Fall Weather Tips

iStock_000014942576XLargeFall has officially arrived, which means it’s time to prepare your home for winter while the weather is still cooperative.

Freezing temperatures, heavy snowfall and extensive rain or drought can wreak havoc on the condition of your home. Seasonal maintenance and weather proofing can help prevent expensive repairs and inconvenience.

  • Cover external pipes with an insulation kit, which will prevent freezing and ice buildup. For added protection, turn off external faucet shut-off valves. External pipes and faucets are extremely susceptible to cold weather since they are exposed to snow and ice.
  • Drain garden hoses and store them in a dry place. Water left in a hose can freeze and cause the hose to crack or split. This could be problematic next spring when you’re ready to water the plants.
  • Wrap exterior faucets with insulation tape to protect against freezing pipes. Even indoor pipes can freeze with extreme temperature changes, so make sure internal pipes remain warm throughout the winter.
  • Seal leaks around windows and doors to prevent cold air from entering your home and warm air from escaping. Cold air leaks may cause your furnace to work harder to keep the home’s interior warm and increase heating bill costs.
  • Flush water heaters to remove sediment buildup, which can damage the tank. By performing a flush twice a year in the fall and spring, you can increase the tank’s life expectancy.
  • Clear leaves and debris from outside gutters and downspouts to ensure proper drainage and prevent ice buildup. As the snow and ice begin to melt, it’s important to have free-flowing spouts to properly remove water from your roof.
  • Test smoke detector functionality and change batteries as needed. Test the functionality of the smoke detector by having someone go to the furthest point in the house away from the detector while you spray test smoke (available at most hardware stores) near the detector to ensure the alarm is activated and can be heard.
  • Examine your walkways and driveways for loose pavement that could become slippery or dangerous when ice or snow-covered.
  • Hire a chimney sweep to inspect and clean the chimney before the first use.

Snow, ice and freezing temperatures will be in the forecast soon, so prepare your home today.

Are you prepared?

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Emergencies could happen at any time. Are you prepared?

Service Line Warranties of Canada would like to encourage you to be prepared for an emergency by keeping an emergency kit at home and in the car.

Last winter we saw a record amount of snowfall and weather-related events throughout the world. As a result, people were stranded without power or in their vehicles for days. Every home should be equipped with a proper emergency kit for each family member to sustain life for at least two to three days. Emergency kits should include items such as:

  • Water – one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and sanitation.
  • Non-perishable food
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Battery-powered radio and flashlights with extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Plastic cups, plates, bowls and silverware
  • Paper towels
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Disinfectant
  • Matches and candles

Of course, home emergencies aren’t the only type of emergency you should be prepared for – what if you’re stranded in your car? Keep an emergency kit with the following in your car:

  • Extra warm blanket (especially if you live in a snow-prone area) or sleeping bag
  • Jacket or coat, long pants, long-sleeved shirt and sturdy shoes
  • Hats and gloves
  • Non-perishable food and bottled water
  • Cash
  • Paper Towels
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Compass
  • Matches in water proof container
  • Signal flare or whistle to signal for help
  • Paper and pencil
  • Disinfectant
  • Emergency contact information and identification

While we can’t predict emergencies, being prepared will ease the situation. For more information on how to be prepared, visit http://www.getprepared.gc.ca.

Why are water costs rising?

iStock_000003907033MediumUS water sewer service provider

Rising water costs have been affecting homeowners across North America. According to a 2013 article on CBC News, “in June 2012, the average home used 192 cubic metres of water.” While that number is quite an improvement over the average usage in 2005, which was 256 cubic metres, that decrease has not translated to a reduced cost for the homeowner. Instead, average rates have increased by more than $150 annually.

Water rate increases are nothing new. Many utilities are finding the increases are necessary to make repairs to aging infrastructure, such as Halifax Water, who faced a $2.6 billion bill for upgrades to the outdated water and sewer system in 2013. Their proposed increase would bring the average water bill to $842.87 per year for homeowners.

As water rates continue to rise, protecting private infrastructure becomes more important each day. Repairing a break or leak may seem simple, but if left unattended, could cost you thousands of dollars in not only repair costs, but also lost water. With any kind of water leak, your money is just dripping away and contributing to the overall rise in rates.

Water rates are driven by a variety of factors such as:

  • Upgrades to aging water systems to ensure you are receiving safe drinking water
  • Increased operation costs, including staff, electric, chemical treatment, infrastructure upgrades and fuel
  • Government rules and regulations, including water protection systems
  • Unique geographic conditions and circumstances that could limit availability, such as drought, areas prone to natural disasters, etc.

