Solving the Midwest Ethanol Problem

Solving the Midwest Ethanol Problem

If you live in the Midwest, you are in the midst of a thriving ethanol industry. But the problem is that the Midwest does not control its own destiny when it comes to ethanol. That ...

A Solar Car for the Masses?

A Solar Car for the Masses?

It’s car show season again, with the annual crop of car-model launches like the new Corvette “supercar” and the Acura TLX prototype. However, my biggest regret in missing this year ...

US Oil Demand Returns to Growth

US Oil Demand Returns to Growth

After three straight years of declining oil consumption and a substantial net reduction since 2005, preliminary estimates suggest that US demand for petroleum and its products grew ...

Interpreting the State Department’s Latest Assessment of the Keystone XL Pipeline

Interpreting the State Department’s Latest Assessment of the Keystone XL Pipeline

Earlier today, I participated in a webchat hosted by The Energy Collective on the subject of the emissions and market impact of the Keystone XL Pipeline (KXL). It was prompted by l ...

The Pros and Cons of Exporting US Crude Oil

The Pros and Cons of Exporting US Crude Oil

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the ranking member of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, issued a white paper earlier this month calling for an end to the current ban ...

My 2014 Energy Predictions

My 2014 Energy Predictions

In the previous article, I graded the 2013 predictions that I made a year ago. I scored well on the direction of oil and gas prices, the shrinking Brent-West Texas Intermediate (WT ...

Canada: From Energy Supplier to Competitor?

Canada: From Energy Supplier to Competitor?

In remarks last month the Canadian Natural Resources Minister, Joe Oliver, suggested that with the continued growth of unconventional oil production in the US, "Our only customer w ...

Will Oxy’s Divorce Spur The Break Up Of Big Oil?

ConocoPhillips spun out Phillips 66. Marathon Oil spun off Marathon Petroleum. BP has jettisoned $40 billion in assets since Deepwater Horizon. Apache has been shrinking to grow, as has Chesapeake Energy. And now Occidental Petroleum has decided to slim down as well. more ...

February 19, 2014

German Village Resists Plans to Strip It Away for the Coal Underneath

A grove of apple saplings grows on the lee side of Ulrich Schulz’s barn. He did not plant them for the fruit, he said, but as an act of rebellion against a nearby mining company that wants to raze his farm, which his family has owned since 1560, to get at the coal beneath his land. more ...

February 19, 2014

11 Common Issues Concerning Air Conditioners

Knowing what to anticipate when it comes to a clean AC means you need to be able to recognize the signs before they become a major problem that will affect the cost of repair. Here are signs that tell you your air conditioner needs aircon servicing right away.

Thermostat Issues. Most homeowners also forget to check their thermostat. It is the device that controls the temperature of the air that comes out of the unit. Regular aircon maintenance includes a routine inspection of the thermostat to make sure that it uses the ideal settings and is not causing any problems. Sometimes the temperature can fluctuate if the faulty thermostat has not been calibrated for months.

Dirty Filters. This is the simplest explanation if you notice your air conditioner not cooling sufficiently. A clogged air filter is the result of buildup of dirt and debris. The filter can be cleaned once every few weeks. However, if it is too dirty, have an aircon servicing expert from Singapore to clean aeration system for your AC. Leaving it unattended will only make the problem even worse over time.

Poor Drainage. The drain line can be clogged due to buildup of dirt and lint from the unit. Sometimes the drain pan fills up and leaks into the unit, causing even more damage. The first problem you will notice is the sudden changes in the quality of the air and the temperature. Instead of opting to fix cooling system later on, you should call an aircon repair crew to perform a routine cleaning and inspection.

Leaking Refrigerant. Sometimes the refrigerant can leak because of a poorly-maintained and dirty unit. If there is insufficient coolant, the unit will have to work harder than usual and cause fluctuations in the temperature. The cost for this type of aircon repair job can be expensive if the other parts are also damaged by the leak.

Faulty Capacitors. The capacitors help in the proper functioning of the fans and compressor. If there is a problem, it will burn out eventually. A proper way to upkeep AC is to have the capacitors checked to make sure they work optimally.

Broken Fuse or Breaker. The fuse is a safety precaution against overheating of the unit. The air conditioner immediately stops working if the internal parts get too hot. If your unit suddenly stops working, call an aircon servicing technician to have it checked.

Broken Compressor. The purpose of the compressor is to propel the refrigerant through the coils to cool the air coming from the room. Sometimes clogged and dirty coils can make the compressor work harder. Too much or too little refrigerant can also cause a defective compressor, that is why a regular inspection by air conditioning services has to be carried out.

