Archive for October, 2011

Cyber Security

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Cyber Security | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamLike most people, I use a computer and mobile devices daily for personal and business reasons, but I don’t consider myself an expert in any way, and to tell the truth, I find the whole cyber world a little worrisome.  I’m not totally comfortable putting my faith in the security of online banking sites, or giving out my credit card information to online vendors.  I think I’ve taken plenty of precautions by investing in good security software and by following the advice of computer experts for things like password choice, web browser settings and so on, but still, I worry that there are other things I should be doing. 

Recently I heard Get Cyber Safe  advertised on the radio.  Upon investigating it, I found it to be a great site that I would highly recommend to my family, friends and clients in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County, the Edmonton area and elsewhere. 

Sponsored by the government of Canada, the About Us page of the site explains that:

Get Cyber Safe is a national public awareness campaign created to educate Canadians about Internet security and the simple steps they can take to protect themselves online. The campaign’s goal is to bring together all levels of government, the public and private sectors, and the international community, to help Canadians be safer online.

The campaign is an important component of Canada’s Cyber Security Strategywhich is dedicated to securing government systems, partnering to secure vital cyber systems outside the federal government, and helping Canadians to be secure online.

The campaign is being led by Public Safety Canada on behalf of the Government of Canada.”

Sections of the site take the reader through the risks associated with online activity, and then address protecting yourself (especially your identity, your money and your family), and your devices, including computers, mobile devices, home networks and data storage.  The website Get Cyber Safe has something for everyone, expert and novice computer users alike, with lots of information explained clearly and plainly. 

Your comments and questions are always welcome!  Call me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here

Winter Isn’t For Wimps!

Friday, October 21st, 2011

Winter Isn't For Wimps! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamIn the Spruce Grove, Stony Plain and Parkland County region of Alberta, we know it comes every year, and we spend about half the year in winter-like conditions.  Still, it always seems to catch some people by surprise. 

Take these steps now to make your house winter-worthy, and save some money and the environment at the same time:

Home heating

  • We’ve heard this before and it still works:  Turn down the heat a few degrees to save energy and money.  When you’re chilly, put on a sweater, socks and slippers, and sip a hot drink, instead of cranking up the thermostat!  Have you heard of the “Triple 8 Equation”?  Decrease the thermostat by 8 degrees for 8 hours each day and reduce costs by 8%.
  • Install a programmable thermostat and set it to raise and lower the temperature when needed.  For example, set the thermostat to lower the heat while people are away through the day, and raise it a little about a half hour before the family arrives home.
  • If you have a ceiling fan, you might have thought of it as a summer-only accessory.  Reverse the fan to a clockwise rotation so that the warm air is pushed downward and circulates more freely.
  • Let the sun in during the day.
  • Cook more at home!
  • It is possible to vent your electric dryer inside your home to take advantage of the heat and humidity.  (But be careful with this one!  Too much humidity could create a mould problem.)
  • Use your dryer for consecutive loads of laundry.  This conserves the energy that would be needed to heat up the dryer several times.


  • Clean and vacuum heating ducts, grilles, registers and ceiling fans.  Clean and replace the furnace filter in early fall and once a month during the winter months when it is in constant use.  Consider upgrading to an electrostatic filter for cleaner air.
  • Check your furnace’s humidifier, if it has one.  Clean the filter and ensure water is turned on.
  • It’s a good idea to have furnaces cleaned and tuned annually.
  • Make sure your cold air returns are not blocked. 
  • If your furnace is more than 10 years old, it’s a safe bet that it’s not using fuel efficiently.  Although initially pricey to install, a new high-efficiency furnace will pay for itself over time in lower heating bills and less harm to the environment.  Added bonus:  better circulation of air means fewer cold spots throughout your home, and cleaner air resulting in fewer sniffles and sneezes caused by allergies to dust and pet dander.

Winter Isn't For Wimps! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamFireplace and chimney:

  • While your fireplace chimney may not need to be swept each year, it’s a good idea to at least have it inspected before you use your fireplace to ensure that nothing has become lodged in it.
  • If you use a wood stove for heat, your chimney will need to be cleaned regularly.  Not doing so can have serious consequences:  fire, carbon monoxide poisoning and the like.
  • When not in use, keep the chimney damper closed to keep out cold air.



