Surviving a warm weather blackout

Surviving a warm weather blackoutMost power outages will be over almost as soon as they begin, but some can last much longer — up to days or even weeks. Fortunately, you can lessen the impact of a power outage by taking the time to prepare in advance.

Power outages are often caused by storms and/or high winds that damage power lines and equipment. You may be left without air conditioning, lighting, hot water or even running water. If you only have a cordless phone, you will also be left without phone service.

Here’s what to do during a blackout to protect you and your family.

  1. First, check whether the power outage is limited to your home. If your neighbours’ power is still on, check your own circuit breaker panel or fuse box. If the problem is not a breaker or a fuse, check the service wires leading to the house. If they are obviously damaged or on the ground, stay at least 10 metres back and notify your electric supply authority. Keep the number along with other emergency numbers near your telephone.
  2. If your neighbours’ power is also out, notify your electric supply authority.
  3. Turn off all tools, appliances and electronic equipment to prevent damage from a power surge when power is restored. Note that power can be restored more easily when there is not a heavy load on the electrical system.
  4. Turn off all lights, except one inside and one outside, so that both you and hydro crews outside know when power has been restored.
  5. Never use charcoal or gas barbecues, camping heating equipment or home generators indoors or in garages because they give off carbon monoxide. Since you can’t smell or see it, carbon monoxide can cause health problems and is life-threatening.
  6. Use proper candle holders. Never leave lit candles unattended and keep them out of the reach of children. Always extinguish candles before going to bed.
  7. Listen to your battery-powered or wind-up radio for information on the outage and advice from authorities. Did you know that the Alert Ready system is designed to deliver critical and potentially life-saving alerts to Canadians through television, radio and now mobile. The addition of wireless emergency alerts can help ensure you get the critical information you need, even during an extended a black out. Visit alertready.ca for more information and to find out if your phone is compatible.

Find more information at www.getprepared.ca.

3 tips to consider before your backyard renovation

3 tips to consider before your backyard renovationIf you’re thinking about transforming your outdoor space with a new deck or garden, here are a few things to keep in mind before you get started:

Think about appliances and equipment early. Give some thought to the types of appliances or equipment you may want installed based on what’s most important to you. Is it comfort, energy efficiency or aesthetics? Plan based on what you’d like now and potentially in the future to identify what you’ll need, such as support beams, electrical wires and natural gas lines. When choosing the appliances, don’t forget to factor in the fuel source. There are several natural gas appliances available, like fireplaces, pool heaters and outdoor lighting.

Barbecue like a chef. If you’re designing your backyard with entertaining in mind, opt for a natural gas barbecue. Since they’re hooked up to your home’s natural gas line, you won’t run out of fuel or have to wait for charcoal to heat up. That means more time to spend with your guests.

Chefs also chefs prefer cooking with natural gas because the direct and consistent heat allows for more precise temperature control and even cooking.

Call or click before you dig. When you’re ready to start your backyard project, but before you do any digging, contact Ontario One Call to see what’s underground. Damage to a natural gas line can result in a gas leak, fire or explosion, and can even cut off utility service to an entire neighbourhood. A natural gas connection should also only be installed by a licensed HVAC contractor. Find more information at www.on1call.com or by calling 1-800-400-2255.

Renovating? Some DIY projects to avoid

Renovating? Some DIY projects to avoidUnless you have technical qualifications and a lot of experience, there are some projects and types of work that you are better off leaving to the pros. These are the ones that involve safety risks for you and your family, and it is better to let a professional to do the work.

Plumbing, electrical and gas repairs and installations. Depending on provincial regulations, a licensed contractor may be necessary by law. Make sure you know the rules where you live. For the sake of your family’s safety, work involving electricity and/or gas service should only be done by a qualified and licensed contractor. Because this type of work can result in a safety hazard if done incorrectly, permits are usually required.

Roofing or other exterior work involving heights. These projects require proper safety equipment that must be correctly used. If you don’t have such equipment and know how to use it properly, don’t take chances — hire a pro.

Asbestos removal. You should always use a professional for this tricky project, and provincial laws likely require it. Don’t risk your health by doing this work on your own.

The Canadian Home Builder’s Association offers free information on how to hire a contractor the smart and safe way. Find more information at www.getitinwriting.ca.

