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From, Bjorn Rygg, Pillar to Post

You may not want to admit it, but the days are getting shorter, the temperature is dropping, and winter is on its way. No matter what the season means to you whether that’s embracing the snow, avoiding the outdoors altogether, or taking off for a sunny destination - winter-proofing your home should be at the top of your list.

Roof: Before it’s covered in snow be sure to have it checked for any damaged shingles, replacing them if necessary. Also have your gutters cleared to ensure drainage will flow smoothly when the snow melts.

Furnace: It’s no secret your furnace will be of paramount importance as temperatures continue to drop, so prevent a breakdown by making sure its service and maintenance is up to date.

Windows: Double check that all windows are tightly sealed and water isn’t collecting in the sills. Ensuring windows with multiple sliding panels are in the closed position is important to avoid drafts.

Doors: Similar to windows, it’s important to check door frames are securely sealed without any cracks. Consider sealing or insulating mail slots or doggy doors.

Floors: Check for gaps between exposed floorboards, especially in any unfinished rooms in the house. If you have central heating, it’s important to ensure ducts connected to floor vents are well insulated.

Everything else: When setting your home up for seasonal success, it makes sense to take a look at your current insurance policy as well. Winter often means extreme weather that can result in damage to your property.

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The weather might be frightful, but that doesn't mean your heating costs have to be. Here are some tips to stay warm this winter without breaking the bank. 

1. Turn down the heat. You can save five percent of your heating costs for every degree lower you set your thermostat in the 15 to 21 degrees Celsius range. If your health permits it, the Consumer Energy Center recommends turning your heat down to 20 degrees Celsius. This doesn't mean you have to freeze this winter. A great way to save money is to turn the heat down during the day or even while you sleep. By lowering the temperature in your home by 10-15 degrees for eight hours, you can save up to 10% on your heating costs. Research also shows that keeping the house cooler at night can actually help you sleep better. 

2. Replace/clean furnace filters regularly. By keeping your furnace filters clean, you help to increase the efficiency of your furnace.  

3. Maintain your furnace. Have someone come out and give your furnace a tune-up. Make sure everything is lubricated, clean, and properly adjusted. This can make a huge dent in your heating bill. 

4. Eliminate leaks. Caulk leaks around windows, doors, and vents that lead outside. This helps to prevent the heat from escaping and can make your home feel less drafty. Caulking will fill any small gaps you may find. If you have a larger leak, your local hardware store will have a product to help fill the gap. 

5. Cover drafty windows. When it comes to covering drafty windows, there are two options. You can either use heavy-duty plastic sheeting and create and air-tight seal over the window using tape, or you can use insulating drapes. This is a cheap way to help make your home feel warmer. 

6. Use the sun to heat your home. The sun offers free heat, and in the winter, it often isn't utilized. Open the curtains on your south-facing windows on sunny days, but be sure to close them up before it gets dark to help trap the heat inside. 

7. Use ceiling fans to your advantage. Better ventilation in a home leads to better energy efficiency. Turn your ceiling fan on a low setting to help push hot air back down into the room.  

8. Get a humidifier. Air in your home can become very dry. Adding moisture to the air can actually add heat. Moist air holds heat better and feels warmer. A humidifier can help keep you feeling warm even when the temperature in your home is set lower. 

9. Cover your floors. While your tile or hardwood floors may be beautiful, covering them with a rug may help with your heating costs. Carpet and rugs hold heat better than tile or hardwood floors. This helps to keep your feet warmer without having to adjust the thermostat. 

Following these tips can help you to save money this winter while still keeping you warm and toasty.

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Source: Fire Prevention Canada

The winter season is the worst season for fires in Canada. That is why all Canadians must be mindful of the importance of fire prevention and safety. During the winter, we must heat our homes, most of our meals are prepared and eaten indoors, our clothing is dried indoors and people who smoke tend to do so indoors. For the winter remember that:

  • Heating appliances such as space heaters should not have anything combustible closeby and need at least one metre (three feet) of space around them. Inspect the electrical cord attached. If it overheats, you have a fire hazard. Keep young children away from them.

  • Electrical and heating systems can fail and become fire hazards. Ensure they are regularly checked by a professional, especially prior to the winter season when fireplaces, heaters, appliances and other electrical equipment are in maximum use.