Since warm air rises, a great deal of heat escapes from the top of the house.  If you can see ceiling joists in your attic, you don’t have enough insulation.  Besides the amount of insulation, consider insulation r value. The higher the r value, the more effective the insulation material is, both against incoming cold and movement of heat.

The most common types of insulation used in attics are fiberglass insulation in rolls, batt insulation, or blown insulation.  When adding insulation, remember the following:

  • Blow in insulation is most effective, but messy to install; hiring an insulation contractor is your best bet. By contrast, fiberglass batts laid sideways over existing insulation is a fast, easy DIY home project alternative. Handyman tip:  Most older homes have somewhere between 3 to 6 inches of fiberglass blanket insulation, roughly equal to an r value of 9 to 19.
  • When adding insulation, make sure soffit venting is not blocked.
  • Check around light fixtures and along the tops of interior walls in your home for air leakage.  There must be a tight air barrier to ensure warm moist air from inside your home does not get into the cold attic.  This causes condensation in the winter, increasing the risk of mould.


Interior insulation can be used in a dry basement, whether finished or not. When finishing off the basement, use batt insulation in stud cavities for walls and ceiling, or extruded polystyrene insulation on the face of perimeter walls. For unfinished basements, install rolls of polyethylene-encapsulated fiberglass over the walls.

Keep in mind that insulating basement walls will help keep cold out and lower heating costs during the long winters, but there are disadvantages to consider.

  • Any moist air moving through the wall may cause condensation.
  • Due to the moisture barrier on the foundation wall and vapor retarder on the room side of the insulation, the wall’s drying potential will be hindered.

Never install interior insulation in a damp basement.  Address moisture entry problems before insulating.

Keep the heat in

  • Check for cold air entry points:  areas in your house where cold air can seep in and inside heat escape out.  Check external wall electrical outlets, switch-plates, gaps around windows and doors (especially sliding glass patio doors).  Outside of the house, check outlets, outdoor faucets, pipes, and along foundation walls.
  • Use felt door weather-stripping around the sides and tops of doors.  Install a door sweep along the bottom of the door on the inside. Make sure the threshold (or saddle) is in good condition; otherwise, have it replaced.
  • Replace window coverings with thermal drapes.  These not only keep the heat in during the winter, but they keep the heat out in the summer.
  • Although expensive, it might be worth it over time to replace the windows themselves with newer, energy-efficient models, especially if your home is more than 30 years old. If new windows are not an option, use window weather-stripping and/or purchase a window insulation kit – about $3 per window.
  • To seal up cracks around windows, perimeter walls, and around wall sockets, use standard caulking. Fortify drafty wall sockets with foam pads made for that purpose. To seal exterior cracks around the perimeter of the home, use caulking appropriate for use in temperatures below minus 40 degrees. Caulking will help to keep cold air from entering the house interior. While the estimated cost of caulk runs about $10 per tube, annual energy savings total up to $100 on average.

Lighting and power

Holiday lights:

  • Manually turn off lights, or better yet, put them on a turner so they turn off automatically, when everyone goes to bed.
  • Invest in LED strings of lights – 95% more energy-efficient than ordinary lights and last up to 7 times longer.

Winter Isn't For Wimps! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamLightbulbs in lamps and light fixtures:

  • Switch to smart bulbs.  A 20- to 25-watt energy-saving bulb can last up to 10 times longer than a normal bulb, uses up to 75% less energy, provides as much light as a 100-watt ordinary bulb.  The new 7-watt LED bulbs have an added advantage:  no fire hazard because they give off no heat.


  • If it’s plugged in, it’s using power.  If you’re not using a piece of equipment, unplug it and/or turn off power bars.


  • Try to schedule the use of washers, dryers and dishwashers during off-peak hours (after 7 PM on weeknights or on weekends) when demand is lower and the cost of electricity is less.