 

5 ways to stay cool while saving energy this summer

5 ways to stay cool while saving energy this summerTemperatures are rising, and many of us are reaching for the thermostats to stay cool. But there are also energy-efficient ways that will help you stay comfortable while controlling your costs. Check out these tips from Hydro One:

  1. Open the windows on breezy days. Ventilation is the least costly and most energy-efficient way to cool your home. Open a few windows to create cross ventilation and let a refreshing breeze come through.
  2. Put food on the grill. Using large appliances like your oven when cooking can add a lot of indoor heat. Cook outdoors on the barbecue instead.
  3. Draw your curtains. Keeping blinds and curtains closed during the day blocks out sunlight and will help keep the cool air inside.
  4. Take care of your thermostat. Keep your thermostat out of direct sunlight. Set it to 25°C when you are at home and raise it to 28°C when you leave the house for optimal energy efficiency.
  5. Invest in a ceiling fan. Having a ceiling fan will allow you to raise your thermostat settings and save energy without affecting your comfort. Set the fan to spin counter-clockwise to create a downward cooling breeze instead of running the air conditioning.

Find more tips at www.hydroone.com/coolingguide.

5 tips to help you keep your home clean during renovations

5 tips to help you keep your home clean during renovationsThere is no better time to renovate or spruce up a room than spring. But living through it can be messy. Here are five tips to help keep your home in good shape during a reno:

  1. Take down decorations. Before starting a project, remove decorations, light fixtures and extra furniture from the room and organize into bins. Removing any household goods that are not needed will help prevent them from becoming dirty or damaged during the process.
  2. Keep dust at bay. Dust can build up quickly while remodelling and can settle throughout your home, even outside the space you’re updating. For dust in the air, try an air purifier such as the Dyson Pure Cool HEPA Air Purifier and Fan that traps microscopic dust and other airborne particles. The device automatically senses indoor air quality in real time and projects clean air to every corner of the room.
  3. Isolate the area. While the renovation is in full swing, try to keep it isolated from other parts of your home. Hang a plastic sheet between rooms to help contain some of the dust and debris. If you’re kicking up a lot of dust, close your floor vents to help reduce the amount of dust that travels to the rest of the house.
  4. Vacuum up high, down below and in between. Despite your best precautions, it’s inevitable that debris from the renovated area will spill into other rooms. Take time to vacuum regularly to keep your other living spaces free of dirt and dust. Use a lightweight cord-free vacuum that has different attachments to reach on top of window panes, under furniture, in between upholstery and on stairs.
  5. Be aware of chemicals in the air. A fresh coat of paint can transform the look and feel of a room, but it can also emit volatile organic compounds into the air. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs may have short and long-term adverse health effects. The Dyson Pure Cool purifying fan has a sensor that detects and captures VOCs and emits cleaner air into the room.

Summer home maintenance tips

Summer home maintenance tipsNow that you’ve pulled out your lawn furniture, uncovered the barbecue and put on your flip flops, you’re eager to enjoy some fun in the sun. But if you’ve recently moved into a new home, don’t forget it still needs love and attention beyond just cutting the lawn once in a while.

Even with today’s energy-efficient, high-tech homes, seasonal maintenance is important because it helps protect your new home warranty. By failing to regularly maintain your home, you risk causing damage that may not be covered by your warranty.

When you’re planning your summer fun list, make sure you find some time for this home maintenance checklist:

June:

  • Inspect air conditioning
  • Check roof
  • Check sheds and garages
  • Check sealing around windows and doors
  • Check septic system and clean if necessary
  • Fertilize lawn
  • Check water heater
  • Check and reset ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI)
  • Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors

July:

  • Air out damp basements on a dry, sunny day
  • Clean air conditioner
  • Check exhaust fans
  • Check water heater for leaks
  • Check and reset GFCIs
  • Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors

August:

  • Clean air conditioner filter
  • Air out damp basements on dry, sunny days
  • Inspect driveways and walks
  • Inspect doors and locks
  • Check and reset GFCIs
  • Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors

Find more seasonal maintenance tips online at tarion.com.

Tips for a great yard

Tips for a great yardWarm summer days mean more time spent tending to our lawns and gardens. Here are some tips to help make your yard one of the best on the block:

Mow high. Keeping the blade raised for a 2.5 to 3-inch cut is best because it helps a strong root system develop and discourages weed growth.

Don’t water too often. By watering deeply and infrequently, you can encourage deep root growth. If you water in the morning, you’ll lose less moisture to evaporation.

Keep an eye open for pests. A small number of weeds or bugs is nothing to worry about, and if you catch a problem before it gets out of hand you will have an easier time dealing with it. If your problem reaches a point where you need to use a pesticide, just follow the label. The products in Canadian stores are approved by Health Canada before they are made available to consumers.