  • Smoking while in bed, tired or under the influence of alcohol or medication is the most common cause of fires that kill.

  • Most chimney fires occur with wood-burning fireplaces. Ensure chimneys are cleaned and professionally inspected regularly. Burn only small quantities of wood at a time.

  • Teach children that fire is not a toy; it is a tool we use to cook food and heat our homes.

  • Educate your children about the dangers of fire and make sure they know that all fires, even small ones, can spread very quickly.

  • Never use a flammable liquid near a flame or source of spark. Beware of hidden sources of sparks like water heater pilot lights, electric motors or heaters. Never smoke while pouring or using flammable liquids.

  • If even a small doubt exists about any appliance/equipment that you use, do not hesitate to contact a qualified technician. It may save your life, and the lives of your loved ones.

FIREPLACE SAFETY:

A Fireplace becomes dangerous when accumulated tar or creosote catches fire or from uncontrolled burning or over-fuelling. Other causes of fireplace-related fires are substandard design or installation and lack of safety precautions.

  • Open the damper before lighting the fire, and keep it open until the ashes are cool enough to touch.

  • Ensure the fire is completely out before going to bed or leaving the house.

  • Do not store combustible materials such as paper or wood too close to the fireplace.

  • Use a screen in front of the fireplace opening to protect children and to prevent embers from escaping and igniting carpets, etc.

  • Never leave children alone near a fireplace.

  • Use dry, well-seasoned wood in small amounts.

  • Have chimneys cleaned and serviced at regular intervals by a professional.

  • Never overload your fireplace.

  • Never use charcoal starter fluids, gasoline or any flammable substance to start fires.

  • When using artificial logs, burn only one at a time and follow instructions on the wrapping.

  • Always place the ashes in a metal container and take them outside the house.

THE WINTER SEASON AND CARBON MONOXIDE:

  • It is important to install a carbon monoxide detector in your home. However, carbon monoxide detectors do not replace the need for prevention through yearly maintenance and inspection of heating systems and appliances.

  • Smoke inhalation from fires is the most common form of carbon monoxide poisoning. Cigarette smoke and vehicle exhaust are the most common sources of regular carbon monoxide exposure.

  • There must be an adequate supply of air for complete burning or combustion, or an excessive amount of carbon monoxide will accumulate indoors. Ensure that your wood stove or fireplace is not competing – for long periods of time – with your clothes dryer, kitchen, bathroom and attic vent fans, central vacuum cleaners and kitchen barbecues, which exhaust air from the home and so starve the furnace or the fireplace of oxygen.

  • Proper venting of fuel-burning appliances to the outside is also essential to prevent collection of carbon monoxide gas inside buildings.

  • Never insulate or try to seal up a drafty hood, wind cap or exhaust vent on any natural gas appliance (furnace, water heater, range, dryer, space heater or fireplace). Keep all fuel-burning equipment free of lint, dust and trash. Don’t store anything close to the equipment that could restrict air circulation.

  • Do a visual inspection of the equipment to look for signs of equipment problems, such as soot on a fireplace face, water collecting near a burner or rusted venting. If even a small doubt exists, have the equipment inspected by a qualified technician.

  • Periodically check vent pipes between gas appliances and the chimney for corrosion or rust.

  • Equipment that uses natural gas should show a clear blue flame—a yellow or orange flame may indicate a problem. If a problem appears, call a qualified technician.

  • Ensure a source of fresh air is available, for an example an open window or flue, when operating a wood-burning fireplace.

THE DANGERS OF EXTENSION CORDS:

  • Extension cords are a common cause of electrical fires. That is why you must be careful to use only extension cords that are rated for the power used by the device they are powering.

  • Extension cords must never be run inside walls or under rugs or furniture. They can be damaged by traffic or heavy furniture and start arcing, which can lead to a fire.

  • Extension cords can get warm during use and must be able to dissipate this heat or they can start a fire.

SIGNS OF AN ELECTRICAL PROBLEM:

  • Flickering lights : If the lights dim every time you turn on an appliance it means that the circuit is overloaded or has a loose connection.

  • Sparks : If sparks appear when you insert or remove a plug, it could be a sign of loose connections.