Faulty Evaporator Coils. The evaporator’s purpose is to absorb the heat from the room and then send it back as cool air through the ducts. Over time, these coils can become dirty and corroded especially if it is a centralized air conditioning unit. Regular aircon maintenance is required every three years to make sure you always get quality and clean air at a consistent temperature.

Odd Noises. If yours is a window-type AC, know that it naturally makes a bit of noise as you are using it. But if you can hear banging- or clicking-like sound, there might be something wrong with the unit’s internal works. On the other hand, if yours is a centralized aircon, know that one of the many benefits of centered air conditioning unit is it making very minimal noise. Therefore, if you can hear any noticeable sound from your AC, have it checked by a Singapore AC service expert for an emergency aircon repair.

Faulty Condenser Coils. These coils are usually placed on the exterior of the unit, that is why they are constantly exposed to dirt, rain, and heat. Sometimes they can also get clogged up with vegetation if placed near plants. The condenser coils must be cleaned at least once a year by a technician.

Worn-Out Contactor. This part is responsible for starting up the blower motor, condenser fan motor and the compressor. Over time, the contactor is worn out with continuous use, but you can prevent problems by having it cleaned and maintained regularly by an experienced aircon technician.

Failing Electric Control. The terminals and wires in your air conditioner can become corroded or worn out over time. This is normal for an appliance, but you can avoid problems and extend the life of your unit with regular inspection of the electrical connections by home AC repair services.

If you see any of the signs described above, do not hesitate to contact your trusted aircon servicing company in Singapore to inquire about air conditioner cleaning and repair. We also provide different options to fit your budget with our competitive cost of aircon servicing.

A Breakdown of the Services Offered by A Licensed Electrician

If you think replacing an old light bulb is as easy as finding a similar-looking bulb at a shop, then you are already making the first mistake when it comes to addressing electrical problems. If you do not have any experience or training in electrical inspection and repair, then it is best to leave the task to a licensed electrician to avoid accidents and fires.

What are the services offered by an electrician services company and how do you find a good electrician in Singapore?

What Does an Electrician Do?

In most countries, including Singapore, a certified voltage engineer can specialize in either (or sometimes may specialize in both) of the two categories: linemen works and wiremen works. Linemen works tackle larger power issues, usually from electrical companies, to ensure that the public gets adequate distribution of electricity. Wiremen works, on the other hand, takes care of residential electrical tasks and device installation. Therefore, when you hire an electrical repairman, you are referring to the specialists who are trained in low-voltage wiring tasks.

Most electricians go through three levels of training before they become a licensed electrician. The apprentices are the beginners, the journeymen are skilled in most of the electrical trade, while the master electrician have passed several tests and knows the safety and electrical codes of the country. Training involves learning the basics of installation, troubleshooting, and upgrading.

A licensed electrician affiliated with an electrical works company in Singapore can take jobs involving isolated upgrades and repairs for homes and offices, but you will need to find a contractor if the job involves a major project such as renovations, upgrades, and new buildings.

What are the Services Offered?

An electrician services company offers the following services for residential, commercial, and industrial buildings: installation of appliances and machines, inspection of electrical works, remodelings, installation additional switches and fixtures, installation or maintenance of lighting systems, installation of network systems, service upgrades, general troubleshooting, correction of electrical code violations, installation of fire alarm systems, home automation system, integrated communication systems in the office, installation of telephone systems, grounding, installation of home entertainment system, generator repair and maintenance, backup power, energy-saving options, motion sensors, pool or spa wiring, installation of smoke detectors, intercom systems installation, underground wiring, electrical wiring inspection or upgrade, emergency services, and many more.

If you are moving into an old apartment in Singapore, you should contact a good electrician to inspect the electrical wiring. Old and inadequate wiring can be a fire hazard and will not be able to supply the demands of modern equipment and gadgets. Residential complexes, like most commercial and industrial buildings should follow updated codes for the safety of the residents or employees.

How to Find an Electrician?

A licensed electrician in Singapore is either an electrical technician or an electrical engineer. However, the licenses for both electricians are different.

An electrical engineer is responsible for office electrical projects that involve designing, installation, troubleshooting, maintenance, and inspection, which is why people from Singapore also call them commercial power point installer. A certified electrical contractor can handle larger power loads and can help plan and design power works for bigger establishments.

An electrical technician on the other hand is responsible for electrical works with no more than 1,000 volts and a load of not more than 500 kVA. The licensed electrician can be called for installation, troubleshooting, operating, inspection, and testing of various projects. He/she can also create plans of electrical installations for homes as long as it is within the limit. The electrical technician must have a license and a diploma at an approved institution in Singapore.

