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.

Equip your home and family for safety

Most Canadians are under-protected and unprepared when it comes to fire and carbon monoxide safety, according to a nationwide survey conducted by First Alert. However, Fire Prevention Month in October is a great time to prepare a safety checklist to ensure your home and family are protected from the threats of smoke, fire and CO.

Help protect against the “silent killer.” An odourless and colorless gas, carbon monoxide is the number one cause of accidental poisoning and it can only be detected with an alarm. Yet more than a third of Canadian homes do not have a CO alarm. Consider hassle-free protection by installing 10-year sealed battery alarms that eliminate the need for battery replacement. Check all alarms monthly using the “test” button.

Install smoke alarms. Nearly one in five two-storey homes have just one smoke alarm installed. To secure the highest level of protection, install smoke and CO alarms inside every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. For ultimate home safety, select combination models, such as the First Alert 10-year Battery Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Alarm, which features a slim, contemporary design that mounts unobtrusively on a wall or ceiling.

Be prepared to fight small flames. Beyond alarms, having fire extinguishers — and knowing how to use them — is an important part of maintaining a safe home for you and your family. Place extinguishers in convenient locations on every level of the home, in the kitchen and in the garage.

Practice your emergency escape plan. Research shows that of the 56 per cent of us with an emergency escape plan, only one in five practice it twice a year. Make sure to involve everyone in your household in creating a plan and practice it at least twice every year. As part of this plan, equip second-floor bedrooms with escape ladders and discuss how to use them. Identify two ways out of each room and a meeting place outside. Emphasize that once at the predesignated meeting area, everyone must wait until officials clear your home for safe re-entry.

Staying safe during home renovations

The first back-to-school sale catches you by surprise. Where did the summer go?  With the return of shorter days and cooler temperatures, perhaps there are some neglected renovation projects that you can finally tackle.

Even if it’s only painting the kitchen, here are a few tips to keep you and your family safe:

  • Is there asbestos in your house? If you are planning renovations and your home has building materials already installed that you think may contain asbestos — like insulation, exterior siding, floor or ceiling tiles — contact a trained and qualified asbestos abatement professional. They can test for and remove asbestos before you begin the renovations. Never try to remove building materials that may contain asbestos yourself. If left undisturbed, there are no significant health risks from asbestos.
  • Understand what you’re using. Whether it’s paint, caulking or even window cleaner, use chemical products as directed. Follow all safety and usage instructions on the label, including how to dispose of anything left over.
  • Be sure to pick up gloves, a mask and a pair of safety glasses. The label of the product will provide more detailed information on personal safety equipment you should use. This is essential to protect you and your family.
  • Keep all chemicals away from children. Keep all household chemical products safely stored where kids cannot see or reach them.
  • Make sure there is plenty of ventilation during painting or varnishing projects, or when installing wall-to-wall carpets using glues or adhesives.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

Are there fire hazards in your home?

Are there fire hazards in your home?Besides a few well-known dangers, people often overlook potential fire risks in their homes. It takes just a few minutes to ensure you’re taking the proper safety precautions with everyday household items. Your insurance company can be a great source of information to safeguard your home, such as these simple tips from insurer, Aviva Canada.

When using electrical cords and extension cords:

  • Check before you use. Always check cords for damage before using them. If damaged, they can spark and cause a fire.
  • Invest in a high-quality power bar. If you’re using multiple small appliances and devices, choose a power bar that can handle the load. Also, never plug a power bar into another power bar.
  • Don’t run cords under carpets or rugs. Doing this could cause damage to the cord and spark a fire in the rug.
  • Use the right cords outdoors. Make sure all extension cords used outdoors are weatherproof and suitable for how you intend to use them.
  • Look for the ULC certification. Ensure that the extension cords you use is certified by the Underwriters Laboratories of Canada.

When using a clothes dryer:

  • Empty the lint trap before each load.
  • Ensure the dryer vent is clear from any obstructions.
  • Vacuum the exhaust hose every few months.
  • Only use the dryer when someone is home.

Find more tips on home and fire safety online at avivacanada.com/blog.

Top 5 tips for first-time homeowners

Top 5 tips for first-time homeownersBuying your first home can be exciting, but it is important to realize the slew of new responsibilities that come with owning property. Tasks that a landlord would take care of are now on your plate. Here are some to keep in mind:

  1. Neighbourhood by-laws. Many communities maintain regulations, such as maximum heights for fences, hedges and trees; building permits for decks; and rules for the construction of fire pits. To avoid an accidental misstep, check out the neighbourhood by-laws when you are moving.
  2. Maintain smoke alarms. According to the Canadian regulations, smoke alarms must be installed outside of each sleeping area and on each level. Maintenance of these devices include testing them every month, cleaning and changing their batteries as directed by the manufacturer, and replacing any that are over 10 years old.
  3. Check seldomly used bathrooms. Grime and dirt build-up can cause your faucets and toilets to malfunction or get damaged. Avoid this by running the taps and flushing the toilets of guest bathrooms occasionally.
  4. Curb appeal. Don’t forget to maintain your outdoor property as well. Take pride in your new home with a well-manicured yard. This may not be everyone’s favourite chore, but Stihl’s Lithium-Ion Homescaper Series can help in easing the load with lightweight and powerful tools making the job much easier.
  5. Emergency fund. Now that you own your home, you are solely responsible for any and all repairs. These can be costly, and often come by surprise. Avoid an unplanned financial burden by keeping an emergency fund for household maintenance and repairs.

Find more information about helpful tools online at stihl.ca.

Catch water damage before it costs you

Catch water damage before it costs youSpring has arrived, bringing with it new life, fresh vegetation and buckets of rain. In between splashing in puddles and smelling the budding flowers, make sure you take the time to inspect your home in advance of increased precipitation.

Water is the number one cause of damage to homes, outnumbering fire claims. To protect your home, look out for tell-tale signs of water damage in these areas:

Roof. Check for any leaks that could be causing water to seep into the walls and foundation. If your roof has shingles, inspect it after major storms to make sure none of them have blown off. To prevent water from pooling, clean your gutters regularly to make sure nothing is restricting or diverting water flow.

Ceilings, walls and frames. Look for water stains on the ceilings and walls of every floor of your home. Check windows and doorframes for cracks, dried caulking and any signs of mould and mildew. If a room has a damp or musty odour, it’s likely that water damage is hiding somewhere.

Foundation. Most homes built after the 1950s have a foundation drain that captures water accumulated near the home’s walls through a perforated pipe. But those pipes can get clogged by sand, soil and roots and should be inspected regularly. You can help prevent clogging by planting trees at least 15 feet away from your home and keeping them pruned to slow the growth of roots. If your home’s foundation has suffered water damage, you should notify your municipality in case the damage is related to the city sewers.

Water appliances and pumps. Though they’re not affected by weather, it’s a good idea to include your toilets, washing machines and dishwashers in your regular checks. Look for broken components that could cause leaks or overflowing.

If you do discover water damage, be sure to take photos of all the damaged items in your home, even if they will need to be thrown out. This will help you with your insurance claim. Insurance providers like Belairdirect offer a variety of coverage options and can work with you to make sure you have the right coverage. Find more information online at belairdirect.com.