  • Warm electrical cord : If an electrical cord is warm to the touch, the cord is underrated or defective.

  • Frequent blown fuses or broken circuits : A fuse that continues to blow or circuit breaker that keeps tripping is an important warning sign of problems.

  • Frequent bulb burnout : A light bulb that burns out frequently is a sign that the bulb is too high in wattage for the fixture.

HOW TO AVOID DRYER FIRES:

  • Lack of maintenance is the number one cause of dryer fires. That is why it is critical to clean the lint filter before and after each use, and wipe away any lint that has accumulated around the drum.

  • Perform periodic checks to ensure that the air exhaust vent pipe is unobstructed (lint accumulation) and the outdoor vent flap opens readily.

  • Do not run the dryer without a lint filter.

  • You are encouraged to not leave the dryer running if you go out, in case


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For many of us, the holiday season can be as stressful as it is happy. But the good news is that you always know when it's coming, which means you can prepare and plan for a holiday that's more joyous for you – and less taxing on you – with these tips!

Prioritize your commitments. Make a list of all those chores to be done and events to be attended this season. For each item on your list, ask yourself, "Does this help me achieve my holiday-season goals? Is this rewarding?" While you probably can't scratch every item for which the answers are "no" off your list, there are probably some you can do away with.

Cheat a little. Are there ways you can make taking care of what's left on your to-do list easier and less time consuming? For example, can you switch to a Secret Santa style of gift exchange, in which you'll only be responsible for buying one gift? Can you ask each of your dinner guests to come with a contribution, rather than cooking everything yourself?

Get organized. Use a system – be it a printed calendar or a smartphone app – to keep track of your chores and commitments. Make note not just of the time by which you need to finish a chore or be ready for an event, but when you need to start in order to meet those deadlines without breaking too much of a seasonal sweat.

Delegate. You don't have to do everything yourself. Getting the kids involved in gift wrapping, decorating, simple food-preparation tasks, or even writing a standard, simple message in greeting cards can be a great way to achieve your goal of spending quality time with your family over the holiday season. You may even find yourself establishing new family traditions that everyone can enjoy.

Set a budget and stick to it. Money is a common source of holiday stress (not to mention postholiday stress), so figure out ahead of time what costs you need to account for and what you can afford to spend. And don't stop at gifts – other holiday-related costs can include decorations, food and beverages, mailing costs for shipping gifts and, if you plan to leave town, travel expenses.

Try to maintain your regular healthy eating, exercise and sleeping routines. Not only will sticking to your routines help you to avoid the guilt-induced stress that can come from neglecting yourself and overindulging, you'll also be in a much better frame of mind to deal with other typical holiday-season stresses like having too many things to do or dealing with family drama.

Be mindful of your mindset. So much of the stress we feel during the holidays is self-induced. We guilt ourselves when we say no, overextend ourselves when we don't and we hold ourselves to impossible standards of perfection. Keep your holiday-season goals (e.g. family fun, helping those in need) in focus, remind yourself that you're only human and that there's always next year!

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From, Bjorn Rygg, Pillar to Post

The Fireplace

  • Never burn gift wrappings, boxes, cartons, or other types of packing. They burn far too rapidly.
  • Always use a screen in front of the fireplace to protect against flying sparks.
  • Never use gasoline or any other flammable liquids to start a fire.
  • Use only seasoned and dried wood.
  • Never leave the fire unattended or smouldering.
  • Clean the ashes regularly. Place the ashes in a metal container and store outside.

Electrical Outlets

  • There is often a tendency to overload outlets during the holiday season. This is unsafe.
  • Inspect all cords before using. Look for loose connections or frayed or exposed wire.
  • Insert plugs fully into outlets. Poor contact may cause overheating or shock.
  • To avoid possible overheating, do not coil or bunch an extension cord or run it under carpets or rugs.

The Kitchen
Grease and fat fires are a leading cause of home fires, so be extra careful when doing this kind of cooking. Here’s what to do if grease in a pot or pan catches fire:

  • Smother the flames by covering with a lid.
  • Turn off the heat immediately.
  • Use baking soda (flour can be explosive) on shallow grease fires.
  • Never turn on the overhead fan, as this could spread the fire.
  • Never throw water on a grease fire.

Last but not least …
make sure your smoke detectors work!

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