Find a good electrician who is affiliated with an electrician services company in Singapore so that you are assured that the electrician is licensed, insured, and experienced. You can ask your neighbors or friends for recommendation or read online reviews of customers about the company. Don’t hesitate to ask for the qualifications and licenses of the electrician assigned to you and to look for an insurance in case there are accidents during the repair, installation, or inspection.

How Much Does It Cost?

When looking for a licensed electrician, do not forget to ask a list of the services or an itemized quote from the electrical services company. You should only be paying for what you need, and the details provided clearly to avoid extra charges.

The pricing may be different among different companies because of the materials used and the quality of the equipment. The training and experience of the electrician will also be taken into consideration as well as the size of the project and the type of building that needs electrical service. If you are hiring an electrician for your home, the pricing will be different from that of projects involving commercial and industrial complexes. They company should be able to give you an accurate breakdown of the labor and materials cost.

You will also need to provide details about the problem that needs to be addressed by gathering information about the electrical system. This can help the electrician pinpoint the cause much faster during the inspection. The electrician will then identify which equipment are affected and evaluate how the electrical system is functioning.

Finally, ask if the electrician can provide a warranty of the work in case something goes wrong later. This will save you from paying more in case the job is botched or if there are other problems that have not been addressed. In case of emergencies, keep a number of a trusted electrician ready and follow instructions on what to do in case there is a fire or a failure in the system. Do not attempt to troubleshoot the wiring for example if you do not have any training or experience besides the few instructional do-it-yourself videos you have seen on the Internet.

What is VoIP Phishing?

VoIP phishing, also known as vishing, is a criminal cyber practice that uses social engineering over the VoIP system to gain access to confidential data and financial information of individuals. The attack is used by cyber criminals often for the purpose of stealing credit card numbers and other confidential information used in identity theft schemes.

How Phishing Works?

Phishing is a simple yet destructive trick, and it works like this: scammers send you an e-mail or a voicemail making it appear as if it is from a legitimate financial company or an online retail outlet you are affiliated with—like eBay, Paypal or your bank. In the message, you are informed about a problem with your account and directed to a site or to call a phone number where you will be asked to provide your personal data like your username and password, credit card number, security code, etc.

Some users are so naive that attackers easily trick them into giving their personal information, which are often used to make transactions using their credit card or create cloned credit cards.

Some Examples of Phishing

1. You receive an e-mail from eBay, Paypal or other online companies, informing you of some issue on your account, and saying that your account needs to be frozen. You are requested to go to a given link and provide your personal information in order to get your account working again.

2. You receive a voice mail from your online banking saying that someone tried to access your account. You are requested to call a number and provide your credentials, so you can change your existing credentials.

3. You receive a phone call, saying that there’s a fraudulent or suspicious activities linked to your bank account, and asking you to provide certain details to ward off threats and stop the fraudulent activities.

VoIP and Phishing

VoIP phishing is more convenient for attackers than PSTN phishing because of the following reasons:

• With voice over IP, attackers can more easily tamper with your caller ID and make it appear as if it is your bank or a trusted company that is calling you.
• VoIP software gives so much power to the user that even people with basic tech knowledge can operate its deployment and create a collection of fake numbers they can use to lure victims without revealing their fraud identity.
• VoIP hardware, such as ATAs, IP phones, IP-PBXs and routers, are very affordable and the software that comes along with these hardware are more user-friendly, thus making it easier for cyber criminals to use these devices to their advantage.
• With VoIP, attackers can send one message to hundreds of recipients in one go, which makes it easier to find victims.
• VoIP can create a virtual number for any country. A phisher can then use the created local number and make calls overseas; therefore, imitating popular institutions in Singapore to seek for victims.

How to Prevent Phishing and Avoid Getting Victimized

To avoid voip phishing scams, use a managed office voice communications server hosted by a trusted service provider from Singapore. More importantly, heed these advices from voice over IP experts.

• Do not call any telephone number provided in an e-mail or in a phone call regarding possible security issues with your bank account or credit card. The only number you should be calling is your bank’s contact number, which should be found in your bank account statement. If you receive any malicious e-mail or phone call about your account’s security, take the safer route and personally go to your bank.

• Banks and credit card companies in Singapore normally address their account holders by their full names in any form of communication. If a phone call or e-mail does not refer to your full name, it is possibly a scam.

• If anyone is claiming to be a credit card provider and requests for your card number, ask to call back and call the contact number on the back of your credit card or in your account statement to ask about the attempt. If the first call is legit, your card provider will surely have knowledge of it.