With many areas experiencing record-breaking drought conditions, water conservation has become extremely important, dictating extensive infrastructure improvements to fix failing pipelines to protect this precious resource.

Ultimately, when repairs need to be made to infrastructure, the cost is passed down to the consumer by raising rates in an effort to ensure adequate infrastructure repairs and upgrades are not left undone, costing consumers more in the long run.

As far as protection from the high cost of rising water bills, homeowners who conserve water can decrease their water bill. (Check out our previous blog articles about water conservation in the home and yard.) However, water conservation provides only some protection. While consumption may drop, increases in the cost of production, supply and operations may still result in an increased cost for the consumer. Additionally, some water companies in drought-stricken areas in the United States have imposed additional fees on customers who use more than an identified amount of water per month. In California, fines have even been imposed on those wasting water.

As a homeowner, your infrastructure is subject to the same failure potential as that of municipal infrastructure. When private water and sewer lines fail, the repair cost could be thousands of dollars, depending on the length of the line, the location of the line and the problem – costs the homeowner would be responsible for. For many homeowners, it’s not “if these private lines fail” – it’s “when these private lines fail, how will I handle the repair?” Homeowners who want to be prepared have options. They can add funds for service line repairs to their rainy day fund, or they can choose to enroll in warranty programs such as those offered by Service Line Warranties of Canada. For more information about Service Line Warranties of Canada’s programs, visit www.slwofc.ca.

Can you afford a costly repair?

sad worried man in stress with piggy bank in bad financial situationTimes are tough and a 2014 Manulife Financial survey discovered 46% “of Canadians ages 25 to 34 surveyed said they are worse off financially than they were two years ago, while nearly 40% of those 35 to 44 report the same.”

Homeowners work hard for their money and it’s no secret that the expense of owning a home adds up over time. A 2012 poll for one of Canada’s big banks found that “45% of those surveyed said they had no fund set up to deal with emergency expenses.” Ontario and Alberta residents were least likely to have an emergency fund. With borrowing more difficult, obtaining credit harder to achieve and many of those eligible for retirement unprepared, expensive repairs are just not in the budget.

When evaluating monthly expenses, such as a water or sewer line warranty program, it’s important for a homeowner to consider what they have in savings and what they can honestly afford each month to protect their investment. For homeowners living paycheck to paycheck, a few dollars a month to provide peace of mind could outweigh the risk of “if” a failure would ever occur, considering so few homeowners have a rainy day fund.

If you’re evaluating whether or not to purchase warranty protection, consider the following factors:

  • Do you have savings to adequately cover an unexpected $2,000 repair?
  • Could you sell belongings quickly to help cover the cost of an expensive repair?
  • Could you apply for a loan in an emergency and know you would get approved? As more homeowners struggle to make payments, credit has become more difficult to secure.
  • Would you have to refinance your home to cover the cost of repairs?

What’s that smell?

Bad Smell!!

Have you ever walked past a sewer pipe that smelled like rotten eggs? While there probably isn’t a rotting egg in the pipe, hydrogen sulfide could be present, which can be very corrosive for sewer lines. In addition to a rotten egg smell, high levels of hydrogen sulfide could also smell musty or swampy.

Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless, flammable and highly toxic gas known for its pungent rotten egg odor. Many might recall the scene from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” when grandpa lights a cigar and drops the match by the storm sewer.

According to the Canadian Union of Public Employees, hydrogen sulfide occurs naturally in sewers, manure pits, well water and volcanoes, as well as oil and gas wells. Because of their density, low-lying and enclosed spaces are attractive to hydrogen sulfide, which makes confined spaces (such as pipes) very dangerous. Prolonged exposure to hydrogen sulfide, even at low levels, poses dangerous health risks – ranging from headaches, eye irritation, loss of consciousness and the inability to smell to death.

A simple chemical test can help determine the levels of hydrogen sulfide to which you are exposed and can be obtained at most home improvement stores, from a local plumber or the health department. If water lines contain excessive hydrogen sulfide, a homeowner has three options for rectifying the situation:

  • Find an alternative water supply, such as drilling a new well or contacting your local water authority.
  • Purchase bottled water to use for food preparation and drinking; however, this is not a cost-effective measure.
  • Remove the impurity. There are numerous treatment options available, which will be determined by the levels of chemical impurities in the water, the possibility of bacterial contamination and the volume of water.

The best advice is to let a professional handle any kind of chemical contamination because they have the tools and knowledge to do the job right and protect your health and wellbeing.