Top 5 Tasks for January

We hope you enjoyed happy and safe holidays.

To help you get the year off to a good start, here are the top five home care tasks that we recommend you do during January that will help you avoid unscheduled repairs, save energy, and keep your family safe.

Treat Your Drains

Over time, the drains in your sinks begin to build up with gunk. If you wait for them to plug up, then you have to clear them using aggressive chemicals. Instead, we recommend that during January you treat your drains with baking soda. Just run the water in the tap until it’s very hot, then sprinkle baking soda down the drain and continue to flush with very hot water. This will remove the gunk that builds up in your drainpipes, and will keep them clear and smelling nice.

Inspect And Clean Your Refrigerator

Your refrigerator works hard and consumes a lot of energy, so it is important to conduct routine maintenance on it. At least once a year you should clean and inspect the door gasket on your refrigerator to make sure that it seals tightly. If your door gasket leaks, your refrigerator has to work harder to keep the contents cold, which will cost you more in energy. You also want to check the inside temperature of your refrigerator to make sure that it is operating properly. You can purchase a special refrigerator thermometer, or you can place a glass of water inside and put a regular thermometer in it. If the temperature is too high, then you will not be keeping your food cold enough for it to be safe, and if the temperature is too low, then you could be using too much energy.

Other routine maintenance items for your refrigerator include vacuuming around coils, clearing the drain hole and drip pans, cleaning and defrosting, changing the water filter, and checking and adjusting the levelness of your refrigerator by adjusting its feet. For more information on refrigerator maintenance, you can see the refrigerator section of our online How-To Guide: Refrigerator-Freezer

Inspect And Clean Your Microwave

It is easy to take your microwave for granted, since it is an appliance that most of us use every day, and it typically does not require much maintenance. However, during the month of January, we suggest that you take a moment to inspect and clean your microwave. In particular, we suggest that you thoroughly inspect and clean the door seal. If your microwave’s door does not seal properly, then it could be allowing dangerous levels of microwave radiation to be escaping during operation. If your door seal is damaged or the door is not closing properly, then this should be immediately repaired or replaced.

Throw Out Expired Medicines

As you may have noticed, both prescription and non-over-the-counter medications all have expiration dates written on them. During the month of January, we suggest that you look in your medicine cabinet and properly dispose of all medications that have expired. Expired medicines can become dangerous because they become chemically unstable and less potent (helpful accessory: medicine disposal system). In addition, they are risky to leave around your home if you have small children or visitors with small children. You can contact your pharmacist to find the proper method for disposing of your medications. For additional information: Why & How To Get Rid of Old Medicines

Replace Furnace Air Filters

If you have a forced-air heating system in your home and haven't changed its air filter yet this season, then you will want to replace its air filter during January. A dirty air filter makes your furnace blower work harder, and routinely replacing your filters with new ones can help you save up to $50 per year in energy. Also, a clogged air filter prevents the filter from removing particulates from your air, which can be particularly troublesome if you have people in your family with allergies or asthma. To learn more about replacing your furnace's air filter: Guide to Choosing & Changing Your HVAC Air Filters


We wish you the very best for the New Year, and hope that we have helped you get your home off to a good start with these suggestions for the top 5 routine maintenance tasks for January.

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Barbara Yaffe: Vancouver’s real estate forecast to stay hot into next year, study finds

Foreign money and a robust provincial economy will preclude any cooling of Vancouver’s red-hot property market next year, according to a major real estate study being released Wednesday.


Office space is the one real-estate category where an oversupply is forecast in the city, to be accompanied by potential downward pressure on pricing.


That assessment comes courtesy of a voluminous annual report, titled Emerging Real Estate Trends 2015, issued jointly by the Urban Land Institute and PricewaterhouseCoopers.


It describes Vancouver’s market as one of the country’s “best bets” in 2015, fourth strongest in the country in terms of investment, development and housing.


Vancouver trails Calgary and Edmonton, boosted by Alberta’s resource industry, and Toronto, where a still-strong condo market is being bolstered by people flocking to live downtown, in more compact spaces.


The report’s bullishness on Vancouver is tied to a recent Conference Board of Canada prediction that, during the next three years, the West Coast city will lead all other major urban centres in economic growth — with a 3.2-per-cent annual increase in output.


The report also cites the role being played by Greater Vancouver’s relatively new tech industry.

And, of course, Vancouver is “a hedge city.”


It “lacks the cachet of Paris or Milan,” opines the report. “But it does offer ... a place for the world’s super-rich to park sizable funds in local real estate as a hedge against risk.


“Returns aren’t the point; safety of capital is, and a $5-million condo is more insurance policy than investment.”

The report also notes that foreign buyers, mainly from Hong Kong and China, account for the purchase of about 40 per cent of the luxury homes and are “one of the key reasons Vancouver real estate prices continue to rise.”


With the economy on a roll and so many foreign buyers, the city has issued a record number of building permits in 2014.


The report identifies a concern about a possible office-space glut resulting from several new office towers being completed.  “Some foresee AAA space leasing at B rates.”


No such discount rates are anticipated in the residential sector. The report features a chart showing Vancouverites in 2015 will spend more than 50 per cent of household income on shelter — significantly more than in other cities, even Toronto where just more than 30 per cent will go to housing next year.


Overall in Canada, the property market is expected to be steady, with urbanization being the “new normal. People are flooding into city cores to live close to both work and the lifestyle they crave.”


Retailers and companies are following them with some builders incorporating stores and offices into their centrally located residential housing developments.


Western Canada’s real-estate market will continue to be the most robust, with the region acting as “the country’s economic engine.”


In a separate analysis on Wednesday that focused exclusively on the Vancouver market, Urban Analytics Managing principal Mike Ferreira told a downtown luncheon audience of realtors and developers that not since 2014 have sales for multi-family housing been so strong.


The real estate strategist said investors comprise a significant portion of condo buyers in Vancouver and Burnaby, but purchasing also has been strong among first-time buyers “with help from mom and dad, and low interest rates” and mature buyers, downsizing from single-family homes.


Ferreira told his audience the Chinese are a strong component of the market “and I suspect we will see more impact from that buyer group as we go along, especially with (the political instability) we are seeing in Hong Kong.”

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