Archive for the ‘Home Safety’ Category

Aging in Place

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

If the phrase “aging in place” is new to you, it probably won’t be for long!  I predict in the next few years, we’ll be hearing this phrase a lot.  How does it apply to those of us living in the Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and Edmonton areas of Alberta?   

Aging in place means stayinAging in Place | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynamg in our homes as we get older, and adapting the home to meet our needs as we age.  For most of us, aging will bring about certain predictable physical changes, such as diminished eyesight and hearing or decreased mobility.  Some people will elect to move to accommodate these changes, whether to a one-level apartment-style condo or to some kind of retirement lodging.  But most of us want to stay in the familiar surroundings of our well-loved homes as long as we possibly can.  And that may mean renovating our homes to make them as functional as possible.  Other terms often used for homes that have been modified to accommodate special needs are “universal design” and “barrier-free  homes”. 

Many of the features of a typical modern home (such as an open floor plan, especially one where the main living areas – kitchen, living room, master suite, laundry room – are on the main floor) work well with the concept of aging in place.  Other features, such as hardwood flooring instead of wall-to-wall carpeting, and venetian blinds instead of draperies, are less successful.  Those hard surfaces often don’t help a home’s acoustics, and a hard and slippery floor can be treacherous for people who are unsteady on their feet. 

When we think about accommodations for seniors, things such as grab bars in the bathroom, walk-in bathtubs, stair lifts or even elevators may come to mind.  But there are many other simpler and cheaper changes that can have a huge effect on our comfort and safety.    

Eyesight and Lighting.  Adding more lamps and upping the wattage of light bulbs throughout one’s home can make a big difference in improving visual perception.  The most important areas needing better lighting are hallways and stairs.  Consider also changing the contrast between light and dark areas in a room in order to make things easier to see.  A monochromatic bathroom may be artistically beautiful, but if there isn’t a clear demarcation between the white tub and the light-colored floor, someone might have trouble judging where one ends and the other begins, resulting in a nasty fall.   

Furniture.  Consider replacing hard-edged glass coffee tables with dual-purpose softer-edged ottomans.  Consider also replacing squishy upholstered pieces with those that provide more support, making them easier to get into and out of.  Rearrange furniture so that there is plenty of room to maneuver around individual pieces (especially if wheelchairs and walkers will be used), but also place furniture in such a way that people will be sitting closer together and/or directly facing each other to aid hearing. 

FlooringCarpet is easy to walk on and safer if falling may be an issue.  But carpet may not be the best choice if walkers or wheelchairs will be used.  The best multi-purpose flooring may be non-slip tile throughout the home.  If tripping isn’t a concern, area rugs can add soft support as well as visual interest and contrast between dark and light.  Just be sure that the edges are well taped down. 

Monitoring and Assistance.  If you live alone, you probably have a support network of people to call in an emergency and you no doubt have a telephone or cell phone in easy reach at all times.  You may have an arrangement with family, friends or neighbors to check on you each day.  Perhaps you’ve considered a service such as Lifeline that connects you to 24-hour emergency monitoring via a bracelet or necklace style communicator.  While none of these things relate directly to home modifications, all of them contribute to keeping you in your home. 

The website SeniorResource.com contains a wealth of information about aging in place.  Particularly helpful is a Home Assessment chart that matches home modifications with a specific physical infirmity.  Most of the suggestions below are from that chart: 

Limited vision:

  • Edge of counters a different color than the top
  • Edge of each step is a color that stands out
  • Contrast colors between floor and walls
  • Stairs are well-lit
  • Increased wattage of light bulbs
  • Lights in all closets
  • Outside walkways and entrances are all well-lit
  • Stove controls clearly marked and easy to see
  • Stove has big numbers that can be seen from across the room
  • Stove uses different colors to tell which parts are hot
  • Under-cabinet lighting over kitchen counter

Hearing impairment:

  • Increased volume on phones
  • Smoke detectors have strobe lights
  • Furniture arranged to facilitate hearing
  • Soft surfaces to improve acoustics
  • Ultra-quiet dishwasher to reduce background noise

