Healthy lawns, healthy homes

A thick, healthy lawn is a lot more than nice-looking green space.  Well-maintained turf contributes to a deeper root structure that helps your lawn withstand the extreme heat and cold of our Canadian climate, cools our atmosphere and reduces erosion.

All living things need food for optimal health, including plants and grass. A healthier lawn will provide benefits for your home, including the trapping of airborne dust and other pollutants for cleaner air. In fact, a 50 by 50 foot lawn produces enough oxygen every day for a family of four.

It’s important to use the right fertilizer for your type of lawn, so always read the bag for information that includes the amount of nutrients, such as the NPK, which stands for nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. The bag will also tell you how much area it will cover and how to apply it properly.

Newly established lawns require phosphorous for root growth. Older lawns that have had the clippings left on after cutting gain nutrients back as the clippings decompose. Established lawns can usually use a phosphorous-free formula.

Fall is one of the most important times to feed your lawn to provide nutrition that will help see your lawn through the long winter. If you have leftover fertilizer from last season, you can still use it. Break up any clumps before placing it in the spreader, and store any remaining fertilizer in the original package, sealed and in a cool dry place.

Find more information to produce the healthiest lawn online at greenerworld.ca.

4 ways to keep your home fresh as it gets colder

4 ways to keep your home fresh as it gets colderWith the chill in the air, furnaces are on and windows are closed for the next few months. But this can lead to dry, stale air inside the home. Here are some ways you can reduce dry skin and irritated airways without getting fresh air from outside.

Keep fabrics clean. Ensure a clean environment at home, especially in the rooms where you spend the most time. Sheets, blankets, pillows, rugs – all these fabrics are perfect allergen collectors. Wash them regularly and try to avoid down-filled duvets and pillows, especially if you are an allergy sufferer.

Keep pets out of the bedroom. Even though it’s winter and you want to get cozy with your furry friend, pet dander can wreak serious havoc on your body when you’re sleeping. To help with the transition, set up a sleeping area with toys and other items your pet likes, so you can feel confident they’re comfortable without you.

Reduce use of harsh, smelly chemicals. All winter, our houses are closed, which means anything with a harsh chemical smell can’t escape and we’re subjecting our airways to it. Experiment with all-natural cleaning products including white vinegar, lemon and baking soda.

Humidify your air. To keep the air in your house fresh, consider purchasing a humidifier. The Philips Humidifier Series 2000 has evaporative technology that spreads 99 per cent less bacteria compared to leading ultrasonic humidifiers. Plus, the 360° design evenly distributes humidified air throughout the room, making it the perfect solution for dry, stuffy air in your home.

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.

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.

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.

Quick guide to a great summer garden

Quick guide to a great summer gardenAs we prepare for cookouts, barbecues and relaxing outdoors, it’s time to get your gardens in shape. Feeling a little rusty? Here are some tips to make your backyard stand out.

Make a plan: It’s important to take into consideration the location you’ll be planting in and what you’ll be growing, as space and sunlight affect how your garden will thrive.

Have some fun with it: The possibilities for pollinator-friendly flowers and plants are endless: lanced-leaved coreopsis, New England asters, dense blazing stars and so many more. A wide variety of wildflowers in your garden provides a wide selection of nutritious nectar and pollen sources for honey bees and other pollinators.

More honey bees, please: Summertime is an important season for honey bees. Populations in Canada are now at an all-time high, but they need to spend the warm months finding nutritious food to help sustain their hives through winter. Keeping your garden abundant with blooming flowers means the honey bees and other pollinators will have food all summer long.

Get the right stuff: Picking the appropriate pollinator-friendly flowers and plants for your garden can be tough. Bees Matter can help. Get free seeds for a pollinator-friendly garden at www.beesmatter.ca.

Spring cleaning tips for a healthier home

Spring cleaning tips for a healthier homeWith the warmer weather upon us, spring cleaning may be on your mind. And if you have asthma, it’s a good idea to focus some of your cleaning efforts on the air you breathe inside your home.

Indoor air is an important health concern, as most Canadians spend up to 90 per cent of their time indoors. Poor indoor air quality can play a significant role in triggering certain conditions, like asthma. Here are tips on reducing some of the more common indoor triggers:

Dust and dust mites:

  • Remove or reduce dust-collecting items such as carpeting, drapes, stuffed toys and old pillows.
  • Wash bedding weekly in hot water.
  • Encase pillows and mattresses in covers that are dust mite-proof.
  • Keep humidity level below 50 per cent.
  • Vacuum regularly using a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter or central vacuum.

Mould:

  • If the humidity level is greater than 50 per cent, use a dehumidifier.
  • Limit the number of plants in your home.
  • Fix leaks and moisture problems as quickly as possible.
  • Remove clutter and allow air to flow throughout your home, especially in the basement.
  • For small amounts of mould, use warm soapy water to clean it up. For larger amounts, hire mould abatement experts.
  • Check that your eavestroughs and drain spouts are clear of any buildup.
  • Make sure the ground around your home slopes away from the foundation so that rainwater drains away — water should flow easily away from the house.
  • Throw away musty items.

Cleaning products:

  • Many household cleaning products contain chemicals that irritate the lungs, so buy air-friendly versions or make your own.
  • When using cleaning products, air out the home by opening windows and using vent fans.