Water and drainage

  • Drain and turn off outside taps.  Drain all garden hoses and neatly store for the winter.
  • Check and clean out eavestroughs and gutters and make sure the path is clear for spring run-off.  Spring does eventually come!
  • Check your roof while you’re at it.  Missing or worn shingles not only let water seep in during the summer months, they also allow heat to escape.
  • While not strictly a winter-time preparation, as long as you’re checking out various home systems, why not repair all water leaks anywhere in your home.  Better still, consider switching to efficient faucets which use up to 70% less water with the same pressure as traditional faucets, low-flush toilets, and low-flow showerheads.  If your water heater needs to be upgraded, consider installing a tankless water heater.

Just in case…

  • Check that you have workable carbon monoxide alarms and smoke alarms (test them with an actual bit of smoke) throughout your house, and put in fresh batteries.  Check your fire extinguishers also:  one for the kitchen, one for the garage, one for the basement, at minimum.
  • Buy indoor candles (or lanterns) and matches or lighter for use during a power outage, especially if you live in a rural area.  You might even want to consider purchasing a gas-powered electric generator.
  • Tape the phone numbers for your utility companies near your phone or inside your phone book.
  • Buy a battery back-up to protect your computer and sensitive electronic equipment.
  • Store extra bottled water and non-perishable food supplies (don’t forget your pets!), blankets and a first-aid kit in a dry and easy-to-access location.
  • Prepare an evacuation plan in case of emergency.
  • Before winter hits, round up all your winter gear:  snow shovels and brushes, sandbags, toques, mitts, boots….

Anything I can help you with?  Call me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here. 

Home Inspection Revisited

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Home Inspection Revisited | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamWhen you bought your home in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or the Edmonton area, you probably had it inspected to ensure that you weren’t buying someone else’s maintenance headaches.   In an Edmonton Journal article published October 1, 2011 (“Why you need your home inspected now), Mike Holmes makes a strong case for what he calls the maintenance inspection:  getting your home inspected on a regular basis – as often as every 3 years – to determine what, if any, repairs need to be done to your home.  The report generated from the inspection will give you a timeline on when the work should be done along with a rough estimate of the cost.  As Mike Holmes points out, the best way to protect the biggest investment you’ll ever make is through preventive maintenance, and spending a few hundred dollars now on an inspection could save you thousands in costly repairs later on.  Read the article for more reasons why you should revisit your home inspection.

Comments or questions about this article?  Call me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here. 


Fire Safety in Your Home

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Fire Safety in Your Home | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamAn article by Mike Holmes in the October 8, 2011 Edmonton Journal entitled “Simple lint can be serious fire hazard” [reprinted from an earlier article called “Lint isn’t just fluff; it’s a fire hazard”, Edmonton, September 29, 2011] reminded me that October is Fire Safety Month in Canada.  Is your home in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or the Edmonton area as fire-safe as it could be?  Use this handy checklist put together by a member of my team to find out.

Fire Safety Checklist

Smoke Alarms, Carbon Monoxide Detectors, Fire Extinguishers, Escape Plan

___ We have at least one smoke alarm newer than 10 years old on every floor.  (Ideally, also an alarm in or near every sleeping area, near the family room and kitchen, at the top of each stairway, in the garage, wired in with battery backup.)

___ Carbon monoxide detectors newer than 7 years old are located in the same areas as smoke alarms, with an additional one near the furnace.

___ Batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are changed twice a year.

___ We test the alarms every 3 months.

___ We have emergency flashlights with fresh batteries in every bedroom and the kitchen.

___ There are fire extinguishers in the kitchen, garage, basement, and near each fire source (fireplace, wood-burning stove).  These are checked or inspected on a regular basis, and someone in the home knows how to use them.  (One in each vehicle is a good idea too.)

___ We avoid accumulating clutter, especially combustible waste.  Items of this type are never stored near a heat source or near the furnace or hot water heater, and we ensure that we have clear paths to all exits.

___ As a family, we regularly practice our escape.  All family members know what to do in case of fire or other emergency.

Fire and Heat Sources

___ Our wood-burning fireplace/stove is properly ventilated and there is adequate fresh air intake.

___ Our fireplace has a screen to prevent sparks, and we dispose of ashes in metal containers.

___ Our wood-burning fireplaces/stoves and their chimneys are cleaned and inspected every year.

___ Space heaters are kept at least 3 feet from flammable/combustible items, and they are placed where they cannot be knocked over.