Balance and coordination problems:

  • Bath seat in tub or shower, or walk-in shower with pull-down seat
  • Bath tub with transfer bench
  • Temperature controlled shower and tub fixtures
  • Rounded counter edges
  • Grab bars near bath and toilet
  • Handrails extend beyond top and bottom of stairs
  • Stairway handrails on both sides
  • No stairs to bedroom or bathroom
  • Phone in bathroom

Limited reach:

  • Hand-held shower in bathroom
  • Electrical outlets are 27” above floor
  • Light switches at 42” instead of 48”
  • Cabinet shelves no more than 10” deep
  • Closet organizer or Lazy Susan to reach belongings
  • Closet rods pull down to comfortable level
  • Kitchen and closets have pull-down or pull-out shelving
  • Upper kitchen cabinets 48” from floor
  • Cook top has easy-to-reach controls at front
  • Microwave oven no higher than 48” above floor
  • Oven doors swing to the side
  • Side-by-side refrigerator
  • Lowered kitchen counter tops
  • Sink controls on the side
  • Front-loading washer and dryer

Poor hand and arm strength:

  • Automatic garage door opener
  • Easy to open and lock doors and screens
  • Cabinets and drawers have D-shape handles
  • Doors have lever handles
  • Counter tops smooth so heavy pans can slide across them
  • Heat resistant counter near microwave oven
  • Push button controls on appliances
  • Garbage disposal or trash compactor to reduce trash
  • Rocker light switches
  • Sinks with lever faucet handles
  • Special hardware to make drawers slide easily
  • Spray hose to fill pots on the stove
  • Dishwasher 8” from floor

Trouble bending:

  • Elevated toilet or toilet seat
  • Lower kitchen cabinets 6” above floor
  • Sink no more than 6” deep
  • Carpet is low pile and firm pad
  • Clutter and electric cords are out of pathways
  • Counter top that can be used while sitting
  • Doors are wide enough for a walker to get through

Trouble walking and climbing stairs:

  • Driveway smooth but not slippery
  • Floors are smooth and slip-resistant
  • Knee space under sinks; can sit while washing
  • Knee space under stove; can sit while cooking
  • No area rugs
  • Ramp to front door with handrails on both sides
  • Stairs have slip-resistant surface
  • Thresholds on entry doors no higher than ¼ inch.

Uses wheelchair:

  • Peep hole at low  height
  • Lower window sills especially for windows on the street
  • Hallways, doorways and closets wide enough for wheelchair.  Doorways 36″ wide with off-set hinges on doors
  • Appliances have controls at the front
  • Can use counters, sinks, stove top while sitting
  • Can wheel from car to front door and then inside; no steps
  • Ramp to front door with landings at top and bottom
  • Can wheel to bedroom, bathroom, kitchen
  • Pathways clutter-free
  • Enough floor space near doors to move wheelchair
  • Roll-in shower with multiple showerheads and/or way to transfer to tub
  • Space to transfer from wheelchair to toilet
  • See all above sections 

If you decide to remodel your current home, remember that you probably won’t have to make all of the modifications listed here.  Instead, focus on those of most benefit to your individual situation and make other changes as the need arises.  

Other resources:

See also this article by Mike Holmes:  “Renovate now so that you can live well later“.

Are you looking for a “universal design” home that will allow you to age in place?  I would be happy to help you find such a home!  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

 

 

Should Your Home Have a Fire Sprinkler System?

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Should Your Home Have a Fire Sprinkler System? | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamHow protected from fire is your home in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the Edmonton area?  You have smoke detectors, carbon monoxide alarms and fire extinguishers but should you do more? 

