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Calgary Breeze Inaugural Issue September 2009

Home Renovation Tax Credit

Homeowners who are contemplating renovations have six months left to take advantage of the Home Renovation Tax Credit and save hundreds of dollars on their income taxes.

A key component in Canada’s Economic Action Plan, the Home Renovation Tax Credit provides a 15% income tax credit on eligible home renovation expenditures for work performed or goods acquired between January 27, 2009 and February 1, 2010. The credit may be claimed on expenditures exceeding $1,000 but not more than $10,000 and will provide up to $1,350 in tax relief.

Canada's Economic Action PlanExamples of HRTC Eligible and Ineligible Expenditures Eligible

Ineligible

For more information visit: Canada Revenue Agency Home Renovation Tax Credit or Canada's Economic Action Plan

You can also download the Government of Canada HRTC pamphlet.(PDF)

Sour Cream Apple Pie

Sour Cream Apple PieIngredients

2 tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 egg
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups apples
1 pastry pie crust
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. butter

Directions

1. Stir together 2 tablespoons flour, salt,
3/4 cup sugar and nutmeg in bowl.
Combine egg, sour cream and vanilla in another
bowl; mix well. Add egg mixture to dry
ingredients; mix well. Stir in apples and
spoon mixture into unbaked pie shell.

2. Bake in a preheated 400 degree F
(205 degrees C) oven 15 minutes.

3. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees F
(175 degrees C) and bake 30 minutes more.
Remove pie from oven. Increase temperature
to 400 degree F (205 degrees C).

4. Prepare cinnamon topping and sprinkle over
pie. Return to oven and bake 10 minutes more.
Cool on rack.

5. To Make Cinnamon Topping: Combine
1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour and 1 teaspoon
ground cinnamon in bowl. Cut in 2 tablespoons
butter or regular margarine until crumbly, using
a pastry blender.

Wet Basements

HomeCrafters

There are often clues to a history of basement leakage.

Here are a few facts about wet basements:

FACT #1 – “No basement is waterproof”

If water is allowed to pool next to your foundation it will find it’s way in

A cracked foundation does not necessarily cause a wet basement

FACT #2 – “Poor storm water management”

If you follow a few basic rules, it is unlikely that you will have a wet basement.

Make sure that all of your landscaping slopes away from the foundation
Note: Be sure to check for settlement areas under steps and decks

Make sure that all downspouts have extensions that discharge water well away from the foundation

Storm Water Statistics:

Note: Check neighbors’ storm water management as it may impact on your situation
Automatic Watering Systems

Check for leaks
Make sure all sprinkler heads are directed properly away from the house.

HomeCraftersFACT #3 – “Expensive repairs are usually unnecessary”

If you have looked after storm water management but still have a wet basement, further investigation is needed to determine the cause.
Where is the moisture appearing?
Through the walls
Re-check storm water management

Through cracks in the floor or at the seam between the foundation wall and the basement wall. This usually indicates a high water table and can most often be cured by installing a sump pump at a cost of around $1,000.00.
It should be noted that installing a sump pump is a good preventative measure, not a negative feature if the source of the water is found and remedied without major expense.

There are many companies that make their living by selling expensive repairs and services that will not work without addressing the source of the water. If you terminate the source of water, you negate the need for their services

A wet basement is probably the biggest turn off for a potential homebuyer.

Sellers should have the problem analyzed and dealt with before it impacts on the value or sale of your home.

Buyers may get a bargain on a home with a wet basement and be able to fix the problem with little or no expense.

An Expert Opinion on a wet basement is invaluable.

If you are suffering from a wet basement, don’t be sold on an expensive repair before you have exhausted all other options:

1st – Check all storm water management
Landscape drainage all around the foundation, not just where the moisture is presenting itself inside
Water will take the path of least resistance which may be 50 feet away
Ensure that all downspouts are in place and discharging water well away from the foundation

2nd – Try to identify exactly where the water is penetrating your foundation
If it is up on the wall, it could be storm water ponding or a leaking water or sprinkler system
If it is leaking at the floor level, it could be an elevated water table or storm water ponding
Open a plumbing access panel on the floor during an occurrence: if you see water in the gravel, a sump pump may be required

These simple steps will cure 99% of basement leakage.

Above all! Make sure you consult a professional that is NOT trying to sell you something before you undertake any expensive remedial action.

