Fair-Weather Tasks for Keeping Your Home Healthy

Michelle Hopkins
July 2, 2015

It’s July, and the weather beckons you outdoors. But with the dry weather holding up, now is actually a great time to make sure your home systems, such as wiring, air conditioning, water heaters, vents, alarms and smoke detectors are all in working order. It isn’t sexy but it will keep your family safe! Regular maintenance is also key in keeping your home looking good, thus protecting your investment.

As part of our 2015 essential home tasks calendar, REW went to Quinn Newcomb, director of stakeholder engagement and communications at BC Safety Authority, to explain the importance of regular maintenance.

“Routine maintenance by a qualified individual is the best way to confirm your appliances are operating safely,” he says. “Appliances such as furnaces, boilers, fireplaces, hot water tanks, ranges and dryers should be inspected and serviced annually by a licensed contractor, as should vents, chimneys and radiant heating systems.”

Newcomb went on to say that the potential hazards posed by improperly installed or maintained appliances can be quite serious – fire, gas leaks and carbon monoxide poisoning.

“The most important advice we can offer homeowners wanting to protect their investment and their family’s safety is to always obtain the proper permits and to have all installation and maintenance work done by a qualified individual, licensed or certified by BC Safety Authority,” he says.

To find out more, visit the BC Safety Authoritywebsite at www.safetyauthority.ca.

“One additional resource you may wish to consult or link to our incident data on carbon monoxide incidents in our 2014 State of Safety Report (Appendix A4),” adds Newcomb. “Carbon monoxide risk awareness is something we try to promote as broadly as possible whenever the opportunity arises, and information about the importance of carbon monoxide detectors is also available on the home safety page of our website.”

There is also a lot of general maintenance that homeowners can do themselves to keep their family safe and ensure a healthy home for years to come. 

Your Home Safety Checklist

1) Electrical cords and outlets:

  • Check for frayed wires.
  • Repair or replace any loose or frayed wires on all electrical devices.
  • Make sure that none of your electrical cords run under rugs or across doorways.
  • If you have any small children in your house, place plastic safety covers over all unused outlets.
  • Check for a faulty electrical system by feeling all outlets and plugs to see if any are warm; if so, call an electrician immediately to check them.

2) Home heating:

  • Examine the outside vents – they should be properly sealed and clear of obstruction to prevent carbon monoxide buildup in the house.
  • Vacuum all vents and fans.
  • Take a flashlight into the furnace flue and look for buildup of soot or rust or any loose parts. Tap on it to see what falls: rust is a sign of condensation, which is cause by an inefficient furnace. If this is the case, call a professional to service your furnace.
  • Check registers and vents for loose or missing covers and screws.
  • Check around radiators for leaks, or damaged floors, which could be a sign of a leak.

3) Inspect water heaters:

  • Test the temperature-pressure relief valve by quickly discharging it two or three times. Following the testing, keep an eye out for small leaks from the valve.
  • Drain about a quarter of the tank a few times a year to remove sediment and debris. You do that by turning off the cold water supply, then by hooking up a garden hose to the drain valve and letting the water run into a bucket until it is clear.
  • If the water remains cloudy, for a short time open the water supply valve to stir up remaining sediment, and drain the tank again.
  • The temperature should be set at no higher than 120 degrees to prevent burns.
  • Newcomb suggests you insulate older units with a fiberglass jacket to improve efficiency, being careful to avoid contact with the flue (newer units already are insulated — check your owner’s manual to make sure). Also, insulate the hot and cold water pipes.
  • Prior to leaving on holidays, adjust your gas heater’s thermostat to “vacation” setting, which maintains the pilot light without heating the water.

4) Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors – should be Canada Standards Association (CSA) approved:

  • Replace any smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors that don’t work. BC Safety Authority says alarms and should be replaced every 10 years and CO detectors every seven years.
  • Replace the batteries once a year… Or sooner, if the alarm squeaks.
  • Clean your detectors by vacuuming each grille.
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) – CO is a colourless, odorless and tasteless gas that blocks your body’s ability to absorb oxygen.
  • CO can appear from your fireplace, furnace, water heater or gas range.
  • You can tell if toxic levels of CO are seeping in your home if there is window condensation, sick or dying pets or plants, soot build-up or discoloration on fireplaces, discoloration of fuel burning appliances or heating system, and/or your entire family is sick at the same time.
  • Now is a good time to post the fire department’s carbon monoxide emergency number
  • Make sure everyone in the family is aware of the number and where it is kept (a good place is in a kitchen cabinet by the phone).
Michelle Hopkins
Michelle Hopkins is a Vancouver-based freelance writer with extensive magazine, newspaper and online writing experience in home décor, new home developments, culinary adventures, wine, travel and more. Michelle writes for many notable publications including Real Estate Weekly and other Glacier Media Group publications, Western Living Magazine, Vancouver Magazine, Home Décor & Renovations, to name just a few. Michelle is passionate about anything to do with real estate.