I recently watched a disturbing YouTube video entitled The Co-operators and the Guelph Fire Department Sprinkler Demonstration sponsored by The Co-Operators Insurance company and the Guelph Fire Department.  In the video I learned that deaths from fire occur most often in the home and usually when people are sleeping.  Those most affected are likely to be small children under the age of 5 and adults over the age of 60.  It’s one thing to read in the video that fire departments typically respond in as little as 10 minutes but that conditions during a fire can become unsurvivable in under 2 minutes.   It’s a very different impression to watch the video and see the destruction and horror caused by a fire, how quickly it can spread, filling a home with toxic fumes and smoke, and how devastating the damage can be.   

The purpose of the video was to point out the difference sprinklers can make in saving lives and protecting property.  According to the video, damage in a sprinkler-protected home is generally 71% less.  Insurance claims in sprinkler-protected homes run around $1000 compared to $15,000 in those without.  Even more important than the decreased property damage is the life-saving aspect:  an 80% reduction in injury and death in a home with sprinklers. 

The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition’s website  has similar information:  “Most people don’t realize that 8 out of 10 fire deaths occur in the home.  They usually happen at night when people are asleep.  People also do not understand how fast fires spread and how they can go from a tiny flame to total destruction in as little as three minutes.  Fire sprinklers can suppress and often extinguish a fire before the fire department arrives, giving people time to escape.” 

The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, based in the US but with Canadian partners, reports statistics similar to those in the video.  The website also contains a wealth of other information and answers to questions people might have about home sprinkler systems:

  • Fires kill more people in the US every year than all natural disasters combined.  And 80% of those fire deaths occur in the home.  When combined with smoke alarms, residential fire sprinklers cut the risk of dying by 82%.
  • Fire sprinklers can save money for developers, builders, homeowners and communities.
  • Only the sprinkler closest to the fire will activate, spraying water directly on the fire.  Sprinklers cause much less water damage than fire hoses.
  • Sprinklers are activated by high heat so sprinklers throughout a home are unlikely to go off.  The website notes that 90% of all home fires are contained with a single sprinkler.
  • Accidental discharge of sprinklers due to defective equipment is extremely unlikely.
  • Homeowners need not worry about the aesthetics of a sprinkler system as the hardware in a home system is small and easily concealed.
  • If installed in a new home, the cost may be about the same as an upgraded carpet, or about 1 to 1.5% of the building cost.  This cost may be offset over a number of years through lower insurance premiums.
  • Home fire sprinkler systems can be retrofitted into existing homes. 

In light of recent house fires in our province that caused tremendous damage and loss of life due to current new homes being built very close together and with flammable materials, the cost of installing a sprinkler system (running about $1.65 per square foot in the US for new home construction) seems well worth it.  I urge you to view the Co-Operators video  to get a feel for the true calamity of a fire in the home, and visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition website for more information about home sprinklers.  You can never be too safe! 

See also my blog articleFire Safety in Your Home”.   

Comments or questions about this article?  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

 

 

 

Flooded Basement? Prevention and Cure!

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Flooded Basement? Prevention and Cure! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamHow dry is your Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or Edmonton area basement?  With one of the wettest summers on record upon us, you might be one of those unfortunate homeowners dealing with a flooded basement.  Whether you’re in the process of cleaning up, or you’ve been spared so far and want to stay that way, check out the following for some good advice:

Preventing the Problem

Steps you can take to prevent basement flooding”, published in the Saturday, July 21, 2012 edition of the Edmonton Journal.

The Homeowner’s Guide to Flood Prevention”, produced by the City of Edmonton.

Before Flooding”, concise and comprehensive factsheet from Alberta Municipal Affairs, Emergency Management Alberta.

Avoiding Basement Flooding”, factsheet from CMHC.

Protect Your Home From Basement Flooding”, from the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction  (includes a handy score sheet to determine your risk for flooding).  View their video “Reduce basement flooding”.

Check out also “City of Spruce Grove Homeowner’s Guide to Lot Grading”  and Spruce Grove’s “Residential Lot Grading and Maintenance” information sheet and regulations.

What to Do After a Flood

Cleaning your home after a flood”, Alberta Health Services.

Flood Disaster: What to do before, during and after flooding”, excellent and detailed booklet from Alberta Municipal Affairs, Emergency Management Alberta.

