Saturday, December 13, 2008

Are You Safe?

You should be aware of and checking for hidden electrical hazards in and around your home.

Damaged wires or deterioration to exposed wire sheath can present shock or fire hazard in your home if not repaired.

If you have overheated plugs or outlets, fuses that blow, or circuits that trip frequently, it may indicate an overload of the circuit, or possibly faulty electrical wiring or equipment.

You should test your GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets every month to make sure they are operating properly. Defective GFCI outlets can be identified by pushing the red test button. If the power stays on after you have pushed the button, your GFCI is defective. These defects are more common with older GFCI products.

Dim or flickering lights can also be a warning sign. Often, they can indicate a loose connection in a lighting circuit, fixture or in your electrical service.

Don't forget to look for power lines running through or between trees. Call your local Hydro office. Do not climb or try to trim trees yourself.

You should also avoid problems by making sure your home has no frayed or damaged extension cords or cord ends with exposed wires. Extension cords used incorrectly or as permanent wiring can also create potential shock and fire hazards. Be on the look-out for damaged cords, undersized cords, cords under carpeting or furniture, and interior-rated cords being used outside.

Overloading outlets is also a big no no since it can often cause overheating and could cause a fire. You should contact a licensed electrical contractor if you're not certain of the load rating for your home's wiring. General purpose circuits are rated at 15 amps in most homes. As well, while covre plates are a quick fix, damaged outlets should be repaired to prevent fire and shock.

Incorrect grounding can cause shocks. Look for missing third prongs, or 2- to- 3-prong adapters. Consult an electrician for help in updating.

For more information, contact the Electrical Safety Authority at

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Do You Have A Mold Problem?

Molds are found in the air outside and in all buildings. They come into the home in many ways -- through open windows and doors, on clothing, pets, food or furniture. The problem actually begins when mold starts to grow inside the home.

Some mold growing, for instance, on the window sill, but not anywhere else, is not a cause for concern. You should take a look at your home to find out the presence and extent of mold.

One way to figure out the extent of mold in your home is to estimate the area of mold.

Mold is considered to cover a small area if the area is no larger than a square metre. There should be no more than three patches, and each patch needs to be smaller than a square metre. You can clean these areas up yourself using a detergent solution, rubber gloves and a dust mask. You need to clean these small areas up because they could grow into larger areas over time if ignored.

Bleach is not recommended as a cleaning agent for mold because the presence of organic materials, the pH (acidity/alkalinity) of the water, the surface material and contact time affect the effectiveness of the bleach for disinfection. Since these factors are not controlled, bleach can't be relied upon for disinfection. As well, cancer-causing substances can be formed by the reaction of bleach with organic materials. In addition, the fumes created are harmful.

The area is considered moderate if there are more than three patches, each patch is smaller than a square metre, or there is one or more patches larger than a square metre, but smaller than three square metres. In this case, you should hire a professional to assess the situation. You can clean it by yourself, but you have to follow proper procedures and use the proper protective equipment.

A mold area is considered extensive is a single patch of mold is larger in area than a sheet of plywood, or three square metres. Being exposed to this much mold is not a good idea, so don't try and clean this up on your own. You need professional help to both determine WHY the mold is there, and how to clean it up.

Seek professional help if there's a lot of mold, the home is very damp or moist, mold keeps returning after repeated clean-ups, or someone has asthma or other health problems that seem to be aggravated inside the home.

To get professional help, contact the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) for a list of people who have completed the CMHC Residential Indoor Air Quality Investigator Program. The investigator will examine the indoor air quality and document your concerns. As well, he will identify the problems, find the source, and suggest solutions.