A healthy yard is not only a beautiful way to add value to your property, it’s also a good way to enhance the environment by filtering rainwater, attracting birds and good insects and absorbing pollution. Regular maintenance and keeping a watchful eye out for potential problems are two simple ways you can make the most of your personal outdoor oasis while contributing to a beautiful, vibrant urban environment.

Achieve your long-term financial goals with your home equity

Achieve your long-term financial goals with your home equityYour home has the potential to build your personal wealth over the long term. If used prudently, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) can help you reach your financial goals.

But with a HELOC, you might be tempted to use your home as an ATM. You need a plan to use this line of credit wisely, and be aware of potential risks.

Home ownership can be a great long-term investment strategy, especially if housing prices rise. Your mortgage debt goes down, because you make regular payments against both the interest and the principal borrowed. This increases your home’s equity — the difference between what you still owe and the value of your home. A HELOC lets you borrow against this growing equity. With this form of debt, you can delay repaying the principal balance as long as you cover the interest each month. However, this short-term credit advantage can mean a long-term debt problem.

Ask yourself if a low interest rate and easy access to credit may encourage you to spend more than you can afford to pay back and jeopardize your long-term financial security. For example, if interest rates continue to rise, will you have trouble keeping up with your payments?

Avoid a debt spiral where you could find yourself using additional home equity just to stay current on your mortgage. Here are some tips:

Establish a repayment plan. Try setting aside a portion of your HELOC in a sub-account with a fixed-term repayment schedule, so you pay more than just the monthly interest.

Develop a plan for how you will use a HELOC. This includes making a realistic budget for any home renovation projects you are funding.

Create an emergency savings fund. Using a HELOC for an unexpected circumstance, like job loss, carries risks if you need to use it to cover your monthly bills for an extended period of time. What you need is an emergency cache.

Learn more about HELOCs and find useful financial planning tools online at canada.ca/it-pays-to-know.

Dos and don’ts for maintenance and energy conservation at the cottage

Dos and don'ts for maintenance and energy conservation at the cottageWarmer weather has teased us out of hibernation and has us planning for a fun-filled summer. As a cottager, you’ve likely marked your calendar with the day you’ll be opening up your summer escape.

Here are some dos and don’ts from Hydro One that will ensure your next few months are stress-free when it comes to electrical maintenance:

  • Do download the free mobile outage app so you can easily be informed about power outages in your area. You can also register to receive proactive free personalized text or email alerts about outages as well.
  • Do a circle check and inspect the power line feeding your cottage. Watch out for any tree branches that are growing close to the line, as they could potentially cause a power outage.
  • Do perform basic maintenance checks regularly. Hydro One will disconnect the power supply to your property once a year at no charge so that any maintenance along or near your power lines can be performed safely.
  • Do check your electricity meter for damage before entering your cottage. Report any damage observed to your local electricity service provider.
  • Don’t energize all your branch circuits at once. Ensure that they are in the off position before turning on the power. You can then open the main switch and energize individual circuits one at a time. Make sure you also fill your water tank before switching on the power to avoid damaging your water heater.
  • Don’t make any repairs without contacting a licensed electrical contractor. You are required by law to do so and they have the expertise, equipment and training to do the job safely. The Electrical Safety Authority has a contractor locator that you can use to find a contractor working in your area.

Purchasing a new air-conditioner? Here’s what you need to know

Purchasing a new air conditioner? Here's what you need to knowHot temperatures have us relying on air conditioning to keep us cool. And since we spend most of our energy dollars controlling our home’s temperature, if your unit is more than 10 years old, it may be time for an upgrade.

Use these tips from Hydro One to help you purchase an efficient model:

  1. 1. Look for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) labels on air conditioners. Official Canadian EnerGuide labels display the model type and SEER, which measures how efficiently the system runs over the entire cooling season. The higher the rating, the more efficient the system. Use this rating while you shop to compare the energy efficiency of different models.
  2. 2. Consider investing in an air-source heat pump. It’ll serve you all year round, as it provides energy-efficient home heating and cooling. In the summer months, heat pumps cool your home efficiently by removing warm air and transferring it outside. They also act as a dehumidifier, removing moisture from the air indoors.
  3. 3. Once you’ve purchased your new unit, make sure it is tuned up once a year. Proper maintenance can reduce your cooling costs by up to 10 percent and increase the lifespan of your system.