After the Flood:  A Homeowner’s Checklist”, factsheet from CMHC.

Cleaning Up Your House After a Flood”, CMHC free download.

A Guide to Fixing Your Damp Basement”, available from CMHC for $9.95.

Cleaning Up After the Flood: a guide for homeowners”, Saskatchewan Ministry of Health.

City of Spruce Grove Disaster Recovery Program 

See also my blog article entitled “Spring Run-off”, posted April 10, 2012.

Comments or questions about this article?  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

Spring Run-off

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Spring Run-off | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamAh, spring.  Warm sunny days, robins returning, snow disappearing – and water everywhere.  As a home owner in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County, the Edmonton region or elsewhere, you do everything you can to protect your property.  Would it surprise you to learn that the leading cause of damage to property is not break-ins or fire or wild winds, but water?  In fact, more than half of all insurance claims, about 1.3 billion dollars’ worth in Canada, are due to water damage.  This type of claim is likely to increase as infrastructure ages, the climate changes, and home owners finish every square foot of their dwellings.

We’ve all seen the stories in the media about flood damage in Manitoba and parts of the US, but that type of large-scale catastrophe is less common than all the other ways water can ruin a home.  And most of the everyday type of water damage, caused by a leaky roof, backed-up sewer or spring run-off, is preventable.  Here are a few things you can do to minimize water problems:

  • Walk around the entire outside of your home, keeping your eyes open for all the places water could get in.
  • Does the grade slope away from your home without any dips where the ground has settled?  There should be no area where water drains back toward the house.
  • Do the downspouts from eavestroughs extend at least 6 feet from the house?
  • Do all doors and windows fit snugly without any cracks where water could seep in?
  • As spring approaches, are you diligent about clearing snow and ice away from your home?
  • On the roof:
  • Inspect the roof for missing or damaged shingles and repair any problems.  If your roof is older than 15 years, it might be time for a whole new roof.
  • Are the eavestrough gutters free and clear of debris so that water can flow freely off the roof?
  • Check seals around chimneys, skylights and vents to ensure they are water-tight.
  • Inside your home:
  • Regularly check all plumbing (including your hot water tank) and appliances for leaks, and for trouble signs such as rust around a faucet or corrosion around the washing machine hose.  One trick for testing whether a toilet is leaking:  Add food coloring to the tank.  If the color seeps into the bowl after about 20 minutes, you have a leak.
  • Burst pipes can cause a major mess.  Besides checking for leaks, check that insulation in these areas is adequate.
  • Consider installing a sump pump, backwater valve or water sensor, if you don’t already have these items.
  • Examine all ceilings for stains which could indicate spots where water has gotten in.
  • If you store valuable items in the basement, put them in plastic bins up off the floor.
  • Don’t run appliances such as dishwasher or washing machine when nobody is home.

A few other suggestions:

  • When you leave on vacation, even for a long weekend, have someone do regular checks of your residence.  Check all taps and faucets before you leave (turn off the water to the washing machine!), and consider even turning off the main water valve.
  • Review your insurance coverage to make sure you are covered for water perils such as sewer backup and the like.
  • If your home is starting to show its age, consider hiring a home inspector to go over your home with you, looking specifically for problem areas before they develop into full-blown trouble.

I love to hear your comments or questions!  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

 

 

 

 

Locks, Keys and Making Them Work

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Locks, Keys and Making Them Work | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamA good solid lock is one of the best ways to secure the biggest investment most of us will ever make, whether it’s an acreage in Parkland County, a house in Stony Plain or a condo in Spruce GroveBut what if that lock is sticking and your key is not reliably locking and unlocking the door each time?  Are there some simple fixes, or do you have to get a locksmith to replace every lock in your home?