City of CalgaryHome Fire Safety

Calgary Fire Department

The Intact Insurance Home Safety Program is an evolution of our highly successful life-saving Residential Smoke Alarm Program that was implemented in 1996. The intent to reduce all safety hazards in the home is a natural step forward for the Calgary Fire Department. It is important to do whatever we can to increase the safety of citizens, whether that means educating citizens about fire and other hazards or by providing an advance warning system that could be a lifesaver.

The Home Safety Program places a heavy emphasis on fire safety, but takes an "all-hazards" approach to safety in the home. Starting in May an running right through to Fire Prevention Week in October, fire crews will be knocking on doors to discuss safety in the home with residents. This entire program is made possible by the generous support and collaborative efforts of our Community Partners and Calgary firefighters.

The information provided by Calgary firefighters allows you and your family to use the self guided Home Fire Safety Checklist to do a fire safety inspection and correct any problems you discover. Your inspection will take about 20 minutes and you will work together to reduce your risk. As you go from room to room, answer yes or no to the questions listed below. For any questions that receive a no answer, take immediate steps to improve those areas. Kids, ask a grown-up to help!

Hunting for home hazards

  1. Are adults present in the kitchen when food is cooking on the stove?
  2. Are cooking areas free of materials that could catch fire?
  3. Are pot handles turned towards the back of the stove?
  4. Is there a "kid-free" zone of one metre (three feet) around the stove when adults are cooking?
  5. Are portable space heaters located away from combustible materials, never left unattended and turned off when going to bed?
  6. Has your family's heating equipment - chimneys, fireplaces, woodstoves or furnaces - been inspected by a professional this year?
  7. Are candles always blown out when adults leave the room or go to bed?
  8. Are candles placed in holders that won't tip over easily and are big enough to catch dripping wax safely?
  9. Are matches and lighters kept in a locked cabinet out of children's sight and reach?
  10. Are electrical cords in good condition without cracks or frayed areas?
  11. Are flammable liquids like gasoline, kerosene or propane stored in safe containers outside the home in a properly ventilated shed?
  12. If there are smokers in your home, do they douse all butts and ashes with water before throwing them into a non-combustible container?

Planning and practising home fire escape plans

  1. Does your family have a home fire escape plan that includes two exits (usually a door and a window) out of each room especially sleeping areas?
  2. Are exits in your home kept free of toys, furniture and clutter?
  3. If there are infants or other family members with limited mobility, has someone been assigned to assist them in the event of a fire?
  4. Does your family practice the escape plan twice a year? Why not practice it tonight? Practice at different times as reactions will differ depending on time of day or night.
  5. Has your family picked a safe place to meet outside after you leave your home?
  6. Does everyone in your family know the fire department emergency number to call once you're safely outside?
  7. Is your house number clearly visible from the street and back alley? Numbers should be a contrasting color to the building structure (light vs. dark).

How to Clean Up Home Energy Consumption

HomeCrafters

Cleaning and Maintenance Tips

HomeCraftersHomeowners willing to get their hands dirty with cleaning and minor maintenance tasks can improve their home's energy efficiency. For example, cleaning your refrigerator coils and removing sediment around the water heater tank will keep them working at maximum efficiency. Even properly insulating your attic will prevent ice dams on your roof in winter and unwanted heat in the summer, so heat won't build up and the air conditioner won't have to work so much.

Clean Refrigerator Coils Regularly

The coils underneath and behind a refrigerator are dust magnets. Refrigerant is pumped and circulated through the coils as a fan blows room air across them. The moving air removes heat from the refrigerant inside the coils. As the fan sucks air from underneath the refrigerator, it brings along with it dust and dirt that stick to the coils. Removing the access panel from the lower front of the refrigerator can reveal a startlingly filthy sight if the coils haven't been cleaned in a while


In addition to being unsightly, the dust on the coils acts as insulation that prevents the fan from efficiently removing heat. Cleaning the refrigerator coils a couple of times a year with a vacuum cleaner and an elongated brush helps the refrigerator operate at its maximum efficiency. Moving a refrigerator away from a wall so air can circulate behind it will increase its energy performance, as will keeping it out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources like a radiator or a range.

