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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Five DIY renovation tips

Five DIY renovation tipsAs the days grow longer and the sun begins to warm the soul, many of us might be thinking it’s time to get our home ready for the warmer weather. It’s a perfect time to embark on that painting or renovation project you’ve been dreaming about.

  1. Let the clean, fresh air in. Make sure there is plenty of ventilation during painting or varnishing projects, or when installing any flooring using glues or adhesives. You can find out about your local outdoor air quality by visiting www.airhealth.ca.
  2. 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 any leftover products. Be sure you use all personal safety equipment recommended on the label.
  3. Choose low-emission products when possible. Paint or varnish products often have a noticeable smell. The odour will contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some chemical products that are labelled as “low emission” give off fewer VOCs. Look on the label to see if the product is low emission.
  4. Check for asbestos. 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. Never try to remove building materials that may contain asbestos yourself.
  5. Keep chemicals away from children. Keep all household chemical products safely stored where children cannot see or reach them.

By following these renovation health tips, you can brush away the last signs of winter safely.

3 ways to refresh your home for spring

3 ways to refresh your home for springLooking to update your home for the season but don’t have time or budget for a major renovation? Do it right with these three easy DIY paint projects that can each be done in just a day.

“The seasonal transition from winter to spring is the perfect time to freshen up,” says Sharon Grech, colour and design expert for Benjamin Moore. “If you’re like me, you don’t have unlimited time to devote to working on your home, which is why small weekend projects are perfect because they’re quick, easy and affordable.”

Hit refresh with paint. Nothing says refresh quite like bringing new life to a tired piece of furniture. A fresh coat of paint is the perfect solution to make old, dated furniture seem trendy and new. Look for pieces that have solid construction and interesting shapes. Grech says headboards, wardrobes, chairs and side tables are all great pieces to transform. If you are unsure of the condition of the furniture or how to paint it, visit a local paint retailer to ensure you get the product that is right for your project.

Amaze with an accent wall. Feature walls are a great way to make an impactful change to a space. “Many people think accent walls need to be very bold and vibrant hues, when they can be neutral to create a more cohesive and harmonious feel,” says Grech. Explore painting the fifth wall, otherwise known as the ceiling, for a unique and modern look that can add dimension to a space.

Front door décor. The front door has the ability to instantly create an inviting impression before guests enter your home. “Applying a fresh coat of paint to your front door is a great DIY project that can be done quickly and can invigorate the look and feel of your home,” says Grech. “Because it’s so easy, you can even change your door colour seasonally.” Benjamin Moore’s Aura Grand Entrance collection, inspired by European enamel finishes has more than 42 curated colours.

Find more information at www.benjaminmoore.ca.

 

Simple spring ideas add seasonal touches to your home

Simple spring ideas add seasonal touches to your homeA new season is here, and that means it’s time to give your living spaces an update. Refresh your home with a few strategic elements that can take you from winter to wow.

Surprise with unexpected florals. Flowers during springtime are not exactly a groundbreaking idea, but you can add a twist by incorporating them in creative ways. Think removable wallpaper or a reupholstered statement armchair with pretty, punchy or playful florals. Fresh flowers are never a miss, and you can make them bloom and last longer by placing an ice cube in their water every other day.

Transport outdoor greenery inside. Nothing says spring like new plants, flowers and shrubs. Even if you don’t have a backyard, you can give your interiors a touch of the garden with easy-to-maintain plants around your home. Popular varieties this year are coloured plants like the Pink Princess Philodendron, aquatic plants that require less care, and dwarf fruit trees.

Brighten with a pastel palette. Today’s trending colours are perfect for the season. Add some millennial pink, soft lavender and cheerful yellow with decorative accessories like pillows and art prints for an easy update. For a more substantial makeover, try painting an accent wall one of these shades for a pop of colour and keep everything else neutral for a balanced look.

Update your window’s look. Sometimes all it takes to energize a space are new window fashions. Be sure to choose something that lets in plenty of the sun’s rays after a long winter, like Pirouette window shadings from Hunter Douglas. Soft horizontal fabric vanes float on a sheer backing, allowing you to achieve infinite combinations of light control, view-through and privacy. The sheer fabric back panel diffuses sunlight, transforming it into a warm glow while filtering out ultraviolet rays.

 

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.