• Note all of your account transactions every month. Be always on the lookout for suspicious activities. By doing so, you can act immediately and stop further illegal transactions from taking place using your information.

• Make sure your mobile number, landline number and e-mail are all registered with your bank. Having all these information will allow your bank to send you alerts when any suspicious transaction takes place.

• Check for the “https://” in the address bar of all e-commerce sites you visit. Look for proper certification and encryption, especially when you are directed to a website over an e-mail or phone call.

• Voice over internet protocol can be used more securely with software filters. How? Reach out to Crystal Voice to learn more about the different methods of securing your Singapore business from phishing and scams. Working with a secure host allows you to use mobile voip anytime without worrying about the safety of your line and the data shared. Other protective features you can use when engaging with Crystal Voice include call recording, blacklisting, virus protection and spam filters to keep your VoIP network secured.

VoIP in Singapore is one of the major targets of cyber criminals. However, as with all types of cyber attacks, user awareness is the key to security. If you and your staff are all aware of what vishing is, how it works and how to spot possible attacks, you have the best line of defence against these fraud activities.

The 7 Key Roles of a Property Manager

Most of us know that property managers and property management companies exist, but many are not aware of what their roles are. By definition, a property management is a third-party entity who is employed by property owners to handle real estate operations. These professionals are capable and licensed to manage all types of real estate properties—from residential houses to large buildings with multiple rental units.

Although the roles and responsibilities of a managing agent vary on the agreement between the agent and the property owner, these professionals likely take care of estate maintenance and play these important roles.

1. Rental Management

• Setting Rental Value – It is part of the duty of a managing agent to set the right rental value of a property to make it attractive to prospect tenants. By considering the location and amenities, as well as the comparability of the property in the area, the property manager is able to set the most appropriate rental value for your real estate.
• Adjusting Rental Cost– the condo manager can also suggest increasing the rental value by a certain percentage annually, according to local or national law. They can also reduce the rent cost of your property if necessary.
• Collecting Rental Payments – To ensure optimal cash flow, they will set a date when to collect rent every month and impose penalty to late payments.

2. Property Maintenance and Repairs

• Maintenance – Another important role of an estate manager in Singapore includes handling apartment maintenance to keep the property in its pristine condition. They are the ones in-charge to look for property management contractors for plumbing leakage, pest extermination, landscaping and other estate maintenance works. These pros aim to keep tenants happy with their current homes and attract new ones once the unit is vacated.
• Repairs – If there is an issue, the manager will hire someone to fix it. They often have a large collection of contacts of professional contractors here in Singapore.

3. Tenant Responsibilities

• Advertising Vacant Units – Hiring a real estate manager means you will not have to stress yourself advertising your units to find prospect tenants. Property managers know very well where to post advertisements and what to show in the ad to attract prospects.
• Screening Prospects – A good condo manager is not going to settle with just any prospect. It is part of their duties to screen prospects and make sure that the tenant can afford and has the means to pay the rental on time. This means they are going to run a screening process, which includes checking credit records and criminal history. Since these professionals have met hundreds of tenants, they already know how to spot good renters—those who can pay on time, have longer tenancy plans and are less likely to create serious problems—from the bad ones.
• Addressing Emergencies and Complaints – They are also courteous at handling tenant complaints and have the necessary contacts to handle emergency situations, such as plumbing or electrical problems.
• Managing Move-Outs – When a renter moves out, the managing agent will inspect the unit to check for any damage and to determine how much of the security deposit will be returned. After the tenant has moved out, the manager will also have to clean the unit, repair any damage and find a new tenant.
• Execution of Tenant Eviction – when a renter violates an agreement or does not pay the rent, the real estate manager knows how to file and execute the eviction the proper way.

4. Supervisory Duties

• Estate Employees – Other employees in the property, such as the security guards, housekeepers and concierge, are supervised by the property manager to ensure that they do their job well. If allowed by the owner, the property manager has the power to set the salaries and even fire employees.
• Vacant Units – Besides checking the unit after the tenant has moved out, property managers always keep vacant unit regularly checked to make sure that there is no pest infestation and that the vacant units remain in their best conditions.

5. Implementation of Legal Matters

A seasoned property manager has in-depth knowledge of laws here in Singapore regarding the proper ways to:
• Handle security deposits
• Screen tenants
• Terminate lease
• Evict tenants
• Comply with the safety standards

6. Managing Budget and Maintaining Records

• Managing Budget – The property manager should operate within the given budget. During emergency situations, when the building’s structure or the tenant is in danger, they often use their own judgement to order major repairs.
• Keeping Records – This is an accounting task that’s part of the responsibilities of a condo manager. The record should include the income and expenses; inspections, repairs and maintenance made; and insurance cost and rent collection. Non-accounting matters, like tenant complaints, signed leases and maintenance requests, should also be part of the manager’s record.