I recently ran across an article entitled “When your key doesn’t unlock the door” published in the January 13, 2012 issue of the Grove Examiner.  This article, also found online on the Edmonton Sun website, is well worth a read.  The author, noted security expert Frank Fourchalk, has numerous suggestions to solve the problem, from using good old reliable WD-40, to tightening various screws and filing the strike plates, to re-keying (not replacing) your locks, and more.  Read his excellent advice on everything relating to home security on his own website, Your Home Security.ca 

If you’re concerned about security in your home, take a look also at my checklists:

Home Security Checklist 

Fire Safety Checklist 

Looking to buy or sell in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or the Edmonton area?  Give me a call at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca or contact me here.

 

 

How Secure Is Your Home?

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

How Secure Is Your Home? | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamDo you know anyone in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or the Edmonton region who has been the victim of a burglary?  To ensure that this unpleasant experience never happens to you, take a look at our Home Security Checklist.

This list may be one of the most comprehensive you will ever find, starting outside your home with a look at your neighborhood in general, outdoor security and valuables, landscaping, exterior lighting, the garage and other outbuildings.  Focusing on your home itself, items to check here include entry doors and locks, windows, the home interior and its contents, and special circumstances, such as alarm systems, firearms, swimming pool safety, and fire safety.  The document concludes with a special checklist just for things you need to consider while on vacation.  Chances are there are a few things on the Home Security Checklist you haven’t thought of doing, and those things just might make your home more secure and less burglar-friendly!

You might also be interested in our Fire Safety Checklist.

Some related blog posts:

Looking for a new home, especially one with more security features?  Call me at 780-910-9669, email me barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

 

Fire That Old Furnace!

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Fire That Old Furnace! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamMost of us don’t give much thought to the furnaces in our Spruce Grove, Stony Plain or Parkland County homes, as long as they keep us warm through the long Alberta winters.  An article in the October 29, 2011 edition of the Edmonton Journal, entitled “A new furnace can save money, and lives”, might just give you reasons to replace the old workhorse in your basement.

The article points out that, while the initial cost of the newer high-efficiency furnaces is a little steep [expect to pay around $5000 for the purchase and installation of a new, high quality furnace], you’ll save plenty of money over time.  A quote from the article:

“Natural gas prices have more than tripled in the past 10 years and many analysts are forecasting further price increases. Fortunately, the efficiency ratings of new furnaces have also been increasing. Most furnaces installed in the 1970s, ’80s and early ’90s, were only 60-to 70-per-cent efficient, and very old furnaces can be less than 50-per-cent efficient. A continuously burning pilot light can decrease these efficiencies by another five per cent. New furnaces are 90-to 95-per-cent efficient. They do not have pilot lights and can reduce your heating costs by up to 40 per cent.”

But it’s not just money you’ll be saving.  Older furnaces are not very good at filtering dust and allergens from the air in your home.  What’s more, older furnaces can emit dangerous levels of carbon monoxide within your home.

My assistant recently replaced the furnace in her 30-year-old Spruce Grove home and had this to say about the experience:  “We knew it was time.  We’d been reading and hearing a lot about how much better the new furnaces were.  Our old one was still pumping out the heat, with no trouble, really, but we knew it couldn’t go on forever.  What surprised us was how much better the air circulated through the house with the new furnace – far fewer cold spots.  We used to have to wrap up in blankets for TV watching in our basement family room, or turn on the gas fireplace, but no more!  The basement is as cozy as the rest of the house.  But what really sold us on the new furnace was something we weren’t expecting at all.  Our son always gets stuffed up and sneezy when he comes to visit because he’s allergic to cats, but the new furnace has taken all of that away.  Now, that’s impressive, and definitely made us happy about our purchase!”

It’s not too late to replace your old furnace before the really nasty winter weather hits.  Learn more about the benefits of the new high-efficiency furnaces by checking out “A new furnace can save money, and lives”.

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

 

 

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 barry@barryt.ca, 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.

Furnace:

  • 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.

Insulation

Attic:

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.

Basement:

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.

Electronics:

  • 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.

Appliances:

  • 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 barry@barryt.ca, 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 Journal.com, 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

___ 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.

Electrical

___ 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 barry@barryt.ca, 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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