___ Heat sources of any kind, including the kitchen stove, are never left unattended when in use.

___ We make sure things that can burn, such as dishtowels, paper or plastic bags, curtains and loose fitting clothing, are at least 3 feet away from the range top when we are cooking.

___ Our barbecue grill is at least 3 feet away from the house and any combustibles when in use.


___ Flammables are stored in original, marked containers away from sources of heat or flame.

___ If we must store gasoline and similar fuels at home, we do so in special safety containers, and never in the house.

___ We store matches and lighters in a locked cabinet or similar secure location out of reach of children.

___ We do not allow smoking in our home.  But, if we did, there would be deep wide ashtrays available; lit cigarettes would never be left unattended; ashtrays and furniture would always be checked before we leave the house or go to bed; smoking is never done in bed.

___ Candles are used only by adults, out of reach of children and pets, placed in sturdy and stable holders made of glass or metal well away from flammable items, and never left unattended.

___ The lint trap on our clothes dryer is cleaned after every load of laundry, and dryer ductwork is cleaned and inspected every year.


___ Kitchen appliances, such as the kettle, coffee-maker, toaster oven and microwave, are plugged into separate outlets.

___ There are no frayed or cracked cords or exposed wiring in our home.

___ There are no outlets or switches that are unusually warm to touch.

___ All outlets and switches have cover plates so that no wiring is exposed.

___ No outlet has a smudge mark indicating that an electrical short has occurred around the socket where plugs are inserted.

___ Light bulbs are the appropriate size and type for the lamp or fixture.

___ No extension cord carries more than its proper load, as indicated by the rating labeled on the cord and appliance.  Cords are never run under rugs or hooked over nails, and are not used as a permanent solution.

___ We keep “air space” around electronic items such as TVs, stereos, computers, etc.

___ We replace any electrical tool or appliance if it causes electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out, or gives off smoke or sparks.

___ We keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters, and we take special care with electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.

Your comments and questions are always welcome!  Call me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here. 


Don’t Get Hung Up On Picture Hanging!

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Don't Get Hung Up On Picture Hanging! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamYou’ve moved into your great new home in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or the Edmonton area.  The furniture is in place and you’re ready to add those personal decorative touches that will make this house reflect you in a unique way.

Most of us enjoy having artwork and family photos on the walls, but how many of us know the right way to place those items to show them off to their best advantage and to complement the other decorative elements in a space?  Some of the things we’re often guilty of is hanging artwork too high, or choosing artwork that is too big or too small in relation to the space it will be placed in, or the furniture it will be near.  There is an art to hanging art, and it’s more than banging a nail into a wall and then slapping a picture on the nail!

I’m sure you’ve visited homes where the artwork on the walls just feels right.  The colors and dimensions of the pieces work well with the room and its furnishings, and your eye is drawn again and again to the pieces.  That’s the design part of the project, and you can learn how to do it!  Here is a website that will help you to develop your artist’s eye:  28 Tips for Hanging Art

After you’ve decided what you want to hang, the science part of hanging stuff on walls enters the picture, so to speak!  Here are a few tips to give your artwork and photos gallery-like exposure:

Where?  Placement on the Wall:

How?  Attaching it to the Wall:

  • Most artwork will have hanging wire attached to the back with screw eyes that go about 1/3 of the way down from the top edge of the painting.  The wire should be at least 2” from the top edge of the painting when pulled tight, and it should be coiled tightly and neatly so it’s secure.  See How to Hang a Painting for very clear instructions along with photographs on how to use the wire and the vertical center of artwork to position it perfectly on your wall. 
  • But there are some picture hangers who prefer to use brackets instead of wire as they are less likely to slip out of level.  See How to Hang a Picture Frame: Skill Set.
  • See also How to Hang a Picture for even more detailed and specific directions.
  • Another good article is How to Hang Your Artwork and Not Screw It Up.

Lots of articles to read through, but also lots of great information to make you an expert picture hanger!

Still looking for that picture-perfect property?  Let me help!  Call me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here


Barry Twynam, Realty Executives Leading
#1 14 McLeod Avenue, Spruce Grove, Alberta, T7X 3X3
Tel: 780-962-9696 Cell: 780-910-9669 Fax: 780-962-9699
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