7. Tax Responsibilities

• Licensed property managers know very well the taxes associated with owning a property for rent. Therefore, they can assist property owners with understanding the documents and the processes needed in filing taxes for property investment.
• For easier solution, the property owner can also leave the filing of tax to the managing agent.

There are many elements to consider when you choose to invest in real estate. Whether you are thinking of buying a property or having someone to manage your real estate business, you can benefit from the professional services of a skilled and licensed property management.

Top 5 Cheap but Effective Ways to Keep Your Plumbing in Good Condition

Different types of problems can arise when it comes to your plumbing system at home. While there are some problems that you can solve, there are still some that will require help from a professional plumber. Professional plumbing services, especially 24 hours plumber services in Singapore, can still take a while to arrive to your destination to help you out.

It’s also important to keep in mind that while the pipes in your plumbing system can be sophisticated, they are just as easy to compromise and clog it. To keep your house’s pipes in good condition, be sure to follow these steps:

1. Clean out your grease traps regularly
In most establishments and homes, you can often find grease traps in drain lines from many types of sinks, dishwashers, and cooking equipment. They are a type of plumbing device that filters out most greases and solids right before the waste water enters the disposal system.

The waste that you can find in passive grease traps is often solidified lard and oils. Large amounts of this left over from cooking and preparing food can actually end up blocking your drains, and overflows often happen because of this.

While using fat-dissolving chemicals to clean out your grease traps can work, be sure to use them sparingly and always read the instruction at the back of the label. If you have to clean them out, the safest way is always to take out the scum manually.

2. Use chemicals and boiling water for your clogged drains sparingly
A clogged sink is one of the most common problems you will encounter in your plumbing system at home, next to noisy pipes and leaky faucets. Avoiding clogged pipes can be as simple as making sure that food debris, hair, etc. go into the trash instead of the drain.

If you do have to unclog your drain, use chemicals such as borax, baking soda, and vinegar carefully. This is because drain cleaning chemicals has the potential to corrode the pipes in your drainage, as well as produce toxic fumes that could become a health hazard to your PUB licensed plumb contractors from Singapore later on. It is widely advised to research information about plumbing contractors Singapore to address your needs at home.

Arguably, the best way to unclog your drain is to remove the accumulated debris manually. You can use drain snakes or drain claws to do this, and another is by using a toilet plunger to apply pressure to the debris. Once this has been removed, be sure flush the drain with cold water for a few minutes before using it normally.

3. Unlock the secrets of your shutoff water valve
In a nutshell, your water shutoff valve is designed to shut off the water supply to certain areas of your home. You will often find this switch in not just your toilet and bathroom sink, but also beneath your kitchen sink, and you can switch this valve on or off depending on whether there is a problem with that area in your home.

In almost every home, office, or building, you can find the main “panic valve” that will shut off the water supply to the rest of the establishment. Your plumber will often try to shut this valve off first before attempting to work on any pipes inside the house.

Some tips you should keep in mind regarding your shutoff valve include the following: do not control the water pressure at home using the main shutoff valve (either keep it open or closed at any given time); turn off the valve when you’re going away on extended trips away from home; and always make sure to have them installed by a professional plumber.

4. Know everything you can about your kitchen sink
Apart from your bathroom, your kitchen sink is one of the biggest water sources in your home, and is one of the three key parts of the “workplace triangle” in the kitchen: stove, refrigerator, and sink. Having these three near each other brings out the peak efficiency of the workplace, which makes it really convenient.

There are three different types of kitchen sink mounts: drop-in, the easiest to install; the under-mount sink, which can be used only with waterproof countertops (i.e. granite or quarts); and the apron front sink, which has changed to integrate newer designs and technologies.

In particular, look out for the grease trap and the drain, which you can find beneath the sink and make sure they doesn’t leak.

5. Call a professional plumbing services
These minor things can include replacing a broken/leaky faucet or unclogging a toilet. Being able to do these on your own can not only save you on the cost of having to hire a plumber (in some instances, you would have to hire a 24 hours plumber), but also teach you a useful life skill that you can use to deal with future inconveniences.
However, while there are plumbing problems that you can fix on your own, there are other times that should be best approached by a reliable plumber or a professional plumbing services in Singapore.

A professional plumbing contractor can install and repair all kinds of features for your home, such as anti-scald measures for water heaters, fixture S-traps, and even gas supply lines (which work similarly to the water supply line but the one you have is directly connected to your stove range).


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