFlix, etc. all charge for their streaming services. If you want to stream all of them, it could end up costing as much as your cable cost you, so identify which one’s you really like and need and forego the others.

Cost vs. Benefit

The upfront cost to cut the cable can be a little pricey, but not paying monthly cable bills over time will definitely pay off in the long run. Consider these costs the same as you would any home improvement.