Replace the Furnace Filter

The filter on a forced-air furnace performs a valuable function in the home. It strains bits of dust, dirt, and debris from the air stream as it passes through the furnace. This not only improves air quality, but it also protects the inside of the furnace (and air-conditioning evaporator coil, if there is one). Without a furnace filter in place, dirt would build up on the back side of the heater exchanger. But a furnace filter also slows the passage of air through the furnace -- especially when it is dirty. The best way to keep your furnace operating at its maximum efficiency is to keep a clean filter inside. That's one of the things you as a homeowner can do to maintain your furnace.

People who own pets may find that their furnace filters need to be replaced or cleaned more frequently, due to pet dander, hair, and dirt brought in from outside.

It is important to remember that in most homes that have a central air-conditioning system, the furnace's blower is used to distribute cool air during the summer months.

Homeowners with central air-conditioning systems need to change or clean filters in the summer. The more freely air can pass through the furnace, the more heat and cooling it can distribute while wasting less energy.

Tune Up Heating and Cooling Equipment

Furnaces, boilers, and air-conditioning systems all have mechanical, moving parts in addition to electrical components. Over time these parts can go out of adjustment and need lubrication and cleaning. Like an automobile, your heating and cooling equipment runs best when it is "tuned up" and all the parts are working together as they were designed.

Tuning up heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment, especially the newer, more complicated systems, should be attempted only by service people who have the training and the equipment to do the work. How often should you call for service? Gas-fired furnaces and boilers and air-conditioning systems should be checked at least every two years.

Just as tuning up a car can yield better gas mileage, the money you spend on servicing your HVAC equipment will pay off in better efficiency -- and will also extend the life of the components.

Water Conservation Tips

Improving water conservation in your home can help you save not just on water bills, but also on expenses for heating water. Below are some ideas you can try to boost your water conservation efforts.

Remove Sediment Buildup

Draining sediment from a water heater's tank is an energy-saving procedure anyone can do quickly and easily. Periodically removing accumulated sediment helps conventional water heaters operate at optimum efficiency. The sediment consists of hard-water minerals and other debris that enter the storage tank along with the incoming water.

Over time, the mineral deposits build up to the point that they act as insulation on the bottom of the tank, isolating the water from effects of the burner firing below. The harder it is for heat to get through the sediment layer, the longer the burner has to fire in order to heat the water.

A small drain valve is on the outside of the water heater tank's jacket near the bottom. Attach a short length of standard garden hose to this valve, stick the free end of the hose into either a floor drain nearby or a large bucket, and open the valve. After draining five gallons or so from the tank, shut off the valve. You've not only improved the efficiency of your water heater, but you've also extended its service life.

Accumulated sediment is also responsible for the popping, banging, rumbling, and percolating noises often heard from a water heater as the burner fires or the elements heat up.

Add a Blanket to the Water Heater

New water heaters are being built with better insulation these days, so if you have an old unit, don't be shy about adding an extra layer of insulation. There are water heater "blankets" available that wrap the exterior of the unit with an additional layer of insulation.

Electric water heaters can be covered top to bottom with insulation. Gas water heaters, however, must not be covered on top or along the bottom. The top contains the flue, and that can get hot enough to ignite flammable materials. The bottom must be left open so air can enter the burner assembly for proper combustion of the natural gas, propane, or oil.

The end of the pressure and temperature relief valve extension pipe (usually running down the side of the unit) on any type of water heater must be left open and exposed as well. This pipe has to be free of obstructions in case the valve activates and releases hot water or steam. Any blockage could interfere with the free release of the pressure within the tank, and that could be dangerous.
This is a relatively easy and inexpensive task that pays off every hour of every day from the moment you put the blanket on. Like most jobs involving insulation, it's not glamorous, but it works.

Install Reduced-Flow Showerheads

Nearly half of all water used in a home is used for bathing. Almost all of that water needs to be heated. Therefore, the bathroom is an ideal place to practice energy and water conservation. Since January 1995, showerheads in new homes have been required to dispense no more than 2.5 gallons per minute. If you have a showerhead older than that in your home, it takes but a few minutes to replace it with a showerhead that meets the modern flow rate standards.

Showerheads aren't expensive. Ten to twenty-five dollars will purchase a new one that meets the 2.5-gallon limit. If you have an older showerhead that allows up to 6 gallons a minute and subsequently install a low-flow showerhead, you'll reduce your shower water use by more than three gallons per minute.