Cigarette smoke:

  • * Do not allow smoking in your home or car at any time.
  • * If you smoke, take it outside every time; when you’re ready to quit, you can seek help from the Lung Association

Find more information online at lungontario.ca.

5 rooms you can brighten with a skylight

5 rooms you can brighten with a skylightAdding a skylight can enhance any space, making it lighter, brighter, fresher and more cheerful. A skylight can also improve our experience indoors, where we spend 90 percent of our time but the air quality is three to five times worse than outdoors.

In addition to the health benefits of more natural light, skylights reduce the need for artificial light and can lower electricity costs delivering twice the amount of light as vertical windows allowing for daylight to penetrate the center of the home. Here are five rooms that would be even better with one of these light solutions.

Bathroom. By adding a venting skylight, you can allow in an abundance of natural daylight while also letting the steam out after a hot bath or shower. Plus, did you know that the best lighting for make-up application is natural light? A skylight can let you enjoy privacy, an unobstructed view and a sophisticated design touch in your bathroom.

Kitchen. Programmable skylights from Velux will let in natural light and they give you the control to properly air out your home and keep your kitchen fresh during and after cooking. By opening your skylight, gases like hot air, cooking odours and toxins escape through the roof.

Living room. Make this popular space feel bigger with a skylight — you can even combine multiple units to create an architectural statement. Add a solar-powered blind to reduce the glare on your television and other screens.

Home office. Incorporate more natural light into your home office or studio to increase productivity, minimize mistakes and improve your mood. Working in natural light will also lessen eyestrain, which can help reduce headaches.

Attic/loft conversion. By converting your attic into a functional loft, you can add more usable square footage, increasing the value of your home. Keep the space bright, airy and open by including a skylight in your new design, leaving you with views of the sky and not your neighbour’s roof, exterior side wall or bathroom. This will allow you to transform your dark attic space into a practical bright space flooded with natural light.

Find more inspiration online at moredaylight.ca/5rooms.

Energy saving tips for your spring cleaning list

Energy saving tips for your spring cleaning listSpring is in the air, which means it’s time to start decluttering and organizing. While the main purpose of spring cleaning is to clean your space, it can also include taking on tasks that will make your home more energy efficient.

Here are some tips from Hydro One on how to save energy and make spring cleaning a breeze.

Book a spring tune-up for your air conditioner. Annual servicing can reduce your cooling costs by up to 10 percent and extend the life of your system.

Commit to being clutter free. Keep weeds and debris away from your outdoor condenser unit to allow the air to circulate freely. Prune foliage to be at least 24 centimeters away from the condenser.

Change or clean filters. Clogged filters restrict airflow and make your system work overtime, making it less efficient. Spring is a great transitional season for you to check both your furnace and air conditioning filters to ensure they are clean and working properly.

Install a programmable thermostat. If properly set, it can reduce cooling costs. Set your central air conditioner for 25°C when you are at home and 28°C when you are away. Or turn it off to save more energy.

Schedule your washing loads. Run your dishwasher, washer and dryer early in the morning, in the evening or on weekends when electricity rates are lowest.

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

Major changes coming to new home building methods

Major changes coming to new home building methodsAcross Canada, home builders are adopting new approaches to construction to create greener homes with better resale value. One major change that’s tackling energy consumption and rising fuel costs is the use of an air-tight, solid concrete system to replace inefficient wood-framing. Insulated concrete forms (ICFs) erect a building with an interlocking system, similar to Lego.

“It’s a switch for builders, but those who have switched over tell us it’s quite easy to build with ICFs,” says Natalie Rodgers of Nudura, a leading name in the field. “Customer demand has driven this change and builders are now seeing how green construction options can have a positive impact on their business.”

The ICF system is now the number one choice of wall-building methods for “net-zero” construction projects south of the border. The term net-zero applies to buildings that are so energy efficient, they don’t tap into any public utility fuel supplies. The goal is for as many homes, schools and public buildings as possible to be designed to be net-zero. Here are some advantages of net-zero construction using ICF.

Building guide. Underscoring these proactive measures, the non-profit organization, LEED also reminds us that constructing a green home leaves a much smaller carbon footprint due to less demand on natural resources. It will create less waste and be healthier and more comfortable for the occupants.

Fuel savings. Walls built with ICFs are proven to reduce energy bills up to 60 per cent; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and reduce or eliminate exposure to mould, mildew and other indoor toxins. The net cost over time is comparable to owning a conventional home and the resale return is generally assured.

Durability. Concrete is strong. Due to high-impact resistance, these concrete walls assure maximum safety in high wind areas. Fire resistance is also reported to be maximized at four hours.

Comfort. Unlike in conventional wooded frames, air gaps are eliminated in ICF, minimizing the potential for mould growth and draft. The end result is an airtight structure enabling the mechanical systems to heat, cool and ventilate the structure more efficiently, creating a healthier living and working environment.

Responsibility. The materials are recyclable and the system is designed to create less landfill waste during the construction process. Combined with other eco-construction methods, this concrete system will significantly reduce carbon emissions by lowering the amount of fossil fuels needed for heating and cooling.

www.newscanada.com