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.

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.

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

House hunting or selling your home? Check radon levels

House hunting or selling your home? Check radon levelsOne of the biggest mistakes both buyers and sellers make is not testing for hidden health hazards. But if you’re a buyer, you want to make sure that your new home will provide a healthy living environment for you and your family. If you’re a seller, showing that your home is free from certain dangers can help close the deal and offer potential buyers peace of mind.

One hazard that Health Canada is recommending that all homeowners test for is radon, a radioactive gas that comes from uranium in the ground and can get into a home undetected.

Since long-term exposure to radon is known to cause lung cancer, it’s a smart move to check its levels. Testing is simple — you can either purchase a do-it-yourself test kit or hire a certified radon measurement professional. The DIY kit will include instructions on how to set up the test and send it back to a lab for analysis once the testing period is over.

To get a realistic estimate of the radon exposure, all measurements should be made in the lowest lived-in level of the house where people spend more than four hours per day. Potential measurement locations include family rooms, living rooms, dens, playrooms and bedrooms. A lower level bedroom is preferred because people generally spend more time in their bedrooms than in any other room in the house. Similarly, if there will be children in the house, lowest level bedrooms or other areas such as a playroom are preferred.

Health Canada recommends a long-term test for a minimum of three months. If you’re selling, this means you should complete the test before listing your property. If you’re buying, you will need to make sure there is enough time to complete the testing or request that a clause be added to the sale agreement to allow for high radon levels to be fixed. The cost of a radon reduction system, if needed, is very small compared to the cost of the home.

A dream home doesn’t become a nightmare if it tests positive for high radon levels — techniques to lower radon levels are effective, affordable and will improve the home’s indoor air quality. A radon mitigation system can be installed in less than a day, and in most homes will reduce the radon level by more than 80 per cent for about the same cost as other common home repairs such as replacing the furnace or air conditioner.

Find more information at www.canada.ca/radon.

www.newscanada.com